Kristi Jacobson has made an excellent 85-minute documentary (Toots, 2006) about her grandfather, Toots Shor, and the eponymous joint he opened in 1939 at 51 West 51st Street. Among the cats who went there during the following two decades were Jackie Gleason, Whitey Ford, Edward R. Murrow, Jimmy Hoffa, and the two fellows pictured above. I recommend it.
"The sexual organs are the most sensitive organs of the human being. The eye or the ear seldom sabotage you. An eye will not stop seeing if it doesn't like what it sees, but the penis will stop functioning if he doesn't like what he sees. I would say that the sexual organs express the human soul more than any other limb of the body. They are not diplomats. They tell the truth ruthlessly."
"Proverbs, like the sacred books of each nation, are the sanctuary of the intuitions."
"Fear is an instructor of great sagacity, and the herald of all revolutions."
"He is base -- and that is the one base thing in the universe -- to receive favors and to render none."
"As long as all that is said is said against me, I feel a certain assurance of success. But as soon as honeyed words of praise are spoken for me, I feel as one that lies unprotected before his enemies."
This is how much it has rained here today: some streets are so full of water that you can't cross them by foot unless you're wearing rubber. My favorite: water so deep and murky that it is no longer possible to see the S and the T painted white on the pavement beneath. STOP had been erased by water. All that remains is OP.
Thank you, David Lehman, for so graciously inviting me to blog here today and for inviting my poem into your anthology. Even more, thank you for reading the book it appeared in. I have no doubt that you are permanently deluged. That you managed to get to what I'd written is something that should give us all some hope.
I love to carry paradox in my mind until it practically bursts.
On a whim, I typed "paradox" into an online dictionary site and was taken to "Ask Jeeves."
But I hadn't asked Jeeves. So I found a way back to "paradox" and at that very moment an ad popped up with the following message:
Try that with the cookie jar.
John Cage couldn't have planned this any better.
Some have suggested that there might be more than a little paradox involved in the bookends that are my recent book titles: Whore and The White Bride, which I just saw in hardback for the first time yesterday. There was no master plan afoot, as the poems began. These were the titles, from individual poems, that kept nagging me until I had to listen, until the manuscripts had constellated around them, until they had informed what was there.
Paradox is at the center of the poem "Whore" because, once you begin to track it, paradox is at the center of the etymological linkages and what the word has become. It has a weird cultural stability that is somewhat at odds with its center. The subject of fascination in "The White Bride" appears to be a conflation of statue and flesh--in any case, immobile: beyond still. And finally, the phrase is a way of describing the moon, as it emerges on a dim, cold evening.
When I was very young, it seemed to me that God was the moon--there was that face, and the way we could drive for miles and the moon would still be there--as though watching over us. I grew up with a warm feeling about the moon even before the entrance of stories about its pull, especially on females.
But in the season of this poem, the moon is just a rock, around which we should build no other fantasies. The moon is not aware of us, bears us no celestial goodwill, but rather, indifference. There is nothing protecting us--from ourselves.
And so this bride is a rather chilly figure--below which, the world is nervous and strange, and mostly happening at night. Still, there are moments of the most intense connection, even beauty.
In both books, there's a kind of triangulation between title and (in each case) two epigraphs, and it's right here that the territory gets really clear--and really paradoxical.
What I love about the territory of paradox is very similar to what I love about the territory of eros--though perhaps one generates a more intellectual excitement and the other a more physical excitement, both generate a kind of emotional excitement because both demand a questioning and expansion of boundaries, both thrive on a displacement of categories, and both throw us into a state of wondrous disarray.
ELVIS PRESLEY, FRANK SINATRA and FRED ASTAIRE at Nancy Sinatra's opening night party, which was also celebrating the closing night for Elvis, at the International Hotel in Las Vegas, in 1969. Elvis's bodyguard, Joe Esposito, is in the background. "Elvis was a prince," says Mr. Abolafia. "He would give you the shirt off his back."
Photograph by Oscar Abolafia
from "A Photographer's Files" / Sidebar to "In an Era of Glitz, a Witness With Panache" by Lily Koppel
OK. I'll admit it. Not only am I incredibly blog-shy, I'm a blog virgin. This is my first time. And of course, of course, it would be with all of you, who suddenly seem so adroit and ahead of me, like that best friend of mine who snuck off to kiss the hay-blond boy in the middle of an ice-skating party on a frozen slough when we were twelve--and I suddenly felt abandoned. And jealous. Not even so much of the fact that she'd gone off with this particuar guy, but of the fact that she'd gone off to some experience I also longed for and would have to wait to have for many--well, but that's another story.
But seriously, this is like coming to a party with a blindfold on. I have no idea who is out there, who might be reading this. Or not. Oddly, this is never a problem for me when I'm writing a poem, or even when it's published. Maybe it's a comfort.
Meanwhile, some of you are removing your blindfolds. Are we all blindfolded? Is that where it starts?
I imagine that as soon as you speak, you become one step less blind. But maybe this is an exhibition of a basic confusion, like that childhood illusion that if you close your eyes, no one can see you.