Thursday, February 28, 2008

"God Forgotten" by Nick Flynn

I just finished reading Some Ether by Nick Flynn. It was a little underwhelming. Don't get me wrong, it's a good book and worth reading, but I guess it was so hyped to me that I expected more. Still, there are some really good poems in here. And what do you know, the last poem in the book, "God Forgotten," mentions monkeys.

God Forgotten

God mercifully forgets us for a few hours.

A blind woman in a folding chair
rests in the sun on the sidewalk below
& for an afternoon
doesn't think about heaven. I put my hand on yours

& say, show me, and you begin
slowly, steadily, my hand

riding yours, a spidermonkey
holding on to its mother's back, until

your fingers disappear inside

& my fingers follow. I see myself reflected
in your face, you smile & I realize
I'm smiling also. There is so much

I want to tell you. Once I spoke to my mother
through a long cardboard tube,
put one end to her sleeping ear & the other
to my mouth & whispered,

can you hear me? She was younger
then I am now, now

she will always be younger. Another hour passes, we open
the shades. Outside
a man in a wheelchair crosses his legs. You show me

a photograph, a group of children beside a '60s
stationwagon, you ask, can you find me? My fingers
tangle your hair, trace
your skull, your face so radiant

I can barely look into it.

(Nick Flynn, from Some Ether, 2000 Graywolf Press)

"Genesis of Man" by Toothpaste for Dinner

toothpaste for dinner

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pig poems for Laurie

I got to spend the day with the lovely Laurie Capps yesterday whilst in Charlotte, North Carolina (which is where I am right now). She is quite fabulous. She also digs pigs. And so, in her honor, some pig poems.

Chicken Pig
By Jennifer Michael Hecht

It’s like being lost
in the forest, hungry, with a
plump live chicken in your cradling
arms: you want to savage the bird,
but you also want the eggs.

You go weak on your legs.
What’s worse, what you need
most is the companionship,
but you’re too hungry to know that.
That is something you only know after
you’ve been lost a lot and always,

eventually, alit upon
your bird; consumed her
before you’d realized what
a friend she’d been, letting you
sleep-in late on the forest floor
though she herself awoke
at the moment of dawn

and thought of long-lost
rooster voices quaking
the golden straw. She
looks over at you, sleeping,
and what can I tell you, she loves
you, but like a friend.

Eventually, when lost
in a forest with a friendly chicken
you make a point of emerging
from the woods together,
triumphant; her, fat with bugs,
you, lean with berries.

Still, while you yet wander,
you can not resist telling her
your joke:

Guy sees a pig with three legs,
asks the farmer, What gives?
Farmer says, That pig woke
my family from a fire, got us all out.

Says the guy, And lost the leg thereby?
, says the farmer,
Still had all four when he took
a bullet for me when I had
my little struggle with the law.

Guy nods, So that’s where
he lost his paw
? Farmer shakes
it off, says, Nah, we fixed him up.
A pause, guy says, So how’d he lose
the leg
? Farmer says, Well, hell,
a pig like that
you don’t eat all at once.

Chicken squints. Doesn’t think
it’s funny.

(Jennifer Michael Hecht, from the July 2005 issue of Poetry)

Song for Ishtar
By Denise Levertov

The moon is a sow
and grunts in my throat
Her great shining shines through me
so the mud of my hollow gleams
and breaks in silver bubbles

She is a sow
and I a pig and a poet

When she opens her white
lips to devour me I bite back
and laughter rocks the moon

In the black of desire
we rock and grunt, grunt and

(Denise Levertov, from The Selected Poems of Denise Levertov WW Norton, 2002)

Monday, February 25, 2008

'Stache Mash Monkeys

While it may or may not be true that you learn something new every day, you probably don't learn about a new monkey every day. And so, for your personal edification (and mine, really), I share with you the emperor tamarin, known "for their quirky personalities and flamboyant facial hair..."

The ones in the picture here are at a New Zealand zoo. I should mention that I don't "believe in" keeping wild animals in captivity. Zoos, for example. Sadly I recognize the need to often do this since humans have fucked up the planet so much. On that note, do something good for the planet today and when you do, you'll be doing something good for monkeys.

Friday, February 22, 2008

All Polish, All Gay: D'Anne Witkowski and Steven A. Dabrowski

Mark your calendars for the final Webster reading of the semester. On March 7 at 7 p.m. Steve and I will be reading in the Henderson Room at the University of Michigan which is on the third floor of the Michigan Union. Come see us.

Steve designed our flyers. My contribution was the smiley face and the tiny cock. I do what I can. Download and print your own copy, suitable for framing.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Making "massively violent love" with Karyna McGlynn

Okay, before the rumors start, I have not actually ever "made massively violent love" with or to Karyna McGlynn despite what she wrote inside my copy of her new chapbook Scorpionica. I had her sign it after her reading at Shaman Drum on the 18th. It was a fantastic reading - very, um, colorful, especially the work she read from her upcoming chapbook Alabama Steve. Let's just say that having Karyna read in the children's book section (which is where readings at the Drum are by default) was the definition of irreverent, but in a good way.

I haven't been able to read Scorpionica in its entirety yet, but the poems she read from it were awesome, some of them poems that she workshopped last year when we were in workshop together. It was very exciting to see them all grown up, so to speak. I highly recommend picking a copy of Scorpionica, which is out via New Michigan Press and Alabama Steve which will be out via Destructible Heart Press soon.

Oh, and a poem from Scorpionica was featured on Verse Daily a couple days ago.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

North Carolina, here I come

I bought a plane ticket to North Carolina today. I'm going down there to accompany my sister Laura as she moves back to Michigan. In with me and Stacy, in fact. Emma is coming, too. She will hopefully teach Henri some manners. Or at least mellow him out a little.

I'll also get to hang with the great Laurie Capps who I am quite fond of. She lives in North Carolina so we're going to meet up and see if we like each other in person. Hopefully it works out, though I suspect it will.

In any case, I thought I would post a couple North Carolina poems - or, rather, Carolina poems, as these don't mention North specifically. So here are "Carolina Journal" by Nicole Pekarske and "Cowgirl" by R. T. Smith. "Carolina Journal" has a couple lines that aren't properly formatted here, so if you'd like to see it correctly read it at Poetry's site.

Carolina Journal

Smoketrees line the roadside, still-bare beech and poplar
bouqueted with redbud and something rusty I can't name,
March's odd autumnals —

One-church towns I'm glad
not to be from, split-log strip mall with a porch
where Claire's beauty shop shares a sign with "Antigues," where you study grace
in magazines, and when dad dies you rename the family diner

New York New York. Love is a means of travel, so you dye
the linens pink and swan-fold napkins, holding peony
in your mouth. Sundays drive out to watch the ferry
drag its lace.

Coastward, Easter-colored clapboard,
the last generation's shanties hovering on narrow stilts
above the velour drift of tide plain (mink from a distance,

muskrat up close), a drowsy instrumental music,
flooded at dusk. Beside the bridge, smooth brow of pewter.
Island of saplings blackened like a framed-up house.

(From the November 2007 issue of Poetry.)


In Stetson and calico vest, spandex
and Calvin jeans, she was the best
at the bar. Does Gucci make range boots?
Hers were snakeskin with heels
like railroad spikes. The rest you could
guess: eyes the blue of West Texas yonder,
complexion like hot coffee with cream.
All night I gave her slack but kept
my dally-knot tight, hoping she’d like
the stories I could tell—drunk Indian
twins fighting with icepicks in Cheyenne,
Carolina moonshine, deer breaking open
watermelons out of crazy hunger.
Regular as breath she’d say, “Damn!” or
“Yes!” and stomp a heel through sawdust
to the pine floor. I nearly had the rest
of my life planned out, downing Coors
and forking out for God-knows-whose,
till a dude in a Brooks Brothers suit
moved in, flashing a wad of Andrew
Jacksons like cold cash grew on trees,
and she said to me—she fairly spat it—
“Get lost!” So I did, prostrate all night
in a roadside hay field, watching the sky
sleek as a coal-black stallion’s flank.
Damn if every star wasn’t a spur
burning its wheels into my foolish eyes.

(R. T. Smith from The Hollow Log Lounge, 2003 University of Illinois Press.)

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Monkey Love

A while back I posted a link to a story about monkeys exchanging sex for grooming. Well, an editorial in today's Baltimore Sun finds the whole idea that monkeys may be acting out the world's oldest profession, well, insulting. Especially when juxtaposed next to this whole Valentine's Day thing where folks buy gifts for people they'd like to sleep with. Or people they love in a totally unromantic, totally legal way (for example, my parents both gave me Valentine's day cards. One had money in it, one did not. But it's the thought that counts).

One thing I think BOTH the scientists and the editorialist are missing however, is the idea of foreplay. Could it be that getting nits picked out of your hair just plain feels good and gets the lady monkey in the mood? If I had nits I would totally want my wife to go through my hair on the prowl for them. Thankfully I don't, but I still love a good scalp massage.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A. Van Jordan

A. Van Jordan is coming to UofM as the last of the four potential new hires. So far Raymond McDaniel is far and away my favorite for the job. It's clear he's really invested in the program and the students. But I am interested in seeing A. Van Jordan at work. He has a reading tomorrow -- if he makes it in on time. The snow storm here has foiled his plane reservations. I plan to sit in on a workshop he's doing on Friday. According to the Norton Web site, his most recent book Quantum Lyrics, "explores the intersection of the infinite world of physics with the perplexities of the human condition." Below is a poem from the book.

Einstein Ruminates on Relativity

INT. Theater. 1931—NIGHT

Premiere of City Lights starring CHARLES CHAPLIN, New York City, Albert Einstein is Chaplin's invited guest. They sit together and the audience stands to applaud them.

Charlie Chaplin tells me
that the world loves him
because they understand him
and the world loves me

because they don't, which doesn't seem fair
but it's true: This is relativity.
Journalists ask for a definition,
but the answers are all around:

a woman loves you for a lifetime
and it feels like a day; she tells you
she's leaving, breaking it off,
and that day feels like a lifetime,

passing slowly. I listen to Armstrong
play his cornet and it sounds
like a Wednesday afternoon in heaven;
some hear Armstrong play

and it sounds like a Monday morning
in Manhattan. Some hear the war on the radio
and they hear acts of love; some
hear details of the war and it sounds

futile. Outside my window
people decry the rain;
somewhere else people pray
for rain to run down their faces.

(A. Van Jordan, from Quantum Lyrics, 2007 Norton)

Monday, February 11, 2008

New chapbook by Cheri L. R. Taylor

If you're looking for something to do on March 8th from 5-7 p.m. (that would be the day after my reading at UofM), head down (or up, depending on where you live) to The Scarab Club (217 E. Farnsworth in Detroit) for the release event for Cheri L. R. Taylor's new chapbook Wolf Maiden Moon. Cheri is a friend of mine and a lovely person. The event will be hosted by Springfed Arts Metro Detroit Writers, a great arts organization in Detroit that I am a proud member and supporter of. I urge you to support them, too.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Towel Monkey

No, "Towel Monkey" isn't new racist slang. Rather, it's all the rage in the linen world, I guess. My sister sent this to me and I have to admit I think it's pretty dumb. But since my blog does deal with both poetry and monkeys, I feel a moral obligation to post this. And so, here's a link to How to Fold A Towel Monkey. Cat help not included.

The Lumberyard

While at AWP I discovered a whole host of new literary journals and small presses. One of the coolest new publications is The Lumberyard, which describes itself as "A twice-yearly letterpress magazine that aims to please." It is a beautiful publication and super hip to boot. Plus it publishes really good stuff like "A Whole Florida" by Jeffrey Bean. Definitely a place I plan on submitting to.

A Whole Florida

Whose fat business is it
lolling on lawns?
What senseless gorgeous song
has the mockingbird got

a hold of--some sonata
streaming from a window
like steam from the bath of the girl who won't
so much as nod at me? I've got a whole Florida

of time on my hands, girl,
a mean hunger for real work.
See these arms? They're broke
if sweat gets you rich. I'd give it all

for an axe to smash the door open
for a bat's music on a ball's skull
for some tool to spill the belly of the whole
goddamn animal of summer on my skin.

This is what I want: to drink it in
a literal way. Then girls and wasps and beetles
would know there's a thing in me
that runs like fire through hair or a barn.

But who's moving? Tonight the moon
will open the bland blossoms of a book,
my TV, the chair's warm cup for my back.
I can't go out slow like moons: I'm gone.

(Jeffrey Bean, from The Lumberyard, issue 1, 2007)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Mary Jo Firth Gillett at Shaman Drum Feb. 21

Mary Jo Firth Gillett, a friend of mine and a really good poet, will be reading at Shaman Drum on Thursday, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. Her book Soluble Fish won the Crab Orchard Review 2006 First Book Award. She's a good reader and super nice. Definitely an event worth going to.

Laurie Capps is rad

So, I've been doing this poem a day thing - literally, churning out a poem a day - with this group of poets via email. It's been good for me. Though the poems I've been sending haven't exactly been awe-inspiring work, it is forcing me to "produce" so to speak. So far the best part of this experience has been the introduction to Laurie Capps who is a fellow poem-a-dayer and whose work is really, really amazing. I sent her an email fawning over her poems and it turns out she's pretty cool, too (though weirdly obsessed with food). Anyway, I scouted the Internets to see if she had any work I could post here and this is the only poem I could find. I don't know when it was written or published, only that I found it on The Pedestal Magazine Web site. Remember this lady's name because she's going to be HUGE (this is not a reference to her food obsession, but a reference to her being the first poet of our generation to actually have groupies. Who bring her pies).

Cousin Gideon

Still possessing the ghost-blonde hair and smoke-blue eyes
I always longed to own, he rides back to me this autumn,
as I’m staring through the sweet gum trees, as I’m mapping
the wrens pinned tight on their branches, trying to recall

their early summer song. Standing in pine straw tossed
in shattered gold, I hear his bicycle working over the gravel,
rocks popping against his sneakers, the pebbles falling
into the cuffs of his blue jeans. Just beyond the fence,

where the blackberries twisted in August, he stays and waits
as I consider that summer day we met, twenty years ago.
Where we left the adults clustered tight inside, and he led me out
into a day clear as fresh glass. Over the railroad bridge, down

along the damp sand framing the river. Riding through
the silver oat grass, his head craning back to gauge me
as I fell behind. As I am falling behind now, as one of us
always must. I reach for a pinecone to throw into the yellow-

star leaves, and as the warblers toss up into the air, the vines
are empty, he is gone. Perhaps poured out with the birdbath’s
old water, in whispers against the clay. Or back down the drive,
though the gravel never shifts. I go inside and stand behind

the windows to watch the chickadees dip into the empty basin,
my hands tracing through dust on the sill. The day peeling away
from the gum leaves, the pine straw sinking slowly down
to copper. Everything folding back to what it is, now.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

"The Quiet World" by Jeffrey McDaniel

Whilst perusing the book fair at AWP, I came across the table for Manic D Press. Needless to say, I loved the name. The woman there (I did not get her name) asked me if I wanted to read a really good poem. Keep in mind, that I had been at the book fair all day. I was tired, hungry and a little dazed at this time (the book fair is pretty overwhelming but also, with its free stuff and its many books, is like crack for a person like me). I have to admit that, right then, no, I did not want to read this "very good poem" because what if I thought it sucked? Knowing full well that saying yes might lead to an awkward exchange with this bookseller (and knowing full well that she was trying to sell me something that I might not want and knowing I had already spent a lot of money that day), I said yes. I have a hard time saying no.

This is the poem she had me read, from Jeffrey McDaniel's book The Forgiveness Parade.

I think you can probably guess that I bought the book. Nothing else in it is quite as good as this, but this is quite good.

The Quiet World

In an effort to get people to look
into each other's eyes more,
and also to appease the mutes,
the government has decided
to allot each person exactly a hundred
and sixty-seven words, per day.

When the phone rings, I put it to my ear
without saying hello. In the restaurant
I point at chicken noodle soup.
I am adjusting well to the new way.

Late at night, I call my long distance lover,
proudly say I only used fifty-nine today.
I saved the rest for you.

When she doesn't respond,
I know she's used up all her words,
so I slowly whisper I love you
thirty-two and a third times.
After that, we just sit on the line
and listen to each other breathe.

(Jeffrey McDaniel, from The Forgiveness Parade, 1998 Manic D Press)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

"Miss January" by Laura Kasischke

I've been reading Laura Kasischke's latest book of poems, Lilies Without, and it's really, really good. I've been cursing out loud as I read it - in a good, "wow, this is so fucking awesome" kind of way. Here's a poem from it. The whole book is this good and better. It's also printed on recycled paper as part of the Green Press Initiative. You should go and get yourself a copy.

Miss January

On Friday, I fell--wearing

boots without treads, fell
from the great stupid height of myself. The boots

of a girl in a magazine, in a blizzard, on me. Or

you might say I leapt

from the cliff of myself,

while across the road a farmer
making peace with emptiness in a field
called out to me, and

my son, amused
and afraid at the same time, asked, Mom,
are you okay?

Of course, I was fine.
Bemirrored, the sky,

below me, below

the snow
and the dirt
and the seeds

of the pre-
Columbian flowers
asleep in the ground,
I could hear her clearly:

A woman
in sturdy shoes,

with a broad back (my
new paragon, my

ideal) walking,
steadily, chained
to a wheel.

(Laura Kasischke, from Lilies Without, 2007 Ausable Press)

DIY Sock Monkeys

For those crafty types, check out PS: My birthday is April 9th.

Bad Monkey at Blogography

So I was searching for a monkey head for a flyer that Steve is making (or, really, has already made, save my request to add a monkey head) for our reading March 7 and I came across blogography, a blog by a guy named Dave who draws really cool cartoons, many of them featuring monkeys. Worth checking out.

Posted here is a cartoon that he used to illustrate his post about his weight gain. "There's a lot of room in sweatpants..." he writes. Yes, enough room for a man and his monkey.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Home from AWP

I'm back from AWP. It was a whirlwind adventure. Not only was it my first time at the conference, it was my first time in New York.

I discovered a lot of new poets and literary journals and met some really cool people. So I have plenty of stuff to post here. Unfortunately, I must get my thesis together and have no time right now. But soon. Soon.