Monday, December 31, 2007

"Ah the Delight . . ." by Franco Fortini

I just finished reading the Italian Poetry Portfolio in the December 2007 issue of Poetry. I highly recommend it. The whole thing is online. I found this poem by Franco Fortini to be a good one to end the year on. Happy New Year.

Ah the Delight . . .

Ah the delight of dawn!
Over the grassy lawn
the spark of silk, of silk
spat out by some small spider
to be the breeze's pawn.

A distant siren whines
from the freeway. Sun shines!
What a Sunday, what peace!
An old man's tidy peace,
his favorite hour of all.

The ants march on in rows.
They're off to do who knows
what harm to the ripe pears ...
Such sun now on the wall!
The lizards heed its call.
(Translated by Geoffrey Brock)

(Franco Fortini, from the December 2007 issue of Poetry.)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

World's oldest orangutan dies at age 55

AP Photo Caption: In this photo released by the Miami Metrozoo, Nonja, 52, the oldest orangutan in the United States, opens a holiday gift filled with bananas, raisins, and popcorn at Miami Metrozoo, Tuesday, Dec. 14, 2004, in Miami. Nonja, who was born on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and lived in Miami since 1983, was found dead Saturday morning Dec. 29, 2007, said Ron Magill, spokesman for the Miami Metro Zoo.

There's video here.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

"Neighbors" by David Allan Evans

I'm currently reading Ted Kooser's The Poetry Home Repair Kit and I came across this little gem in the chapter about using details.


They live alone

she with her wide hind
and bird face,
he with his hung belly
and crewcut.

They never talk
but keep busy.

Today they are
washing windows
(each window together)
she on the inside,
he on the outside.
He squirts Windex
at her face,
she squirts Windex
at his face.

Now they are waving
to each other
with rags,
not smiling.

(David Allan Evans, from Train Windows, 1976 Ohio University Press)

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Smuggled monkey dies

A tiny monkey some dude smuggled into the country from Peru died while in the custody of the feds. Let this be a public service announcement: no smuggle monkeys. Seriously. Whatever happened to "take only pictures, leave only footprints?"

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"Excluded from Frescoes" by Michael Teig

In the spirit of the holidays I have been looking for poems about gratitude since I am big on thank you cards. Here's one I stumbled upon and liked.

Excluded from Frescoes

Thank you for the gift. Never have I seen
a more thoughtful tea-strainer.
For you I'm striking a silent movie pose.

For instance, I step out and take in the moon
like a tourist. It puts tiny gloves on the ferns.
It's bigger than life size.

I've a room here just for sitting. If I want
I fetch some music to slap me around. I've three other rooms--
in this way the house resembles a cow's stomach.

I have the feeling we'll be excluded from frescoes
despite the fitful way you loved me, Alice,
I'm confident we're finally on our own.

If I need to think of you and I do
I let telephone wires paraphrase the landscape
till there's just a city block, a sooty building,

you settled into a chair with your legs and hair up
and your face adjusting to that new weather
right after the TV's been turned off. Hello.

Just past the hill here is the truckstop
borealis. This is Barkeyville.
Maybe we could argue over ice cream.

(Michael Teig, from Big Back Yard 2003 BOA Editions, Ltd.)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Hair metal and poetry, together at last

I'd like to say that I always knew that my love for hair metal and my love for poetry would cross paths at some point. But I would be lying. Thank you to Rob Sheffield for combining the two in his article in the Dec.27-Jan. 10 issue of Rolling Stone about hair metal festival Rocklahoma.

"It's a fantasy that artists should have long, productive careers. William Wordsworth invented modern poetry in one ten-year bang, 1797 to 1807, but then he was cashed out, although he lived to write utter crap for another forty-three years. Walt Whitman wrote all his great works from 1855 to 1865, and then sucked for the next twenty years. T.S. Eliot? Spent the twentieth century dining out on poems from his 1915-25 hot spell. ... That's the way showbiz works, whether you're Walt Whitman or Skid Row - you grab hold of a hit or two, then you milk it forever."

Bonus feature: Rolling Stone's Hair Metal Fashion 101.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Monkey sex in the news

The sex lives of monkeys is getting a lot of play in the media these past few days. Have yourself a little primate sex ed by reading the following:

Like humans, monkeys too will pay for sex
A study "has shown that male longtailed macaques exchange grooming for the right to mate with females whose fur they cleaned."

Study reveals why monkeys shout during sex
"New research indicates that females shout during sex to help males ejaculate."

And, my favorite:
Randy monkeys wash hands, feet in urine
"Capuchin monkeys wash their feet and hands in urine to get comfort or sex, research now suggests."

All the more reason not to keep monkeys as pets.

Neko Case talks poetry in Poetry

Neko Case has a great little essay in the November 2007 issue of Poetry called "My Flaming Hamster Wheel of Panic About Publicly Discussing Poetry in This Respected Forum."

Here's the beginning:
"When I was asked by Poetry to write an article for them I was ecstatic. I was flattered. I felt important! I agreed immediately. About twenty minutes after sending my e-mail of acceptance I paused to triumphantly sharpen my claws on the bookcase when I noticed the blazing, neon writing on the wall. It said: YOU'VE NEVER EVEN PASSED ENGLISH 101 AND EVERYONE WHO READS THIS MAGAZINE WILL KNOW IT. Why do I care? I'm not sure. I think it's because I don't want to let poetry down. Poetry is such a delicate, pretty lady with a candy exoskeleton on the outside of her crepe-paper dress. I am an awkward, heavy-handed mule of a high school dropout."

Read the rest here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

"The Old Man at the Wheel" by Frank Bidart

I'm usually not a fan of "poems about poetry," of which I think there are far too many. It takes a writer of great skill to make a poem about writing more than just a naval-gazing exercise. I think Frank Bidart does that well in this poem from the Oct. 2007 issue of Poetry. If you dig this, check out his other poem in that issue here.

The Old Man at the Wheel

Measured against the immeasurable
universe, no word you have spoken

brought light. Brought
light to what, as a child, you thought

too dark to be survived. By exorcism
you survived. By submission, then making.

You let all the parts of that thing you would
cut out of you enter your poem because

enacting there all its parts allowed you
the illusion you could cut it from your soul.

Dilemmas of choice given what cannot
change alone roused you to words.

As you grip the things that were young when
you were young, they crumble in your hand.

Now you must drive west, which in November
means driving directly into the sun.

(Frank Bidart, from the October 2007 issue of Poetry.)

"Rear View Mirror" by Joan Murray

I was going through some back issues of American Poetry Review and I came across this poem by Joan Murray. Thought I should post it before the magazine was lost to the recycling bin (I can't keep everything, as much as I would like to).

Rear View Mirror

If you'd seen her there, trying to rise, you'd understand
why I didn't make a sound. If you'd seen how many times
her spindly forelegs dug themselves forward, trying to
lift the stone cart of herself off her yearling flanks-
if you'd watched her head toss left and right,
searching for instructions from any corner-
if you'd seen how she finally broke through
the cowl of her pain and pulled
herself upright, you'd know
why I sat there paralyzed.

Then you'd have seen how she was denied the heady
moment given to any flimsy fawn who makes it to its feet-
how she couldn't pause a second to feel gravity
pull away from her hooves and slink back in the earth.
And you'd have stayed there with her too,
hanging onto the wheel like an exhausted god
till she tossed her death on the heap of her shadow
and hauled herself to the woods,
one leg scratching jaggedly behind her
like a lie on a lie-detector test
until she disappeared.

Only then would you have pulled apart your harness
and stepped out and seen the smashed side mirror
pressed flush against the window where your shoulder
had just been. Only then would you have
touched the caved-in door that held the
sudden wave-like thud of her wriggling spine.
Only then, Demeter-like, would you have
brushed the tufts of fur, still stuck in the
rear window gasket-and probed
a finger through the wet grassy smear
that her flailing hoof had left there.

Only then would you have figured out the strength
to go after her into the dark place where she'd gone-
to search for her and keep searching-
just the way you'd have done if you'd come to
in a dark room after labor, and found no one there,
not a cry, not a sound-like that time-
when I slid down on a sheet below a mirror-
so I couldn't see my daughter come or go.
But this time, with the cars rushing by,
I watched in the mirror. I watched.
And I saw where she'd gone.
And I followed her in.

(Joan Murray, from The American Poetry Review, September/October 2006).

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Judge uses poem in terrorism case

Judge in terrorism case begins his written decision with the poem "Song of Israel" by William Knox.
Listen now.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Happy Monkey Day!

Hey! It's Monkey Day! At least in Wyandotte where Biddle Gallery, a downriver art gallery, has declared it so.

According to their Web site: "MONKEY DAY is December 14. Monkey Party, Friday, December 14th, 6-9PM. Monkey inspired art by local artists. Featuring Metro Times cover boy and late night with Jay Leno fame Carl Oxley III. Also, Dave Moroski, John Benson, Terri Sarris, Davin Brainard, Tara Hackett, Joey Merchant, Rick McQuaid, Dan Stewart, Doug Spalding, Claudette Jocelyn Stern, Leo Kuschel, Jessica Flint, Gretchen Kramp, Donna Hazen, and more. DJ Dan spins tunes. Free banana with every purchase. Click here to see some images from the show. Also sign monkey day petition. Help make it a national holiday!"

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

"Reunited and it feels so good..."

Woman Reunited With Pet Monkey After Court Battle
Okay, so in one news article I read, the monkey owner is quoted as saying the following: "I am in seventh heaven, and I am the happiest I can imagine ever being, right now," Gazewitz said. "This is the best Chanukah..."

Now check out this news report and listen to what the reporter says at the end. My money's totally on her changing the monkey's name to Jesus.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Love Letter Written In A Burning Building" by Anne Sexton

Having just finished writing a long essay about Anne Sexton's poetry, I thought it fitting that I should share one of her poems. This poem is rather new to me as it is not in the Selected Poems that I have, which is a shame as this is quite a good poem. Thank you to Meg for introducing me to this.

Love Letter Written In A Burning Building

I am in a crate, the crate that was ours,
full of white shirts and salad greens,
the icebox knocking at our delectable knocks,
and I wore movies in my eyes,
and you wore eggs in your tunnel,
and we played sheets, sheets, sheets
all day, even in the bathtub like lunatics.
But today I set the bed afire
and smoke is filling the room,
it is getting hot enough for the walls to melt,
and the icebox, a gluey white tooth.

I have on a mask in order to write my last words,
and they are just for you, and I will place them
in the icebox saved for vodka and tomatoes,
and perhaps they will last.
The dog will not. Her spots will fall off.
The old letters will melt into a black bee.
The night gowns are already shredding
into paper, the yellow, the red, the purple.
The bed -- well, the sheets have turned to gold --
hard, hard gold, and the mattress
is being kissed into a stone.

As for me, my dearest Foxxy,
my poems to you may or may not reach the icebox
and its hopeful eternity,
for isn't yours enough?
The one where you name
my name right out in P.R.?
If my toes weren't yielding to pitch
I'd tell the whole story --
not just the sheet story
but the belly-button story,
the pried-eyelid story,
the whiskey-sour-of-the-nipple story --
and shovel back our love where it belonged.

Despite my asbestos gloves,
the cough is filling me with black and a red powder seeps through my
our little crate goes down so publicly
and without meaning it, you see, meaning a solo act,
a cremation of the love,
but instead we seem to be going down right in the middle of a Russian
the flames making the sound of
the horse being beaten and beaten,
the whip is adoring its human triumph
while the flies wait, blow by blow,
straight from United Fruit, Inc.

(Anne Sexton, from Love Poems, 1969).

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Denise Levertov on creativity and self-destruction

I've been reading a lot about Anne Sexton this past week as I prepare to write an essay about her prosody and her madness. I came across these thoughts by Denise Levertov on the distinction between creativity and self-destruction and felt they were worth sharing. Something I've thought about a lot.

"Innumerable young poets have drunk themselves into stupidity and cirrhosis because they admired John Berryman or Dylan Thomas and came to think that they must drink like them to write like them. At the very least it is assumed that creativity and hangups are inevitably inseparable. One student (male) said to me recently, 'I was amazed when the first poet I met seemed to be a cheerful person and not any more fucked up than anyone else. When I was in high school I got the idea that you had to be fucked up to be a real artist!' And a young English teacher in a community college told me she had given up writing poetry because she believed there were unavoidable links between depression and anxiety and the making of art. 'Don't you feel terrible when you write poems?'

"What exactly is the nature of the confusion, and how has it come about? The mistake itself lies in taking what may possibly be an occupational hazard as a prescriptive stimulus to artistic activity. Whether artists as a class are in fact more vulnerable than other people, or whether their problems merely have more visibility, a serious and intelligent statistical study might perhaps tell us. It makes no difference: the point is that while the creative impulse and the self-destructive impulse can, and often do, coexist, their relationship is distinctly acausal; self-destructiveness is a handicap to the life of art, not the reverse."

(From Anne Sexton: The Artist and Her Critics, Edited by J.D. McClatchy, 1978 Indiana University Press)

Friday, December 7, 2007

When pet monkeys attack

Don't you hate it when you reach down to pet a cute little monkey and said monkey attacks your face?

For more information on why monkeys are not good pets see The Small Monkey Fact Sheet.

"Ode to the Midwest" by Kevin Young

So, Kristie Kachler presented this poem during prosody class last night and it made me quite happy, indeed. I thought, Why haven't I read more of this Kevin Young person? He's now on my to do list. Or, at least, reading his poetry is.

Ode to the Midwest

The country I come from
Is called the Midwest
—Bob Dylan

I want to be doused
in cheese

& fried. I want
to wander

the aisles, my heart's
supermarket stocked high

as cholesterol. I want to die
wearing a sweatsuit—

I want to live
forever in a Christmas sweater,

a teddy bear nursing
off the front. I want to write

a check in the express lane.
I want to scrape

my driveway clean

myself, early, before
anyone's awake—

that'll put em to shame—
I want to see what the sun

sees before it tells
the snow to go. I want to be

the only black person I know.

I want to throw
out my back & not

complain about it.
I wanta drive

two blocks. Why walk—

I want love, n stuff—

I want to cut
my sutures myself.

I want to jog
down to the river

& make it my bed—

I want to walk
its muddy banks

& make me a withdrawal.

I tried jumping in,
found it frozen—

I'll go home, I guess,
to my rooms where the moon

changes & shines
like television.

(Kevin Young, from the July/Aug. 2007 issue of Poetry.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Become a monkey

Thank you, Carly, for reminding me about The Monkey Museum where anyone (like, say, Bob Dylan) can become a monkey. Once my wife and I have kids we are SO getting one of these done.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Anne Sexton

I just finished reading Anne Sexton: A Biography by Diane Wood Middlebrook. I now know that Sexton killed herself by getting in her car and letting it run in the garage with the door closed. I had often heard that she killed herself by putting her head in the oven like Sylvia Plath. Not so. I highly recommend Middlebrook's book to anyone who wants to know more about Sexton. It's quite well done, though if you have any romanticized notions about Sexton as a "mad poetess" then this book probably isn't for you. I was compelled to read this book after finishing Selected Poems of Anne Sexton, edited by Middlebrook. The poems are in chronological order and reading it straight through was like watching Sexton spiral out of control into madness. Her poetry is much more controlled - hell, it was just better - early in her career. From Selected Poems I developed a theory that when Sexton began writing the poetry helped control the madness. Toward the end of her life, the madness was clearly controlling the poetry and her life. Middlebrook's biography confirmed my theory.

Here's a poem I particularly like by Sexton:

I Remember

By the first of August
the invisible beetles began
to snore and the grass was
as tough as hemp and was
no color – no more than
the sand was a color and
we had worn our bare feet
bare since the twentieth
of June and there were times
we forgot to wind up your
alarm clock and some nights
we took our gin warm and neat
from old jelly glasses while
the sun blew out of sight
like a red picture hat and
one day I tied my hair back
with a ribbon and you said
that I looked almost like
a puritan lady and what
I remember best is that
the door to your room was
the door to mine.

(Anne Sexton from All My Pretty Ones, 1962)

"Phyllis likes corn chips"

As you know, I always strive to bring you the latest and greatest in monkey news, so when I came across the headline, "Monkey Returned To Original Owner," I was intrigued (though, for the record, I don't condone or encourage keeping monkeys as pets). The link led me to, an Alabama news site that, judging from the story below, is in need of a proofreader and/or literate staff writer. The story as it appears on their site is below. I have not edited or changed anything. In a way the story reads like a poem -- a badly written poem, but still. The last line/sentence is my favorite.

Monkey Returned To Original Owner
Friday, Nov 30, 2007 - 05:53 PM

Three Calhoun County workers made a surprising discovery after they came across a monkey seated in a ditch along side a road.

The monkey was returned to the original owner, Carl Weaver.

The monkey's name was Phyllis and was 19-years-old.

The Monkey had been missing since Monday.

The monkey's mate of several years died recently, and she may have wanted to run off, or was stressed out.

The monkey and owner live at a place on the calhoun-etowah county line.

According to the Weaver Phyllis likes corn chips.

Monkey Fest video

Watch footage of Thailand's Monkey Fest courtesy of National Geographic.