I just received some delightful information. I'm sure many others know it already, but I'd never heard it before. John Koethe, poet and raconteur extraordinaire, recently revealed that in his last year or so of grad school at Harvard he was invited to Elizabeth Bishop's home. Once in the front door he found that the entire living room was taken up by a huge ping pong table. Elizabeth Bishop was an avid ping pong enthusiast!
This was in the early 1970s, so Miss Bishop would be in her early 60s (she died in 1979). It's commonly thought that Bishop was a poor reader of her own poems, but Koethe says not so. "I remember she gave one of the greatest readings I've ever seen," he said. She "looked like an aunt of mine" up there, but read wonderfully her beautiful poems. "She was a great reader."
Cut to the ping pong table. Can't you see it? Miss Bishop is home after the reading. Some people have come back to the house. She loses the old-fashioned poetry-reading dress, puts on her pedal pushers and sneaks. (Wait, it's Boston, so they probably call them "trainers.") Someone hands her a beer; she takes a long drag off her cigarette, puts it along the edge of the coffee table shoved up against a wall. She unzips her paddle cover, takes out her custom paddle, turns to face her opponent. "Bring it," she says, her voice seemingly noncommital. Thwack-thwack-thwack. Thwack. Thwack-thwack-thwack-thwack. Thwack-thwack-thwack. Plunk. Point to Miss B. She takes another swig of beer. Pulls another drag from the cigarette, stubs it out in an ashtray. Someone puts on some Brazilian music. "Let's go," she says. Her paddle flashes, her sneaks squeak on the wood floor. Thwack-thwack-thwack, into the night.
Thanks for having me, The Best American Poetry Blog, and thank you, dear readers, for making this week an enjoyable one. Made a lot of new email friends and reconnected with others. And thanks to Cristin O'Keefe Aptowicz, who sent in the above cartoon--err, graphic novel-type writing--in honor of today, my last day as BAP guest blogger (single-click your mouse on it to read in new window). She and her partner in crime, Shappy, rocked the Frequency North reading series, which I run here at The College of Saint Rose. See you around the simulrockra, pen in hand.
Poet-slash-evil genius Jonah Winter and your guest blogger spent an afternoon in Pittsburgh not too long ago, talking of our lack of faith in Jesus Christ as our personal savior as well as making fun of poetry book titles. They all seemed so aggressively portentous, imbued with such fawning obsequiousness. To exorcise ourselves of the real-life titles we were mentioning, titles that shall not be mentioned here, we played a word association game wherein either Jonah or myself would think of the second word of a two-word poetry book title, which would after after whatever the other participant named as the first.
So, for example, Jonah would say “Imprimateured,” while I kept in mind the second word for the title, “Meanderings,” thus giving us a title ready for someone’s poetry manuscript, Imprimateured Meanderings. (That's Jonah in full evil genius mode pictured up on your left, reading at
UMaine's reading series awhile back; do check out his books, the very un-portentously, unobsequiously named Maine and Amnesia.)
Sometimes we would even think of the press one of our proposed books titles might be associated. TransDarkness would fit right beside those titles published at the experimental Ahsahta Press, for example, while Tremulous Beaver might be more feasible for, say, Knopf.
Without further ado, here’s our list. Got any others? Add them to the Comments box.
The Orchid Sac Lunar Guest Concrete Pedigree Beviled Desires Standard Flow Leftward Thwartings Modified Rapture Tremulous Beaver Uninformed Highwayman TransDarkness Uninformed Tomorrowings Imprimateured Meanderings Sluiced Regret The Sentinel Awakes In situ, Storms Alarm Morningwood Darling; Wandering Streaked Pugnaciousness Variegated Cock Woman House Descartes’ Pancakes Fugitive Contraband Entering Beaver Airport Beaver Damage Thruway Matchstick Haven Unsublettable You Earning, Toward The Felt Apogee Technical Vulva Tree Entrance Veinous Miriam Unvisited Stickerbush Polished Lendings Stiff Flowering Penelope’s Nubbin
On the eve of BookExpo America, there were two literary events in Los Angeles separate but equally compelling. Wednesday night, May 28, Honor Moore read at Antioch University Los Angeles, the guest of PEN USA West and the undergrad and grad writing programs at Antioch. Honor is a very accomplished poet and biographer, skills she brought to the creation of her latest book, The Bishop's Daughter, an stunningly rich examination of the double life of her renowned father, the Bishop of the Diocese of New York, the Rt. Reverend Paul Moore. Bishop Moore, it turns out, had long been attracted to men and had a 28 year affair with a man who made himself known to Honor after her father died. The book is also an autobiography, a careful scrutiny of Honor's own sexual and emotional history, its intersections with her father's history and their long estrangement heart wrenching. I don't think anyone in the audience went away from the reading without being deeply moved and altered by this forthrightly written book. It will raise some hackles because of the topic, but in an age of memoir, and with all the recent arguments about "truth in telling," this book will go a long way to restoring standards for personal history.
Thursday night, off to the Lambda Literary Awards we went. The program was marked with so many high points, it's hard to know were to begin. First of all, it was the 20th anniversary of the Lambda awards and the first public gala for the Lambda Literary Foundation from its new base is Los Angeles. So, the party was on. Interesting to note that the award presentations were held in the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood, the former home of the Lannan Foundation's groundbreaking poetry series. So, the Lannan Series being long gone from Los Angeles, it was heartwarming to see another organization stepping in to fill some of that footprint. There was a stellar cast of presenters, among them Lillian Faderman (literary historian and chronicler of LBGT lives), and honorees such as Ann Bannon, probably the most widely read gay author living. What brought many of the house to tears was a silent video memorial to LGBT writers who died between the years 1988 and 2008. But the organization is not spending all it's time looking back. Christopher Rice was honored as the new president of the Board of Trustees of the foundation, a sign that a new generation of LBGT writers is rolling out its talent and commitment to spreading the word that LBGT literature has arrived.
(Editor's/"Factor" Note: Eloise Klein Healy is not just a poet and editor, she's a Los Angeles literary legend. Healy is the founder and editor of Arktoi Books (a new poetry imprint with an amazing list), a co-founder of EcoArts travel, and the author of The Islands Project her latest, remarkable book of poems. -J.F.)
In which we ask the same questions Teen magazine asked now-pregnant teen idol Jamie Lynn Spears; see original interview here.
Let's get this out of the way: J'adore Rachel Shukert. Sassy, brassy,raunchy, smart--what more could one ask for? Well, how about a sassy, brassy, raunchy and smart essay collection by that same Rachel Shukert? Introducing Have You No Shame? Just published by Villard/Random House this month, Shame chronicles, among other hijinks, the writer-performer-provocateur experience growing up in whitebread Omaha, Nebraska, in that city's only Jewish elementary school. It should be noted that her sestina, "Subterranean Gnomesick Blues; or, The Gnome Who Whet My Fleshy Tent," which first appeared in the McSweeney's Sestinas page, also graces the pages of The Best American Erotic Poems: From 1800 to the Present. We caught up with Shukert between performances as actress Pamela Ann Windchime, who plays the character of Donna Kettering in Wasp Cove, a Dallas/Falcom Crest-type soap opera performed onstage, which she co-created and co-wrote with Julie Klausner. And we're glad we did catch up with her! BAPB: You’re in Jr. High, right? RS: No! I’m in Sr. High! You’d think I’d be pregnant in Jr. High? What do I look like to you, white trash?
What are you most looking forward to? I can’t wait until the moment the baby’s head crowns, and I can feel my labia tearing as I shriek in agony. What kind of question is this? I’m a pregnant teenager; are you some kind of sadist? But also, I just want to say, if that Sex and the City Movie doesn’t come out soon, I am seriously going to put my fist through the window. I just need to know what happens to those elderly prostitutes!
What kind of car do you want? What kind of car do you want to give me?
What's your favorite subject? Um, that should be “whom is” your favorite subject. What are you, illiterate? And the answer is Justin Rodriguez, 1243 Cumberland Dr. Marietta GA., 30365
Do you play any sports? No. I was on the swim team, but that was before “what’s his name” “accidentally ejaculated” into my “vagina.”
Are kids in school treating you differently because of Nickelodeon exposure? They were pretty understanding. I was afraid they might ostracize me after the preacher railed against the evil of the new “moving pictures” but it seems like they might be catching on. Emmett Pinkerton, whose father is the hurdy-gurdy man, even asked me to keep company with him tomorrow night at the ice-cream social, and later, we might take an amble on down to the Old Footbridge. Of course, I’m not sure Mr. Sennett will approve, since he paid Mother five whole dollars for me, but golly, mister! A girl’s only young once!
You have a new puppy named Ali, right? How is she? If by “puppy” you mean cousin, and if by “cousin” you mean “sex slave.” She’s fine.
How old is she now? How the fuck should I know?
She's a mix, right? No! She is 100% American Indian.
What are your feelings about Ali? She’s okay, I guess. I wish she was more flexible, but I guess you get what you pay for.
Where did you find her? At that bar Sullivan’s, on Leavenworth Street. You know, the one with all the sailors? She was passed out on the sidewalk, in a pool of vomit, with her lycra miniskirt hiked up all the way above her waist, and I just felt kind of sorry for her, you know?
Do you dress her up? I try to. Sometimes I dress her up as a fireman, sometimes we put on the Richard Nixon mask, for a playful look. But usually, I just keep her chained naked to the wall. That’s how she prefers it, really.
Do you try to coordinate it with what you're wearing? Yes. For example, sometimes when she’s playing Nixon, I’ll put on my Henry Kissinger outfit, and we’ll drive around to all the Vietnamese restaurants in Los Angeles, which is always good for a laugh. Or other times I’ll dress up as a pilgrim. She’ll teach me how to plant corn, and I’ll give her smallpox. It’s all fun and games until she’s permanently disfigured.
What is your fashion style? Genocide.
Year 'round? Year ‘round.
What do you like to do for fun? I don’t know if I should tell you this, but I’m kind of stalking the guy from the Mac commercials? Not the cute one that’s dating Drew Barrymore, the other one, with the glasses and the really round head. The other day—oh my God, it was so funny!—I actually ran into him at Baja Fresh, and I told him if he got in the car with me, I would get Zac Efron to give him a hand job, and oh my God! He totally got in my car! So then I drove him to an undisclosed location, and I put him in a noose, and took pictures on my iPhone, which I sent to his wife.
Was it really scary? She was super scared! And he kept saying how it was like something out of something called a clockworm orange or something, so I hit him as hard as I could in the face, and like the second I did that, he got the biggest boner I’ve ever seen. Dude, it was so funny!
TV anything you watch? Like everyone in the First World, I am obsessed with Gossip Girl. I also love Taxi. That Jim Ignatowski is hilarious. I just want to kick him.
Are you watching Joey? I don’t know what a Joey is.
So, you have to get TiVo? You better fucking believe I’m going to get TiVo for what he’s done to me. Motherfucker.
Do you have an acting coach working with you? I did. Now I have an acting coach working in me. Touché!
Is Zoe like you? We look exactly the same. We inhabit the same body. And we both love soup, and Maroon 5.
How are you not alike? I’m pregnant, and Zoe is not pregnant. Zoe’s name is Zoe, and my name is not Zoe. And also, Zoe loves to eat clams, oysters, and other shellfish, and I am a heterosexual.
Will that change as you get older? I don’t know. I’m told that it can, but the person who told me that was this lady therapist my mom sent me to who totally tried to make out with me.
In the style of Larry King's "It's My Two Cents" columns that ran in USA Today, collaboratively written by members of the English 563 ‘Selves Thinking’ Essay Writing Intensive class at The College of Saint Rose: Louis Cortina, Chrissie Curran, Beth Hines, Rebecca Lewand, Lindsay Marchetti, Daniel Nester, Vaneeta Palecanda, Esther Prokopienko, Michael Sloman, Anne-Marie Thweatt, and Scott Wheatley
Losing an appendage would be devastating to daily life; I’d rather lose an arm, hands down….If you receive a tattoo on your ass, do not sun-bathe in the nude….Don’t slice your herbs, crush them…if you must, use your fingers. As for broccoli, break off the florets. Don’t take a knife to it…. You should not play rugby for the singular reason that you may end up with a flat face….
Last night I saw a bumper sticker that said, “You might have come from a monkey, but I was created.” I like to believe I’ve got monkey genes…Am I the only one who still has a hard time saying the word “duties” with a straight face? Even at my age and in the workplace, it's still hilarious! If you disagree, grow up!...
Does hearing the women cluck back and forth on “The View” make anyone else tempted to light themselves on fire?...What is with people who don't feel the need to have an answering machine? I understand those who don't carry around cell phones to avoid being reached at all times of the day, but no way to leave a message?... Stephen Colbert should have a bear-cooking show….
I don’t care about this so-called childhood amnesia—I refuse to stand in front of my child naked. Better to be safe than sorry when dealing with the nude human body….I love Mexico. If you ever find yourself in there, buy some coke; it’s cheap and good… Speaking of cheap and good, never let your boyfriend who’s learning to tattoo practice on you; it may be cheap, but it’ll never be good…Do not enter a mud wrestling tournament the day after being tattooed….