Sunday, August 30, 2009

If you're going to Denver

If you're going to Denver for, say, AWP 2010 (or if you're already there. It's populated by actual living residents, I hear) and are into beat poets, you can go on Denver's Beat Poetry Driving Tour.

"It's a well known and beloved fact - though this will be news to most Coloradans and most Americans - that Denver possesses a fascinating slice of the Beat Generation's history," reads the Denver.Gov webpage (yes! The government is behind this!)

If something is a "well known and beloved fact" then it probably shouldn't "be news to most Coloradans and most Americans." But hey, I am not the fact police.

There are six stops on the tour and they "are ordered in a way that makes emotional, historical and geographical sense (there's even a specific Beat site that includes lunch!). These stops are best viewed in daylight hours. Drive safely and have fun!"

I am glad to know that the driving tour is arranged in such a way that it makes geographical sense. I am thrilled, however, to know that it is arranged to make emotional sense as well. This is very important to me when sightseeing. I do not like my emotions toyed with. I like my emotions to be very orderly. Otherwise I'm all, "Hey, I thought this was a driving tour, not an emotional roller coaster!" Thank you Government of Denver, for thinking of my emotional needs.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Glück's Village people

Louise Glück's latest book of poems, A Village Life, reviewed in the New York Times.

The title poem appeared in The New Yorker a year ago.

Beowulf: worst movie of all time?

Videogum's Hunt For The Worst Movie of All Time continues with Beowulf:
"I have never read Beowulf. I own a recent paperback translation (w/ explanatory footnotes) by Howell D. Chickering, Jr. but owning is not the same as reading. For one thing, I don't even like regular poetry, much less epic Olde English poetry of unknown origin. But mostly I am just lazy. Every single day I have to make a decision between reading Beowulf or doing any of a hundred other things, and I know I probably sound insane, but somehow those hundred other things keep winning!

That being said, you don't have to be a corduroy-blazer-with-leather-arm-patch-wearing Beowulf scholar to recognize that a feature-length computer animated action-adventure adaptation starring Angelina Jolie is a fucking terrible idea."

Read the whole thing.

My Life According to [poet]

There's a little Facebook meme for poetry fans with too much time on their hands called "My Life According to [poet]." The instructions are: "Using only poem titles from one poet, answer these questions. Pass it on people you like, including me. Do not repeat a title. Repost as 'My Life According to [poet].'"

So I did one using the poetry of Laura Kasischke. Although in some ways pointless, the exercise did give me a good excuse to get all of her books out and thumb through them, revisiting some of my favorite poems of hers. I've posted it below. I've also posted my wife's list, which she did according to Shel Silverstein. I know I am biased, but I found her list to be infinitely adorable, especially considering the fact that she gave birth to our son a mere six weeks ago and he's breastfeeding. You'll see what I mean.
D'Anne's Life According to Laura Kasischke
(NOTE: I picked Laura because I love her poetry and also because I own all of her books. After doing this I realize that using 7 books made this take a lot more time than a woman with a 5 week old baby really has. Still. I did it.)

Are you a male or female?
Miss Congeniality

Describe yourself:
I am the Coward Who Did Not Pick Up the Phone

How do you feel:
Woman in a Girdle

Describe where you currently live:
Summer, Here

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
Guide to Imaginary Places

Dream vacation:
Grand Rapids Woman Last Seen at Motel 6

Where you feel safe:

Your favorite form of transportation:
Green Bicycle

What's the weather like:
Eighteen Days of Rain

Your favorite time of day:

Your relationships:
What I Hear In Your Hair

Your friendships:
Where Are These Child Stars Now?

Your fear:
Murdered Girls

Your greatest regret:
A is for Almost

Your dream job:
Cocktail Waitress

Your alma mater:
Andy's Lanes & Lounge

Your name, if you could change it:

Your favorite color:
Gray, As Flowers

Your favorite food:

Your favorite part of the body:
The Tarred and Feathered Heart

Your biggest pet peeve:
The Cause of All My Suffering

Your worst habit:

Your death:
Self-fulfilling Prophecies

Your religion:
The Visibility of Spirits

Your daily routine:
Housekeeping in a Dream

Your philosophy of life:
Fire & Flower

Your soul's present condition:
To Whom It May Concern

Your best advice:
Do Not Leave Baby Unattended

And here is my wife's:

My Life According to Shel Silverstein
(NOTE: I picked Silverstein because this is the poet I've read a whole book by. Don't get me wrong - I read grown up poetry too. I just prefer anthologies.)

Are you a male or female?

Describe yourself:
They've Put a Brassiere on the Camel

How do you feel:

Describe where you currently live:
Messy Room

If you could go anywhere, where would you go:
Quick Trip

Dream vacation:

Where you feel safe:

Your favorite form of transportation:
Magic Carpet

What's the weather like:
It's Hot!

Your favorite time of day:
Moon-Catchin' Net

Your relationships:
Ladies First

Your friendships:

Your fear:
Tryin' on Clothes

Your greatest regret:

Your dream job:

Your alma mater:
Buckin' Bronco

Your name, if you could change it:
Little Abigail and the Beautiful Pony

Your favorite color:
Oak and the Rose

Your favorite food:
Wild Strawberries

Your favorite part of the body:
Who Ordered the Broiled Face?

Your biggest pet peeve:
Importnt? [sic]

Your worst habit:

Your death:
God's Wheel

Your religion:

Your daily routine:
How Not to Have to Dry the Dishes

Your philosophy of life:

Your soul's present condition:
Almost Perfect

Your best advice:
Have Fun

Friday, August 28, 2009

Dudley Randall "gives us pause to consider what is good from our past"

There's a really nice write up about Detroit poet Dudley Randall by Larry Gabriel in this week's Metro Times. The remembrance was prompted by the publication this month of Roses and Revolutions: The Selected Writings of Dudley Randall edited by Melba Joyce Boyd and published by Wayne State University Press.

"As new political personalities grab for the reins of Detroit and seek to break with the past, Randall gives us pause to consider what is good from our past," Gabriel writes. "Boyd has done us a great service in bringing together many of Randall's disparate writings in one volume. Let's not forget him. He never seemed to forget who he was or where he was from. And he never wavered a bit in seeking justice."

Randall was at one time a librarian at University of Detroit Mercy (my alma mater). UDM now has The Dudley Randall Center for Print Culture, which is how I first heard of Randall's poetic legacy. In 2004 the Dudley Randall Center put out A Different Image: The Legacy of Broadside Press (Wayne State University Press), an anthology of poets published by the press founded by Randall. It's pretty much a must-have for anyone interested in the history of poetry in Detroit.

Also in this week's Metro Times: The Wonder Twins get all medieval on yer asses.

No Pop-Tarts for gorillas

Breaking into the zoo after hours? Bad idea. Feeding the gorillas Pop-Tarts? Not smart. Getting caught on camera? Priceless.

I love the subhead of this story on "Zoo says Pop-Tarts are not part of their diet." Really? Not even the unfrosted ones?

Via Boing-Boing. Thank you, Laura, for the tip.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Teabagging is for poets

My wife drinks a lot of tea. Today she was drinking some Good Earth Tea, which has quotes on each tea bag. Hers was from French poet Paul Valery (1871 - 1945): "Books have the same enemies as people: fire, humidity, animals, weather, and their own content."

I believe Valery was also responsible for saying, "A poem is never finished, only abandoned," which comes to mind often as I write.

Oh, and speaking of teabagging... Only 118 shopping days left before Christmas (105 until Hanukkah).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Monkeys and poetry float on David James Duncan's river

River Teeth by David James Duncan has stories about nature. Man vs. Nature as we learned in high school, only to learn in college that it wasn't a real thing. In any case, Duncan is a master at telling a story about fishing. I don't even like fishing -- in fact, I think it's cruel -- but his stories are good. Others subject matters discussed within: bees, tall trees, various bird species, watching Tom and Jerry with a toddler, sheep, Indians, Mickey Mantle, Eastern religions, brothers, death, and a man's head being split open like a melon in the middle of a parade. Some of these stories are true. One story in particular, "The King of Epoxy," is about an archeologist who finds a monkey relic and then basically loses his mind. There is a lot of scraping in the story. Lots of dust. Also ridicule. It is not the best story in the collection. But not only does it feature monkeys, it also features poetry, in that the archeologist's crazy sister is a poet. Thus another loop in the great monkeys and poetry chain.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Two weeks in Japan

That's how long I spent there. Kate T. Williamson spent a year there and has a book to prove it.

A Year In Japan reminded me so much of the time I spent in Tokyo visiting my wife, who was my girlfriend at the time. Williamson's book is a lesson in paying attention to the small details. She sketches and writes about the kinds of things that I remember so well. Like how there aren't any paper towels in Japanese restrooms. You're expected to bring your own wash cloths to dry your hands. Williamson focuses on the beauty of the many wash cloths available -- often highly decorative since they are accessories -- rather than the inconvenience to be a foreigner not hip to this custom with nowhere to dry your hands.

Other quirky things about Japan that Williamson touches upon: how the fruit in stores is individually wrapped, the incredible socks in department stores (as she points out, socks are an important part of one's wardrobe since in Japan people take their shoes off all the time), the "all girl" theater, the many sweets made with bean paste (she liked them, I did not), the overpackaging of everything you buy in a store, and the seriousness of karaoke (while I was there Stacy and I went out with some of her work friends. I sang Aretha Franklin's "Respect." Her Japanese co-workers were very impressed).

She also talked about watching members of the Tokyo Rockabilly Club, a group of temple carpenters who dance in the public square for five hours every Sunday. As a hobby. She writes that they "are accompanied by tapes that alternate between American oldies and Japanese rock 'n' roll (including my personal favorite, 'Funky Monkey Baby,' a Japanese hit from the 70s). The dancers take occasional breaks for snacks, girl friends, grooming, repairing their dance shoes with electrical tape (the surface of the plaza is very rough), and removing the occasional ball or toddler from the center of the dance circle."

I tracked down the song "Funky Monkey Baby," and found that it's by a band named Carol. Here's a video of "Funky Monkey Baby." You can see more at Japan Sugoi: Everything Cool About Japan.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Prostitute poetry

Toni Bentley reviews Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys: Professionals Writing on Life, Love, Money, and Sex (2009 Soft Skull Press) in the New York Times Sunday Book Review.

According to Bentley, this "collection of essays, vignettes, rants and poems" is "a wonderful reminder that good writing is not about knowing words, grammar or Faulkner, but having that rare ability to tell the truth, an ability that education and sophistication often serve to conceal. While we are all, I suppose, in the business of surviving, some really are surviving more notably than others. The collective cry for identity found in this unsentimental compilation will resonate deeply — even, I suspect, with those among us who pretend not to pay for sex."

Sounds interesting. I'd say that I'd like to get my hands on a copy, but that totally sounds dirty now. I just hope the poetry doesn't suck. Wait. That's not what I mean. (Shaking fists at sky: Sex-worker poets, curse you!)

Knocked up, but not out

Just finished reading Accidentally on Purpose: A One-Night Stand, My Unplanned Parenthood, and Loving the Best Mistake I Ever Made byMary Pols. Needless to say, Dan Quayle would not like this book. I, however, did. I always wonder how single parents do it, especially after having a kid of my own. When Pols gets knocked up after a one night stand, she decides to keep the baby and her hook-up becomes a very steady, though complicated, part of her life in the role of the baby's father. Meanwhile, Pols also has to deal with the loss of both of her parents. Accidentally on Purpose complicates the idea of what makes a family and who decides what those rules are.

What is the connection to poetry or monkeys you ask? Well, there's no connection to monkeys, but Pols's father wrote poetry and became very serious about it near the end of his life.
"He had things he wanted to do. The previous fall he'd finished a poetry manuscript, elegant, formal poems that knitted acriss the breadth of his life, from his days as a young man in World War II to his years as a caregiver to my mother. He'd enlisted [his daughter] Wib as his literary agent, and he'd been pestering her to track down editors at the few publishing houses that still bothered with poetry. She'd walk into his room and he'd ask if any mail had come from the editor of the Sewanee Review, or from an obscure contest out in Michigan that sounded promising. He'd also finished a new philosophy manuscript, and he wanted her to do something with that too. He was a man who was not yet done with life, even if, it seemed, life was done with him."

While he was dying, Pols and her siblings read their father's poetry to him. The poem, "The Winter Hexagon," is about death, specifically his own. The first four lines are, "When I was young and full of careless vigor, / I often thought the end of life should be embraced / in some old pagan way one's heard of; go forth / to meet with dignity what must in any event come."

Read more of the book here:

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Don't call it a comeback, [they've] been here for years..."

The Awl is heralding the return of Sea Monkeys: "If you've been longing to brighten your life with a collection of dessicated brine shrimp you won't be disappointed. There's even a fancy new website which 'allows users to customize their own Sea-Monkeys tank and share it with friends through social networking interaction.' It's like Facebook for Sea Monkeys!"

Should this be happening? No, this should not be happening.

My little sister had Sea Monkeys once. Maybe even more than once, though I hope not. The only thing I remember about them is how horrible the little tank smelled after they all died. Of neglect. My sister has brine shrimp blood on her hands. As AdWeek sums it up, "If you want the cachet of being a "pet owner," but couldn't care less if the pets live or die, Sea-Monkeys are the choice for you."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

They grow 'em cute in Philadelphia

Speaking of zoos, a friend sent me a link to a New York Times Travel piece about the Philadelphia Zoo because of this cutest ever monkey photo that ran along with it.

Name those lemurs

The Detroit Zoo has a pair of nameless lemur twins and they want you to suggest some names. They're especially looking for names that are all Madagascar-esque, so read up.

"These mountain gorillas are the great apes. Human beings are also the great apes"

The Vice Guide to Travel presents "Gorillas in the Midst" an excellent short documentary about mountain gorillas in Uganda.

It's hard to believe that there are only 720 or so of these animals left on earth. "Gorillas in the Midst" follows Levi, the guide, and a couple of trackers in the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest who lead the camera crew to some gorillas. Watching these massive animals emerge from the forest is really incredible. Added bonus: a sneak peek into the bad scatological habits of gorillas.

"If we as humans can't protect our closest family relatives then we really will fail as a species ourselves."
- Dr. Richard Carroll, World Wildlife Fund

North Korean abuses told through poetry, drawings

The Aug. 2009 issue of Vice includes an article on the horrors of abuse faced by North Koreans, as told through poetry and cartoons that are literally smuggled over the border. Included is an excerpt of the poem “I Sell My Daughter for 100 Won” by Chang Jinsung. There are also really terrifying line drawings of things most folks couldn't even dream up.
Excerpt from “I Sell My Daughter for 100 Won”

Wherever there are people
There is the sound of gunshots.

Today in front of the public
Another someone is executed.

You should never feel compassion.
If dead, you have to kill once again, with rage.

Left unsaid from the declaration
In front of the bang-bang of gunshots
How so is it that today
the silence of the people feels heavier?

Stealing a sack of rice,
The criminal was killed with 90 gunshots.
His occupation
a farmer.

(Defector poet Chang Jinsung, from Vice, Aug. 2009)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Oh, Photoshop, you destroyer, you

"A Lesson in Turning Harmless Pictures into Freakshows" by Unreality:
"Imagine having one minor detail in what would be considered a normal face, completely changed. For example, a perfectly normal set of ears are all of a sudden pushed out and you now look like a monkey."
But don't worry. It's all much worse than that.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The name game: Xanadu

Detroit's Mark Arminio points out some famous stuff named after poetry on the Mental Floss blog. While the 7 things he names are interesting, the most interesting things are in the comments section. Kudos to the commenter who brought up the 1980 Olivia Newton John movie Xanadu (which is -- holy shit and why? -- a Broadway musical now). Whether or not the film is actually named after Samuel Taylor Coleridge's poem "Kubla Khan," any poetry scholar will tell you that Coleridge wrote it after a drug induced dream about a huge disco roller rink.

Also, for years there was a strip club on Woodward in Detroit named Xanadu. The sign outside read, "Mythical Adult Entertainment." No doubt patrons stuffed the dancers' g-strings with "Kubla Khan" broadsides.

Ready, set, match!

Starting at 10 a.m. tomorrow (that's Tuesday, August 18) the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan is matching donations to Arts and Culture organizations in Michigan. They've got a cool million to burn, but once it's gone, it's gone.

An organization totally worth donating to is InsideOut Detroit. InsideOut, according to poet Christine Rhein, "engages Detroit children in the pleasure and power of reading and writing, placing professional writers in schools to help students develop their self-expression and give them opportunities to publish and perform their work." The folks who work with this organization are great. I know a lot of them personally, so rest-assured that your dollars are well spent supporting their work.

So set your watch, Blackberry, i-Phone, or whatever to alert you that at 10 a.m. tomorrow you need to be logged in at donating to InsideOut.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Real men know "If"

Do real men wear boxers or briefs? Who cares? The real question is whether or not he can recite Rudyard Kipling’s poem "If."

For day 10 of "30 Days to a Better Man" The Art of Manliness recommends memorizing Kipling's manly verse.

And never mind that the part about how memorizing poetry can improve your writing has a bunch of grammatical errors. Their man-hearts are in the right place.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Nature Poetry of Karl Rove by Karl Rove

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart does a "where are they now" segment on the Bush Administration in which Karl Rove becomes a beat poet for a second.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Class of '43
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

My Hebrew name

Since Facebook thinks I'm Jewish (all of the "targeted" ads on my page are either Jewish related or mother related. So, in essence, Facebook thinks I'm a Jewish mother. I'm not sure I could ever live up to that), my friend Amber, who is Jewish, said we should figure out what my Hebrew name is. So off I went in search of a Hebrew name generator online because I knew there had to be one. And there is more than one, in fact. But Rum and Monkey's is the best because they actually ask God. My results:

God told me that your name should be Dafna , Dafnit - Laurel; bayleaf; victory.
Take The Hebrew Name Generator today!
Created with Rum and Monkey's Name Generator Generator.

It's interesting that the name means "Laurel" since my twin sister's name is Laura. So, you know, legitimacy.

"It's my life. Don't you forget..."

Or, it's poet Emily Zinnemann's life, as lived by you. Or, not you specifically, but one of the 52 folks she's found to run her life for a year.

As she explains it on her website "Emily, Lived By: is a collaborative art project. Starting on July 9, 2009, Emily Zinnemann relinquished control of her life to the whims of 52 strangers, friends, & acquaintances. Each participant receives a budget & a full week to enjoy as s/he pleases, choreographing Emily’s daily routine from breakfast to bedtime. The experiment’s progress is fully mapped on this website."

I was a little late tuning in (I am playing the "I had a baby" card), but I read the whole blog beginning to end in heat-whirlwind-and-flash style so I could catch up. Worth it! Last week Emily was exploring different religious conversions. This week Emily is living confined to a wheel chair. It's quite fascinating and Emily is a very charming and interesting gal. Do check it out.

Orangutans tell predators to "kiss off"

From Yahoo News Weird Science:
"Researchers say they've observed the orangutans of Borneo make a crude "musical" instrument used to ward off predators. LiveScience reports that Borneo orangutans emit a "kiss squeak" call when threatened. They either use their lips to make the noise or strip leaves off a twig to use "in a bundle in front of the orangutan's mouth while the animal makes the kiss squeak." (Remember trying to use a blade of grass to whistle as a kid?)"

There's more info and a video at

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The original tree huggers

Could it be that Tarzan was based in fact?

Also: here's why chimps are dumb (and I mean "dumb" in a non-offensive Helen Keller kind of way).

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Kitty poetry in motion

My brother sent me a link to this YouTube video of a padded collar-wearing cat frolicking on a bed. While the video is cute, the video description is almost better than the video itself. For whatever reason, the person who posted the video wrote the description out in separate lines, like a poem. According to the poster's profile, her name is apparently Mary and she is in Japan. My guess is English is not her first language, but that just makes this description/poem all the better.

Kitten that occupies bed

This is a video of a Scottish Fold's kitten.
Her name is May.
She occupied my bed.
She springs toward my finger and my camera.
She runs, rolls, and is playing with absorbed interest.
She wears Elizabethan collar for treatment. She cures now.
This collar is lighter, softer, and is more comfortable than cone.
Thank you for your concern.

(By Mary, from LoveScottishFold on

Want to see more? There are a lot more, actually, like "Cat's masseur" (as Amanda Carver would say, "Makin' biscuits") and "Cat and Plastic bag" (which does not end tragically, thank God). Check out the LoveScottishFold YouTube channel.

Monkey Washing Cat weighs in on the health care debate

"Oh Monkey Washing Cat, is there no complex social issue you can't cure?" - Jon Stewart
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Healther Skelter
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorSpinal Tap Performance

Monday, August 10, 2009

Overheard in the nursery

My wife has been reading a lot of poetry to our son while she nurses him, which is most likely what inspired her to say the following to him a mere moment ago:
"Diaper diaper burning bright
in the forest of your butt."
William Blake would be proud, no doubt.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

"Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy" by Thomas Lux

This is my favorite Thomas Lux poem. I discovered it years ago when I heard it recited by Dorianne Laux. If you ever meet her, be sure to ask her to recite it for you, too.
Tarantulas on the Lifebuoy

For some semitropical reason
when the rains fall
relentlessly they fall

into swimming pools, these otherwise
bright and scary
arachnids. They can swim
a little, but not for long

and they can’t climb the ladder out.
They usually drown—but
if you want their favor,
if you believe there is justice,
a reward for not loving

the death of ugly
and even dangerous (the eel, hog snake,
rats) creatures, if

you believe these things, then
you would leave a lifebuoy
or two in your swimming pool at night.

And in the morning
you would haul ashore
the huddled, hairy survivors

and escort them
back to the bush, and know,
be assured that at least these saved,
as individuals, would not turn up

again someday
in your hat, drawer,
or the tangled underworld

of your socks, and that even—
when your belief in justice
merges with your belief in dreams—
they may tell the others

in a sign language
four times as subtle
and complicated as man’s

that you are good,
that you love them,
that you would save them again.

(Thomas Lux, from New and Selected Poems: 1975-1995, 1997 Houghton Mifflin Company.)

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Poetry in McSweeney's Issue 31

McSweeney's Issue 31 includes poems. Hooray! Unlike issue 22 which included an entire section of poetry that later became the most excellent The McSweeney's Book of Poets Picking Poets, Issue 31 is dedicated to "Old Forms." Included therein are pantoum poems and senryū poems. And wouldn't you know it, "Circus," a pantoum by Jennifer Michael Hecht, includes monkeys!

My people were existential thugs.
At circus, monkeys in derbies rode us.
Muttering, Life, in a full-bodied shrug,
at circus we swept up the sawdust.

At circus, monkeys in derbies rode us,
while the great rode feathered horses.
At circus we swept up the sawdust,
the dove's debris and patrons' losses.

While the great rode feathered horses,
humming to Pegasus, Oh, Peggy Sue,
we'd unglove, debrief, and pocket losses.
Tanneries are what my people knew.

Brushing Pegasus to strains of "Peggy Sue,"
catching acrobats. Shadow of a big top,
tailor's tales of what the ball gown knew.
Sequins and confetti on a rag mop.

Catch an acrobat's shadow on the big top
muttering, Life, with a bruise. Shrugged
sequins; drooped confetti like a rag mop.
My people were existential thugs.

(Jennifer Michael Hecht, from McSweeney's Issue 31, 2009 McSweney's Quarterly Concern)

Senryū, an 18th century offshoot of haiku, is described as "short, unrhymed poems similar to haiku: three lines long, and made up of no more than seventeen syllables altogether." My favorite from Issue 31 is Douglas W. Milliken's:
At his father's wake: "He looks good.
Real good." Then he shrugs,
"Pretty good."

Well, this is my life now

This parody is most excellent when paired with Stephanie Brown’s poem “Mommy is a Scary Narcissist." or, on the flip side, Lucille Clifton's "homage to my hips."

Friday, August 7, 2009

The William Blakes

Searching for music on HypeMachine the other day, I came across a band from Denmark called The William Blakes via music blog Hits in the Car. It's a pretty pretentious name for a rock band, to be sure, but they aren't bad. I know very little about them since their MySpace page is largely in Danish with the exception of this:
We're not extremely original, we just don't believe in results: We believe in processes.

We believe music is something dangerous and fragile, not something safe and secure.

Our albums are recorded in a magical studio in Sweden. We've done two so far.

Our songs are reactions to what happens in this world.

We believe in something. We don't always agree in the band what that "something" is, but we think that might be our greatest advantage.

Hope you like the music. Hope is like music.

You can hear their music via MySpace.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Oprah poetry suit

By "Oprah poetry suit" I don't mean "apparel Oprah dons when reading verse" (though the idea of her and Maya Angelou donning matching outfits and trading lines from "Phenomenal Woman" would make a great YouTube video), I mean that Oprah is being sued by a crazy dude who claims she stole his poetry.

Read all about it on Videogum, though the story is best encapsulated by a comment made by Videogum user Skillet: "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I, I took the one with the 1.2 trillion dollars. Because poetry is for ballers. Also, shot callers."

And speaking of Maya "All Occasions" Angelou, she wrote a poem for Michael Jackson that Queen Latifah recited at his public memorial.

What do monkeys, baseball, and poetry have in common? Amanda Carver, that's what.

My good friend Amanda Carver is not only one of my favorite poets, she is also the #1 Cubs Fan of the Universe. When my son was born I told her that she was in charge of teaching him about baseball and lo and behold what should I get in the mail from her today but a copy of Curious George at the Baseball Game, a Detroit Tigers onesie, and a lovely letter to my son giving him his first lesson on America's supposed favorite past time.

Not only that, but Amanda included a copy of the latest issue of Subtropics, in which she has two poems, "Second Grade" and "Whatever It Is." It's pretty awesome to see "Carver" on the front cover alongside "Kirby" and "Collins" and "Hamby." Much deserved. I am very proud.

"...apparently they have a bonus one percent FUN GENE."

These monkeys have the right idea.

See for yourself on Videogum.

Yehuda Amichai, the Elvis of Jewish poets

I just finished reading The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai -- the newly revised and expanded edition translated by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell (1996 University of California Press). I have never read Amichai's poetry as translated by other folks, though other translations exist. This collection is most excellent, however, so I am happy to stick with Bloch and Mitchell.

A Pity. We Were Such a Good Invention

They amputated
your thighs from my hips.
As far as I'm concerned, they're always
doctors. All of them.
They dismantled us
from each other. As far as I'm concerned,
they're engineers.
A pity. We were such a good and loving
invention: an airplane made of a man and a woman,
wings and all:
we even got off
the ground a little.
We even flew.

Jews in the Land of Israel

We forget where we came from. Our Jewish
names from the Exile give us away,
bring back the memory of flower and fruit, medieval cities,
metals, knights who turned to stone, roses,
spices whose scent drifted away, precious stones, lots of red,
handicrafts long gone from the world
(the hands are gone too).

Circumcision does it to us,
as in the Bible story of Shechem and the sons of Jacob,
so that we go on hurting all our lives.

What are we doing, coming back here with this pain?
Our longings were drained together with the swamps,
the desert blooms for us, and our children are beautiful.
Even the wrecks of ships that sunk on the way
reached this shore,
even winds did. Not all the sails.

What are we doing
in this dark land with its
yellow shadows that pierce the eyes?
(Every now and then someone says, even after forty
or fifty years: "The sun is killing me.")

What are we doing with these souls of mist, with these names,
with our eyes of forests, with our beautiful children,
with our quick blood?

Spilled blood is not the roots of trees
but it's the closest thing to roots
we have.

(From The Selected Poetry of Yehuda Amichai Newly Revised and Expanded Edition translated by Chana Bloch and Stephen Mitchell, 1996 University of California Press).

Wash that monkey!

A Found Magazine find of the day today.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

"I Scandalize Myself" by Iman Mersal

Today's poem on Poetry Daily is "I Scandalize Myself" by Iman Mersal, translated from Arabic by Khaled Mattawa. The poem is from Mersal's 2008 collection These are not Oranges, My Love published by Sheep Meadow Press.

Mattawa was my thesis workshop teacher at the University of Michigan. He does a lot of translation work and is a mighty fine poet himself.

I Scandalize Myself

I must tell my father
that the only man for whom "desire shattered me"
looked exactly like him,

and tell my friends
that I have different pictures of myself,
all true, all me,
that I will distribute among them one at a time.

I must tell my lover,
"Be grateful for my infidelities.
Without them
I wouldn't have waited all this time
to discover the exceptional pause in your laugh."

As for me
I am almost certain
that I scandalize myself
to hide behind it.

(Iman Mersal, translated from Arabic by Khaled Mattawa, from These are not Oranges, My Love, 2008 Sheep Meadow Press)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Le Divorce le sucks

It is no secret that I love Videogum and one of my favorite features is The Hunt for the Worst Movie of All Time in which Gabe Delahaye lambasts truly terrible movies. Here's how he describes it: "After watching Death Sentence, a terrible movie starring Kevin Bacon as a father in search of vigilante justice directed by Saw's James Wan, Gabe embarked on The Hunt For The Worst Movie of All Time. This is his sad journey." I have seen very few of the movies on this list, and after reading about each one I am so, so thankful for that. Also after reading I have laughed out loud at least once (on average) and am thankful for that, too.

The latest Hunt movie is Le Divorce and one of the main characters in the movie, played Naomi Watts, is a poet. I know the movie is based on the book, but I have never seen the movie or read the book. I have seen the book, however, as it was in my house for quite some time after my wife read it and, for reasons I don't fully understand, didn't see the need to part ways with it immediately.

In all honesty, Le Divorce isn't the best of Gabe's Hunt rants. But it is still good. Like when he writes in summation, "I don't particularly care about the lives of unsuccessful poets who don't need to be successful, or the sexual dalliances of their emotionally retarded (that might be Kate Hudson though, and not the character), equally unambitious siblings."

Puppies and happy pills

funny pictures of dogs with captions

I'm a part of this thing called The Grind or, more self-evidently, Poem-A-Day. Basically a group of poets (10 or so) write one poem every day and sent it to everyone else on the list by midnight. These poems are not shared outside of the group since it's understood that they're drafts or ramblings or rough stuff. It's like Vegas: What happens in The Grind stays in The Grind. I don't do it every month and, in fact, have been off for several. But I'm back for August and it's good for me. One might think that all I'd be writing are baby poems, but this is untrue so far. Yesterday's poem was another flarf poem of sorts. Basically I alternated snippets of Google search results for "antidepressants" and "puppies." The monkey inclusion was a happy coincidence.
Drug Dogs

Drugs arranged alphabetically
are looking for good homes, all across the world.
The side-effects and safety
of cute puppy pictures and videos
is not known among blacks.
Follow the phenomenon: some fuzzy truth.
She is so cute it is hard to be tough.
Read this article: we won't stop until dogs are not suffering
and women whose partners regularly wear condoms are more depressed.
Oh so cute puppies are Mood Boosters For All The Family.
They are lying on a bed with several puppies
developing the world's first transgenic dog.
Infants born to women
are super-duper biodegradable, uniquely flushable
if left to the tone deaf GOP.
If there's anything Oprah Winfrey knows for sure
it’s how to demolish a salty bag of potato chips
or a toddler lost in the Virginia woods.
Make your miserable life bearable
with Pascaleena and Haus: people just like you.
Never give a puppy or kitten childbearing looks.
Warn young adults.
When you need to think of something else in a hurry
picture this socially made vision
and prepare a whelping kit.
The American people went into a deep depression
after spaying their bitches
and consuming far too much salt –
basically it's everything I love!
By blaming Zoloft for a murder-suicide
we find a sense of responsibility.
This is both odd and slightly disturbing.
It is the cause and the cure from the farthest reaches
and comes in more shapes and sizes than any other.
We examine associations between
dogs and monkeys. They say they're activists.
I hear there are some uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Bad poetry: oy vey!

Did you know that August 18 is bad poetry day? I didn't, either. The Jews told me. Or, more specifically, I found out about it via My Jewish Learning's Bad Poetry Contest. According to them:
"As Jews, this event is of the utmost importance, since Judaism has been responsible for some of the best poetry in the world. The Book of Psalms. The Song of Songs. Barry Manilow. No matter what the emotion, no matter the occasion, some poet has probably captured the sentiment perfectly in verse form--and, as likely as not, that poet might be Jewish. MyJewishLearning is determined to fight this disturbing trend."
Submit your bad Jewish poetry to them by Aug. 11 and you might win yourself an i-Pod Shuffle and a rubber chicken. That is, if you've got the chutzpah.

A lot of folks don't even live this long

Congrats to Caroline Leto and Venera Magazzu, a lesbian couple who will celebrate their 70th anniversary on Aug. 17.

From the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
"In 1996 the couple registered as domestic partners in New York City. They said they did it because they felt the need to tell everyone about their life together. ... Years later they moved to Florida, where they got more active in the gay and lesbian community, attending rallies and galas and recounting their story. They lead the life of any Florida retiree couple, going on cruises, playing poker on Tuesday nights with friends. At one point, they adopted a pet monkey named Chi-Chi."
Hey, nobody's perfect.