Word (in every sense) comes from The Guardian that Russell Crowe composed a poem to read at Sunday night's Empire Film Awards ceremony. After receiving an "actor of our lifetime" award (!) (wouldn't that describe any actor during our, ah, lifetime?), Crowe whipped out this bit of verse:
I am celebrating my love for you with a pint of beer and a new tattoo.
Imagine there's no heaven.
I don't know if you're loving somebody. To be a poet and not know the trade, to be a lover and repel all women. Twin ironies by which great saints are made, the agonising pincer-jaws of heaven.
If you can walk with crowds and keep your virtue, walk with kings but not lose the common touch, if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you, If all men count with you, but none too much;
yours is the earth and everything that's in it and what's more, you'll be a man.
It's only words, and words are all I have, to take your breath away.
Hmm... (This is me back again, not Russell Crowe.) John Lennon, Kipling, and the Bee Gees as quotations; the you/tattoo rhyme, those "pincer-jaws" of heaven... It's only words, and The Guardian wasn't letting on whether they took the audience's collective breath away.
Colleague Viggo Mortensen made reference to Crowe's "unfathomable literay aspirations." But hey, if Michael Madsen can publish a book of poetry, who's going to tell Ye Bearded Phone-Thrower he can't write verse?
A reader asks: What can be done to save the financial system? How seriously should the individual take the national economic crisis?
There are some obvious steps we can take. Many economists agree on these:
-- Banks must lend to individuals or organizations that are good bets to pay back the loan in full.
-- Reasonable collateral must underwrite transactions on derivatives.
-- Underwriting standards should be strenghtened and enforced.
-- Allocate additional funds to FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Company) to strengthen confidence in savings accounts.
-- Clarify accounting rules applicable in all states.
-- Reduce the number of foreclosures by restructuring mortgage debt, adopting "rent-to-own" options or whatever it takes.
Our man on the Street has these tips for individuals:
"This is not a good time to quit your job. If you are steadily employed and are eligible for a tax-deferred investment plan for a portion of your salary, maximize it; you get the full benefit of dollar-cost-averaging and you limit your risk, with obvious tax advantages. There are bargains out there right now.
"Sell neither your house nor any blue-chip securities unless you absolutely have no choice.
"If you have credit card debt, pay it off right away. Make that your number one priority. Put yourself on a budget. Treat the while business the way an alcoholic treats the twelve steps: soberly and seriously.
"It is only sensible to proceed cautiously at a time like this, but I would disregard alarmists who tend to extrapolate from current conditions and discount the possibility of change.
"In the short term, be patient. Have confidence. We've been through bad crises before and, if necessity is the mother of invention, we're about due to have some invention.
"Read poetry. It has the best cost-benefit ratio of anything in the culture."
A Fine Night for the Living
The podium of the KGB Bar was graced with the presence of two audacious poetesses last night, Sally Ashton and Nin Andrews. Happy synergies between poets marked the evening in the form of prose poem play, persona pieces, and bursts of laughter from the crowd. Both are often funny, yes, but always with some bite.
Ashton took us on her search for the real Sally Ashton, asking what’s in a name in so many ways. She introduced us to the myriad doppleganger Sally Ashtons of the internet, and pondered what a person is, exactly, on the Web. Technology surfaced subtly throughout her work, text messages following rapture, Confederate hoopskirts rubbing up against gas stations.
Having risked a student riot by refusing to deliver an orgasm (poem) at a recent reading, Andrews played it, er, safe this time, regaling us with the climactic Yes (in the voice of a kind of orgasm maven), as well as detailing the troubles of having a talking pussy, in a decidedly female tribute to the surreal and sexy boldness of Henri Michaux. With poems from Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum she gleefully took us to the absurd and metaphysical place the language of physics seems to long for.
We were also treated to a first taste of books-to-be. A lyric "I" circles and returns to the enigma of a haunting donkey’s voice in Ashton’s prose poem series, Her Name is Juanita (forthcoming from Kore Press). Andrews’ voice blossomed with a Southern twang in poems recalling the power of superstition and Catholic school health class, soon to appear in the collection Southern Comfort (from CavanKerry Press).
There was an eerie micro moment when Andrews described her father’s belief that every twenty minutes, we trade places with the dead (those moments when a group goes suddenly silent). The trade is necessary so the dead will be familiar when we meet them. The giggling crowd had just gone suddenly silent a moment earlier... If we did indeed trade places with the dead, it made the return to the living all the better, with a drink to follow in the red room and something warm and close in the air, made of words.
-- Megin Jimenez
O flaked ice, I'm so lost without my Maker's Mark.
Angina, transport me into a private room at last
to take the corner off of today,
smeared with the heart tissue of angels, Live!
With the tweezers of tiny heroes,
"pull Apollo crabmeat"
from the legs of the breakdown republic ---
anemic royalty hurling a full Coors
at Amerika, auburn curls wicked tight &
cheekbones flushed with tidy adventure.
A plague on both your brownstones!
I can feel this elite in the Ethers & in the land of Coca~Cola
but tonight I was "corrected" at the gym & felt shame.
A column of coral flame shot up
like Vikings with powder room vapors,
starkers (blush!) amid the puffy axioms of existence.
Made stiff by the Krypton syrup in all I touch
that blossoms into the cold sick throb of
"WTF are you trying to do? WTF are you trying to do???"
I know nothing I have nothing I got nothing to say but
"I carelessly build a creepy future life."
photo by Gottfried Helnwein
My "Art as Activism" class is in the middle of studying the 1950's. We've been watching the terrific 1982 documentary, The Atomic Cafe, a collection of army training and civil defense films, contemporary interviews, and speeches, which really gives my Millenials a sense of the what living with during the Cold War was like. Those of us who remember "Duck and Cover" drills will also remember Burt the Turtle. Here's the original 1950 film, shown to school children all over America.
This civil defense film, "Survival Under Nuclear Attack," was directed at adults. (I was horrified to discover that it is narrated by Edward R. Murrow.)
If you refer back to the first post you’ll see I was a bit wounded. Sick’ish wounded.
Midwest bound, photo finish flu bug down and out finish. I stuck two poets and their work which I admire greatly as the buffer between then and now … the revelations are at hand (if you go back to the previous post you might find some young students tangling with Mr. Kadela and Jack McCarthy).
Newsweek via the National Endowment of the Arts reported that poetry is on the decline. I’m not sure what that means: on the decline. And I don’t necessarily want to go after that line; I don’t want to yell about book sales, monopoly book chains, an inaccurate reading of Plato booting the poets out of the Republic, or all of the rest (the ‘e’ world is so very foreign to me, I still kill chickens to turn my computer on [this post cost four feathered friends] so I couldn’t possibly touch the issue of what the world wide web has done or not done for poetry). The only semi controversial note I’d like to add to the whole discussion is that my teacher blood starts to heat up a bit, my spidy sense seems to waver high, and my vamp toothies seem to lower in recognition of an old truth: If there is a problem and you keep teaching with the same people in the same way with the same assessments than there can be no change. Tis not the fault of those who are being tested it is the others, the us. I like Dana Gioia, former chairman of the NEA, I like Stephen Young of the Poetry Foundation, I love to read and have marvelous interactions with titled poets, but if different results are desired, maybe it is time to try different people and different methods. They are out there, they aren’t hiding. And they are rather good at what they do … the breathing and living of poetics.
Far be it for me to dispute Newsweek, but I can’t escape poetry. I have a very limited ability to communicate with others. The spaces in between is closer to my mark. I was watching the documentary ‘GreyGardens’ about Jackie O’s aunt and cousin (Little Edie). Mother starts a scene with a discussion about the color of the ocean, something she has stared at for 50 years, “I’ve never seen it that color before.” It reminded me of Jodie Foster in ‘Contact’ when she transports to another planet and responds back to Earth, “They should have sent a poet, I don’t have the words for the beauty” (faux pas quotation marks on that one … used for dramatic effect, less for utility [Jeremy Bentham be damned]). Not to be outdone by Mother, Jackie O cousin Little Edie starts a debate about freedom, her desire to have stayed in New York City v. the East Hamptons many, many moons ago:
March 30, 2009-Mark Eleveld
I was going to sing the praises of the two poets I put on the site last night, but I think a former student of mine might have a more interesting, subjective opinion (look at the bottom for a response from his blog [also a former student of mine]):
From the blog ‘A Modest Construct’
I recently had the benefit of attending a live performance by one Jack McCarthy. I’d seen Jack perform once before, when Mark Eleveld gamed him into performing a set at my old high school back in 2000 or 2001. In fact, Mark got a lot of his published poets to perform at local functions.
At this particular reading—which ended up being a small and cozy affair—I managed to feel like an ass by starting to request a certain funny poem that I remembered from 200X (specifically, “Car Talk II”), having him guess that I was asking for one of his flagship poems—a bait-and-switch that lures you into chuckles and then emotionally devastates you with the last stanza—and then essentially saying, when everyone was breathless and silent from the last lingering line, “No, do the funny one—you know, the car thief one.”
I say this not to highlight my social gaffe, or underline my ability to seem like a knuckle-dragging philistine, but rather to illustrate that Jack McCarthy wields a variety of poetic weapons. In fact, I remembered the sad, devastating poem as well, but had decided gainst requesting it in fear that the venue—a bar, albeit a nice one—wasn’t appropriate.
McCarthy is such a damned intriguing mix: his delivery has shades of George Carlin—the barest hint of an accent, a certain matter-of-factness, and a wry, depracating wit—interplayed with an incredible tenderness. One gets that he is full of love—for his wife, his daughters, his father, his mothers, his experiences—and also a world-weary cynicism so often held by a person of Jack’s age.
I woke up 4 AM
from a dream of coining a Latin verb
the way men who have gambled their lives
for a chance to serve God
actually make words up
in the bowels of the Vatican
in order that pronouncements might be made
in a dead language
about occasions of sin
implicit in emerging technologies
March 29, 2009-Mark Eleveld
I am writing this at 10:17pm, central time, outside of Chicago (I will reveal place at a later date). I had planned on putting together a big 'how-do-you-do', but I have become somewhat ill, Midwestern flu style. I wanted to do a 'Who are you', Ah! That's the question. The answer is: I don't know,' existential faux pas via Mickey Rourke via via Charles Bukowski via x 3 Barfly style, but the short is, I suppose, that my name is Mark Eleveld and I am a high school English teacher. I have edited two fairly well selling anthologies of contemporary poetics, the non-traditional slam world as well as the academic world, called 'The Spoken Word Revolution' and 'The Spoken Word Revolution Redux' (Redux stolen from Updike's Rabbit series ... 'tis the title of one of the Rabbit books which is also made fun of by one of Updike's characters in a later book as being a silly title for a book [by the way, by and far the scariest books I have ever read on contemporary life, Mr. Updike's Rabbits, holy cow]). I have also written my fair share of book reviews for the wonderful American Library Association Booklist Magazine (who doesn't love libraries and those who run them?) and a couple of other newspapers/magazines, and currently produce a poetry radio show called 'Slam the Radio' on Sirius/XM Radio Book Channel 117/163. (Lot of bio above for a humble high school English teacher; I'll try to be less self-involved as the week goes on.) Oh, I am friendly with the greatest, best looking small publishers in the poetry business, EM Press (www.em-press.com). So, recent sickness has lead me into the solitude of my garage, my man room ... my little get away from the way. I have been engrossed in too many good Vanity Fair (I know), New Yorker, Rolling Stone issues to have a healthy endorsement as a Chi kid, but as a counter I have been reading the hell out of Roberto Bolano (http://www.amazon.com/2666-Novel-Roberto-Bolano/dp/0374100144/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1238384258&sr=1-3). And I have some really fun tunes and films that I've been wetting the palate with. Ok. I'm sick. Please believe me. Here is some poetry to read and listen to(since this is a poetry blog and all) ... a quick thanks to David and Stacey for allowing me to do this. I look forward to a fun week of self-reflection, deprecation, healthy nonsense, and uppity aesthetic battles. Let's talk about poetry baby. I'll be more with it tomorrow, I promise. But I'm leaving you with the goods this evening.
Andrew Marvell (1621-1678) has been called “the greatest minor poet in the English language.” There’s plenty of competition for this curious distinction, but the case for Marvell is strong, especially if you like ambiguity and elegance in equal measure.
Marvell happens to be one of the great mystery men of English letters. He had a gift for foreign languages, was an avid fencer, and lived a shadowy life on the continent that led to speculation that he was a spy or double agent. For twenty years he served as a member of parliament. He did not produce a large amount of poetry, but what he wrote was, as Spencer Tracey said of Katharine Hepburn’s anatomy, “cherce.”
Probably Marvell’s most famous poem is “To His Coy Mistress.” Never was a declaration of lust more logical. Carpe diem: We won’t be young forever, so let us make merry while we can. But Marvell develops the argument as one would a syllogism. He begins with wild hyperbole. If we had “world enough and time,” he would woo the maiden “ten years before the flood” and not mind if she should turn him down until the second coming.
But with the inevitable “but,” the tone changes drastically from genial to threatening: “But at my back I always hear / Time’s winged chariot hurrying near.” And now Marvell warns the lady that someday “worms will try / that long-preserv’d virginity” of hers – a grim image you’d not expect to find in a seduction poem. The stanza closes with a sarcastic couplet for the ages: “The grave’s a fine and private place, / But none I think do there embrace.”
The third and final stanza clinches the argument as the lovers clinch. The image of the lovers rolled into a ball concludes the poem in an outburst of violence. But the violence is contained; Marvell pushes the couplet to the breaking point: “Let us roll all our strength and all / Our sweetness up into one ball, / And tear our pleasures with rough strife / Through the iron gates of life.” T. S. Eliot liked the image so much that he lifted it for “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”
When Oliver Cromwell returned to England after subjugating Ireland in 1650, Marvell greeted him with “An Horatian Ode” that set some sort of record for calculated ambiguity. This stately, grave ode can be read as straightforward praise of the conquering hero who had beheaded King Charles I and would, as the poem predicts, go on to suppress the Scots. But subtle critics have propounded the opposite interpretation, contending that the ode has a secret royalist agenda and is deeply critical of Cromwell. And so this mid-seventeenth-century poem became a perfect object lesson in mid-twentieth-century literary criticism.
Read Marvell’s “The Garden” for his double vision of paradise lost and paradox gained: “Two paradises ‘twere in one / To live in paradise alone.” Before you declare your disagreement with this proposition, consider the mathematical metaphor Marvell employs. And then re-read the first three chapters of Genesis.
Possibly no one, not even Pope, wrote couplets more complex and witty than Andrew Marvell.
Hosted by Laura Cronk, Megin Jimenez & Michael Quattrone Presents . . . Nin Andrews & Sally Ashton Sally Ashton is Editor-in-Chief of the DMQ Review, an online journal featuring poetry and art (www.dmqreview.com). She is the author of These Metallic Days, published by Mainstreet Rag. Her prose poem collection, Her Name Is Juanita, is forthcoming from Kore Press later this year. Poetry and reviews have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Sentence: a journal of prose poetics, Poet Lore, Parthenon West Review, failbetter.com, and Linebreak. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area where she teaches poetry; she also teaches freshman composition at San José State University. Nin Andrews is the author of several books including The Book of Orgasms, Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, Sleeping with Houdini, and Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum. She also edited Someone Wants to Steal My Name, a book of translations of the French poet, Henri Michaux. Her book, Southern Comfort, is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press.
The KGB Monday Night Poetry Reading Series
Hosted by Laura Cronk, Megin Jimenez & Michael Quattrone
Presents . . .
Nin Andrews & Sally Ashton
Sally Ashton is Editor-in-Chief of the DMQ Review, an online journal featuring poetry and art (www.dmqreview.com). She is the author of These Metallic Days, published by Mainstreet Rag. Her prose poem collection, Her Name Is Juanita, is forthcoming from Kore Press later this year. Poetry and reviews have recently appeared or are forthcoming in Sentence: a journal of prose poetics, Poet Lore, Parthenon West Review, failbetter.com, and Linebreak. She currently lives in the San Francisco Bay area where she teaches poetry; she also teaches freshman composition at San José State University.
Nin Andrews is the author of several books including The Book of Orgasms, Why They Grow Wings, Midlife Crisis with Dick and Jane, Sleeping with Houdini, and Dear Professor, Do You Live in a Vacuum. She also edited Someone Wants to Steal My Name, a book of translations of the French poet, Henri Michaux. Her book, Southern Comfort, is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press.
LYRAE VAN CLIEF-STEFANON “Lyrae was a winner of the 2001 Cave Canem Poetry Prize (the Pitt Poetry Series is one of three publishers of the Cave Canem prizewinners). Her first book, Black Swan, was well-reviewed and sold well. Her new book, ]Open Interval[ is amazing. I heard Lyrae present some of those longer, new poems in a summer garden reading, and it was one of those events where you could hear the crowd's intake of breath, and then silence, and then huge applause.” —Ed Ochester
The actors mill about the party saying rhubarb
because other words do not sound like conversation.
In the kitchen, always, one who’s just discovered
beauty, his mouth full of whiskey and strawberries.
He practices the texture of her hair with his tongue;
in her, five billion electrons pop their atoms. Rhubarb
in electromagnetic loops, rhubarb, rhubarb, the din increases.
“Transit of Venus” from ]Open Interval[$14.95 • 96 pp.
© 2009 University of Pittsburgh Press
Also by Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon from the Pitt Poetry Series: Black Swan $12.95
American Poetry Now features poems by many poets from the Pitt Poetry Series.
Freud Quiz # 21
This is the first sentence of Freud’s Civilization and its Discontents:
(a) “It is impossible to escape the impression that people commonly use false standards of measurement – that they seek power, success and wealth for themselves and admire them in others, and that they underestimate what is of true value in life.”
(b) “Two scenes from Shakespeare, one from a comedy and the other from a tragedy, have lately given me occasion for setting and solving a little problem.”
(c) “In my Traumdeutung I made a statement concerning one of the findings of my analytic work which I did not then understand.”
(d) “The word ‘No’ does not seem to exist for a dream.”
(e) “Anyone who has at any time had occasion to enquire from the literature of aesthetics and psychology what light can be thrown on the nature of jokes and on the position they occupy will probably have to admit that jokes have not received nearly as much philosophical consideration as they deserve in view of the part they play in our mental life.”
Note: The opening lines of three other essays by Freud are also given here.
This week we welcome Mark Eleveld as our guest blogger. Eleveld is the editor of the best-selling poetry anthologies, 'The Spoken Word Revolution' & 'Redux' (Sourcebooks Publishing). He is a high school English teacher, co-owner of EM Press (em-press.com) and, most recently, producer of 'Slam the Radio', a poetry radio show on Sirius/XM Satellite Radio, channel 117/163. Welcome, Mark.
In other news:
In honor of National Poetry Month: One month of poets' tattoos over at Tattoosday!
Coming Up at The New School (66 West 12th Street, Room 510):
Monday, April 6, 6:30 PM David Lehman will lecture on W. H. Auden's poetry at 6:30 PM. To prepare, read the Auden selections in The Oxford Book of American Poetry. Among the poems Lehman will address are "Musee des Beaux Arts," "September 1, 1939," "In Memory of W. B. Yeats," and "Under Which Lyre."
Tuesday, April 7, 6:30 PM Paul Violi will read his poems and converse with David Lehman.
When Annika got back into town, she and I had a serious talk about my backyard cemetery project.
ed note: If you want to catch up on Mitch Sisskind's Hard Times project, you can view all previous reports here.
Two mid-twentieth-century American poets died of heart attacks in New York City taxi cabs. The more recent was Robert Lowell in 1977, who expired en route from JFK. Having left his third wife, Caroline Blackwood, he was returning to his second, Elizabeth Hardwick, with a Lucian Freud portrait of the young Blackwood in his arms. The other, lesser-known, was James Agee (1909–1955), who at the age of forty-five died on his way to the doctor, leaving his only novel, A Death in the Family, unfinished. The book appeared posthumously, after a substantial editing job, winning a Pulitzer in 1958 (a year before Lowell's National Book Award-winning Life Studies appeared).
My review of Agee's Selected Poems, edited by Andrew Hudgins, will appear in the special April poetry issue of The New Criterion. Other highlights of the issue, which can be viewed online beginning April 1, are three new poems by Christian Wiman, a review of Daniel Mendelsohn's new translations of Cavafy by Eric Ormsby, and an essay by Denis Donoghue on Gerard Manley Hopkins.
William Logan tackles the recent volume of interviews with Seamus Heaney by Denis O'Driscoll: "A reader jaded by memoir might still find it interesting to know that the Heaney stove would have been stewing up feed for the animals, with scones rising on the griddle, an ever-boiling kettle, and pots choked full of washing."
Don't you love it when science echoes in confirmation of literature's observations? This week I've been reading A Tale of Two Cities, a copy my grandmother gave me when I was ten, and which I've been thrilled to finally experience. I grew especially happy the the other day, when I came across this description of Lucie Manette's testimony at the Old Bailey:
I was reminded of this piece from Science Daily, which states, "The movement of facial skin and muscles around the mouth plays an important role not only in the way the sounds of speech are made, but also in the way they are heard according to a study by scientists at Haskins Laboratories." Okay, so it's the mouth and not the forehead, but still! All those foreheads creasing along with Lucie's seem to shape the jury's interpretation of what they hear, and Charles Darnay gets his reprieve.
Plus, how amazing is that study? Imagine if you could hook someone up to that machine and then have them listen to poetry!
Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.
As March unveils its well-worn wonders, blunted
by frost-heave cynicism, sleeping senses
prick to life. The nerves of lust are plucked
and sing good-natured sleaze of robins' nests,
worms, spring's own coy dalliance with chill
(the threat of April snow), affairs of cloud.
Dry winter yearnings shed disguise, melt
and trickle in to muddy up the blood.
Now spring's inside me, something I can't wear,
though every year I dream this perfect dress:
roll-in-the-yard skirt, long but barely there,
light cotton, filmy sleeves, a wash of blossoms
from skinny crabapples. Love shows its sprigs,
pulls the truth of breeze across bare legs.
This Is It
I took the day off and got laid
I mean I was laid off from my job
so I got laid
I got off
I also collected $200
when I passed GO
on 42nd Street and 5th Ave
GO is painted
in the clouds
on the ceiling
in the Library
where I feel like a famous poet.
And the girl next to me is picking her nose
no she isn't
I just said that
because I want to pick my nose
no I don't
I want to punch the girl in the nose
for chewing her gum loud
my jaw aches
like a busy housewife
who gives her husband
and all his friends
she gives them all blowjobs
and her jaw hurts
that's what my jaw feels like right now
as I sit in the NY Public Library in Bryant Park.
-- Nicole Santalucia
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.