Saturday, March 27, 2010

Glenn Beck's Selected Poems is thankfully not real

I've never quite forgiven "The Boiling Point" by Mikhaela Reid for replaced my beloved This Modern World by Tom Tomorrow in The Metro Times. Granted, it isn't her fault. But it's kind of like how when you don't like the woman your ex starts dating after you, even though she may be a perfectly nice person. But this week's comic (which is also Reid's last) is quite good. It deals with the Texas text book fiasco. And it includes a (thankfully fictitious) book of poems by Glenn Beck.

For more on the Texas school text book fiasco, The Daily Show did a great segment on it.
The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Don't Mess With Textbooks
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical HumorHealth Care Reform
And for good measure, there's a This Modern World comic that also addresses the idiots in Texas.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bob Hicok's poem about Virginia Tech

Bob Hicok, one of my favorite poets, has a poem in the February 2010 issue of Poetry that deals with the Virginia Tech shootings. I like the poem very much, though I must say the sixth line kind of clunks to my ear. Is it just because I already know he teaches at Virginia Tech? Or is it because "Virginia Tech" has become synonymous with "mass school shooting" much like "Columbine," therefore seeming like an all-too-loaded choice? Is this detail necessary to get the context or would it work fine without it? I just don't know.

Hicok has a new book of poems out, Words for Empty Words for Full, which you can buy me for my birthday (April 9).

In the loop

I heard from people after the shootings. People
I knew well or barely or not at all. Largely
the same message: how horrible it was, how little
there was to say about how horrible it was.
People wrote, called, mostly e-mailed
because they know I teach at Virginia Tech,
to say, there’s nothing to say. Eventually
I answered these messages: there’s nothing
to say back except of course there’s nothing
to say, thank you for your willingness
to say it. Because this was about nothing.
A boy who felt that he was nothing,
who erased and entered that erasure, and guns
that are good for nothing, and talk of guns
that is good for nothing, and spring
that is good for flowers, and Jesus for some,
and scotch for others, and “and” for me
in this poem, “and” that is good
for sewing the minutes together, which otherwise
go about going away, bereft of us and us
of them. Like a scarf left on a train and nothing
like a scarf left on a train. As if the train,
empty of everything but a scarf, still opens
its doors at every stop, because this
is what a train does, this is what a man does
with his hand on a lever, because otherwise,
why the lever, why the hand, and then it was over,
and then it had just begun.

(Bob Hicok, from the February 2010 issue of Poetry.)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

"ICU" by Spencer Reece

A couple of good poems from Spencer Reece in last month's Poetry. I am especially partial to "ICU" since it makes me think of my dear friend Amanda Carver. A poet and, soon, a nurse.

For A.J. Verdelle

Those mornings I traveled north on I91,
passing below the basalt cliff of East Rock
where the elms discussed their genealogies.
I was a chaplain at Hartford Hospital,
took the Myers-Briggs with Sister Margaret,
learned I was an I drawn to Es.
In small group I said, “I do not like it—
the way so many young black men die here
unrecognized, their gurneys stripped,
their belongings catalogued and unclaimed.”
On the neonatal ICU, newborns breathed,
blue, spider-delicate in a nest of tubes.
A Sunday of themselves, their tissue purpled,
their eyelids the film on old water in a well,
their faces resigned in their see-through attics,
their skin mottled mildewed wallpaper.
It is correct to love even at the wrong time.
On rounds, the newborns eyed me, each one
like Orpheus in his dark hallway, saying:
I knew I would find you, I knew I would lose you.

(Spencer Reece, from the February 2010 issue of Poetry.)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Green monkey web hosting

You know, everybody thinks that the transition from paper (i.e. books) to digital (i.e. e-books) is great for the environment because save-the-trees and everything, but the Internets actually takes a lot of energy and infrastructure (which needs land) so maybe not-so save-the-trees after all. There was a great article about this in the last issue of McSweeney's. In any case, enter Monkey Micro, a green web hosting company based in Royal Oak, Michigan. They use wind energy and they claim to be carbon neutral. I don't know anything about Monkey Micro besides what's on their Web site (it would be nice to see some kind of About Us page or something), but it's nice to see that a company like this exists, especially one in Michigan, which badly needs some economic stimuli.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Orangutans H2O

Orangutans aren't known to dig water. But it turns out that water can bring out the structural engineer, fisherman, and even the swimmer in our hairy orange friends.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Gorillas have a good sense of humor

But do they have theory of mind? U.K. researches say yes.

Here's the best part:
The typical gorilla sense of humour, [zoo keeper Iona] Stewart says, is Schadenfreude. One gorilla she knew would poke a stick at strangers then look the other way. "If they could whistle, they'd be whistling, but they're not quite clever enough to get away with it."

Sunday, March 14, 2010

cc: all your racist friends

Wonkette brings our attention to "your usual totally innocent racist email about the Obamas which was thoughtlessly forwarded by some douche who just thought he was having some lighthearted fun, talking about monkeys and black people."

It looks like Wonkette took the photos from the racist email out of the original post and replaced them with "[Photo of a chimp making a face, followed by a photo of Michelle Obama making a face]" because the photos are in the email about the racist email (are you following this?) my sister sent to me. But I'm not going to repost the photos because they're, like, racist. And racism deserves to be kicked in the nuts.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Poetry is for Assholes

I came across this blog today. Me likes.

Bald ape for the cure

From the Regretsy Facebook page:
"Hi Helen, I'm sure you're inundated with crap and "oh please help me" emails on a daily basis so I'll make this short. I'm auctioning a handmade item of mine on eBay for the charity St. Baldrick's. They are the children's cancer research foundation where people get together and shave their heads to raise money. Well, due to work restrictions I cannot shave my head but I can auction off a bald ape for the cause. I'm including a link to the auction. I understand if you are unable to forward/post the link anywhere. I'm just reaching out to all I can to get the word out. Have a yaktastic day!~Amy"
Now go bid. My birthday is in less than a month.

Friday, March 12, 2010

NASCAR fan poetry

We need NASCAR poetry, yes we do. We need NASCAR poetry, how 'bout you?

From the book description:
"These re-caps of the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL CUP points races are written unlike anything you have experienced before! They are not your average, mundane race re-caps, but are done in a lyrical rhyme style, and are not only entertaining and humorous, but every detail is historically accurate."
Hey, that's more than most poets can claim.

Via Regretsy.

Pop goes the poetry

I know no one in America gives a shit about The Waterboys, The Blue Aeroplanes, or Idlewild, but their projects setting poetry to pop music are still interesting.
"There's a high seriousness associated with poetry, but it doesn't have to be that way. We didn't feel the weight of having to sing these sacred verses; the intention was to make a good album. Beyond the fact that there were poets involved, it had to be something you'd want to put on in the car." - Idlewild's Roddy Woomble
Also, according to this article, "Rufus Wainwright has set three Shakespeare sonnets (10, 20 and 43) to music on his new album, All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu." Wainwright's last few albums really haven't made much of an impact on me, but I'll tune in for this.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Poetry on The Office

Two weeks in a row poetry has played a role, albeit a very tiny role, on The Office.

Last week Ryan read from a journal of some of his poetry in an effort to forestall Pam's labor. And tonight, in honor of St. Patrick's Day, Michael said, "As the great Irish poet Bobby McFerrin said, 'Don't worry, be happy.'"

I think The Poetry Foundation should totally partner with them somehow.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"March" by Louise Glück


The light stays longer in the sky, but it’s a cold light,
it brings no relief from winter.

My neighbor stares out the window,
talking to her dog. He’s sniffing the garden,
trying to reach a decision about the dead flowers.

It’s a little early for all this.
Everything’s still very bare—
nevertheless, something’s different today from yesterday.

We can see the mountain: the peak’s glittering where the ice catches the light.
But on the sides the snow’s melted, exposing bare rock.

My neighbor’s calling the dog, making her unconvincing doglike sounds.
The dog’s polite; he raises his head when she calls,
but he doesn’t move. So she goes on calling,
her failed bark slowly deteriorating into a human voice.

All her life she dreamed of living by the sea
but fate didn’t put her there.
It laughed at her dreams;
it locked her up in the hills, where no one escapes.

The sun beats down on the earth, the earth flourishes.
And every winter, it’s as though the rock underneath the earth rises
higher and higher and the earth becomes rock, cold and rejecting.

She says hope killed her parents, it killed her grandparents.
It rose up each spring with the wheat
and died between the heat of summer and the raw cold.
In the end, they told her to live near the sea,
as though that would make a difference.

By late spring she’ll be garrulous, but now she’s down to two words,
never and only, to express this sense that life’s cheated her.

Never the cries of the gulls, only, in summer, the crickets, cicadas.
Only the smell of the field, when all she wanted
was the smell of the sea, of disappearance.

The sky above the fields has turned a sort of grayish pink
as the sun sinks. The clouds are silk yarn, magenta and crimson.

And everywhere the earth is rustling, not lying still.
And the dog senses this stirring; his ears twitch.

He walks back and forth, vaguely remembering
from other years this elation. The season of discoveries
is beginning. Always the same discoveries, but to the dog
intoxicating and new, not duplicitous.

I tell my neighbor we’ll be like this
when we lose our memories. I ask her if she’s ever seen the sea
and she says, once, in a movie.
It was a sad story, nothing worked out at all.

The lovers part. The sea hammers the shore, the mark each wave leaves
wiped out by the wave that follows.
Never accumulation, never one wave trying to build on another,
never the promise of shelter—

The sea doesn’t change as the earth changes;
it doesn’t lie.
You ask the sea, what can you promise me
and it speaks the truth; it says erasure.

Finally the dog goes in.
We watch the crescent moon,
very faint at first, then clearer and clearer
as the night grows dark.
Soon it will be the sky of early spring, stretching above the stubborn ferns and

Nothing can be forced to live.
The earth is like a drug now, like a voice from far away,
a lover or master. In the end, you do what the voice tells you.
It says forget, you forget.
It says begin again, you begin again.

(Louise Glück, from The New Yorker March 31, 2008)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Failure" by Philip Schultz

I just finished reading Failure by Philip Schultz. I found it in the clearance bin at Borders for a buck. I have to say I was surprised to find it won the Pulitzer Prize in 2008 (along with Time and Materials by Robert Hass). Most of the poems felt overly simplistic and sometimes were simply not very interesting (see "What I Don't Like," for example. It begins, "I like to say hello and goodbye. / I like to hug but not shake hands." It goes on to list more rather inane likes and dislikes and ends, "I could continue with more examples / but I'd rather give too few / than too many. The thought of no one listening anymore-- / I like that least of all." Well no shit. You're a poet. It's a universal sentiment, sure, but not a terribly insightful one or even a unique way of putting it. Schultz even writes a lot about dogs and I'm a dog lover and a sucker for dog poems, but his dog poems didn't hold me. The only poem that did anything for me was the title poem, "Failure," which is really quite good.

To pay for my father's funeral
I borrowed money from people
he already owed money to.
One called him a nobody.
No, I said, he was a failure.
You can't remember
a nobody's name, that's why
they're called nobodies.
Failures are unforgettable.
The rabbi who read a stock eulogy
about a man who didn't belong to
or believe in anything
was both a failure and a nobody.
He failed to imagine the son
and wife of the dead man
being shamed by each word.
To understand that not
believing in or belonging to
anything demanded a kind
of faith and buoyancy.
An uncle, counting on his fingers
my father's business failures—
a parking lot that raised geese,
a motel that raffled honeymoons,
a bowling alley with roving mariachis—
failed to love and honor his brother,
who showed him how to whistle
under covers, steal apples
with his right or left hand. Indeed,
my father was comical.
His watches pinched, he tripped
on his pant cuffs and snored
loudly in movies, where
his weariness overcame him
finally. He didn't believe in:
savings insurance newspapers
vegetables good or evil human
frailty history or God.
Our family avoided us,
fearing boils. I left town
but failed to get away.

(Philip Schultz, from Failure, 2007 Harcourt).

Friday, March 5, 2010

Poems from last night

Text message poetry, folks. Not to be confused with Texts From Last Night. Though that site offers some great poetry of its own.

Can you guess which of the following come from Cellpoems and which are from TFLN?
The winter sky bleeds
in brown-red.
The starless
nearness drowns the heartless.
The sleepless read in bed.

I spent my night
drunkenly staring at a picture
of John Stamos. How do you
think I feel?

He drank a lot
and fell into the river
we waded out to get his hat
A man who’s really good at what he does
looks the same as other men

All i remember as you were
making ramen
is that you kept slurring
"i like you as a color"...

"On a [haiku] trail, head full of zombie"

I just randomly stumbled upon Emma Dalloway's Australian Haiku blog ("mostly haiku, reasonably Australian") and it's pretty cool. Among other things, she creates awesome haiga ("haiku-style illustrations, often accompanying haiku" according to Haiga Online). This post's title comes, of course, from Men At Work's "Down Under," which was one of my most favorite songs as a kid.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Monday, March 1, 2010

Tell Congress to save the apes

While we can argue that government does a whole lot of nothing, there's still a little something they can do for the apes. Support the Great Ape Conservation Act Reauthorization by contacting Congress. Jane Goodall is all about it. And I think she's a pretty reliable when it comes to apes. A world without apes would be a sad world indeed. This is, literally, the least you can do. I just sent a message to Sandy Levin, my man in Congress, and it took me less than five minutes.

UPDATE: From a return email from Sandy Levin: "You may also be interested to know that I was a cosponsor of the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance, and Protection Act (CHIMP) which prohibited the euthanasia of chimpanzees for anything other than humane health reasons and established a federally-funded reserve where chimpanzees can live when they are no longer needed for federal research. Since enactment of this legislation in 2000, over 140 chimpanzees have 'retired' to this facility."