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Charles Coe
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Poet, writer, art administrator
Interests: Cooking, sports, music
Recent Activity
This is the view from my front door. Nowadays the sewer drains, utilities, streets and sidewalks are being redone all over my neighborhood as part of a massive public works project. Most folks around here try to grin and bear it because it's important and necessary work. But the noise, dirt and disruption are incredible. I work days so fortunately I miss most of the fun; if I had to sit through this five days a week I’d probably staring at a kitchen shelf by now trying to decide between absinthe and hemlock. I live around the corner from Tory... Continue reading
Posted Sep 30, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
As a kid, I was an incurable library rat. Raise your hand if you were one too. (Yep…thought so.) From the time I was nine or ten, old enough to wander around on my own, if I wasn’t at the local movie house for the creature double feature you’d find me at the library. I could stroll in for free, spend the day with nose buried in books, and then wobble to the desk with an armful to take home. Then I’d bring that pile back a couple of weeks later and do it all over again. I never understood... Continue reading
Posted Sep 17, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Ms. God finally lost her patience as she watched her husband repeatedly jab a listless spoon in his bran flakes. "Are you going to eat that or just push it around for the rest of the millenium?" God shrugged and let out a long sigh. “Look," she said "Why don't you go grab some fresh air? And quit moping around the house? You're giving me shpilkes." God shook his head. "Naw...don't feel like it. Too hot outside. Or too cold. Whatever." Ms. God picked up a frying pan from the shelf she'd been dusting and fixed him with a prison... Continue reading
Posted Sep 2, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
During a recent drive along the Maine coast, I saw a strange-looking building that looked like a giant blue bowl turned upside down. I got closer to see white lettering on the side that announced “Wild Blueberry Land.” It had been a long drive and it seemed like a good time for a break. And I find local kitsch amusing, so I pulled on the lot. Inside was exactly as I suspected, everything blueberry you could possibly imagine: jellies and jams, cookbooks, T-shirts, mugs, can openers…on and on. After a few minutes of poking around I’d had my fill and... Continue reading
Posted Aug 19, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
I am bald. Well, not completely bald. More accurately, I have “male-pattern baldness,” which means I still have goo gobs of hair on the sides and in back, but the front reflects so much light I’d have to advise you to wear sunglasses if you want a close look. I started losing my hair in my mid-twenties. A bit early I guess, but I don’t remember being terribly upset about it; the State of my Pate has never been high on my list of concerns. But if it’s high on yours, you can join your fellow Bald Americans who spend... Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
In Sharon, Vermont, a quiet little spot off I-89, about an hour shy of Montpelier, sits the Vermont Vietnam Veterans Memorial. I had time to stop so I decided to take look, winding my way through the woods to the parking lot. The Memorial was dedicated in 1982, but by the mid ‘90s the site had fallen into disrepair and was in danger of being closed. An outpouring of community support convinced the governor to keep the site open, and Vermont legislators decided not only to rescue and restore the site, but to make it the center of a “green”... Continue reading
Posted Jul 21, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Ringo Starr—born Richard Starkey—celebrates his 74th birthday on July 7th. (Fellow Baby Boomers, don’t freak out…just lean over, put your heads between your knees…breathe deeply…) Everybody okay? Good. Ringo replaced the famously fired Pete Best as the Beatles' drummer in 1962. One reason for the move was that the rest of the boys thought he was limited as a musician, but it’s also said his personality just didn’t fit with the others—not as “fun loving.” So Ringo got his shot. Things can be tough at first for a young rock band. Gigs in skanky venues with dodgy sound systems. Crashing... Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
I've discovered that when you can’t figure out how your fancy new Internet-based office phone works, you create more problems than you solve by jabbing buttons at random. And tempted as I might be, I suspect that striking said phone repeatedly with a three-hole punch until it’s reduced to a pile of plastic shards would do little to improve the situation. The tech guy at my office recently carried off the analog beast I’d used without incident for fifteen years and left a sleek gunmetal gray uberphone covered with buttons sitting on my desk. I stared at it for a... Continue reading
Posted Jun 23, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
A few days ago I was walking down the street on the kind of sunny day that puts smiles on the faces of normally cranky Bostonians. A young guy with a blond buzz cut in a jeep with the top down was at a stoplight with Jet Airliner--one of my favorite Steve Miller tunes--blaring on his radio. I mouthed the words and looked up when I heard a honk. It was the guy in the Jeep, giving me a big grin and a thumbs up as the light changed and he roared off down Massachusetts Avenue. My mind wandered, as... Continue reading
Posted Jun 9, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
In my younger days I worked as a house painter. When I told the general contractor I was done with a job, he’d walk around the site with the client to make a list of odds and ends I’d missed: A window with trim that needed another coat. A few drops of paint spilled in the kitchen pantry. On a construction site that little document's called a “punch list,” because it makes you want to punch the person who wrote it. It’s very annoying to work hard on something and think you’re finished just to have someone tell you, “Nope.... Continue reading
Posted May 28, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Whenever I start to worry that the human race is becoming too intelligent, I take a day off from work to camp out on the sofa and check out some daytime television. I especially enjoy the “Jerry Springer Show,” and its various clones that make it obvious there are some people who'll do anything for their fifteen minutes. Who can resist a hairy, three-hundred-pound guy in a tutu shaking his moneymaker? Or a couple of skanky-looking women fighting over some kuckle dragger who looks like he'd have a hard time scoring a dishwashing gig at Denny’s? One Springer clone recently... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
There’s a certain book I cannot wait to read. It’s the story of a woman who stared down one of the most powerful political lobbies in America, and whose resolve and courage saved countless thousands of American families from heartbreak. I’d like to curl up in my favorite chair with a hot cup of joe, toss the phone in a bucket of water, kick off my shoes and spend a rainy evening with my face stuck in the pages. But there’s one little thing keeping me from reading this book: it doesn’t exist. In 1960 Frances Oldham Kelsey was a... Continue reading
Posted Apr 28, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
I’ve decided to stop handing out free advice; people just don’t appreciate it. For example I know someone who likes to travel; her home and office are infested with souvenir snow globes she picks up wherever she goes. I suggested she just find out what factory in China makes them all and buy a box filled with ones named after places she wants to visit over the next thirty years. That way she could get her beloved globes without the expense and hassle of actually leaving home. Was she grateful for this excellent suggestion? Au contraire—her response was frosty, to... Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Last week at work I got this email from someone who lives on my block: Hi neighbors, Just to let you know both our cars were rifled through last night. Neither was locked and I don't see any damage but the glove compartments were searched through and loose change taken …I've called the police to report it. I guess we'll start locking our cars now. I sent a sympathetic reply, resisting the impulse to add, “ARE YOU SERIOUS? YOU HAVEN’T BEEN LOCKING YOUR CARS?” That would have been rubbing salt in the wounds. We live on a one-block dead end... Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Like most poets, I obsess about finding the word that says exactly what I’m trying to say; close enough isn’t good enough. I might take all day deciding between “outraged” and “indignant,” then change my mind the next morning. It irritates me when someone calls his boss a “Nazi” because she wants him to show up to work on time. And I’m sure the toilet bowl cleaner in that TV commercial cleans toilets just swell. But “revolutionary?” Yet as nutty as I can be about word choices, there’s one area where I not only tolerate, but often enjoy hearing a... Continue reading
Posted Mar 10, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
There’s one typo in my first book of poetry, and for years it drove me nuts. The book was printed old-style, from offset plates rather than from a digital file, and making the correction would have meant producing new plates—hideously expensive and completely out of the question. I just had to learn to live with it. Thirteen years later I can (almost) laugh about how my editor and I went over and over the copy, but neither of us caught the glitch until we saw the book in print. I work hard to get every line right, to make sure... Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
I was at a memorial service for a community activist recently, when a man stepped up to the microphone who was clearly not used to speaking in public. He fumbled a moment with a sheet of paper, then leaned forward and began to read. Tentatively at first, but with growing confidence as the words carried him along: The people I love the best jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight. They seem to become natives of that element, the black sleek heads of seals bouncing like half-submerged... Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
I recently gave a poetry reading where I’d been paid no appearance fee and no one but the event organizer bought a copy of my book. (I don’t know whether she really liked it or was just embarrassed; I suspect a bit of both.) So I’d spent my entire Saturday afternoon to make $13.95. Actually less than that, since I buy copies from my publisher. Plus, it was a three-hour round trip; while grinding my teeth on the drive home I did some hard thinking about how presenters should approach poets to read at their events. 1. Mention money early... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
ANSWER: Whoever was responsible for the Snowflake Malfunction. QUESTION: Who’s number one on the list of people I wouldn’t want to have been the morning after the Sochi Winter Olympics opening ceremony? Let's drop in and take a little peek: After a sleepless night, Sasha Golikov, Chief Sochi Snowflake Engineer, is drinking strong black tea at the kitchen table of his tiny flat. Suddenly, there is the expected knock at the door; he opens it to two men who look like rhinos in black suits. One of them nods toward the street. Sasha grabs his coat and pads meekly down... Continue reading
Posted Feb 11, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Hello Poets and Lovers of Poetry: I'm very happy to be with you this week as guest blogger on the Best American Poetry website; many thanks to the trusting souls who invited me… I’d be remiss not to note here the recent death of Maxine Kumin at 88. Although her passing is a sad occasion, it’s also an opportunity to celebrate her extraordinary life. Ms. Kumin won virtually every important literary honor during her long career, and in 1981–1982 served as poetry consultant to the Library of Congress (a post which later became Poet Laureate of the United States). She... Continue reading
Posted Feb 10, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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Feb 6, 2014