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Sharon Mesmer
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For my last guest-blogging post, here is my friend Takafumi Ide's beautiful installation, "Crossroads": Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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My non-Polish friends say it even sounds barbaric: soup made from … uh, blood? My mother, who actually ate it, was sure she’d heard about some health law prohibiting its sale. My grandmother, who made it, and often, once had it in a restaurant and got so sick she ended up in the emergency room. But, along with so many Polish housewives both “there” and “here,” she saw czarnina — duck blood soup -- as a way to squeeze every last iota of sustenance from an animal: a recycling apotheosis long before Americans even considered the notion. And although I may never bring another spoonful within olfactory range — to me it smells like burnt chocolate poured over a dead dog — czarnina will remain part of a collection of mysteries brought over from Poland, mysteries I no longer have access to (and maybe never did to begin with). Like my grandmother’s thorn from the Crown of Thorns, the little seasonal rituals we performed as a family that my husband refers to as “voodoo Catholicism,” and the downright paganistic, goddess-worshipping May Crowning processions that coursed, singing, through the streets of our neighborhood. These mysteries merit investigation for many reasons, of course, but mainly for me because of their visceral relation to the creative and sustaining power of women — real women, not Matka Boza or the saints. And what connects them seems to be blood. My great-grandparents, the Andrejewskis, left Poznan sometime before 1908 and settled in Back-of-the-Yards, a Chicago neighborhood named for its proximity to the Union Stockyards (the setting, of course, for Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle). They came over in two groups: first my great-grandfather, Stanislas, his two sons, Waclav and Stefan, and the two older daughters, Ruzia and Apollonia. My great-grandmother Teofilia, came over later with my grandmother, Helena. By the time they arrived the house that my great-grandfather, a carpenter, had been building to be shared with Polish Stockyards workers was ready for them — the same house that my mother, my adopted sister and I, and my sister’s son would all grow up in. I don’t have to tell you how turn-of-the-century immigrants transformed the neighborhoods they came to into little versions of where they came from. There were agencies in Back-of-the-Yards that helped Poles come over, settle in and secure housing and work. (I found, among the immigrant papers my grandmother always kept in a strongbox between her pillow and the wall — in case the Germans might decide to someday invade America, round up all the Poles and ship them back to the camps — the arrangements made by one of those agencies for her passage on a White Star Line ship, along with a baggage claim ticket from Allen Lines of Liverpool — my grandfather’s probably; he was from Gniezno, but met Grandma in Chicago — and immigrant ID cards for all of them, complete with thumbprints and last names spelled correctly). There were also Eastern European-style markets and butcher shops that... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
"Although Proposition 8 fails to possess even a rational basis, the evidence presented at trial shows that gays and lesbians are the type of minority strict scrutiny was designed to protect. "Plaintiffs do not seek recognition of a new right. To characterize plaintiffs' objective as 'the right to same-sex marriage' would suggest that plaintiffs seek something different from what opposite-sex couples across the state enjoy -- namely, marriage. Rather, plaintiffs ask California to recognize their relationships for what they are: marriages. "Proposition 8 places the force of law behind stigmas against gays and lesbians, including: gays and lesbians do not have intimate relationships similar to heterosexual couples; gays and lesbians are not as good as heterosexuals; and gay and lesbian relationships do not deserve the full recognition of society." -- Judge Vaughn Walker Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
"There is more refreshment and stimulation in a nap, even of the briefest, than in all the alcohol ever distilled." -- Edward Verrall Lucas Well, maybe. But I was glad I was awake when I had afternoon cocktails with my friend Michael at the Campbell Apartment in Grand Central ... It's like a cathedral of refreshment! Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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I had lunch in Brooklyn (at Linger, on Atlantic Avenue) yesterday with my life-long friend Deborah Pintonelli: ... extraordinary poet and fiction writer, all-around beautiful person. Debbie and I went to Columbia College, in Chicago, and studied with poet Paul Hoover and fiction writer Randy Albers -- two of the world's best writing teachers (and all-around beautiful people). Here is a poem from Debbie's premier poetry collection, Meat and Memory (Erie Street Press): The Themes of Passion Channel-wet. The only blue eye For miles. Neoromantic. Stripsearch. Surrender, trellis. Forsaken Heathcliff, Bandaged tale. The "U" in uterus. The angst in Ingenue. Running a cold coal poker Through something sorry. Or a tongue into a warm ear. This is called "To gain ingress," and Can be compared to An insufficient lunch hour Or a bubble bath. The hands of fate So warts, so Wagner. Cooking plenty, the warm rum Of mother, syllabus, acupuncture. To be keen, to Juggle windows, sit In parks all day, Vacation without guilt. To sprawl plump down Into a diary of clean bones. Andalusia. Thick cart. The crate with your Surprise in it. Slate, saliva, The stucco husk. The numbheadedness Of device, egress, The Nice Word that Ends this. * * * Debbie's forthcoming fiction collection, Some Heart, from Autonomedia, will be an absolute delight if you're a poet (and if you're not, too): imagine a chance meeting between Emily Dickinson and Kathy Acker on a sidewalk filled with hopscotch, the chalk running into a rainbow after a sudden tornado. Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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"How often have I lain beneath a roof of trees and sestinas, Sestinas and trees, the chiasmus of my timid hopes decked Out in the styles of the day, Losing myself in novels of corporeal sunshine and a home . . ." -- Noelle Kocot, "The Poem of Force" (from Sunny Wednesday, Wave Books) That was the weekend, actually. Today, I'm here: "as if one world could be created from another and words could touch flesh" -- Charles Borkhuis, "Parallel Universe" (from Savoir-Fear, Meeting Eyes Bindery) Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Frank Sinatra---Francis Albert Sinatra Bobby Darin--- Roberto Cassotto Tony Bennett---Antonio Benedetto Perry Como--- Nick Perido Vic Damone---Vito Farinola Dean Martin---Dino Paul Crocetti Extra credit answer: Harry James. I don't know how FS responded, tho. Maybe a punch in the kisser?
Thank YOU, David! The pleasure was most definitely mine. Now,if I can only do something with my own neglected blog. Btw, I'm working on a response poem to those lines from Eliot that you posted earlier. We'll see ... !
Oh, but often there's great poetry to be found there: one of my long-ago students actually wrote the sentence "hung on a giblet." I think that's going to be the title of my next book!
Toggle Commented Nov 26, 2008 on Monotonizing Existence at The Best American Poetry