Monday, June 21, 2010

Sheera Talpaz in La Petite Zine

Two poems by Sheera Talpaz in La Petite Zine: "Birthday Poem" and "Believable Stutter."

The classics, one panel at a time

Just finished reading R. Sikoryak's Masterpiece Comics (2009 Drawn and Quarterly). Highly recommended whether you've read the classics or, like me, mostly haven't and would like a comic-paneled primer. The book features Dante's "Inferno" told via Bazooka bubble gum comics and Shakespeare's Macbeth channeled through Mary Worth. There's also Voltaire's Candide featuring Ziggy, which has monkeys chasing naked ladies in the fifth panel. Check out some excerpts here and here and then befriend Masterpiece Comics on Facebook.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Khaled Mattawa is full of win

I saw Khaled Mattawa read tonight at a very unique venue in Ferndale that was part performance space, part Ikea showroom, part someone's house. I've never been to a place like it. But it's cool to know that it exists.

Khaled was great. One of the best readings I've been to in a long time. The kind of reading that made me feel very proud to know him and also proud to be a poet. I rarely feel like this after seeing poets read. Quite the opposite, in fact.

During his introduction it was mentioned that Khaled had been published in Poetry. I've been reading poetry consistently since 2004 but didn't remember seeing him so I looked Khaled up on the Poetry Foundation's website. In the April 2006 issue there's a translation he did of "Occupation 1943" by Saadi Youssef. It is quite good. You can read the poem and Khaled's translation note on the Poetry website.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Khaled Mattawa reading in Ferndale this Friday

Poet Khaled Mattawa will be reading in Ferndale on Friday with fellow poet George Tysh. Since that's in my neck of the woods and all I am planning on going. You should, too. Khaled's got a new book out, Tocqueville, published by New Issues/Western Michigan University Press.

The reading is Friday, June 18, 2010 at 7:30 p.m. at the Societry of San Jordi (Chez Elie) (407 West Marshall, Ferndale, MI 48220). I will see you there.

His poem "Ecclesiastes," which is from his new book, appeared recently on Verse Daily and Poetry Daily.


The trick is that you're willing to help them.
The rule is to sound like you're doing them a favor.

The rule is to create a commission system.
The trick is to get their number.

The trick is to make it personal:
No one in the world suffers like you.

The trick is that you're providing a service.
The rule is to keep the conversation going.

The rule is their parents were foolish,
their children are greedy or insane.

The rule is to make them feel they've come too late.
The trick is that you're willing to make exceptions.

The rule is to assume their parents abused them.
The trick is to sound like the one teacher they loved.

And when they say "too much,"
give them a plan.

And when they say "anger" or "rage" or "love,"
say "give me an example."

The rule is everyone is a gypsy now.
Everyone is searching for his tribe.

The rule is you don't care if they ever find it.
The trick is that they feel they can.

(Khaled Mattawa, from Tocqueville, 2010 New Issues/Western Michigan University Press)

Sloth t-shirt!

From Shirt.Woot today.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Monkey and Poetry Convergence: Rudyard Kipling edition

While this monkey and poetry convergence is Rudyard Kipling's, it is by way of Glenn Beck that I encountered it. Beck has a trailer for his new book The Overton Window (it's a thriller. Which you can obviously tell from the very thrilling title). Now, I don't really "get" book trailers, but hey, anything to get the word out, right? Because how else are you going to reach people who don't read? Obviously your target audience. But whatever. Make trailers for books. I don't care. What's really weird about Beck's trailer is that he the writing of another author in order to sell his writing. The trailer uses the last two stanza's of Kipling's "The Gods of the Copybook Headings". No words from Beck. Can you imagine a movie trailer that used footage from another movie entirely instead of clips from the movie being promoted? That would be weird. It would almost make it seem like whatever movie (or book) the trailer was for probably sucks. But who knows? Maybe Beck is better at writing books than making trailers (I am doubtful).

In any case, the monkey connection comes in stanza two:
We were living in trees when they met us. They showed us each in turn
That Water would certainly wet us, as Fire would certainly burn:
But we found them lacking in Uplift, Vision and Breadth of Mind,
So we left them to teach the Gorillas while we followed the March of Mankind.

"Song" by Brigit Pegeen Kelly

Just finished reading this poem and am pretty blown away by it.

Listen: there was a goat's head hanging by ropes in a tree.
All night it hung there and sang. And those who heard it
Felt a hurt in their hearts and thought they were hearing
The song of a night bird. They sat up in their beds, and then
They lay back down again. In the night wind, the goat's head
Swayed back and forth, and from far off it shone faintly
The way the moonlight shone on the train track miles away
Beside which the goat's headless body lay. Some boys
Had hacked its head off. It was harder work than they had imagined.
The goat cried like a man and struggled hard. But they
Finished the job. They hung the bleeding head by the school
And then ran off into the darkness that seems to hide everything.
The head hung in the tree. The body lay by the tracks.
The head called to the body. The body to the head.
They missed each other. The missing grew large between them,
Until it pulled the heart right out of the body, until
The drawn heart flew toward the head, flew as a bird flies
Back to its cage and the familiar perch from which it trills.
Then the heart sang in the head, softly at first and then louder,
Sang long and low until the morning light came up over
The school and over the tree, and then the singing stopped....
The goat had belonged to a small girl. She named
The goat Broken Thorn Sweet Blackberry, named it after
The night's bush of stars, because the goat's silky hair
Was dark as well water, because it had eyes like wild fruit.
The girl lived near a high railroad track. At night
She heard the trains passing, the sweet sound of the train's horn
Pouring softly over her bed, and each morning she woke
To give the bleating goat his pail of warm milk. She sang
Him songs about girls with ropes and cooks in boats.
She brushed him with a stiff brush. She dreamed daily
That he grew bigger, and he did. She thought her dreaming
Made it so. But one night the girl didn't hear the train's horn,
And the next morning she woke to an empty yard. The goat
Was gone. Everything looked strange. It was as if a storm
Had passed through while she slept, wind and stones, rain
Stripping the branches of fruit. She knew that someone
Had stolen the goat and that he had come to harm. She called
To him. All morning and into the afternoon, she called
And called. She walked and walked. In her chest a bad feeling
Like the feeling of the stones gouging the soft undersides
Of her bare feet. Then somebody found the goat's body
By the high tracks, the flies already filling their soft bottles
At the goat's torn neck. Then somebody found the head
Hanging in a tree by the school. They hurried to take
These things away so that the girl would not see them.
They hurried to raise money to buy the girl another goat.
They hurried to find the boys who had done this, to hear
Them say it was a joke, a joke, it was nothing but a joke....
But listen: here is the point. The boys thought to have
Their fun and be done with it. It was harder work than they
Had imagined, this silly sacrifice, but they finished the job,
Whistling as they washed their large hands in the dark.
What they didn't know was that the goat's head was already
Singing behind them in the tree. What they didn't know
Was that the goat's head would go on singing, just for them,
Long after the ropes were down, and that they would learn to listen,
Pail after pail, stroke after patient stroke. They would
Wake in the night thinking they heard the wind in the trees
Or a night bird, but their hearts beating harder. There
Would be a whistle, a hum, a high murmur, and, at last, a song,
The low song a lost boy sings remembering his mother's call.
Not a cruel song, no, no, not cruel at all. This song
Is sweet. It is sweet. The heart dies of this sweetness.

(Brigit Pegeen Kelly, from Song, 1995 BOA Editions)

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Frost's "whimsical" UofM gig

Interesting piece about Robert Frost's stint as an artist in residence at UofM. A student at the time called him "humorous and ruthless" and "an excellent gossip." The arrangement with Frost is similar to what the MFA program does today, though Frost's tenure seems like it was more intimate as far as interacting and working with the students.

Also, I have to point out that the student literary journal at that time was called Whimsies. Really? Whimsies? Gross.

Thanks, Laura, for the tip.

Friday, June 11, 2010

From "Composition In Loneliness" by Barbara Jordan

Composition In Loneliness

I keep what I've lost, the past being
a kind of compass,

a place where the light will hold
its breath.

And today climbs toward uncertainty,
deciduous moods that leaf

and regret.
I walk in the woods. I get over you.

A burled stick becomes a talisman
for an afternoon, lost among many

sequestered now. A light snow, deer tracks
into wordless places -- no memory

has currency here. Flying off, a crow veers
to look at me:

I'm only a woman
holding a broken branch.

(Barbara Jordan, from Trace Elements, Penguin Books 1998)

Bee still my beating heart

I just finished reading I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee and have not laughed so much out loud while reading a book in a long, long time. While not the funniest part of the book, she does mention poetry in her essay about being a perfectionist when it comes to gift giving.
"I would be extremely happy if I came from a family that composed original poetry, or pulled names out of a hat to give one single gift as our preferred mode of holiday expression. But in our family, everybody has to get everybody else a present, and that's the way it goes. If you tried to give someone a poem instead of a present, you would find yourself on the receiving end of a clusterfuck of confusion, as the person repeatedly tried to dig through the envelope it came in to find the gift card for Best Buy that surely must have dropped out somewhere along the way."
I strongly suggest  that you read this book. In fact, I demand it. Because I have that kind of power.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A sock monkey in the oven

The perfect gift for that mother-to-be in your life. Okay, maybe not. But I promise you won't have to suffer the embarrassment of giving her yet another Baby Bjorn because some asshole bought it off of Amazon instead of her registry.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

A Smartypants monkey prayer

From my new favorite blog, Mimi Smartypants:

Have you seen these ads on El platforms that ask “Can We Pray For You?” Supposedly you text-message your prayer and they…take care of it…somehow. I thought that the whole point of prayer was one person talking to his or her own version of god, directly, but I am an atheist so what do I know. Anyway, I was curious about how exactly this worked so I noted the number and texted the following:

Hi I need a monkey rlly rlly bad can u pls ask jesus to send me a monkey. Howler monkey. thx.

NO REPLY! I am floundering alone in a spiritual abyss! Perhaps the church decided that my text-message prayer was insincere but how can they know my heart? Or maybe a reply is not part of the deal, and the person on the other end just gets down to prayer-business immediately. In which case I shall wait in joyful expectation of my monkey.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

That sneaky gorilla

Would you notice the gorilla in the living room (or, in this case, the gymnasium)? I've read about this study before. And I would have gladly volunteered to be the woman in the gorilla suit. Provided that the suit had been very, very carefully laundered and sanitized.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Sadness Never Ending by Ryan Adams

I'm a big fan of Ryan Adams. His music, anyway. I could not finish Infinity Blues, his collection of poetry. The title of the book, however, is very appropriate: "Infinity" because the book is over 280 pages long, and "Blues" because of how much I wanted to like it but sadly don't. In this light, the fact that the last two lines of the last poem appear by themselves on the last page of the book is also appropriate: "and / disappointment."

That said, considering his gift for song writing, I have no doubt that many of his poems that come across as rambling, half-hearted, and self-important on paper would work very well as song lyrics.