Thursday, May 28, 2009

Bear River

Off to Bear River. See you in a few days.

Unicorns are forever

Thank you to my friend Rosemary for sending me a link to Holy Taco's 30 Awesomely Bad Unicorn Tattoos: A Gallery. It is hilarious but also very, very sad. It's hard to pick a favorite, but the #1 unicorn peeing rainbows on a cupcake is probably it. And to think that's on someone's body. Forever.

Marriage, too, is supposed to be forever, so I feel that Ellen Bryant Voigt's "A Marriage Poem" is appropriate here. Not only does it mention unicorns, but it also, at times, seems to be speaking directly to the unicorn tattoo getters of the world:
This is what is done with pain:
ice on the wound,
the isolating tourniquet—
as though to check an open vein
where the self pumps out of the self
would stop the second movement of the heart...
He asks of her only a little lie,
a pale copy drawn from the inked stone
where they loll beside the unicorn,
great lovers then, two strangers
joined by appetite:
                it frightens her,
to live by memory’s poor diminished light.
She wants something crisp and permanent...

But really, you should read the whole poem. It is quite good.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Ectoplasm monkeys

For real. Thanks, science!

Morrissey, The Consumer Monkey

On Sunday I connected Morrissey to poetry. Today I connect him to monkeys, or, more accurately, one in particular: Morrissey, The Consumer Monkey.

Morrissey, The Consumer Monkey was a character on the early 90s British comedy show Vic Reeves Big Night Out.

According to Wikipedia, Morrissey, The Consumer Monkey was a "monkey puppet with the face of Morrissey, operated by Vic and voiced by Bob [Mortimer]. Morrissey the Consumer Monkey would often come on to give advice on shoddy or unsafe consumer goods. ... Morrissey had a theme song, sung in duet with Vic, which began with Morrissey claiming 'I like watches, I like woods' and Vic countering with 'He likes various consumer goods.' At the time it was reported that Morrissey took offence to this character, much to the delight of Vic and Bob."

I have never seen this show aside from the YouTube clip featured here. Not only was I in sixth grade when it was originally on, but I am also not a big fan of British humor. Vic and Bob have not changed my mind.

Thank you to Anonymous for the tip. :)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The early [eagle] gets the [monkey]

What? There's an eagle that eats monkeys? On this planet?

Yes. The Philippine Monkey-Eating Eagle.

Paul Constant, who brought us the above Slog post, frequently posts about poetry on Slog. Like another of his posts today in which he includes an excellent Mary Oliver poem and links to a poem by Jim Dodg titled "Unnatural Selections: A Meditation upon Witnessing a Bullfrog Fucking a Rock," which is probably the best poem title ever.

Of course, Constant's use of monkey and poetry content in his posts could mean that he's moving into the poetry+monkeys blog niche, which is really all I have going for me. Perhaps this is a new blog meme. One day I'll tell my grandkids that Nana used to be a fairly anonymous blogger who spent her days blogging about poetry and monkeys and she did it before anyone else. And they'll be all, "Put your teeth in! You're scaring us." And I'll say, "That's what happens if you eat too much candy." Because I totally do.

Top 100 Poetry Blogs

What? The top 100 poetry blogs? There are more than that? Who says no one reads poetry?

Granted, I'm not on the list, but I'll bet these blogs don't also feature monkeys. I'm all about niche.

A good bear

I just finished reading If the World Becomes So Bright, Keith Taylor's latest collection of poems. It came out this year from Wayne State University Press as part of the Made In Michigan Writer's Series. I saw him read from it at Shaman Drum in March. He's a great person to see/hear read. Totally unassuming, not at all pretentious, completely genuine in his enthusiasm for poetry. He's got a great eye--no little detail is lost on him.

I'll be spending this weekend with Keith and a bunch of other writers, in fact, at the 2009 Bear River Writers' Conference at Camp Michigania up north.

Here's one of my favorites from If the World Becomes So Bright:
for Stephen Leggett

OK. I'll entertain the possibility
that we have these long lives
purely to raise these coffee cups
at this moment in this one place
or that our purpose--if we need one--
may be to lift one half-drowned
yellow jacket from the birdbath,
set it on the lawn chair and watch
it buzz off to its next in the back lot.
I'll admit the hope that we intersect
with everything--bee, okay, coffee cup--
in a glorious unnamed pattern.
But I can't turn one thing into any
other: the solitary bittern's call
rising from the marsh at dusk remains
the echoing call of one secretive bird
hidden behind a forest of dry rushes.
It is what it is and would be that
without my eyes or ears or my ability
to name it and find its place on any map.

(Keith Taylor, from If the World Becomes So Bright, 2009 Wayne State University Press)

Submit poems, save trees

A handly list from Diane Lockward, a New Jersey poet (you know, like Bon Jovi), of journals that accept online/email submissions. Save paper and help the post office go out of business.*
The Missing Wife

Wife and dog missing.
Reward for the dog.
—bumper sticker on a pickup truck

The wife and the dog planned their escape
months in advance, laid up biscuits and bones,
waited for the careless moment when he’d forget
to latch the gate, then hightailed it.
They took shelter in the forest, camouflaged
the scent of their trail with leaves.
Free of him at last,
they peed with relief on a tree.

Time passed. They came and went as they pleased,
chased sticks when they felt like chasing sticks,
dug holes in what they came to regard
as their own backyard. They unlearned
how to roll over and play dead.

In spring the dog wandered off in pursuit
of a rabbit. Collared by a hunter and returned
to the master for $25, he lives
on a tight leash now.
He sleeps on the wife’s side of the bed,
whimpering, pressing his snout
into her pillow, breathing
the scent of her hair.

And the wife? She’s moved deep into the heart
of the forest. She walks
on all fours, fetches for no man, performs
no tricks. She is content. Only sometimes
she gets lonely, remembers how he would nuzzle
her cheek and comfort her when she twitched
and thrashed in her sleep.

(Diane Lockward, from Eve's Red Dress, Wind Publications, 2003)

*I don't really want the post office to go out of business because I really like to get mail. Also they have excellent customer service. Like how you have to pay extra if you want them to promise to actually deliver and/or not destroy what you're mailing. And how there are never long lines at the branches and the hours are super convenient. And how they won't even let you mail guns or bombs. Oh, wait. That last part is probably a good thing.

Dead Poets Society almost old enough to drink

Videogum's Lindsay Robertson bemoans the 20th anniversary of the movie Dead Poets Society and its lack of a corresponding DVD release. Read it.
"I can trace pretty much every decision I made as an adolescent back to what was ignited in me by that movie," she writes. "Mostly, a whole lot of really bad poetry, but also a sense, for the first time, that life was going to go by very fast, and that I could be more than what was expected of me. (I said I got the sense, not that I actually did it.)"
I know I saw Dead Poets Society, but I don't remember much about it except there is a boy who wants to be an actor but he has a really mean dad and the boy is in a play with a lot of leaves and maybe even he is a leaf and the dad sees the play and is disgusted and Robin Williams cannot keep everyone from killing themselves. Somehow poetry is also involved. That's my synopsis for you.

It's not Peter Wier's finest work, to say the least. It's no Picnic At Hanging Rock, that's for sure.

Baby anteater video WSG ring-tailed lemur

I realize a ring-tailed lemur isn't a monkey, but it is a primate and that's close enough for me to post this video of an adorable anteater baby.

Via Videogum.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Hey Poetry, thanks for ruining the economy

Why is the economy so messed up? Because of poetry, that's why.
"Except for paying attention, what else is continual prayer?"
- Washington State Poet laureate Sam Green

Via Slog.

Tiny Art Director: "Stupid Ugly Angry Monkey. I Hate Him"

Thank you to Erica C. Barnett for posting about Tiny Art Director on Slog: "Bill Zeman is an illustrator whose very cute blog operates on a simple concept: His 4-year-old daughter tells him what to draw, he draws it, and she critiques it. He's been doing it since she was two."

About a year ago Tiny Art Director asked her dad to draw a monkey. Things did not go so well.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

"Morrissey" does not rhyme with "poetry"

Is Morrissey a poet akin to Philip Larkin? Um, no. And why are we even discussing this?

Because of academic freedom, damn it! According to, "Dr. Gavin Hopps, a lecturer at St Andrews University, has written a book called Morrissey: The Pageant of His Bleeding Heart, which he says is 'the first academic study' of the ex-Smiths singer."

Hopps says Morrissey is quite the wordsmith (get it?), on par with poets like Sir John Betjeman and Philip Larkin.

Uh, not so fast says's Michael Deacon. Morrissey is no poet.

"Poetry is written to fit metre, song lyrics to fit melody. This is why poems look good on paper, and song lyrics almost invariably do not," he writes. "Even a poet who writes free verse, the stuff that ignores traditional verse forms, has to keep his ear open for his lines' rhythms. A singer doesn't; he just has to follow the tune," Deacon writes.

And in the case of Morrissey, it's always the same tune.

Hopps is right that Morrissey's lyrics tend to be more high-brow than most, but poetry it isn't.

"Why these academics make such lofty claims for pop stars, I don't know. Perhaps doing so makes them feel younger and cooler, in the same way that non-academics of their age might suddenly acquire a taste for leather jackets. Or perhaps they're secretly ashamed of enjoying pop, and so try to persuade both themselves and others that it's 'high' art," Deacon writes.

Deacon also mentions Bob Dylan as a pop star who has been given poet status unjustifiably. I am with him there. I don't think Dylan is a great poet. Great songwriter, sure. And it's not because I think of poetry as a higher art. It's just that they are different arts.

It's like how my sister Laura and I are twins, yet completely different people. One of us thinks Morrissey is way overrated and the other wants to have Morrissey's babies and lick the sweat off of his bare 50-year-old chest. (Confidential to Laura: that is gross).

Engrish poetry

Who knew advertising could be so poetic? Thanks,! I do not know what in this picture is being referred to as "your poem," but in one of the shots of the family rack (a horrible idea for a Christmas card, by the way) it looks like there are little journals or something on the lower shelf.

I've taken the liberty of converting this ad text into a poem (of sorts) by adding some line breaks:
Family Rack

Save your poem
over the time,
and create your life,
this will make you
happy and make you
space will be
so exciting.

Oh, and hey, how about some totally random Wordsworth while we're at it?

Engrish monkeys

Thank you to my sister Christine for sending me this link to the Crap Shooting Monkey on with the message, "Oh, Japan." I am very thankful that I was not touched by this particular kind of monkey whilst in Japan oh so many years ago.

There are many monkeys to be had on including suggestive messages on t-shirts and about t-shirts, monkeys of a godly nature, cartoon monkeys crying for help, a confusing child's t-shirt, a sock monkey sweatshirt, some monkey fizz to quench your thirst, and beautician monkeys.

But most important of all is a sign that I guess, in retrospect, I am glad I did not see, but that makes me thankful that the monkey who gave me that slap on the leg didn't chew my arm off instead:

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Recession Haiku update!

On Thursday I wrote about NPR's Planet Money asking folks to write a recession haiku and share it on their blog. I also wrote a few myself. Planet Money then picked a handful of them to read on their Friday podcast and what do you know? They picked one of mine. You can listen to the podcast or download it on If you don't want to listen to the whole thing, the haiku segment is at the very end, starting at about 16:34.

Monkey on monkey action

I'll admit, this video of a monkey and a slow loris is pretty cute. It'd be far cuter if the animals weren't dressed in completely retarded outfits. I mean, look at the slow loris: WTF? Did your grandma make that? And dressing a little monkey in doll clothes only strengthens my argument against keeping monkeys as pets. And yes, this is coming from a woman whose dog can often be seen sporting t-shirts that say "Bitches Love Me" or various sweaters, but he's a poodle and that's practically required by law.

Most Cutest Monkey Ever. !! -
From Videogum.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Painting fail: "the rich green goo of [my] being"

I am in the process of painting my bathroom green. A much brighter shade of green than I originally intended. In fact, my bathroom now looks like an enormous bottle of Garnier Fructis shampoo.

And what do you know? A poem featuring green shampoo. It's Prell, not Garnier Fructis, but it's close enough.

Quest of the Prell

We were functioning as one; it was a flying dream.
I was holding his hand, he mine. I hadn’t yet glimpsed
his face (when you’re flying you don’t care).
Sand-hued gazelles sipped at a green lagoon,
and there was no question but that we both needed
to get closer;
descending, found instead a playground
beside a green pond, no, massive bottle of Prell Shampoo,
like the one in the commercial where a man's hand drops
a pearl, which slowly sinks through the green murk,
to show how thick the murk must be to slow the pearl.
And he sighed with a look I knew from somewhere,
as if he’d said What’s wrong? and I’d answered Nothing
unconvincingly—a tired, determined look,
suggesting this was yet another test
of love. His quest: to swim the Prell.
What’s worse, I think I seemed to want him to;
and woke in horror, though not sure whose.
Is this what the male psyche thinks it’s up against
in a relationship (the very word ungainly)
with a woman, wummin, womyn,
dividing his energies among the recycled
merry-go-round arguments, and manning
the unbalanced swingset of romance,
trying to swing as she swings,
at the same velocity and height,
so as to keep everything even
between them? Then off to navigate
her jungle gym without getting to the top
first, trying not to put his foot down
on hers, her career, her herness,
or lose his tender grip on her notion
of what their life could be?
Oh, must he seesaw with her endlessly
on that creaking, warped emery board
laid across the moat of her past,
swirling with such desires as she herself
can hardly see, with prehistorically
huge appetites and indiscriminate teeth?

Not to say it isn’t terrifying on the woman’s end
of things, like going down the slide backwards
sans underwear, and which will it be this time
at bottom: the burning sands of his indifference;
the asphalt of disdain; or will he laughing catch her up?

This all sounds so fifties, I know, the Prell,
the desire to be caught, but it was his look
that left me shaking. I’ve seen it on every lover
and husband of every last one of my women friends,
and now on you—though it wasn’t your face
really; let’s not forget this was a dream—
inheriting that look from every man regarding
every woman, that awful look of resignation
to face the rich green goo of her being;
the hero hardily willing to hold his breath
grimaceless, refrain from muttering Oh, swell,
and blindly dive to retrieve that cultured pearl,
dropped long ago by an unknown man’s
unthinking hand (just to prove a point)
into the opaque murk of her self, her very elle;
into the thick, slick, deep, man-handled,
bottled-up, unreal green of her Prell.

As she heroically must stand there
helpless, watching him.

( J. Allyn Rosser, from Misery Prefigured, 2001 Southern Illinois University Press).

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Recession Haiku from NPR

Even if you lose your car, your house or your girl, you still have rock 'n' roll (to paraphrase the 13-year-olds in the band Whiplash who, by the way, are one of the featured bands in the latest Wonder Twins show review in the Metro Times). You've also got poetry or, more specifically, the haiku.

NPR, totally gay for poetry lately, has a story on their Planet Money blog about University of Michigan (holla!) economics professor Stephen Ziliak who says "an economics without poetry is an economics that is blind."

From the blog: "Ziliak is a big fan of haiku because it's an efficient form where economy of words is valued. He assigns haiku challenges for bonus points on exams and holds haiku workshops as part of a course on rhetoric in economics."


There's also a Chronicle of Higher Education interview with Ziliak done entirely in haiku. But you can't read it unless you're a CoHE subscriber.

But don't be sad, because NPR has given you an assignment: Write a recession haiku! And as NPR reminds us, a haiku is "17 syllables, in three lines, with a pattern of five syllables, seven syllables, and five more."

So write 'em up and put them in the comments section on Planet Money. Because poetry makes everybody richer (in a completely metaphorical way, of course).

Here are mine:

A good time to buy
that minivan you don't want
but need for the kids

Your mother in law
is coming to live with you.
Hey, good luck with that.

Put off surgery.
It's not that noticeable
if you wear a hat.

Dental insurance
is for losers anyway.
Just keep your mouth closed.

Sell it on E-bay
and by it I mean your house.
You might get ten grand.

From my wife:

Tulips rise again
but Anne won't see them this year.
New renters mow them.

graduates. No job waiting?
Get a PhD.

Oh camera, you cruel machine

Thank you to Carly Harschlip and Sara Ferguson, two fabulous poets who just graduated from UofM's MFA training camp, for introducing me to Awkward Family Photos, a blog that reminds us all that the camera is not always our friend and makes a great case for selective amnesia.

And I've found the perfect poem to go with this blog: "The Photos" by Diane Wakoski. In fact, one of the photos looks a lot like a young Ms. Wakoski.
The Photos

My sister in her well-tailored silk blouse hands me
the photo of my father
in naval uniform and white hat.
I say, “Oh, this is the one which Mama used to have on her dresser.”

My sister controls her face and furtively looks at my mother,
a sad rag bag of a woman, lumpy and sagging everywhere,
like a mattress at the Salvation Army, though with no holes or tears,
and says, “No.”

I look again,
and see that my father is wearing a wedding ring,
which he never did
when he lived with my mother. And that there is a legend on it,
“To my dearest wife,
And I realize the photo must have belonged to his second wife,
whom he left our mother to marry.

My mother says, with her face as still as the whole unpopulated part of the
state of North Dakota,
“May I see it too?”
She looks at it.

I look at my tailored sister
and my own blue-jeaned self. Have we wanted to hurt our mother,
sharing these pictures on this, one of the few days I ever visit or
spend with family? For her face is curiously haunted,
not now with her usual viperish bitterness,
but with something so deep it could not be spoken.
I turn away and say I must go on, as I have a dinner engagement with friends.
But I drive all the way to Pasadena from Whittier,
thinking of my mother’s face; how I could never love her; how my father
could not love her either. Yet knowing I have inherited
the rag-bag body,
stony face with bulldog jaws.

I drive, thinking of that face.
Jeffers’ California Medea who inspired me to poetry.
I killed my children,
but there as I am changing lanes on the freeway, necessarily glancing in the
rearview mirror, I see the face,
not even a ghost, but always with me, like a photo in a beloved’s wallet.

How I hate my destiny.

(Diane Wakoski, from Emerald Ice: Selected Poems 1962-1987, 1988 Black Sparrow Press.)

Maybe You Shouldn't Buy That

I've discovered a new blog to love. Maybe You Shouldn't Buy That is a "collection of the most expensive and most worthless items in the world." And they've found the perfect Mother's Day gift "assuming your mother is a gorilla or Rosie O’Donnell."

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Monkey See: NPR's pop culture blog

If anything it has a cool logo. Seriously, though, it's actually pretty good. I don't know why I say that like I'm surprised. I'm a total NPR nerd.

Looking for love in 2409

From NPR:
"Shakespeare's sonnets have stayed with us for 400 years. But an old poem can make you wonder: Are there any words of love from our time that would last as long?

We want to hear your ideas for words of love that might endure for as long as a Shakespearean sonnet. So pick something — a poem, a passage from a novel, a scene from a movie, a snippet of a song or even a slogan off a T-shirt — and share it with us. Be specific and let us know why you chose what you did.

Remember, it has to have been produced in your lifetime. It has to be about love. And it has to be something that people might still perform or pontificate about 400 years from now — in the year 2409."

Uh, okay. But just who is judging this? Oh, wait. I forgot. NPR totally has a Love Time Machine.

Was Shakespeare repressed?

NPR says yes.

Crazy props for Laurie Capps

Congrats to the lovely and talented Laurie Capps for being a finalist in the Crazyhorse Lynda Hull Memorial Poetry Prize contest. The judge this year was none other than James Tate and it was none other than Laurie Capps who introduced me to Tate's work while she and I were browsing at a used bookstore in North Carolina oh so many years ago. Coincidence? Yes, probably. But I feel compelled to point it out.

This James Tate poem seems fitting for the occasion, not only because it's a poem about poetry (a kind of poem I usually hate), but also because Laurie Capps also weeps iced tea.
Poem to Some of My Recent Poems

My beloved little billiard balls,
my polite mongrels, edible patriotic plums,
you owe your beauty to your mother, who
resembled a cyclindrical corned beef
with all the trimmings, may God rest
her forsaken soul, for it is all of us
she forsook; and I shall never forget
her sputtering embers, and then the little mound.
Yes, my little rum runners, she had defective
tear ducts and could weep only iced tea.
She had petticoats beneath her eyelids.
And in her last years she found ball bearings
in her beehive puddings, she swore allegiance
to Abyssinia. What should I have done?
I played the piano and scrambled eggs.
I had to navigate carefully around her brain’s
avalanche lest even a decent finale be forfeited.
And her beauty still evermore. You see,
as she was dying, I led each of you to her side,
one by one she scorched you with her radiance.
And she is ever with us in our acetylene leisure.
But you are beautiful, and I, a slave to a heap of cinders.

(James Tate, from Selected Poems, 1991 Wesleyan University Press.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Poor lolmonkey

humorous pictures

Granted this isn't an lolcat, but there is no I Can Has Cheeseburger equivalent for monkeys, so I'll have to settle for the occasional species interloper moment.

Monkeys occasionally turn up on I Has a Hotdog, too, but I have to say that even though I am pretty squarely a dog person, I Can Has Cheeseburger is way funnier overall. I don't know if cat people are more clever than dog people, but the loldog captions are often very dumb and really obvious. They lack the acerbic nature of lolcats. Sad but true.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Red all over

I love true crime books. This is not a confession so much as a fact, though I should make clear that I don't love the horrible crimes that these books are borne out of. My wife tells me I shouldn't read so many "murder books" when I complain about the terrible nightmares I sometimes have. It is not advice that I heed.

My true crime interest combined with my love of poetry virtually ensured that I would read Maggie Nelson's The Red Parts, a memoir she wrote about the murder of her aunt.

From the New York Times: "In March 1969, Jane Mixer, a 23-year-old University of Michigan law school student, ... was found with two bullets in her brain and a stocking so ambitiously wound around her neck that her head was nearly severed. The killer decorated the corpse with Jane’s belongings, in an effort almost as laborious as the ones undertaken over the next three decades to make sense of her murder."

The Red Parts is but one of the two books Nelson wrote about Jane’s killing, which was for years believed to be one of the infamous “Michigan Murders.” Her other book is a book of poetry titled, simply, Jane. I have not yet read it, but will.

The oddly crossed paths of criminology and poetry is demonstrated perfectly in this passage from the book:
"When Jane comes out in March 2005, [Detective-Sergeant Eric] Schroeder will go through each poem with a highlighter. We will correspond about some details--where I got the information about the timing of a phone call Jane supposedly made on the night of her murder, if I know where he might find the guest book from Jane's funeral that I mention, and so on.

I can honestly say that it's the first book of poetry I've ever read, he will write.

I will write back, equally honestly, that it's the first I've ever written to be highlighted by a homicide detective."
Unbeknownst to Nelson, Jane was coming out at the same time that Jane's murder case was being reopened and a suspect, thanks to DNA evidence, was in sights.

The Red Parts is best -- and it is quite good -- when Nelson is focused on the case. There is, perhaps, a bit too much "me time" here, which is perfectly understandable considering the subject matter and the genre. But Nelson doesn't always manage to lift these parts above naval gazing prose. Still, The Red Parts makes me want to read Jane, which is, I think, high praise. It also, admittedly, makes me want to read an actual true crime book. Something with a bit more grit and gristle. In fact, I've got a book on my shelf about the Boston Strangler that's calling my name...

Friday, May 15, 2009

Poet mamas

I just finished reading It's a Boy: Women Writers on Raising Sons (2005, Seal Press). I really liked it. The title of the book tells you all you really need to know as far as what the book is "about." Most of the "women writers" in question, with the exception of Jodi Picoult, I had never heard of before. As it turns out, at least four of them are poets.

Ona Gritz, whose essay is, in part, about being a pacifist mother of a son who turns everything into a gun and, in part, about seeing so much of her ex-husband in her growing boy, has a lot of poems about being a mom, judging from what's available on her Web site and sites like Literary Mama.

Also along the lines of "I'm a pacifist but my son wants to shoot things" is the essay by Gayle Brandeis. She has a handful of poems you can read on her Web site as well.

According to her bio, Faulkner Fox is also a poet, but I couldn't find any of her poetry online. Her essay was about her family's "curse" of only ever giving birth to boys.

Gwendolen Gross wrote about her son's love of math and how she felt kind of outside that part of his world. I couldn't find any of her poems online, either but she, like Fox, seems focused on writing fiction now. However, they both mentioned writing poetry in their bios, so at least they're not ashamed of that part of their past.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Go Ninja Go Ninja Go by Crispin Best

Go Ninja Go Ninja Go is a suite of poems about the cast of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

The best lines are from the poem "Michelangelo": "Michelangelo thinks there should be a TV channel over Easter that shows what Jesus would have been up to at that point, in real time. / Whenever you wanted you could just switch to that channel and there Jesus would be eating some last supper, or sad up on the cross, or there’d be a shot of the cave and some sky and a bit of wind. "

Via Slog.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Poetry in the White House

Last night there was a poetry jam in the White House. Or something like that. And while some folks weren't impressed ("That did not save poetry in America," Slog's Paul Constant wrote after the event), I am. I mean, sure, James Earl Jones reading Othello was creepy. But people were reading poetry in the White House. At an event hosted and attended by the President and First Lady.

“We’re here to celebrate the power of words and music to help us appreciate beauty and also to understand pain," Obama said.

What? A president that cares about the arts? Hells, yes. I'll take it.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Poetry cubed

Anyone who has ever worked in a cube in an office environment knows that it can be pretty hard to concentrate sometimes. But did you know that it can be an occasion for poetry? An office worker who has asked to remain anonymous sent me this today. I think it's clear that writing poetry is the best defense against workplace violence:
"Every once in awhile, the number of conversations taking place all around my cube completely breaks my concentration to the point I have to stop working. Typically I am good at ignoring it, but with a three person meeting on one side of me, two people in the cube next to me and the man on the phone in the cube in front of me, the cacophony threshold was too much to tune out. Instead of standing up and screaming, “Shut the fuck up!” I decided to take a break for a couple minutes and rapidly write down the little snatches of conversation that I could make out from the din. It kinda turned out like a poem. I call it, “I Don’t Care If You Want the Machine,” because that’s the last thing I heard before I stopped writing. I highly suggest this exercise to people who occasionally find their concentration equally destroyed... It helped calm me down and was fun. :)"
Here's the resulting poem:
I Don’t Care if You Want the Machine

Look beyond the landing page
It’s different if we just send it out
This thing right here
Maybe they’ll miss it
Reinforced images
I have to show what you can use
Five things
It’s a really good idea
Now they’re on our list
It seems like they want to know how they can help
Religious organizations
There’s more church base than synagogue
That’s too far
We have to develop a contract
It’s a conflict
A very slow cooking cauldron
It’s come a long way
I know this is really frustrating
We know what they want, giving it to them is hard
It’s gonna be grey
She’s got full justification
But I wouldn’t box them in
The raw data will break it down
It’s what I keep on touting about
No “P.S.” on this
Every time you say that
You go carbon dating things
I’m dying

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

This is pretty much the best Mother's Day story ever.

The leopard and baby baboon story is touching and fascinating, but a great Mother's Day story maybe doesn't involve so much death.

Friday, May 8, 2009

"Jabberwocky" on the Block

The New Kids on the Block performed "Hanging Tough" on The Today Show and employed Rejuvenique masks as stage props. It was creepy. At first I was confused, but then it made sense. After all, the Rejuvenique mask is an anti-aging tool and the New Kids aren't exactly young any more. As my sister (who brought this matter to my attention) said, "They must've picked up a Rejuvenique sponsorship!"

At the end of the song, Donnie yells out, "NKOTB! Jabberwocky! New York!"

"Jabberwocky," is, of course, the famous poem by Lewis Carroll "in which he created nonsensical words from word combinations." Now, this might not seem related to the New Kids, but when you think about it, "Whoa oh oh oh oh, hangin' tough. We're rough" makes as much sense as "All mimsy were the borogoves, / And the mome raths outgrabe."

Via Videogum.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The Odyssey: "This book sucks"

Cynical C-Blog takes a look at The Odyssey through the lens of "one star Amazon reviews of classic movies, music and literature."

"This book sucks. I dont care if Homer was blind or not this book is like 900 pages too long. I could tell this story in about 10 pages."

"I thought this story was very gross. I mean come on. We are having to read this book in freshman English. Actually our teacher reads it to us, but it is still disgusting."

"The general plot is rather repetitive. Odysseus overcomes a challenge on an island, and while leaving via boat, a storm takes him to yet another island, where the process is repeated."
(Full disclosure: I've never read The Odessey and probably never will. Still, I find this hilarious.)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Rap-poem: not quite rap, not quite poetry

Current TV's Viral Video Film School is one of my favorite things ever. Not only do I teach a class at UofM called Viral Video Rhetoric, but I also think Brett Erlich is both hilarious and adorable. In this installment of VVFS, Brett discusses tattoos, or, more specifically, he discusses YouTube videos of tattoos, including one dude who does a "rap-poem" about his.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Lesbian poet laureate takeover

Carol Ann Duffy is the new UK poet laureate. That means the poet laureates of the United States and the UK are both lesbians. That's Kay Ryan for the states and Carol Ann Duffy for the Brits.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Thank you, Kenneth. Monkeys ARE wild animals

So it looks like there was a monkey on last night's 30 Rock. Since I am currently on disc one of the second season, I didn't watch it, but the folks at Videogum did. And Kenneth is right: monkeys are wild animals.

"Words Can't Describe" by Toothpaste for Dinner
Sure this isn't about poetry exactly, but indirectly it is.

"Time Machine Paddleboat" by Married to the Sea

War monkey

Bad poetry crossword puzzle

I'm not going to lie. I'm not a big crossword puzzle person. Occasionally I do them on road trips with my wife. But I don't do them alone because I am terrible at them. As a poet, I find this kind of humiliating since I'm supposed to be good with words or whatever (see? proof, right there).

In any case, here is a crossword puzzle worth doing. Via The Awl, we have a puzzle by Alex Pareene titled "Bad Titles for Poems" that takes its answers from "the most oft-submitted titles of poems to an award-winning American publication." Get out those pencils. And hope that none of the answers are the titles of any of your poems.

UPDATE: So my wife and I did the puzzle. We spent about two hours on it. We got 8 correct on our own, 2 correct using the Internets, and the rest, well, we didn't get. It's a hard puzzle and some of the clues don't make sense, even after we read the answer key (we're looking at you 17 Across). I think I'll stick to search-a-words. Much more OCD friendly.

Friday, May 1, 2009

"On Losing a Home" by Mary Oliver

I stayed up until 4 in the morning reading Valerie Laken's novel Dream House. It was most excellent. Laken, by the way, is a graduate of UofM's MFA program (holla!).

Dream House made me think of the poem "On Losing a Home" by Mary Oliver.

On Losing a Home

The bumble bees
know where their home is.
They have memorized
every stalk and leaf
of the field.
They fall from the air at
the right place,
they crawl
under the soft grasses,
they enter
the darkness

Where we will go
with our tables and chairs,
our bed,
our nine thousand books,
our TV, PC, VCR,
our cat
who is sixteen years old?
Where will we put down
our dishes and our blue carpets,
where will we put up
our rose-colored,

We never saw
such a beautiful house,
though it dipped toward the sea,
though it shook and creaked,
though it said to the rain: come in!
and had a ghost --
at night she rattled the teacups
with her narrow hands,
then left the cupboard open --
ad once she slipped -- or maybe it wasn't a slip --
and called to our cat, who ran to the empty room.
We only smiled.
Unwise! Unwise!

O, what is money?
O, never in our lives have we thought
about money.
O, we have only a little money.
O, now in our sleep
we dream of finding money.
But someone else
already has money.
Money, money, money.
Someone else
can sign the papers,
can turn the key.
O dark, O heavy, O mossy money.

how the rich
don't even
hesitate -- up go the
sloping rooflines, out goes the
garden, down goes the crooked,
green tree, out goes the
old sink, and the little windows, and
there you have it -- a house
like any other -- and there goes
the ghost, and then another, they glide over
the water, away, waving and waving
their fog-colored hands.

Don't tell us
how to love, don't tell us
how to grieve, or what
to grieve for, or how loss
shouldn't sit down like a gray
bundle of dust in the deepest
pockets of our energy, don't laugh at our belief
that money isn't
everything, don't tell us
how to behave in
anger, in longing, in loss, in home-
sickness, don't tell us,
dear friends.

Goodbye, house.
Goodbye, sweet and beautiful house,
we shouted, and it shouted back,
goodbye to you, and lifted itself
down from the town, and set off
like a packet of clouds across
the harbor's blue ring,
the tossing bell, the sandy point -- and turned
lightly, wordlessly,
into the keep of the wind
where it floats still --
where it plunges and rises still
on the black and dreamy sea.

(Mary Oliver, from What Do We Know, 2002 Da Capo Press)