Thursday, December 31, 2009

"The Simple Truth" by Philip Levine

I received several books of poetry for Christmas, one of which was The Simple Truth by Philip Levine, given to me by the wonderful Amanda Carver. I think the title poem is a great way to tie up this year. You can find it on Despite the site's name, it really is the actual poem and it really is by Levine. If, for some reason, you don't "get" the poem, would be happy to take 20 bucks from you to explain it. And if you need that, God help you. Just ask me. I'll do it for five.

Happy New Year!

Relationship advice from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, kind of

Dear Prudence uses poetry in her response to "Flowerless" in today's column.
Dear Prudie,
I am a 32-year-old single mother of a teenager who has been dating a great guy for the past year. He is my age and has no kids. Most of my relationships haven't lasted more than a few months. This guy is perfect in many respects. He constantly tells me he loves me, gets along with my son, helps me around my house, plans his weekends to include me, and has introduced me to his family. The problem is that in the past year he has never bought me flowers. I know it may seem petty, but it's something I think shows a woman that a man was thinking about her throughout the day and that he appreciates her. I have mentioned to him how much this bothers me, but it doesn't seem to change. Should I be concerned?

Dear Flowerless,
Elizabeth Barrett Browning understood how you feel. In her exquisite "Sonnet 44," which begins, "Belovèd, thou hast brought me many flowers," the poet writes of how the blossoms from her lover have taken root in her own soul. However, reviewing your situation, here is the first line of my sonnet to you: "Flowerless, thou art out of thy blooming mind." You were a teenage mother who has been alone nearly the entirety of your son's life. Now, you have someone who loves you, takes care of you and your son, and offers you the possibility of building a life together—and you're hectoring him because he doesn't conform to some horticultural cliché you've invested with disproportionate meaning. My sonnet for you ends thusly: "Forget the flowers, lest ye be boyfriendless."

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dear Mr. Heron please bring back the monkey

My cool Austin friends (is there any other kind of Austin friend?) got my son a Will Heron t-shirt for Christmas. It has a goat on it. I'd never heard of Heron before so I looked him up on the Internets and found he has a lot of cool shirts. He designs and hand prints all of them himself. I am sad to report that his monkey shirt is out of print.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Karyna McGlynn is not a murderer or a sex pervert

Not that I know of anyway.

I just finished reading I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl, Karyna McGlynn's award-winning first book of poems. I read part of it while listening to "Bachianas Brasilerias No. 5" and I must say, that felt very appropriate.

I was in workshop with Karyna during our UofM MFA days. She was pretty intimidating at first. It was her brilliance, really. And the fact that no one wears sunglasses better than Karyna. No one. But then one night at a reading while giving me a hug she spilled red wine down my back, staining my underwear. Thank God my wife was there or she'd never have believed the story. In any case, Karyna and I will always have that. Among other things.

There's a violence to the poems in this book. A sexy violence at times, a "show me on the doll where he touched you" kind at others. There's this constant feeling of "something is going to happen," and you can't look away. Like seeing a penis for the first time, whether it's your boyfriend or some pervert in the library flashing you through the stacks. The entire collection has this low-voltage electricity running through it. Not enough to kill you, but enough to make your hair stand up and rattle the fillings in your teeth.

Karyna is widely published, so there are plenty of her poems online to read. One of my favorite poems from I Have to Go Back to 1994 and Kill a Girl, "Erin with the Feathered Hair," is on Sarabande's Web site. You should read it. And then you should buy her book. And then you should read that. What you do after that is up to you, just know you won't quite be the same.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Going ape for hoots

Regretsy brings us another horrifying monkey today.

I really do not want to know about the personal life of anyone who would buy this. Or paint it. Or announce to the world that he painted it by offering it for sale.

Also, I am really glad this isn't the primate I got for Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, Regretsy featured some pretty awesome Santa poetry on the 23rd.

30 Rock monkey PSA

I've been catching up on 30 Rock on DVD and just watched "The Natural Order" episode in which Tracy Jordan is temporarily replaced by a monkey who is then adopted by Jenna. I realize that 30 Rock is a comedy, but this particular episode imparts some very serious lessons, the main one being: if you dress a gibbon up in a sailor costume and decapitate his fake baby, he will try to mate with your face.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"[Black] monkey, that [hand sewn monkey]..."

This is a "LARGe Hand Sewn Original cashmere BLACK monkey" available for you to buy with 85 cash dollars on Etsy. To me, wearing a cashmere sweater has always felt like wearing a sweater made out of cat hair (I'm allergic to cats). So I guess, by extension, this is a monkey made out of cat hair. No wonder he is so sad.

Another scary primate doll brought to you via Regretsy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I want a chimp for Christmas

Anyone with a $75 budget doing last minute shopping can get me Petit Prince for Christmas. Or, rather, you can get me -- or anyone -- a Chimp Guardianship from the Jane Goodall Institute. Considering The Little Prince is one of my favorite books ever, I'm pretty sure this was meant to be.

UPDATE: My wonderful wife did, in fact, purchase a Chimp Guardianship for Mr. Petit Prince for Christmas. :) Hooray!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Al Gore Earth poetry

Not satisfied to rest on the laurels of his Academy Award-winning documentary film, Al Gore sought to expand his reach with something a little more traditional: a poem. Included in his new book Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, the poem is untitled in an effort to appeal to undergrads in creative writing classes who ardently defend their choice to title their poems with "Untitled" because they think the poem is somehow deeper that way. Then again, after reading Gore's poem, the only titles that come to mind are things like, "Holy Shit We Are Doomed" and "Welcome to Your Melted Glacier Future," which really don't fit the tone. In all seriousness, though, the poem isn't all that bad. Certainly not as bad as the folks in the Wonkette comment gallery think it is. Judge for yourself:
One thin September soon
A floating continent disappears
In midnight sun

Vapors rise as
Fever settles on an acid sea
Neptune's bones dissolve

Snow glides from the mountain
Ice fathers floods for a season
A hard rain comes quickly

Then dirt is parched
Kindling is placed in the forest
For the lightning's celebration

Unknown creatures
Take their leave, unmourned
Horsemen ready their stirrups

Passion seeks heroes and friends
The bell of the city
On the hill is rung

The shepherd cries
The hour of choosing has arrived
Here are your tools

(Al Gore, from Our Choice: A Plan to Solve the Climate Crisis, Rodale Books 2009)

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

"Slippery Place" by Sheera Talpaz

My good friend Sheera Talpaz has a poem up at The Collagist. It's called "Slippery Place." It has nothing to do with Bon Jovi. Still, it's very good. Eventually Sheera will write the great hair metal poem. Unless I beat her to it. The race to the bottom is on.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gorilla Cox

I'm not sure why, but in politics it somehow seems like everything leads back to dead strippers. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration, but when it comes to Michigan Attorney Mike Cox, that's exactly what his name conjures up at the moment. It's a long story, but it involves former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a party that may or may not have happened at the Mayor's house, and Tamara "Strawberry" Greene, a stripper at the party that may or may not have happened, who is now dead.

Strawberry's family has filed a lawsuit. On Friday Mike Cox, who is a complete and total asshole, was deposed. According to the Detroit News, things didn't go well. Norman Yatooma, the lawyer for the family, basically said that Cox is acting like his middle name is Smooth Deposition Man (a.k.a. Complete and Total Asshole).

"He'll be beating his chest, much like a man at the zoo outside the gorilla cage where he's protected by the shatter-proof glass," Yatooma said.

Cox, who as Attorney General has taken every chance to make life harder for gay people, is hoping to be Michigan's next Governor. Though I'd like to think that somehow this Strawberry lawsuit will undo him, I really doubt it. Michigan would be much better off with an actual gorilla at the helm.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Because poetry just flies off the shelves...

From Harper's Index: "Number of copies a book of poems must sell per week to make the Poetry Foundation’s bestseller list: 50."

Should we look at that number as sobering, or attainable? The glass is half full of poetry. Take a swig.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

David Wojahn's "Talismanic"

"Talismanic," an awesome poem by David Wojahn, is up at Poetry Daily today. The poem uses lyrics by the Talking Heads. And very well, I might add! It was originally published in the Autumn 2009 issue of The Southern Review.

Thanks, Christine Rhein, for the tip!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

When the Poet in Black Comes Around

A friend of mine, who is also a poet, posted the following as her Facebook status: "I was listening to 'Don't Take Your Guns to Town,' and I'd never thought about it, but I think the lyrics are maybe the best poem I've ever listened to."

My son and I were dancing around to Johnny Cash earlier today, in fact, and I was thinking about how gosh darn good he is. Sadly I don't have "Don't Take Your Guns to Town," but you can listen to it below. Angie says "it's the perfect ellipses that all poems are striving for." Perhaps, though I can say for sure, I've read a lot of poems in my life, and Johnny Cash is better than a hell of a lot of them.

"Reading Poems" by Married to the Sea

Friday, December 4, 2009

More Tiger Woods poetry

I guess I'm not the only person who has linked the Tiger Woods saga and poetry. Joe Posnanski went as far as writing out Tiger's now infamous voice mail message to his mistress in verse.

Added bonus: Posnanski's post contains a Trina Dolenz reference, ex-wife of Mickey Dolenz from The Monkees.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

William Blake and Tiger Woods: a psychic connection

One minute I'm making an offhanded joke on Facebook about poetry and the craziness that is the life of Tiger Woods these past few days, and the next minute I'm reading William Blake and thinking he was seeing into the Magic Golf Ball of a certain Tiger's future. Read Blake's "The Tiger" as if it's about Tiger Woodsgate and just try to tell me it's not true.
489. The Tiger

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?

In what distant deeps or skies
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand dare seize the fire?

And what shoulder and what art
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand and what dread feet?

What the hammer? what the chain?
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? What dread grasp
Dare its deadly terrors clasp?

When the stars threw down their spears,
And water'd heaven with their tears,
Did He smile His work to see?
Did He who made the lamb make thee?

Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

(William Blake. 1757–1827)

A slice of The Awl for poetry

There are two new poems by Matthew Zapruder today in The Awl's The Poetry Section.

On November 24, The Poetry Section featured three new poems by Monica Youn.

November 30 featured three poems by Jennifer L. Knox, whose book, A Gringo Like Me, I once owned but then someone -- my wife? My sister? A friend? I can't remember -- picked it up and started randomly reading things out of it and there was some poem about asses, I think -- putting things in, maybe? Rubbing upon? Again, it's all a haze -- and made fun of me so relentlessly that I sold the book on Amazon without ever reading it. A mistake? I don't know, honestly. A lot of the stuff I've read by her so far (including the poems I'd read that convinced me to get A Gringo Like Me in the first place) I like or am at least interested in. She certainly doesn't write boring poems, that's for sure.

The Poetry Section is a new endeavor. It started November 19 with a poem by Joshua Bell with the following announcement: "The Poetry Section will publish new work by poets twice a week. The section is edited by Mark Bibbins, who teaches in New York City at The New School and who also has a new book out, if you're so inclined. (It's good!)"

After reading the handful of poems from his book (titled The Dance of No Hard Feelings, which is a pretty awesome title if you think about it, and even if you don't), I agree with The Awl. Granted, those could be the only good poems in the book and the rest of the book could be rhyming poems about suicide, but I somehow doubt it considering the good taste in poetry he's exhibited thus far.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The writing on the wall in an Iranian prison

is apparently poetry. Or some of it is, at least.

Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari accounts of his "118 Days, 12 Hours, 54 Minutes" in Iran's Evin prison after he was accused of and arrested for "being a spy for the CIA, MI6, Mossad, and Newsweek."
"My 20-square-foot cell was like a tomb," he writes. "The walls were made of faux marble. They were off-white, and the texture of the stone reminded me of an old man's pale, transparent skin. You could see grayish-blue veins. The walls were clean, even spotless, except for some defiant aphorisms and Persian poetry in small, crabbed handwriting. Three sentences were written larger than others: 'My God, have mercy on me,' 'My God, I repent,' and 'Please help me, God.'"

Monkey and Poetry Convergence: Baby Einstein edition

Tonight my wife read our son a poem out of the lamely titled Pretty Poems and Wonderful Words by Baby Einstein. It contains a bunch of poems for kids along side pictures full of lift the flap words. It's not a bad book, though I'm sure the flaps will all be torn off and eaten eventually. Okay, hopefully not eaten. On the front of the book a bunch of animals share a bed and a monkey is right there in the center. I'm pretty sure I've seen a similar sleeping arrangement in the wild on the Discovery Channel. Anyway, I bought this book from the clearance shelf at Border's and obviously expect it to turn my child into a genius. Otherwise I'm going to sue.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Baboon raiders of the unlocked car

If you're planning on cruising through Cape Town any time soon, you might want to keep your car windows up and your doors locked. Especially if you plan eating a sandwich behind the wheel. Safety first.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Suzanne Buffam: good poems, nice countertops

Not only is today the day before Thanksgiving (and two days before Black Friday, the day shoppers are most likely to get trampled to death at Wal-Mart), but it's also the day I first read poems by Suzanne Buffam. Mark it on your calendar! Or hit the interwebs and go read some of her poems yourself.

For your reading pleasure are "Ruined Interior" from the November/December 2008 issue of the Boston Review, "Trans Neptunian Object" from issue 8 of A Public Space, and "Please Take Back the Sparrows" which appeared on Verse Daily in 2006.

There are probably more online, but I don't have time to live your life for you. If you want to read more, buy her book Past Imperfect, which was published in 2005 by House of Anansi Press. And then, in 2010 (not that far away!), buy The Irrationalist, which will be published by Canarium Press. I will be first in line. Okay, probably there will be no line. But I'm looking forward to getting both of Buffram's books, even if I am kind of jealous and a little baffled that a poet has such nice countertops (this is not a euphemism. Look at the picture!).

Thank you to the lovely and talented Nami Mun for pointing me in Suzanne Buffam's direction today via Facebook.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Chimp Muppet Rhapsody

Chimp puppet, er, Muppet at 3:48 alongside what appears to be a seasick John Kerry Muppet.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Monkey and Poetry Convergence: Chet Phillips edition

Monkeys and poetry once again collide at the Etsy shop of illustrator Chet Phillips. Not only can you buy prints from the "Literary Pets" series, including "William Shakespaw," "Henry Wagsworth Longfellow" and "Edgar Allan Pug," but he also has dozens of monkeys to choose from, most of which are dressed in some kind of military garb and have names like "Gen. Sir A. Persnicketybritches" and "Gen. Leonid Fleapickinoff." He also has an entire collection of Steampunk monkeys. Because, you know, steampunk and monkeys. An obvious combination.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


So Boing Boing had an iPhone disappointment haiku contest, apparently a million years ago (a.k.a. August). And somebody won. Who said there's nothing to be gained from poetry?

Here's the winning poem:
Winter In Akron
Loved one calling for romance
Off faster, damned gloves!

Thanks, Laura for the tip.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Buff monkeys

Hey scientists: if you keep making them stronger they'll eventually take over the world. You know that, right? And something tells me they're going to be pretty pissed at you guys in particular. I'm just saying. There's not a banana in the world big enough. Unless you're working on that, too.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Walking the chimp walk, talking the chimp talk

One minute scientists are studying speech disorders in humans, the next minute they're "comparing how a gene critical for language works in humans and chimpanzees" and trying to unravel the mystery of language.

So without primates there'd be no words. And without words there'd be no poetry. So next time you read a good poem, thank your local monkey.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Snakes on a Poem

Filmmaker Andreas Mendritzki scored $10,000 for a short film he made using the poem "Fear of Snakes" by Lorna Crozier. The prize came from the The Poetry Foundation (who else has money these days?) and Facets Multi-Media. There are a couple stills from the film alongside a story in The Observer. I have no idea how or where one can see the film, but you can read the poem below.
Fear of Snakes

The snake can separate itself
from its shadow, move on ribbons of light,
taste the air, the morning and the evening,
the darkness at the heart of things. I remember
when my fear of snakes left for good,
it fell behind me like an old skin. In Swift Current
the boys found a huge snake and chased me
down the alleys, Larry Moen carrying it like a green torch,
the others yelling, Drop it down her back, my terror
of it sliding in the runnell of my spine (Larry,
the one who touched the inside of my legs on the swing,
an older boy we knew we shouldn't get close to
with our little dresses, our soft skin), my brother
saying Let her go, and I crouched behind the caraganas,
watched Larry nail the snake to a telephone pole.
It twisted on twin points of light, unable to crawl
out of its pain, its mouth opening, the red
tongue tasting its own terror, I loved it then,
that snake. The boys standing there with their stupid hands
dangling from their wrists, the beautiful green
mouth opening, a terrible dark O
no one could hear.

(Lorna Crozier, from Everything Arrives at the Light, 1995 McClelland & Stewart)

A fine book by Mistry

I finished Rohinton Mistry's A Fine Balance today. Monkeys are mentioned. Poetry, too. Neither is a large part of the story (though monkeys play a larger role than poetry). If you haven't read this book yet, you should do so. It's really one of the best works of fiction I've ever read. If you're one of those people who roll their eyes whenever they see an Oprah's Book Club sticker, get over yourself. Seriously.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Jane Goodall on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart

Jane Goodall was the guest on The Daily Show With Jon Stewart last night. Needless to say, chimps were discussed.

"The full range of chimp emotions is the same as ours," Goodall told Stewart. "It's exactly the same. They have a dark side, they have a bright side. I've worked with chimpanzees in the wild for nearly 50 years. They don't bite off our faces. They're not meant to be in homes. They're wild animals."

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Jane Goodall
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorHealth Care Crisis

More information, including info about Goodall's Roots & Shoots program, can be found at

Oh, and if you're wondering what to get me for Christmas this year, this is it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lil Wayne documentary preview

in which Lil Wayne says something largely inaudible about poetry.

Seriously, put the cough syrup down.

Via Videogum.

The Onion: "Man Dies After Secret 4-Year Battle With Gorilla"

"Although [David] Seaborne never let on to friends or coworkers that he was desperately fighting for his life with a violent primate, many suspected that something was wrong."
Poor guy never had a chance.

Monday, November 9, 2009

"Terrible Poetry Jokes" by Peter LaVelle

"A man, a woman, and a blackbird walk into a bar. 'Table for one, please,' they say."
This joke and more are yours for the taking at McSweeney's Internet Tendency. Try them out at your next workshop or poetry reading. Sure to be a huge hit. Except for the whole "terrible" thing.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Friday, November 6, 2009

Kirby on Gerstler in The New York Times

Poet David Kirby reviews Amy Gerstler's new book of poems Dearest Creature in The New York Times.

The review begins: "Look, a poem either sends you a bill or writes you a check."

It ends: "Dearest Creature is an A.T.M. — the letters standing, in this case, for 'artistic thrill machine.' In Amy Gerstler I trust."

There. I just saved you some time. Now go read some poetry (I hear Amy Gerstler is pretty good).

The performance poetry of Suzanne Somers

Kristen Wiig reads the poetry of Suzanne Somers. (Via Videogum.)

Of course, Garfunkel and Oates did this first.

Video game wagon

Q: Do I want to play video games on my computer?
A: Not really.
Q: What if the video game was based on the music of REO Speedwagon?
A: That would change my answer to a maybe.
Q: What if that game used primarily very recent REO Speedwagon songs?
A: Please see my original answer.

But hey, I'm not the target audience for Find Your Own Way Home, the new REO Speedwagon video game.

Here's how the game's distributor describes it:
"In Find Your Own Way Home, the player takes the role of Ruby, a hip Hollywood reporter for the entertainment television program, Entertainment Now. For the past few weeks, Ruby has been on assignment with the legendary rock band, REO Speedwagon. On the day the game takes place, the band is releasing their new CD at a star-studded album release party. Ruby is on assignment for Entertainment Now, and as her busy day is unfolding, as she prepares for the nightly broadcast and launch party, Kevin Cronin, the band’s leader, goes missing. The player has the chance to be the hero by tracking down clues to locate the missing star, and getting everyone to the party on time."
Okay, first of all, who does Ruby work for? Why would any TV program that's not being made in the 1970s or 80s want several weeks worth of REO Speedwagon footage? As for the "star-studded album release party," I suspect the "stars" are likely of the Bruce Hall, Neal Doughty, Dave Amato and Bryan Hitt variety. Also, did you know Kevin Cronin's name? You did not know Kevin Cronin's name. Also, can you tell from looking at a picture of him that Kevin Cronin is not, in fact, an old lesbian? You cannot tell from looking at a picture of him that Kevin Cronin is not, in fact, an old lesbian.

I discovered this amazing game via Slog. Here's what The Stranger Testing Department (a.k.a. Rob Lightner and Paul Hughes) has to say about it: "Make no mistake: People will pay money for this. Find Your Own Way Home is like a poem about a dead pet waiting for you just outside Heaven—it means something to someone, even if what it means is stupid."

And you can't fight that feeling.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Parry Gripp: monkey burrito man

I know I haven't posted in a while, but this should more than make up for it.

First, watch this, which I came across via Videogum:

Then, visit Parry Gripp's Web site, where you'll find the original song (for your listening or downloading pleasure), as well as classic songs like "Chimpanzee Riding A Segway" and "You're a Monkey" and "Up Butt Coconut," which isn't about monkeys, but features monkeys in the artwork (which is done by Nathan Mazur).

Here's the video for "Chimpanzee Riding A Segway."

More videos on Parry Gripp's YouTube channel (or channels, I should say).

And YOU are welcome.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nami Mun is a winner

The 2009 Whiting Awards have been announced, which means a bunch of poets and writers got $50,000, a prize that basically drops into their laps from heaven.

Most exciting is that my friend Nami Mun is one of the recipients. Her novel Miles from Nowhere was hands down the best novel I've read this year. I am very proud. If you haven't read her book already, you're doing yourself a disservice.

Poets who snagged an award: Jericho Brown, Jay Hopler, and Joan Kane. I am not familiar with any of the work, but extend my congratulations anyway, as I always like when good things happen to poets.

Chimp grief

Xeni Jarden posted this National Geographic photo on Boing Boing as proof that chimps grieve. I'm already a believer, but this helps reinforce that.

I think some of the comments on Boing Boing are quite funny ("I too would like to be pushed past my mourners in a wheelbarrow" and, "Grief, or animal curiosity? Don't anthropomorphise these creatures, they hate that"), but some are quite callous, and also very telling, I think. Perhaps chimps have more heart than humans.

The full story behind the photo is on the National Geographic blog.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Ain't no homage like a pumpkin homage...

No doubt William S. Burroughs would be touched.

Via Boing Boing.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The acrostic poetry of Arnold Schwarzenegger

It's hard to write an acrostic poem that doesn't sound forced. After all, the goal of an acrostic poem is to spell something out with the first letter of each line, which means the poet sometimes has to stretch things a bit and use language that ends up sounding a little off.

Arnold Schwarzenegger's little acrostic contained in a veto letter to lawmakers is no exception. Each line is arranged in order to spell out the oh, so subtle "Fuck you."


Read the whole story at the Huffington Post.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

"Band" rhymes with many things but cool is not one of them

If only all local commercials were like this.

You can nominate your favorite local business for the chance to get these guys to make a commercial for them. Rhett and Link explain it all in a video on their web site. And, proving that poetry and monkeys are forever converged, Link is wearing a Planet of the Apes shirt in the video.

Via Videogum.

Monday, October 26, 2009

C'mon ride the train, and ride it...

I'm not exactly a Precious Moments connoisseur, so I never knew they made anything other than those creepy tear drop-eyed children with the Bible quotes inscribed on them. But apparently they do.

Behold the wonder that is the Precious Moments Birthday Train. From birth all the way up until age 16, you can buy that special child in your life something they'll eventually have to dust.

Number 15 is a gorilla.

Because I can't think of anything a 15-year-old would like more than an addition to the Precious Moments Birthday Train their grandma started for them before they were even conscious and that they were probably forbidden to play with until, oh, now, at which point they'd rather be sexting their friends.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Retro ed videos proof of evolution

Now out on DVD: How To Be A Man, a collection of short educational and instructional videos from the 1940s through the 1970s.

As John Thompson writes in Metro Times, "Looking at these shorts, it's quite obvious men developed from primates."

There's also one for the ladies.

Now go buy them for me, please.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Heath care costs, 19th century German poetry, and you

This American Life's "More Is Less," an episode on America's health care system and its rising costs, features 19th century German poetry. Really. (It's a small part, granted, but it's a part).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pond scum for brains

A confluence of events today. As I walked through the diag at the University of Michigan on my way to teach my class, I passed by a small anti-animal testing protest which consisted of a few students, a dog crate that some guy was trying to squeeze into, and a poster with a monkey on it. A student handed me a flyer which I accepted but, admittedly, did not read.

At the same time, all three of my classes were turning in their rough drafts today. Rhetorical analysis. Fun stuff (actually, I really think that. It's an essential skill for any literate person). For their essay they were to choose from three Frontline documentaries, including one called My Father, My Brother and Me, which is about Parkinson's disease and includes a scene of monkeys in a lab of researchers trying to find a cure.

And then I get home and read in Wired about optigenetics, a type of gene therapy using algae and light, that shows promise for treating Parkinson's. In the article, researches do testing on rhesus monkeys.

I am, in principle, against animal testing. I love animals. I don't eat them. I hate to see them harmed. I am part of the anti-cruelty set. But, man, I am also super against Parkinson's. And if a cure can come from all of this, let's just say I'm not going to crawl into a dog cage over it.

Monday, October 19, 2009

"Craft" and "crap" share a lot of the same letters

I haven't laughed this hard in a long time. I'm talking laugh so hard you almost start crying and for a second think you might throw up and then wonder whether or not you're actually laughing or having a psychotic episode. Regretsy is a compilation of terrible handmade goods and art offered for sale on alongside hilarious commentary. Keep in mind, I like Etsy very much, but I am in love with Regretsy.

And what do you know, I found poetry and monkeys. There's the Michael Jackson sock monkey, blue jeans with verse written on the inside so you're never without reading material in the john, and a couple of other items that reference poetry in the commentary.

Searching for other monkey and poetry related Etsy tragedies to submit to Regretsy should keep me busy for quite awhile.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chick or treat

Well I know what I'm handing out to Trick-or-Treaters this Halloween. Nothing says, "Happy Halloween" like Chick Bible tracts!

"Big Daddy?" is about how evolution isn't true and how anyone who believes in it is a condescending prick and all it takes is a little Biblical wisdom to dismantle scientific knowledge. And then your fellow college classmates ask you to help them get into Heaven. Happens all the time.

I remember getting these in my bag while trick-or-treating when I was a kid. They were the equivalent of getting pennies or Starlite mints. Worse than Smarties, even. But now I think they're kind of cool. They're like little fanatic artifacts. (In fact, I have the"One Way!" tract around my house somewhere. It's a strange story about personal hygiene and "God's love gift"). And I don't care if people give them out at Halloween. After all, if you're going door to door asking people to give you stuff, you can't really control what people give you (which is why the police station scans candy for razor blades).

On the Chick site (and they're called "Chick" tracts because the guy who writes and illustrates them is Jack Chick. Sorry, nothing to do with the ladies) there is a list of "Halloween Chick Tract Usage Ideas," many of which are funny in a sad way. For instance: "Leave Chick tracts at Costume shops." Yes, slip a few into the Naughty Nurse outfits or some packages of Sexy French Maid stockings.

They also suggest you "Hit the streets, shouting, 'Free comic books!' You'll be swarmed with requests." I think there should be more instructions with this suggestion. For example, are they saying to just do this on Halloween or every day? Should you wear a costume? What do you do when the swarm realizes you aren't actually handing out comic books? And "the streets" is a pretty broad term. Do they mean just your street? Maybe a busy street in a public place? Or maybe by "the streets" they mean somewhere rough, like the inner city. If so, how do you deal with panhandlers and crackheads who don't accept tract currency? I don't really feel like the Chick people thought this one through.

Of course, while it's easy to dismiss the tracts marketed to children as harmless propaganda, some of their tracts are really hateful, like the rabidly anti-gay "Doom Town" and "Sin City" or the anti-Muslim "Who Is Allah"?" (one of several tracts created just for black people), the anti-Jew pro-Israel "Somebody Angry?" and the anti-Catholic "Evil Eyes" and "The Death Cookie." The way Chick draws Jews and Arabs, with exaggerated facial features and ugly expressions, is an especially nice touch.

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Don't look now, there's a monkey on your [face]"

Step away from the face paint. This guy has dozens of these videos. About a half dozen are monkey related. I can't explain it. I guess it'd be best to just let the artist (his term) speak -- or, not speak, I guess -- for himself.

But wait, there's more! Monkey with Cymbals! Flying Monkey! Planet of the Apes! King Kong! Sea Monkeys!

And I assure you, the monkey-related ones are the least frightening.

Via Videogum.

Small Paul snow suit model

Hey Paul Frank, maybe we could get a sponsorship?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lethally inject first, ask questions later in Texas

Ever wonder if the justice system in this country has ever put an innocent man to death? After you read "Trial By Fire" by David Grann in The New Yorker you won't have to wonder any more.

Todd Willingham was sentenced to death for the supposed arson death of his three little girls. It turns out, he didn't do it, but junk science and egos made sure he was put to death any way.

While in prison he wrote poems (because poetry is the respite of the desperate)

"Willingham was held in isolation in a sixty-square-foot cell, twenty-three hours a day," Grann writes. "He tried to distract himself by drawing--'amateur stuff,' as he put it--and writing poems. In a poem about his children, he wrote, 'There is nothing more beautiful than you on this earth.' When [a friend] once suggested some possible revisions to his poems, he explained that he wrote them simply as expressions, however crude, of his feelings. 'So to me to cut them up and try to improve on them just for creative-writing purposes would be to destroy what I was doing to start with,' he said."

UPDATE: Is Texas Gov. Rick Perry trying to cover up the current investigation into Willingham's execution? It sure seems like it.

Monday, October 12, 2009

M.L. gets a B&N from P&W

Congratulations to Detroit poet and champion of Detroit poetry M.L. Liebler for winning a Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Award for 2010. The prize is sponsored by Poets & Writers.

"The honor is given to writers who've helped other writers and given back to the writing community," according to the Free Press.

As far as M.L.'s involvement and commitment to the writing community surrounding him, this is an understatement. Much deserved.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

National Ardipithecus Coming Out Day

The Discovery Channel is showing an Ardi special on Oct. 11, which is fitting since Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day. Ardi is stepping out of the closet to "represent" for evolution. Ardipithecus, holla!

Somebody TiVo this for me, for serious.

Nava EtShalom's "Nostalgia"

My friend Nava EtShalom's poem "Nostalgia" is up at AGNI online. Read it.

Drink your poetry hoots juice

Odwalla has a new juice "Superfood" out called Pink Poetry. Basically a bunch of red and pink fruits obliterated and crammed in a bottle for your guzzling needs. I bought a bottle because there was a coupon at Whole Foods and because I was thirsty. At first I was annoyed by the "girl power" marketing of this particular beverage. I mean, yes, I get it, the juice is "pink" and vaginas are pink and also only girls like poetry. Makes sense. But upon closer inspection, Pink Poetry is actually all about the hoots. Because every company must make one of their products pink in honor of breast cancer research. It's law.

As for the juice, well, Pink Poetry is okay. And Odwalla is donating $25,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. So at least they're putting their money where their pink is.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ann Arbor's first poetry cage match

On Wednesday, October 14, poet Linda Gregerson has put together a poetry reading to remember. Make sure you get to UofM's Rackham Amphitheatre (915 E. Washington Street) at 7 p.m. for front row seats to Ann Arbor's first ever Poetry Cage Match. It's like a poetry slam, only the slamming is not metaphorical. There will be verse! There will be blood! It's on!

Oh, wait. My bad. There is no cage match. The event on Wednesday is actually called Arts & Bodies: the Poetry and will consist "of contemporary poetry about humans' relationships with and reflections on our beautiful, perfect, weak, and fickle bodies, read by the authors."

The authors include the lovely and talented Megan Levad, the ever affable Keith Taylor, Gregerson herself, Thomas Lynch, Raymond McDaniel, Amy Carroll, Julie Ellison, Laurence Goldstein, Tung-Hui Hu, Susan Hutton, A. Van Jordan, Thylias Moss, Benjamin Paloff, Macklin Smith, and Gillian White.

Not a cage match, but still worth attending. Why didn't they ask me to market this thing?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

This bird will fly again

Apparently Twitter was down for a while today. Since Twitter doesn't impact my life at all -- I don't "tweet" nor do I follow any "tweeters" (sorry, Laura) -- I had no idea. But Seth Colter Walls, The Awl's "Assistant Chief Poetry Parodist," did. And it inspired him to write the poem "A Kaddish for Twitter." Go there and read it. Not to disparage his work, but I think the great Twitter has yet to be written. But it will come. And we will weep.

"For My Daughter, Inan" by Marie Howe

Here's a poem by Marie Howe for her daughter, Inan. I remember babysitting Inan when she was in Ann Arbor. Howe was teaching at UofM in the MFA program. I took Inan to the Hands-On Museum. She begged me to buy her toys in the gift shop. It was good practice for having my own kid. :)

I don't know where this poem is from. Dorianne Laux posted it to Facebook. It might be from Howe's latest book The Kingdom of Ordinary Time. Sadly I do not yet own it, though it was just released in paperback so I should go pick it up.

For My Daughter, Inan

When my K-turn hit the curb of Grosvenor Road,
and I circled the wide streets parallel parking
and failed the first test
and failed the second test.

Every car I ever climbed into—

When our father drove those winding mountain roads drunk
sliding and drifting around the curves,
and the little kids cried quietly in the backseat holding on to my hands,

In Tom Drexel's blue Chevy, learning how to kiss,

In the mad professor's Volkswagen stinking of pipe smoke
when he drove me to that cabin frightened and brought me back changed,

In the back of the old station wagon, bored and dreamy,
watching the moon follow,

In the blue skylark convertible with the white bucket seats,
In the yellow Thunderbird my father let me drive
if I remembered to bring back the keys,

In the old red Oldsmobile driving through a winter morning
so icy and early only the milking barns were lit,

In the back seat of the limousine on the way to the cemetery,
Running over the already dead raccoon,

Applying mascara at the red lights,

When we climbed back in still wet from the quarry,
When I staggered out drunk and wearing his ring,

When the car wouldn't start. When the heater broke.

When I waited in the car to hear the rest of the song.

When I drove crying so hard I had to pull over,
the fields in late summer, and the little clump of cows chewing.

Throwing the cigarette out the window,
Burning my tongue on the tea,
Spilling the tuna fish sandwich on my lap as I downshifted,

When the policeman waved me down, the wipers slapping,

When I sat alone in the car—leaning on the steering wheel
gazing through the front window,

When I turned the key in the ignition and once again started,
It turns out I never made a wrong turn,

All those times I thought I was lost? I wasn't.

Every car I ever climbed into—I was driving towards you.

(Marie Howe)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Anti-monkeys on the march

FILE UNDER: Are You Fucking Serious?

A Missouri high school band had to relinquish their band t-shirts because the image on the front acknowledged evolution. Presumably the shirts will be piled together and burned along with an effigy of Darwin. Cookies and lemonade afterwards courtesy of the band boosters.

Assistant superintendent Brad Pollitt said the district is required by law to remain neutral where religion is concerned. “If the shirts had said ‘Brass Resurrections’ and had a picture of Jesus on the cross, we would have done the same thing,” he said.

“I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school," said band parent Sherry Melby, who is a teacher in the district.

Nor should the school be associated with brains, apparently.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

From the heap: Matthew Thorburn's Subject to Change

Every year when the new English Department GSIs move into their offices at UofM they purge the books left behind by the previous occupant. I snagged Matthew Thorburn's Subject to Change from the discard pile. And what a lucky find it turned out to be.

Before I share with you part of a really fantastic poem in Subject to Change, let me first say I am not at all surprised that this book was tossed out. Just look at the cover. I know, I know. Never judge a book by its cover and all, but, really, that's bullshit. The cover of Subject to Change looks like it belongs on a corporate management seminar binder from 1991 rather than a book of poems published in 2004. It doesn't at all do the work inside any justice. What is it with bad graphic design and books of poetry? I would like to stage an intervention.

In any case, Thorburn is a UofM grad and a former Hopwood award winner. Subject to Change is a book worth reading, even if the title really should have been instructions intended for the art department at New Issues press.

"The River" is a longer sequence in the book's second section. The whole thing is awesome. Here's the first part.
from The River

He calls his wife by an ex-girlfriend's name,
mismouthing Christy
when he should have said Kristen.
It unravels from there...

The clouds pass quickly across the moon tonight
like the accumulation of little hurts

they carry between them. The bright-colored
foolish pony show of loving,
he thinks,
as each embarrassment we're saddled with
is led out by the reins to circle round and remind us.
You, they whinny, you fucked up.

Friday, October 2, 2009

"YouTube Comment or E.E. Cummings?" by François Vincent

Can you tell a line of poetry by a famous poet from a line of drivel by YouTube commentators? Take the quiz.

PS: I flunked. Maybe that's why I've never really been into E.E. Cummings.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lemurs nameless no more

Remember when the Detroit Zoo was having a contest to name the baby lemurs? Of course you do. Probably you lost sleep knowing those two little guys (actually a male and female, but you're not a lemurologist or anything) were just lemuring around, no name to call their own.

Well now that the votes are in you can call them Aloke and Alina, which aren't bad names at all. This is all thanks to old people. So be nice to your elders.

This is what you do with an MFA in poetry

My friend and fellow poet Sheera Talpaz knows just what to do with an MFA in poetry. She is living the dream.

Suck it, Lucy

It's not you, Lucy, it's Ardi. Don't take it personally.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Daniel Nester thinks poets are ridiculous

Recovering poet (or reformed poet? Ex-poet?) Daniel Nester hates New York so therefore he hates America. Except he also hates poetry, which evens things out. Actually, I don't think it's fair to say that he hates either New York or poetry. It is, however, very fair to say that Nester is a dude with a finely honed bullshit detector and he doesn't like it one bit. Bullshit, that is. The whole detecting thing seems to be working out quite well for him. The whole New York poet thing, not so much.

As he writes in his essay "Goodbye to All Them" for The Morning News:
"I remember some night when I am eating a Mexican dinner in the company of a Famous Eastern European Poet. As we celebrate his reading, a member of our party starts to choke on her food. We laugh at first, but her situation escalates. Emergency medical technicians come in, stick a tube stuck down her throat. She is taken away in an ambulance. And all the while, Famous Eastern European Poet continues to eat his meal and speak with other famous poets. They glance back twice. The only explanation for why this Poet did not react to the woman choking on a bony burrito was it was messing up one of his few nights in Manhattan. I have no explanation, however, for Poets A and B sitting next to him, who continued their conversation on European literary festivals and the pros and cons of living in Iowa."
Reading this I can't help but wonder whether/suspect that I know folks like this.

So, okay, poets can be assholes. Whatever, etc. That's not the point. Or maybe it is, but I'm moving on.

It turns out I have two of Nester's poems in my collection. "Poem for the Novelist Whom I Forced to Write a Poem" appears in the 2003 Best American collection. "Third Maisie Poem" is in Isn't It Romantic: 100 Love Poems by Younger American Poets (I sense a theme here. Perhaps all of his poems have "poem" in the title and all are published in anthologies with American in the title. But probably not). I like both poems very much. Then again, it seems like Nester's poems have a lot in common with mine. Which explains, I think, Nester's disillusion with poetry. Or the poetry world. Or both. I think Nester and I would get along. Maybe his poems and my poems can get married. Or at least be friends with benefits. (For those of you thinking, "But, D'Anne, you're not into dudes," let me remind you that poetry knows no gender and the love of poetry is a love that dare not speak its name.)

I just bought his book of poems, The History of My World Tonight, online. Looking forward to getting it in the mail. It's been awhile since I had a book of poems I actually looked forward to reading.

Via The Awl. Thanks, Laura for the tip.

It would take more than a chimp to save Glenn Beck

The only thing that could make Morning Zoo FM radio shows worse is Glenn Beck.

Via Animal.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sexy gorillas

Gorilla mating habits may "help explain how humans evolved into a mostly monogamous species."

Pro-sex Darwinists: 1
Anti-sex creationists: 0

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Monday, September 21, 2009

From a monkey's fingers to your teacup

Have you ever been sipping a cup of tea and thinking to yourself, "This tea is okay, but it would be so much better if it'd been picked by monkeys" (because of how you like to have monkeys touch all of your food, which is your business, not mine). Well, meet Monkey Picked Tea. That's right. Tea picked by specially trained monkeys in China.

Now all you need is some hot water (and about $20) and your life is complete. You're welcome.


Thanks, Zev, for the tip.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Don't let that monkey grab your balls

Former House Republican whip Roy Blunt (who is running for Senate next year in Missouri) whips out a monkey related parable to illustrate the difficulty he and other Republicans are facing with President Obama in the House. Once again, racism ruins monkeys for everybody.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Thank you, Sharing Machine!

I sent ten bucks to the Sharing Machine to take advantage of their mystery t-shirt offer (sorry, don't know that it's still going on). Lo and behold, my shirt arrived today and it's an orange Bad Poetry shirt from the Toothpaste For Dinner collection. I must say, this whole thing worked out very well for me. Much better than my actual poetry has been. Thanks, Sharing Machine!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Covered in comics

You've heard of cover songs, now see some covered comics. Covered features new comic artists recreating comic covers from old school artists, including Katie Green's cover of a 1954 issue of "Mystery In Space." It's pretty awesome, I must say.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Fried on Wright

Daisy Fried reviews Wheeling Motel, Franz Wright's new book of poetry, in the New York Times.

She writes, "Franz Wright is uningratiating, bumptiously witty, inexhaustibly joyless and routinely surprising. Individual moments — this line break, that bit of syntax — fascinate even when individual poems fail to assert themselves as memorable. But Wright’s dark epiphanies, surging sincerities and ironic outbursts build incrementally from poem to poem."

The title poem appeared in The New Yorker in 2007.

Monday, September 14, 2009

A closer look at a terrible 9/11 poem

Remember when I said there was a lot of terrible 9/11 poetry out there?

Wonkette does a masterful close reading of "Honoring September 11th: We Remember" by Chele Stanton, a poem posted to Andrew Breitbart’s conservative Big Hollywood blog on, of course, Sept. 11. Why Stanton wanted to associate her name and photo with the poem is unclear. But some people have no shame. Or talent.

Explains Wonkette:
"Note the descent into chaos here: the rhyme scheme starts as A B C B (this is like the World Trade Center at 7:00 a.m., structured, professional, 'nothin’ to see here,' etc.); takes a turn several stanzas down into A B C kinda-B (After the first tower gets hit, things starting to unravel, 'looks like some pilot’s been drinkin’, ain’t that right, Brad?'); then finally devolves into prosaic stream-of-consciousness anger-porn (Both towers hit, hysteria, 'Whoa hey shit man, that’s twice now, right?'). This is not an accident."

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Poet and Punk Rocker" Jim Carroll

is dead.

Is now the wrong time to say The Basketball Diaries was one of the worst books I've ever read and that the movie managed to be even worse?

Yes, yes it is. But I was a teenager when I read it. Surely I'd have more patience for it now (I would not have more patience for it now), and in this time of sadness I don't want to begrudge the work of Leonardo DiCaprio.

Seriously, though, I am sure he was an important and respected poet because the New York Times said as much or at least they put that he was a "Poet and Punk Rocker" in his obit headline. And they do not do that for everybody.

In any case, he is dead. So have some respect, people.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Biden's 9/11 poetry recitation

Speaking of poetry and 9/11, Joe Biden read Mary Oliver's poem "Wild Geese" at the eighth anniversary commemoration of the 9/11 attacks at Ground Zero. A most excellent choice, I think.
Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

(Mary Oliver, from Dream Work, 1986 Atlantic Monthly Press)