Thursday, December 31, 2009

"The Simple Truth" by Philip Levine

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

Happy New Year!

Relationship advice from Elizabeth Barrett Browning, kind of

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

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

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Dear Mr. Heron please bring back the monkey

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Karyna McGlynn is not a murderer or a sex pervert

Not that I know of anyway.

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 28, 2009

Going ape for hoots

Regretsy brings us another horrifying monkey today.

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

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

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

30 Rock monkey PSA

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

Friday, December 18, 2009

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

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

Another scary primate doll brought to you via Regretsy.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I want a chimp for Christmas

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

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

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Al Gore Earth poetry

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

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

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

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

Unknown creatures
Take their leave, unmourned
Horsemen ready their stirrups

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

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

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

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

"Slippery Place" by Sheera Talpaz

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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gorilla Cox

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 7, 2009

Because poetry just flies off the shelves...

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

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

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

David Wojahn's "Talismanic"

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

Thanks, Christine Rhein, for the tip!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

When the Poet in Black Comes Around

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

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

"Reading Poems" by Married to the Sea

Friday, December 4, 2009

More Tiger Woods poetry

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

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

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

William Blake and Tiger Woods: a psychic connection

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(William Blake. 1757–1827)

A slice of The Awl for poetry

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

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

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

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

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