Poetry

Exhibit 1.8.22

The Cloud Corporation

 

.

 

So I’d read most of this book in various sittings before, but I’m reading it again while working on a new project. It’s the best. If you don’t believe me, go read the first poem on The Poetry Foundation’s website right here.

The thing I’m writing now sort of comes out of this last stanza:

I won’t be dying after all, not now, but will go on living dizzily
hereafter in reality, half-deaf to reality, in the room
perfumed by the fire that our inextinguishable will begins.

You’re damn right it’s a Kansas City Royals season preview.

Comment / Posted in 2013, Clouds, Poetry

Exhibit 1.8.17

Collateral Light

 

JuliaCohenCollateralLight

 

Julia Cohen’s poetry flows so naturally from a personal language and logic that it’s difficult–for me at least–to talk about without falling back on what are I imagine some pretty cliche terms in poetry. It’s raw? Tortured? Full of the hurt and allure of fractured moments not meant to be puzzled together? There are poets like this who I feel ill-equipped to talk about. Those are typically the best poets.

My favorites here are the longer poems, mostly toward the end of the book, where I feel like I’ve been given  access to a world to fascinate and trouble. There’s little comfort here, subtle violences and betrayals, none more than in the language itself which refuses to coalesce into the illusion of explanation. It’d be too tempting for a lesser poet to insert easy meaning here, but Cohen resists and instead has given us a book of precise uncertainty. If that’s a thing. It feels like a thing here, the only thing we’ve got.

Why not go read a couple of sample poems at Notnostrums here then pick it up from Brooklyn Arts Press here.

Comment / Posted in 2013, Lights, Poetry

Exhibit 1.8.13

Dan Chelotti’s x

 

Dan Chelotti X

 

Clever, funny, and sweetly earnest, Dan Chelotti’s first book of poems found the perfect publisher in McSweeney’s who, whether they like it or not, will probably continue to hold copyright on those terms in the literary world. That they’ve been branching out into poetry is exciting and, in Chelotti, they too have found something like a perfect partner. The poems here are adroit, moving fast from highbrow references to urban angst, from the non sequitur to the earned sentiment, and it’s in these transitions that the book really impresses. To read these poems is to be in the back of a station wagon driven by your favorite uncle. You don’t know where you’re going. You know it’ll be fun. You suspect one of you is stoned.

Or maybe I should just show you. Here’s the end of his poem “The Man in Me”:

                    The little Pavarotti
smoking anisette cigars in my soul
gestures and says, Don’t worry, kiddo.
No one really gives a shit
anyway. And because
for a moment there
is nothing more truthful at hand,
I do not enjoy reading
about baseball on the internet.

 

That’s a bit more of a punchline than most of these poems end on, but it’s a good one. It’s a good book. Pick it up from McSweeney’s here.

Comment / Posted in 2013, Poetry, Xs

Exhibit 1.8.4

A Canonical Poem Adapted into a Control Scheme
for a Tamagotchi

 

Tamagotchi
“Beat! Beat! Drums!”
by Walt Whitman

Button 1: Beat!
Button 2: Also Beat!
Button 3: Drums!

 

Comment / Posted in Control Schemes, Drums, Poetry

Exhibit 1.7.6

Blind Huber by Nick Flynn

 

 

Things I Previously Knew About Bees

1. We shouldn’t let them near any of our favorite Culkins

2. They’re all dying and we don’t really know why

3. Nick Cave is probably why

4. I like honey

5. That one Futurama episode with the space bees is sad

6. There aren’t really space bees

7. Sadly

8. Probably

9. I mean, we wouldn’t really know if there were

10. If there are, we shouldn’t introduce them to Nick Cave or any of our favorite Culkins

 

To be blunt, Blind Huber is no Some Ether–one of my favorite poetry books–but it’s always a thrill to see a writer explore a personal fascination as esoterically weird as a blind French beekeeper born in 1750. Did the world know it needed this book? No, but apparently Nick Flynn did which is exactly why it should exist. I’ll never know or feel as much about bees as Nick Flynn must have to write this book, but for its short length, I got to understand what it would be like to feel such a connection to the unconnectable that one has to put it into words.

Projects like this don’t always lead to the best art but sometimes it feels like the purest.

 

Look at the nest in the rafters,

look closely. Those

 

streaks are fragments of your barn, paint

chewed to pulp. Everything

 

passes through us, transformed.

 

– from “Paper Wasp”

Comment / Posted in 2013, Bees, Poetry

Exhibit 1.6.12

On Editing a Novel #22

 

TURNING YOUR BOOK OF POETRY BACK INTO A NOVEL BY ADDING ADVERBS & SUPER VILLAINS. In lesson #7 we covered converting your novel into a book of poetry by showing how Robert Creeley’s unpublished thriller South American Murder Trail became his poem “America.” Now we’re back to confront the inevitable failure of that book of poetry and how we can reclaim the sense of dignity and meaningfulness one loses during forays into verse by adroitly, Magneto-ly adding the key elements of any successful novel: adverbs and super villains.

Let’s take the poem “Autumn Begins in Martins Ferry Ohio”, first adding the necessary punctuation to ensure full manuscript format compatibility with Penguin Random House Amazon Dress Barn then our other elements. You’re welcome to think up your own super villain or just borrow one from a lesser Batman arc.

 

“Autumn Begins Poorly in Martins Ferry, Ohio”

Terrifyingly in the Shreve High football stadium there appears The Murder Baron. I think longingly of Polacks safely nursing long beers in Tiltonsvillely, and gray faces of Negroes in the blast furnace at Benwood, and the ruptured night watchman of Wheeling Steel, dreaming of heroes to save us from The Murder Baron.

All the proud fathers, entirely killed, are ashamed to go home. However, their women cluck like starved pullets, dying for love and medical attention.

Therefore, their sons grow suicidally beautiful suicidally at the beginning of October, and gallop terribly, terribly against each other’s bodies and that of The Murder Baron who disappears each one.

 

Bam. Poem that might appear in some or all of the poetry anthologies is suddenly a treatment for a three-book deal with the film rights already sold and Hugh Jackman attached as I.

 

 

Sorry, James Wright, but that’s how you do narrative. Adverbs. Super Villains. An absence of line breaks. Hugh Jackman.

 

 

2 Comments / Posted in Editing, Poetry, Uncategorized

Exhibit 1.6.6

Teaching Autobiography of Red This Week

Wrote about it when I first read it five years ago here, favorite lines here.

Now my favorite lines might come from the opening translations:

Geryon was a monster everything about him was red
Put his snout out of the covers in the morning it was red
How stiff the red landscape where his cattle scraped against
Their hobbles in the red wind
Burrowed himself down in the red dawn jelly of Geryon’s
Dream

Geryon’s dream began red then slipped out of the vat and ran
Upsail broke silver shot up through his roots like a pup

Secret pup At the end of another red day

1 Comment / Posted in Monsters, Poetry, Red

Exhibit 1.2.20

A Canonical Poem Adapted into a Control Scheme
for a Tiger Electronic Baseball Handheld

Dante
Commedia

Run: the straight way was lost
Swing: the love that moves the sun and all the other stars

1 Comment / Posted in Control Schemes, Italians, Poetry

Exhibit 27.23

A Canonical Poem Adapted into a Control Scheme

for a Sega Game Gear

Up: The rising world of waters dark and deep
Down: The void and formless infinite
Left: Revisit’st not these eyes, that rowle in vain
Right: Re-visit now with bolder wing
1: Purge and disperse
2: Shine inward
Start: Seasons return, but not to me

Comment / Posted in Control Schemes, Johns, Poetry

Exhibit 27.13

Things

* In honor of yesterday’s National Coming Out Day, you’ll want to read Dave Madden’s coming out story on his blog here. It’s touching stuff though, I have to admit, I’m a little bummed to discover his “You will never, ever amount to anything…” sign was somehow indicative of his unhappiness. Who knew? That used to be my favorite thing about Dave. Maybe it still is.

* It’s not exactly a coming out story–more self discovery?–but coincidentally I am teaching David Sedaris’s “I Like Guys” from Naked in my class this week. Hadn’t read/heard it in awhile but it’s one of my favorites and students always seem into it. You should listen to him read it here. It starts about 3 minutes in.

* There’s a new issue of the Denver Quarterly out and it’s powerful awesome. I’ve only read around, but Shane McCrae’s stuff is, as always, fantastic.

* I also was a big fan of Nathan Hill’s very sweet story which includes this moment, “After she falls asleep, she stirs and rolls over and yawns widely and a small white mouse crawls out of her mouth.”

* By the way, have you looked at the books the Poetry Center at CSU has out or forthcoming? Um, wow. Michael Dumanis and the rest of the folks there are…I don’t know. What would the kids say? Killing it? They’re killing something, that’s for sure. Despair. They’re probably killing despair.

* Next time I feel like saying something about MFA programs, I’m just going to buy one of their books. You should do the same thing. This way we won’t be horrible people.

* O, and I have a few short shorts in the Denver Quarterly but you really shouldn’t worry about that. They’re mostly notable for including one that no one can tell my grandma about. It has nothing to do with her, I just, um, maybe borrowed her name. And maybe I said everyone with that name has extra toes. Maybe.

* But in my defense, it’s a good name and I’m very sorry. My grandma does not have extra toes (as far as I know).

* Seriously, don’t tell her.

Comment / Posted in Poetry, Seriously, Things

Exhibit 27.8

Despite the Fact

…that this blog clearly peaked with that last post about would-be cat abortionists, I suppose I must go on. I’m not really sure why either.

After reading it for two weeks, here’s the bulk of my commentary on The Faerie Queene: That Spenser really liked parades.

You can’t go two cantos without knights running into a parade. Usually it’s just long lists of sins or love emotions or whathaveyou. This is what Bart Giamatti called the “pageant1” and what I would call annoying. Look, we all love parades, even knights allegorically representing chastity love parades. But not every demon has to have one.

Or at least that’s what I thought before. I’ve completely come around on parades being written about in Spenserian stanzas:

Macy’s parade every Thanksgiving Day,
Woody Woodpecker flies! Behold the morn
as red McDonald’s haloed head allays
the guilt of Snoopy’s sins no longer worn;
afloat with charity a dog newborn
to angel heaven. Good this grief they surf
in currents rising high; but cords untorn
are sinful men assigned who owe the turf
a soul they claim by holding bound a balloon Smurf.

And that’s what I spent all morning doing. Not for the first time, I’m really glad I don’t write Elizabethan poetry. Fiction!

1 Pete Rose is hereby banned from baseball.

1 Comment / Posted in Balloons, Cantos, Poetry

Exhibit 25.14

A Canonical Poem Adapted into a Control Scheme
for a ColecoVision Game

Edgar Allan Poe
The Bells

1: Bells
2: Bells
3: Bells
4: Bells
5: Bells
6: Bells
7: Bells
8: Bells
9: Bells
*: Bells
0: Bells
#: Bells
Left: Bells
Right: Bells
Joystick: They are Ghouls

Comment / Posted in Bells, Control Schemes, Poetry

Exhibit 25.4

Everyone should subscribe to Gulf Coast or at least go to the website where you can read this great poetry discussion featuring Hannah Gamble, Zach Schomburg (himself a thing that is sometimes in Nebraska), Heather Christle, and Matthews Rohrer and Zapruder.

There’s no getting around it, Zach’s final quote is amazing:

A poem is not necessarily more surreal according to how far it sits on the dream end of that spectrum, but perhaps more surreal if it confuses the spectrum, if it confuses hurt and light, meaning and meaninglessness, just good warm sad blood spilling out in the forest.

Damn.

Comment / Posted in Gulfs, Matthews, Poetry

Exhibit 24.20

Basketball Coach

UH Hires James Dickey as New Basketball Coach

I honestly went to sleep thinking UH had named a deceased poet their next basketball coach. No, somehow they did worse.

These Dickey lines seem to sum up the situation:

To be dead, a house must be still.
The floor and the walls wave me slowly;
I am deep in them over my head.

Comment / Posted in Basketball, Jims, Poetry

Exhibit 24.2

Books You Need

Like a Sea by Samuel Amadon

The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney by Christopher Higgs

I’m fortunate enough to know both of these guys, and while I don’t have the books yet, they’re both writers I trust. I’ve ordered them. Your turn.

1 Comment / Posted in Books, Fiction, Poetry

Exhibit 23.25

Journal

The new Open City is all kinds of awesome, and you should go out of your way to support them. Right now. The first story from Sam Lipsyte is hilarious and not just because there is a character named Vargina which–I’m surprised and ashamed to say–made me laugh almost every time I read it. There are some nice looking debut fiction pieces I’m working my way through as well though I had to put off finishing them because I kept giggling about poor Vargina.

I have a few Flasher pieces in it which are only notable for continuing to exist. He buys a painted turtle among other things. That (still) nutty Flasher.

Comment / Posted in Journals, Poetry, Turtles

Exhibit 23.10

A Canonical Poem Adapted into a Control Scheme
for a Neo Geo Game

William Wordsworth
The World Is Too Much With Us

A: Getting
B: Spending
C: For this
D: For everything
Up: Up-gathered like sleeping flowers
Right: Given away our hearts
Down: It moves us not
Left: Standing on this pleasant lea
Select: A sordid boon!
Start: Great God!

Comment / Posted in Control Schemes, Poetry, This

Exhibit 23.3

Destruction Myth by Mathias Svalina

I don’t think there’s another writer that I stole as much from when I was deciding what kind of writer I wanted to be. If Mathias weren’t so nice, he probably would have punched me in the face by now. There’s still time, honestly.

I remember how blown away I was when some of the “Creation Myth” pieces that make up the bulk of Destruction Myth started appearing on his blog (I did not steal his blog’s tendency to be interesting though he recently appears to have borrowed my blog’s commitment to dog photography). A combination of verse and prose, of birth and death, Destruction Myth is a book I have spent years waiting for and it does not disappoint. It is hilarious and smart and sad, and it is the 3rd amazing book of poetry to have come out this year from someone who was in Lincoln during my tenure there. Naca, Zach, Mathias. I was very, very lucky.

If you haven’t ordered the book yet, watch Elisabeth’s video interpretation of one of the book’s best pieces and become convinced:

Creation Myth from nocoastfilms on Vimeo.

Pick the book up from CSU here or Amazon.com here.

Oh, and if you haven’t gotten it–Mathias’s Play from The Cupboard is super great. That series is the full-length I want to see next.

Comment / Posted in Alma Maters, Poetry, Writing

Exhibit 22.12

Heather Green’s No Omen
Now Available from Love Among the Ruins

You’ve got to get it. Here’s how:

$12 each or $20 for both. To order simply send an email to daniel@loveamongtheruins.com with your name, mailing address and choice of books. We’ll send you books and a bill.

It begins with this poem which I’m borrowing from Sixth Finch:
Awesome, no? Go order.

And if you’re in New York, you can attend the release party tonight, November 4th, at Melville House Books. 7pm. Be there.

Comment / Posted in Chapbooks, Poetry, Readings

Exhibit 22.3


Bird Eating Bird

Today’s post leans toward the poetry side of this blog’s stock photography/dog pictures/gross food/sports/poetry theme. I have plenty more to say about street signs, but that will all have to come later. Naca’s book is simply one that you shouldn’t wait to read.

A National Poetry Series winner, these poems lend themselves to a variety of readings but for me it’s a book of distance. The poems here span the globe and cross languages and what makes it such a touching experience to read is that in all the traveling there never seems to be a home here, something that becomes clear long before the book’s center section “House” which agency to the object itself (the house, naturally, chooses to wander). Instead it’s a book of vagabond poems, poems that speak in different tongues and argue with each other, poems that seem anxious when forced to settle for even a moment. From “One Foot”:

Each footstep, I mill bones to chalk.
Then, sink in soot wherever I stand.
I dream I give up my cane and walk.

But it’s not a sad book, not exactly. The disconnection that gives the book a sense of longing gets used just as often for humor. A grandmother struggling with the ‘h’ in English cries, “My art, my art!” A girl receives junk mail offering her a ‘chance’ to become Miss USA. The house argues its own pronunciation. These same failings of language, half understandings and tortured vocalizations, can be as universal as they are isolating when with a guide and a funny poem like “Grocery Shopping with My Girlfriend Who Is Not Asian” sees itself undone by a poem like “Uses for Spanish in Pittsburgh” which loses any Virgils. It ends:

And then, if I choose to speak like this
who will listen?

The book travels to answer this question from Pittsburgh to Mexico City, from the present to the past, from English to Spanish and back again. It’s an impressive journey across great distances done with a remarkable amount of care.

Get here

Comment / Posted in Kristins, Poetry, Reviews

Exhibit 21.24


Scary, No Scary

Zachary Schomburg’s new book begins with a choice between scary and no scary. Wisely, it advises you to choose no scary, but it’s an empty question. There is only scary here–scary jaguars, scary wolves, scary spiders, scary wolf spiders, scary black holes. And so it’s easy to say this is a book about fear, about a darkness in the world we recognize in our youth and, most of us, forget as we grow. Take the poem, “The Old Man Who Watches Me Sleep,” which ends:

If you have a soul
it may have been put in there backward.

There’s something so innocent in that “there.” After expressing uncertainty about the existence of the soul, the narrator accepts it as something physical with an intended space and, as a result, something malleable, something corruptible, something to be inserted, possibly incorrectly. Just like the old man who has wings coming from his chest rather than his back (“a mistake”), the easy readings here are warped by wonder. The old man is not an angel, he’s something else entirely, something terrifying not only because of his presence but because of what his flaws mean about the uncertainty in the world he shares with the narrator. This, then, is a fear that rises from imperfect comprehension and incomplete metaphors, the world as a cipher, its symbols dark.

Outside of a poem titled “This Is What You Need to Know about the World, Pretend Son,” the book pushes furthest in this direction during a section titled “The Histories,” an escalating series of short poems which sever understanding. Here’s “The Floor Age”:

The chandelier crashes.
There is no chandelier.

There is, of course, also something child-like in this sort of a game which seems to push into those dark places of the world to see how close one will allow themselves to get (like a child keeping a flashlight off for the rush of fear until they just can’t take the darkness). But the poems here create a beautiful, haunting world out of this fear and, ultimately, build toward a final long poem, “The Pond,” where the world is all the more scary seen through mature eyes. Our comprehension has never been made perfect nor our metaphors complete. We may not be afraid of darkness, but that does not mean we are not afraid of what we’ve become:

I haven’t done everything I’ve wanted.
I haven’t made one of those Viking ships
with a dragon the bow.
I haven’t raided Europe.

It’s a very different sort of fear, but, I think, equally capable of creating the horrors of the world here as ultimately these gaps in language and meaning are what give rise to imagination. And good lord is there imagination here. It’s a funny, brilliant book about how we can’t choose no scary. Ever.

From Black Ocean

Comment / Posted in Poetry, Reviews, Viking Ships

Exhibit 20.21

Things That are Good

Octopus 12

Interview with Christy Call

This Recording’s 100 Greatest Authors
(So far they’ve done Part 1, Part 2, & Part 3)

Comment / Posted in 100, Interviews, Poetry

Exhibit 20.12

I Don’t Know

Osmosis has me writing poems
or maybe
waiting for lunch is what
makes every thought
sound like it’s being spoken
slowly
meaningfully
into a microphone
but I won’t take your meter
never
William Logan
can I have your fortune cookie
tomorrow

2 Comments / Posted in Poetry, Tomorrow, Wills

Exhibit 18.5

A Canonical Poem Adapted into a Control Scheme
for an Atari 2600 Game

Emily Dickinson
After great pain, a formal feeling comes

Up: The letting go
Down: Recollect the snow
Left: The feet, mechanical, go round
Right: The stiff heart questions
Fire: This is the hour of lead

Comment / Posted in Control Schemes, Hours, Poetry

Exhibit 16.6

The Match Array
Heather Green
dancing girl press, 2008
$7.00 (includes S&H)
Here

I can assure you: it is a good idea to read this.

This one was originally in Octopus, but I don’t think I can link to it. I’m going to borrow it.

THE BRIDGE

No memory, no myths,
no myths,

few before the forest,
no fixed words for colors.

A red cup looks like blood.
Extract a red dye.

The first year tutored herself,
listening slightly.

The room could be locked.

The second year borrowed a boat
from the river soon before joining him,

the joy beaten to death.
That’s what you do for God.
Comment / Posted in Chapbooks, Good Ideas, Poetry

Exhibit 16.1


Octopus 11 is now live right here. Read it instead of whatever else it was you were going to do this morning.

I like this by Rebecca Guyon:

  • COLD

    I like my shadow when I’m in this coat.

    I look like a Russian soldier or I’m wearing a dress.

    I need to be more friendly. I need to treat Estonians better.

*****

I’ve also been reading the new Southeast Review. This is normally when I’d mention that I have something in it but my piece is awful and you should pick up the journal despite it. Not this time.

My piece is awesome.

Okay, that’s not true. My piece is maybe okay, but if you’ll allow me a moment, I’d like to do some avenging.

My piece, “Hope’s Dancing Fancy,” is a short short that takes its title and vampires from a longer story I wrote in graduate school. A story, I should say, that got a very odd reaction from the workshop. Honestly, it would have been better if I’d written a choose-your-own-adventure novel for class or just passed out handfuls of leaves and called it my story. Even months later I’d meet people and they’d say, “Oh, you’re the guy who writes about vampires.”

And I’d say, “Um, well, they weren’t even real vampires. They just sort of wanted to be. That’s why they had their teeth filed.”

This would not make things better.

But I persevered and you’ll be happy to know the first line of the short short is, “If we hadn’t decided to become vampires, this man wouldn’t be filing our teeth.”

I will now cease avenging.

Also in that workshop were friends and non-vampire-focused writers Dave, Chris, Mark, and Naca. That’s a good group. You should definitely watch that Naca video.

3 Comments / Posted in Journals, Poetry, Vampires

Exhibit 15.11

I recently read or re-read these two books, and while I don’t feel like I have the critical faculty to say anything particularly illuminating about them, I thought I should mention them so you too can experience the goodness.

Novel Pictorial Noise – Which only has one bizarrely inconsequential customer review on Amazon.com (speaking of which, if you’re looking for the best customer review ever, it’s definitely here. My mouth is permanently agape after that. Be warned: that review will cost you your wonderment).

As in Every Deafness – So, so good. I think I bought the last of Amazon’s copies when I gave it away as a gift, but you get it from Flood Editions. If you hide a prison shank in it, it will change someone’s life.

If you’re curious, and lord knows you shouldn’t be, I’ve been avoiding novels and watching movies/reading poetry while I’m doing this thing I’m doing. That’s why this blog has been so movie heavy the last few weeks. I felt like I was getting a little John Irving-y while reading Garp so now I’m only enjoying work that has creative syntax or car chases or, preferably, both.

As for this thing I’m doing, it’s building model airplanes, of course.

Comment / Posted in Books, Johns, Poetry

Exhibit 14.27

The video/music/spoken word/poetry collaboration of my second favorite creation myth continues to be awesome. Deservedly, it’s getting recognition from Ninth Letter where Elisabeth Reinkordt is their featured artist. Watch the video and read an interview with Elisabeth here. You have to.

For more creation myths, go here. You have to. I am very, very excited for Mathias’s upcoming book Destruction Myth. I can only assume it will be about a space war between the creation and destruction myths. It’s already what I’m getting you for future Christmases. You’ve already said thanks.

Comment / Posted in Action Teams, Poetry, Video

Exhibit 13.16

Hey, you know what’s more fun than reading self-important political rants? Reading poetry.

You should get this:

They All Seemed Asleep
Matthew Rohrer
Although my version has a white cover which makes for an entirely different reading experience. Something about it is, I don’t know, a little more Dan Fogelberg.

Get.

Comment / Posted in Chapbooks, Dans, Poetry

Exhibit 11.4

When not subscribing to The Cupboard, you should be reading Sixth Finch. Heather has work up and there’s plenty of other great poetry and art to go around.

Comment / Posted in Poetry, Shame, The Cupboard

Exhibit 9.21

Favorites for My Brother’s Wedding Awards

Best Relative:
Grandma

Best Entree:
Steak and Fish (tie)

Best opening line of my toast:
“As the McNultys taught us about marriage…”

Best Activity for Those Not at the Rehearsal Dinner:
Poetry Reading

Best Remaining Question from Redbelt:
Who ended up paying those bills?

Best Fake Spoiler:
Indiana Jones dies

Best Song:
“Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough”

Best Boy:
Terry Lewis

Best Man:
Me

1 Comment / Posted in Grandmas, Poetry, Weekends

Exhibit 9.19

Friday, May 23
Tugboat Art Gallery at 14th and O St.
7pm
You want to go to that.
Comment / Posted in Friday, Poetry, Readings

Exhibit 8.24

A Canonical Poem Adapted into a Control Scheme
for a Super Nintendo Game

William Butler Yeats
The Second Coming

B: Loose the blood-dimmed tide
A: Vex into nightmare by a rocking cradle

Y: Drown the ceremony of innocence
X: Reel shadows of indignant birds

Select: A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun
Start: The best lack conviction

Comment / Posted in Birds, Control Schemes, Poetry

Exhibit 7.15

Octopus 10.

Comment / Posted in Journals, Poetry, Tens

Exhibit 7.4

Another great Clean Part Reading Series this Saturday with another great poster. If you’ve never been to Lincoln, that really is how it looks. The city council is hoping to add a third dimension soon.
Comment / Posted in Hands, Poetry, Readings

Exhibit 4.21

Went to see Zach Schomburg read in Omaha last night and needless to say he was incredible. By asking questions like, “Do you guys like islands?” Zach was able to tailor his reading specifically to our audience which, as it turns out, was disproportionately fond of islands.

If you haven’t purchased his book yet, you’re either crazy or don’t like islands. I honestly can’t think of a better book to get someone this Christmas. It’s like getting someone a happiness machine.

Tonight, another great reading at Nebraska Wesleyan. Go see Harryette Mullen at 7:00 pm. As always, it’s in the Callen Conference Center.

If this keeps up, we’ll all have no choice but to become brilliant and physically attractive poets. Everyone else is doing it.

Comment / Posted in Islands, Poetry, Readings

Exhibit 4.19

Heather at Diagram. Go.

Comment / Posted in Cinnamon, Journals, Poetry

Exhibit 4.10

As if there wasn’t already a fantastic poetry reading this week, The Clean Part Reading Series is back with another absurdly great lineup of poets.

Ana Bozicevic-Bowling
Julia Cohen
Ken Rumble

The triumvirate will not only read incredible verse to a packed house, they will also take on all comers in three-on-three basketball. They’re that good.

Be there: Saturday, October 27 at the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, 7pm.

(P.S. In case you haven’t been paying attention, poets that will have read in Lincoln, Nebraska in the year 2007: Bozicevic-Bowling, Cohen, Rumble, Tynes, Bredle, Arrieu-King, Lasky, Foust, Hawkey, Poteat, Titus, Sims, Bar-Nadav, Dumanis, Florian, Browning, Doxsee, Campbell, Nakayasu, Dunn, and that list is hardly complete nor does it take into account all of the fantastic poets who read at the No-Name Reading Series or the Nebraska Summer Writers’ Conference or those brought in by UNL. Nice work, Poetry).

Comment / Posted in Lincoln, Poetry, Readings

Exhibit 4.4

Horoscope.

This week, you will continue to enjoy NE Wesleyan’s great series of poetry readings with Christian Hawkey reading Wednesday at 7:00 in the Callen Conference Center. Also, you’ll meet someone new. (It’s probably Christian Hawkey).

Comment / Posted in Christians, Poetry, Readings

Exhibit 3.25

Graham Foust

Tonight at Nebraska Wesleyan’s Callen Conference Center. 7pm. You have to go. You have to read his book, book, and book.

As a former student of Graham’s, I can confirm that picture is accurate. He is, in fact, a one-handed cartoon. That won’t be why you are in awe.

Comment / Posted in Lincoln, Poetry, Readings

Exhibit 3.16

Alaskaphrenia by Christine Hume

So today, someone at work forwarded me an email from a client of ours in Alaska who had attached some photos we might use. In the first photo, a handsome man in camouflage is holding what I guess is a rainbow trout. This photo seems nice. In the second, third, and fourth photos, a bear is seen climbing into a boat, sitting in the boat, and destroying the boat, respectively. It’s some kind of brown bear, possibly the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos), and it doesn’t seem happy about this boat.

In the accompanying email, we learn that the man is the husband of the woman who sent the original emal, and that he and his buddies were fishing–went well, caught a lot–and that they saw this boat (not theirs) get destroyed by a bear who ate the seats of the boat before jumping off of it back into the water and swimming away. They left before whoever owned that boat came back to it (maybe it was the bear’s cheating husband, who knows), but it’s fun to imagine what their reaction might have been.

That this came the day that I was going to write about Alaskaphrenia couldn’t be more perfect (and never mind when I said I was going to write about it).

Hume’s poems here are full of the eccentricities of America’s last near-frontier, and as a book, this collection is somehow even more inherently Alaskan than its straightforward title suggests, if that’s possible. It’s a lush book, and my favorite poems here were ones where nature, like the bear in the boat, seemed to be coming through the door. In “What’d You Come to Alaska for If You Don’t Want? Hume writes:

  • The dark amplifies my hearing
  • You too hear animals at the wrong time of day
  • Some Sounds are known to be true
  • Moans beg themselves into handfuls of lit trees
  • Shed leaves mortify the silence
  • Stridulations use strong burrowing instincts to get in

The poems here are nothing if not full of confrontations. Alaska vs. speaker, speaker vs. nature, Alaska vs. nature, etc. and it’s easy to read the book as building towards the poem “I Have Not Yet Told You What Alaska Means to Me” which ends:

  • I mistook myself
  • for the beloved
  • until I saw a way through the third eye
  • iron caribou came
  • attracted by flashbacks
  • from an ancient blood disease
  • I sucked their udders so hard
  • as if that would draw a word

Hume’s Alaska is a dangerous, contradictory one, and the poems struck me as starting in the interstices where the wild has stopped and humanity has sprung up between the ice, trees, and bears. It’s fascinating because the nature is the native and the poet is the frightened interloper (as opposed to nature being a delicate, under-siege thing which is how its often written). It’s an interesting shift from Hawkey, who, no less concerned with the physical world, wrote nature as if to ground his work, to make the book abstract in its writing but real in its subject matter. Hume, on the other hand, writes nature as an exaggerated thing, like background in a Sendak book and by doing so writes a book that, though intimately about nature, is really about wilderness. I suppose the most reductive way to say it would be to break down and say stupidly that it’s a book about wild, unknowable Alaska.

And while something about the looming figure of nature makes it a cold, dark book without room for politics or religion or romantic love, it still a heartbreaking book in the way sadness is loudest when alone. My favorite poems of the book feel like shivering in the dark. My number one, “Insert Your Eyes Here. Contemplate the Enchantments of Your View and Pleasurably Serve Your Mind,” has this line in the last stanza:

  • Your mother’s voice would unsnow you if you could hear it.
Comment / Posted in Nature, Poetry, Udders

Exhibit 3.15

Some of my favorite lines from Christine Hume’s Alaskaphrenia:

You’re trapped with snow for eyes. A glance gets through, errant and full of amnesias.


The headache you’ll grow into
Suggests all organisms are in the grips
of spiritual urges

Why should a zephyr so rarely intervene?

Our first heaven held under, that we may grow asunder

Some breath is meant to take you in
Some is meant to give you away

It is NOT TRUE: I did not dash my son’s brains out on the rocks for beauty. The beauty of this place is mad, a drug fro driving you blind and diplopic; its amplified contradictions played the music of his slip.

Everytime you drama
the sky you fall in two.

Comment / Posted in Poetry, Slip, Zephyrs

Exhibit 3.8

D(usty) has a great post which evolves into a discussion of the phenomenon of quirk fueled by this article from The Atlantic. In between sunburn induced wincing and the adjustment to a life where shirts hurt and no one can ever touch me again, I was able to move my eyes enough to read both and suggest you do the same. Anyway, I’m stealing his topic.

I feel a deep ambivalence about all things quirk (including that phrase, which I’m only using because apparently someone at The Atlantic decided its the phrase for this movement. Frankly, I would prefer something that uses the words “Precious” or “Wonderment,” but that’s just me. Also, I think it’s odd Hirschorn, the article’s author, doesn’t mention the whole ‘new sincerity’ crowd which seems inherently linked [sigh, by which I mean the McSweeney’s-ish set rather than the anti-irony, post-9/11 critical set, although maybe them too]).

If my mom got to label this movement–and who’s to say she shouldn’t–she’d call it “cutesy.”

It’s not that I find the work of the filmmakers, writers, etc. that Hirschorn writes about to be uninteresting or ineffective, if anything I find it too effective at pulling my strings by a well-placed song or perfect pop culture reference. So too, those artists that eschew pop culture references in favor of unadulterated (but profoundly nonthreatening) oddity, win me over with their perfect combination of precociousness and absurdity. These artists view the world and its denizens as machines of coincidence oiled by awe. Or, if that rhetoric is too much, at the very least the work often seems to be vaguely existential only instead of leading to absurdist meaninglessness it leads to a shy, vulnerable hope.

The hope often seems to be a promise made good, however. Characters in these “quirk” stories generally turn out okay, often by making an improbable connection with another quirky character or by discovering a deeper problem than their own malaise. The stories work because they’re reality crooked enough to turn the mundane into something strange and wonderful.

They are remarkably insincere.

Or at least most are. I’m trying hard not to mention names here, but let me just say that some of the artists who fit these labels I enjoy to the point that I would defend their work against said label. Others, I enjoy but as a bit of an emotional guilty pleasure (sort of like listening to an emo song and getting all angsty). Some I think are shallow and manipulative. For many of the artists mentioned in Hirschorn’s article, I feel all of these things.

The insincerity is what I can’t shake and what keeps me from committing to the idea of so much of this “quirk.” That the movement–and it is a movement unless we’re willing to call it a great coincidence–misreads itself as being sincere is what is profoundly frustrating to me. I remember when someone introduced me to A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, and I flipped through it at a party, getting only so far as the long preface, and stopping completely when I got to the part that said, “This is a picture of a stapler.” next to, in fact, a picture of a stapler. That was it for me.

You could argue it’s sincere insomuch as it’s a picture of a stapler and not, say, a puppy next to the text, but the gesture of identifying something so meaningless and unimportant is insincere, and, to me, it’s enough to make me want to spend my limited reading time elsewhere.

(For what it’s worth, I’ve enjoyed some of the other Eggers I’ve read, especially his short stories, but haven’t read much McSweeney’s or The Believer for the same concerns about sincerity. I’ve heard What is the What is amazing, but again there are just enough questions with motive and authenticity [why is it called a novel? why is this even Eggers’ story?] that I feel reluctant to pick it up. Every time I think about buying it, I can’t help but feel like I’d be better served reading one of the other hundred books about the Sudan. I’m probably wrong).

I guess I just like my absurdity to be a little more dangerous and done with the tools of the art (e.g. the prose or the camera work). This is one of the reasons why I think poetry handles this sensibility better. Free from the obligations of character and setting, the absurd/surreal can be sincere in a really powerful way. For prose, George Saunders and Aimee Bender, for example, take askew glances at the world and make them seem like dark possibilities, a reality we just haven’t visited.

In film, David Lynch manipulates with color and haunting (rather than pop) music, and his worlds always seem delicately balanced on top of some deep evil. What those artists do not do, is let their sensibility get in the way of confronting something that isn’t precious or adorable. Take Me and You and Everyone We Know. The fact that one person spends the film trying to sleep with pre-teen girls goes completely unjudged because he does it in such a strange, funny way. That when the girls seem to agree to the act he hides apparently excuses him, but it doesn’t take the violence out of the previous flirtation.

I liked the movie well enough, but it was tough to ignore this scary inner conflict in favor of July filming her own feet.

It gets to the heart of the problem for me, because no one in the quirk examples mentioned seems to need anything except to be acknowledged and accepted for their own eccentricities. If they can connect with someone with a matching set of eccentricities, all the better. Zach Braff paralyzed his mother, takes a lot of anti-depressants, but all can be redeemed when he meets an epileptic who murders gerbils.

I’m not much of a Marxist, but there also seems to be something highly consumer oriented about these stories, and not just because they’re normally about the upper-middle & middle class. Not only do characters seem to be able to obtain happiness wholesale, as if they were buying a lamp at Target, but a lot of the manipulation of the world seems to be done in ways that have more than a little to do with advertising principles (lots of nostalgia, “in” jokes, highly targeted demographics, etc.)

What a lot of this quirk means to do is show and then correct a character’s numbness. This is supposed to be sincere since we all sometimes feel lonely and disconnected from the world. What these stories usually do, however, is taunt a gray-tone world with a pastel one. That the world in these stories is highly artificial and manipulative is what makes them insincere, and even the non-fiction is highly edited to remove any problem truly insurmountable. It leads to sadness without desperation which isn’t, of course, sadness at all but rather just a melancholy expression of numbness.

It may be cathartic, but it isn’t eloquent.

6 Comments / Posted in Future, Poetry, Writing

Exhibit 3.6

Citizen Of by Christian Hawkey

In this book there are skies, skies with clouds. In this book there are mouths, mouths with lips. For a book of great abstraction, there is a pervasive entanglement with the things of the world, an entanglement which keeps the work from the muddle and lets it engage the contemporary world in ways that I found surprising. From the morality of nation building to the lamentation of a confusing and disappointing election, Hawkey makes his surreal, fragmented imagination surprisingly topical. It’s still an abstract book, but it’s not ethereal.

That is not to say that this is a political or even particularly culturally engaged work. Many of the poems here read to me as more notable for their language than for their meaning, but Hawkey has enough of the politically engaged poems to force a second look at what can initially seem shallow (which is probably a reading unique to the poems being collected). I can imagine coming across the poems in journals and thinking they were funny. Or interesting. Or fantastic. But as a book, especially one with the word ‘citizen’ in the title, I kept looking for more of the world in the poems. Sometimes it’s there, sometime it isn’t.

What is there, is a certain magic. These poems are like Rube Goldberg machines that through some carefully designed and sequenced conflagration of nouns, adjectives, birds, and colors a little happiness is produced. These tenuous machines work more often than not, and I’m entirely willing to admit that when they didn’t, it was because I was the one pulling the lever.

2 Comments / Posted in Entanglement, Poetry, Writing

Exhibit 3.5

Some of my favorite lines from Christian Hawkey’s Citizen Of:

They have invented this machine to extract/glass from the lips of strangers/which is precisely what we are/although the fear of breathing/brings us within inches of each other’s face.

Who utters/the phrase transparent gutter/& stands back as a tube of rain/slides horizontally/across the sky/with nowhere to go but/clouds, one by one

O where/in these kingdoms red with the clay of sunsets/pasted onto our brows/& these wires threaded with copper/listening to our every desire as if it were a need/can I rest with my blue triangle and maybe, if the light is right,/place my heart inside it, a soft cloud.

It is spring. No one’s around./White dandelions/bloom the shape of a woman’s body./With a little wind, she moves—she migrates.

It was a gate./I was hungry for it to transform me,/moving through it, but it didn’t/it just opened, & so I sat down/within it, holding either side of it/&it didn’t seem to mind it.

3 Comments / Posted in Copper, Dandelions, Poetry

Exhibit 2.19

Some of my favorite moments and lines from Autobiography of Red:

“Black central stalled night. He lay hot and motionless, that is, motion
was a memory he could not recover
(among others) from the bottom of the vast blind kitchen where he was buried.”

“He thought about how delicious it was, how he liked slippery foods, how slipperiness can be of different kinds.
I am a philosopher of sandwiches, he decided. Things good on the inside.”

“…Geryon
caught her other arm, it was like a handful of autumn. He felt huge and wrong.”

“He had not realized until he found himself stranded in it high above the Andes
halfway to Lima that the novel he’d bought
in the Buenos Aires airport was pornographic. It made him furious with himself
to be stirred by dull sentences like,
Gladys slid a hand under her nightgown and began to caress her own thighs. Gladys!”

“New Ending.
All over the world the beautiful red breezes went on blowing hand
in hand.”

1 Comment / Posted in Gladys(exclamation), Poetry, Writing

Exhibit 2.18

Autobiography of Red by Anne Carson

This is the first in what will, ideally, be a continuing series of poetry books and chapbooks that I’ll be reading in the coming months. It’s either appropriate or a little bit of a cheat that this book is “a novel in verse” according to its cover and while that may just be publishing house shenanigans, it seems appropriate even if it doesn’t really mean anything.

There is a narrative here, sure. There are also characters who change, dialogue, length, and probably whatever other surface level concerns people who go about deciding what’s a novel and what isn’t use to make their distinctions. Even the verse is very near prose, and the experience of reading the book was to this reader a very different thing than reading a book of poetry. There is much beauty, but very little opaqueness. If anything, there is a hyper-specificity to the language which fulfills the promise of Stesichorus’ use of adjectives that Carson notes in one of the pre-poem appendices.

Calling it a novel then seems completely natural and completely false. It has a novel’s story but a poem’s soul, with most of the pleasure coming from the language and the playfulness of the contradictions. It’s a novel, but it’s not a novel. Geryon is a monster, but Geryon is a boy. There are appendices, but it is as if the poem is appended to them in both order and intention. There are translations of Stesischorus, but they are clearly false and anachronsitic.

Carson’s project then seemed to be to make a book out of the muddle that includes: a mythological red monster murdered by Herakles; Volcanoes; a Greek poet who wrote the definitive work on the myth, apparently in a meandering way that did little to glorify Herakles and much to humanize the red monster; translations of the surviving fragments of the myth; an interpretation/reimagining/modernization of the myth as being about love, specifically homosexual love (possibly due to Stesischorus’ other writings); Canada; and, finally, Stesischorus’ as meaning-breaking author.

What’s surprising is how seamlessly these disparate pieces and competing purposes become a book. Put at the end, the appendices would be reference material for a modernization novel and prompt a reading about Geryon as victim. At the beginning, however, they inform the reading as an act of translation, both of the Greek into English and of Geryon into man. The interview with Stesischorus that concludes the book after a somewhat enigmatic ending to the story proper, but in a way it simply does it’s part to make the book itself as much a collage of the real and unreal, poetic and prosaic, and mythological and contemporary as the source material.

One can imagine Anne Carson looking at the fragments of Stesischorus’ Geryoneis and wanting to translate not just the words but the feeling of being a monster in a world of men, of being scraps in a world of novels.

2 Comments / Posted in Monsters, Poetry, Writing

Exhibit 2.14

I can’t make it as I’ll be somewhere between crying and drinking while attending a wedding, but don’t miss this Saturday’s Clean Part. 7pm at the Sheldon Art Gallery. It’s free. It’s awesome. I won’t be there. What’s not to love?

2 Comments / Posted in Chicago, Lonely Places, Poetry

Exhibit 2.9

Poetry Reading

I haven’t, you know, read any yet, but my first two books of poetry are going to be:

Anne Carson Autobiography of Red
Christian Hawkey Citizen Of

Thanks to everyone who suggested a book. By which I mean Heather and Chris.

Just the moment I read these two I’ll post some thoughts up here.

3 Comments / Posted in Of, Poetry, Writing

Exhibit 2.4

So in a conversation with a poet and a fiction writer last night, it became embarrassingly clear that the fiction writers–or at least this one–haven’t read nearly as much poetry as the poets have fiction. There are a lot of explanations for this, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. So I’ve decided I’m going to try to read one book of poetry a week for awhile. I suppose I’ll give my ill-informed thoughts about them right here as it will give me something to write about and keep me from hating this blog more than I already do.

(Seriously, this blog is awful. Are they all like this? Does everyone write about their fantasy football teams and candy bars or are those just the topics my sad mind drifts towards when given a blank canvas? Sigh. At least someone offered me nude pictures of Richard Tyson. That never happened before the blog. [Ed note: I predict many hits now from the phrase “nude pictures of Richard Tyson”]).

So this is where you come in. By you I mean Heather, but also any other people who read this blog and want to suggest a book of poetry. Just leave a comment with one or two books I should read, and I’ll read them. Contemporary or modern or Romantic or whatever, it doesn’t matter. Chapbooks are cool too.

It’s like a contest everyone wins.

4 Comments / Posted in Poetry, Synergy, Writing

Exhibit 1.8

Heather is featured in this week’s RealPoetik with an incredible poem with lines like:

  • Up, whorish daffodils!
  • The pink pill is the tear
  • When spring pushes push steam

Why aren’t you reading it now?

Comment / Posted in Journals, Poetry, Spring

Exhibit 1.1


The new issue of Octopus is online. It’s all prose about poetry.

Finally, Octopus 9 is here. The 8th was an amazing set of chapbooks and this one is an equally great collection of writing on poetry. There is a review by myself in there, though I think Ms. Dutton’s work isn’t poetry exactly. Still, click the link and check it out.

2 Comments / Posted in Cephalopods, Journals, Poetry