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 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.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Emily Dickinson Gone Wild

New details have emerged about Emily Dickinson that suggest she might have led a much less tame -- though perhaps no less sad -- life than believed.

"Dickinson did not have to wait until her dotage to experience some of the pleasures of ordinary romantic companionship," Christopher Benfey writes in an Oct. 9, 2008 piece published on

Also turns out that Dickinson's father was, well, kind of a dick.

Benfey writes, "It turns out that Emily Dickinson had the kind of early romantic entanglement and disappointment that so many young people have. They find someone congenial; they exchange gifts and promises; their parents intervene for various acknowledged and unacknowledged reasons. If such ordinariness seems somehow beneath the dignity of one of our supreme poets, that's probably why even this latest challenge to the image of isolated Emily has gotten so little attention. Alas, there's nothing mysterious or mystical here except what Emily Dickinson made, in her extraordinary poems, of her all-too-human disappointment."

And so, in order to stay with the spirit of things, here's a sexy-time poem by Dickinson:
Wild Nights – Wild Nights! (249)

Wild Nights – Wild Nights!
Were I with thee
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile – the winds –
To a heart in port –
Done with the compass –
Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden –
Ah, the sea!
Might I moor – Tonight –
In thee!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Raising the roof for Roethke

What do Laura Kasischke, Keith Taylor, Thomas Lynch, and Camille Paglia have in common? Well, on Friday, October 17, they'll all be raising the roof for University of Michigan alumnus and Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Theodore Roethke. Holla!

In the spirit of the campaign season, here's a poem by Roethke from the 1940's in which he describes the bunker Dick Cheney would take refuge in nearly 60 years later.

Root Cellar

Nothing would sleep in that cellar, dank as a ditch,
Bulbs broke out of boxes hunting for chinks in the dark,
Shoots dangled and drooped,
Lolling obscenely from mildewed crates,
Hung down long yellow evil necks, like tropical snakes.
And what a congress of stinks!—
Roots ripe as old bait,
Pulpy stems, rank, silo-rich,
Leaf-mold, manure, lime, piled against slippery planks.
Nothing would give up life:
Even the dirt kept breathing a small breath.

(Theodore Roethke, from Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke, 1961).

Friday, October 10, 2008

Babies for Obama

Thank you to Danielle Lazarin for bringing Yes We Can (Hold Babies) to my attention. The site calls itself "the international source for pictures of Obama holding babies," including this picture of Obama and a baby wearing a monkey back pack. Awwww.

So cute your teeth will ache, but in a hopeful way.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Billy Collins is all in your face, again

Billy Collins is oft-maligned by younger hipper poets (like, you know, my friends) for his "celebrity" status in the poetry world (and I say that knowing there is no such thing). While I agree that Collins can get nearly anything he writes published, good or no, on name alone these days, I think much of the derision aimed at him is misguided. He is not a great poet, true, but he's a good poet - solidly good. And if that means we see a little too much of his name splashed about, well, too bad.

And what do you know? Here he is in the New York Times. Janet Maslin takes a look at his latest collection of poems, Ballistics. "Accuse Billy Collins of fanciful charm if you must, but never say that he fails to give reality its due," she says.

A fair assesment, I think.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Teasing young minds and pleasing young ears

Poetry Foundation President John Barr said her works "tease young minds even as they please young ears with rhythm and rhyme."

No, he's not talking about Britney Spears. He's talking about Mary Ann Hoberman, who became the Foundation's new children's poet laureate yesterday at an event in Chicago.

At that same shin-dig, Albert Goldbarth was named the winner of the Mark Twain Poetry Award for humor in verse. I saw Goldbarth read two years ago and I have to say he must have been holding back the funny. I don't remember much about the reading, though I do remember he talked a lot and I thought it would never end. Not that I'm judging him.

I'm not familar with Hoberman's work, but I like the way this lady talks. She told the Chicago Tribune that part of her mission as laureate will be to push poetry to middle schoolers. "Poetry gets cut off. It isn't cool after, say, 2nd or 3rd grade," she said. "But when you recite to the older kids and you get them to recite with you, they love it."

She added, "Poetry is pleasure. I don't like it when a four-line poem of mine is in a teacher's manual, and there are three pages on how to use it across the curriculum and it's analyzed to death. That's not what poetry is for. It's for joy. That's what I hope to convey."

Here's a cool haiku by Hoberman from her Website:

The thick black pythons
Are braided tight together.
How do they untwine?

Hey Monkey, get me a beer...

Monkey waiters in Japan: cute or cruel? Well, cute, definitely. But potentially cruel if the monkeys aren't treated well in between their two hour shifts. I also wonder how the whole thing passes muster with the health department.

Thanks to Meghan Sitar for bringing this important matter to my attention. She came upon it via BuzzFeed.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Carl Oxley at the DIA Oct. 18

Carl Oxley, the man behind the monkey at, is doing a painting demonstration at the Detroit Institute of Arts on Saturday, Oct. 18, 2008 from 1pm-5pm in the Prentis court, which is on the first level. It's a good excuse to get yourself to the DIA (not that you need one). You going?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Monkey parol

It you happen to be in northern India hanging around the subway and spot a freakishly man-sized monkey skulking about, don't worry. It's just a dude in a costume hired to scare real monkeys off of the trains.

See? Totally normal.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Monkey 12 Step (no, this is not a dance)

My favorite part of this video is when the monkeys grab Solo cups of alcohol and dash away without spilling any of it. If that doesn't prove that Darwin was right, well, I don't think anything will.

Thank you to the eagle-eyed Sheera Talpaz for sending me this video. This originally aired on Animal Planet but I don't know when.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Jennifer Metsker: pretty rad? Yes.

Props to Jennifer Metsker for being chosen as a finalist in the Cut Bank's Patricia Goedicke Prize in Poetry (the lovely Karyna McGlynn was also a finalist. UofM, holla!).

I work with Jennifer (Ms. Metsker if you're nasty) at the Sweetland Writing Center at UofM which gives me frequent opportunities to corner her in her office and force her to talk to me. She's pretty rad.

Someday I will get her to show me more of her work. In the meantime I, and you, will have to settle for her poem "Poltergeist" which was published in the Autumn 2007 issue of The Southern Review and featured on Verse Daily last year.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Sarah Palin: maverick poet (kind of)

I suppose it was only a matter of time before Hart Seely took the incredible things that come out of Sarah Palin's mouth and turned that prose into verse, much like he did for Donald Rumsfeld five years ago. So enjoy "The Poetry of Sarah Palin," perfectly timed with the VP debate.

Here's my favorite:
On Good and Evil

It is obvious to me
Who the good guys are in this one
And who the bad guys are.
The bad guys are the ones
Who say Israel is a stinking corpse,
And should be wiped off
The face of the earth.

That's not a good guy.

(Sarah Palin to K. Couric, CBS News, Sept. 25, 2008)

And here's a Rumsfeld one for old time's sake:

The Unknown

As we know,
There are known knowns.
There are things we know we know.
We also know
There are known unknowns.
That is to say
We know there are some things
We do not know.
But there are also unknown unknowns,
The ones we don't know
We don't know.

(Donald Rumsfeld, Feb. 12, 2002, Department of Defense news briefing)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Adam Theriault is blowing my mind

What? A combination of poetry, visual art and sad bastard music? I am so there.

I know that writing, "Holy shit, go listen to this now," is kind of lazy, but, holy shit, go listen to this now!

Shock the Monkey

The Argyle Sweater by Scott Hilburn from Sept. 26, 2008

This is so, so wrong.