Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Mark Halliday in xconnect

I was browsing through Barnes and Noble a couple days ago and picked up the latest copy of xconnect: writers of the information age. It's published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, and features some wonderful work by both poets and short story writers. The current volume (VI) also includes poems by the late, great Robert Creeley.

This poem on page 65 by Mark Halliday stuck with me for it's strong sense of sound and rhythm and humor:


It's true that I was a turkey yesterday
and a bit of an asshole the day before that
but that is all flotsam gone over the dam
thanks to our being in this
vastatious unknowable flux. Which makes for
hump upon hump of sadness except when I'm thinking
of my turkeyhood yesterday not to mention
anus behavior two days back.
Today is--
I wake
to rain whickles and the bonking
or workmen placing cobbles in the lane,
don't they care da da da da the rain?
Lane, rain--can I not release this brain
from rhyme and make this day a secret
villa in the forest of some alternative to
Spain? Nobody can say
how I might be today--oggi
oh gee--let today be "Death to all those
who ever yammered on about the Death of the Author"
day. Let me be the most amazing non-poultry!
There is no proof that I cannot.
...No positive proof. Euripides,
"Outlaw Blues," come with me now babe
we got nothingness to lose.

Mark Halliday

When I read the line "Let me be the most amazing non-poultry!" I knew I loved this poem. Its seemingly random, stream-of-consciousness style is simply the sheen on a complicated, unified, beautifully crafted poem. Sometimes the use of this kind of humor can come off as too snarky or crass, because it is used for its own sake--to shock or grab the reader. But Halliday clearly has mastered how to use it. The desire to be the best "non-poultry" he can be is a passionate declaration by the speaker--he just wants to learn how to be human! But what a lesser poem this would be if he shouted, "Let me be the most amazing human!"

What do you think?

Freaky turkey photo found here.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Check me out

The new issue of eratio is out, and three of my poems are in it. So instead of posting a poem for you today, I'm pointing you toward this highly regarded journal where you can read my work, as well as poems by amazing writers such as Jack Foley, Dan Masterson, Marcia Arrieta, and Eileen Tabios.

Thanks to editor Gregory Vincent St. Thomasino for putting it all together, and placing me in the company if these gifted poets.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Arlene Ang in Shampoo

Check out the poetry journal Shampoo for some well-crafted, compelling poetry. The current issue includes the following poem by Arlene Ang:

First Name: Laron

Coarsened by dungarees,
he whitewashes my walls.
His brush thriftily dampened
into the can is spared of drip.

Face tipped to his backside,
I am thinking he may ask me out.
The pungency of his wet paint
makes me hold my breath.

Like tossed coin, a sober globule
lands on last week’s newspaper,
obscures what the Premier quipped
regarding women on the moon.

Arlene Ang

I love the word choices in this poem: dungarees instead of jeans; a brush "thriftily" dampened; face "tipped" to check the guy out; a "sober globule" of paint. Ang is a master of creating compelling imagery and tone through judicious word choice.

The word "dungarees" is interesting; it is a word that evokes a man who is more earthy and who labors for a living that the word "jeans" would. There is something primitive in the speaker's description of him--his clothes, the "dampened" brush, the "pungency" of the paint, and her checking-out the guy's physique. It is a moment of nearly pure attraction.

A drop of paints lands on the paper, covering what I'm sure is a highly relevant quote about "women on the moon." Does anyone know to what this refers?

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Langston Hughes: Rivers and New Orleans

I am leaving for vacation tomorrow, so I won't be posting for about ten days. Before I go, I'd like to suggest three places to donate for katrina disaster relief:

Red Cross
The Humane Society
Black America Web

I am going to leave you with this gorgeous poem by Langston Hughes, which I found at The Academy of American Poets. The speaker uses the depth of rivers to illustrate the depth to which his soul has grown, and the connection between himself and his ancient heritage. It seems an appropriate reflection given the tragedy on the Gulf Coast. Take care, and read some poetry.

The Negro Speaks of Rivers

I've known rivers:

I've known rivers ancient as the world and older than the

flow of human blood in human veins.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.

I built my hut near the Congo and it lulled me to sleep.

I looked upon the Nile and raised the pyramids above it.

I heard the singing of the Mississippi when Abe Lincoln

went down to New Orleans, and I've seen its muddy

bosom turn all golden in the sunset.

I've known rivers:

Ancient, dusky rivers.

My soul has grown deep like the rivers.

Langston Hughes

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Charles Bukowski Poem on New Orleans

Charles Bukowski is known as a Los Angeles beat poet, but he must have spent some time in New Orleans to come up with this poignant, unusual love poem to the city.

Young in New Orleans

starving there, sitting around the bars,
and at night walking the streets for hours,
the moonlight always seemed fake
to me, mabye it was,
and in the French Quarter I watched
the horses and buggies going by,
everybody sitting high in the open
carriages, the black driver, and in
back the man and the woman,
usually young and always white.
and I was always white.
and hardly charmed by the
New Orleans was a place to
I could piss away my life,
except for the rats.
the rats in my small dark room
very much resented sharing it
with me.
they were large and fearless
and stared at me with eyes
that spoke
an unblinking
women were beyond me.
they saw something
there was one waitress
a little older than
I, she rather smiled,
lingered when she
brought my
that was plenty for
me, that was
there was something about
that city, though:
it didn't let me feel guilty
that I had no feeling for the
things so many others
it let me alone.
sitting up in my bed
the lights out,
hearing the outside
lifting my cheap
bottle of wine,
letting the warmth of
the grape
as I heard the rats
moving about the
I preferred them
being lost,
being crazy mabye
is not so bad
if you can be
that way:
New Orleans gave me
nobody ever called
my name.
no telephone,
no car,
no job,
no anything.
me and the
and my youth,
one time,
that time
I knew
even through the
it was a
of something not to
but only

Charles Bukowski

The speaker expresses nostalgia for his time in New Orleans--a time when he was broke, could only afford a rat-infested apartment, and was doing nothing particularly productive. This time was important to him because of its simplicity--"no anything / me and the / rats / and my youth"--and because New Orleans left him "undisturbed." Despite the harsh living conditions, the speaker remembers being happy there, reveling in "something not to / do / but only / to know."

A kind of Zen point of view permeates this poem: the not-doing, the peaceful acceptance of one's place in the moment, the lack of guilt and the aquiring of an "undisturbed" life. The speaker is not, in this moment, looking for anything more; no ambition, no desire, no need to be with anyone but himself. This creates contentment, even with the rats.

Check out the previous post in Living Poetry's New Orleans series.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

New Orleans poet David Brinks

David Brinks and Andre Codrescu are the founders of the New Orleans School for the Imagination in the French Quarter--"right above the Gold Mine Saloon"--a non-profit oganization for poetry, arts, yoga, and buddhist thought. They had just built brand new studio space in which they were planning to offer Saturday poetry workshops.

Codrescu is the editor of the journal Exsquisite Corpse. This poem by David Brinks is in their online issue:

the red earth

I was born from a gentle rise
in the left trouser-leg
of my father

my mother's kiss formed me into a fish

inside their volcano of approval
I discovered a legendary
moonsplit plum where I slept
an eternal history
of nine months
in the land of trembling water

the great earthquake of my mother's body
was my first poem

-Dave Brinks

I think this poem appeals to me right now partly because of the line "in the land of trembling water." I am also drawn to its depiction of beauty being created out of an arbitrary meeting and born from a violent event. The speaker is formed in a "volcano," sleeps in the seemingly eternal but ultimately temporary security of a "moonsplit plum," then is born when that security is shattered by a bodily "earthquake."

This birth is the speaker's "first poem," a statement that claims the poem as experience and a state of being rather than an artificial process. It also declares the poem as a birth, a creation; aligning the poem with birth imbues it with inherent mystery, humanity, and pain.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Some nifty posts

There is so much going on in the poetry world right now--debates, discussions, new work, reviews, philosophizing, etc. I thought I'd list a few of the interesting posts I've been reading lately.

Josse has a thoughtful post about the legistlative threat to our national park system, and one with another lovely poem by Mark Wunderlich.

Rolling Thunder's BZoo Radio--you can stream their station live. They offer folk, bluegrass, rock and spoken poetry. Where else can you get that mix?

Jordan's long poem Their Fields is published as an ebook.

Gilbert won the Golden Point award for English language poetry.

Dead Poet discusses the differences between poetry and prose.

Robin asks which New Orleans writers are important to us, and chimes in on the discussion about poetry contests.

Roger weighs in on "Ars Poetica."

Whimsy Speaks takes issue with Alan Gilbert's declaration that desire has been "hijacked" by capitalist culture.

Gabriel wonders if mediocrity is "abundant in today's poetry."