Friday, February 26, 2010

Shiny in Seattle: Mark Doty

The Seattlest interviews Mark Doty in two parts. I've interviewed him before. He's a really nice guy and smart and interesting to boot. He's one of the best readers I've had the luck to hear/see. Reverence without pretense.

From the Seattlest interview: "[W]hat's not to like about glitter and sparkly stuff, the trappings that have been making drag queens (and real ones) shine since the dawn of time?"

And this, about reading as a child: "There were many animal books and stories that made me weep with their profound sense that we were isolated from animals, that we could never really be with them because our lives were shaped by words but theirs were not. I thought this was the saddest thing in the world. I remember one night I finished a book in bed, about some chidren who could understand the speech of cats when they took a special medicine, but then of course they had to go back to the human world. I was crying in my bed about the book, and my father found me, and told me I couldn't read any more sad books."

See? He's great.

Also, Doty is apparently putting out a handbook called The Art of Description: World into Word. According to Amazon, it's scheduled to come out on July 20 (which is my son's first birthday. Coincidence. Well, yeah. Still), but the Graywolf site says August. Time will tell.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Poet speaks out against weird "yoga" cult

In the Feb. 18 issue of Rolling Stone, there's an article about Dahn Yoga, and even after reading it I don't understand what the hell Dahn Yoga is, but the folks in the article claim that it's a cult. Even a poet says so:
"In 1999, the celebrated Korean poet Jiha Kim, a onetime Dahn member, held a press conference and claimed that at least 200 women had been fondled by [Dahn Yoga leader Ilchi] Lee under the guise of spiritual training. (Lee has denied all claims of sexual misconduct.) Kim went on to call Dahn a 'criminal enterprise,' likening it to a Stalinist regime."
I know: a poet giving a press conference? What?

Dahn Yoga seems to borrow from The Peoples Temple à la Jim Jones, Scientology, New Age spiritualism, and, well, yoga, if by yoga you mean exercising an insane amount.

Sounds fun! Sign me up.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Hainan gibbon: rarest ape in the world

"The great apes enjoy multimillion-dollar conservation campaigns, while the Hainan gibbon hangs on with the help of only a few dozen low-paid monitors and wardens."
Ben Crair writes for Slate about his search for the Hainan gibbon.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Monkey and Poetry Convergence: Mötley Crüe edition

I have a weakness for hair metal. So I guess it was inevitable that I would eventually read Mötley Crüe's band autobiography The Dirt. Hearing Charles Bock describe it as his Guilty Pleasure on NPR is what motivated me to finally read it.

And it is a good book. Very entertaining. But man are these guys assholes. Not like I expected them to be saints, but wow. It's a wonder they aren't all in jail or dead.

In any case, the book does provide yet another unlikely monkey/poetry convergence.

Nikki Sixx describes his step-father: "He stood up, naked and hairy, and beaded with water like an ape caught in a hailstorm, and smashed his fist into the side of my head, knocking me to the ground" (p. 12). I should mention that the step-dad had been in the tub. And he punched Nikki because he was brushing his teeth the wrong way, which is pretty much what all the parenting books say is the thing to do to teach correct dental hygiene.

Tommy Lee describes getting ready for his first date with Heather Locklear: "I felt like a fucking trained monkey in my stiff white button-down shirt and black pants" (p. 160).

Mick Mars reminisces about high school: "In English, our teacher, Mr. Hickock, wanted us to write an essay on a poem. All the other kids wrote about Robert Frost and Ralph Waldo Emerson, but I came in with "Pressed Rat and Warthog" by Cream. When Mr. Hickock returned the papers he had written on mine: 'F -- which is a big understatement'" (p. 177). Mick, by the way, is clearly the most intelligent person in the group and the only one who seems to think about things outside of his own life, even if those things do tend to be kind of conspiracy-theory nutty (the sinking of the Titanic being done intentionally by the government is one example).

Vince Neil recalls punching a jock in the face in high school: "He hit the ground like an ape shot out of a tree, cracking his head on the floor" (p. 290). He also writes that this jock used to "file his nails and teeth into claws and fangs to terrorize underclassmen." WTF? I have never heard of someone filing their teeth and it makes my mouth hurt to think about it.

Tommy Lee writes love poems to Pamela Anderson while in prison:
"During those long-ass weeks, I worked on songs for what I decided would be a solo project, read parenting magazines and self-help books, and learned to write poetry, mostly about Pamela" (p. 394).

Sample of said poetry: "Well, if my heart must break / Dear love, for your sake / It will break in music, I know / Poets' hearts break so" (p. 383).

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Vagina Angelou

The Wonder Twins go on vagina patrol and run into Maya Angelou along the way.

Sherman Alexie's Dolly Parton poem

Sherman Alexie wrote a poem about my favorite Dolly Parton song. It's good stuff.

Thanks to Sheera Talpaz for bringing this poem to my attention.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Obviously the way to Spencer Pratt's heart is through poetry

Heidi Montag wrote a poem for her husband for Valentine's Day. Which, you know, is sweet.

You've got to admit, "With your arm around me we're buckled in for the flight" is a great line (and by "great" I mean "terrible"). Thanks for playing, Heidi! You are an inspiration to aspiring poets everywhere.

Via Jezebel.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Kristie Alley has lemurs

I do not know why. I guess she has a lot of animals? A zoo of her own? And she will brandish a lemur at you if you visit her. There is video evidence here. (Lemur footage starts around 1:25).

Via Videogum.

Ape discovery channel

I don't know which part is best, when the ape pokes the lens with a stick or when the ape makes monkey fingerprints all over it. I guess it's really all the best. Happy Valentine's Day. :)

Via Videogum.

Rest in peace Lucille Clifton

Lucille Clifton died yesterday. She was 73. Clifton was one of those few poets who saw her work celebrated and lauded during her lifetime. She racked up a lot of awards. While I have never really gotten into her work, I've always appreciated her straightforwardness. She wrote with her feet pretty firmly on earth and seldom lapsed into pretension. There are a lot of poets who would do well to take a page from her book (or books, really, since she has 11 to choose from).

i was leaving my fifty-eighth year
when a thumb of ice
stamped itself hard near my heart

you have your own story
you know about the fears the tears
the scar of disbelief

you know that the saddest lies
are the ones we tell ourselves
you know how dangerous it is

to be born with breasts
you know how dangerous it is
to wear dark skin

i was leaving my fifty-eighth year
when i woke into the winter
of a cold and mortal body

thin icicles hanging off
the one mad nipple weeping

have we not been good children
did we not inherit the earth

but you must know all about this
from your own shivering life

(Lucille Clifton, from the terrible stories, 1996 BOA Editions, Ltd.)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Monkey and Poetry Convergence: Billy the Kid edition

I just finished watching Bill the Kid, a documentary about, well, a kid named Billy. More specifically, it's about a 15-year-old kid with what seems to be asbergers.

Proving once again that monkeys and poetry are cosmically connected, in one scene Billy is in a local diner flirting with a girl who works there. He really likes her. The girl's step-dad, Rick, is sitting at the counter next to them. When we see a shot of the step dad there's a picture of monkeys taped to the wall in front of him. It looks like it colored in crayon and torn out from a coloring book. The exchange between Billy and Rick is a very good example of how Billy interacts with people.
Billy: Hey Rick, do you like horror films?
Rick: Not really.
Billy: You know what my favorite type of horror film is?
Rick: What's that?
Billy: Slasher films.
Rick: Slasher films?
Billy: Murderers.
It's pretty much the exact conversation everyone has with a girl's parental figure when they want to ask her out.

Later on in the film we see Billy walking through the snowy woods and he recites Robert Frost's "Nothing Gold Can Stay."

On the DVD is a short film that the director made, checking in with Billy a year later. In it he talks about the horrible things in the world including "killer bees, gorillas being close to extinction, global warming, all that shit." He then says, "It makes me want to turn my back on the whole human race."

Billy The Kid does the opposite.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The sad fate of bin Laden's monkey

In the Feb. 4 issue of Rolling Stone there's a profile of Omar bin Laden, Osama's son. Contained therein: the sad fate of Omar's pet monkey:
When Omar's pet monkey was deliberately run over by one of Osama's men, Omar discovered his father had convinced the man that the animal was a Jewish human turned into a monkey "by the hand of God."

"In the eyes of this stupid man, he had killed a Jew!" Omar says in amazement.
A good reason not to keep a monkey as a pet or hang out with violent anti-Semitic morons.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Poetry shopping list: new Hoagland book

Tony Hoagland has a new book of poems out. Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty came out earlier this month via Graywolf Press.

The book's review in the New York Times begins, "There are 15 or 20 better poets in America than Tony Hoagland, but few deliver more pure pleasure." I agree, to a point. Though I guess it depends on who those 15-20 poets are. The point is, Hoagland has written some damn fine poems -- some of my favorites, actually. And yet I wouldn't go so far as to say he's "the best." But I can say I like him more than most others. Besides, it's all so subjective. What does it mean to be "better" than Tony Hoagland? (How to be "worse" than him is less difficult to imagine.)

And so it is that whenever people ask who my favorite poets are I always include Hoagland in my list. Truth be told, I saw him read once and he came across as rather unlikable. Still, there's a lot to like about his poems, and I'm looking forward to getting (and reading) Unincorporated Persons in the Late Honda Dynasty

In addition to this new book, Hoagland also apparently put out a chapbook via The Hollyridge Press Chapbook Series called Little Oceans last year. Sadly I didn't get the memo. More catching up to do.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Matthew Olzmann in NER

My friend Matthew Olzmann's poem "Sir Isaac Newton's First Law of Motion" is in the new issue of the New England Review. You can read it on the NER site along with Natasha Trethewey's poem "Elegy" (not bad company to be keeping, Matthew).

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Baboon fight club

I would never want to fight baboons. And I would never want to fight baboons, or anything/one else, using a giant dildo. And I highly doubt my result, 17 baboons, in The Oatmeal's quiz, "How Many Baboons Could You Take In A Fight (Armed Only With A Giant Dildo)." But then, quizzes never lie.

Love doesn't have to kill you

But if by "love" you mean "love making with Bigfoot," it might.

The Oatmeal poses some difficult, but essential, questions for those considering a romantic romp with Bigfoot like, "Have you ever slept with someone who smelled like pine cones and rabbit blood?"

My result: 10% chance that I'd survive. Thankfully I'm not planning on humping Bigfoot any time soon or ever.

"Five Reasons Pigs Are More Awesome Than You" by The Oatmeal

In which we learn that pigs are almost as smart as chimps.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Awkward. And wrong.

Don't look now, but there really is a monkey on your back.

You know, this picture is even better if you pretend that this couple is having their photo done for their church directory and the photographer was all, "OMG, I have the perfect idea for props."

From Awkward Family Photos.

Thanks, Meghan, for the tip.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Dante's gonna cut you

From the February 2, 2010 Harper's Weekly Review:
Electronic Arts prepared to unveil a video-game version of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno. In the game, Dante is not a poet but a knight who descends into Hell to save Beatrice’s soul from the Devil. “If you know the poem, the game has a lot to offer,” said executive producer Jonathan Knight. “If you just want to mash buttons and kill demons, that’s all it has to be for you.”
There's blood, there's nudity, there's murder. It's practically Grand Theft Auto for the poetry set.

"February " by Margaret Atwood

I take exception to line 30 because, yuck. But otherwise a really good poem. Very fitting for this month.

Winter. Time to eat fat
and watch hockey. In the pewter mornings, the cat,
a black fur sausage with yellow
Houdini eyes, jumps up on the bed and tries
to get onto my head. It’s his
way of telling whether or not I’m dead.
If I’m not, he wants to be scratched; if I am
He’ll think of something. He settles
on my chest, breathing his breath
of burped-up meat and musty sofas,
purring like a washboard. Some other tomcat,
not yet a capon, has been spraying our front door,
declaring war. It’s all about sex and territory,
which are what will finish us off
in the long run. Some cat owners around here
should snip a few testicles. If we wise
hominids were sensible, we’d do that too,
or eat our young, like sharks.
But it’s love that does us in. Over and over
again, He shoots, he scores! and famine
crouches in the bedsheets, ambushing the pulsing
eiderdown, and the windchill factor hits
thirty below, and pollution pours
out of our chimneys to keep us warm.
February, month of despair,
with a skewered heart in the centre.
I think dire thoughts, and lust for French fries
with a splash of vinegar.
Cat, enough of your greedy whining
and your small pink bumhole.
Off my face! You’re the life principle,
more or less, so get going
on a little optimism around here.
Get rid of death. Celebrate increase. Make it be spring.

(Margaret Atwood, from Morning in the Burned House, Houghton Mifflin 1995)
Thanks to Dorianne Laux for bringing this poem to my attention via Facebook.