Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Where I Hope to Be on December 28

from 7-10:00pm
the Forum at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts701 Mission Street, San Francisco

FREE and ADA accessible to the public
Co-sponsored by Small Press Distribution and the Poetry Foundation

Over 60 POETS reading (just) 2 minutes each:

Aaron Kunin, Alan Bernheimer, Aldon Nielsen, Andrew Osborn, Barrett Watten, Bill Howe, Bill Luoma, Bill Mohr, Brian Kim Stefans, C.S. Giscombe, Carla Harryman, Christian Bok, Chris Stroffolino, Dale Smith, Craig Perez, Dan Featherston, David Buuck, Dennis Barone, Donna de la Perriere, Durriel Harris, Dodie Bellamy, Elizabeth Hatmaker, Etel Adnan, Jasper Bernes, Jeffrey Robinson, Javier Huerta, Jeanne Heuving, Jennifer Scappettone, Jerry Rothenberg, Joe Amato, John Emil Vincent, Joseph Lease, Joshua Clover, Joshua Marie Wilkinson, Julian Brolaski, Kasey Mohammad, Kass Fleisher, Kazim Ali, Kevin Killian, Kit Robinson, Kristin Prevallet, Lisa Howe, Lisa Robertson, Lorraine Graham, Maxine Chernoff, Michael Davidson, Norma Cole, Paolo Javier, Patrick Durgin, Paul Hoover, Philip Metres, Rob Halpern, Sarah Schulman, Rusty Morrison, Standard Schaefer, Stephanie Young, Stephen Cope, Suzanne Stein, Timothy Yu, Tom Orange, Tyrone Williams, Walter Lew and more!

Poets in Masks! Refreshments! Books! Books! Books!

Books by the readers for sale from Small Press Distribution.



Small Press Distribution, 1341 7th Street, Berkeley, CA 94710


This is a bunch of poets! None of whom I've ever seen read (even if only 2 minutes).

I might even buy a book or two. Why not? What harm could it do?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Poet Laureate on Charlie Rose

Charlie Rose talking with Kay Ryan, poet laureate, and James Billington, librarian of congress.

Billington mentions the great variety in American poetry, and he’s certainly right about that, but then he acts as if the Laureate position has been representing that great variety, especially with his selection of Kay Ryan. He’s wrong. He’s so wrong. He’s so totally wrong.

I don’t want to sit here and criticize this year’s choice (I’m growing bored with myself, and anyway, this is the season for giving), so I’ll just move on to my thesis for the day: Please let next year bring us a really different poet laureate. Maybe whomever is out there whispering in Billington’s ear (now that hopefully Dana Gioia is not doing so) can whisper some more interesting things.

Who would you have be poet laureate next year?

Rae Armantrout would be my choice. (I would put Ashbery forward as well, but I don’t think he’s much for travelling.)

Monday, December 15, 2008

Best Albums of 2008? Best Books of Poetry?

This time of year is full of best of lists. I used to really go in for them, but I've kind of fallen out of the practice.

Anyway, I'd like to give a shout out to five CDs from 2008, that I've enjoyed a lot (especially as I've seen some other "best of 2008" lists where some of these albums haven't [which shocks me, as the Byrne/Eno album is simply amazing] been mentioned):

1. David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

2. Aimee Mann - F-ing Smilers

3. Beck - Modern Guilt

4. Everest - Ghost Notes

5. Dr. Dog - Fate

So what would you add to this list? I should have five more to make it a proper "top 10."


Special mentions:

Radiohead - In Rainbows (This really was talked about as a 2007 album, even through the CD is dated Jan 1 2008, even so, it's a great CD. And I didn't get the extra songs until recently, which has brought it back onto my list for the second year)

I've also enjoyed the Dylan bootleg vol 8: tell tale signs and Neil Young Sugar Mountain 1968 albums, but as they aren't really new, they've not gotten the heavy play that the above albums have.


And hanging on from last year:

I'm still listening to the Son Volt and Wilco albums from 2007. Back then I liked the Son Volt a lot, and the Wilco less, but recently the Wilco's grown on me. Let's just say I like them both equally, even if the Son Volt gets more play.

And a few songs off of Neil Young's 2007 Chrome Dreams II are still finding their way into my imagination as well. "The Way" "Spirit Road" and "No Hidden Path" especially. I felt "Ordinary People" was great, but as it was recorded in the late 80s, and I've been listening to it on bootlegs for so long, I really couldn't put it into heavy play.


As for books of poetry, this has been an odd year. I'm not sure what to say about it. The books of poetry that I've spent the most time with were:

Kevin Prufer - National Anthem
Alex Lemon - Hallelujah Blackout
Katy Lederer - Heaven-Sent Leaf

But there were several others I read with appreciation as well, including Kent Shaw's Calenture, and Dan Kaplan's Bill's Formal Complaint.

All this is to say I don't have a book that stands out as the Best Book of the Year as I have in the past, as in last year's amazing Elegy, by Mary Jo Bang. Was that last year? And Ashbery's Worldly Country as well? So I'll just leave that little list of things I liked.

What should I have added? What did I forget?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ashbery, Tate, Ossip, and Logan's Avant-garde

William Logan’s been thinking again, and while I never find much to remember or value from it, he does make for an interesting read. When he sticks to the likes of Oliver or Olds or Komunyakaa, he’s on pretty safe ground, complaining about the angle of vision, the voice, the taken-for-granted, but when he strays into the territory of poetry that is more unlike his own, he tends to complain in larger, more suspect ways. This, occasioned from looking at Cole Swensen, illustrates the point:

“The avant-garde aesthetic almost demands some form of one-upsmanship, yet there are only so many ways of torturing syntax or splashing words onto the page. (Certain avant-garde mannerisms have been around so long, Calvin Coolidge could have written respectable poems with them.) If the avant-garde wants to make it new, in Pound’s dictum, what can be left to accomplish when the etiquette has been as codified as the place setting for a twelve-course banquet? Most experimental poets still come out of William Carlos Williams’s pickle jar or Charles Olson’s boot heel.”


What I’m getting at, is that Logan fails to see that all texts are in some ways artificial, and that none of them in any really complete way can be experience or perception fully, but to take for granted the suppositions behind the style of poetry that mirrors discourse (Oliver & Olds & Komunyakaa here) while complaining about the suppositions behind the style of poetry that attempts to enact the way perception works (which has been behind the attempts of what he’s here terming “the avant-garde”), is to reveal a blind spot that one who considers himself a broad-based reviewer and critic should either think his way out of or cause him to stop writing about the sorts of poets he’s here terming “avant-garde.”

That said, Swensen does come off better from Logan than either Oliver or Olds or Komunyakaa do, so I’m not accusing him of dispatching the “avant-garde” out of hand, but the terms of his conversation regarding poets changes when encountering the “avant-garde.” He just doesn’t know quite what to say or how to say it, which I suppose is understandable, as I wouldn’t have a clue what to say about Mary Oliver . . .

Anyway, enough of that. A few more poems I like, to continue my December anthology:

John Ashbery
Yes, “Señor” Fluffy

And the clouds fretted and flew, as though
there was a reason for their acting distraught.
There may have been, of course, but at this distance,
better to act dumb and accept the inevitable
as a long-anticipated surprise. Then if what lands
on your plate stares angrily at you and the other guests
“can’t wait” to hear your reaction, why, it’s checkout time
at the gazebo and no one will forget you too heartily
as the next-to-last spectator always glimpsed on the premises,
feigning the concern for the victim that marks you as the killer,
for sure. As for being in touch with you guys
another time, we’ll take it under advisement.

So this moment’s tremors mingle with others
on the departure platform. Who knew it would be this silly,
and so dense? Nevertheless, we have a right to know,
to have our impulses regulated and calibrated in the
interests of farther and fainter reaction-shots. Sure,
you’ll get your rights read to you and sooner
than you may have counted on. Let the monotonous
group of listeners pump you for details, we’ll provide
backup and terminal ecstasy at the way stations.
It couldn’t have been any other way. You knew that.

What’s your name down there?
Despite misgivings, the story clicks to a halt,
as always. The credits surge. People rush to leave.
The shiny cars of another era are coming
to take us where we wish to be taken, lest we
outstay our welcome and sink in the embrace
of another mood.

* * *

James Tate
Land of Little Sticks, 1945

Where the wife is scouring the frying pan
and the husband is leaning up against the barn.
Where the boychild is pumping water into a bucket
and the girl is chasing a spotted dog.
And the sky churns on the horizon.
A town by the name of Pleasantville has disappeared.
And now the horses begin to shift and whinny,
and the chickens roost, keep looking this way and that.
At this moment something is not quite right.
The boy trundles through the kitchen, spilling water.
His mother removes several pies from the oven, shouts at him.
The girlchild sits down by the fence to stare at the horses.
And the man is just as he was, eyes closed,
forehead against his forearm, leaning up against the barn.

* * *

Kathleen Ossip
My 20th Century

We are having tea and
dobosh torte, my mother
and I, dressed in hobble
skirts and buttoned boots,
in Peacock Alley of the
old Waldorf. (She thrives on
luxury.) Hey Ma, I say,
this Sigmund Freud says neuroses
arise from repressed sexual
fantasies! She clatters her cup
in a kind of trance.

We’re having tea and Ritz
crackers, my mother and I,
dressed in chemises, shingled and
bobbed, in the sitting room
of my first apartment. (She’s
a little jealous.) Hey,
Ma, I say, Susan Anthony
won! We’re getting the vote!
She moves like a brown
bird on a brown branch.

We’re having tea—the sugar
is rationed—my mother and
I, wearing trousers and snoods,
in a soldier’s canteen. (I’m
her supervisor.) Hey, Ma, I
say, have you seen that
movie about Scarlett O’Hara, the
heroine who proves, once and
for all, that a woman
can be hard as nails
yet loved by millions? She
hefts a widget, not too friendly.

We’re having drinks in the
Sputnik Lounge, in daydresses and
ballerina slippers. (She’s dating a
pilot.) Hey, Ma, I say,
y’know Rock Hudson, that
actor you like? Well, I just
read in Tittle-Tattle . . . She
hits a high note like
a wigged castrato.

We’re taking spoonfuls of blue-
green algae in the solarium
of the nursing home (I’m
getting tired; her joints are
sprightly). We’re dressed in
leopardskin aerobicwear. Hey,
Ma, I say, there’s this
guy who says all religions
derive from a shared mythology.
What do you think? She
swivels and rides
away on her trike.

I’m eating bread and water
alone, naked as the day
I was born. Hey, Ma,
I say, though she’s not
around, you won’t believe this.
Physicists say that in
addition to a yes and a
no, the universe contains a maybe.
Off in the distance, under the stars,
she moves like a platypus,
neither here nor there.

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Three Fates: Manguso, Adams, Mathias

I’ve been busy and have fallen down on my promise to myself to post a couple poems a day all December long. I’ll endeavor to do better.

Sarah Manguso
Alas They Sighed, You Were Not Like Us

For once they had nothing to say about my death
And I killed them.
After that I put on a Neil Young record in my poem because he used to write in fevers
And because there’s something about beauty that’s always going to be a problem.

They told me if I played “Cinnamon Girl” enough times, they would love me.
They didn’t have to hold me
And they sent me money and macrame belts
Spelling the words Jesus and O to Know Your Dark Uplifted Heart.
I loved them
And I was listening to myself
And writing down what I heard.
They were pretty sure it was about them.

* * *

Carrie Olivia Adams
A History of Drowning, 2

Why does it move so?
Why does it break or ask to be broken?

Her fingers stay tied. She is sitting on her hands to save them.

What if this too were to flower?
What color might it be in the dark?
Or with his back turned?

* * *

Louise Mathias

While you were busy
qualifying butterflies. Taking the liminal stretch

of each pinked wing. Fawn is a soundtrack for beauty. Wood nymphs,
meadowbrowns, ringlets. Jezebels, parchment, pins.

Outside; the sound of the sun
becoming more of what she was—

the velvet slug of their bodies (Nabokov

said they were girls).

But also, I wanted to tell you
there are winds that you won’t own.

There’s a file on you, somewhere—

Stiff corridor, this.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Katz, Woodward, and What do Teachers teach

I’m continuing to read Profession 2008 published by MLA. Why am I doing this when so many other things are sitting there on my bookshelf, crying out pitifully? I’m not sure. Maybe it’s because I’ve never read one of these Profession publications before. Maybe it’s time I started? Or maybe, having read one, I can be done with it?

I just finished Marshall Gregory’s essay “Do We Teach Disciplines or Do We Teach Students?” Fun enough, even with the somewhat disingenuous opening question: “What do you teach?” And then when the answer is something like, “I teach history,” he’s able to retort: “No you don’t, you teach students.” It sounds a bit like a knock-knock joke gone awry. But, that said, there is stuff to mull over in here:

“The point I am making is that given all there is to learn in any field, we are all pikers, stumblers, and terminal beginners. . . . and if undergraduate teaching does actually work a fair amount of the time, it cannot be because we are all doing a box office business expanding the boundaries of our students’ disciplinary knowledge. It has to be working for reasons other than disciplinary reasons.”

Anyway, I’m back after a few days of frenzy, with a couple more poems. They’re connected because I’ve heard all things are, in good cultural studies fashion.

Jon Woodward
[the bomber swept lower and]

the bomber swept lower and
lower in concentric circles we
felt bad about ourselves we
felt like dirt we had
poor self esteem the bomber

thanked us all for being
there but the way the
bomber said it made us
think he disagreed with himself
we added the bomber’s name

to the list of people
we couldn’t stand we also
were on that list and
at what point did the
bombs begin to fall exactly

* * *

Joy Katz
Color of the Sheets.

Far from the dominant science of white
I found this white
in continual pour

In the midst of this ordinary place, the bed.

Flooding the space between my eyes.
A sudden clearing, and then a floating at waist level.
Neither putting itself gaily forth as a sail
nor sequencing itself like a pencil.

Shall I hand you such a noblesse?

It makes my heart clutch out
to see a thing so long moored finally commence.

Will I see it fail, in your sights?
In the midst of an ordinary place, whiteless?

I weep at how I can count on it,
such unreasonably good fate in the midst of a life.
Even a small satan like myself it will accept.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Ashbery, Kryah, and the Death of Cultural Studies

Are there any cultural studies people out there? Are they sitting in an empty room listening to the crickets (not a Buddy Holly allusion)?

Well, here’s something you might be interested in reading, before the electricity fades. In Profession 2008, published by MLA, William B. Warner and Clifford Siskin have an essay titled, “Stopping Cultural Studies.” Here’s a Moses-like snippet:

“The new horizons that cultural studies has helped us open reveal a landscape that it cannot help us to traverse. The strategic vagueness of the term and concept “culture,” which was so important to the inclusiveness, emancipatory promise, and growth of cultural studies, can no longer take literary studies where it needs to go. We don’t pretend to know exactly where that is, but profound change is not always a matter of prophetic change. Equally important—in fact, often more important—is knowing what and when to stop. It’s time to write cultural studies into the history of stopping.”

I like that last phrase “the history of stopping” so much I’m going to have to use it as a poem title soon. Anyway, are they right? Are they wrong? Are they belated and we knew this years ago? I don’t pretend to know, but it’s always fun to come across someone who’s willing to put a declarative sentence out there, especially one that is able to be parsed.

All this leads me to a couple more recent poems I admire. I have a lot. I’m sure not to run out for some time yet.

John Ashbery
Old-Style Plentiful

I guess what I’m saying is
don’t be more passive aggressive
or purposefully vague than you have to
to clinch the argument. Once that
happens you can forget the context
and try some new bathos, some severity
not seen in you till now. Did they
send the news of you? Were you forthcoming
in your replies? It’s so long ago
now, yet some of it makes sense, like
why were we screwing around in the first place?
Cannily you looked on from the wings,
finger raised to lips, as the old actor
slogged through the lines he’s reeled off
so many times, not even thinking
if they are tangential to the way we
slouch now. So many were so wrong
about practically everything, it scarcely seems
to matter, yet something does,
otherwise everything would be death.

Up in the clouds they were singing
O Promise Me to the birches, who replied in kind.
Rivers kind of poured over where
we had been sitting, and the breeze made as though
not to notice any unkindness, the light too
pretended nothing was wrong, or that
it was all going to be OK some day.
And yes, we were drunk on love.
That sure was some summer.

* * *

Joshua Kryah

Swallows fly through a fresco.

What hems in around them is the air.

And the days seem happier
because they pass, pieced together
to resemble a habitable pattern.

Part real, part conjecture, we are about to become this
ability to touch.

There is no other resolve but to fill in.

Down from the sky / Came Eros taking off his clothes / His shirt
of Phoenician red

The closest possible rendering.

To have drawn such luck from the beggar’s bowl.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Lux and Dumanis

December 6, 2008 . . . and two more poems I’ve gone to and have gone back to. These two poems circle the ideas of help and self-help, in their ways. Good things to remember. Good things to keep in mind.

Thomas Lux
To Help the Monkey Cross the River,

which he must
cross, by swimming, for fruits and nuts,
to help him
I sit with my rifle on a platform
high in a tree, same side of the river
as the hungry monkey. How does this assist
him? When he swims for it
I look first upriver: predators move faster with
the current than against it.
If a crocodile is aimed from upriver to eat the monkey
and an anaconda from downriver burns
with the same ambition, I do
the math, algebra, angles, rate-of-monkey,
croc- and snake-speed, and if, if
it looks as though the anaconda or the croc
will reach the monkey
before he attains the river's far bank,
I raise my rifle and fire
one, two, three, even four times into the river
just behind the monkey
to hurry him up a little.
Shoot the snake, the crocodile?
They're just doing their jobs,
but the monkey, the monkey
has little hands like a child's,
and the smart ones, in a cage, can be taught to smile.

* * *

Michael Dumanis

There comes the point
in every story
when I panic,

there comes this panic,
I catch myself clutching
a wrench at a Wal-Mart,

a wren in a field,
clutching a wrist
near a radio tower,

or someone’s key
I had not been aware of,
turning the knob

of a make-believe door.
Body the contour
of jazz in a speakeasy,

body the texture
of gaps in a gangway,
why I keep letting

you down is beyond me.
I’ve taken pains.
Practiced synchronized breathing.

Counted past ten.
Talked with zeal about things.
Even summoned the nerve

to look fetching in amber.
But can’t get past
that which rattles inside me.

Try to think back:
was I going
to flash you or juggle.

Or was there a story
I needed to tell you.
Was it important.

Could it have swayed you.
I meant to give objects
totemic significance,

refer to a childhood,
invoke certain towns.
And would I have broken

one heart or another.
It was the story of my life,
it would have started

with the note la,
then a couple of llamas.
Sometimes, a window fan

would, in it, pass for an eye.
Trust me,
it would have been riveting.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Neil Young, Gluck, and Jensen

OK, so it’s hard sometimes, being a Neil Young fan, but I persevere. Case in point, the Neil Young Archives Vol. 1, that I first read about right around 1988. It was first scheduled to come out, I think, around 1992? Something like that. Well, now it’s gone from 2007 to 2008 to 2009. This, just up on the Rolling Stone website:

So the box set has been pushed back to next year?

We had some technical problems with it in the end, and the amount of time that we had to work it out was not enough. I wanted it to have a mode where you didn’t have to watch it, where you could just listen to it, and there’d be like a screen saver thing up there. As simple as that seems, that was one of the areas where we were not complete. But it’s a huge job, and there’s a lot of stuff.

Is it going to be just BluRay, or BlueRay and DVD?
It’s gonna be BluRay, DVD, CD. It’ll be on iTunes. It’ll be everything. But it’s not coming out until the BluRay comes out, because the BluRay is the cutting edge. The BluRay is the best quality, and that’s where it’s gonna start. We don’t want to put out the lesser stuff first and then everybody go, “Well I know what this is. We’re not gonna get the BluRay.” We’re gonna force feed them the BluRay.

So you think early next year for it?
I think so. I thought it was gonna be late this year, but it didn’t work out. It’s old, so it doesn’t really matter when it comes out.

* * *

Gar. Enough of that. I can’t imagine how long I’m going to have to wait for the CDs, as I am certainly NOT going to buy this monster as a BluRay. Music is not a movie. So, back to poems I love. Some of these I've been posting, I’ve posted on this blog before, but since blogs are ephemeral things, and the space is free, why not post them again?

Louise Glück

There is a moment after you move your eye away
when you forget where you are
because you’ve been living, it seems,
somewhere else, in the silence of the night sky.

You’ve stopped being here in the world.
You’re in a different place,
a place where human life has no meaning.

You’re not a creature in a body.
You exist as the stars exist,
participating in their stillness, their immensity.

Then you’re in the world again.
At night, on a cold hill,
taking the telescope apart.

You realize afterward
not that the image is false
but the relation is false.

You see how far away
each thing is from every other thing.

* * *

Laura Jensen
The Red Dog

You know that he is going to die
as soon as I tell you
he is standing beside me
his hair in spikes and dripping
from his body. He turns his head.
Canadian geese
all of them floating along the shore.
The red dog is swimming for them
only his head shows now
they flap into a curve and move
farther along the bay.
You know that he is going to die
this is the time for it
while there is a way to vanish
while the geese are moving off
to be their hard sounds
as their bodies leave the water.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Simic, Greenstreet, Harmony & Opposition

Another day in December, and a couple more poems. Outside of that, my thinking today is about the role of art as oppositional force as well as harmonizing force. The question of oppositional to what and in harmony with what is keeping me guessing. But I like the push and pull of it. There’s difficulty in the given, the accepted. Opposition to the accepted, then. And there’s sympathy to the way the world is the world. Harmony with that, I guess. Oh well.

Charles Simic
Dream Avenue

Monumental, millennial decrepitude
As tragedy requires. A broad
Avenue with trash unswept,
A few solitary speck-sized figures
Going about their business
In a world already smudged by a schoolboy’s eraser.

You’ve no idea what city this is,
What country? It could be a dream,
But is it yours? You’re nothing
But a vague sense of loss,
A piercing, heart-wrenching dread
On an avenue with no name

With a few figures conveniently small
And blurred who, in any case,
Appear to have their backs to you
As they look elsewhere, beyond
The long row of grey buildings and their many windows
Some of which appear broken.

* * *

Kate Greenstreet

How many times can you bang one small body,
he said, and have it not
be a form of torture.

Up a lot last night—waiting for the pain
to move. With the now discredited
fever, “traveling fever.”

When you notice that huge
parts of your

are missing. I made it out of what it looks like.
Ivory black, lamp black, mars
black, words from a book.

He’s gone to Rome, it’s his favorite city.
I call it “my black velvet”—that
day. That night, or day.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Valentine, Bolina, and the Inadvertent

A couple more poems I’m thankful for. Outside of this, the thought I’m having today is about the purposeful and the inadvertent nature of artistic creation. In classes we can easily talk about the purposeful parts of art. Call it “craft” I suppose. But the important thing is the inadvertent way that the best art reveals itself. I wish there was a way to talk about that profitably, other than just to note it and move on, as I’m doing here.

Jaswinder Bolina
Employing My Scythe

I’m standing in field 17 of the long series, employing my scythe.
Sometimes a conceptual dog bounds
past me, though it’s never my conceptual dog.
Occasionally future laureates gather for colloquium,
though they’re rarely my future
laureates. Thus, evening proceeds precisely
the way the handbook describes it:
as a proceeding: a runnel: shallow and babbling.

Into it a stranger appears. He looks like my friend.
I ask him, Are you my friend? Gravity telegraphs
its heavy message through the lolling
vines. The stranger says, I’ve sold all my clothes
and am considering, for a career, perpetual suffering.
The sun slides a tongue down the nape of the grain elevator.
Lowing cattle. It’s the fourth of July. In Spain.
I say, You are most vague and mysterious, friend.
The dog paces. I set my scythe aside and tell him,
I have employed this scythe mercilessly all my life and still
everywhere these stalks extend. He says,
Someone is always worse off than us
even at our most pitiable. Yes, I say. I read it once
in a magazine. And we laugh, let our enormous bellies jangle.
It is good to laugh with my friend and let the scythe cool, I say.
Yes, he says. Good.

* * *

Jean Valentine
Door in the Mountain

Never ran this hard through the valley
never ate so many stars

I was carrying a dead deer
tied to my neck and shoulders

deer legs hanging in front of me
heavy on my chest

People are not wanting
to let me in

Door in the mountain
let me in

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Zapruder, Winter, Dylan, & Young

Easy-breezy into December second. Neil Young’s new live album from 1968 is being released today. But lately I’ve also been thinking a lot about Bob Dylan’s recent work, specifically his last three records. I’ve been thinking of the difference between Bob Dylan and Neil Young. I’m thinking of the difference in Biblical terms: Bob Dylan is Old Testament and Neil Young is New Testament. That’s what I’ll be thinking about for the rest of the day, I think.

To help me into that, here are two more poems I like very much. Poems about America and snow.

Matthew Zapruder
American Linden

When you’d like to remember the notion of days,
turn to the barn

asleep on its hill,
a red shoulder holding the weight of clouds.

You could stand still for so many moments.
So little is over and over required,

letting the wind brush your crown.
The lathes of tobacco swing into autumn.

Swallows already discuss the winter.
I know you are tired of imagination.

All that clumsily grasping the sunlight.
Aren’t you tired of bodies too?

Whenever it rains, they fall from the sky
and darken your window.

Clutching each other they call out names
while you sit in the circle thrown by a lamp

and pretend they are leaves.
The potatoes cringe and bury their heads.

Do you see them?
They know where to return when hoofbeats come.

Like you they were not born with pride,
they were born with skins made of earth.

Their eyes are black, and they sing out of tune,
quietly, under the snow.

* * *

Jonah Winter
from The Continuing Adventures of Andrew, the Headless Talking Bear

Dead human bodies, in a sense,
being the snow-covered road you take to an island
where all the palm trees and postcards suggest
something’s coming to an end:

the world, dark as a Caravaggio
Christ being lowered from the cross
upside-down, at night, no sign of God
or light – and yet, something illuminates the faces,

something coming to an end, a candle,
for instance, we’re not allowed to see – “Ah!”
you say, disrupting my slide show. “But isn’t
the artist an orchid juxtaposed against

a black wall? Or am I in the wrong
century? Why’s it so quiet?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Wier & Winter: I am a child

There are a lot of poems out there that I like to go back to, time and again. In the interest of sharing, I thought it might be a nice project this month, to post some of them. Here are two, linked, a bit, by theme.

Dara Wier
Princess Mimi Romanoff

Child grade, your child, child of the month,
USDA child, the child is yours, you have no child,
Child cuts, multiple child, child, the remark is child,
Menu child, child of several levels, child of beverages,
Child of desserts, child of standard or exclusive service,
It’s a matter of child, no child, a child between a rock
And a hard place, a child between the lesser of two evils,
Child real estate, child seating, child of the night, child of
Discerning, child of window or aisle, a child of immense
Consequence, a conscious child, axiom of child, child teas,
Current child, editor’s child, child function, child deals,
It is a child you will have to make, a child you will have to
Live with, a child you would prefer to defer, child of options,
Child of routes, child of levels of service, child of many,
Child of very few, child of lower or upper, child functions,
A good child, a poor child, the only child, another child,
No other child, dealer’s child, driver’s child, last child,
A great child, child of opting out, child office, that child.

* *

Jonah Winter

Have you ever been on a steam train ride?
I love trains!
That is why today is a special day for me.
The railroad yard is huge!
The first thing I do is meet the engineer.
Steam makes the steam train go!
Shoveling coal is hard work!
“W” stands for whistle.
The train is coming!
The man in the blue uniform is conductor Bill.
I can see sheep!