Friday, January 30, 2009

Bye Bye Berman?

What? My favorite poet rock star has called it quits? Say it ain't so!

I suppose if he had to stop making music, ending with Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea, one of the best records of last year, is a good way to do it. I'm glad I got to see Silver Jews live during what apparently was their last tour.

Here's hoping he doesn't stop writing poetry. I would love a new David Berman collection. Actual Air was published in 1999. So he's had some time to get some new stuff together. My fingers are crossed...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

John Updike (1932 - 2009)

John Updike died today. He was 76. Updike was best known for his novels, though he was also a prolific poet. To be honest, I have not read any of his writing besides poems. Here is one that seems fitting upon his passing.
Returning Native

What can you say about Pennsylvania
in regard to New England except that
it is slightly less cold, and less rocky,
or rather that the rocks are different?
Redder, and gritty, and piled up here and there,
whether as glacial moraine or collapsed springhouse
is not easy to tell, so quickly
are human efforts bundled back into nature.

In fall, the trees turn yellower—
hard maple, hickory, and oak
give way to tulip poplar, black walnut,
and locust. The woods are overgrown
with wild-grape vines, and with greenbrier
spreading its low net of anxious small claws.
In warm November, the mulching forest floor
smells like a rotting animal.

A genial pulpiness, in short: the sky
is soft with haze and paper-gray
even as the sun shines, and the rain
falls soft on the shoulders of farmers
while the children keep on playing,
their heads of hair beaded like spider webs.
A deep-dyed blur softens the bleak cities
whose people palaver in prolonged vowels.

There is a secret here, some death-defying joke
the eyes, the knuckles, the bellies imply—
a suet of consolation fetched straight
from the slaughterhouse and hung out
for chickadees to peck in the lee of the spruce,
where the husks of sunflower seeds
and the peace-signs of bird feet crowd
the snow that barely masks the still-green grass.

I knew that secret once, and have forgotten.
The death-defying secret—it rises
toward me like a dog’s gaze, loving
but bewildered. When winter sits cold and black
on Boston’s granite hills, in Philly,
slumped between its two polluted rivers,
warmth’s shadow leans close to the wall
and gets the cement to deliver a kiss.

(John Updike, from Collected Poems 1953-1993, Alfred A. Knopf, 1993).

More of his poems are available at the Poetry Foundation's Web site.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Whole lotta readings goin' on

On Tuesday, Jan. 27 at noon poet Khaled Mattawa will read from his new book Amorisco at the University of Michigan (Room 2022, 202 South Thayer Washington Street).

On Wednesday, Feb. 4 at 7 p.m., Best Friends Forever, a duo made up of poet Alana DeRiggi and artist Holly Mae Haddock, will bring their collaborative art/video/music stylings to Crazy Wisdom in Ann Arbor. Also reading will be Eva Colás.

On Tuesday, Feb 17 at 7 p.m., poet Josie Kearns will read from her new book Alphabet of the Ocean & The Theory of Everything at Shaman Drum Bookshop.

On Wesnesday, Feb. 18 at 7 p.m., poet Kristie Kachler and fictioner Greg Schutz will read at Crazy Widsom in Ann Arbor.

On Thursday, Feb. 19 at 5 p.m. poet Hamutal Bar Yosef will read at the University of Michigan (2022 Thayer Building, 202 S. Thayer St.).

On Sunday, February 22 from 2-4 p.m., poets Eddie Bell, Maria Costantini,
Jeff Vande Zande, Robert Downes, and performance poet Diamond Dancer will be at the Scarab Club in Detroit (217 E. Farnsworth at John R.).

On Monday, March 02 at noon, poet Rachel Tzvia Back will read at the University of Michigan (2022 Thayer Building, 202 S. Thayer St.).

On Monday, March 09 at 5 p.m., poet Reginald Gibbons will read at the University of Michigan (Rackham Amphitheater, 915 E. Washington St.). He'll also give a lecture on Thursday, March 12, same time, same place.

On Thursday, March 19 at 5 p.m., poet David Mason will read at the University of Michigan (Residential College Auditorium, 701 E. University).

On Friday, March 20 at 7 p.m., poet Keith Taylor will read from his new book If The World Becomes So Bright at Shaman Drum Bookshop

On Tuesday, March 24 at 7 p.m., poet Lytton Smith will read from his new book All-Purpose Magical Tent at Shaman Drum Bookshop.

On Thursday, March 26, at 7 p.m., poet Jan Beatty will read from her new book Red Sugar at Shaman Drum Bookshop.

On Sunday, March 29 from 2-4 p.m. poets Allison Adelle Hedge Coke, Jan Beatty , Terry Blackhawk, Jill Darling, and Judy Adams will be at the Scarab Club in Detroit (217 E. Farnsworth at John R.).

On Wednesday, April 1 at 7 p.m., poet D'Anne Witkowski (that's ME!) will read at Crazy Widsom in Ann Arbor. Special fiction guest TBA.

On Thursday, April 16 at 5 p.m., poet Mary Jo Bang will read at the University of Michigan (Rackham Amphitheater, 915 E. Washington St.).

On Sunday April 19 from 2-4 p.m. poets Elizabeth Volpe, Rebecca Rank, Sophia Rifkin, and D'Anne Witkowski (that's ME!) will be at the Scarab Club in Detroit (217 E. Farnsworth at John R.).

If you know of any readings I'm missing let me know and I'd be happy to add them (well, if it's just you reading shirtless on YouTube, I probably won't. Sorry).

Sunday, January 25, 2009

100 poems a day for 100 days makes me 6 days behind

Thanks to Preeta Samarasan for bringing my attention to "Starting Today: Poems for the First 100 Days," a project by poets Arielle Greenberg and Rachel Zucker. The premise is very simple: "Every day for the next 100 days we will post a new poem by a contemporary American poet—a poem written for and during the first 100 days of this new administration." Day one, for example, is Elizabeth Alexander's inauguration poem. Which means I guess I'm only five days behind. In any case, you can bet I'll be following this project daily.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

[Less] than words

If you're like me you maybe wanted to read the 9/11 Commission Report but were like, "Dude, that is way too long." And so maybe you went and read the graphic novel version. And while the graphic adaptation was good, maybe you were left thinking, "Might there be a way to make this report even shorter? Maybe boil it down to its poetic essence?"

Enter The O Mission Repo by Travis Macdonald and published by Fact-Simile Editions. It is, as the kids are calling it today, erasure poetry. In other words, poets take existing works and cross out the words that aren't their poem. It's like whittling wood, in a way, although I have never done that. Erasure poetry, on the other hand, does not involve knives, though I have seen it involve White-Out (in Mary Ruefle's book A Little White Shadow, in fact, which was my first exposure to this whole erasure concept). It's a fun exercise and can produce some really great stuff (you can try it for yourself at the Wave Books site).

It seems more than appropriate to see this practice applied to the 9/11 Commission Report. After all, the government has been practicing erasure poetry (heavy on the erasure part, light on the poetry) for years.

Poets and Writers have a write up on The O Mission Repo in their Jan/Feb 09 issue, which is where I heard about it. I haven't read the book myself yet, but the introduction looks very promising.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Cece Bell: Sock Monkey Maven

One of the benefits of being married to an elementary school teacher is that our house is a veritable library of children's books. They didn't all come from my wife. Her mom, also an elementary school teacher, gave Stacy all of the children's books she had amassed over the years when she retired. So while many folks starting out with their fist kid are building a book collection from scratch, we're already way ahead of the game.

That's not to say I'm not always on the hunt for awesome kid books. After all, we have most of the kids' book staples: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, Goodnight Moon, The Giving Tree, etc. What we don't have enough of, and could never have enough of, are books about monkeys. Obviously.

So I was thrilled to get Cece Bell's Sock Monkey Goes to Hollywood: A Star Is Bathed the other day. It is fantastic. It's funny, has great art, is fun to read out loud (I read it to my wife and, by extension, our child who missed all of the great pictures because he or she is sequestered inside my-wife-the-incubator), and is totally pro-bathing! The basic plot centers around Sock Monkey, a movie star who hasn't ever taken a bath. It's not that he's gross, it's just that bathing freaks him out. But then he's nominated for the toy-world equivalent of an Academy Award and he has to clean up for the ceremony. His adorable friends (a bunny, a pig and a frog) help him overcome his fear of soap and water and the whole toy world celebrates.

Cece Bell has several other Sock Monkey books. Needless to say, I must have them. Check out her books (some of which are not about Sock Monkey) and other cool Sock Monkey stuff (games! Instructional videos! A fanclub!) at

Thursday, January 22, 2009

[Worse] living through poetry

Thank you, Lindsay of Videogum, for your "Please Don't Take Your Shirt Off and Recite Poetry on YouTube" PSA. It needed to be said.

"Pregnancy, Week 14" by L J Sysko

So, my wife is pregnant. 14 weeks tomorrow, in fact. Lo and behold, I reached up and grabbed the 2008 issue of Alehouse off the top of a stack of journals this morning, I turned right to the poem "Pregnancy, Week 14" by L J Sysko. And while Sysko's is a very different kind of poetry than Paul Anka's, I would like to dedicate this poem to my wife and the little being inside her. According to, our little guy or girl is about the size of a lemon right now.
Pregnancy, Week 14

When you flutter inside,
the snow returns after 70 degree days,

the raccoon rocks the trash can over
and finds nothing inside,

the balloon’s string falls slack,
unmoved by our house’s

indoor weather, and at night,
turned on my left side for you,

I wake to empty my bladder.
This is the hour when I see images

in the trees from the bathroom window—
a baby whale in the upper branches,

calm, still, fluke erect, an antenna searching
for signals. It is not there during the day, but

at night, on these nights, I see it,
that I can’t unzip out of this skin,

that I am returning, that it returns,
and I swim against its tide to footing

on this cold marble floor, the color of sand
settling, and stand.

(L J Sysko, from the 2008 issue of Alehouse)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dead Libel Society

This week's Metro Times features a cover story about poet and funeral director Thomas Lynch's libel lawsuit against funeral industry critic Lisa Carlson. The story itself really isn't all that interesting or compelling. Basically Carlson has said and written things that Lynch doesn't like and since the burden of proof is high, like in all libel cases, it'll be hard for him to win. More interesting is the cool art on the cover which seems to be a rip off of/homage to the Six Feet Under title image.

It also reminds me of the video for Damien Jurado's song "Caskets." Behold:
Damien Jurado, "Caskets" from Matt Daniels on Vimeo.

Stewart skewers Alexander

It was bound to happen. Elizabeth Alexander's recitation of her inauguration poem for Barack Obama has made it to The Daily Show. And Jon Stewart isn't exactly kind. Still, it's attention. And people are talking about poetry. So that's good, right?

"So the big speech was finally over and Barack Obama called for a new American era of responsibility," Stewart says. "But one problem still remained. How do you clear 2.5 million people off the Washington Mall?"

See the answer for yourself at 6:50 into the video. And keep your eyes peeled for yet another poetry joke which begins at 1:32.

Nami Mun is a poet. She just writes really long lines.

Last night I went to Nami Mun's reading at Shaman Drum and had the pleasure of going out with her and a bunch of other fine folks for drinks afterward. At the bar Nami mentioned that she'd done an interview with in which she recommended several books of poems. She said she made a conscious effort to always recommend some poetry whenever asked for book recommendations. I think that's awesome and would like to return the favor by recommending Nami's novelMiles From Nowhere. It is amazing and the level of care Nami takes with each and every sentence is evident. Not only does she tell a good story, but it reads like good poetry.

Nami's list of Books of Poetry for Fiction Lovers ("These poets tell the most beautiful stories," she writes) includes Shadow Wars by D. Nurkse, Jimmy and Rita by Kim Addonizio, Dictee by Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, The Vigil by C. K. Williams, Bad With Faces by Sean Norton, Opened Ground: Selected Poems 1966-1996 by Seamus Heaney, and The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge by Rainer Maria Rilke.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inaugural poetry

I watched Obama's inauguration today and I'm not ashamed to say that I got all choked up and cried. It was Aretha Franklin's rendition of "America" that started it all. At first I thought, "Damn, Aretha, you aren't sounding very good these days." I mean, the fact that she broke the word "country" into two very separate words didn't help. But then she just took it. And owned that song. And it was a beautiful thing.

As was Obama's speech. Inspiring stuff. I am hopeful for the future of our country, even though things are so, so messed up right now. This country needs a leader who isn't afraid of that and who cares more about the people than himself and his cronies. I will not miss Bush, to say the least (he's a world class dickhead. Sorry. I wasn't content with saying the least).

After Obama, poet Elizabeth Alexander read her poem "Praise Song for the Day: A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration." I have to say that I don't envy her having to follow his speech. But I was filled with pride (yes, I said it) watching a poet take the podium today.

I've already heard plenty of criticism of her poem (reading the comments on YouTube is a real downer, talking to MFA-wielding poets is another), but I liked it. No, I loved it. Granted, I did not like the way she read it. I don't understand why so many poets read their work as if it is composed of a foreign language they are just getting the grasp of. But I thought it was the right poem from the right poet for the occasion. I was talking to some folks tonight and someone said they felt it was too prescriptive; that it followed too closely Obama's own speech. Others said the images and the language were too plain. Personally I think both of these things reflect an awareness of the poem's audience and fit in perfectly with the tone of the event. In any case, I wasn't concerned with all of that. I never felt I was there to be a critic. I was there to be moved. And I was moved by it. When thinking about what poetry is for, I think Alexander's poem this afternoon is a prime example.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

"Are poets the new journalists?"

Um, probably not. Though as a person who is both a poet and a journalist, I found Jane Dwyre Garton's January 17 Huffington Post story "Take Me to the Intersection of Poetry and Journalism" to be of interest. It doesn't exactly go anywhere interesting, however.

The piece is basically a lament about the lack of music in news stories. Garton urges journalists to tell "us something that matters with words that tell us about the world, about the human condition." The funny thing is, her story lacks the very same thing she seems to be mourning in today's news (not to be confused with Today's Special). It's pretty choppy and artless. It also seems to be arguing for newspapers to start printing poetry again, forgetting, it seems, that newspapers are having a hell of a time printing much of anything. No one wants to pay for information any more. And while it would be quaint to live in a time where people cut out poems from the paper and stuck them on the fridge like they do the funnies, I don't see that happening again. Ever.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

"speeka eengleesh" by Drew

"(You're) Havin' My Baby" by Paul Anka (dedicated to my wife)

In 2006 someone posted to YouTube this montage of pregnant animals (including a good number of monkeys and such) set to "(You're) Having My Baby" by Paul Anka, the best pregnancy song EVER. I am pretty sure they did this so that I could post it on my blog and dedicate it to my wife two years later.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Helper monkeys in the Times

I don't know how I missed this, but the New York Times ran a piece about helper monkeys and seeing eye ponies and the like. Thanks to the Internets (and Cuteoverload), I was able to discover it 17 days after the fact. In any case, the story is by Rebecca Skloot (pictured here with a helper monkey named Richard) who sums up the story like so:
"When people think of service animals, they think guide dogs for the blind. But today it's monkeys for quadriplegia and agoraphobia, guide miniature horses, a goat for muscular dystrophy, parrots for psychosis and any number of animals for anxiety, including cats, ferrets, pigs, at least one iguana and a duck. They've been showing up in stores and in restaurants, which is perfectly legal because the Americans With Disabilities Act (A.D.A.) requires that service animals be allowed wherever their owners want to go. But now the United States government is considering a proposal that would force people to give up their nontraditional service animals because a growing number of people think the whole thing has gotten out of control."
Believe it. Read the NYT piece and then head on over to Culture Dish, Skloot's blog for more, including photos, videos and Homer Simpson's helper monkey.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

NPR void delivers poetry after all. Kind of.

You know how sometimes when you're listening to NPR in your car you kind of tune out for a second or two or more and then you hear a word that catches your attention and brings you back -- like "poetry" or "poets" for example -- just in time to catch the tail end of a teaser for a story on a show that you haven't caught the name of? Well, last week this very thing happened to me (I know, I live a very mad cap existence) and I have been searching in vain for the story ever since. It was something about how Elizabeth Alexander is doing the inaugural poem for Obama but that no one did poems for the outgoing president and what kind of poem would be appropriate for George W. Bush. Alas, the story has vanished.

But while looking for it, I came across this NPR piece, in which NPR "commissioned some of the nation's most renowned poets to write their own inaugural poems. The real inaugural poems have usually been serious and sweeping affairs. But not so for our exercise. From lyrics to limericks, raps to rhymes, our poets express what the inauguration means to them— in verse."

Featured are Suzan-Lori Parks (who I didn't know wrote poetry, but I did read her play Topdog/Underdog and liked that very much) who has written what I think are song lyrics and not actually a poem. Maybe once it's set to music it'll be good. Nikki Giovanni weighs in with what she calls a rap, which is pretty much a textbook example of what Videogum deplores as "fake rap," which is, sadly, not very good even for something not trying to be very good and embodies, in this way, how I feel about her poetry in general. And, of course, no poetry story on NPR would be complete without Calvin Trillin, who is also overrated but can be amusing, like in the lines "First, Pastor Warren's going to pray / For everyone who isn't gay." Plus I have to give him credit for his rhyming here.

I'm looking forward to what Elizabeth Alexander will deliver on the actual day. Hopefully it will be a lot better than this sad show.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Bossing the pastoral

The word "bucolic" doesn't exactly conjure up excitement, whether we're using it to describe country life or a pastoral poem. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I would describe many of Mary Oliver's poems as "bucolic" and I like many of her poems very much. Some of the most beautiful poems I know don't exactly have a lot happen in them, and that's a good thing. I love the idea of poetry as a study of the moment -- a keen eye, if you will. What I love about a poem is how it can sheer through distraction and focus on a sliver of life. Like how cupping your hands to the sides of your face narrows the world and lets you see things apart from the whole. How we see (and what we notice) what is outside of us tells us a lot about what's inside, which is why Wordsworth's daffodils matter, for example.

There is no reason, therefore, not to like Bucolics, a collection of poems by Maurice Manning. To be honest I didn't know much about it before I received it as a gift from my Amazon wish list-trolling brother (thank you, Brian). I added it to my wish list because I must have read some poems somewhere by Manning that I really liked. In any case they were not like the poems in Bucolics. Not that the poems in this book are bad. And not that I don't have the capability to like them (see above).

To be clear, I don't dislike this book, it just didn't always hold my attention. The book, 78 untitled and unpunctuated one-sided conversations with God, or, as Manning calls him, "Boss," is patently inoffensive and often very pretty. And I like the cadence of the poems. I actually like the lack of punctuation. It accentuates this kind of curious, almost childlike voice. In fact, I often pictured the speaker as Lennie from Of Mice and Men (it's been years since I've read that book, so in reality the voices are probably nothing alike).

But maybe 78 poems worth is just too much. Maybe I would have liked this better as a chapbook. A shorter collection of the stronger poems here would be a good thing, I think. That way Manning could weed out the received language that crops up in so many of the poems. I understand that the language matches the voice of the speaker, but I found the regular occurrence of things like "pull my leg" and "I've had it up to here" and "against the grain" and "lighter than a feather" grating. In such concise poems these terms really stuck out like a sore thumb (and he probably uses that one, too, somewhere in here).

The whole "Boss" thing gets a little too cutesy at times. I get it, okay? He's Boss, he's the boss of the world. I don't need the Boss bossing in every other poem.

But when Manning is on, he's on, and there are some strokes of brilliance in Bucolics where the connection between the speaker and the higher power he's speaking to is clear and direct. Here's one of my favorites:

I told that old dog he
could hush Boss I said
there now you're just having
a shaky little dream dream
a dream dream Boss how
about that talking to a dog
that way there there it's just
a little dream dream you
don't have to whimper that's
what I can't stand Boss
to see an old dog whimper
what's in an old dog's dream
dream anyway some rabbits Boss
or barking up a tree say do
you ever have a dream dream
Boss are you running after or
away from me tell me sometime
if your big feet ever twitch

(Maurice Manning, from Bucolics, 2007 Harcourt)

Poetry is Everywhere: Blagojevich post-impeachment edition

When the going gets tough, embattled Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich busts out some poetry. You might recall that Blagojevich ended a December 2008 press conference by reciting “If” by Rudyard Kipling. Well, he's at it again. After the Illinois House voted to impeach his ass, he busted out a bit of "Ulysses" by Lord Alfred Tennyson.

"Though we are not now the strength which in old days moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are," Blagojevich said. "One equal temper of heroic hearts, made weak by time and by fate, but strong in will, to strive, to seek, to find. And not to yield. Thank you."

I love CBS Evening News chief Washington correspondent Bob Schieffer's reaction" "Well, I tell you, when you saw him stand up there and reciting that Tennyson poem, you began to wonder if maybe he was going to lay the groundwork for pleading insanity in this case."

Though I love The Daily Show with Jon Stewart even more. If only every news network had a Senior Poetry Analyst.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Poetry from beyond the grave

Via the mental_floss blog:
"Have you ever wanted to see classic poems “read” by their long-dead authors via creepy computer animation? Well, now you can! On YouTube, poetryanimations has published a nearly 250-part series of poems that feature photos of their authors, modified so that they appear to be talking."
So who would you bring back from the dead for your very own online recitation? Anne Sexton? Check. Federico Garcia Lorca? Check. Sylvia Plath? Checkeroo: the video of her reading "Daddy" is nightmare inducing.

And who is it with his hand on the virtual Ouija board? Jim Clark, "a Londoner of English Irish descent."

Most viewed? Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" with over 65,000. Least viewed? Coventry Patmore "The Toys" with 71 (but to be fair it's pretty new. Also, who has ever heard of Coventry Patmore?). There's even a poem called "Monkeys" by Padraic Colum. I'd embed it here if I thought it any good.

I think the creepiest aspect of these videos (did I mention that there are almost 250 of them?) is how the entire image moves, not just the poet's mouth. Even the background bends. The poet's entire face contorts in weird ways. Like in this video of "The Leaden Echo" by Gerard Manley Hopkins. It doesn't so much look like the Manley man is speaking as much as it looks like his face is caving in.

Not all of the videos feature the poet's actual voices. But some do. Best poetry reading voice ever? Edna St. Vincent Millay. Crank that shit and do Halloween up right.

Thanks for the tip, Meghan (Ms. Sitar if you're nasty).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Monkeys Talk About Religion" by Seth MacFarlane

Lizzie Hutton: blind no more

Working at the Sweetland Writing Center, I get to work with a lot of really amazing writers. At least, we all get our paycheck from the same place. Mostly we sit in our own offices and work with students and don't interact that much with each other. Which means some of the folks I work with - okay, most - I don't really know at all. Hell, I might even have something in common with them, yet remain oblivious. But how does one get to know one's coworkers without resorting to stalking?

Why, the departmental newsletter, of course! If such a thing weren't published, I'd be forced to break into my coworkers' homes and go through their drawers and cupboards in order to find out that, say, they're really good poets.

Take Lizzie Hutton, for example. From the Sweetland newsletter, I learned that she's a poet. I knew she was smart and nice, but smart and nice are a dime a dozen. Smart and nice poets, on the other hand, are a rare thing. She's also a poet that journals actually publish, unlike me. But hey, while I wait for an acceptance (and it will come. I've seen Field of Dreams. Okay, I actually haven't seen Field of Dreams but I know the basic plot), I can be happy about the fact that really good poems like this are being published:
1992 (Nachtlied)

And then sex sometimes felt like a clenched horse refusing.
Some dark-in-me dragged stiff-hoofed down a back city street,

to be heaved at a doorstep, "release."
A tall townhouse.
I lay on the stone gazing at its shut door.

And it's just another story
of the self and itself. And looking back
I feel most tender for the bridled, bucking part,

what struggled to dislodge
her sour metal bit as if trying to shake off
her own tongue and jaw.

But the other—the me with her grip on the muzzle—
my heart sometimes thickens to her,

how she forced this struggling pelt
through the gates
of the city, down cobblestones, bloodied with forcing.

The threats of my breaker, archaic and weird.
The crazed of my broken. But listen—

beyond that shut door, I sensed heaven, peace, riches—
and you, love, appeared only briefly.

Watching you watching, I thought we'd get in,

but you came, cold starlight, to lead us away.

(Lizzie Hutton, from the Spring 2008 issue (#34) of Harvard Review)

Though I don't know. I think I like her poem "STOP and look around" better.

I'm kidding. She didn't write that. I don't think.

Viral Video Film School featuring haikus

So, I have a new crush. On Brett Erlich, the guy who does Viral Video Film School for Current TV's infomania.

Since I start teaching my viral video class tomorrow, I feel this discovery has divine qualities. And though this video below isn't technically about monkeys or poetry, it does feature haikus, in a walk-on role kind of way.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Eye candy for bibliophiles

This Is Where We Live from 4th Estate on Vimeo.

This video was made for 4th Estate publishing to celebrate their 25th anniversary. I found this via Slog.

I am not Diane Wakoski

And thank God for that. Nothing against Diane Wakoski - after all, she has achieved much more success in the realm of poetry than I have (but she's been around longer, so...). Enough success and notoriety, in fact, to have poems from crazy people sent to her via mail at work. Or where crazy people with barely legible handwriting think she works. Note to G.C. in San Francisco: Michigan State University is in East Lansing, not Ann Arbor. Which is why I got your crazy bat shit poem about worms and nylons and mentral blood and wacking off. Nice work. I hope you're seeing somebody. In the mental health field, I mean.

It's a shame you sent me what I assume is your original since it's handwritten on white copy paper. The poem itself is quite legible, so why didn't you use those same handwriting skills on the outside of the envelope? Had you done so, I might never have been subjected to your poem. I also wouldn't have also thought it was for me and neither would the UofM mailroom. But hey, I've had people misspell my name as Diane before and have had folks get my last name wrong, too (even some of my students and it's right there on the syllabus). And so I opened it, read it, put it back in the envelope and went to wash my hands in hot water.

Not only was your handwriting a problem, but the pages of your poem are dirty. Not just the content, but the pages themselves are marred with actual, physical filth. This, combined with the actual execution of your poem, displays a rather blatant lack of respect for Ms. Wakoski. And so although the front of the envelope says, "Please forward if necessary," I won't be doing so. Sorry, dude. Next time you want something to get to the "Awful Writing Dept." at "Michigan Hale University" in Ann Arbor, please use the same clear, block printing you use for your creative work so it never ends up in my mailbox again.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Jumper advocacy

Alana DeRiggi -- friend, poet, and jumper enthusiast -- has started a blog "to advance the cause of jumpers everywhere." To say that Alana has a knack for fashion would be doing her a disservice. I would say that Alana has fashion magic (note the picture where she's managed to make a jumper into alluring evening wear). She's also hilarious. Corduroy Jumper is my new closet, so to speak.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Poetry and primates collide

Poetry is kicking 2009 off primate style. The cover of their January 2009 issue features art by Alvaro Barrios. The piece, "Five Readymades (Belle Haleine, Eau de Violette)," was part of a 2008 exhibition at Nohra Haime Gallery in New York. I'm not sure what the title means, though my wife said it seemed to be about good breath and violet perfume. Barrios has several pieces that have Tintin and Milou, his trusty fox terrier sidekick, getting clobbered in various ways.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Chimp tell-all

Via Shaman Drum's Web site I came across there is no gap, "A Blog by Karl Pohrt, an Independent Bookseller, about books, the world of books and other things." Lo and behold, the most recent post on there is no gap is about Me, Cheeta: My Life in Hollywood, coming in March from Ecco (Harper Collins).

Writes Pohrt:
"It is perhaps easy to lose sight of the fact--amidst the fabulous adventures and tumultuous private life--that Cheeta's narrative is actually the classic immigrant autobiography, albeit one enlivened by incredible hi-jinks, poignant moments, tales of scandalous hedonism and stormy relationships. Is there a biopic in the works? I certainly hope so, but even if it doesn't happen, Me, Cheeta will always occupy a special place on my bookshelf, nestled comfortably between two other treasured Hollywood classics--Travolta: The Life and Anne Heche's Call Me Crazy."
Awesome. Needless to say, Me, Cheeta is totally on my must-read list.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Kicking off the New Year at Shaman Drum

A few must-attend readings are coming up at Shaman Drum this month.

Khaled Mattawa will read at 7 p.m. at Shaman Drum on Jan. 21 (my sister Christine's birthday!). His new book of poems, Amorisco was published in October by Ausable Press.

Of course, you could always go to see Khaled read on Tuesday, Jan. 27 at UofM (Room 2022 at 202 S. Thayer Washington Street) as part of the Institute for the Humanities Brown Bag Lecture series.

Then you can go see poet Jennifer Metsker and fictionista Delia DeCourcy at Crazy Wisdom in Ann Arbor as part of the Work In Progress series on Wednesday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m.

In the fiction world, Michael Shilling will read from his novel Rock Bottom on Thursday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. and Nami Mun will read from her new book Miles From Nowhere on Tuesday, Jan. 20 at 7 p.m.