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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Beloit Poetry Journal has a blog!

And June's blogger extraordinaire is Erin Malone. Check it all out here: Beloit Poetry Journal Blog.

Okay, back to me . . .

Why is it called the crack of dawn? What's cracking? If you've got a hangover, I reckon it's your skull--or at least it feels that way.

This morning I woke, well, at the crack of dawn: 5:18 or so. I couldn't stay in bed because the robins and Bewick's wrens were singing their asses off. I considered letting myself fall back asleep, then decided--no way, it's time to be out among all the hoopla. And when I got there, up to a place where I could actually see the sky, the light was pouring out of a crack between the clouds. I mean, I actually saw the crack of dawn! It was pretty special, a reward for being out at such a ridiculously early time of day.

It made me think of John Ciardi, a poet who lived on my block where I grew up in NJ. He has an essay about doing all his writing before sunrise, how the day is basically over once the crack appears. Thinking of that great mind at work just a few houses down . . . it always floors me.

Another reward for heeding to the crack: I saw hundreds of little fish jumping out of Lake Washington--yes, hundreds. Completely out of the water, then sorta belly-flopping back in. Any ideas what the heck was going on?

I kinda get Ciardi's drift--here it is 9:20 am, and the day feels kinda done. I never was an afternoon person. It's all about the crepuscular.

Question: if no one comments on your blog, does your blog exist? Does the blogger? Does the tree fall, or what?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Roll On, Teanaway

Three Nights, two kids, 1 hubby, and our trusty '87 Westie. Oh, and the ingredients for Tuna Surprise and Turkey Chili. We were holed up at the West Fork Teanaway River C.G.: no fees, no hook-ups (well, not the RV kind), and no running water. 

We mingled with the masses, broke bread with the burly. 
It was a Memorial Weekend of miscreants. The sky gave us 
puddles, wet wood. It was the domain of the monster truck,
of dogs named Chunk. In the few places not trampled,
lemonweed and Lomatium. Lupine.

It was an American holiday. Dynamite and Coors.
In the morning, a few smoldering fires,
a few limp flags. 

I didn't write or read a word of poetry. 

Monday, May 19, 2008

Rattle and Hum

The latest issue of Rattle: Poetry for the 21st Century (gotta love that subtitle) arrived last Friday, just in time to pack it along on our first camping trip of the season. I didn't think I'd have the time (or desire) to read any poetry at all while taking in the sun, the birds, the ponderosa-pine-sweetened air, but alas . . . I couldn't help myself, mainly because of the words "Tribute to Visual Poetry" on the front cover of this sweet little mag I'm growing fonder and fonder of.

I've dabbled around with concrete poetry, but visual poetry? I didn't know quite what to expect. I'm a big fan of Gillian Conoley's Dr. B's Poof and Dare (Erasures of Dr. Spock's Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care), but I had no idea there was so much else being done with this tradition which editor Timothy Green reminds us (in his fine introduction) dates back to the caves where our ancestors liked to make their art on the walls.

In this issue Denise Duhamel has this thing called "The Johari Window," a psychological model used in assessing self-actualization. She takes this concept and turns it into four 'actual' windows, each one representing a part of her own self (what it freely shares, what it hides from others, what it hides from the self, and what is unknown to the self and others). So, get this, she took blinds, actual Venetian blinds, and pasted her poems to them--"each slat a line." I mean, is that not the coolest? You have to check these things out--they're raw, they're haunting, they're like eating potato chips. Here's a little taste (from "Open/Blind"):

"You will never know who climbed into your / window on East Fifth Street and stole your grandmother's pearls, if each precious / bead was pawn-shop transformed into a drop of heroin and shop up the thief's arm."

So there I was in my camp chair, looking out onto the Naches River (churning and brown, folding over on itself; it had, indeed, been a long, cold spring), listening to the crazed-maniac songs of black-headed grosbeaks ("Like a robin on acid," was how my first birding teacher described it), and unable to take my eyes off the likes of Patrice Vecchione's "Oh, No, Not the House, Again," Ellen Peckham's "Red Fence," and Susan Landgraf's "Founder." Or Louis Phillips' periodic table (instead of elements it's what it takes to be a poet: "WC"--Word Choice, "Ca"--Cliche avoidance, mM--Metaphor Making, etc.).

Okay, but this is only one little section of the issue. There's also close to 100 pages of really good poetry by the likes of Jeannine Hall Gailey, Jennifer Boyden, Chrys Tobey, and Tony Trigilio, AND interviews with Marvin Bell and Bob Hicok.

But that's not all I had in my sachel. Though the Naches threatened to sweep it all away in a single, errant wave, I'd also brought along Sandra Beasley's Theories of Falling and Brenda Shaughnessy's Human Dark with Sugar.

Beasley was born soon after the release of My Sharona by The Knack, a tune I associate with my college orientation. Me: 18. Beasley: gestating. Kinda kills ya inside. But--youth be damned!--she's good. You'd never know she wasn't around till about the time Mt. St. Helens blew its top:

"I always flipped to the last page first.
I swallowed watermelon seeds, then waited. I split open a famliy
of Matroyshka dolls and tapped the baby's head,
hoping it too was hollow"

(from "The Green Flash").

This gal is afoot with her vision.

Meanwhile, Shaughnessy's poems are nothing less than Olympic events. "I'm Over the Moon"? The Decathlon!

"What do you have? You're a tool, moon.
Now, noon. There's a hero.

The obvious sun, no bullshit, the enemy
of poets and lovers, sleepers and creatures.

But my lovers have never been able to read
my mind. I've had to learn to be direct.

It's hard to learn that, hard to do.
The sun is worth ten of you."

This lady's got an ear (and a pair of cojones) to make Sylvia Plath right proud.

The rivers are still rising, but my fav. picks are once again safe at home. For the sake of the water rescue folks, let the cool May weather return, and happy reading to you all.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Upcoming Reading: Hoogs & Randall

Jessy Randall & Rebecca Hoogs are reading this coming Thursday, May 15th at 7:30, at Richard Hugo House, 1634 Eleventh Ave., here in Seattle.

Rebecca, a local, is the author of Grenade, a chapbook of poems. Her work has also appeared in many elsewheres, including The Journal, Seneca Review, Poetry Northwest, and onVerse Daily.

Jessy, who lives in Colorado, has a new book: A Day in Boyland. She's also published her work in 42opus and Nth Position, among others.

Admission is, of course, free.

This is going to be fun; I just know it.

Hope to see you there.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Political Issues

Poetry Northwest's is hot off the presses. The Recommended Reading list (suggested by contributors Pinsky, Bly, Bogen, Heffernan, Wrigley, and many noteworthy others) is worth the price of admission alone. Also, thanks to Peter Campion's insightful essay, I now know what's wrong with most political poetry (the poet miraculously forgets there's no standing outside the very thing she's reeling against; i.e, no one's innocent, least of all the one who's pointing the finger).

Beloit Poetry Journal's last issue devoted itself to the writers scheduled to read at Split This Rock, including Martin Espada and Alicia Ostricker. 

Reading the poems in both of these issues, I had that familiar flash of realization: this is the stuff that matters right now--not the orange azalea in my neighbor's yard, not that cute thing my kid did at the park today (well, not unless I somehow tie it to something larger, something half way around the world that's just now being blown up, deforested, disenfranchized,  etc.). 

Our country's top literary magazines are publishing political poetry in a ratio I haven't seen since the Vietnam War (okay, I was a child in 1972, but tell me if I'm wrong on this)--and with good reason; I bet they sift through hundreds of diatribes and rants each month (bad political poetry being just about the easiest type of bad poetry to write), but my sense is that they're also receiving an above-average amount of decent stuff, too. 

My favorite of the bunch is Kevin McFadden's "The Ides of Amer-I-Can," published in The Kenyon Review this past spring. 

Do you have it in you to write a poem about a political issue? If you do, first buy the mags mentioned above and study them. Then go back and take a good look at some of the poems the contributors at PNW recommend--Auden's "September 1, 1939," for instance.  You might want to read a newspaper, too--the New York Times' A Section is a good place to start. 

If and when you're ready to send a batch off, you're in luck: Tin House is currently reading for an upcoming political issue; the submission deadline is June 1.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Unabashedly Girly

You need to stop what you're doing right now and check out this way-cool, way-smart interview between Arielle Greenberg & Danielle Pafunda, two very, very Gurlesque poets. 

Greenberg brilliantly explains how pop cultural (Jodi Foster, Charlie's Angels, vans festooned w unicorns, etc.) and gender-bending influences of the 70s (Bowie/glam-rock, androgyny), along with confessional po first ladies Plath and Sexton, have given rise to a new movement in poetry: The Gurlesque. It's a type of poetry where the frilly, feminine stuff is totally happening (bejeweled music boxes, lots of pink!), but where there's also a big dose of thwarting traditional narrative. Gender is bendy, too--what it is to be a girl, a woman, a woman who loves frilly dresses but kicks butt in the smarts dept.

But that's only a teeny, tiny rhinestone of it.  To get the whole pouffy-skirt picture, you gotta read the interview at Delirious Hem.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Give This Woman a Book

Anna Maria Hong's poems are featured this week at No Tell Motel, a delightfully pink and pretty 'zine. Maria's manuscript, Fabulae, has been a finalist not once but twice for the National Poetry Series. She's been published all the hell over the place, including Fence, Tarpaulin Sky, and Black Clock.

And damn, her poems are good. I mean, they take risks, they go to unexpected places, and they're packed with music (A dun dish to decant your desire). 

And So It Begins

It must've been that lavender mist I sprayed on my pillow last night. Or maybe the cup of rally fries smothered in ketchup I savored at the Safe while watching the Ms cruise to a 7-3 victory. My son and I were sitting just to the left of home plate. We didn't catch a foul ball, but the kid behind us did; you should've seen the gleam in his eyes.

This morning I woke up and knew it was time to start blogging.