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Jeff Oaks
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I didn't like Allen Ginsberg when I first read him. I didn't get why those long lines and weird language was necessary. It wasn't until I read the "wrong" book of his--the book that nobody else seemed to talk about--that I "got" him. Kaddish had me weeping by the end, and I realized there might be other ways to approach poets than the one that people urge you toward. The other realization was that my initial sense of a poet could be completely wrong. I might not be as smart as I think I am. Of course I have had... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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My father has been dead for ten years today. I woke up in the dark hotel to a phone call: a nurse saying, “Your father’s condition has changed.” I’d spent the last three days with his second wife watching him die, so I knew what she really meant by “changed.” "Changed, changed utterly,” I hear echoing in my head now, but that morning there was only a kind of exhausted silence. It had been hard work to sit with a dying man, someone I had such complicated feelings about, and his wife who kept assuring me that I was her... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
I'm posting this late because I've had no time at all to compose or even think straight. It's the last day, for me, of classes this term. I've ordered pizzas for the two classes, an Advanced Poetry class and a class called The Writer's Journal. I've fielded last minute questions about projects. I've given advice on life, love, what to read, and how to dress for graduation. When I'm harried and losing my sense of time and direction, I often turn to Stevie Smith, the British writer. She lived from 1902 to 1971. She always either gets me out of... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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I’ve been reading again about insects because my poems have been slowly filling up with them over the last couple of years. Until I realized I wanted to be a writer around age 17, I thought I’d be a biologist, specializing in entomology. I was a shy kid, so I was always looking at the ground. My childhood was full of butterflies, moths, cicadas, grasshoppers, fleas, lightning bugs, beetle after beetle after beetle. For a few years, I raised monarch caterpillars in an old aquarium that I’d daily stuff with milkweed leaves; I’d watch the whole process of their transformation... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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December 7th, as many of us know by heart, is Pearl Harbor Day. It’s also Willa Cather’s birthday (1873). If you want a poetry prompt, I’d say open to page 96 of one of her novels—the closest to hand will do—and, using only the words on that page, write a love poem to someone who never understood you. This morning was bitterly cold. My phone told me that it was 18 degrees, but the wind that was gusting off the river made it much colder. My dog Bailey, who loves to walk, today gave me the look that meant Holy... Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
Jeff Oaks is now following The Best American Poetry
Dec 6, 2010
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The anniversary of the 13th amendment is today, and it's also the day the Washington Monument finally got finished. Got a project you’re still working on? It’s a little grim in Pittsburgh, although, as my parents always said, somewhere probably has it worse. There’s a thin continual snow falling, and gusts of wind blast the old windows of the English Department offices. There seems to be a little draft of cold air everywhere I turn. A high whine of it sneaking in through the warped frames. The sky’s overcast, one big load of cold water vapor. It’s our last week... Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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1 Today's the anniversary of the end of Prohibition, General George Custer’s birthday, and the day, in 1945, five navy planes took off from Florida on a routine three-hour mission and were never heard from again. Flight 19’s disappearance still haunts people. I remember being told about the Bermuda Triangle, that there was a section of the earth where people disappeared. In the 70s, when everything was somehow linked to aliens, I thought that the Bermuda Triangle might be a transit point, a kind of interstellar teleportation station. My mother and I had just discovered psychic fairs and there were... Continue reading
Posted Dec 5, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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Dec 2, 2010