Tuesday, December 30, 2008

For those who love to buy used books...

"Bargain Hunting for Books, and Feeling Sheepish About It" by David Streitfeld appeared in the New York Times Dec. 27. Food for thought.

I, for one, purchase a lot of books used. I couldn't possibly afford to buy all of the books I want brand new. I am also a frequent library user. Given how much I read, it's hard to believe that I could be playing a role in the demise of the publishing industry. I mean, hey, I would rather read a book than watch TV. Doesn't that count for anything?

Well, actually, no. Probably not. I guess I'll pop that 30 Rock DVD in now...

Monday, December 29, 2008

Penny Arcade

By way of NPR this weekend I learned about Penny Arcade, an online comic that David Kushner, Weekend Edition's digital culture commentator, described "as Doonesbury for geeks" that "basically satirizes digital culture and industry."

I like it. And it even features monkeys a few times.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Phyllis McGinley: Rockin' the Suburbs

Back in the 60s when poets could actually be famous, there was Phyllis McGinley, a happy housewife, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet who even made the cover of Time. You've probably never heard of her. I hadn't, until I read a Dec. 24, 2008 article about her in the New York Times. She died the year I was born. Coincidence? Well, yeah. But still.

Some of her poems are posted online, but I haven't been able to verify them thus far.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Elizabeth Alexander is ready for her close-up, Mr. Obama...

January 20, 2009 will be an exciting and historic day, not just for politics, but for poetry, too.
"[T]here is little doubt, given the intense global interest in President-elect Barack Obama, that Ms. Alexander’s verse will be broadcast to more people at one time than any poem ever composed. This may not be American poetry’s Academy Award moment. But it is, for Ms. Alexander, an outsize platform" (New York Times, Dec. 24, 2008).

Poetry in A Practical Guide to Racism

I finished reading A Practical Guide to Racism by C.H. Dalton the other day. According to the Web site, the book "tackles America’s tragic flaw from a new, illuminating perspective" and "is divided into nine chapters, one for each of the nine races: Whites, Blacks, Jews, Asians, Indians (and Injuns), Arabs, Gypsies, Hispanics, and Merpeople. In each chapter, Dalton provides a comprehensive and unapologetic handbook to the race in question, as well as a history of their oppression, and a guide to the stereotypes about them and their basis in fact."

Lo and behold, even in this satirical treatise, poetry rears its head:
"Burma is famous for the smooth comfort of its affordable native shaving creams, and Burmese poets have long celebrated them in verse. Here is a typical example by an anonymous author:
A shave
that's real
no cuts to heal
a soothing
velvet after-feel
Burma Shave

(p. 102)

"How do I know so much about Merpeople, you ask? Field research. The same way that great ethnographer, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, found the ancient Asian city of Xanadu, I was able to 'chase the dragon' all the way to the bottom of the ocean. Of course, opium is not yet widely accepted as a historiographic method, but it provides an unbeatable firsthand experience."
(p. 109)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Poetry is Everywhere: Blagojevich edition

Proving that poetry crops up in the darndest places, the New York Times reported the following in a December 19, 2008 story about a recent public appearance scandal plagued Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich:
"In his defense, Mr. Blagojevich said only that he had the truth on his side. Legal experts said his lack of specificity was not surprising, given the criminal case ahead of him. But his appearance was perhaps more revealing with regard to his emotional state. He described himself as lonely, thanked supporters for their comfort and prayers, and quoted from memory the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling, about the nobility of persevering through tough times."
There's no telling how being tied in any way to Blagojevich will impact Kipling's literary reputation.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Lions and monkeys and hippos, on film!

You may remember my Nov. 7th post with the video of the adorable little French girl Capuchine telling her story involving monkeys and lions and chicken pox, among other things (if you haven't, you'll want to watch that now). Via Videogum, I've come across Jason Ginsburg's movie exec response, which is quite funny.

Studio notes on Capucine's "Once Upon a Time" from Jason Ginsburg on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

"Touring the Doll Hospital" by Amy Gerstler

I spent a good part of last night at the hospital with my twin sister who is a kidney stone world champion. She's defending her title, as she does just about every year around this time. In any case, I thought a poem about hospitals would be appropriate.
Touring the Doll Hospital

Why so many senseless injuries? This one’s glass teeth
knocked out. Eyes missing, or stuck open or closed.
Limbs torn away. Sawdust dribbles onto the floor
like an hourglass running out. Fingerless hands, noses
chipped or bitten off. Many are bald or burnt. Some,
we learn, are victims of torture or amateur surgery.
Do dolls invite abuse, with their dent-able heads,
those tight little painted-on or stitched-in grins?
Hurt me, big botched being, they whine in a dialect
only puritans and the frequently punished can hear.
It’s what I was born for. I know my tiny white pantaloons
and sheer underskirts incite violation. Criers and crib-
wetters pursue us in dreams, till we wake sweat-
drenched but unrepentant, glad to have the order
by which we lord over them restored. Small soldiers
with no Geneva Conventions to protect them,
they endure gnawing, being drooled on, banishment
to attics. Stained by cough syrup, hot cocoa, and pee,
these “clean gallant souls” wear their wounds as martyrs’
garments. We owe them everything. How they suffer
for our sins, “splintered, bursted, crumbled . . .”
Every bed in the head replacement ward is occupied tonight.
Let’s sit by the legless Queen doll’s tiny wheelchair
and read to her awhile if she wishes it. In a faint
voice she requests a thimbleful of strong dark tea.

(Amy Gerstler, from Ghost Girl, Penguin 2004)

Monday, December 22, 2008

When poets and monkey artists converge

While I sadly missed Monkey Day at the Biddle Art Gallery because I was seeing Wicked, I did get an email from poet Dawn McDuffie asking if I'd seen her friend Dolores Slowinski's work. "[She] creates amazing sculptures from fabric and other materials," Dawn writes. Pictured is one of Slowinski's creations. You can check out more of her work at her Web site, Art In The Mail.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

e.e. Riot

Ra Ra Riot's song "Dying Is Fine" is based on the poem by e.e. cummings of the same name. Check out the video and here's the original poem below.

dying is fine)but Death

dying is fine)but Death


wouldn't like

Death if Death

when(instead of stopping to think)you

begin to feel of it,dying
's miraculous

cause dying is

perfectly natural;perfectly
it mildly lively(but


is strictly
& artificial &

evil & legal)

we thank thee
almighty for dying
(forgive us,o life!the sin of Death

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Elizabeth Alexander to read at Barack Obama's presidential inauguration

Elizabeth Alexander has been chosen to read at Barack Obama's presidential inauguration, which seems like a pretty sweet gig. Though probably also a stressful one. She was interviewed today on NPR's All Things Considered by Melissa Block. You can listen to the segment online as well as listen to two of Alexander's poems, including "Autumn Passage," which is below.

What would a presidential inauguration be without poetry? Actually, I have no idea because I've never really paid attention to inaugurations before. But according to The Guardian UK: "[Alexander] will be only the fourth poet to have read at a presidential inauguration. A tradition eschewed by current incumbent George W Bush, Bill Clinton invited poets to both of his inaugurations, with Miller Williams reading in 1997, and Maya Angelou in 1993. The only other poet to have read at an inauguration was Robert Frost, who recited 'The Gift Outright' for John F Kennedy in 1961."

I remember when Maya Angelou read at Bill Clinton's inauguration and how the poem she read was printed in little books that people actually bought. Unfortunately, it also turned out that Maya Angelou is kind of a crappy poet. Still, it seemed for a nano second there that folks actually cared about poetry. And that was pretty awesome. I have zero recollection of Miller Williams. And I am not surprised that Bush didn't have any poets as his inauguration as it doesn't seem like poets like him much anyway.

Autumn Passage

On suffering, which is real.
On the mouth that never closes,
the air that dries the mouth.

On the miraculous dying body,
its greens and purples.
On the beauty of hair itself.

On the dazzling toddler:
“Like eggplant,” he says,
when you say “Vegetable,”

“Chrysanthemum” to “Flower.”
On his grandmother’s suffering, larger
than vanished skyscrapers,

September zucchini,
other things too big. For her glory
that goes along with it,

glory of grown children’s vigil.
communal fealty, glory
of the body that operates

even as it falls apart, the body
that can no longer even make fever
but nonetheless burns

florid and bright and magnificent
as it dims, as it shrinks,
as it turns to something else.

(Elizabeth Alexander, from American Sublime, Graywolf Press 2005.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Poets: go jump in a freezing lake

How do you get more folks to pay attention to poetry? Why, you jump in a freezing lake, of course!

It's what A.K. "Mimi" Allin did, anyway, along with 11 other poets on Dec. 13. They read some poems and then they dove into Green Lake in Washington.

Allin is identified by The Seattle Times as a 41-year old "guerrilla" art activist "who lives on a sailboat." She said "she wants to make poetry fun, get it in the news, wake people up" and heal the rift between "page poets and stage poets."

I don't know how successful Allin's adventure was, but it definitely helps solidify the idea that folks who write poetry are, well, a little crazy.

Thank you to Emily Mahan for bringing this important news item to my attention. Oh, and to answer your question, Emily, "poetry laden underwear" is a pair of "tighty-whities with poetry scrawled on front and back."

UPDATE: Check out the comments section and go to http://thepoetessatgreenlake.blogspot.com to read more about this event and see photos of nearly nude poets.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Live on stage: scary flying monkeys

So I went to see Wicked at the Detroit Opera House with my family today. It's not something I would have ever done on my own, but it was a Christmas present from my dad. Even though I knew nothing of the story, aside from the fact that it was related to The Wizard of Oz, I really have to say I enjoyed it. Though I never did figure out who the woman with the green skin was supposed to be.

As anyone who has ever seen The Wizard of Oz knows, flying monkeys are an integral part of the production. In fact, they play an even larger role in Wicked (though apparently not large enough to warrant a decent photo online). I liked how the flying monkeys were an allegory of sorts for animal rights, or at least a reminder that we shouldn't ever inflict mammals with wings just so we can make them our flying slaves.

Wicked was very political as a whole which is why I liked it so much despite its cheesy musical numbers. I saw allusions to Nazi era Germany and George W. Bush's politics of fear. There's just a lot in this musical (and, probably, the book, which I have not read) about how we treat people (and animals) who are perceived as different from us and how fear and ignorance work hand in hand to stoke the fires of intolerance.

Of course, another large part of the story is that ugly chicks can still find love so long as they're beautiful on the inside, or something like that. That part I found hard to buy, and not only because I'm shallow. It's because I remember very vividly the hideousness of the Wicked Witch in the original Oz. She was no beauty and she scared the shit out of me when I was a kid. As did those monkeys.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The written word as visual art

Send $50 to Lauren in Chicago and you can get yourself a hand drawn rendition of Dorianne Laux's poem "Antilamentation." It is pretty awesome.

She writes on Etsy, where it's up for sale: "Disclaimer: it's killing me a little inside, but I've misspelled the word 'smoky'. With ink, there's just no going back! So if you love the piece but are a bit of a spelling purist (I usually am, I swear!), I plan on making printed versions of this in the future, with the mistake fixed in photoshop."

Lauren also uses "it's" instead of "its" a couple times in the piece, so she can sick Photoshop on that, too.

Ah, if only there were a Photoshop for our regrets (and I'm not talking about inconsequential things like "it's" versus "its." In other words: I am not making fun of Lauren)...

If someone ever did something this cool with one of my poems, even if they did make a minor grammatical or spelling error, I would pee my pants. If they did it error free, I would pee my pants twice.

"The animals, the animals, let's talk dirty to the animals..."

Via my friend Claire, I came across a blog called Fuck You, Penguin, "A blog where I tell cute animals what's what." it appears to be the angry person's Cute Overload.

In any case, Fuck You, Penguin takes on some monkeys, in particular a baby monkey and some even babier monkeys.

The site as a whole reminds me of the Gilda Radner song, "Let's Talk Dirty to the Animals," which is, in my opinion, a classic and one I can't wait to teach my children.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Poets, monkeys, Kuwait and more...

Randa Jarrar isn't a poet, she is a fiction writer. But she's also someone I personally know and like who has written a novel that features a poet as one of its main characters and makes many references to monkeys (usually people calling other people monkeys, but still).

I should clarify and explain that the poet character in A Map of Home is actually an ex-poet. He's also the father of Nidali (the main character). Here's an excerpt from page 109 of A Map of Home:
"Poor Baba. He used to be a good poet. Now he was a dad and a husband, and he couldn't write anymore. He had an idea in his head, but that, unfortunately, was all he had. Through the years he'd build on it, adding layers and characters, descriptions of places he'd seen, hundreds of twisting anecdotes and witty lines, and store it all in his head. But because he wanted it to come out of his head perfectly, fully formed, like Athena out of Zeus (like, on some days, he believed I had come out of him), he could never let it go."
This passage is a great one to include in notes of encouragement to all of the poets in your life.

The book has been out since September and I've owned it since then, but was not able to read it (or much of anything aside from freshman composition essays) until now. Once I started it, however, I did not put it down until I was finished. In other words, I didn't get much laundry done, didn't do any planning for class and barely changed out of my pajamas today. And for this, I blame Randa.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Monkey Day is Dec. 14!

I don't usually have occasion to go to Wyandotte. The last time I was there, in fact, was several years ago and I was on stage at the Wyandotte Yacht Club doing a comedy show, opening for two comics who were exceptionally drunk. Jeff Brannen was the headliner (I could have his name wrong but he's not worth remembering). He was wasted and told anti-gay jokes prompting the entire table of folks who came to see me to get up and leave. It was awesome.

However, I have a strong desire to return to Wyandotte on Dec. 14 for Monkey Day at the Biddle Gallery. On display will be monkey-inspired art from a ton of local artists including Carl Oxley III of PopArtMonkey.

Monkey Day is not limited to Wyandotte, however. It is a much larger thing. Worldwide, perhaps, though the postal address address on the Monkey Day Web site is in Lansing. It is, as yet, something I do not 100% understand, and yet do 100% support.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Poetry "for all the bitches in the world."

I'd probably be a less anxious person if I didn't know about certain things. Round worm infection is one. VH1's Rock of Love Charm School, is another.

Of course, then my life wouldn't be nearly as full. So I guess it is appropriate that I thank, instead of curse, my sister Laura for bringing the Charm School "Poetic Justice" episode to my attention. In this episode, the girls (I can't really call them women -- and I don't think Sharon Osbourne bothers to, so I am off the hook) have to write a poem about someone in the house they don't like. It's catharsis through the written word. It's also hilarious. Take, for examples, Brandi M.'s reflection on her win in the "Express Thyself" challenge. "Maybe I'll write a huge poetry book for all the bitches in the world," she says.

Sorry, Hon, but Jewel beat you to it.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

It's like Dr. Seuss for grown ups who vote

I've actually never been a big Calvin Trillin fan. It isn't because he's not good at what he does, it's because what he does hasn't ever really been my thing. Still, if there's anyone out there hankering for an election recap in rhyming verse, Trillin has got your back with his new book, Deciding the Next Decider.

Thank you to my lovely wife who heard about this on NPR and told me about it.

Bonus: Trillin was on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart on Dec. 2. Stewart laments that poets today "don't use enough Russian gibberish" in their work. He is so right.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Poets has other skillz

Proving that poets are not one trick ponies, the venerable Megan Levad has launched Stargirl Jewlery, a jewelry making bizness to make some extra money while the poetry cash rolls in. Check it out.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

"Fred Phelps and the Orangutan" by Drew


Grumpy monkey baby

Thank you to Claire for bringing this Cute Overload post featuring a grumpy baby capuchin monkey to my attention. Says Claire, "I loved it because human newborns make the same exact grumpy face."

Check out the flickr account where the picture originates from for more primate photo goodness.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Poetry at the MOCAD

By way of my sister I came across a Detroit Free Press blog posting titled, "You Haven't Lived Here Until... You've been to a poetry reading at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit." I am assuming that by "here" they mean Detroit.
"Poetry as art? Kind of. The museum hosts the 'Woodward Line' poetry series, which showcases local wordsmiths. The next reading, features Hayan Charara, Christina Archer and Nandi Comer, is at 6 p.m. Dec. 17."
I'm not really sure that I get the weird distinction they're making between art and poetry. What, it isn't art unless you can hang it on the wall?

That aside, MOCAD is a very cool place (they even have a cafe now so you can get yourself fed and feast your senses on art all under one roof) and the Woodward Line poetry series sounds very cool. I am not familiar with the work of any of the poets on the Dec. 16 bill, but I have met Nandi Comer and she's a very nice person. That's got to count for something.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Poetry Night in Ann Arbor: Dec. 11

Dec. 11 is the 8th annual Poetry Night in Ann Arbor, an event to benefit the VOLUME Youth Poetry Project at the Neutral Zone.

I picked up a snapily designed post card at a local coffee shop advertising the event, but nowhere on the card does it say where it is or what time the event starts. So here are the essentials:
Date and Time: Thursday, December 11, 2008 7pm. Doors open 6:15.

Location: Rackham Auditorium at 915 E. Washington St.

Tickets: $5 for students of any kind in advance; $7 at door. $10 for general public in advance; $12 at door. Advance tickets can be purchased at Neutral Zone or contact Jeff Kass eyelev21aol.com or 734-223-7443 to reserve tickets at advance price.
This year’s event will feature poets Marty McConnell, Tim Seibles, and Paco, as well as writers from the VOLUME Youth Poetry Project and Ann Arbor Wordworks.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

NYT picks 6

The New York Times published their "100 Notable Books of 2008" list, which includes a whopping six books of poems. Here they are:
ELEGY: Poems. By Mary Jo Bang. (Graywolf, $20.) Grief is converted into art in this bleak, forthright collection, centered on the death of the poet’s son.

HALF OF THE WORLD IN LIGHT: New and Selected Poems. By Juan Felipe Herrera. (University of Arizona, paper, $24.95.) Herrera, known for portrayals of Chicano life, is unpredictable and wildly inventive.

MODERN LIFE: Poems. By Matthea Harvey. (Graywolf, paper, $14.) Harvey is willing to take risks, and her reward is that richest, rarest thing, genuine poetry.

OPAL SUNSET: Selected Poems, 1958-2008. By Clive James. (Norton, $25.95.) James, a staunch formalist, is firmly situated in the sociable, plain-spoken tradition that runs from Auden through Larkin.

SIR GAWAIN AND THE GREEN KNIGHT: A New Verse Translation. By Simon Armitage. (Norton, $25.95.) One of the eerie, exuberant joys of Middle English poetry, in an alliterative rendering that captures the original’s drive, dialect and landscape.

SLEEPING IT OFF IN RAPID CITY: Poems, New and Selected. By August Kleinzahler. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $26.) Kleinzahler seeks the true heart of places, whether repellent, beautiful or both at once.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Poetry (sort of) by Al Green

I admit I wasn't expecting much since I didn't like his last record, but I must say that Al Green's Lay It Down sucks. The main reason? The lyrics. Cliché dreck from start to finish. Even the song titles are cliché and while I was pointing this fact out to my wife, I realized that taken together, the titles of the songs formed a very terrible poem that nicely sums up the quality of the entire album. And so, here it is (note that I have taken liberty with capitalization and punctuation but other than that each line is a single song title and the track list is in the original order).
Lay It Down

Lay it down
just for me.
You've got the love I need.
No one like you --
What more do you want from me?
Take your time
(too much).
Stay with me by the sea,
all I need.
I'm wild about you
standing in the rain.
My apologies to any beginning creative writing students who have written this exact same poem and think it's good. You'll learn. I hope.

"A Thanksgiving Prayer" by William S. Burroughs

I know it's technically the day after Thanksgiving, but I just discovered this today, thanks to Wonkette. Besides, I am going to see my mom and mom-related members of my family today so it's an extended remix Thanksgiving. Enjoy.

This is a short film by Gus Van Sant of William S. Burroughs reading his poem "A Thanksgiving Prayer." Very uplifting. Watch it with your family.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

"Thanks" by W. S. Merwin

A good poem for Thanksgiving, I think. A day that really should be more about being thankful and less about eating so much turkey and pumpkin pie you split your pants - not that it matters since you're going to be wearing sweats to Kohl's at 4 in the morning to be the first one in the door for a sale on even bigger sweatpants. Planning ahead for next year. Smart.

with the night falling we are saying thank you
we are stopping on the bridges to bow from the railings
we are running out of the glass rooms
with our mouths full of food to look at the sky
and say thank you
we are standing by the water thanking it
smiling by the windows looking out
in our directions

back from a series of hospitals back from a mugging
after funerals we are saying thank you
after the news of the dead
whether or not we knew them we are saying thank you

over telephones we are saying thank you
in doorways and in the backs of cars and in elevators
remembering wars and the police at the door
and the beatings on stairs we are saying thank you
in the banks we are saying thank you
in the faces of the officials and the rich
and of all who will never change
we go on saying thank you thank you

with the animals dying around us
our lost feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
we are saying thank you and waving
dark though it is

(W. S. Merwin, from Migration: New & Selected Poems, Copper Canyon Press, 2005.)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Pygmy Tarsier lives!

As many American news outlets have pointed out, the Pygmy Tarsier looks a lot like a Furby and/or a Mogwai from Gremlins. More important is that the Pygmy Tarsier is alive. And he is our brother.

"Tarsiers are unusual primates -- the mammalian group that includes lemurs, monkeys, apes and people," reports Reuters UK. "[Pygmy Tarsiers] are nocturnal insectivores and are unusual among primates in that they have claws rather than finger nails. They had not been seen alive by scientists since 1921."

It's nice to know that humans haven't killed off all of our ancestors yet.

Though I must admit, if a Pygmy Tarsier was anything like real Furby, well, I think the world might be better off if they'd never been found. My little sister had one when we were growing up and I spent a great deal of energy hiding her Furby under piles of clothes and blankets to make it shut the fuck up. It took a baseball bat to do the job right. Certainly not something I would ever do to a living creature.

And thank you to Emily Mahan for bringing this creature to my attention.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"That monkey is the specialest victim of all"

I have always found the TV show Law & Order: SVU to be, well, rather sucktastic. The dialog has always been so unrealistic and lame and there's always a rooftop scene where one cop recalls some trauma from his or her childhood and shares it with another cop and the two bond over it. Or something. Anyway, I was thrilled to find on Videogum, the best blog ever for people who have eyes and like pictures that move, proof that I am not the only one who thinks this show is lame. Even better, this perfect example of lameness includes monkeys.

Added bonus: Videogum's fantastically hilarious The Hunt For The Worst Movie of All Time. Monkeys are mentioned in several of the posts.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Mark Doty wins the National Book Award

Last year I was literally on the edge of my seat waiting for the National Book Award results since Linda Gregerson was in the running (thus far the only person I have ever personally known who was up for such an award. I worked with her in the MFA program at UofM). This year, however, it kind of went by unnoticed. If it wasn't for an article in the New York Times I might have missed the results completely.

Still, I was glad to see Mark Doty win the 2008 National Book Award for Poetry for Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (2008 HarperCollins). Doty is a fantastic poet and a really nice guy. I had the good fortune of being able to interview him several years ago for Between The Lines (it's a gay paper. He's a gay poet. See? Makes perfect sense).

The other books in the running were:
Frank Bidart, Watching the Spring Festival (2008 Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Reginald Gibbons, Creatures of a Day (2008 Louisiana State University Press)
Richard Howard, Without Saying (2008 Turtle Point Press)
Patricia Smith, Blood Dazzler (2008 Coffee House Press)

The only one of these poets I can say with any certainty I have ever read anything from is Frank Bidart, so I am curious to check out the others.

The poetry judges were Robert Pinsky (who has some good poems but wrote a book about prosody that I despise), Mary Jo Bang (whose poetry makes zero sense to me), Kimiko Hahn (who I have never heard of), Tony Hoagland (one of my favorites), and Marilyn Nelson (whose name rings a bell).

It's cool to see some small presses in the running, even if the cover of Blood Dazzler by Coffee House Press looks like it was originally designed for a self-published children's book about Creationism. Coffee House Press, by the way, also published my friend and colleague Raymond McDaniel's two books of poetry, Murder, A Violet and Saltwater Empire, the later of which I purchased and gave to said author to sign very shortly after it was published. That was over seven months ago. I still don't have the book. I've asked him about it, many times, and he claims that it's difficult to sign a book for someone he knows and likes, or something like that. If it's any easier for him, a signed check for $16 would work at this point, too. He wouldn't even have to write anything on the memo line if it's too much pressure.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Chatty Cathy Macaque

From the Discover Magazine blog (creationists, plug your ears):
"Female macaques are much chattier than male macaques, according to a new study. The researchers say vocal communication is an important part of macaque social bonding and the findings may reflect similar patterns in the evolution of human language."
Not only that, but:
"The researchers also found that the females preferred to chat with other females [and suggest that] this is because female macaques form solid, long-lasting bonds as they stay in the same group for life and rely on their female friends to help them look after their offspring. In contrast, males, who rove between groups throughout their life, chatted to both sexes equally."
What? Baby monkeys being raised by two (or more!) mama monkeys? Uh, I don't know how comfortable I am with that. It sounds kind of, you know, gay. Whatever happened to one man monkey + one woman monkey monkey marriage? Somebody needs to get all Prop 8 on their same-sex preferential asses if you ask me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Shakespeare's Sonnet 146

(Married to the Sea)

I had a student come into the writing center today with a paper on Shakespeare's Sonnet 146. I had a very interesting discussion with her about the poem and quite enjoyed the session. So I thought I would post the poem here, as a souvineer of sorts.
Sonnet 146

Poor soul, the centre of my sinful earth,
[...] these rebel powers that thee array;
Why dost thou pine within and suffer dearth,
Painting thy outward walls so costly gay?
Why so large cost, having so short a lease,
Dost thou upon thy fading mansion spend?
Shall worms, inheritors of this excess,
Eat up thy charge? is this thy body's end?
Then soul, live thou upon thy servant's loss,
And let that pine to aggravate thy store;
Buy terms divine in selling hours of dross;
Within be fed, without be rich no more:
So shalt thou feed on Death, that feeds on men,
And Death once dead, there's no more dying then.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Broadside Press Poets’ Theater: I was there

Last night I attended the debut of Broadside Press Poets’ Theater at the University of Detroit Mercy and I must say I was impressed. For one thing, the weather was crappy and yet 40 people still found their way to Grounds Coffeehaus (a good space for a reading, though the lighting sucks) for poetry.

A guy from Broadside Press (I failed to write down his name) kicked things off by reading "A Different Image" by Dudley Randall, who founded Broadside Press in 1965 and used to work at UDM as a librarian. The Dudley Randall Center for Print Culture at UDM is, obviously, named after him.

Aurora Harris, whom I have never seen read before, read next and was quite good. A lot of the work she read had to do with her racial identity (she said she was half black and half Filipino).

Jessica Care Moore was next and I have definitely seen her read before. I don't think you forget a Jessica Care Moore reading. Her work is good, but her stage presence is even better. She's just a very funny, very acerbic person who isn't afraid to say whatever is on her mind (she told us, for example, that her favorite word is "motherfucker"). She read a really incredible poem about naming her two-year-old son King.

After she was done reading she encouraged audience members to pick up some books by Broadside and Moore Black Press, her own. "Y'all buy some books," she said. "I need some diapers."

The two did a Q&A session with the audience and when asked what poets inspired them, Harris, who has been writing since age seven, said, "I wasn't inspired by any poets. I was inspired by racism."

Both Harris and Moore talked about the stigmatism of being pegged as "performance poets." They feel that label causes them to not be taken as seriously as poets who do "readings" as opposed to "performances." Neither woman considered herself a performance poet and both emphasized that they are writers.

An open mic that was only somewhat painful (a rare feat at any poetry reading) followed. Kudos to the kid who got up to read his poems for the first time. I don't remember his name, but he was nervous and when he finished he bounded back to his seat saying, "I'm going to tell my mama." It was pretty adorable.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Broadside Press Poets’ Theater at UDM Nov. 16

Here's some news from The Dudley Randall Center for Print Culture at the University of Detroit Mercy (where I got my undergrad degree. Holla!). The Broadside Press Poets’ Theater is now going to be housed at UDM in the Grounds Coffeehaus.

According to Rosemary Weatherston, director of the Dudley Randall Center (and one of my best friends), "For over 20 years the Poets’ Theater has provided writing workshops; presentations by writers, thinkers, and artistic performers who have impacted literacy in Detroit and/or globally; and open mike sessions for metro Detroit’s community and student writers. These events take place the third Sunday of each month."

On Sunday, November 16, the Poets’ Theater will be held from 3:00-6:00pm at Grounds featuring poets Jessica Care Moore and Aurora Harris, followed by open mike. A $5 donation is suggested but not required.

For more info go here.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Monkey cupcake cake wreck

Cake Wrecks, my favorite confectionary blog, has a monkey cupcake cake wreck on display this week. I'm not providing any pictures because I would hate to spoil it for you.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A priest, a rabbi, and an imam walk into a bar...

...and who do they meet but Bill Maher who, using his hair as evidence, tells them there is no God.

Okay, it's not much of a joke. But it is, in a nutshell (pun intended), the plot of Bill Maher's movie Religulous, which I saw yesterday with poet, Floridian, and former Jesus-freak Amanda Carver. It's a pretty good movie, though I think it would be better if it had less of Bill Maher in it. Don't get me wrong. I'm a Bill Maher fan. I love Real Time and I've read all of his books. I think he's brilliant and love his sharp wit. Unfortunately, he does, too, and after a while it gets a little tiring. Maher often comes across as smug and condescending, which detracts from the film's overall message: religion is ridiculous. It is far more effective when believers are allowed to speak for themselves.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Letter Written on a Ferry While Crossing Long Island Sound" by Anne Sexton

On a semi-whim (meaning there was logic behind my reasoning, but not very convincing logic), I was looking for a poem that contained the word "Tuesday" and lo and behold this poem came up, one of my favorites ever and certainly my favorite by Anne Sexton.
Letter Written on a Ferry While Crossing Long Island Sound

I am surprised to see
that the ocean is still going on.
Now I am going back
and I have ripped my hand
from your hand as I said I would
and I have made it this far
as I said I would
and I am on the top deck now
holding my wallet, my cigarettes
and my car keys
at 2 o’clock on a Tuesday
in August of 1960.

although everything has happened,
nothing has happened.
The sea is very old.
The sea is the face of Mary,
without miracles or rage
or unusual hope,
grown rough and wrinkled
with incurable age.

I have eyes.
These are my eyes:
the orange letters that spell
ORIENT on the life preserver
that hangs by my knees;
the cement lifeboat that wears
its dirty canvas coat;
the faded sign that sits on its shelf
saying KEEP OFF.
Oh, all right, I say,
I’ll save myself.

Over my right shoulder
I see four nuns
who sit like a bridge club,
their faces poked out
from under their habits,
as good as good babies who
have sunk into their carriages.
Without discrimination
the wind pulls the skirts
of their arms.
Almost undressed,
I see what remains:
that holy wrist,
that ankle,
that chain.

Oh God,
although I am very sad,
could you please
let these four nuns
loosen from their leather boots
and their wooden chairs
to rise out
over this greasy deck,
out over this iron rail,
nodding their pink heads to one side,
flying four abreast
in the old-fashioned side stroke;
each mouth open and round,
breathing together
as fish do,
singing without sound.

see how my dark girls sally forth,
over the passing lighthouse of Plum Gut,
its shell as rusty
as a camp dish,
as fragile as a pagoda
on a stone;
out over the little lighthouse
that warns me of drowning winds
that rub over its blind bottom
and its blue cover;
winds that will take the toes
and the ears of the rider
or the lover.

There go my dark girls,
their dresses puff
in the leeward air.
Oh, they are lighter than flying dogs
or the breath of dolphins;
each mouth opens gratefully,
wider than a milk cup.
My dark girls sing for this.
They are going up.
See them rise
on black wings, drinking
the sky, without smiles
or hands
or shoes.
They call back to us
from the gauzy edge of paradise,
good news, good news.

(Anne Sexton, from The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton, Houghton Mifflin, 1981)

Monday, November 10, 2008

Do monkeys like turkey?

Via Slog, Lindy West asks and answers the age old question: "Do monkeys like turkey?"

Friday, November 7, 2008

Lions and monkeys and hippos, oh my!

Once upon a time... from Capucha on Vimeo.
My sister sent this video to me along with the following request: "When you have a baby, can you have a French one?"

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Monkey joke!

Actual joke on the wrapper of a piece of Laffy Taffy (strawberry) I ate yesterday:
Q: What do you get when you cross a monkey with a pie?

A: A meringue-utang!
Not only that, but it said that this piece of hilarity was sent in by Amanda C. And who should be visiting me right now but the fabulous poet Amanda Carver? Coincidence? I think not.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"Head Over Heels" the Literal Video Version

Awhile back my sister showed me the Literal Video of Ah-Ha's "Take On Me." I loved it and wished that the guy who did it would do more of them. Thankfully he has. Now available for your viewing pleasure on YouTube is "Under the Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers and, below, "Head Over Heels" by Tears for Fears.

I can't describe his project any better than he can: "Ever wish songs just sang what was happening in the music video? Well now they do, in this installment of literal videos!" Enjoy.

"The Great Society" by Robert Bly

I can't help but want to retitle this: "If John McCain Wins." For the love of ________ (fill in your favorite deity), please go vote today.
The Great Society
Dentists continue to water their lawns even in the rain:
Hands developed with terrible labor by apes
Hang from the sleeves of evangelists;
There are murdered kings in the light-bulbs outside movie theaters:
The coffins of the poor are hibernating in piles of new tires.

The janitor sits troubled by the boiler,
And the hotel keeper shuffles the cards of insanity.
The President dreams of invading Cuba.
Bushes are growing over the outdoor grills,
Vines over the yachts and the leather seats.

The city broods over ash cans and darkening mortar.
On the far shore, at Coney Island, dark children
Playing on the chilling beach: a sprig of black seaweed,
Shells, a skyful of birds,
While the mayor sits with his head in his hands.

(Robert Bly, from The Light Around the Body, HarperCollins Publishers, 1967)

Friday, October 31, 2008

Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum

While shopping today I stumbled upon Zombie Haiku by Ryan Mecum at Acme Mercantile in Ann Arbor. It is, as you might guess from the title, a book of zombie themed Haikus. Below are a few selections from the book. Happy Halloween!
Biting into heads
is much harder than it looks.
The skull is fiesty.

Nothing hurts me now.
Normally the screwdriver
wouldn't have gone there.

You are so lucky
that I can not remember
how to use doorknobs.

I exit the car
as the others slouch away,
off for fresher food.

As I start walking
I try to remember where
people like to hide.

My dad used to say,
"Always finish what you start."
So I eat her hair.

"Essay #3: Leda And The Swan" by Eric Puchner

Today I had a student come to the writing center for help with an essay about Eric Puchner's short story, "Essay #3: Leda And The Swan." Not only is the story about poetry (and vegans and mental illness and death metal and Hitler), but it also contains the phrase, "cold enough to freeze the testicles off a brass monkey." It is also hilariously awesome. Read it. Or, at least, read the part that's available online.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Danny Wood: teen hunk or primate?

There are parts of my past that are difficult to explain yet impossible to forget no matter how hard I might try. Take, for example, my pre-teen obsession with New Kids On The Block. My favorite? Danny, the one everyone said looked like a monkey. Coincidence? Well, yes, actually. Still.

For those of you with lives or self-respect, you might not know that the New Kids regrouped and are on a reunion tour. My sister, Laura, managed to score us free tickets to the show at The Palace of Auburn Hills over the weekend. You can read all about it as The Wonder Twins review the New Kids On The Block show for the Metro Times Music Blahg.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Econometry with Paul Krugman

As I am a huge fan of New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, I was thrilled to see that he began his October 27th column by referencing a poem by William Butler Yeats:
"Economic data rarely inspire poetic thoughts. But as I was contemplating the latest set of numbers, I realized that I had William Butler Yeats running through my head: 'Turning and turning in the widening gyre / The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.' "

In case you haven't figured it out thus far, Krugman's column is not the most uplifting commentary about our economy.

By the way, that picture of Krugman with the cat is from Rolling Stone where you can listen to an interview with Krugman from 2007.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Good Conduct" by Alana DeRiggi

My good friend Alana DeRiggi's poem "Good Conduct" is in the first issue of Sotto Voce. Read "Good Conduct" and be sure to vote for it to be included in Sotto Voce's print anthology.

Alana is one of my favorite poets as well as one of my favorite people. I am super lucky to have gotten to know her and work with her at the University of Michigan in the MFA program. We were in the same workshop where she first brought this very poem, in fact. Stated simply, I love Alana's work. She is rad.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Gorilla: "I has a sad."

Who says animals don't feel pain? From the looks of it, these sad bastard creatures could use a hug. The Daily Green presents The 10 Saddest Emo Animals, with this ape coming in at number 8:
"Great apes (don't call them monkeys people, please) have a lot to be depressed about. For one thing they haven't gotten over the murderous demise of their friend Diane Fossey. Oh, and they are tired of their babies being ripped out of their arms and sold to zoos, although they don't mind when kids throw them popcorn (don't tell their keepers I told you).

Mostly they don't like war, slash and burning or being made into still lifes."
For the record, I know the difference between monkeys and apes, and while this blog is called "Touched By A Monkey" I include all primates in that category. "Touched By A Primate" just doesn't sound right and would be a different kind of blog me thinks.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Bridge to Somewhere

I've never been to Minneapolis before, but last night at a karaoke bar a woman told me about the Irene Hixon Whitney Bridge which she described as her "coolest poetry experience." The bridge features a poem by John Ashberry and is quite beautiful judging from the pictures of it online. I think the idea of integrating poetry into public spaces is wonderful and I would love to see more of it.

This photo is by Mykl Roventine who has a slew of cool galleries on Flickr.

Here's the poem, "Untitled" from 1988:
And now I cannot remember how I would

have had it. It is not a conduit (confluence?) but a place.

The place, of movement and an order.

The place of old order.

But the tail end of the movement is new.

Driving us to say what we are thinking.

It is so much like a beach after all, where you stand

and think of going no further.

And it is good when you get to no further.

It is like a reason that picks you up and

places you where you always wanted to be.

This far, it is fair to be crossing, to have crossed.

Then there is no promise in the other.

Here it is. Steel and air, a mottled presence,

small panacea

and lucky for us.

And then it got very cool.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The L Stands for "Literary," the Beard Stands for "Activist"

M.L. Liebler was named Best All-Around Literary Activist by the Metro Times. Congrats, M.L.!
"When MT had the idea of a collage poem drawing on the work of ... oh, a hundred or so Detroit poets, it seemed the only person crazy enough to try and knowledgeable enough to pull it off was M.L. Liebler. The result — our first cover poem — speaks for itself. Abandon Automobile (2001), which Liebler co-edited with Melba Joyce Boyd, is the introduction to contemporary poetry in Detroit. Liebler's been in the trenches for years promoting series and group readings and building connections between the Detroit and the national and international scenes. Metro Detroit Writers, which he directs, offers the best one-stop directory to literary events in metro Detroit at springfed.org. This Thursday, Oct. 16, he's at Cliff Bell's with his Magic Poetry Band and guests from the Detroit Writers Workshop. Friday, Oct. 17, he's with Marge Piercy and others at the 18th Annual Bernard Firestone Labor Arts & Poetry Tribute, at McGregor Conference Center on the Wayne State campus. Saturday he kicks off the Kick Out the Jams Library Tour with John Sinclair and others in Ypsi. Did we mention he stays busy?"

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Tiger Cub+Chimp=Unbearable Cuteness

Thank you to the lovely and talented Emily Zinnemann for bringing my attention to this story via Facebook. And since I can't say it any better, here's the advice she offered with her post: "Please ignore the deplorable quality of the writing in this article & focus instead on the unbearable cuteness of the slideshow."

Unbearable? More like untigerable! Ha! Somebody stop me.

No, really. I need to be stopped.

Help me. Cuteness has short circuited my brain.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Monkey snacks!

While this is probably not surprising, I am a sucker for food products marketed to children, especially when those products involve monkeys. So when I saw a box of Healthy Handfuls Chimpies on the shelf at Kroger, I could not resist. I mean, just look at that little guy on the box, riding his bike while happily wielding cookies made in his image.

Sadly the cookies didn't taste very good. Upon closer inspection, I saw that the expiration date stamped on the box had passed. So I sent the Healthy Handfuls folks an email. A polite complaint, if you will. I got an email back immediately saying they'd send me some samples.

"Okay," I thought, "kind of cheap, but whatever."

Two days ago a box full of dozens of individual sized bags of Chimpies and Lucky Duckies (a duck shaped cheese cracker similar to Goldfish) arrived at my door. Definitely more than I was expecting. The folks at Healthy Handfuls definitely get an A+ in customer service.

I'm not a cheese eater, so I won't eat the crackers. I will, however, hand them out for Halloween. :) But I'm keeping the Chimpies.

Other monkey/primate-themed food I like:
EnviroKidz Organic Gorilla Munch by Nature's Path.

Perfect with Very Vanilla Silk (also made for kids). I have to admit, however, that I prefer the EnviroKidz Penguin Puffs.

Endangered Species Supreme Dark Chocolate

Mmm. Chocolate. And there's a chimpanzee on the wrapper. :) Plus the company donates part of their profits to Chimp Haven, a "nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide lifetime care for chimpanzees who have been retired from medical research, the entertainment industry or no longer wanted as pets."

Tofutti used to make Monkey Bars, which were peanut butter soy ice cream covered in chocolate on a stick. Pretty much the best thing in the world and I lament the fact that they no longer exist on a near daily basis.