Before my love and I decided to live together in a waterside condo, he grew these plush and inky fuchsia roses in the backyard of his duplex apartment.
The neighborhood was of the cracked-concrete-and-power station-on-the-corner sort, with sidewalks fringed with weeds and the occasional scraggly silver button tree. But his L-shaped patch of green sort of gushed with whatever he planted - basil, mint, heather, petunias, and portly roses that would seem to appear overnight and blossom frilly and wide over the course of a week. They would last at least another 7 days after that, or at least that's how I remember it, and we took great pleasure smelling them before we went to work or on weekends when we'd sit on the terrace eating the spinach omelets Mark made for breakfast.
Those roses are one of the reasons he is the bee's knees; he can coax beauty from the unlikeliest of places. Another reason is that his roses reminded me of the ones my mother once grew in our front yard, in canteros, which I only learned recently means "planters" in English. Even though my Spanish is not the greatest, there are certain words I only know in Spanish, like gallegos - what we called the tarnished gold beetles that buzzed along the window screens of my childhood home.
This is where my mother used to grow little and spindly rose bushes in all hues - creamy meringue, lavender, yellow, maroon, and pink. The flowers were no larger than a small apple, and they opened in the dim hours before I left to elementary school. She'd cut a few stems and wrap them in paper and foil, then give them to me to give to my teachers. I don't quite remember handing them off, but I do recall what it felt like when she placed the fragrant homespun package in my hand, petals cool and still wet with early morning, her efforts at lacing our days with a bit of loveliness.
Happy Mother's Day, Mom. You too are a forever beauty.
I’m on a plane to Denver, and the range of clouds below me appears carved and forested, their sides a sheer plummet of pale slate and their tops crowned in bunched leaves. This is my first year attending AWP, and my trip lands on a list I think of as “Stuff I Figured Out Long After Everyone Else Did.” The screed includes learning to drive stick shift, cooking the perfect hard boiled egg, getting engaged, discovering Pavement and Yo La Tengo, and writing some books.
On Monday, after hearing some good poetry news (tba), I realized – why am I not going to a conference stuffed with folks who love and make literature? Tuesday I borrowed a coat and booked my flight and hotel, Wednesday the super-shuttle at DIA. That’s pretty much how my life happens – late and fast. But if you’re summoned and are compelled to respond, shouldn’t you? I say yes.
we had plums & a handful of soda bread more milk a good ball of twine & we tossed the carpet onto the skiff & jumped on top
we had plums &
of soda bread
more milk a
of twine & we
the carpet onto
& jumped on top
the river was
easy incomplete but it
of the papier mache
you hear your name in
The line is from Selenography, by Joshua Marie Wilkinson, a book I was invited to share on Goodreads and one that I actually wanted to read because I loved the title, since I too study the moon from the modest perch of my balcony. But I was also intrigued because the collection included Polaroids by musician Tim Rutili. Polaroids! Just the word brings to mind some of my favorite things: instant gratification, the 70s, and, of course, the sound and feel of the camera, its kechuckety-clack after hitting the front red button, the shuhzzzzz slide of the photograph entering the world. The SX-70 is the child of the era in which it was invented – garish and oversized and fun.
Anyway, I emailed Joshua, who I do not know, but such is the beauty of online friendship, and he sent me a pdf. Read it. Loved it. Divided into sections with fabulist names such as “My Cautious Lantern” and “Wolf Dust,” the poems are untitled, except the accompanying imagery sort of serves as a title, a kind of diving board used to plunge into fluidity. The writing is dream-like, Merwinesque with its absence of punctuation (and pop culture pillars) and line breaks that keep reinventing meaning. So a reader just sort of floats along the surface of this gentle river of letters, which you can see is deep and filled with oddly shaped rocks and sponges, perhaps striped and diamond-stamped fish, and other sparkling flotsam you feel against your skin but can’t quite identify.
That’s what reading this book is like. The photos are just plain cool, not stylized or deliberately low-fi but more along the lines of "I liked the looks of this." At times the images are blurred or smudged with fingerprints, or furrowed with bluish greens and creases that resemble birds in flight. Other frames include a plastic T-Rex, a rotting armchair, a crow, a ghostly piano. Do you hear your name in the current? As a matter of fact, I do.
Charles Simic, guest editor of The Best American Poetry 1992, with series editor David Lehman in October 1992. The Academy of American Poets hosted a launch reading for the anthology featuring Simic, Lehman, Lynda Hull, Rosanna Warren, and did Agha Shahid Ali read that evening?
Click here to fast forward 15 years.
Our favorite photographer, the incomparable Bill Hayward, sends along this photo and reminiscence of Ai, who died last week: From my book of portraits of the collaborative self...Bad Behavior (Rizzoli). She had just the morning before won the National Book Award for her book of poems, Vice. Over and over she said, "I suppose I should be using one of my dark lines but I feel so good today."
Photo left: Rose Landowne; Geralding D'Amico, director of Jewish Book Week; David Lehman; Morton Landowne, director of Nextbook; and Naomi Gryn. Photo right: The Guardian's Jason Solomon with David Lehman.
Still floating among the stars from Jewish Book Week, David, along with Mark Ford, Heather Phillipson, Emily Berry, Liz Berry, Kayo Chingonyi, and Luke Kennard, gave a reading at London's Marylebone branch of Oxfam's bookshops. Todd Swift organized and hosted the reading in connection with the recent release of Asking a Shadow to Dance: 35 Young British Poets for Oxfam.
Bill Hayward sends along this link and photos from The Port Authority, where poets Jeff Johnson and Claire Donato are live blogging poetry every day during the performance's 10-day run. Check it out!
The Best American Poetry 2009 gala launch reading on Thursday, September 24 featured prize-winning poets (such as John Ashbery, Billy Collins, Mark Doty, and Richard Howard), but it will also be remembered for the record-breaking number of readers, twenty-one poets in all, some traveling from as far as California, Seattle, Cincinnati, and Kalamazoo.
The New School's Tishman Auditorium in New York City was filled to capacity, and the standing-room-only audience responded most appreciatively and with no loss of attention from 7:15 when the proceedings began until it was Matthew Zapruder's turn to read at 8:50. means gesundheit in esperanto.” Prior to reading his "Freud" sestina, James Cummins brought the house down by explaining that there was something the audience needed to know prior to hearing the poem. That something, Cummins said with perfect poker face, is that Freud was an influential psychologist who lived in Vienna.
David Lehman, the anthology’s series editor, hosted the evening, and his introductory remarks surely resonated with writers of all genres. He imparted this advice to aspiring poets: “Don’t postpone writing the poem.” A renowned poet himself, Lehman cited a passage from Nicholson Baker’s new novel The Anthologist culminating in these sentences:
“Put it down, work on it, finish it. If you don't get on it now, somebody else will do something similar, and when you crack open next year's Best American Poetry and see it under somebody else's name you'll hate yourself.”
John Ashbery, the first featured poet, read “They Knew What They Wanted,” a poem comprised of movie titles that were brilliantly ordered, each beginning with "They." The audience guffawed when Ashbery recited, “They met in the dark./ They might be giants” (The Best American Poetry 2009, pp. 1-2) Mark Bibbins also had the audience in stitches as he chronicled the state-by-state oddities of America. “It is the custom in Maryland to honor the stegosaurus on Stegosaurus Day,” for example, and “Mississippi
In acts of generosity, Philip Levine read Kevin Young’s poem from the anthology and Billy Collins read Bruce Bond’s “Ringtone,” a chilling poem about the shootings at Virginia Tech. Mark Doty's poem concerned a recital of "Ozymandias," and he followed by reading Shelley's great sonnet. Princeton professor James Richardson had to cancel his appearance at the last minute, so Richard Howard read Richardson's poem before reading "Arthur Englander's Back in School," his own poem about a fifth grade class. It’s hard to imagine anyone capturing the voice and sentiment of a fifth grader as astutely as Howard. Martha Silano’s unexpected addendum to her paradoxical poem, “Love,” with its multiple iterations of the word hate, was her tremendous imitation of a seething espresso machine.
It is not possible to characterize all the many poets that graced the stage, but they will surely be remembered for their varied voices and themes ranging from religion and justice to the recent change in government in the United States. Hats off to guest editor David Wagoner and series editor David Lehman for compiling such a rich anthology and organizing a most memorable evening!
-- Liz Howort
means gesundheit in esperanto.” Prior to reading his "Freud" sestina, James Cummins brought the house down by explaining that there was something the audience needed to know prior to hearing the poem. That something, Cummins said with perfect poker face, is that Freud was an influential psychologist who lived in Vienna.
Literary agents Glen Hartley and Lynn Chu hosted a post launch cocktail party in their nearby loft. John Roode Catering provided gourmet food and poet Matthew Yeager served as the evening's expert mixologist. Poet Star Black shares these photos:
Yes, there were micro-bikinis and oiled muscles, but there was also a panel of humanities professors noting how the human form has infused visual art through the ages. Works considered included Bernini's Apollo and Daphne (right), Michelangelo's David, and what is arguably the most famous weathervane in the country: Augustus Saint-Gaudens' Diana.
I wrote about the fete for a local newspaper, and even though the story's been filed, published, and likely forgotten, my brain is still chewing on a sliver from it: the idea that artists gravitate towards the efforts of others. They especially like to spy on what their creative brethren are doing.
This might explain why musicians write poems and poets play Fenders, why Eudora Welty wrote stories about the South and photographed it as well.
Midway on our life's journey, I found myself
In dark woods, the right road lost. To tell
about those woods is hard, so tangled and rough...
Do his lively pastiches bleed into his poems, or is it the other way around? Does he have a cedar box where he keeps his cuttings, or are they stashed in a kitchen drawer alongside the scotch tape and the forgotten keys?
I wonder if Ashbery collects words the same way he gathers images, hoarding fairy and funhouse and asters for later, then piecing them together on the canvas of the page.
I got rid of the book of fairy tales,
pawned my old car, bought a ticket to the funhouse,
found myself back here at six o'clock,
pondering "possible side effects."
There was no harm in loving then,
no certain good either. But love was loving servants
or bosses. No straight road issuing from it.
Leaves around the door are penciled losses.
Twenty years to fix it.
Asters bloom one way or another.
*from "Meaningful Love," by John Ashbery
When I moved to Washington from the west coast in 1966, the only venue for poetry was the Library of Congress. That is where the readings were in a shiny palace that Robert Pinsky calls “The House of Memory.” Of course now there are more poetry readings a night in DC and its area than 12 people could go to in separate directions. However ever since the 6o’s I am still a big pillar hugger. I love walking in the marble. Gold dome and fresca ceilings notwithstanding, the place is alive with music. The voices of thousands of poets are archived. Today, the Library celebrates its 15th year of POETRY AT NOON.
I wanted to mention PAN for BAP as it’s an ad hoc event, like the extra cherry on top a hot fudge sundae, concocted by Pat Gray. The regular evening reading series is from October to May, depending on the arrival and departure schedule of the US Poet Laureate. This year, California’s Kay Ryan served as Laureate. Of a long stream of great poets since 1937, Kay resides as the 10th woman to be chosen. Early on the Laureates were called Poetry Consultants, and in 1986 Congress designated the change in term to “Poet Laureate.” The women Laureates fascinate me. In the first half of the 20th century, it was not seemly for a woman to be ambitious and so I was interested in looking into those females to find what they were like. Let me list them by terms and see whose poetry we remember : Louise Bogan 1945,Leonie Adams 1948,Elizabeth Bishop 1949, Josephine Jacobsen 1971.Maxine Kumin 1981, Gwendolyn Brooks 1985. Mona Van Duyn 1992, Rita Dove 1993, Louise Gluck 2003,Kay Ryan 2008. I am devoted to the poetry of those most recent three. I think I am also passionate about Louise Bogan and intrigued by her life. A journalist as well as a poet , 38 years with the New Yorker; made her own way after unsuccessful marriages. She was a cultural historian, translator, reviewer as well as poet. Her most successful relationship was with her own psyche and her own esthetic standards. As time passes her presence becomes more powerful somehow. Clear, analytical, unflinching, she said she spent her whole life with two friends: Sorrow and Love. They were inseparable. This poem is from her first book Body of Death (1923.)
The Frightened Man
In fear of the rich mouth
I kissed the thin –Even that was a trap
To snare me in.
Even she, so long
The frail, the scentless
Is become strong,
And proves relentless.
O forget her praise,
And how I sought her
Through a hazardous maze
By shafted water.
When we look at the magnificent structures of The Library of Congress, that preserve the greatest treasures in the world, I like to think of all that pain and sorrow and love that still roam the halls, where somehow everything is still alive.
Here are some photos of the Library of Congress and Supreme Court by Dan Murano:
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.