Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nami Mun is a winner

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

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

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

Chimp grief

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

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

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

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

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

No doubt William S. Burroughs would be touched.

Via Boing Boing.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The acrostic poetry of Arnold Schwarzenegger

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

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


Read the whole story at the Huffington Post.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

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

If only all local commercials were like this.

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

Via Videogum.

Monday, October 26, 2009

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

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

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

Number 15 is a gorilla.

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

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Retro ed videos proof of evolution

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

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

There's also one for the ladies.

Now go buy them for me, please.

Friday, October 23, 2009

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

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pond scum for brains

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 19, 2009

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chick or treat

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

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

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

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

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

Via Videogum.

Small Paul snow suit model

Hey Paul Frank, maybe we could get a sponsorship?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Lethally inject first, ask questions later in Texas

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 12, 2009

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Saturday, October 10, 2009

National Ardipithecus Coming Out Day

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

Somebody TiVo this for me, for serious.

Nava EtShalom's "Nostalgia"

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

Drink your poetry hoots juice

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

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

Friday, October 9, 2009

Ann Arbor's first poetry cage match

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 8, 2009

This bird will fly again

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

"For My Daughter, Inan" by Marie Howe

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

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

For My Daughter, Inan

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

Every car I ever climbed into—

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Applying mascara at the red lights,

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

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

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

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

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

When the policeman waved me down, the wipers slapping,

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

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

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

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

(Marie Howe)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Anti-monkeys on the march

FILE UNDER: Are You Fucking Serious?

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

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

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

Nor should the school be associated with brains, apparently.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

From the heap: Matthew Thorburn's Subject to Change

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 2, 2009

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

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

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

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Lemurs nameless no more

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

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

This is what you do with an MFA in poetry

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

Suck it, Lucy

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