Sunday, January 29, 2006

the sermons the hymns and the valentines

finally got that christmas ipod figured out - thanks to carlo.
bought two songs: joni mitchell's "the priest" and "rainy night house." so i guess i'll be listening to them over and over tomorrow on the train.
flirted with martha wainwright and sarah slean, but figured i might as well buy those cds whole.
ok, tomorrow I'll enter the decade.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

the sea, the sea

I finally finished The Sea, The Sea, by Iris Murdoch.
It was magnificent! I've read a number of her books, my favorite till now being The Bell, but I haven't picked up one of her novels in years.
Charles Arrowby, the main character/narrator, is self-centered and deluded, but still you manage to feel sorry for him. I thought Murdoch wrote very well in the male voice. I have always loved her characters, and the ones in this book well drawn. But it's more than characters, it's plot and insight.
I will admit that the beginning is a bit slow, with pages of description, and there is a segment after the climax where I felt my willingness to suspend my disbelief on trial (can anyone be that self-deluded?), but I was paid back 10-fold as the book wraps up, and the parallels to The Tempest work like a little puzzle.
Unfortunately I was often reading without a pen handy, so i wasn't able to mark up the passages as usual, but I'll point out a couple that I liked. Murdoch gives some descriptions of food in the book that are so refreshing, I felt like eating the meals she described.

"I do not normally eat at breakfast time since even half a slice of buttered toast can induce an inconvenient degree of hunger, and eating too much breakfast is a thoroughly bad start to the day. I am however not at all averse to elevenses which can come in great variety. There are, as indicated above, moments for oranges. There are also moments for chilled port and plum cake."

She also is very into describing rocks and stones...
"The stones, so close-textured, so variously decorated, so individual, so handy, pleased me as if they were a small harmless tribe which I had discovered. Some of them were beautiful with a simple wit beyond that of any artist: light grey with thin pink traceries, black with elaborate white crosses, brown with purple ellipses, spotted and blotched and striped..."

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

0 degrees celsius

The wonderful thing is I took the next two days off. The more wonderful is the snow, now falling fatly like pieces of fabric. If only I were sitting in McSorley’s

Got a rejection from Evansville Review.
Got an acceptance from 3rd Muse for “Saw You, Want You.”

I’m going to help put together the next Cresent Moon Review over at DMR, and Jill Burhans has said we can use her photos. I’ll have to find some more, though, so if there are any photographers or other artists out there with good winter scenes, raise your hands.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Reading Stephen Dunn

I finally got around this morning to reading some of the Stephen Dunn collection (New and Collected Poems: 1974-1994) I bought in October. My first foray into it back then left me lukewarm. But reading in the morning is always a good thing – the clear mindedness of it. Anyway, I read about six or seven poems and all but one (“Insomnia”) touched me in one way or another.

The first poem I opened to, “As It Moves” took the poetic leap from the ordinary into the strange, making a connection that seems unlikely but soon makes perfect sense. These are some of my favorite kinds of poems. You have to read the whole poem to appreciate where he takes you, but here are the first lines to give you an idea:

Last week I saw a child
riding an escalator, terrified
when the steps disappeared
and I thought once again
about primitives and the next moment,

the chasm that exists….

I also read two list-like poems, “Checklist” and “Corners,” both of which took interesting turns. I think “Checklist,” from a series of poems about work, was the more interesting, though “Corners” also comes to a satisfying end.

The poem “To a Friend in Love with the Wrong Man Again” uses humor (very dry) to spin a metaphor with a tarantula and digger wasp. Dunn says one would expect the tarantula to be the villain, while the digger wasp seems “honest” and “hard-working,” but it’s people who gave these creatures those evocative names, and there is no villain, only nature. A sweet one, and true.

Two of the poems I read were for/about his mother. One, “That Saturday without a Car,” is about having to run 5 miles to his mother’s house the day she dies. I love this bit –

“I think she’s dead”
my brother said, and hung up

as if with death
language should be mercifully approximate…

The other poem about his mother, “The Routine Things Around the House,” is wonderful and my favorite of those I read. It starts out with him saying how he’ll have to write a death poem for his mother and ends up recounting an anecdote about asking her when he was twelve to see her breasts. It's a sweet tribute, but not sentimental. This is the poem that’s been with me all morning, thinking of my own son and his fascination with my breasts, an extremely modest affair, and still .... !

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Necktie Cape

I think I found an appropriate reply to the dreaded rejection letter.

heh heh, just joking.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Verse Daily II

My poem "Pursuit" is on Verse Daily today!

thx to jill burhans for the photo.

Friday, January 13, 2006


The poem “Middle Age” by Mark Jackley in the last issue of 2River View offers a brief and well hewn image. Click on the little speaker to listen. He reads it well (though I didn’t need the long intro), which is refreshing. So many of us DRONE. Listen to Louise Gl├╝ck read her poem "A Myth of Innocence" (Dec 6) on Slate. Or better, don’t listen to it. Just read it to yourself in your head. It’s better. I also liked Joila Sidona Einstein's poem "From the Hudson" in 2River View, but again, didn't enjoy her reading it much. Oh, and Mark Jackley's other poem about the truck and the fist of God was good, too.

A Query:

What do you do

when the response time has elapsed . . . over-elapsed . . . and you send a polite query
. . . and time collapses . . . then more time . . . Do you,

like me,

start to wonder if maybe
there’s been some kind of terrible accident?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Some quaint and charming towns

The quaint and charming towns of Germanic Europe

Gypsy Thumbs
Vicious Circle
In Great Anger
Upper Daisy
Swedish Joke
The Ox Will If The Pigeon Does
Under the Millwheel

Saturday, January 07, 2006


I got my copy of Diner this week (fall/winter 2005) and it’s so good. It includes results of their contest. The winning poem “Ceremony with Medical Experiment” by Mary Austin Speaker is wonderful. It’s a list poem, which can be wearying, but very original and more of a chronic.

The judge’s comment on it illustrates for me what I was talking about with a friend yesterday. He asked me to look at one of his poems, concerned it didn’t have “a point.” I said if the poem only conveys a feeling or imparts an image, if it’s successful in that, we shouldn’t worry about “making a point.” It’s not necessary to “conclude” something from it, or outline a philosophy, for chrissakes.

Anyway, the judge (Robin Behn) said it better: “The poem plunges into a pursual of time that doesn’t aim to ‘capture’ it, but rather to record its currents and vectors… each time I read it I felt as though I were privy to a profound discovery, not of an end-point or idea or utterance, but of a kinesis, a meaning-in-motion.”

The second place poem, “The Birth of a Wolf” by Francis Woodbridge was also groovy.

Diner had a number of poems using food as a major element, including mine, “Angelfood.” There’s another food poem by Jack Conway called “Sunshine Sandwich:” I am going to eat America like a/sunshine sandwich. And Kelli Russell Agodon also has a poem about food that I enjoyed.

The best food poem, though, was Christopher Goodrich’s “On Being Rejected by Diner Magazine for the Fourth Time.” It goes… It is, by now, painfully obvious/the beef is overdone…. It was very funny.

Another poem I really liked was “Invention” by Askold Skalsky, which starts All you really need/to write a poem is/Grainger’s Wholesale Motorbook Catalog

Friday, January 06, 2006

been there done that

i got books as presents for christmas. Carlo got me a selection of Thomas Hardy poems. My sister works with the Philly caterer that did the gala evening for the American Poetry Journal in December (?) and she walked outta there with a signed copy of Jorie Graham's Overlord and Rita Dove's American Smooth. She also got me the anthology Poems for the Millenium that's pretty rich. My mother got me Brock-Broido's A Hunger. I thought it might not be as good as the others but it is very good. My only flip-flop feeling is for the Jessicapoem. I also got a big fat Antonio Machado and Nicanor Parra's Antipoems. I like his poem Been There Done That, which starts I've even been a corpse for pay...

Publishing is like the radio and you can only listen to what's on. If anyone could suggest some worthwhile chapbooks I'd appreciate it. Something you l-o-v-e.

my mom also got me these stemless wineglasses, which are great if you're prone to knocking things over. Crate and Barrel - buck a piece or something like that, whereas the Riedels... ah hum... the Riedels cost 9 bucks each.

i didn't make any resolutions, but i was thinking i have never been brave enough to paint my toenails and this year might be it. maybe skyblue or periwinkle, eggplant or plain old fire-engine red.

i didn't make any resolutions, but i am trying to write every day, and trying to do sit-ups. Doc Bruggemann says that the pains i wake up with in my torso come from having a weak back and the best thing to do is strengthen the stomach muscles. but ugh it's so damned boring. really, i'm sure you know.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

hey little bird

not that the poem has to make sense!
not at all!
gott forbid!
I love weird. I say "more weird."
It just has to work as a whole.


Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Coconut, Octopus, Pettycoat

Sometimes I think I've exhausted the poetry ezines in terms of reading, but there are a lot more out there than you might find in the usual listings. I spent some time today going through three I hadn't read before.

The one I enjoyed most was Coconut. Their second issue has poems by Elaine Equi and Jessy Randall. I'm a fan of both of those poets, the first famous, the second hopefully someday. I didn't read the whole issue, though I plan to. My favorite poem was Jessy Randall's "Forgetting Simon Perchik." It was funny and musical. His website declares him as the "most widely published, most unknown poet" or something like that. Probably where she got the idea. I recently read a poem somewhere by Perchik but, and pardon the pun, I forget where and whether or not I liked it. Elaine Equi's "Ciao Bella Chocolate Sorbet" was also good, as was Arielle Greenberg's "The Little Cars: A Birthday Poem." Coconut is also working on a couple of e-chapbooks which I look forward to. All free!

I also enjoyed issue 6 of Octopus Magazine, which definitely had the best layout of the three I looked at. Very nice. One of the best things about it is the editors' intros to the poets. One of the bad things was sometimes the intros were better than the poems. I did like Jill Beauchesne's "East Village Work Unit, 2," and Betsy Wheeler's non-sonnets ("Last night, while sleeping, I bent everything I own/in half..."). The first issue also has three wonderful poems by Matthea Harvey. I wish more magazines would introduce the work of its selected poets. It really helps draw in the reader.

Some of the poems in Octopus were too clever for me, ie full of disconnected if punchy words and images that didn't make sense as a whole and left me shrugging my shoulders. I don't know, I think I'm an intelligent reader. I read poetry (a wide variety) for years and years before I attempted a word myself, so what am I missing? I find a lot of contemporary poetry like this. Am I a philistine? I hope not. I hope I'm not "missing it."

The ezine I least enjoyed was Pettycoat Relaxer because it was dominated by the clever. But it had its moments. I did like Aaron Tieger's "Last Thought before Sleeping," and Ellen Goldstein's "Reprieve," which seemed a little out of place in this zine.

Monday, January 02, 2006

holy shit

holy shit - i'm the poet on verse daily today.
i can't believe it!

Reading Ups and Downs

It wasn't a terribly productive year for me reading wise, but I have to admit the amount of reading I do, aside from poetry, has plummetted since I started writing poetry.

The best book I read this year was nonfiction: Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer. For history and suspense, this was it.

The worst book I read was The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst. I almost gave up on it but soldiered on in the hope it would get better. The premise seemed decent enough, but the story left me completely cold. Close behind was Geraldine Brooks' Year of Wonders. The ending was so contrived, and the whole thing a little too much on the romantic side for me, not lovely-dovey romantic, no, maybe that would have improved it, but "romanticized." Now, Brooks wrote a non-fiction book called The Nine Parts of Desire about women in Muslim societies which was really good, so it's not that she can't write.

But the best thing I read all year was written in 1966 and dedicated to Bob Dylan. You can print it out here and read it between dinner and bedtime: Where are you going?

The best poetry book I bought was probably Franz Wright's Ill Lit. But it was no match for Olena Kalytiak Davis's And Her Soul Out of Nothing, which I got in 2004, and both of them together were not up to The Random House Book of 20th Century French Poetry, which I got in 2004 and everyone needs to have. The only pain is toting that bully around.

On New Year's Eve I Started Iris Murdoch's The Sea, The Sea. I'm on page 19. Cross your fingers.


I've got four (humorous, I hope) poems in this month's Snakeskin, including Guidelines, subject of an earlier post. Two of them actually rhyme - now that's funny!

Jessy Randall, who's editing next month's Snakeskin, also took my alphabet poem, Jackie O. for the issue. I'm looking forward to seeing it. "O" has got to be one of the more popular letters. I also sent a poem with the letter A, but she turned that down. I was pretty surprised; I thought it would go the other way. But you know they often take the poem you least expect.

Here's a poem I had a while back in Snakeskin's "Happiness" issue.

The Upswing Arrives

I flew in on the green wind,
heiress of the 13th hour,
where time holes up in a corner
and won’t budge back out.
I am a prowler, a prisoner
paroled, leave me alone
in your house and I’ll read your journal,
rifle through your intimates, study
your prescriptions,
rub all my hands over your furniture.
I’ll put my tongue on each spoon
and bottle, press my cheek to your floor,
feel the house redden.
There’s nothing that doesn’t thrill me.
When you aren’t looking
I grow a tail and bray softly.
Yes, I’m a pack mule of bursting desire,
a lush, a smutsmith,
a greedy pocket; I go
into the day and come back
with my hands full.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

two things i like among many about blogging

1. Profiling. I love clicking on an item in someone's profile, like "Favorite Books ---> Jesus' Son," and finding the other bloggers who consider that one of their favorite books.

2. Those crazy verfication words. You know, those you have to type in to prove you're a real person gifted with sight and not a machine aiming to spam the universe: wEehky - fplOma - meMPziq - JhevRT
I can't tell you how many times I've typed them wrong.


frohes neues

Had a quiet new year’s eve. Dinner with my mother, then out on the street at midnight to watch the neighborhood light up. Anyone can set off fireworks in Germany. Like in China, just go into the market and buy a bag full. I’ll watch, but I won’t do it. I wasn’t feeling well yesterday and avoided the champagne our neighbors were passing around, so the glass I pretended to nurse was freezing my hand off. Miles was disturbed by the noise and stench of smoke, and afraid because about three years ago a firecracker set a house on fire not far away, so we went back in and I put him to bed. The streets, as usual for new year's day, are a mess of exploded paper this morning.

I was up first this morning and tried translating some Paul Celan poems from “Die Hand voller Stunden.” It went fine, though in a couple places there was a word I didn’t know, and in one of the poems, “Im Memoriam Paul Eluard,” the grammar was difficult. I love Celan, but he’s a poet whose story you need to know to appreciate the poems, some of which would fail without context and a familiarity with his overall work. I love his short poems especially, his symbols, his despair.

On a more hopeful note, here’s a winter poem I wrote a year or so ago. (It was in Worm.)

Snow Path

New year’s litter of colored paper,
nothing will be remembered right.
Bare branches splay
against the sky like mindless scribble.

The best season is silence.
Wool and cross-stitch of frost,
snow --

in their fretwork,
every parting lip is closed.

Fir-circled field,
untrodden path,
this morning I’m first to find it.

I’ve forgotten what I wished for;
perhaps it has come quietly.
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