Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Mary Reufle: Madness, Rack, and Honey

My copy is my copy. You can't have it.

Reading Mary Ruefle’s Madness, Rack, and Honey, there’s a lot to love.  It’s the kind of book that I feel at times is reading my mind, and then at other times I feel is visiting from outer space. 

So much so, that when I got to the part where she mentions losing her old copy of Modern European Poetry, I went to my bookshelf and briefly contemplated sending her mine.  But then I thought, “Why on earth would I part with this book?”  Mine’s held together by tape.  I’m sure Ruefle would not only understand, but agree with me keeping it.  It’s been an important book for me.  In fact, that’s one fo the things I really like about Madness, Rack, and Honey.  Many of the books she talks about loving are also books I love.  (Except when it gets to novels.  I’m not much for novels.)

It’s a fragmentary text, so that when I go back to it to find a moment I want to re-read, I end up getting lost.  But that turns out OK, too, as I get lost in a place of finding helpful things.  I went back to find the passage on Modern European Poetry, and couldn’t find it.  Instead, I found other moments well worth mentioning:

She mentions on page 133 a feeling she had one time, a dark night of the soul moment, that I think all poets need to have at some point: “I felt, for a while, that I was wasting my life making idle comparisons between things that could not and need not be compared.”  I had a similar moment ten or so years ago, and it reminds me of an interview I read recently with the poet Timothy Donnelly, where he states:

“Now I worry that when I sit down I’m thinking whether what I’m writing is going to tap into the zeitgeist. I’m fearful that I’ll start censoring myself if something doesn’t participate in that kind of a conversation. I don’t want to sit down and write poems that have a secular piety to them, trying to solve the next big crisis — it seems very artificial to me. So I’m trying to disable that. I want the next poems I write to be ridiculous, over the top, appalling — poems that don’t overannounce their moral sensitivity. When you see poetry contenting itself with small things, that can be frustrating too. A lot of poetry today seems to me to be just dicking around with voice — being charming or superficially Ashberyesque.”

It’s all part of the same economy, how one feels about what one is doing, what one wants to do, wants NOT to do.  The pitfalls of reductive earnestness on the one hand and futile superficiality on the other.  It’s not an either-or thing though, as much as we like to frame it that way.  There are other options, there always are.  But I think it’s healthy to have personal conceptions of both these locations, and to worry about falling into each/either.  Also, though, I think it’s profitable to risk both of them, both these locations.  It’s important to know yourself, to know that, as Ruefle says, these moves, these poems might just be “idle comparisons between things that could not and need not be compared.”  And then to risk that, to go to the edge of comparability, and over the edge, just as it’s important to go to the edge and over, into announcements of moral sensitivity as well as “just dicking around with voice.”  And then, of course, where you decide you’ve made bad art, to put it in a drawer.  And where you decide others have made bad art, you turn from them, as Ruefle writes:

“I remember the day I stood in front of a great, famous sculpture by a great, famous sculptor and didn’t like it.”  It was Rodin, and she later felt vindicated by reading an essay by John Berger on Rodin.  That’s the first move, but what I like even more, is Ruefle’s second move, after her thrill of vindicaion:

“I remember thinking my feelings implicated me with Rodin and though now I liked him less than ever, my repulsion was braided with a profound sympathy inseparable from my feelings for myself.”

Coldfront's Best List

Coldfront had as good a list as anyone, and a better list than most, of books of poetry from 2012.

Here's the final bit:

Thursday, January 24, 2013

From The Department of Welcome News: New Poetry Foundation President

How could I not like a guy who name-drops Kenneth Fearing, John Cage, and Rube Goldberg (and with a lot of my favorite poets also getting a shout-out)?  I'm seriously impressed.  This is most welcome news.  Now, what will this mean for The Poetry Foundation, I've no idea, but it seems off to a good re-boot!

Meet the Poetry Foundation’s New President Robert Polito

Poetry Foundation Staff: You have been the director of the Writing Program at the New School for 20 years. What attracted you to this opportunity at the Poetry Foundation?

Robert Polito: The New School and the Poetry Foundation, notably through the history of Poetry magazine, are both institutions with distinguished, even glorious pasts that are always in need of reinvention by each new generation. If you had come to the New School to study poetry in the 1960s, you could have taken workshops or seminars with Robert Lowell, Frank O’Hara, and Kenneth Koch, and the legacy of Poetry originates in Modernism—Harriet Monroe, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, H.D., and Marianne Moore, on down to us a century later. One way of moving forward sometimes is to try to tap back into the innovative spirit of a place, not out of nostalgia, but for rejuvenation. Also, poetry—and what I’ve learned through reading and writing it—is at the center of everything I do. This is true of my nonfiction as well as my teaching.

PF: How has working in academia prepared you for being president of the Foundation?

RP: For all their popularity, writing programs still operate at the margins of academia, but they advance vital skills that elsewhere are increasingly elusive in universities and the culture at large, skills involving a close attention to language as a writer and a reader. That accent on close reading and the importance of an intensive focus on language for politics, media, and the Internet should be part of our national discussion about what’s customarily tagged “the value of poetry.” You turn on your computer, and what do you immediately encounter? Fragmentation, collage, and unreliable narrators—that’s Modernism, but it is also the grain of daily life for nearly everyone alive today. You might even say that the Modernist poets and novelists—James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Eliot, and Pound—invented, or certainly at least anticipated, the Internet.

PF: You were born in Boston, live in New York City, and have taught at Harvard, Wellesley, and NYU. What are you looking forward to in Chicago?

RP: I love the Poetry Foundation’s new building, and I’m eager to explore the holdings of the library. Chicago is a grand poetry city, and there are lots of wonderful book and record stores—the Seminary Coop and Dusty Groove are already favorites. My wife, Kristine Harris, is a scholar of Chinese film, and in 2007 and 2009, she was a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, so we already have good friends here. I am also eager to expand the collaborations of the Poetry Foundation with other Chicago artists and arts organizations in music, film, theater, and dance. The University of Chicago Press is also my publisher for poetry.

PF: Your 1996 biography of the crime novelist Jim Thompson, Savage Art, won a National Book Critics Circle Award. Tell us about your interest in noir.

RP: I came to noir through Samuel Beckett: all those beautiful sentences telling you the most terrible things. Noir—film noir as well as the fiction—is a crucial element of the American experimental tradition. Think of the self-consuming novelistic structures in Thompson, or those little repeated bits in David Goodis that intimate the bars of the psychic prison his characters live inside. Apart from Goodis, who else ever wrote that way, except maybe Gertrude Stein in The Making of Americans? Noir is also a crucial aspect of the political and social literary tradition of the “secret history”—in America from Dashiell Hammett and Chester Himes through James Ellroy and Walter Mosley, but also European writers like Jean-Patrick Manchette and Henning Mankell.

PF: Frank Bidart said of the poems in your last collection, Hollywood & God, “the obsession with celebrity and the yearning toward God constantly threaten to turn into each other.” What role does pop culture play in your work? What role does religion?

RP: For Hollywood & God, I wanted to track some of the ways a search for transcendence coming out of the New England of the 18th and 19th centuries bumps up against contemporary media and celebrity culture. “The spectacle,” Guy Debord once said, “is the material reconstruction of the religious illusion.” So the poems include collaged fragments from Cotton Mather, early execution sermons, last-speech broadsides, and the Baltimore Catechism alongside B-movie actors, Paris Hilton, as-told-to bios, and Elvis impersonators. As far back as Hart Crane and Kenneth Fearing, film is incredibly important to 20th-century American poetry, for both material and montage. For me, and many other poets of my generation, popular music provided the education in sensibility that high culture offered to previous writers. Early on, the Kinks, for instance, taught me so much about tone, style, diction, double-mindedness, and the resources of multiple traditions. For a graduate school Latin final examination question that asked us to map the different kinds of irony in the Satyricon, I remember thinking about the ironic range of Kinks songs and then tipped in passages from Petronius.

PF: In 2006, you wrote an essay for the Poetry Foundation website about Bob Dylan’s creative “sampling” of an obscure Civil War poet. You are something of a Dylan scholar. What’s your favorite song, and why does he continue to be so fascinating to so many?

RP: There are so many. Right now I’m still exploring Tempest, his latest from this past September, and discovering fresh wrinkles as I listen—“Scarlet Town” and “Long and Wasted Years,” especially. But one favorite song? Maybe “Not Dark Yet” off the album Time Out of Mind from 1997. To mention Beckett again, it’s the kind of song he might have written if he played country music. Dylan is the best songwriter in part because of the many different kinds of songs he writes across the vast traditions of American music. He’s also a master of self-reinvention, and how you keep your art alive over the decades. Plus, he’s an amazing singer with just devastating phrasing.

PF: Speaking of continued relevance, what place do you think poetry holds in American culture in 2013?

RP: I was excited to hear Richard Blanco at the inauguration Monday. This is a fascinating moment for us, as over the past few decades the poetry world in America has smartly recreated itself around clusters of vibrant local cultures, each with its own magazines, presses, websites, blogs, and reading series, almost along an old indie rock model. At the annual AWP conference the most rousing feature is the book and magazine hall. Recently, I’ve been absorbed by the new—or newish—books of Brenda Shaughnessy, Catherine Barnett, Tom Sleigh, D.A. Powell, Tracy K. Smith, Sally Keith, Kevin Prufer, Terrance Hayes, C. D. Wright, Thomas Sayers Ellis, Mark Ford, Deborah Landau, Timothy Donnelly, Major Jackson, Jorie Graham, Don Paterson, Tom Healy, Nikky Finney, Susan Wheeler, Christian Wiman, Cathy Park Hong, Gail Mazur, Mark Bibbins, Alan Shapiro, Ange Mlinko, Geoffrey G. O’Brien, Dana Goodyear, Matthea Harvey, Robin Robertson, Craig Teicher, John Yau, Kevin Young, Brenda Hillman, Rae Armantrout, Honor Moore, Eduardo C. Corral, Juliana Spahr, Peter Gizzi, Natasha Trethewey, Laura Cronk, Matthew Rohrer, Alan Michael Parker, and Ariana Reines. So many superb new books, and those are just the ones that have come my way. As I say, this is a fascinating moment.

PF: Who are some of your favorite poets, and who do you wish would write another collection?

RP: Andrew Marvell is probably my favorite poet, still shadowy and troubling no matter how often I reread him. Also, Byron, Samuel Coleridge, Emily Dickinson, W. B. Yeats, Marianne Moore, Wallace Stevens, Lorine Niedecker, William Carlos Williams, Kenneth Fearing, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Thom Gunn, James Merrill, John Ashbery, Frank Bidart, Ron Silliman, Ai, Louise Glück, James Tate, Robert Pinsky, Nathaniel Mackey, Anne Carson, Charles Bernstein, and Robert Hass. I’m looking forward to the next books of Lloyd Schwartz, Lawrence Joseph, Lucie Brock-Broido, Joshua Clover, Claudia Rankine, Stephen Burt, and Gabrielle Calvocoressi, and the debut collections of Adam Fitzgerald and Alex Dimitrov.

PF: What are you working on now?

RP: I’m working on a sequence of poems rooted in Plutarch’s essays, and another nonfiction book, Detours: Seven Noir Lives. Eventually also a Dylan book.

PF: Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself?

RP: Is this where I get to obsess about my little collections? I collect tintypes of people reading, holding books, or posing with books, mostly from the turn of the last century. Similarly, and as ambient research, I have a small shelf of the high school or college yearbooks of some people who interest me—Dylan, Bishop, Merrill, Ashbery, Andy Warhol, O’Hara, William Burroughs, Goodis, John Cage, and Rube Goldberg.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

What Do Newspaper people Think of Poetry?

Not very much or well, it turns out:

Is poetry dead?
By Alexandra Petri , Updated: January 22, 2013

Inaugural poet Richard Blanco said that his story is America’s story.

If that’s the case, America should be slightly concerned. Mr. Blanco is a walking example of the American dream — as he eloquently puts it, “the American story is in many ways my story — a country still trying to negotiate its own identity, caught between the paradise of its founding ideals and the realities of its history, trying to figure it out, trying to ‘become’ even today — the word “hope” as fresh on our tongues as it ever was.”

He has overcome numerous obstacles, struggled against opposition both internal and external — in order to excel in poetry, a field that may very well be obsolete.

I say this lovingly as a member of the print media. If poetry is dead, we are in the next ward over, wheezing noisily, with our family gathered around looking concerned and asking about our stereos.

Still I think there is a question to be asked. You can tell that a medium is still vital by posing the question: Can it change anything?

Can a poem still change anything?

I think the medium might not be loud enough any longer. There are about six people who buy new poetry, but they are not feeling very well. I bumped very lightly into one of them while walking down the sidewalk, and for a while I was terrified that I would have to write to eleven MFA programs explaining why everyone was going to have to apply for grants that year. The last time I stumbled upon a poetry reading, the attendees were almost without exception students of the poet who were there in the hopes of extra credit. One of the poems, if memory serves, consisted of a list of names of Supreme Court justices. I am not saying that it was a bad poem. It was a good poem, within the constraints of what poetry means now. But I think what we mean by poetry is a limp and fangless thing.

Poetry has gone from being something that you did in order to Write Your Name Large Across the Sky and sound your barbaric yawp and generally Shake Things Up to a very carefully gated medium that requires years of study and apprenticeship in order to produce meticulous, perfect, golden lines that up to ten people will ever voluntarily read.

Or is this too harsh?

We know, we think, from high school, the sort of thing a poem is. It is generally in free verse, although it could be a sonnet, if it wanted. It describes something very carefully, or it makes a sound we did not expect, and it has deep layers that we need to analyze. We analyze it. We analyze the heck out of it. How quaint, we think, that people express themselves in this way. Then we put it back in the drawer and go about our lives.

The kind of poetry they read to you at poetry readings and ladle in your direction at the Inaugural is — well, it’s all very nice, and sounds a lot like a Poem, but — it has changed nothing. No truly radical art form has such a well-established grant process.

I understand that this is the point when someone stands up on a chair and starts to explain that poetry is the strainer through which we glimpse ourselves and hear the true story of our era. But is it? You do not get the news from poems, as William Carlos Williams said. Full stop. You barely get the news from the news.

All the prestige of poetry dates back to when it was the way you got the most vital news there is — your people’s stories. “The Iliad.” “The Odyssey.” “Gilgamesh.” All literature used to be poetry. But then fiction splintered off. Then the sort of tale you sung could be recorded and the words did not have to spend any time outside the company of their music if they did not want to. We have movies now that are capable of presenting images to us with a precision that would have made Ezra Pound keel over. All the things that poetry used to do, other things do much better. But naturally we still have government-subsidized poets. Poets are like the Postal Service — a group of people sedulously doing something that we no longer need, under the misapprehension that they are offering us a vital service.

“Poetry is dead,” playwright Gwydion Suleibhan tweeted Monday. “What pretends to be poetry now is either New Age blather or vague nonsense or gibberish. It’s zombie poetry.” There is no longer, really, any formal innovation possible. The constraints of meter have long been abandoned. What is left? It is a parroting of something that used to be radical. It is about as useful as the clavichord. There is no “Howl” possible or “Song of Myself.” There is no “Wasteland.”

As someone who loves print books, I hate to type this and I hope that I am wrong. I want to hear the case for poetry. It is something that you read in school and that you write in school. But it used to be that if you were young and you wanted to Change Things with your Words, you darted off and wrote poetry somewhere. You got together with friends at cafes and you wrote verses and talked revolution. Now that is the last thing you do.

These days, poetry is institutionalized. Everyone can write it. But if you want a lot of people to read it, or at least the Right Interested Persons, there are a few choked channels of Reputable Publications. Or you can just spray it liberally onto the Internet and hope it sticks.

Or am I being too harsh?

Something similar could be said of journalism, after all.

And whenever people say this about journalism, they note that people have an insatiable hunger for news. Journalism in its present form may not continue, but journalism will. It will have to. Otherwise where will the news come from?

And this might be the silver lining for poets. The kind of news you get from poems, as William Carlos Williams has it, must come from somewhere. And there is a similar hunger for poetry that persists. We get it in diluted doses in song lyrics. Song lyrics are incomplete poems, as Sondheim notes in the book of his own. If it is complete on the page, it makes a shoddy lyric. But there is still wonderful music to be found in those words. We get it in rap. If we really want to read it, it is everywhere. Poetry, taken back to its roots, is just the process of making — and making you listen.

But after the inaugural, after Richard Blanco’s almost seventy lines of self-reflection and the use of phrases like “plum blush” — which sounded like exactly what the phrase “poem” denotes to us now — I wonder what will become of it.

I don’t know where the words that will define us next will come from. But from Poetry Qua Poetry With Grants And Titles? Hope may be as fresh on our tongues as it ever was. But is poetry?


© The Washington Post Company

Unforseen Benefits #1

An unforeseen benefit of being a minor poet in a small town in rural Missouri, is that I’ll never have to write an inaugural poem.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

NBF Announces Changes in the National Book Awards Review and Selection Process - National Book Awards, The National Book Foundation

NBF Announces Changes in the National Book Awards Review and Selection Process - National Book Awards, The National Book Foundation

Two big changes:

1. One change in the process will increase the number of honored books by selecting a “Long-List” of ten titles in each of the four genres, to be announced five weeks before the Finalists Announcement. In 2013, the Long-Lists will be announced on September 12th (forty titles), the Finalists on October 15th (twenty titles) and the National Book Award Winners on November 20th (four titles.)

2. Judges comprising the four panels—Fiction, Nonfiction, Poetry, and Young People’s Literature—will no longer be limited to writers, but now may also include other experts in the field including literary critics, librarians, and booksellers. The number of judges in each panel will remain at five.

I think I like these changes. Number one, certainly, is good. Number two, I'm thinking could be good, or could be very much not good, depending on how "they" go about selecting the panel. But of course, that's always been the case.

Question 4 (Because why not keep going?)

This is another question that seems to circle the obsessions of 1973.  Is there any interest in it in 2013?  Answer if you’d like.  It’s far away in the distance, waving to you.  (See how it still feels the weight of Pound?  Can we save it?)  (And also the idea of “the experience of the text” that it’s either avoiding or unaware of.) 

Q: I wonder how much you believe a direct representation of experience is possible in poetry, apart from interpretation or comprehension or distillation of the materials of the experience. 



Monday, January 14, 2013

Will the Circle be Unbroken

Here's the circle:

David Ferry. Bewilderment: New Poems and Translations. University of Chicago Press
Lucia Perillo. On the Spectrum of Possible Deaths. Copper Canyon Press
Allan Peterson. Fragile Acts. McSweeney’s Books
D. A. Powell. Useless Landscape, or A Guide for Boys. Graywolf Press
A. E. Stallings. Olives. Triquarterly: Northwestern University Press

Sunday, January 13, 2013



Indeed, the difficulty in our questions resides largely in the difficulty of making clear to ourselves what we’re asking.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

QUESTION 3 from 1973 (Because the past wants to know what we think.)

This is one I haven’t heard anyone ask for a while.  Maybe it’ll be interesting? (Even with its desire to totalize the experience of poetry [making it, I guess, unanswerable]. But sit with it. The second question here tries to focus it down a bit, in a kind of interesting way.)


Do poetry and music and painting tend to screen or protect people from experience, or tend to stimulate them and awaken them into a deepening of that experience? Do you think that this screening or stimulating can be compatible in the same work?  Can there be an effective deepening and widening and an almost scary sort of unsettling in the poem, as well as a certain kind of elusive protectiveness inculcated by the work, too?


Thursday, January 10, 2013

QUESTION 2 (and with a follow-up)

So, after archetypes, 1973 asks us:

How much do you feel a poem is bound to a particular place or time?  Are the best poems both referential in their own time and transcendental in time?

With the perhaps expected follow up question:

[W]hat responsibility do you feel personally about writing political poetry, responding to urgent emotions of the time?

Please feel free to give a shot at either or both questions.

Tuesday, January 08, 2013

I want to interview you, QUESTION 1

Blog crowd-source interview, question one. (All questions taken from Chicago Review A.R. Ammons special feature, a 1973 interview with Ammons conducted by Jed Rasula and Mike Erwin that I linked to the other day).

Please answer. As I was reading this interview, I was thinking that 1973 and 2013 are two distant shores. The things Rasula and Erwin were interested in are not the sorts of things we ask each other much anymore. The answers Ammons gave were not the sorts of answers I expect people would give now. So help me out. I want to know. Be anonymous, if you want.


How much need is there in poetry, and in your poetry in particular, for an archetypal sensibility--an ability to make generalizations about experience?

David Bowie is 66 and there's going to be a new album!

Didn't see this coming:

His first album since Reality in 2003.  Well, he's back! And I like the new song:

Cool. And there's going to be a new album from The Flaming Lips at some point in 2013 as well. You're looking good, 2013.

Monday, January 07, 2013

Christian Wiman is leaving Poetry

OK, so this really is news:

Sunday, January 06, 2013

A.R. Ammons in Chicago Review

In a review of Garbage in The New York Times Book Review, Ed Hirsch wrote that Ammons “consistently demonstrated the democratic precept that ‘anything is poetry.’” 

It’s been a fundamentally important example for me, but also, an unacknowledged (at least an under-acknowledged) influence on a lot of poets. 

This has been on my mind a lot lately, as I’m reading through the excellent Ammons issue of Chicago Review (57:1/2).  It really should be considered a book, rather than a special issue, as it’s adding a lot to the study of Ammons.  Along with several good essays, it also contains many uncollected poems, as well as a never before published interview from the early 70s:

For more information. 

As Joel Calahan & Michael Hansen write in the introduction:

"A. R. Ammons’ s canonization by major academic critics during the
70s and 80s has been a mixed blessing. He resisted affiliation with
movements and manifestoes, and this has meant that his poems are
typically read through transhistorical frames these early champions
provided: he is a “nature poet, ” a transcendentalist, and so on. Ammons’
s innovations and astonishing range tend to get short shrift,
as does his close (if idiosyncratic) relation to contemporary poetics
and art practice. This issue aims to contextualize his position in the
postwar American tradition and to broaden the critical terms around
his work."

Is it just me, or has the work of A.R. Ammons kind of dropped out of the conversation since his death?  It wouldn’t have thought that would be the case.  Take a poem like Garbage (one of my favorites, and one that gets an essay in the Chicago Review special issue).  It really is (as is the much earlier Tape for the Turn of the Year, which graces the CR cover [above]) a radical conversational form, one that deflates “Poetry” in a meat-grinder of propulsive force.  Well, here I am, sounding like a blurb.  But anyway, take this section of Garbage, please.  It’s a gift.  If you’ve not read Ammons (or Ammons in long-form), then hopefully this will get you started.  I suggest Garbage, but GLARE and Tape for the Turn of the Year are also excellent.  There’s something found here that’s not found many places in poetry.  It’s a shame we don’t talk about this stuff more. 


garbage has to be the poem of our time because
garbage is spiritual, believable enough

to get our attention, getting in the way, piling
up, stinking, turning brooks brownish and

creamy white: what else deflects us from the
error of our illusionary ways, not a temptation

to trashlessness, that is too far off, and,
anyway, unimaginable, unrealistic: I’m a

hole puncher or hole plugger: stick a finger
in the dame (dam, damn, dike), hold back the issue

of creativity’s flood, the forthcoming, futuristic,
the origins feeding trash: down by I-95 in

Florida where flatland’s ocean- and gulf-flat,
mounds of disposal rise (for if you dug

something up to make room for something to put
in, what about the something dug up, as with graves:)

the garbage trucks crawl as if in obeisance,
as if up ziggurats toward the high places gulls

and garbage keep alive, offerings to the gods
of garbage, of retribution, of realistic

expectation, the deities of unpleasant
necessities: refined, young earthworms,

drowned up in macadam pools by spring rains, moisten
out white in a day or so and, round spots,

look like sputum or creamy-rich, broken-up cold
clams: if this is not the best poem of the

century, can it be about the worst poem of the
century: it comes, at least, toward the end,

so a long tracing of bad stuff can swell
under its measure: but there on the heights

a small smoke wafts the sacrificial bounty
day and night to layer the sky brown, shut us

in as into a lidded kettle, the everlasting
flame these acres-deep of tendance keep: a

free offering of a crippled plastic chair:
a played-out sports outfit: a hill-myna

print stained with jelly: how to write this
poem, should it be short, a small popping of

duplexes, or long, hunting wide, coming home
late, losing the trail and recovering it:

should it act itself out, illustrations,
examples, colors, clothes or intensify

reductively into statement, bones any corpus
would do to surround, or should it be nothing

at all unless it finds itself: the poem,
which is about the pre-socratic idea of the

dispositional axis from stone to wind, wind
to stone (with my elaborations, if any)

is complete before it begins, so I needn’t
myself hurry into brevity, though a weary reader

might briefly be done: the axis will be clear
enough daubed here and there with a little ink

or fined out into every shade and form of its
revelation: this is a scientific poem,

asserting that nature models values, that we
have invented little (copied), reflections of

possibilities already here, this where we came
to and how we came: a priestly director behind the

black-chuffing dozer leans the gleanings and
reads the birds, millions of loners circling

a common height, alighting to the meaty streaks
and puffy muffins (puffins?): there is a mound,

too, in the poet’s mind dead language is hauled
off to and burned down on, the energy held and

shaped into new turns and clusters, the mind
strengthened by what it strengthens: for

where but in the very asshole of comedown is
redemption: as where but brought low, where

but in the grief of failure, loss, error do we
discern the savage afflictions that turn us around:

where but in the arrangements love crawls us
through, not a thing left in our self-display

unhumiliated, do we find the sweet seed of
new routes: but we are natural: nature, not

we, gave rise to us: we are not, though, though
natural, divorced from higher, finer configurations:

tissues and holograms of energy circulate in
us and seek and find representations of themselves

outside us, so that we can participate in
celebrations high and know reaches of feeling

and sight and thought that penetrate (really
penetrate) far, far beyond these our wet cells,

right on up past our stories, the planets, moons,
and other bodies locally to the other end of

the pole where matter’s forms diffuse and
energy loses all means to express itself except

as spirit, there, oh, yes, in the abiding where
mind but nothing else abides, the eternal,

until it turns into another pear or sunfish,
that momentary glint in the fisheye having

been there so long, coming and going, it’s
eternity’s glint: it all wraps back round,

into and out of form, palpable and impalpable,
and in one phase, the one of grief and love,

we know the other, where everlastingness comes to
sway, okay and smooth: the heaven we mostly

want, though, is this jet-hoveled hell back,
heaven’s daunting asshole: one must write and

rewrite till one writes it right: if I’m in
touch, she said, then I’ve got an edge: what

the hell kind of talk is that: I can’t believe
I’m merely an old person: whose mother is dead,

whose father is gone and many of whose
friends and associates have wended away to the

ground, which is only heavy wind, or to ashes,
a lighter breeze: but it was all quite frankly

to be expected and not looked forward to: even
old trees, I remember some of them, where they

used to stand: pictures taken by some of them:
and old dogs, specially on imperial black one,

quad dogs with their hierarchies (another archie)
one succeeding another, the barking and romping

sliding away like slides from a projector: what
were they then that are what they are now:

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

The 2012 Songs from Books of Poetry

So in 2012, as part of my year trying to not write poetry, I tried making songs out of books of poetry. It's all still one thing, I guess.

So anyway, I ended up with six.

"Come On All You Ghosts," derived from Matthew Zapruder's book, Come On All You Ghosts

"Next Life," derived from Rae Armantrout's book, Next Life

"A Joke I Keep Telling Myself" derived from Johannes Goransson's A New Quarantine Will Take My Place

"What's Amazing" derived from Heather Christle's book, What Is Amazing

"Your Father's On the Train of Ghosts" derived from the book Your Father on the Train of Ghosts by G.C. Waldrep and John Gallaher

"No One Told Me I Was Going To Disappear" was made made for the Jaded Ibis Press publication of the collaborative book No One Told Me I Was Going to Disappear.