Monday, March 31, 2008

"Hope" by Langston Hughes

I'm currently reading Bridge of Sighs by Richard Russo (I love me some Richard Russo) and he uses the poem "Hope" by Langston Hughes in the book. I didn't know this poem so I thought I would look it up and see if, in fact, the short passage quoted in the book was the whole poem. From what I can find, it is. And here it is.

He rose up on his dying bed
and asked for fish.
His wife looked it up in her dream book
and played it.

(Langston Hughes)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

University of Washington's primate center under fire

Animal research = bad.
Animal research with poor oversight = badder.
"The fact that the UW characterizes this incident — 41 surgeries on 14 monkeys — as a clerical error seems unduly dismissive to me," said Debra Durham [of] People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "Ethically speaking, we can't afford to lose sight of the animals. For them, the difference between two surgeries and six or 10 is much more than paperwork."

"Sex and Taxes" by Kevin Cantwell

My wife and I did it today. Our taxes, that is. I have no idea if I did mine right. But I tried. Anyway, I did a quick search and found this poem about taxes. It also happens to be about sex, though that was not included in my search criteria.
Sex and Taxes

Plum black & the blush white of an apple

shoulder, melon & cream, in tones to list
the flesh; in light, washed colors off at last

& textures sheer with damp I slowly pull
from you with your quick help. Weekend's ample

procrastinations to forget the least
of what we want to do. April, half a blast

of cold, half new light, green & simple.
Now dusk. Now fear. We pencil what we owe

on this short form, our numbers good enough.
The goose-neck glare undoes how we spent the day.

Each bite each bee-sting kiss each bitten O
all aftertaste. Later, at the drop-off,
postmark queue, we joke: "Now we can die!"

(Kevin Cantwell, from the April 1999 issue of Poetry.)

Friday, March 28, 2008

"Go Greyhound" by Bob Hicok

Go Greyhound

A few hours after Des Moines
the toilet overflowed.
This wasn't the adventure it sounds.

I sat with a man whose tattoos
weighed more than I did.
He played Hendrix on mouth guitar.
His Electric Ladyland lips
weren't fast enough
and if pitch and melody
are the rudiments of music,
this was just
memory, a body nostalgic
for the touch of adored sound.

Hope's a smaller thing on a bus.

You hope a forgotten smoke consorts
with lint in the pocket of last
resort to be upwind
of the human condition, that the baby
and when this never happens,
that she cries
with the lullaby meter of the sea.

We were swallowed by rhythm.
The ultra blond
who removed her wig and applied
fresh loops of duct tape
to her skull,
her companion who held a mirror
and popped his dentures
in and out of place,
the boy who cut stuffing
from the seat where his mother
should have been--
there was a little more sleep
in our thoughts,
it was easier to yield.

To what, exactly--
the suspicion that what we watch
watches back,
cornfields that stare at our hands,
that hold us in their windows
through the night?

Or faith, strange to feel
in that zoo of manners.

I had drool on my shirt and breath
of the undead, a guy
dropped empty Buds on the floor
like gravity was born
to provide this service,
we were white and black trash
who'd come
in an outhouse on wheels and still

some had grown--
in touching the spirited shirts
on clotheslines,
after watching a sky of starlings
flow like cursive
over wheat--back into creatures
capable of a wish.

As we entered Arizona
I thought I smelled the ocean,
liked the lie of this
and closed my eyes
as shadows
puppeted against my lids.

We brought our failures with us,
their taste, their smell.
But the kid
who threw up in the back
pushed to the window anyway,
opened it
and let the wind clean his face,
screamed something
I couldn't make out
but agreed with
in shape, a sound I recognized
as everything I'd come so far
to give away.

(Bob Hicok, from Insomnia Diary, 2004 University of Pittsburgh Press)

Monday, March 24, 2008

"Do You Love Me?" by Robert Wrigley

I'm working on my thesis and Tina, in her comments on my last draft, said my poem "I love my dog" reminded her of this poem.
Do You Love Me?

She's twelve and she's asking the dog,
who does, but who speaks
in tongues, whose feints and gyrations
are themselves parts of speech.

They're on the back porch
and I don't really mean to be taking this in
but once I've heard I can't stop listening. Again
and again she asks, and the good dog

sits and wiggles, leaps and licks.
Imagine never asking. Imagine why:
so sure you wouldn't dare, or couldn't care
less. I wonder if the dog's guileless brown eyes

can lie, if the perfect canine lack of abstractions
might not be a bit like the picture books
she "read" as a child, before her parents' lips
shaped the daily miracle of speech

and kisses, and the words were not lead
and weighed only air, and did not mean
so meanly. "Do you love me?" she says
and says, until the dog, sensing perhaps

its own awful speechlessness, tries to bolt,
but she holds it by the collar and will not
let go, until, having come closer,
I hear the rest of it. I hear it all.

She's got the dog's furry jowls in her hands,
she's speaking precisely
into its laid back, quivering ears:
"Say it," she hisses, "Say it to me."

(Robert Wrigley from Lives of the Animals, Penguin 2003)

Poetry journal links list

I've been compiling a list of print journals that publish poetry. It's been helpful for me and my poet friends have found it useful so I wanted ot make it available to anyone and everyone who might want it. You can download my list via the link to the left here. I also have a newly formed and much less complete list of online poetry publishing journals. Please feel free to let me know of publications that are missing from either list and check back for updates. Hope it is useful for you.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Cotton top monkey twins!

Twin baby cotton top tamarins were born in an Australian zoo.
"If it wasn't for zoos participating in national breeding programs, these guys would just die out and that would be a shame because they're gorgeous animals - really, really cute and unique looking....

"J. Learns the Difference Between Poverty and Having No Money" by Jeffrey Schultz

I've been slacking on the blogging front because real life has been getting in the way. So I thought I would post a poem by UofM MFA alumn Jeffrey Schultz. I don't really know him though I have met him briefly and hear he's a nice guy. This poem was in last month's issue of Poetry which I just got done reading. I am a bit behind in everything right now. I'm working on my thesis which is consuming much of my life or, at least, is the focus of most of my life's anxiety right now which makes it feel that way. Anyway, Jeffrey Schultz's poem is mmm mmm good so check it out.
J. Learns the Difference Between Poverty and Having No Money
After Ernesto Trejo

And the morning’s marine layer cloud cover’s   just beginning to unhinge,
to let the buttery light of another daybreak slip through
And weigh down the dead lawns and sagging rooftops
of  this neighborhood, where Cold War era television antennas
Still cast shadows like B-52s heading offshore, where poverty, this early
is the smell of  Malt-O-Meal and the dregs of  thin beer
Washed down the sink. Where the shift begins at 7AM,
but consciousness has a way of coming round as slowly
As this old computer monitor flickers its dull sixteen colors into being.
On it, the names and numbers of  laundromat and liquor store owners,
Fast food managers and lawn care companies; it’s my job
to cold call them, read from a script on the benefits of membership
In the Executive Dining Club, not take No for an answer.
I’m no good and both the boss and I know it, and he’s hovering
When the scraped-out voice of  the woman on my phone answers me with
My husband’s been killed, and then, instead of  hanging up,
Throws the receiver down next to something — dishwasher or window AC,
I don’t know — but something close, it sounds, to tearing itself  apart,
Something cycling through an awful, screeching noise.
And it’s because I’ve paused that the boss flings a pencil
Into the wall in front of  me and edges closer, and because of  the fear
of  unemployment forms or the sky opening up if  I were to walk out,
And because this sound — the un-oiled, flak-fouled crack of  it —
has left me standing suddenly at the end of a runway, planes
Screaming low overhead and loaded for the beginning of  the end of the world,
that I start back into the script, start back as if  I believe each word,
Even though, in the rattle and dust of  the jet-wash, no one hears a thing.

(Jeffrey Schultz, from the February 2008 issue of Poetry

Thursday, March 20, 2008

More brains, please...

While I'm not wild about animal testing, this article is interesting to me since I am fascinated by the subject of autism.
Monkey Brain Gives Clues to Human Interaction
...the monkeys were given juice rewards to look at different images. They would forego a reward of juice to see positive images: the hindquarters of a female, for example, or the face of a dominant monkey. But they had to be "paid" more juice to view negative images: a lower-ranking monkey or a simple gray square.

Married To The Sea

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Escape to Chimp Eden

There's a new show on Animal Planet called Escape to Chimp Eden where chimps are rescued from horrible situations and taken to a sanctuary. Check it out.

Worshipful Company of Fletchers by James Tate

Worshipful Company of Fletchers is the first James Tate book I have ever read, though I've had some passing familiarity with him via anthologies and such. I came across a copy of this book while Laurie Capps and I were perusing the poetry section at a used book store in Charlotte. She recommended it highly and since I think highly of her I didn't hesitate to buy it.

Judging from this one book alone, when Tate is on he's really on. Poems like "Happy As the Day is Long" and "50 Views of Tokyo" are wonderful conglomerations of seemingly random associations that fit together beautifully as a whole. He also has an amazing poem that compares the pope to a poodle ("How the Pope Is Chosen") that manages to be both hilarious and yet still maintain an astute critique of religion.

In the majority of the poems in this book, however, I felt as if Tate was trying too hard to be clever or, at the very least, letting the cleverness that comes so easily carry his work. Things happen in his poems that couldn't happen in real life. This is not, by itself, a problem, but instead of establishing a world in which such things are believable, it feels more like he said to himself, "Hey, wouldn't it be weird if..." a woman walked a bumble bee the size of a Saint Bernard on a leash? An island turned out to be the Dowager Empress of China? A glowworm drove a car? And yeah, it would be weird. It could also be really cool. But something about these situations rings false. Lines like "A cockroach was talking to a hula-goddess / and nibbling on her lace bodice" and "A spy joins / a circus--a clown leaps from / a bridge" feel like shenanigans. There's a reason why a movie worth seeing is never promoted as "a wild romp" or "zany."

But hey, it won the National Book Award in 1994, so clearly plenty of people disagree with me. I'm certainly not sorry I read it and have marked poems worth revisiting with blue Post-It tabs. Eight, to be exact, which is more good poems than many poets ever write.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

"How The Pope Is Chosen" by James Tate

How The Pope Is Chosen

Any poodle under ten inches high is a toy.
Almost always a toy is an imitation
of something grown-ups use.
Popes with unclipped hair are called "corded popes."
If a Pope's hair is allowed to grow unchecked,
it becomes extremely long and twists
into long strands that look like ropes.
When it is shorter it is tightly curled.
Popes are very intelligent.
There are three different sizes.
The largest are called standard Popes.
The medium-sized ones are called miniature Popes.
I could go on like this, I could say:
"He is a squarely built Pope, neat,
well-proportioned, with an alert stance
and an expression of bright curiosity,"
but I won't. After a poodle dies
all the cardinals flock to the nearest 7-Eleven.
They drink Slurpies until one of them throws up
and then he's the new Pope.
He is then fully armed and rides through the wilderness alone,
day and night in all kinds of weather.
The new Pope chooses the name he will use as Pope,
like "Wild Bill" or "Buffalo Bill."
He wears red shoes with a cross embroidered on the front.
Most Popes are called "Babe" because
growing up to become a Pope is a lot of fun.
All the time their bodies are becoming bigger and stranger,
but sometimes things happen to make them unhappy.
They have to go to the bathroom by themselves,
and they spend almost all of their time sleeping.
Parents seem incapable of helping their little popes grow up.
Fathers tell them over and over again not to lean out of windows,
but the sky is full of them.
It looks as if they are just taking it easy,
but they are learning something else.
What, we don't know, because we are not like them.
We can't even dress like them.
We are like red bugs or mites compared to them.
We think we are having a good time cutting cartoons out of the paper,
but really we are eating crumbs out of their hands.
We are tiny germs that cannot be seen under microscopes.
When a Pope is ready to come into the world,
we try to sing a song, but the words do not fit the music too well.
Some of the full-bodied popes are a million times bigger than us.
They open their mouths at regular intervals.
They are continually grinding up pieces of the cross
and spitting them out. Black flies cling to their lips.
Once they are elected they are given a bowl of cream
and a puppy clip. Eyebrows are a protection
when the Pope must plunge through dense underbrush

in search of a sheep.

(James Tate, from Worshipful Company of Fletchers, 1994 Ecco books)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Monkey Delivery" by Natalie Dee

natalie dee

Hey, remember when I posted about Well, I got a sweet little message from Tamara, the site's owner. Check it out! Buy something! :)

I am the owner of the monkey ranch here at

Thanks for linking to me. If you or your readers would like a sock monkey kit or even a sock monkey, send me a email with the name of your blog "touched by a Monkey" and get a extra item per order.

Have a great day!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

"Monkeys" by Matthew Rohrer and Joshua Beckman

Thank you to the lovely Sheera Talpaz for bringing "Monkeys" by Matthew Rohrer and Joshua Beckman to my attention. And you are welcome for me bringing it to yours.


In another jungle the monkeys fret.

Vibrations are tremendous.

Terror begins.

Mist dissipates.

Monkeys alight in unison

while beneath them nothing sexy happens.

From within one mangrove a monkey flutters helplessly,

another watches.

Noise like refined alabaster drifts across our monkeys.

Human intellect dwarfs only that first tear.

Everything else excels.

Intellect is nothing to savor.

Monkeys know.

Monkeys see.

Monkeys do.

As monkeys follow nauseated foresters

across wet walkways they announce their intentions.

Mankind savors variety.

Monkeys savor mankind.

Poachers came and grabbed the monkeys.

In disturbing circumstances they thrive.

Our satellites saw lilacs.


No one wanders forever.

(Matthew Rohrer and Joshua Beckman, from Nice Hat. Thanks, 2002 Wave Books.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

"What Work Is" by Philip Levine

It's snowing in Ann Arbor and so I am spending the night with Amanda Carver. Well, at Amanda Carver's. As my lovely wife said, "I'm glad you have friends like Amanda." Me, too. Not only does she let me crash at her place when the weather is bad, but she's got great taste in poetry and often introduces me to some really good stuff. This evening she was crowing about Philip Levine's "What Work Is," one of her all time favorite poems. It had been some years since I read it so she said, "You should read it right now, right this very minute." So I did. And now so should you, dear reader, because it is every bit as good as Amanda says.

What Work Is

We stand in the rain in a long line
waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.
You know what work is--if you're
old enough to read this you know what
work is, although you may not do it.
Forget you. This is about waiting,
shifting from one foot to another.
Feeling the light rain falling like mist
into your hair, blurring your vision
until you think you see your own brother
ahead of you, maybe ten places.
You rub your glasses with your fingers,
and of course it's someone else's brother,
narrower across the shoulders than
yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin
that does not hide the stubbornness,
the sad refusal to give in to
rain, to the hours wasted waiting,
to the knowledge that somewhere ahead
a man is waiting who will say, "No,
we're not hiring today," for any
reason he wants. You love your brother,
now suddenly you can hardly stand
the love flooding you for your brother,
who's not beside you or behind or
ahead because he's home trying to
sleep off a miserable night shift
at Cadillac so he can get up
before noon to study his German.
Works eight hours a night so he can sing
Wagner, the opera you hate most,
the worst music ever invented.
How long has it been since you told him
you loved him, held his wide shoulders,
opened your eyes wide and said those words,
and maybe kissed his cheek? You've never
done something so simple, so obvious,
not because you're too young or too dumb,
not because you're jealous or even mean
or incapable of crying in
the presence of another man, no,
just because you don't know what work is.

(Philip Levine, from What Work Is, 1992 Knopf)

Listen to him read it here.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Life Before Her Eyes in theatres

I've marked my calendar for April 18, nine days after my 30th birthday, for the opening of The Life Before Her Eyes, the film based on the book of the same name by one of my favorite poets and novelists, Laura Kasischke. The book was really good and judging from the preview, the film looks promising, too. It's directed by Vadim Perelman who was at the helm for the devastatingly good House of Sand and Fog and stars Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood. See you opening weekend.