Young woman (25-ish) on phone: Oh my God! He was, like, your typical Jewish nerd. So Jewish looking. He had, like, black curly hair, a really big nose, and he was, you know how Jewish guys look, sort of short and stocky, and really nerdy (Ed note: You mean like Paul Newman?).
She: I know I know. And then, get this, he, like, came up behind me and tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around and like I was so. scared. And he said, no no no no no, I, I, just want to say you have this whole California thing going on and I just want to say . .
She: Can you believe it? Oh. my. God.
My thanks to Stacey Harwood and David Lehman for inviting me to blog my thoughts from time to time. . . . . I am proudly contrarian. You tell me the conventional wisdom and I will instinctively take the opposite position. . .For example I believe that a good cover story is "Can Men Have it All?". . and the next time I hear the words "double standard" I am going to say "how come elite schools like Wellesley and Bryn Mawr can stay single sex?". . .The new SI swimsuit issue is on the stands, fans. . .I love porn... In a New York elevator the other day I heard a woman, in her young 20s, say to a slightly older woman "Thanks for femsplaining that" and then both of them laughed as if I wasn't there . .I spent an hour trying to rhyme that line and came up with "Do these jeans make my ass look fat?" . . .If you were the NY Review of Books and your cover announces an essay on "The New Populism," would you illustrate it with (1) a caricature of a bespectacled Harvard professor who became a US Senator from Massachusetts, or (2) a young black man in a hoodie, or (3) a couple of guys pulling on a beer at a truck stop, or (4) Taylor Swift? . . .I believe that a true intellectual prefers John Ford to Jean-Luc Godard . . . A fake intellectual attacks Woody Allen for not making movies about black people. . .I like the line in a movie where a pompous executive apologizes to the employeees he is firing and asks them what else he can do and somebody answers, "You can die". . . I don't remember which movie. . . Maybe some reader will know . .Fuck the Olympics. -- Walter Carey
Shortly after taking office as Mayor of New York in 1978, Ed Koch met the poet Kenneth Koch. By this time everyone had learned how to pronounce Hizzoner's name: Koch, like "catch" but with an o sound instead of the a. Kenneth pronounced his last name like the soft drink (so that, years later, I could title a Newsweek piece about Kenneth's poetry "Back to Classic Koch). When the two tall gentlemen met, Kenneth said, "Because of you, everyone is calling me Kotch," to which the mayor, wiothout losing a beat, replied, "And because of you, everyone has been calling me Coke." -- DL
He #1: So, what discipline do you look for when you hire?
He #2: English. I mean, a good English major. They'll write good code, code that you can understand. They'll include lots of comments that are clear. They'll be able to answer questions, and they know how to come up with cool variable names.
She: Wow! I love hearing that. Awesome. Go English majors!
He #2: Good English majors.
David and I are in Ithaca, in New York's Finger Lakes region, for most of the summer. I tend to be an early riser (the residual effect of having worked an 8-5 job for so many years) and I like to take my coffee to the front porch to watch the squirrels gamboling in the trees and listen to the birds. The first song is the haunting cry of the Mourning Dove joined later by the Scarlet Tanager and the "call and response" of the Northern Cardinal. If I look closely (squint really, as I don't wear my glasses in the morning) I can spot the male's red plumage in a tree across the street. Once in a while the sound of beating wings announces a hummingbird in the quince bush. Last to join in is a woodpecker (a rather threatening sound, to my ears). By nine thirty or so, all is quiet but for the trucks and cars zooming by on Route 79.
‘Did you hear your man, the Senator, on the radio there?’
‘I fuckin’ hate the radio. Which one?’
‘The one that’s running for President. He was goin’ on abou’ Plato.’
‘The ancient Greek – there’s no footballer called Plato.’
‘I bet there is.’
‘Fuck up an’ listen.’
‘In Brazil, somewhere.’
‘Shut up. He was sayin’ abou’ Plato. Young fellas came to him. Offerin’ themselves, like. In return for sharing the wisdom of his fuckin’ years. It was common enough - in ancient Greece.’
‘Wha’ kind o’ wisdom?’
‘I don’t know – ‘Remember to put the bins ou’ the night before collection day.’ The bits of cop-on yeh pick up. In exchange for your moment of pleasure.’
‘Your moment of pleasure could go on all day, if you were talkin’ abou’ puttin’ the fuckin’ bins ou’ while you were havin’ it.’
‘Tha’ was what I was thinkin’.’
‘The whole country would grind to a fuckin’ standstill.’
‘I was thinkin’ that as well.’
‘No wonder Greece is in fuckin’ bits.’
‘I’m with yeh.’
‘Could they not have, like - just gone for a pint?’
"What is a lyricist except a poet who has the possibility of making cash?"
Steven Colbert to Stephen Sondheim, 12/14/2010
So she says Princess Leia's pop gave up the ghost.
I said that's a hell of a way to describe Eddie Fisher.
She said I never heard of Eddie Fisher.
Did you know he had a national television show sponsored by Coke?
He was for the spokesman for Coke.
I get it, she said, but what was the big deal?
Well, he could sing. This was back in the early 1950s.
Name one of his songs.
OK. O My Papa.
Never heard of it. Tell me about the scandals.
He left America's sweetheart Debbie Reynolds for America's top femme fatale, Liz Taylor of the violet eyes.
Thaink of it like this: he was Brad Pitt and he left Jennifer Niston for Angelina Jolie.
I get it now, she said.
Say have you noticed that Liz Taylor narrates the Montgomery Clift puff piece on TCM and Paul Newman narrates the one about her? Clubby set.
I heard he also married Connie Stevens. Eddie Fisher, I mean.
Carrie Fisher's Papa?
I hear he wrote two autobiographies about getting laid.
Actually, he sounds like a really fun guy from a different era.
"Do cigarettes in movies mean sex?"
"Why do you bring that up?" she said accusingly.
"I read that somewhere in American Studies."
And I walked away and thought of the beautiful packaging of a box of Gitanes, blue background with the silhouette of a gypsy (gitane) dancing amid the fumes of a cigarette.
Here's to the Gitanes of yesteryear. -- DL
He (to nobody in particular): They’re all a bunch of clowns. Did you listen to the news? I can’t believe what they do. Crooks. They’re crooks. We should get rid of all of them, I tell you. We’d be better off. Health care. Sure. That’ll be the day. And how about that trial? Right up the block. Do you know what it’s going to be like? A circus. You think we’re late to work now? Wait till the trial begins. We’ll never get here. Not that that would bother me. Still, what were they thinking? Clowns. Or worse. I would use stronger language if there were no ladies present. And this is going to be some winter. I don’t even read the paper anymore. It makes me sick. Of course nobody reads anymore so I guess I’m no different. But this craziness has to end. We never should have gone in there in the first place. If they asked me.
She (about to exit): Why don’t you shut up for once? You think you could do a better job? Give it a try and then complain.
He (after door closes): Geez. What’s her problem? I’m just saying. . .
David Shapiro (pictured left with son Daniel): "Leonardo believed in reading palms until he saw the long life-lines on the palms of young soldiers dead on the field."
David Lehman: "That's a great line."
DS: "I used it in a poem."
DL: "Which one?"
DS: "It's in one of my last ten books."
DL: "Which one?"
DS: "Can't remember but here it is."
The only palm presentation I will make
will be reading your palms one day
for long life-lines on the field of battle
and intricate lovelines and laughlines
on the field of your face.
DS: "Circa 2000. In the book the poem is called 'Little Low Tech'."
DL: "I think you should change the title."
DS: "I can't. It's already in a book."
DL: "That doesn't prevent you from changing the title. Then it becomes a different poem and eligible for inclusion in a new book."
DS: "OK. How about 'Reading in the Dark'"?
DL: "Much better."
Today I was thinking that the only time the Beatles sang a Broadway song was when they recorded "Till There Was You" from Meredith Wilson's "The Music Man," and then a few thoughts occurred to me about poetry readings:
As a violinist I can't imagine reading the score alone, though it gives great pleasure, and I associate poetry as a sister art. Most of us think Homer was a singing bard, Sappho had a lyre she discusses, and the poems of the Bible are sung by those like my grandfather, the chazzan (cantor). The good cantor so moving that Cossacks are said to have stopped and not killed that day.
I learned so much from Stevens' exorbitantly slow grey voice. I ended a love affair with Roethke when he grunted drunk at the Y.
It's true I loved to imitate each poet I loved.
If I loved them, I loved their voice.
When Ashbery read 'The Skaters" whole
[When was that, David?]
In 1964. It was amazing, David. Every word was right.
[Where was it?]
In New York. At the end Allen Ginsberg tried to recruit him for some political action and John said "I'm a political exile."
I knew that any Dylan Thomas saxophone in me had died and was reborn. Horowitz admitted he exaggerated for his audience. Do you mind?
I hate poetry readings, they are the worst thing in nature, but they are not in nature. Lowell sd he changed for Ginsberg--well, it was still RL.
Would you like to hear Trakl read or Rilke?
Those who heard (like Marianne Moore) Meyer Schapiro's lectures were listening to a god's golden sound. When Paul Robeson spoke, when Gielgud read Shakespeare, when Celan reads Todtfugue,we stop breathing. It is bad poems you hate and minor performers, but to hear Shakespeare do the Ghost I would give up the ghost. Forget Allan and what can be comical pathos. Forget the imitators. Get the old Caedmans and listen to that essential science of sound that Keats mentions.
O imagine Donne reading Donne. I would be undone. If a poet bores you, just wake up and look for another voice. Lovers know that the voice is a sexual organ (see Jewish law). If your love's voice doesn't please you, you are already divorced. If an architect's drawings are better than his house, you have made an ontological mistake.
Chekhov on the page, Vanya say, lies inert.
Alive in sound, he is the greatest writer.
My mother said, If you have a good speaking voice, you will have a good singing voice.
Many poems grow from music, the best are already music. Even this topic makes me happy. What is better than Sappho? Catullus? No, Sappho as she once may have been heard.
Pound I can mock, not Anne Porter at 95 reading a poem about her son.
There is a poem that reduces us to tears and wonder without school. Of course, I am one who believes you can speak between poems. Of reading twice, my wife says: Oh no, that poet is horrible enough and now we must hear him twice. But privately, I recite my favorites over and over like a song.
Most poetry readings are bad, but so are most paintings and dances.
-- David Shapiro
The conclusion of a Vallejo poem (click here for the rest) makes fortunetelling look easy in the sense that a good center fielder, Carlos Beltran when healthy, say, or the athletic Matt Kemp, makes a difficult catch seem almost but not quite routine:
What hasn't yet come along won't, but
what's already come and gone,
but what's already come and gone.
Cesar Vallejo, translated by Tom Clark, on his blog today
REMARKS OF LENORE SKENAZY, AUTHOR OF “FREE-RANGE KIDS:
GIVING OUR CHILDREN THE FREEDOM WE HAD WITHOUT GOING NUTS WITH WORRY.”
Hi. It’s lovely to be here and I’m actually glad you let me through the doors because some of you may have heard of me: I’m “America’s Worst Mom.” Really – Google it!
What happened was last spring, I let my 9-year-old ride the subway alone and wrote a little column about it. Two days later I was on The Today Show, MSNBC, NPR and FoxNews with my son, who had – in case you were wondering -- survived. He loved it!
Why did this story hit such a nerve? Because I dared to say we can let our kids have the same kind of freedom WE had. Like, most of us walked to school, right? Today only 10% of kids do. Did you play outside? Less than a third of kids do now, because we’ve got them so scheduled. And even when they’re not, we’re afraid of what’s out there!
I’m a reporter so I decided to see which of our fears are based on reality and which have been foisted upon us by, well, Nancy Grace. AND parenting magazines and all those products we’re supposed to buy now that we never needed before. Like baby knee pads, to protect your baby’s knees when they’re crawling. Excuse me: don’t babies come with built in knee pads called BABY FAT?
Why are we supposed to believe that our children today are more vulnerable than ever before?
That kind of fear has led to “Helicopter parents.”
But what about parents who want to step back a little? We didn’t have a name yet, so I gave us one: We are Free Range Parents raising Free Range Kids.
We’re not daredevils. Come on – I’m a Jewish mom. We believe in car seats, helmets and carrying an extra sweater in case it’s cold. We do not believe our kids need a security detail every time they step outside. We’re sick of being brainwashed with fear, about our kids’ food, and toys and strangers.
That brainwashing is what my book is all about: exposing it, examining it, and finally -- fighting it, with chapters like, “Playdates and Axe Murderers: How To Tell The Difference,” and “Relax: Not Every Little Thing You Do Has THAT Much Impact on Your Child’s Development.”
The book is Free Range Kids. And I’m Lenore Skenazy, America’s Worst Mom.
THE BOOK ON AMAZON (PLUS A LITTLE VIDEO!): http://tinyurl.com/ksmaby
THE BLOG: www.freerangekids.com
And here's the website for Lenore's "Dysfunctional Family Christmas Songbook": www.dysfunctionalchristmas.com
She #1 (on cellphone): Hey. Mom. It's me. You'll never believe what happened to me last night . . . Last night . . . Yeah. Kiefer Sutherland, like, totally hit on me . . . Kie-fer Su-ther-land. From that TV show? . . . Yeah, 24. Anyway, I was in a club with Gretchen . . . You're kidding, right? He was, like, totally shit-faced. Totally . . . He's really hot though. . . . You know what he said? . . . He said I was an angel and that Gretch was evil . . . No,(laughing) I told you, he was shit-faced . . . He's really hot . . . He was with some other guy from the show . . .Yes, but I doubt he'll call . . . OK. Here's our cab. Love you.
She #2: What'd she say?
She #1: I told her nothing happened.
He #1: So where did you go to law school?
He #1: That’s awesome. You must be really smart.
He #2: Yeah. Like us. We only work construction to pay off our loans.
She(laughs): Well. I don’t think I’ll be a lawyer for the rest of my life.
He #1: You could work with us.
She: Sure. Sounds good. Ok. My stop. Bye.
He #1: Later.
He #1: Nice ass.
He #2: Forget it.
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.