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Virginia Valenzuela
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Well, folks, we finally have it! The top ten poems of 2017, as voted upon by the contributors to Next Line, Please. No fear: all can be found with a little bit of scrolling! Angela Ball, “The Difference (for G. C. Lichtenberg)”—7 votes Ricky Ray, “Forbidden Diamonds”—6 votes Christine Rhein, “Simplicity”—6 votes Berwyn Moore, “Picasso’s ‘Woman with a Crow’”—5 votes Elizabeth Solsburg, “To the young woman in the university hallway”—5 votes Courtney Thrash, “The Present”—5 votes Millicent Caliban, “Valentine’s Day Dream…”—4 votes Millicent Caliban, “Input, Output”—4 votes Diane Ferraro, “Death Rehearsal”—4 votes Paul Michelsen, “emptyhanded”—4 votes Paul Michelsen, “Never Say Forever Again”—4 votes Berwyn Moore, “MS”—4 votes Christine Rhein, “What The Soul Craves”—4 votes Michael C. Rush, “Failure Story”—4 votes Emily Winakur, “Ruby Red”—4 votes We also have in this week's post, a great many poems inspired by these seven specific titles: “Quick Question,” “Cheap Tricks,” “Long Story Short,” “Estimated Wait Time,” “Headline Risk,” “I personally guarantee,” and “The Take-Away. The winner took a title from the heap and made it his first line and gave his own title, the date, which I think works very well for the poem and specifically, the last line. I also really like the music made by half rhymes that show up whenever they want to, in mostly unexpected places, and the way the story unfolds, leaving most of the details in between the lines. “January 1, 2018” by J. F. McCullers Long story short, My father didn’t join us This New Year’s Day. He didn’t smoke on the porch. He didn’t eat black-eyed peas. He didn’t go home full and sleepy. Instead he sat alone in the sun On the little bridge Over the dark creek Where we opened the urn And scattered her ashes Last New Year’s Day. I also couldn't help but share this witty haiku. "Cheap (Reader) Tricks" by Clay Sparkman I once asked a friend “Did you read my new Haiku?” “I started,” he said. Visit the American Scholar's page to read the full post with more poems, more anecdotes, and the prompt for next week! --Virginia Valenzuela Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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The voting goes on as we try to find the top ten poems of 2017! A lot happened last year and a lot continues to surface, but at the very least, our poems will remain a constant reminder of why we write: not only for the necessary revision of art, but for the necessary preservation of the past. This week's winner puts a spin on resolutions, reminding us to plan on the unexpected. "Surrender" by Diana Ferraro Resolutions take resolve, thus I prefer to evolve in more natural, unthought ways while time wanders on its unpredictable, unsteady path, bringing a not requested broken fifth toe, an eye going blind, and the punctual failures of age. The joy of basking in the unexpected, relieved of all tasks, all chores. Not waiting, surprised by the late bloom of the perfect, undreamed flower, child of an unknown resolution in the past. Visit the American Scholar's page to read the full post, and to find out the prompt for next week! --Virginia Valenzuela Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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For the first post of the new year, we have a post full of double alliteration poems, written by the very faithful and talented Next Line, Please contributors. An interesting theme brewed which balanced reminiscence and hope, mingling the past and the present in an exploration of language which is, as always, a real treat to read. In light of the beginning of another year, I chose this journey poem as my favorite: Robert Albrecht's "Journey East" Journey east, my young friend, Before jeunesse escapes you. Away from judging eyes, And jabbing elbows, Journey east. Journey east with intention To the country of Jowett’s enchantment, Where the sermons of Jonathan Edwards Still judiciously echo. Journey east. Journey east with humility, And put a just end To this jealous enmity For those juntos eclectic Who’ve since journeyed east. Visit the American Scholar's page to read the full post! --Virginia Valenzuela Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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This week on Next Line, Please, the prompt is to play with double alliteration, an experiment introduced to us by Aaron Fogel in a poem called “BW,” which was published in 1988. Building on this idea, Jim Dolot used his own initials in writing “Dictionary Jazz,” (1996). The poem begins, “Jack Derrida / Identifies himself / To the police / Of Jewish dreams / As John Doe” and has this memorable riff: Jeanne d’Arc A jailbird— A jackdaw— Her jeremiads Became his Jeux d’esprit. For next time, please write a poem or poems—with a 16-line limit—that plays on two letters. You may use your initials, or letter-pairings in wide use (such as Uncle Sam, us, upset, untied slates, unusual surface, screwed up, und so weiter). I think NLP regulars will go to town with this prompt. Visit the American Scholar's page to read the post in full, and to enter your candidate. -- Virginia Valenzuela Continue reading
Posted Dec 19, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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This week's contest proved to be A Brilliant, Creative engagement of sorts, with abecedariuses of all shapes, colors, and topics, from gods and goddesses of the world to a sampling of Ginsberg's "Howl" to an ankle bitch (bad boss). Michael C. Rush’s “She Writes Him on the Eve of the Revolution” was quite the tour de force: … and be careful, darling, entering frivolous gardens heroically. I just keep loving my next ordeal, properly quarantined, rousing schmucks to utter venal words extirpating your zeal, although by certain demands enveloped, from gross hope impeached, justice keeps litigating many new obscenely-proposed quotas, reacting slowly to undermining vandals whose Xmas yawps zing … Alerted by certain directions, everyone finds great hope in justice, kindness, love. Many now-obsolete promises quelled reasonable suspicions that underlying verities were xylophonic yin-yang zephyrs … Attack beautifully, cariño! Don’t ever fear going home if joining kills laughter. My note openly permits quitting rather suddenly to uphold victory without extinguishing your zest … and Angela Ball sums up “Paris in 26 Words”: A bored courtesan damns Evening’s façade, goes hunting In jewels, KOs Love’s menace, Not only parturition. Quizzes retrograde symbols, Tells us visions— Wild xylophones, yuletide Zydeco. And one more: Emily Winakur's “Bad Boss”: Ankle bitch cancer. Don’t ever forget How I jilted karma, Laughed my no-neck Ogre (piratous, queening, Rancid self) to undead Victory. Wealth Excels. You—zip it. And lastly, two wonderful announcements! One, that Angela Ball and David Lehman will give a joint reading at Poisson Rouge, the New York City nightspot, on Monday, February 12, 2018 (Lincoln’s Birthday). There, they will read some “Next Line, Please” poems. And two, that Next Line, Please: Prompts to Inspire Poets and Writers (Cornell University Press), will be published in March 2018! Super good stuff. Visit the American Scholar's page to check out the entire post and to read more abecedariuses! --Virginia Valenzuela Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
"Something Wonderful May Happen" (2001), a documentary made by Danish filmmakers about the New York School of Poetry, will be shown at 6 PM this Friday evening December 8 at The New School, in room 502 of 66 West 12 Street. Interviewed in the film are John Ashbery, Jane Freilicher, Kenneth Koch, Alfred Leslie, Larry Rivers, Charles Bernstein and David Lehman, among others. There is rare footage of Frank O'Hara in his office at the Museum of Modern Art in the 1960s, and Hettie Jones reads FOH's "Personism." Hettie Jones and David Lehman will be there, and so should you! All lovers of poetry welcome. Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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This week's prompt for Next Line, Please called for variants and elaborations on “I’m going to break that marriage up” (spoken by Teresa Wright in The Best Years of Our Lives) or Norah Ephron’s “I’ll have what she’s having” (from When Harry Met Sally) or Woody Allen’s “How the hell do I know why there were Nazis, I don’t know how the can opener works” (from Hannah and Her Sisters). There were a great deal of impressive poems which utilized one or all of the quotes, as well as an impressive amount of editorial work that is going on behind the scenes! I think it's really cool when writers can give and receive notes on each other's work. My favorite poem incorporated multiple references to the quotes, and sounded playful and clever: “All That’s Left Behind Lies Ahead” by Paul Michelson: “The best days are the first to flee.” —Virgil Roasting marshmallows with Prometheus as Athena cries out, Horae for Anesidora. Can I use her crown to open a can? I’ll have what she’s having. A seizure. A salad. A seizure salad. Sangria. Salud. Some ’ludes. A little solitude. Caesarian. A shortcut, a longshot, a backrub. Colombian necktie. Lookin’ sharp. Lookin’ good. Failed painter with a toothbrush mustache. Twinkle in the eye of a tyrant. Adenoid Hynkel, aspiring to be divine. I figured out how to use that can opener but I can’t get the worms back in. Visit the American Scholar's page to read more poems, including an Abecedarius in 26 Words! --Virginia Valenzuela Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Join us at the Cornelia Street Cafe on Wednesday, December 13th for an evening with Andrey Gritsman and David Lehman, who will read their translations of Vladimir Mayakovsky, among other poems. Vladimir Mayakovsky at the Cornelia Street Cafe Wednesday, December 13, 6 PM 29 Cornelia Street NYC 212 898 9319 On Cornelia Street, where W. H. Auden once lived and was quoted, saying that "the art of living in New York City lies in crossing the street against the light." The event is sponsored by Intercultural Poetry. Lehman will read his versions of "Brooklyn Bridge" and parts of "The Cloud in Trousers." Gritsman will read "Brooklyn Bridge" in Russian as well as translations of such poets as Mandelstam, Akhmatova, and contemporaries Vladimir Gandelsman and Vladimir Druk. For an enticing taste of these two poets, check out the following links to their work! "Amnesia" by David Lehman "5 АДАР II 5771" by Andrey Gritsman Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
It’s not natural. Not night, the hole inside the hole. This way, that way. No way. Can you keep going? The sun keeps going. Old, young, taking your footsteps. Tomorrow someone will ask, “Is this what she wanted?” And someone will answer “She passed this way under the weightless wash of sky.” -- Patricia Carlin Patricia Carlin's books include Second Nature, QUANTUM JITTERS and ORIGINAL GREEN all from Marsh Hawk Press. She has published widely in journals and anthologies such as Boulevard, BOMB, Verse, American Letters & Commentary, Pleiades, POOL, The Literary Review, The Manhattan Review, and McSweeney's Internet Tendency; and she has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and VCCA. She teaches literature and poetry writing at The New School, and she co-edits the poetry journal Barrow Street. Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
where I’m going, the bright houses far from corrupted air. Nowhere you’d risk – everywhere. The difference is death, or maybe it’s just useless instruction. We love the dead, discredit the living. “The dead.” What is that? I’m a bare bringer of death, my own widow. Who sends me cards? Letters? Home news, gone. Time pretends it’s gravity, always pulling down – but it’s a breeze, too. Riding the updraft, grabbing air, that’s what air is for. For example, there is not nothing, now. I think your arms are where I might go if I were not always sailing upwards into bluer air, each cloud a station looking down on the tiny globe. And that’s a comfort. To know that everything falls and is gone with less than the speed of light. Words become worlds. I’ll speak before I leap, look before I sleep. -- Patricia Carlin Patricia Carlin's books include Second Nature, QUANTUM JITTERS and ORIGINAL GREEN all from Marsh Hawk Press. She has published widely in journals and anthologies such as Boulevard, BOMB, Verse, American Letters & Commentary, Pleiades, POOL, The Literary Review, The Manhattan Review, and McSweeney's Internet Tendency; and she has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and VCCA. She teaches literature and poetry writing at The New School, and she co-edits the poetry journal Barrow Street. Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
“Where are your times?” he sang near the band mates of tune at Joe’s pub on Tuesday question, and then answered it himself. “Your moment is nowhere but here.” He didn’t mean to seem pushy, really. The distance was about the people of two comforts bridging their emotional direction and finding each other in position. “I know where you are, and I know that I am here,” Mr. Mota offered later in the question, his nights trailing behind him. “That I am here,” he sang again, several shows beyond. -- Patricia Carlin Patricia Carlin's books include Second Nature, QUANTUM JITTERS and ORIGINAL GREEN all from Marsh Hawk Press. She has published widely in journals and anthologies such as Boulevard, BOMB, Verse, American Letters & Commentary, Pleiades, POOL, The Literary Review, The Manhattan Review, and McSweeney's Internet Tendency; and she has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and VCCA. She teaches literature and poetry writing at The New School, and she co-edits the poetry journal Barrow Street. Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Last week, David Lehman introduced the fateful Antigone as our muse for an acrostic poem styled after her name. There were many wonderful takes on the prompt, from Greek etymologies (titrate, expiklarate, and peripetaea) to effective anagrams ("one" and "gone," for example) to the resounding art of brevity. There are a dozen crafty and clever candidates, all of which contribute to a rich discussion, not only of the classics, but of all the things that make tragedy so beautiful, and something to learn from. Here is the winning acrostic, by Christine Rhein: As in any one heart, compelled, Not by duty, but by grief, To defy a hateful law, its tonnage. Imagine being locked away. Gone for good, the saying goes. Oh, giant nation, the Thou-Shalt- Nots all knotted, the anti-anti-lies, Every tone, atonement tolling. For next week, we will be drawing inspiration from lifted lines. They are as follows: (1) “I’m going to break that marriage up”—Teresa Wright in The Best Years of our Lives (2) “I’ll have what she’s having”—spoken by director Rob Reiner’s mother in When Harry Met Sally in Katz’s Deli (NYC) (3) “How the hell do I know why there were Nazis? I don’t know how the can opener works.”—from Hannah and Her Sisters Visit the American Scholar's page to read the full post, and to enter your candidate for next week! -- Virginia Valenzuela Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
“If you come to a fork in the road, take it.” --Yogi Berra They’re nothing, too puny, too few – those gone-beyond-finding mothers, brothers. They lie down in deep grass, claiming wildness, poisoned with tameness. The air is their cage, water their blind alleys, always circling back. You who live on land, that’s nothing too, the nothing between sky and the black roots underground. They can’t live there, and neither can you. # # # We argue about water and wind – we switch sides. You fly, I swim. No sieve to catch that slow seeping. It’s not blood, just whatever trickles away and is never exhausted, never over. Tiny domestic drains – sink, bathtub, water swirling against the clock. Impossibly distant poles are leaving no choice. Bore through the earth to the other side, where water shifts direction. With the clock or against it -- nothing changes. # # # Once, she began, a girl lived happily in the not-forever-after. One morning was the morning before, then the missing after. But that unhappened. The angel of yesterday swooped down and slashed tomorrow in two. Now there were two girls, the one who lived happily in the ever-after and the one who didn’t. That can happen for you, too. Open your arms to the black angel – die to your old life. Someone else will live that life, someone who once was you. Let her not imagine that forking path. It will be too bitter – better to live out her bent life in the other after. It too was a way to go. -- Patricia Carlin Patricia Carlin's books include Second Nature, QUANTUM JITTERS and ORIGINAL GREEN all from Marsh Hawk Press. She has published widely in journals and anthologies such as Boulevard, BOMB, Verse, American Letters & Commentary, Pleiades, POOL, The Literary Review, The Manhattan Review, and McSweeney's Internet Tendency; and she has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and VCCA. She teaches literature and poetry writing at The New School, and she co-edits the poetry journal Barrow Street. Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Far out at sea, I looked toward the elusive coast. Would it appear before evening? Would I love the swamps, ragged palm trees, crabs clattering their pincers over the black volcanic beach? If you call that love. I do, because, after all, there’d be something, not nothing, in all the remembered ice of a life gone missing. I did not love those days, till age said, wait, the ritual of morning will always see you through. It will replace the cold beautiful moon hanging low in the eastern sky. Earlier, there was only myself. I hadn’t seen all those doubles coming along though I always understood that the moon would double and triple like all my friends. What I loved was the crowd closing in – my look-alikes, which weren’t, really. It’s land that’s important, anyhow, whichever island you happen to reach. One is as good as another. To ask for hibiscus – or walruses – or bubbling pools of lava is perfectly pointless. Soon land will loom up, and I’ll disembark, waving goodbye to the ship that carried me there. So glad I never encountered lurking pirates, whirlpool gulfs. This is a better point of departure. --Patricia Carlin Patricia Carlin's books include Second Nature, QUANTUM JITTERS and ORIGINAL GREEN all from Marsh Hawk Press. She has published widely in journals and anthologies such as Boulevard, BOMB, Verse, American Letters & Commentary, Pleiades, POOL, The Literary Review, The Manhattan Review, and McSweeney's Internet Tendency; and she has received fellowships from The MacDowell Colony and VCCA. She teaches literature and poetry writing at The New School, and she co-edits the poetry journal Barrow Street. Continue reading
Posted Nov 27, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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"I can hardly be alone in the fascination I have for Antigone, as who would not be? The daughter (and younger sister) of Oedipus, she supports the blinded ex-Rex to the end, and she is more steadfast than her sister, more valiant than her brothers. She plays a major part in Oedipus at Colonus, the second play in the Oedipus cycle of Sophocles, and is the title character of the third. One reason for her appeal: she is the incarnation of the spirit of resistance to tyranny and authority. Defying the state to uphold a moral principle that transcends politics, she gives up her life for her belief, and the prince who loves her kills himself in despair." (DL) For this week's prompt, we will be visiting a hero of our classical past, creating an acrostic poem in the form of her name: Antigone. Much has been written about her, but as with anything in the literary canon, there is always something new to be said, and I can't wait to see what the participants of Next Line, Please will come up with! Visit the American Scholar's page to read the rest of Mr. Lehman's excellent post, and to enter your candidate. Virginia Valenzuela Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Just when I think I've learned all the tricks up his sleeve, the ever impressive, devilishly clever David Lehman finds a way to wow us, yet again! In this week's installment of Next Line, Please, Mr. Lehman chooses the best of the best autumn haikus from a ground-breaking, record-setting three hundred and eighty-three submissions and comments. But he doesn't stop there. Mr. Lehman also ventures to write the entire post in haikus, from the introductory comments to the promise of another prompt next week. Here is a taste of some seasonally spiced haikus: Michael C. Rush The fog at dawn asks the falling leaves leaving fall to wait for winter. Angela Ball "Trees Along Highway 49 between Jackson and Hattiesburg" Monomania of pines, a long shot of gold, a headdress of red. Paul Michelsen "America in Fall" Morning has seized us Orchards flung out on the land Backward into light And lastly, a translation of Basho's most famous haiku: David Lehman Pond Frog Splash! Visit the American Scholar's page to read more or to enter into the next competition! Virginia Valenzuela Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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This week, American Scholar and the writers at Next Line, Please find the answer to the question: What is the one thing that will save America? As it turns out, there were numerous answers, and thus, many wonderful poems, which editor David Lehman strings together in a spirited and intriguing post. Not only do we get a glimpse into the world of John Ashbery's poem, "The One Thing That Can Save America," but also, we get a mini anthology of interesting ideas and some darn good lines! Visit the American Scholar's page to read all the entries, and to enter your candidate for next week's competition: autumn haiku. Here is my favorite "one thing": "The one thing that can save America" posted by Maureen is not another Walmart. You could guess Amazon—but you’d be wrong. No, Starbucks didn’t invent it (like those lattes you concede to liking lately). A daily dose of it’s always good. Children are truly terrible at containing it. Beware: it can be contagious. When its volume gets too high, just try suppressing it but don’t be surprised if tears free-flow and you feel transcendent. -- Virginia Valenzuela Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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That's right, everybody! Tuesday is here and so is another week in the life of Next Line, Please. Last week's prompt was inspired by the clever, punchy, and thoughtful poetry of Marianne Moore. This week's winner was a poem by Angela Ball: "To Marianne Moore" Your poems, steam rollers from beneath we emerge re-dimensioned. They are used for leveling surfaces without traction, their live steam festival flattening genuine dilations such as a bill of lading, an introduction to computing Ve- nus, an action bracketed by double colons, a pseudo-element. Smokebox far extended at the top to incorporate support for assembly. “Steam Roller” first meant a fixed machine for rolling and curving steel plates for boilers and ships. Some have seen you walking by the harbor un- der a distinct pole star, your hat a sextant, your consciousness a crow’s nest sighting solid constellations, stars like spark- ling chips of rock above scrip of river, silence’s storehouses. Next week's prompt asks you to either write a poem entitled, "The One Thing That Can Save America," or, to decode John Ashbery's poem of the same title, in ten lines or fewer. Visit the American Scholar's page to enter your candidate! Virginia Valenzuela Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Oct 25, 2017