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Sharon Preiss
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On September 12 in 2008, on a sunny Southern California day, Karen Green came home from a short errand to find her husband, who had been fighting severe depression, had hanged himself on their patio. On July 25, 2007, Francisco Goldman’s wife body-surfed for the first time while on vacation in Mexico, floated to the surface of the water immobilized after tumbling through a wave, and died the next day of complications from a severely damaged spinal cord. On December 30, 2003, as Joan Didion prepared dinner in the kitchen of her home in New York City, her husband slumped... Continue reading
Posted Aug 20, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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We’ll never get to the bottom of who ripped the first T-shirt and wore it as an anti-fashion statement. Or who first pierced flesh with a safety pin and claimed it as an accessory of opposition. Or who first spiked his hair in defiance to wearing it “straight.” Truth is, in the Punk movement none of this matters anyway. Sure, there is something identifiable as “Punk Fashion,” but one’s manner of dressing is only an external marker for an internal attitude, a way of living that might best be summed up like this: “Fuck The Establishment.” And so the Metropolitan... Continue reading
Posted Aug 6, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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You are one lucky dog if you are in Iowa City, Iowa, tonight July 9, or in St. Paul, Minnesota, tomorrow July 10. You’ll get to go checkout the Graywolf poetry tour at either Prairie Lights Books or Common Good Books. I and about 50 other audience members were at the kick-off reading last night at BookCourt here in New York City, and what a yummy treat it was! Now, I’ve been to a lot of poetry readings, to which I sometimes say Ho-hum. I mean really, I love poetry – always have and always will, but sometimes: Poetry Reading:... Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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June 5 was the 115th anniversary of the poet Federico Garcia Lorca’s birth. Happy birthday, Freddy! LIVE from the New York Public Library threw a fine celebration for him on June 4, with readings of his work, readings of work he influenced, a dramatic performance of a lecture he gave expounding on his experience in the U.S. and the creation of Poet in New York, and a grand finale performance by Patti Smith, who recited two Lorca poems and sang a couple songs. It is Lorca who is credited with advancing the concept of duende as an aesthetic mode and... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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Tuesday, May 28, would have been May Swenson’s 100th birthday. In her lifetime Swenson was a playwright, a professor, a lesbian, a Mormon, a translator, a lover of nature, a feminist, a critic, and a poet. On the evening of her birthday this week, Poets House, Poetry Society of America and The Library of America got together in Poets House Kray Hall to celebrate the quiet beauty and integrity of Swenson’s life and work with a reading of selections from the recently published Collected Poems, a handsome edition designed for posterity by The Library of America. To be honored with... Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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Natasha Trethewey is the perfect poet for the 21st Century Obama-era United States. Her work embodies much that is current and important in today’s America as the country is being forced in so many ways to move out of its selfish childhood and into a more mature adult place in the world. To claim she is the most contemporary of poets may be a bit odd to say of someone whose poetry is so much steeped in the historical past. But as she examines history via her precise poetic dissections of paintings, photos and texts, and works to untangle her... Continue reading
Posted May 24, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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(This is the fourth and last installment in a short series about the PEN World Voices Festival.) Every spring, for nine years running, the PEN World Voices Festival brings an astounding array of writers from all over the globe to New York City for a weeklong exchange of ideas and celebration of matters of literary exigence. Next year, even if you can get to only a few of the myriad events scheduled, you’ll get to be part of a remarkable conversation about life and literature that you won’t soon forget. Burma: Sunday, May 5, 2013. Burma’s Poetry Scene is active... Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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(This is the third installment in a short series. Stay tuned for more about the PEN World Voices Festival.) Every spring, for nine years running, the PEN World Voices Festival brings an astounding array of writers from all over the globe to New York City for a weeklong exchange of ideas and celebration of matters of literary exigence. Next year, even if you can get to only a few of the myriad events scheduled, you’ll get to be part of a remarkable conversation about life and literature that you won’t soon forget. Obsession: Joy Harjo on Time: Friday, May, 3... Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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(This is the second installment in a short series. Stay tuned for more about the PEN World Voices Festival.) Every spring, for nine years running, the PEN World Voices Festival brings an astounding array of writers from all over the globe to New York City for a weeklong exchange of ideas and celebration of matters of literary exigence. This year’s theme was Bravery, and audiences were privy to diverse happenings that occupied 24 venues, included almost 120 writers, and brought to the public seventy-plus events. It would be impossible to attend everything on every day, but, next year, even if... Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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(This is the first installment in a short series. Stay tuned for more about the PEN World Voices Festival!) Every spring, for nine years running, the PEN World Voices Festival brings an astounding array of writers from all over the globe to New York City for a weeklong exchange of ideas and celebration of matters of literary exigence. This year’s theme was Bravery, and audiences were privy to diverse happenings that occupied 24 venues, included almost 120 writers, and brought to the public seventy-plus events. On Monday, April 29, you could hear Russian, Palestinian, Native American, Trinidadian, French, and American... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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The Lorca extravaganza continues! Don’t worry if you’ve missed some of the early events that have already happened New-York-City-wide in celebration of this poet of mystery and intrigue. There is plenty more to come. Happenings including film screenings, readings, talks, concerts, and exhibits of Lorca’s art, manuscripts, and personal possessions span through July 21. Plus, there is a beautifully re-packaged, newly released, updated version of Poet in New York available in stores now (FSG, $17) with reproductions and inclusions of some of the material that’s currently on view in the “Back Tomorrow” exhibit at the Wachenhiem Gallery in the Schwarzman... Continue reading
Posted Apr 23, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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Ai’s single poetic form was the dramatic monologue. Her seven books published between 1973 and 2010, collected in a hefty Norton edition released in February of this year, comprise almost two hundred pieces – monologues all – written in voices as various, profound, and quixotic as JFK, James Dean, General Custer’s wife, and her own family ancestors. Rarely does she repeat a character, and her rich imaginings of their individual lives, thoughts, and speech sustained her entire poetic career. Her earliest book, Cruelty, was published in 1973 when she was 26 and still fresh out of U Cal Irvine’s MFA... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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Wunderkind/High school drop-out. Gifted artist/Street scribbler. Incredibly successful in his early 20’s/Heroin addict dead at 27. Jean-Michel Basquiat’s life was a study in warring forces, forces that fueled both his painting and his addiction, forces that likely did him in in the end. He favored large, rough, cartoonish depictions of his subjects (mostly people), often painted on backgrounds of emphatic primary colors or garish aquas and oranges, finished with crayon and graffiti-like text. The paintings sold to elite collectors in the 1980s for astronomical prices, and they still do today. The Gagosian show is an excellent opportunity to look at... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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Matisse was part of the Fauvist movement – the “wild beasts” – a group of early 20th century artists known for their brash use of color and their emphasis on manipulation of paint as equal to, or more important than, true representation of form. The main members were Matisse himself and Andre Derain, whose vibrant portraits and landscapes are often comprised of multiple brushstrokes of startling and counter-intuitive hue. (Andre Derain, "Charring Cross Bridge," 1906, pictured above) The current Matisse exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art reveals something utterly surprising about the master’s work: it is not so much... Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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In preparation for re-reading The Iliad and The Odyssey with a few friends, I’ve been taking in The Cambridge Companion to Homer and M.I. Finley’s The World of Odysseus. And I’ve enjoyed the insight, the speculation, the scholarship involved in parsing the puzzle of the pre-Homeric world. But sometimes, it seems to me, the scholars are taking this all a little too seriously. Consider this: Imagine, if you will, that the world as we know it is completely wiped out – all humankind, all buildings, cars, libraries, computers, animal life, plant life, all our daily accoutrements, all record that we... Continue reading
Posted Feb 17, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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There were such nice responses both here and on my Facebook page last week when I published my farewell to Mobile Libris, I thought you might enjoy a poem I wrote a few years ago in celebration of our fall 2010 season, one of our busiest. I read the poem at our annual ML holiday party, and it was a huge hit. There are, of course, some inside jokes, but I hope readers here enjoy it, too. The poem includes book titles that we sold during the season, along with excerpts of blurbs and reviews from the books, a bunch... Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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Last night, after a long look at my empty office space, I left Mobile Libris for the last time. It’s been a good run, these past seven years of selling books. It’s a tough business – margins are slim, prices are fixed, book-buying habits are changing – but we made a good go of things, even in this sluggish economy. Mobile Libris is a success story even though it is no more. For those of you not familiar with Mobile Libris, we sold books here in New York City exclusively at author events. We had no brick-and-mortar store; rather, we... Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Dee and I are about to wrap up Paradise. It’s been a long journey, through Hell, Purgatory, and now, The Ultimate: in these last few cantos we are about to meet God. That in itself will make this 18-month endeavor worthwhile, but, boy, am I walking away from this project with a lot more than a little imaginary face-time with the Creator of All Things, a lot more than I expected, and Dee is too. I’d been wanting to reread the poems for a while, ever since a friend who taught a kind of spiritual-inquiry course based on The Divine... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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I suppose my viewing companion and I approached it all wrong. At the Guggenheim, I like to start on thetop floor and work my way down. But the exhibit was arranged chronologically and worked its way up, -- bottom floor early paintings, top floor the later ones, with the studies for Guernica (1937) around the thirdor fourth floor. But we started with the late paintings first, with his portraits of women out-of-joint, animal-headed, grotesque, and had to make sense of where he ended up – misogynistic, misanthropic, the cubist abstraction looking painful and hateful – without the softening of watching... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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I first fell in love with Cy Twombly’s paintings when I saw Fifty Days at Iliam at the Philadelphia Museum of Art about 15 years ago. The ten large starkly white canvases flame with a narrative of the Trojan War, mixing abstracted image, brilliant swaths of color, and scribblings of text. “Like a Fire That Consumes All Before It” (pictured left) remains one of my favorite paintings, and I’ve had the privilege of spending a good deal of time with Twombly’s work on two trips to the DeMenil gallery in Houston that houses a permanent collection of his canvases and... Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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Jan 11, 2013