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In Memory of Kent Johnson, poet and activist of the imnagination (1955- Oct. 25, 2022)

8 / 29 / 20

From “Because of Poetry” / by  John Bradley

A review in Sulfur of Kent Johnson’s rambunctious and defiant new book,

Because of Poetry I Have a Really Big House (Shearsman Books, $18.00) 

With Ginsberg and Creeley c. 1965“Say, isn’t that John Ashbery?” I asked.  “Over there, speaking with some young poet who’s trying to look like a young John Ashbery?” I told him, though I sounded just like the Kent Johnson in the “Matterhorn” poem who tells Fred Seidel that he sees John Ashbery.  “That’s ridiculous.  Everyone knows Ashbery is dead,” said Kent.  “And besides, why would the Poetry Institute put John Ashbery in a poetry re-education camp.  They love his poetry.”

More and more confused, I turned again to a poem to help me right my balance.   “’Could someone tell me why I’ve never been / selected for the yearly Best American Poetry?’” I read from “Could Someone Tell Me Why.”  Is it a crime, I wondered, to write such a thing in a poem?  I must have said this aloud, as Kent told me that he would be released from the re-education camp as soon as he wrote a poem that was chosen for Best American Poetry.  I wasn’t sure if he was joking or serious, and I nervously laughed.  “But that means you’ll be here forever!” I said, to cheer him up.  I could hear John Ashbery laughing nearby.

from the archive; first posted Auigust 29, 2020

Thank you, David, for posting this delightful review by the inimitable John Bradley, who has long carried forward the surrealist tradition in marvelous ways. Just wanted to clarify that the magazine is not related in any way to Clayton Eshleman's legendary and long-retired Sulfur. The magazine, in fact, is somewhat new and based in Egypt. Other singular U.S. poets of surrealist bent present here are George Kalamaras and Garrett Caples.

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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


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