Sunday, August 31, 2008

Poetry readings this Fall in Ann Arbor

There's plenty of poetry to be had in Ann Arbor over the next few months.

At Shaman Drum:
Randa Jarrar on Monday, Sept. 15 at 7:00 p.m.
Okay, she's not a poet, but her novel A Map of Home features a character who is described as a "poet-turned-engineer." Plus she's a friend of mine and a damn good writer to boot.

J.W. Marshall on Thursday, Sept. 18 at 7:00 p.m.
Read Marshall's poem "Sadness Therapy" at Verse Daily.

Christine Rhein on Tuesday, Sept. 23 at 7:00 p.m.
Read Rhein's poem "Tuning" on Poetry Daily.

Karyna McGlynn on Saturday, Nov. 1 at 7:00 p.m.
She will read from her new chapbook Alabama Steve.

Mariela Griffor on Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 7:00 p.m.
Read her poem "Poem Without a Number: House" at the Mayapple Press Web site.

Katy Lederer on Thursday, Nov. 13 at 7:00 p.m.
Read her poem "Me, a Brainworker" at the BOA Editions Web site.

At the University of Michigan:
Simon Armitage on Wednesday, October 1 at 5:00 p.m. at Rackham Amphitheater (915 E. Washington St.)
Read and listen to Armitage read three of his poems at the Poetry Archive Web site and two additional ones at

C. Dale Young on Monday, October 6 at 5 p.m. at Rackham Amphitheater (915 E. Washington St.)
He has six poems for your reading pleasure on his Web site.

Stephen Burt on Thursday, November 6 at 5 p.m. at Rackham Amphitheater (915 E. Washington St.)
Read two of his poems at Diagram.

Honor Moore on Monday, December 1 at 5 p.m. in the Hussey Room at the Michigan League.
There are poems from each of his books available to read on his Web site.

Adam Zagajewski on Thursday, December 4 at 5 p.m. at Rackham Amphitheater (915 E. Washington St.).
Read three poems at

Also in Ann Arbor, Patricia Smith will read at The Neutral Zone (310 E. Washington, Ann Arbor) on Wednesday, Oct. 1 at 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dates to watch out for

Marge Piercy is coming to Detroit on Friday, Oct. 17 to read at Wayne State University. She'll be joined by UofM's Thylias Moss and Ohio poet Stephen Haven. The gig is at 7 p.m. and will take place in McGregor Conference Center (495 W. Ferry Mall) on the WSU campus (north end).

Also, Zilka Joseph will be doing a reading at Shaman Drum in Ann Arbor on Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. Go, Zilka, go. :)

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Detroit, line by line

The Metro Times cover story this week is, literally, a poem. "The City Has Moved Too Close to the Sun" is a cento, or cut-up, poem about Detroit compiled by poet/musician M.L. Liebler using lines from the poems of Detroit poets. The list includes friends of mine like Mary Jo Firth Gillett, Zilka Joseph, Cheri L.R. Taylor, Matthew Olzmann, and VieVee Francis. It is a cool project, worth checking out.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Jackson and Gest give Robert Burns the jazz hands treatment

File under: WTF.

"Robert Burns's poetry might have been dismissed as "sentimental doggerel" ... but that hasn't stopped diminutive I'm A Celebrity contestant David Gest and pop legend Michael Jackson from recording an album of the much-loved Scottish poet's work. Gest's spokesman ... explained that he and Jackson were originally planning to do a musical about Burns's life, but decided instead to turn his poetry into show tunes."

I am not familiar with Burns's work, but I don't think it's a coincidence that these three stanzas end the first poem of his I looked up on the Internets:
Is there a man, whose judgment clear
Can others teach the course to steer,
Yet runs, himself, life's mad career,
Wild as the wave,
Here pause-and, thro' the starting tear,
Survey this grave.

The poor inhabitant below
Was quick to learn the wise to know,
And keenly felt the friendly glow,
And softer flame;
But thoughtless follies laid him low,
And stain'd his name!

Reader, attend! whether thy soul
Soars fancy's flights beyond the pole,
Or darkling grubs this earthly hole,
In low pursuit:
Know, prudent, cautious, self-control
Is wisdom's root.

(Robert Burns, from "A Bard's Epitaph," 1786)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Poets say the darndest things

A little entry from Papercuts, the New York Times blog about books, about Quote Poet Unquote: Contemporary Quotations on Poets and Poetry by Dennis O’Driscoll.

A great quote that isn't included in the Times entry but is featured on the book's page:

"I started a PhD in English at the University of Chicago because I loved poetry-which I now realize is like saying I studied vivisection because I loved dogs."
- Michael Donaghy, Verse

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I (heart) chocolate

It's not every day that I find a product at the grocery store with "Love poem inside" on the wrapper, but that's just what I found today when I picked up a bar of Chocolove chocolate. Even though the Newman's Own brand was cheaper, I went with the brand with the free poem.

Inside the wrapper is this excerpt from "Don Juan" by George Gordon, Lord Byron:
They look upon each other, and their eyes
Gleam in the moonlight; and her white arm clasps
Round Juan's head, and his around her lies
Half buried in the tresses which it grasps;
She sits upon his knee, and drinks his sighs,
He hers, until they end in broken gasps;
And thus they form a group that 's quite antique,
Half naked, loving, natural, and Greek.

And when those deep and burning moments pass'd,
And Juan sunk to sleep within her arms,
She slept not, but all tenderly, though fast,
Sustain'd his head upon her bosom's charms;
And now and then her eye to heaven is cast,
And then on the pale cheek her breast now warms,
Pillow'd on her o'erflowing heart, which pants
With all it granted, and with all it grants.
According to the wrapper the poem is continued from a previous flavor of the company's chocolate and continues on yet another. At over 100 stanzas with two per wrapper, you have to eat a hell of a lot of chocolate to read the entire poem.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Review Haiku

In the latest issue of Paste Magazine there is a review of the new Joan Baez record Day After Tomorrow (2008 Razor & Tie) by three different reviewers done entirely in haikus:
Dallied with Dylan
Now she's nurtured by Steve Earle
Joan Baez still shines (Shane Harrison)

Folksong covers with
political undertones...
Sounds like Joan Baez. (Kate Kieffer)

Enduring boomer
Stamps Waits, Earle, and Costello
With her vibrato (Buddy Kite)
Though I am not much interested in new Baez music, I think this review system is genius. Looking on their Web site, it appears that they have done it before. I hope that Paste plans to make this a regular feature.

In this same issue there's also a feature on Micro-Press Poetry in their books section which features Tarpaulin Sky Press, Pilot Books and the journalCannibal.

Not a bad poetry haul for a magazine primarily focused on music.

Friday, August 22, 2008

“Seemingly incompatible friends,” the recluse and the activist...

Ah, Emily Dickinson, still making headlines 122 years later. The New York Times reviews White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson, a new book about Dickinson and her manfriend by Brenda Wineapple.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Painting the living room

I have, for several days now, been painting my living room. My arms are sore and I am tired. I look forward to finishing this project so that my life can resume. In any case, I thought posting a poem about painting would be appropriate, and one that features cave people even more so since I can't remember the last time I showered or shaved my legs. You're welcome.


In the cave with a long-ago flare
a woman stands, her arms up. Red twig, black twig, brown twig.
A wall of leaping darkness over her.
The men are out hunting in the early light
But here in this flicker, one or two men, painting
and a woman among them.
Great living animals grow on the stone walls,
their pelts, their eyes, their sex, their hearts,
and the cave-painters touch them with life, red, brown, black,
a woman among them, painting.

(Muriel Rukeyser, From The Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser, 2005 University of Pittsburgh Press.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

File Under: Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

What? Bigfoot isn't real? He was "just a rubber gorilla suit?"

Well, this one was, anyway. The real Bigfoot, well, he's still out there... Because you've gotta believe in something, or something like that.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Heat kills 32 lab monkeys in Nevada

What was that famous Gandhi quote? Oh, yeah: “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

Things aren't looking good for greatness.
“This was an isolated incident that occurred in a single room at our quarantine facility and no other primates were affected,” a spokeswoman said.
Which means, of course, they've got plenty more primates locked up in there.

Liz Volpe's chapbook is here (finally)

Last year my friend Liz Volpe won the 2007 Robert Watson Poetry Award chapbook competition and finally, a year later, her chapbook is in print. I was lucky enough to run into her at a screening of Man On Wire and am now the proud owner of #110 out of 150 copies of Brewing In Eden, hand-crafted and letter pressed. It's available through Spring Garden Press, though buying it out of the trunk of her car in a movie theater parking lot is a much more authentic experience if you ask me.

My favorite poem in Brewing In Eden, if I must pick, is "Black Walnuts," which I remember seeing an earlier draft or two of back in the day when Liz and I were in the same writing workshop. What starts out as a meditation on why she doesn't like them (they take too much damn effort for one thing: "Hulling these cranky old trolls requires / safety glasses, rubber gloves...") spirals into a comparison to the Salem Witch Trials (" check for infestation, drop the nuts into a bucket of water. / Nuts without injury will sink...") and then ends up at "I wish I could love more," which floors me every time.

So congratulations to Liz. A chapbook as lovely as the woman herself. :)

Oh, and I totally stole this picture from her Facebook page.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Poetry in motion

Last week I saw the film Man On Wire and as I was leaving the theatre I said to a poet friend of mine, "There was a lot of poetry in that film," to which a non-poet friend replied, "Now, what would you write from that?" And while surely Man On Wire could inspire some good verse, I did not mean that I could write a lot of poetry after seeing it, I meant simply that the film itself was poetic. Apparently I'm not the only one who thinks so.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

What's that you say? A poet writing about death? Whoever heard of such a thing?

There was a time in my life when I could not have stomached the idea of donating my body to science. When I learned that the heads of cadavers are sometimes used in crash tests I could not help but picture those heads bearing the faces of the people I love. The thought horrified me. I was, you could say, against it.

I have, over the years, changed my tune and after reading Body of Work: Meditations on Mortality from the Human Anatomy Lab by Christine Montross I am, in fact, more inclined than ever to donate my body after I die. I am now at a place in my life where I think of the research that may be done with me as something that could potentially help people who are still living, whether the result is aiding a med student's education or helping to make cars that better withstand impact.

Montross, I should note, is a poet. She graduated from the University of Michigan MFA program just as I did, albeit years earlier. Afterwards she headed to med school to become a doctor. The combination of these two professions means that Body of Work is a beautifully written book. Montross's prose is quite lovely and she treats her subject matter with respect and awe.

Perhaps it is because I have read several books on death and what happens after one dies, including Mary Roach's Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers (Roach, by the way, reviewed Body of Work in the New York Times), I found myself impatient with Montross's long sections outlining the history of dissection. Granted, including them makes perfect sense, but reading them was often tedious.

Montross is at her best when she's writing about relationships. Unfortunately, the only relationship she spends an ample amount of time on is her relationship with Eve, the cadaver she's dissecting in anatomy lab. It's hard to forge a connection with a dead stranger. As a result the bulk of the book is spent inside Montross's head and her musings begin to repeat themselves and get, well, boring.

That said, if I indeed do donate my body to research and I end up on a metal table in an anatomy lab, I most certainly hope that I get at least one student as respectful and introspective as Montross. And I hope that her book inspires people on the fence about donating their bodies or organs to do so.

Poetry in frosting

Just the other day I was thinking to myself, I wish the Cake Wrecks blog (one of my favorites in the world) had an entry that related to poetry or monkeys so I could share it with the world. Or at least the half dozen or so folks who read my blog.

Thankfully, some wishes do come true.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ellen is a winner

Living in Michigan and all, I have had my share of bad political news. So I am very happy to report that on Aug. 5, Ellen Cogen Lipton handily won the primary race and, barring a mass exodus of Democrats from the 27th District, will be my new Rep. in the Michigan House come November. She's progressive, smart and really nice. She also loves dogs.

I first met Ellen at Motor City Pride where she had a booth set up to reach out to LGBT voters. Not only was she great to talk to, but she gave my dog Henri lots of love and attention (see picture). I proposed a story on her to Between The Lines and interviewing Ellen for the paper gave me an opportunity to talk to her again, which just made me like her all the more. The next time I saw her I was at her house volunteering for her campaign. I made a lot of phone calls that day then my wife and I rode our bikes distributing get out the vote reminders to likely voters in our Ferndale neighborhood. By the time we were done it was too dark to read the house numbers. The last few houses I literally had to go up and feel the numbers like Helen Keller.

The following evening I was at her victory party, and what a victory it was. In a five person race she nabbed over 50% of the vote.

While at the party, which was held at Ellen's sister-in-law's house, I noticed a poem displayed in the kitchen. The poem was written by Emma Brooke Kretchmer, Ellen's niece and an aspiring young writer from what I understand. Reading the poem made me super happy because not only did it celebrate Ellen, but it also was written by a young person who clearly has yet to learn to fear or mistrust poetry as so many adults do.

Lucky for me, I got Emma and Ellen's permission to post the poem here. So without further ado, here it is.
Vote for Ellen

Vote For Ellen, she will give, make her our state representative. Vote for Ellen, she has pride;
she will always be by your side. Vote for Ellen, she will take part, she has a big heart.
Vote for Ellen, She loves U.S.A. , Vote for Ellen today.
She has two kids, who care a lot, they want their mom to take that spot. She really cares, she loves
the stars and every stripe, she is the perfect type.
So what do you say, isn’t she great? Make her representative of our state.

(Emma Brooke Kretchmer, written for her Aunt Ellen Cogen Lipton, August 2008)

I think every campaign should have its own resident poet. :)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Just Above Water sinks

I always love getting book recommendations from the many marvelous poets I know and I was excited when the indomitable KC Trommer told me I must read Just Above Water by Louis Jenkins. In fact, in her Goodreads review of the book she wrote, "Louis Jenkins! Why don't more people know about you, you smart, hilarious prose poet?" I am all about poetry that is both smart and hilarious, so I set about obtaining a copy of this book, out of print since its 1997 publication by Holy Cow! Press. It turns out it's pretty hard to find and after reading it I realize it would probably have best remained lost to me. The yearning heart is, after all, perpetually in anticipation and, though painful, staving off disappointment.

If Louis Jenkins really is "the contemporary master" of the prose poem, as Robert Bly attests on the back cover of Just Above Water, that's hardly a rousing endorsement of the genre. While there is nothing terrible about the poems in this book, there is nothing wonderful, either. I found most of the poems to be, well, boring. Reading this book felt a lot like listening to a record by Morrissey. It wasn't a painful experience, but the songs all sound pretty much the same. The tone, subject matter and even the length of most of the poems in this book just doesn't change much from poem to poem. The poems themselves are neither clever or emotionally resonant enough to be memorable or worth ever reading again. Overall, I think the poems in this book would make a fine accompaniment to the artwork of Thomas Kinkade.

Sorry KC.

Mahmoud Darwish dies

I listened to a story on NPR about Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish who died yesterday. I had not heard of him before, but the more I read, it became clear that his poetry touched many people, which is the greatest thing any poet can hope for, I think. I can't name a single poet in the United States whose death would inspire such mourning let alone interrupt regularly scheduled television programming.

Regardless of one's politics and opinions, there is great value in looking at the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis by reading poets such as Darwish and Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai. Perhaps it is the medium that strips the issue down to bone. The result is not exactly harmony, but the poems of both of these men expose a shared humanity, something that is sorely lacking in the news coverage and commentary through which the majority of us experience this conflict, if we choose to pay attention at all.

Poetry is, after all, about paying attention. Whether or not you agree with Darwish, he definitely embodied that.

Two of Darwish's poems are available to read at

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Adam "Dance Pants" Boehmer

It's moving time in Ann Arbor, or at least the beginning of it. Folks are moving in or out all over the place in anticipation for the new school year. One thing this moving frenzy brings about is a proliferation of free stuff often left right next to the sidewalk. It's like a garage sale only there's no garage, there's nothing for sale, and there isn't anyone sitting in a lawn chair watching you look over their castaways.

While in Ann Arbor yesterday helping my friend Jane move from one flat to another I happened upon a selection of free items right across from her old house. There was a man standing there, slender in jeans and a blue t-shirt holding a retro painting of an owl. I strolled over and complemented him on his find. He turned to me and said thank you. We may have said something more about owls. Then he said, "I think I know you. Is your name D'Anne?" He told me his name was Adam Boehmer and said he and I both were in a workshop with Mary Jo Firth Gillett through Metro Detroit Writers several years ago. I did not recognize him at all. He was wearing sunglasses and had an ample beard, but even after he took the glasses off I was still drawing a blank. Then he told me that not only have we met before, but that he and I were both in the 2005 issue of Gertrude. I had no recollection of this, either. Then Jane came over to the discard pile and it turned out that Adam and Jane were friends and that Adam is friends with Megan Levad and other people I know and like in Ann Arbor.

As promised I went home and looked him up in that issue of Gertrude and his stuff is really good. The University of Michigan MFA program needs to snatch him up right quick.
The Race
They gallop
around the corner,
naked torsos showing first fuzz,
some more than others.

Mouths agape,
they inhale the same air I do,
rapacious, relishing the windy race.

And at first,
I look, but al I allowed to look?
I am, to them, an old man.

But these labrador boys keep panting,
eyes saying, go on.

Somewhere, their mothers pray against me.
And sometimes, I do too.

(Adam K Boehmer, from the 2005 issue of Gertrude.)

Oh, he also won the 2008 Current poetry contest.

And he's quite the dancer.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Zilka's in the Metro Times!

Congrats to my friend and fellow UofM MFAer Zilka Joseph for getting some major ink in this week's Metro Times. While you can read the piece, which focuses on her recent trip to India to read from her chapbook Lands I Live In (2007 Mayapple Press), online, I suggest you pick up a print copy if you can. The story takes up an entire page and includes three images, all in color. As a former managing editor for a weekly newspaper, I can tell you that color isn't cheap and those pages are usually reserved for prime content. So bravo, Zilka!

There's also this interview with Zilka on that appeared last year.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Mark your calendars: poetry haps in Detroit

Some cool things worth seeing/hearing coming up in my neck of the woods:

Sept. 4, 2008: Detroit Tonight Live with M.L. Liebler at The Jazz Cafe. Open mic 7-8 p.m. followed by my good friend Mary Jo Firth Gillett, Oakland University's Poet In Residence and professor of my very first college English class Edward Haworth Hoeppner, and Detroit poet francine j. harris who had a couple of awesome poems in the McSweeney's Book of Poets Picking Poets (McSweeney's Books, 2007), my favorite poetry anthology ever. The Jazz Cafe is at The Music Hall for Performing Arts: 350 Madison in Detroit (48226). Phone number: 313-887-8501.

Oct. 18, 2008: Ferndale Arts/Coffee Beanery Poetry Series. Come out and see my friend Liz Volpe as well as poets Diane DeCillis, Carol Was and Christine Rhein. The Coffee Beanery is in Berkley at 28557 Woodward Ave, 2 blocks south of 12 Mile.