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Jenny Factor
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On Saturday (and Sunday too, actually), the Los Angeles Poetry community celebrated the life and work of Wanda Coleman--a poet large of life, of craft (eclectic, authentic, bold), of hair, of head (she was among our most brilliant cultural thinkers), and of heart. And the event felt large--ample and sprawling, generous and sunny, gorgeous, glamorous and gritty as Wanda's words, her friendship---the best our Los Angeles poetry community has to offer. Co-sponsored by the Poetry Society of America and Red Hen Press, the Saturday event launched a weekend of remembrance. First, we sighed and were sliced through by the reading... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
When I was a child, I’d often read poems I didn’t understand. I’d throw my thoughts against the poem like a locked box, trying to parse the words together, so that the lock would slip open. There were poets whom I knew were mostly beyond me, but my mind rubbed against them systematically, like my cat rubs her face against a hairbrush, and there were others whose work was made mostly of sound rather than idea, and those I could drink up like a glass of water. Emily Dickinson was in the first category, and Theodore Roethke in the latter.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
I've been thinking lately about Cool. About cool before the concept of cool. Or before the cool people of today knew about the concept of Cool because we weren't born yet. Take E.E. Cummings in 1926, for instance, entitling his third book of poetry, in titling his fifth book as book is 5 which must surely have been among the coolest titles of poetry books published in 1926, or in any other year for that matter. Which is why I want to take a moment to say that I really like E.E. Cummings. He makes verbs out of typography. He... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
If you have a little time at work today, I'd highly recommend a brief trip over to the Poetry Society of America's "Old School" collection. Similar in some ways to the classic poems section of Slate, where David Lehman has located an 'overlooked masterpiece by Thomas Gray', Old School also pairs pre-19th Century poets with the contemporary poets who adore them. Find out about Matthew Rohrer's Shelley-inspired tattoo. Get brave with Yu Xuanji and Tina Chang. Experience Keats as a fragment of Ed Hirsch's consciousness, and hear George Herbert through the ears and mind of Alfred Corn. Oh I'm out... Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Since the first of the year, the days here in sunny So Ca have been unseasonably cold and occasionally wet. Several times a day, in and out of the house with dog, in and out of the car with groceries, with book bags (literally, bags o' books), with jackets in arms, once shed, abandoned and retrieved from the car, with leash, with ball, with muddy feet, I walk out past our rose garden. Our rose garden--53 years old--another woman's treasure. Our rose garden belonged to our home's third occupants: not the 1930's-era Macy's furniture buyer, or the former general who... Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Emma, thank you so much! The poem always takes my breath away. I was thinking back to when I first read it. I believe Mark Doty was lecturing at Bennington. He introduced it, and I had purchased White's Salt Ecstasies by the end of the day! The white rabbit on the float photo was on the nurses' float, an award-winner this year. I like to think of him as 'Harvey'. An imaginary friend to cut the winter blues.....j.f.
Two days ago, right about now, my family and I headed over to Orange Grove Boulevard, a wide, almost leisurely road with green lawns and mountain views that slices through the westmost-half of my hometown, Pasadena, CA. We parked nearby and walked into the darkness, the clumps of people. The sun had set, and families and college students had camped out on the side of the road, as they do each year, awaiting our parade. Portable camp fires and sleeping bags tangled in the toes. Kids impatient and excited, running from parent to parent, mouths smeared with lollipops. Getting to... Continue reading
Posted Jan 2, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Oh and to be clear! Not all the antics described above (except the beautiful "Still, Still, Still") were entirely Madrigalian. (Is that a word?) Farther to the east, the kids and comrades of several school districts and private schools in the San Gabriel Valley have started the Factor waterworks and childhood flashbacks as well. And there was one amazing amazing 6th grade performance of Lauridson I'll never ever forget! But no one, Joel P., is quite like you!
Oh Mr. Pressman!! Thank you for that. With much love this holiday season and in 2013!
You now behold (in the photo above) a group of Beverly Hills High School alumni (parents, bankers, singers, and friends) returning to the alma mater as they do each December to sing "Still, Still, Still" with their old high school singing group, The Beverly Hills High School Madrigals. They are singing under the baton of a very dear teacher, Joel Pressman, who was already making room for creativity and discipline, tenderness, tough love, and a lot of humor when I was a creative soul lost in the halls of that high school. Mr. Pressman's powerful voice draws us all back.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 24, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Thanks, Jim! Love hearing your voice too.
Henry David Thoreau, while barely catapulting out of his own 20's, was nevertheless ready to dispense valuable advice on creativity and the energy necessary to sustain a life of purposeful alertness. Here he is speaking on mornings. "The most memorable season of the day, the awakening hour. For an hour, at least, some part of us awakes which slumbers all the rest of the day and night. Be awakened by our Genius, not by the mechanical nudgings of some servitor. Be awakened by our own newly acquired force and aspirations from within, not factory bells. Be awakened to a higher... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
all to no end save beauty the eternal - from The Crowd at the Baseball Game by William Carlos Williams It's been a big week for poetry around here. Last Friday, the Mayor of Los Angeles named our city's first poet laureate--baseball-loving poet, Eloise Klein Healy. Eloise is probably not the first baseball-loving poetry royalty. But is she the first poet to pitch puns and sling similes for the Boys in Blue? I'm not an expert, so I invite fans in the stands to throw peanuts. But if I'm not mistaken, Marianne Moore batted for the Yankees. Eve Merriam, a... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Tuesday marked the birthday of poet, Marilyn Hacker. In her honor, I've been thinking about a writing an odd multi-part fairy tale poem, based around a particular Grimm story, and featuring a transgendered bear. I may never finish it (well, actually, yesterday I finished a draft) but if I do, it is meant to be a kind of tribute to something wonderful she did when she was just about precisely my age. I am a long-time fan of all her work, but I am a fan, in that way we love what we love that feels particularly personal, almost like... Continue reading
Posted Nov 28, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
While cooking cranberries, one wonders where poems come from. Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Forgive me, those of you in "weather". Under weather. Riding out weather. Here is a poem much on my mind. It has traveled beside me for over a week...leashed (or perhaps, unleashed and dislodged from memory) by the Sandy of my west coast imagination, and now, today, stirred up again with the east coast storm warnings all over the news, in this funny well-publicized country of news cycles and imaginings. There is probably a small image of this poem inside every cell in my body. I memorized it at 12 years old. Sixteen lines. Fewer end-rhyme sounds than one's average... Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
HOUSE FEAR Always--I tell you this they learned-- Always at night when they returned To the lonely house from far away To lamps unlighted and fire gone gray, They learned to rattle the lock and key To give whatever might chance to be Warning and time to be off in flight: And preferring the out- to the in-door night, They learned to leave the house-door wide Until they had lit the lamp inside. --Robert Frost (1874-1963) I called to the wind, "Who's there?"........Whoever it was still knocks at my gate. --Kyorai, trans by Harry Behn (1651-1704) There is a grey... Continue reading
Posted Oct 31, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Laura, this is so cool!
Toggle Commented Apr 15, 2012 on April 15, 1912 at The Best American Poetry
Stanley Kunitz once implored all of us to become the person who writes the poem. Every day, I am humbled and delighted by the community of writers, students and faculty, with whom I work at the Antioch University Los Angeles low-residency MFA program. My colleagues and students take risks on the page, write hard, read seriously, live lives of meaning, and are wickedly talented. But what wows me again and again is this community's vulnerability, expansiveness, and humility. This puts very big, wide margins around the possibilities for words. Margins so big that everyone has room to risk and learn.... Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Jim, thank you! You've turned me onto a wonderful new poem. Here's the link to "Walt Whitman, Bathing" for others who might be interested: and a few excerpts.... "After his stroke, he would walk into the woods On sunny days and take off all his clothes Slowly, one plain shoe And one plain sock at a time, his good right hand As gentle as a mother’s, and bathe himself In a pond while murmuring...." and then, "Meanwhile, he would examine The postures of wildflowers, The workings of small leaves, holding them close To his pale eyes while mumbling inaudibly. He would dress then, helping His left side with his right as patiently As he might have dressed the wounded or the dead. And would lead himself toward home like a dear companion." I love how it ends in self-compassion, very appropriate indeed to the November poem. thank you for writing, Jim --j.
oh that's priceless! Thank you so much for sharing that!
I am amazed and dazzled. What a wonderful experience this must have been! Must be!
Laura, I feel the *exact* same way about you!
I know you're probably not local to Los Angeles, but I wish you could come out to hear two of my literary heroes, Sandra M. Gilbert and Ron Carlson read at Vroman's Bookstore in Pasadena this weekend. Founded in 1894, Vroman's is Southern California's oldest and largest independent bookseller (two of Vroman's early employees are restacking books in the photo, above). Here are a few words from Ron Carlson on bewilderment and humility and listening in the act of writing: "Beginning a story without knowing all the terrain is not a comfortable feeling. It is uncomfortable enough in fact to... Continue reading
Posted Apr 13, 2012 at The Best American Poetry