Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kristie Alley: freeform Twitter poet

Gabe, Videogum's super comic genius and fan fiction fan extraordinaire, has penned a story called "Kristie Alley Does A Poetry Reading."

Monkey and Poetry Convergence: William Hathaway edition

There's a most excellent poem in the October 2009 issue of Poetry by William Hathaway. "Today" begins "Today a celebrity chimpanzee went postal, / tearing up a woman’s face in Connecticut." You can read the poem on Poetry's Web site.

While digging around for some more information about Hathaway I discovered that a William Hathaway published a book of poems titled A Wilderness of Monkeys in 1975. Not sure if it's the same William Hathaway of the chimp face tearing poem or not. If anyone knows, please fill me in.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Monkey and Poetry Convergence: Simon Armitage edition

I just finished reading Simon Armitage's The Shout: Selected Poems. Finally. This book took me forever to read. "Selected" collections often make me a little confused. Like, this is your best stuff? Really? In this 107 page collection there are five poems that I think are really wonderful. The rest are either okay or forgettable. Armitage loves to rhyme and God bless him he often does it well, but the first big chunk of the book is rhyming poem after rhyming poem with overlapping rhythm and subject matter and after awhile the individual poems kind of melted together like a box of crayons in the microwave.

There are some really good poems here, though. The title poem is great. "Gooseberry Season" is also very good. Same with "Not The Furniture Game" and "Birthday."

Then there's "The Back Man," a poem Armitage calls "the best poem I've ever written, although I don't know if I'm allowed to make that judgment." It also features monkeys in the first stanza. Here are the first 13 lines:
Five strong, we were, not including the guide,
five of us walking a well-trodden path
through the reserve, from the camp to the stream
and the flooded forest on the far side.
Dragonflies motored past like fish on the wing.
Beetles lifted their solar-panelled shells.
A bird, invisible, ran through its scale
like a thumbnail strummed on a metal comb.
The branches of trees were shelves in a shop
selling insect brooches and snakeskin belts
and miniature frogs with enamelled heads.
The monkeys fancied themselves as soft toys.
Blue orchids offered themselves without shame.
According to Armitage, the poem is "about the small miracles of everyday life, and wanting to celebrate those things." And that is what Armitage does best.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Monkey and Poetry Convergence: Daniel Nester edition

I first stumbled upon Daniel Nester's poetry in the anthology Isn't It Romantic? 100 Love Poems by Younger American Poets (2004 Wave Books). I dug the poem therein, "Third Maisie Poem," and so I sought out more. His "Poem for the Novelist Whom I Forced to Write a Poem" is in The Best American Poetry 2003.

More of his poems are on his Web site where he writes, "Yes, I wrote poems. I may again someday." I hope he does.

He's published one book of poems, The History of My World Tonight (BlazeVox Books 2006), so I sought it out and read it and my verdict is that it is okay. There are some really good poems here, but a lot of them just kind of feel tossed off. Also, I don't know anything about BlazeVox Books, but the book has a very high-school literary journal feel to it from the cover to the typeface to the page size. So that's kind of unfortunate.

In any case, The History of My World Tonight includes two poems that mention primates and these, incidentally, happen to be two of my favorite poems in the book.

"Deodato's Zarathustra" ends: "I saw 2001: / A Space Odyssey when I was three. / I didn't understand a thing. / My father said, You're seeing / the same thing I'm seeing. / My father promised / I'd see monkeys fighting."

In "Arraignment of a Beach Boy" Mike Love is described as resting "comfortably in California, hawking Kokomo burgers / With his orangutan eyes, orange Republican beard, and fake west coast Alan Watts Buddhism." I get the feeling Nester doesn't like Mike Love very much (actually, a lot of people don't).

Nester uses a lot of pop culture references in his poems, something I appreciate very much. There's "Poem for The Evil Twin Episode of Knight Rider" (another one of my favorites. Maybe just because I'm a twin), and "Steve Perry of the Rock Band Journey and Film Crew Tour His Hometown," for instance. In fact, Nester's first two books were "collections of lyrical essay, memoir, prose poem, and music history on [his] life-long obsession with the rock band Queen." I, too, love Queen. And so, more books to check out.

Monday, January 25, 2010

National Book Critics Circle finalists for poetry have been announced and I haven't read any of them

The National Book Critics Circle finalists were announced today and I haven't read any of the poetry nominations. Here they are:
Rae Armantrout, Versed (Wesleyan)

Louise Glück, A Village Life (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

D.A. Powell, Chronic (Graywolf Press)

Eleanor Ross Taylor, Captive Voices: New and Selected Poems, 1960–2008 (Louisiana State University Press)

Rachel Zucker, Museum of Accidents (Wave Books)
I'm especially excited to see Rachel Zucker's nomination because I read her book The Last Clear Narrative (2004 Wesleyan University Press) and really liked it and Wave Books is a really awesome press. So until I read the other nominations (I have until March 11) - and maybe even after - I'm rooting for her.

Also poet Mary Karr got a nod for her non-fiction book Lit.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

"To Be of Use" by Marge Piercy

Amanda Carver pointed me in the direction of "To Be of Use" by Marge Piercy this evening. It's her favorite Piercy poem. You can read it here.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Monkey and Poetry Convergence: O Magazine edition

The cover story of the latest issue of O Magazine, "100 Things That Are (Actually) Getting Better," includes -- along with newspaper puzzle sections (#50), airport food (#46), and floral arrangements (#1) -- Tonkin snub-nosed monkeys at #94:
"In the late 80's, the tiny primate was declared functionally extinct. But last year, 15 to 20 snub-noses were found cavorting in a remote jungle in northern Vietnam. Time will tell whether they'll be enough to save the species, but there was one very encouraging sign: three babies among them."
National Geographic comes in at #96:
"The yellow-border magazine has come a long way since the days of boys gawping at the native mammaries in its pages. See the recent dispatch on China's "instant cities," plus unrivaled photojournalism on malaria and the killing of gorillas in the Congo."
Most surprising, however is that poetry is #7:
"Dear reader, you may feel a twinge of trepidation,
But poetry is key to modern conversation.
In classrooms, poet laureate Kay Ryan makes
A case for passing time with Bishop, Frost, and Blake.
Or Keats—Jane Campion's Bright Star garnered rave reviews
For conjuring the young Romantic's passion for his muse.
Great poets—Robert Graves and Ogden Nash, e.g.—
Inspired Leave Your Sleep, Natalie Merchant's CD.
Even Stephen King has found a poet's perch.
He channels Coleridge in the epic "The Bone Church."
Those Levi's ads, meanwhile, attract both praise and venom:
Blasphemy or genius, Walt Whitman pitching denim?"
Considering how Oprah has been able to get people to actually read books, maybe she'll even get people to read poetry? A girl can dream.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Monkey floss

From Discovery News: "Monkeys and humans use similar techniques to clean their teeth. Scientists observed macaque monkeys flossing their teeth in order to keep their pearly whites free from food."

"Similar techniques" is kind of a stretch. In the video a monkey pulls hair off of her ass and flosses her teeth. That's more than a lot of humans do.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Knowing [about sloths] is half the battle

Did you know that sloths love grapes? Are covered in algae? There's only one three-toed sloth in a U.S. zoo? They only poo once a week?

These facts and more await you at Boing Boing's "Four fun facts about sloths."

And don't neglect to read the comments section. Unlike most places on the Internet, Boing Boing readers actually make comments worth reading. In fact, there's even a near Poetry and Monkey Convergence when one reader posts lyrics to a song about a sloth.

Best of all, one of them pointed me to this awesome Saturday Night Live sloth skit.

Orangutans for peace

From BBC Earth News: "A captive Bornean orangutan has been seen acting as a peacemaker, breaking up fights between other warring apes."

There's a video of it, but to be honest, I would never guess what's going on without the story as context. But it turns out orangutans are recluses in the wild, so "peacemaking" isn't something they do naturally. Because they don't have to. But stick some in captivity and they apparently learn this skill. Maybe we need to send them on some diplomatic missions to the Middle East.

Via Boing Boing.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Scratch monkey fever

Monkey notecards brought to you by Regretsy. Honestly this doesn't really belong on Regretsy, except for the very poorly written description.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

"Another Bildungsroman" by Suzanne Buffam

I finally got Suzanne Buffam's book Past Imperfect. I got it for Christmas, actually, from my mom who plucked it off of my Amazon wish list (thanks, Mom!). This is my favorite poem from it.
Another Bildungsroman

I grow up and leave home.
Fall in all kinds of love, none the wiser.
Now it's time, as they say, to move forward.
I gather all the loose change in the house,
find I have amassed a small fortune.
At the bank, waiting to speak with a teller,
I read a pamphlet that informs me
how much larger my small fortune
could have been by now if only.
I decide, instead, to go to France.
I take a little room on the Rue de Seine,
get lost at Versailles, fail to befriend
the handsome waiter at Café Crème.
When I get back it's late fall, the pool
in the park is locked up, clogged with leaves.
Squirrels, hard-wired for the future,
are burying nuts in the threadbare lawn.
Wind comes down the mountain with a rose in its teeth.
There are gaps in the sky the sky fills in with sky.

(Suzanne Buffam, from Past Imperfect, Anansi Press 2005)

Buffam's new book, The Irrationalist, comes out April 1 (no joke!), which is only 8 days before my birthday (hint, hint).

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Monkey and Poetry Convergence: "Half-Ourselves & Half-Not" by Colin Cheney

While catching up on my back issues of Poetry today I came across "Half-Ourselves & Half-Not" by Colin Cheney in the September 2009 issue. It's a really good poem and it includes primates. YES!
Half-Ourselves & Half-Not

If you sleep the night inside someone, her cells,
saltwater-stained, fuse with yours like the blood of twins.

Apes in Mauritania grow stronger, Galileo tells us,
influenced by the sphere of angels.

Here, then—thumbnail sketches
for zoning changes along the riparian bank

of the species boundary, for a chimera.
Like fiber optics, human nerves

lay along glassy bone & spinal veins of a fetal mouse
that will be drowned before ever waking.

A hen’s brain replaces a quail’s—nodding, cooing,
not understanding the change. Less human, less nature.

Less solace in these songs half-ourselves
& half-not. Did I wake you, my singing?

Here, the sphere of angels & here the sphere of sea.
Darwin, writing in his garden, remembers the sea

like some sleep he feared he’d never wake from.
If all men were dead then monkeys make men,

he noted for himself, &, almost as an aside—Men makes angels.
If my nerves were fed to an osprey, a finch,

could she still take wing? Rain
behind the bedroom blinds, I will wake, won’t I,

to your cells replacing mine, this cape lionness
liver, aorta of a garter snake, &, from a goat twisted

with an orb spider, milk boiled down to silk, gossamer
the structure of Bethlehem steel?

(Colin Cheney, from the September 2009 issue of Poetry.)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Snow monkeys get hot and wet

Boing Boing's photo caption contest (though it isn't really a contest since there aren't any prizes) led me to the source of the photo, the CNNGo article "Bathing apes: Jigokudani's snow monkey onsen" by Hiroko Yoda. Lots of great snow monkey photos and a great intro to Japan's Monkey Park, a place I'd love to visit some day.

The story mentions the monkeys' "distinctively human-like habit of climbing into natural hot springs to warm up during the winter months," though I don't think humans were the first species to think, "Ugh, cold. Ugh, hot. Ugh, feel better." I think seeking out warmth is pretty instinctual. Just saying.

Thank you, Laura, for the tip.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Monkey bombers

Tonight I learned what a photobomb is. I feel very educated. Of course, I have always known what a photobomb is, I have just never had the word for it. This is a Hellen Keller moment for all of us. Okay, probably just for me.

In any case, here is a photobomb featuring monkeys. Monkeys in little outfits no less. Just looking at this photo, however, will not teach you what a photobomb is because I am not even sure how this is one at all. Your education begins at

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

"I am not related to apes"

In which a child raves about Evolution from the pulpit of some kind of Spanish mega-church. Either that or he's the opening act for a Juanes concert.

Most eye opening point he makes: "A male ape and a female ape can only have little apes up to this day." Meaning, I think -- and I am not a scientist like this young man -- a male ape and a male ape and/or a female ape and a female ape can have only big apes up to this day. Which seems evolutionarily preferable. Which is why it's bad.

Not everyone agrees that this kid is an expert about the birds and the bees and the apes.

"I'm pretty sure proponents of evolution stopped using "babies aren't created by God, they are delivered by storks" as an argument against creationism a long time ago. And by a long time ago I mean forever ago. Because that was never a thing. "Have you read Darwin's On the Origin of Magic Monkey Stork Babies?" Know your enemy, crazy little man!"
- Gabe Delahaye, Videogum Senior Editor, baby hater.

Good things come to those who wait for things to come to them

So a TV show called Conveyor Belt of Love actually exists. And on this show a dude with a slight speech impediment reads a really terrible poem he wrote to try to pick up chicks on national television. In the poem he mentions a kiss to the frontal lobe, which, if you think about it (ha!) is some really freaky Silence of the Lambs-type shit.

Videogum has the clip.

This is why Sylvia Plath wrote

When Sylvia Plath put pen to paper, this is what she saw in her mind's eye.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Don we now our [monkey] apparel

I got an awesome recycled monkey scarf for Christmas. No, it's not made out of monkeys. It's made out of recycled cotton. It is pretty much the awesomest scarf ever.

While I can't find it on the Green 3 Web site, they do have an awesome sock monkey throw blanket -- and considering that my monkey scarf is draped over the back of my couch so that I can admire it, I'd be more than happy to take one of those blankets off of your hands should you want to unburden yourself. In any case, the scarf looks a lot like the throw, only, duh, much thinner. Picture the Peace scarf with a sock monkey spanning where the three peace signs are and the rest of the scarf red and brown striped. It is 100% awesome.

Friday, January 1, 2010

A new year, a new butt

Apparently I'm not the only one with monkeys on the brain already this year. Chris Lewis, a guy I went to high school with, kicked off 2010 with a review of Anti-Monkey Butt Powder on his blog.

This is a product I have heard about before. In fact, I once received a container of it as a gift. It was a joke. Probably from my brother. I can't vouch for it, because I didn't use it. Maybe if I had received the lady kind I would have (no. I wouldn't have). I learned from Chris's post that they also make it for babies, but I've always heard that you shouldn't use powder on baby butts because they inhale it. Though if I really wanted to try it they make it in a paste, too. Truthfully, though, I'm too much of a natural products freak to try it out, and thankfully my son hasn't had much diaper rash (knock on wood).

I think the biggest problem with Anti-Monkey Butt powder is that nobody knows you're using it. I mean, certainly "I have a funky and/or chapped ass" is something you'd want the world to know about. Thankfully they make t-shirts. And even temporary tattoos. Though if you want the world to know about your problematic hindquarters, you really should get a permanent one.

"Succulents" by Toothpaste for Dinner

Starting the year off right with a monkey reference by Toothpaste for Dinner.