As the founder and director of Women's Voices Mentorship Program for Writers, I'd like to ask your help. Our program is a way for women writers of all expressions to find advanced writing instruction and mentorship outside the MFA. I'm honored to be working with an extraordinary group of writers who are also experienced and committed teachers. One of those is poet Jessica Piazza, author of Interrobang (Red Hen Press 2013) and co-author with Heather Aimee O'Neill of Obliterations (RHP 2016). Jess is raising money to fund program scholarships for women writers of under-served populations. Jess explains:
"We all know that creative writing isn't the most lucrative field in the world, but true writers are still driven by passion and talent to bring their voices to the world. We write after work, between diaper changes, between shifts. We take loans for MFA programs that we know might be impossible to pay back. We do our best to make it work and to share our unique vision....
...unless we can't. So many writers--especially women from under-represented populations--aren't able to afford quality, empathetic, graduate level creative writing mentorship and education. Ironically, these are the very writers whose voices our industry most needs: women of color, single mothers, lgbtq writers, women of small financial means.
These are the stories that need to be heard and the poems that need to be written, honed and published. But in the literary industry, who you know and where you've gone counts; most people who publish widely have done university masters programs or PhDs in writing. But the artists who would write the stories we so need to hear often can't afford to spend the money, time or energy on graduate writing programs, or they feel ostracized because higher education historically treats women in these positions (and their stories and poems and memoirs) with less dignity, vision and respect than other students.
The Women's Voices Mentorship Program (WVMP) was created specifically to address these problems. Mentors work one on one with writers to nourish, guide and hone their work, treating each student to a level of indivudal guidance and education many MFA programs can't match. We make targeted writing goals and plans with each student, give them readings and assignments, edit and work through each piece of writing, truly building toward a full body of work and publication with every session and every meeting.
As a mentor, published poet, university professor and literary citizen, I'm proud to help women achieve their writing goals. But even though our program costs far less than the price of a master's education in writing (with far more individual attention), I recognize that not all women can afford even our program's rates. So I decided to raise money to provide scholarships to three or four women writers this summer. I believe that as a mentor in the WVMP I can offer these poets and fiction writers something that they might not otherwise ever have: graduate level creative writing education that's focused specifically on their unique voices, goals and talents.
Which is, hopefully, where you come in.
The cost per scholarship is $3250 (plus GoFundMe fees.) If we can raise $9750 plus fees, we'll be able to provide writing mentorship to three talented women whose voices desperately need to be heard. $13,000 will allow us to fully fund four women writers. These scholarships will go to women who demonstrate excellent writing potential already, and they will all be women of color, single mothers or LGBTQ writers, as so often these are the communities that lack access to comprehensive education (in the arts and elsewhere!)
If we do not raise enough money to fully fund three scholarships, we'll fund as many full programs as possible and offer the rest as partial scholarships. If we meet our goal of three scholarships, we'll continue on to try to fund four women's mentorships.
Each mentorship session runs the length of a university quarter and provides a comprehensive apprenticeship and education. You can read more about the program and exactly what I do as a mentor here: http://www.womensvoicesmentorship.com
I truly hope you'll kick in even a few bucks to help bring these voices to the world. Any amount will help. Also, consider chipping in with friends to sponsor one woman's scholarship on your own! It's an amazing way to be a patron of the arts for someone who truly deserves it."
Please consider donating. Even a small amount can make a big difference. You can find our GoFundMe page here: DONATE
We welcome the publication of In the Empire of the Air: The Poems of Donald Britton, a posthumous collection by a wonderful poet who died in 1994, entirely too young. The publisher is Nightboat Books, and the work of editing it was shared by Philip Clark and the late Reginald Shepherd. I knew Donald well; he is represented in an anthology I edited, Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms, for which he wrote a statement about the occasion and objectives of one of his poems. It may be the only critical statement that he ever published. Three of Donald's poems appeared in a low-circulation magazine I edited, Poetry in Motion, in the late 1970s. There will be a release party for the book at Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York City on Friday, May 20, at 6 PM.
In he picture above, Donald is the fourth poet from the left. To his right is Tim Dlugos, with Dennis Cooper standing on the other side of Tim. Amy Gerstler is second from the right. Also in the picture are Michael Silverblatt, Bob Flanagan, and Ed Smith. The venue is the Ear Inn and I'd have to guess the date as early 1980s.
Here is the first paragraph of Douglas Crase's afterword to the new collection.
<< The appearance in print of the selected poems of Donald Britton is an affront to cynicism and a triumph over fate. When Donald died, in 1994, it was sadly reasonable to assume that the influence of his poetry would be confined to the few who had preserved a copy of his single book, the slender, deceptively titled Italy, published thirteen years earlier. As the few became fewer it seemed all but certain the audience for his poems would disappear. Donald never taught, so there were no students to mature into positions of critical authority. There was no keeper of the flame to incite publication, no posthumous foundation to subsidize it, not even a martyrology in place to demand it out of sentiment. The survival of his work would have to come about, instead, as a pure instance of “go little booke”—an instance that must now warm the heart of anyone who has ever believed in poetry. It was the poems in Italy themselves, free of professional standing or obligation, that inspired the successive affections of two remarkable editors and the confident publisher of the present selection. Donald, who despite his brilliance was a modest and self-effacing person, would be surprised.
Crase's afterword concludes with this thought about the "longevity" of poetry as opposed to a "career" in the field.
<<< Donald’s posthumous success in inspiring the publication of his selected poems, coupled with the undeniable failure in worldly terms of his career, is occasion to wonder if the career is ever the same as poetry itself. From time to time a critic will observe that Hart Crane’s suicide, for example, or Joe Brainard’s decision to stop making art, may be regarded as proof the artist realized what his admirers don’t, that the work was a failure and the career could not be sustained. The critic doesn’t quite dare to draw the same conclusion from the abjuration of Rimbaud or the suicide of Sylvia Plath, which reveals of course that the logic in the first case was as opportunistic as it is preposterous. Someday a critic will do us the service of disentangling poetry from the standard map of a professional career. The map is a convenience to committees but meaningless to the future reader—the twelve-year-old boy or girl in San Angelo—the very reader poets must hope to have. What is useful to that boy or girl is sometimes no more than a phrase, perhaps a book or poem, amounting to a style of mind in which to escape or dwell. I recognized such a style of mind in Donald Britton and it made us friends. The first time I heard him read his work in public was at the Ear Inn in New York, the afternoon of March 7, 1981. Blond as ever, he was in that environment an apparition of nervous grace. I can’t say he connected with the audience; he certainly didn’t flatter it. He conveyed, perhaps too clearly for the occasion, his sense of an audience beyond the room. One got the feeling he expected to reach across time and elicit a response composed of the same respect for intellect and desire that we had there, in the Ear Inn, that Saturday afternoon. Donald's poems were not lessons or anecdotes. They are invitations to the unending contemplation of ourselves, and things beyond us, that makes the human species a window on creation.
Here is a poem by Donald Britton from the new volume:
Notes on the Articulation of Time
It becomes a critical account
of all that’s spoken, done:
the drawing in of breaths, even,
these nights whose atmosphere
reminds us of mountains,
white volumes of air. We need
these narratives, we want them:
the city lies before us
and some one person in the sleeve
of a streetlamp awaits
our enraptured attention
as we await the concept of the city
which tells us how we move
in the particolored geographies
about us. We can’t be certain
we are moving toward this person
nor do we require certitude.
It is enough to acknowledge
the movement itself, shavings
of light inscribing a circle.
Our childlike sense of the other
bears these forces toward
completion and renewal,
a lexis of infatuated sounds.
-- Donald Britton
The guardian of the riddle must speak in riddles.
Logical interpretations are the Miracle’s modesty.
So long as you trust in anything else, the miracle shall be withheld.
To acquire a third eye, one cannot blink.
Trust in longing to sing itself.
One definition of success might be: refining our appetites, while deepening our hunger.
Fear of success betrays a greater self-mistrust than fear of failure.
It’s easier to be fearless, when we remember that we are deathless.
For those who discount dreams, consider this: relationships might start, or falter, while we sleep.
As we make peace with ourselves, we become more tolerant of our faults — in others.
All who are tormented by an Ideal must learn to make an ally of failure.
Our salvation lies on the other side of our gravest danger.
Where there are demons, there is something precious worth fighting for.
Poor rational mind, it would sooner accept a believable lie than an incredible truth.
Every Messiah is reluctant - at least, initially.
Intuition asks: what use are two open eyes when you're in the dark?
All languages are rough translations of our native tongue: the Spirit.
Poems are like bodies—a fraction of their power resides in their skin. The rest belongs to the spirit that swims through them
And when we think we are stealing from life's fleeting pleasures, we are stealing from our own Eternal Joy.
The ascetic does not deny pleasure; he shuns the coarse, in favor of the refined and exalted.
(Art by Agostino Arrivabenne)
The ascetic ideal speaks, thus: indulge, and forego Vision.
Spiritual fast food leads to spiritual indigestion.
Said a poem to a poet: Can I trust you? Is your heart pure to carry me, are your hands clean to pass me on?
For the sake of a good line a poet, like a comedian, must be willing to risk everything.
From what you have, create what you have not—the poem teaches the poet.
Numbness is a spiritual malady, true detachment its opposite.
You can't bury pain and not expect it to grow roots.
If we care for ourselves, we may turn our pain into gifts for others.
If we do not care for our souls, we become a burden for others.
(Photograph by Zakaria Wakrim)
If there is someone we might ask forgiveness of, then there is no one we can deny forgiveness to.
We steal from ourselves when we share an idea, or a feeling, before it has ripened.
Why announce to the world your few good deeds, when you hide your many bad ones—even from yourself?
The more closely we listen to ourselves, the more likely we are to overhear others.
To evolve means we’ve been listening.
If we ask life for favors, we must be prepared to return them.
Just as mysteriously as spiritual favors are granted, so they may also be revoked.
Wings are, always, on loan.
If our hearts should harden and turn to ice, we must try, at least, not to blame the weather.
Unlike prose, poetry can keep its secrets.
Poetry is what we say to ourselves, when there's nowhere to hide.
Poetry is the distance between us and our pain.
It’s not easy to speak to ourselves – we must devise ruses, interventions.
What we look for in a good book, painting, music or conversation? A stretch of runway to take off, and return us to ourselves.
We scramble the first half of our lives to assemble a self; and, in the second half, if we are wise, to dismantle it.
Self is a labyrinth, at the heart of which sits Spirit, hoping to be found.
Character is what we are in company—alone we are everyone.
Conversation, there’s nothing like it – except silence.
Poetry: the native tongue of hysterics—adolescents and mystics, alike.
Mysticism is the disappearing act that takes a lifetime.
To become a mystic is not impossible; one must only endure being a beggar, mad and dead.
It is possible to subsist entirely on a diet of honey and wine, or poetry and mysticism.
Know your Muse, and its diet.
When the Muse is silent, confess ignorance.
—Yahia Lababidi is the author, most recently, of Balancing Acts: New & Selected Poems (1993-2015) which debuted in April, 2016 at #1 on Amazon's Hot New Releases, under Middle Eastern poetry. Lababidi's first book, a collection of original aphorisms: Signposts to Elsewhere was selected as a 2008 Book of the Year, by The Independent (UK). For more information, please, visit his Page.
It’s early in the evening at the Poetry Brothel, and the Madame, aka the poet Stephanie Berger, is introducing the line-up of poetry whores: writers dressed in corsets and fishnets, or waistcoats that could have belonged to a riverboat gambler. They have alter-egos for the evening, the way strippers do. Tennessee Pink, or Obsidienne.
Tonight, the brothel has popped up in a speakeasy down a set of dirty cellar stairs near Delancey. My friend and I have stumbled into a hidden world of velvet wallpaper and naked lady paintings. Two burlesque dancers wait on a small divan to perform a floorshow. Through a small door in the back of the lounge, there are beds curtained off in velvet where for a fee, a poetry whore will softly read a poem to you. We palm flowered teacups of absinthe and consider our options.
A young poet draped in rhinestones reads a couple of stanzas as a sample of her wares. Berger, red hair in a swirl supporting several peacock feathers, approaches the mic. “This poem,” Berger says in a flat, girlish voice, “is very expensive.”
It’s a statement that upends the common observation that poetry doesn’t pay, or that the general public out for some light entertainment will not pay for it. There seems to be something subversive at work here, something pushing back against how poetry is currently positioned somewhere just on the edge of the national stage. To investigate, I spoke with Berger and her co-founder Nicholas Adamski from the road on their recent West Coast tour. They have the rapport of longtime friends, voices overlapping down the scratchy phone line, occasionally interrupting to finish each other’s sentences. Berger told me: “Poets just give their work away for the most part.” Adamski added: “The Poetry Brothel’s mission was and continues to be training poets that the work that they do is worth money. And convincing the public that poetry is also worth money.”
This notion would not have been as unconventional as recently as the 1950s, when Dylan Thomas was able to replenish his anemic finances by touring America to sold-out shows, which was arranged by an agent–and by all accounts, he gave a great show. Like W.H. Auden or Edna St. Vincent Millay before him, he was as close as you can get to a poet being a popular performer. On either side of the Atlantic, poetry was entertainment then.
But recreating a lost space and time is a lot of what the Poetry Brothel has been up to from the beginning, when Berger gathered a round table of friends in a conference room at The New School to figure out what exactly a poetry brothel was. “She had like a fever dream, sweat lodge vision,” Adamski remembered. Fellow MFA students at the School of Writing, Adamski was working on a thesis on erotic poetry, and Berger was researching New Orleans sex workers. They were not interested in the standard podium and folding chairs of literary readings. The format they came up with–the lineup, the floor shows, the private sessions–was based on the fin-de-siecle brothels Berger was researching, many of which had doubled as gathering places for artists, writers and musicians operating well outside of polite society. The result is a very different way to hear poetry. “I wanted to see a reading that was as beautiful and intimate as poetry is,” Berger said. “If you’re not dating or related to a poet, the chances of hearing a poem one on one are almost zero,” Adamski went on. “The chances of having someone whisper a poem to you in a bed are definitely zero. We both agreed that that was the poetry brothel experience.”
Eight years later, the poetry brothel experience has proven to be attractive. “From the get go,” Berger said, “We had this idea that it wouldn’t be a thing that was just appealing in New York City.” It now has branches all over the world–from Barcelona to Bogota, Paris to New Orleans–started by like-minded friends and admirers of the format who produce the show independently, with Berger and Adamski sporadically dropping in to perform and share ideas. “We realized the Poetry Brothel works anywhere that artists live,” Adamski said. “We really wanted to bring the Poetry Brothel to every city in the world.”
Usually these far-flung poetry madams and pimps are poets themselves, but the audiences are not. “It took us a while to figure out that our audience is largely people who’ve never had an experience with poetry,” Adamski said. “or had an experience with poetry when they were young but let it go.” What’s more, these audiences are almost randomly diverse. There’s a core group you might expect of younger creative professionals, but they get all kinds. “We’ll have like a 21 year old kid who cannot even believe this exists, and then literally like a couple who are in their 60s who come together on a date who can’t believe this exists,” Adamski elaborated. “It’s super exciting. We can’t believe it exists either, but it does.” Part of what’s turned out to be great about positioning poetry as popular entertainment is that it has been popular, able to span high and low culture to speak to just about everyone.
The momentum is at a point now that Berger and Adamski have been able to take the Poetry Brothel on tour themselves–like a turn-of-the-century roadshow, visiting establishments in distant outposts with their girls (and guys). “We realized we could actually just fly to LA or Portland and produce our shows all on our own,” Adamski said. They currently are putting on up to six shows a month, largely along the West Coast or in New York, but they are also looking to the Eastern seaboard and the South. Berger added. “It’s what we’ve always wanted to do. Like our whole focus is just on bringing the Poetry Brothel to as many particularly American cities right now as possible.”
There’s plenty to catch coming up, whether you’re in New York or elsewhere in the country. This month, Berger and Adamski will head to Philadelphia on the 25th before returning to New York for The Poetry Brothel: Pride Edition on June 12th.
And they’ll be making a special appearance at Michigan electronic music fest Electric Forest, for which they will build a poetry brothel in the woods for four days, June 23rd-26th. Last year, the entry to the space resembled an out-of-order photo booth. “We’d open a prop door behind it and be like you need to come with us right now,” Adamski reminisced. “And we pulled them into this world and it’s just like made of velvet, and there’s these huge beds.” After a brief orientation in the parlor, the guest would choose a poetry whore for a private reading. “It’s pretty eye-opening fun,” Adamski said.
July will see a very special incarnation of what Berger and Adamski do, the NYC Poetry Festival, which they have thrown every summer on Governor’s Island for the past six years. A big theme of the fest, unsurprisingly, is inclusiveness, with three stages, a children’s festival, and over 350 readers. “We’re not positive but we think it’s probably the biggest poetry festival in the world, just in terms of sheer volume of poetry,” Berger said. “The poetry community here, it’s huge. A big part of the festival is to bring everyone together.” This year will kick off the weekend of July 30th and 31st in conjunction with the Queens Book Festival, making it the first ever NYC literary week.
Then beginning in August, the Poetry Brothel will hit the road again along the West Coast, with multiple stops in LA, SF and Portland. For more information on these and other upcoming events, check out thepoetrybrothel.com.
KGB Bar: 85 E 4th St, New York, New York 10003
Renowned Russian-American composer, writer, visual artist and concert pianist Lera Auerbach will be reading from Excess of Being, her new book of aphorisms and original artwork, by turns provocative, dark, ironic and humorous.
Poet David Lehman is a prominent editor, author and literary critic. He serves as the editor of The Best American Poetry series, which he initiated in 1988, and teaches at The New School. His most recent book is Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World. He will read poems from his forthcoming book Poems in the Manner Of (Scribner, 2017).
The new, just-published edition of Hyam Plutzik's Letter from a Young Poet (Watkinson / Trinity College / Books and Books Press, 2016) is a welcome event. Plutzik (1911-1962), the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia, studied at Trinity College in Connecticut and at Yale, and later established himself as a beloved professor of English at the University of Rochester. A poet ripe for rediscovery, Plutzik wrote the ambitious book-length poem Horatio in which Hamlet's confidante takes to heart the injunction to absent himself from felicity awhile and give a true account of the events that wrecked the royal court of Denmark. Begun while Plutzik served in the U. S. army during World War II, the book narrowly missed winning the Pulitzer back in 1962. Plutzik's acclaimed collection Apples from Shinar appeared from Wesleyan in 1959 and was reissued by the same publisher on his centenary
While in residence at a Connecticut farmhouse as a young man, the Brooklyn-born poet found himself bedeviled by an aggressive woodchuck about whom he wrote, "There was a sort of agony in his desire. . .[and] I saw in this brutish creature the kin and symbol of mankind, bestial in form but aspiring to heaven." From this quotation alone one can sense the spiritual connection that the poet felt with the prince of Denmark, who wonders at man, the "paragon" of the animals, who yet amounts to nothing more than a "quintessence of dust."
Letter from a Young Poet -- perhaps inspired by Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet and by the ideal of literary mentorship -- was written just before the United States entered the second World War. The poet is buried in Queens, New York, with this simple epitaph on his gravestone, the concluding lines from one of his own poems: "Nothing can be done / But something can be said / At least."
We are pleased to post, with permission, Daniel Halpern's foreword to the new edition of Letter from a Young Poet. -- DL
It's slightly ironic that it took twenty-nine year old Hyam Plutzik seven years to compose this novella of a letter to his college professor at Trinity College, Odell Shepard. An outpouring of heart and soul, to be sure. A young man's Biographia Literaria, a biographical ars poetica, sent to a man who, it's never clear from the letter he wrote in response, was more of a projection of Hyam's youthful self than true mentor or confidante, but whose remembered existence allowed Hyam to pen so openly such an impassioned and insightful epistle of his literary dreams and ambitions. Ironic, because Professor Shepard's return letter, three pages to Hyam’s seventy, was never sent.
In Hyam's fervid letter, he addresses the concerns of an artist coming to terms with the world he's inherited. The prose is filled with determination, philosophic wonderings, thoughts on the nature of the artistic endeavor, enveloped throughout with a youthful ambition, a hopefulness, an admixture of self-confidence and self-doubt that in Hyam’s voice never rings contradictory. Large issues, and minor details, the sometimes temperate meanderings of a young artist, trying to come of age. He writes, "A friend of mine the other day, when I taxed him with certain venomous fanaticisms in literature and the arts, said that it was in his nature to have them; while I (he added) had a natural mellowness of character and had never said anything malicious about any man. The mellowness is a premature sign of old age perhaps."
Reading this letter reminded me of the sensibility I discovered when I was Hyam’s age, opening Edwin Muir's Autobiography. A plain-spoken intellectual memoir that braids the life of the mind with the quotidian. Hyam writes, "The things most people take for granted I do not take for granted. The realm of sense, on whose existence my neighbors seem to rely implicitly, I know is a film as thin as a dragon-fly’s wing."
It's clear that during the seven years it took to get this letter onto the page, Hyam grappled with his art and his past, however brief the span of that past. Of course, the weight of those particular years far outweigh our later years of dailiness repeated and ground down through gravity’s routine, as he was well aware. Sadly, he would leave this world at the age of fifty, in his prime and quickly becoming one of our major post-World War II poets.
So this letter is an attempt to define his life at twenty-nine, to fix his place in the world, physical and intellectual, so that he might move on. An overview of the years since leaving Trinity College with unfinished business left behind. I was curious to read Professor Shepard's letter, in order to find a clue that would reveal what his old professor represented to him—or at least Hyam's memory of him. My question: Why did Hyam select this man as the beneficiary of his heartfelt ruminations? Hyam ends his letter with a touching (and trusting) post script: "I have changed or crossed out nothing, you see. And the many things divulged I allow to remain."
Seventy-five years later, we have no way of knowing how closely Shepard had grasped the substance and tone of the remarkable letter he had received. In his unposted reply, was he purposefully adopting a more restrained voice to counterbalance Plutzik’s youthful enthusiasm with the gravitas and wisdom of an elder scholar? The highlight of Shepard's letter is the following passage regarding the nature of writing, of the writer/artist: "... and hence comes that feeling of being 'superfluous'... and a sense of utter solitude as a mask of his genius, and soon after, despairing of communication, he comes to write... For himself alone, in a prolonged soliloquy." Was Shepard invoking what Rilke wrote forty years earlier in his letter to another young poet, "Nobody can advise you and help you, nobody. There is only one way. Go into yourself."?
The notion of mentorship feels, in some ways, a somewhat dated notion. The speed at which our worlds now spin seems to obviate the time collaboration requires. The handing over, the sharing, the openness of informed conversation between experience and inexperience, tradition and ambition. Raw talent and proven artistic accomplishment. In any case, it makes me happy that Hyam never saw the response to his expansive missive.
As for epiphany, ambition and the quotidian, he writes, "I see the world as a cloud shielding us from Truth. The cloud changes and twists and thins out, and sometimes momentary gaps appear in it, and for a moment we catch an outline of a form beyond, and then the cloud closes, and soon the experience itself becomes unreal and we return to the vegetative life of everyday, and until the soul is (by subtle preparation) ready for another groping toward the real, we live like other people—in their world." Had Hyam, too, read Rilke? Had he come upon, “Why do you want to shut out of your life any uneasiness, any misery, any depression, since after all you don't know what work these conditions are doing inside you?”
Along with the seriousness of a young man’s articulation, there is, throughout Hyam's letter, a beguiling if somewhat submerged humor, a playfulness, often at his own expense. He tells us, simply, that he intended to write "an epic... concerning a leaf that hung on a branch just outside my window. Unfortunately, the leaf fell down before I could get started, so the whole thing entered the realm of the might-have-been, from which no traveler returns."
He comes across in these pages as grounded, wise beyond his twenty-nine years—and for sure, impatient and intolerant. He writes, "... at the age of 23 one’s impatiences are more urgent than they are later on; one's intolerances are at their height; one can detest things more vividly."
Hyam's letter is a song of the self and the soul. He found a transparent mirror through which he could locate and articulate the place where he found himself standing after seven years in the wilderness of his own making. That mirror might have been the illusion of his teacher. And Hyam reports back: "Who is this creature of flesh and bone that, on a world whose position in the universe and in the gradation of things no Copernicus will ever completely explain, walks among things of dimension, color and texture and booms forth sounds like a veritable frog in a marsh?"
One of the discoveries to be made in this text is the particular type of observation that Hyam makes palpable for us, and which he makes good use of in his later poetry. The following passage, and the six lines of verse that follow, from his poem entitled "Seventh Avenue Express," give a sense of himself in the “city.” There’s something reminiscent of Weldon Kees' memorable Robinson poems, and even certain atmospheric passages from Hesse's Steppenwolf. Here is Hyam in NYC, reporting on what he finds around him. A portrait of the city that is at the same time a projection of the self onto the landscape ahead.
I saw the world-city as an obscene but fortunately evanescent island in a dim sea. And the people in it? Well, in a poem I once wrote there was a character (obviously myself), whose picture may perhaps give you an idea of what I am trying to say. What did he think of the city and the people in it?
He thinks he knows them but he knows them not.
He does not know himself, nor does he know
Her he embraced, or who has heard his voice
Over the table and the pungent smoke.
He calls a name and knows not who he calls.
He seeks himself by strange and devious ways...
One could say he has found some profound part of the meaning of his letter in the lines of this poem. I'm reminded of a memorable comment by the British poet Thom Gunn, which seems apt here: "He has a most unusual freshness of vision which enables him to be the master of two worlds, the natural and the supernatural... His imagery is both astonishing and appropriate..."
Mentorship notwithstanding, it would seem that, in fact, Hyam served a number of masters—not all of them literary—as he developed his poetic skills. Reading this letter you will find sources for the poems that would later be written, along with his poetic methods of perceiving the world, and his understanding of himself as an occupant of that inherited domain, momentary as it was to be.
This week we welcome Jay Parini as our guest author. Jay's five books of poetry include Anthracite Country, House of Days and New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015 (Beacon Press, March 29, 2016). He has written eight novels, including Benjamin’s Crossing, The Apprentice Lover, The Passages of H.M., and The Last Station—the last was made into an Academy Award–nominated film starring Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer. Parini has written biographies of John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, William Faulkner, and, most recently, Gore Vidal. His nonfiction works include Jesus: The Human Face of God, Why Poetry Matters, and Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America.
Philadelphia Inquirer movie critic Steven Rea hosts an evening of coffee-centric film clips, including a Charlie Chaplin silent classic, a mid-'60s Michael Caine spy thriller, scenes from a pair of highly caffeinated Hitchcock classics, Quentin Tarantino talking gourmet beans in "Pulp Fiction," Audrey Hepburn sipping from a to-go cup in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," plus lots more! Copies of Hollywood Cafe: Coffee With the Stars, the new coffee table celebration of cinema and a cup of joe, will be on hand for sale and signing. And coffee from Parry Coffee Roasters, the amazing artisinal roastery based in Ambler, PA, will be served. And did we say that the whole show is free?!
The County Theater
20 East State Street
Doylestown, PA 18901
Apr 18 Jennifer Nelson + Uljana Wolf & Sophie Seita
Apr 25 Major Jackson + Hannah Gamble + Rich Smith
May 2 Charles North + Tony Towle
May 9 Brenda Shaughnessy + Robyn Schiff
May 16 Amber Tamblyn + Thomas Sayers Ellis w/ saxophonist James Brandon Lewis
All readings begin at 7:30. To get a good seat, plan to get there by 7:15 PM.
Here are some photos from past KGB readings. . . Geoffrey O'Brien top right; Michael Quattrone and Star Black, left; a group of talented writers on lower right. . .
This week we welcome back Kristina Marie Darling as our guest author. Kristina is the author of over twenty books of poetry. Her awards include two Yaddo residencies, a Hawthornden Castle Fellowship, and a Visiting Artist Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome, as well as grants from the Whiting Foundation and Harvard University's Kittredge Fund. Her poems and essays appear in The Gettysburg Review, New American Writing, The Mid-American Review, Third Coast, The Columbia Poetry Review, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. She is currently working toward both a Ph.D. in Literature at S.U.N.Y.-Buffalo and an M.F.A. in Poetry at New York University.
Welcome back, Kristina
Location: 92nd Street Y, Lexington Avenue at 92nd St
Price: from $25.00
The acclaimed poet and critic David Lehman discusses Frank Sinatra, his music and his larger-than-life story with psychologist Gail Saltz, and shares insights from his new book, Sinatra’s Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World.
To celebrate Sarah Howe's T. S. Eliot award for her debut collection Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus, 2015), we are pleased to share a series of her posts that first appeared here in 2013. Loop of Jade also received the The Sunday Times / PFD Young Writer of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Born in Hong Kong in 1983 to an English father and Chinese mother, she moved to England as a child. Her pamphlet, A Certain Chinese Encyclopedia (Tall-lighthouse, 2009), won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. Sarah studied at Cambridge and later as a Kennedy Scholar at Harvard. She is the founding editor of Prac Crit, an online journal of poetry and criticism. Sarah has been the recipient of a Research Fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and a Hawthornden Fellowship and the Harper-Wood Studentship for English Poetry. She is a 2015-2016 Fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. Find out more about Sarah here.
Co-sponsored by The New School Creative Writing Program; the Academy of American Poets; Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins; the Poetry Foundation; the Poetry Society of America; Poets House; the University of Massachusetts Amherst MFA for Poets and Writers; the Unterberg Poetry Center, and 92nd Street Y.
Free to all.
This week we welcome Javier Zamora as our guest author. Javier was born in El Salvador and migrated to the US when he was nine. He holds fellowships from CantoMundo, Colgate University, MacDowell, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Yaddo. The recipient of the 2016 Barnes and Noble Writer for Writer’s Award, his poems appear or are forthcoming in APR, Narrative, Ploughshares, POETRY, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. His first full-length book is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press. Follow Javier on twitter at https://twitter.com/jzsalvipoet or @jzsalvipoet and on instagram : @jzsalvipoet
In other news:
For the last fifteen weeks, we have worked on a sonnet -- publicly, collaboratively, courtesy of the "Next Line, Please" feature on The American Scholar website. Here is the winning sonnet. We wrote he poem line-by-line and had a lot of intellectual fun doing so. If you click here, you will get an explanation of the title and the rules of the game as it evolved.
Our dreams as disparate as our days uniform,
We crave a lovely scandal with someone well-known;
Midnight champagne, penthouse lit by thunderstorm,
In this version of darkness, we are never alone.
If marriage is a cage, we can force the lock, but he
Clutches the key, a jailer too stubborn to learn
To read the graffiti. If need be, he can turn
A bouquet to a wreath. Then we will be
Two mourners arguing terms of interment. We must
Appease our lust, our momentary bliss subject to
The rules of engagement. The conflicts of lust. Just
Look at the way they look at us. As though we're too
Precipitous with a plot, as if we can
Dig up the words to write the wrongs of man.
The poem's authors are Michael C. Rush, Angela Ball, Elizabeth Solsburg, Christine Rhein, Patricia Smith, Paul Michelson, "Poem Today," Berwyn Moore, Joe Lawlor, Brandon Crist, Charise Hoge, David Lehman, and Millicent Caliban. A pseudonym -- and who knows, maybe even a heteronym -- is in the works.
This week we welcome Karen Steinmetz as our guest author. Karen is a poet and novelist. Her poems have appeared in The Cortland Review, Coal Hill Review, Southern Poetry Review, The Midwest Quarterly, So To Speak: a Feminist Journal of Language and Art, Illuminations, Poet Lore, and the Still Against War anthologies published by Jamie Stern, Nan Lombardi, and Catherine Woodard in honor of Marie Ponsot. Her poetry manuscript, Little Heretic Gods, was a finalist for the 2010 Washington Prize and a semi-finalist for the Four Way Books Intro Prize. Her young adult novel, The Mourning Wars, was published by Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan in 2010. She earned her B.A from New York University and her MA and MFA in poetry from Manhattanville College, where she currently teaches. Karen Steinmetz lives in the Hudson Valley, where she raised two children, Andrew and Kate with her husband Donald, a painter and environmentalist.
We kick off 2016 with Tara Skurtu as our guest author. Tara is a Boston-based poet, teacher, and translator currently living in Romania, where she teaches creative writing as a Fulbright grantee. She is the recipient of two Academy of American Poets prizes and a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship, and her recent poems appear or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Plume, Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, Memorious,The Common, and Tahoma Literary Review. She has recently completed her first manuscript of poems, The Amoeba Game. Find out more about Tara at her website: www.taraskurtu.com . Follow her on twitter @taraskurtu
Happy New Year.
This week we welcome back Tess Callahan as our guest author. Tess is the author of the novel APRIL & OLIVER published by Grand Central Publishing (USA), Random House (UK), and by publishers in Italy and The Netherlands. Her short fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in AGNI (Pushcart Prize nomination),Narrative Magazine (Story of the Week), The New York Times Magazine, Powell’s Books Original Essay Series, National Public Radio’s “Three Books” series, the STYLUS ANTHOLOGY, Boston College Magazine and the BEST LITTLE BOOK CLUB IN TOWNanthology. Her new novel is presently firing in the kiln. You can find more information about her work at tesscallahan.com. Follow Tess on Facebook and Twitter @tesscallahan.
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.