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Megin Jimenez
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DL, apologies for this late reply, but I wanted to say thank you for your thoughtful comment. It was wonderful to hear a positive response after launching these missives into the vast internet space and not being sure who is reading. I was thinking of Sontag's "Notes on Camp" when I titled this, as I felt a similar attitude (she describes herself as being both attracted to and repelled by "camp", which was part of her need to write about it).
1. "Perhaps the most interesting characteristic of the time now labeled The Sixties was that there was so little nostalgia. In that sense, it was indeed a utopian moment." Vivre sa vie That's a thought from Susan Sontag, in an essay from 1996, in which reflects on Against Interpretation, 30 years after its publication. (The whole piece is available here.) She later notes with irony that the spirit of dissent of the early 60s has been quashed, even as it has become "an intense object of nostalgia." 2. I used to think of nostalgia as a pleasant bittersweetness, a safe place, distinct from homesickness, something like entering a melancholy song. I liked to catalogue people's accounts of nostalgia for a time or place they hadn't actually known. How it chooses you, the ache of recognition, a visceral sense of belonging that must be paid its due, in some way. (Instagram filter, anyone?) 3. But what if nostalgia actually does more harm than good, what if it's actually what Milan Kundera refers to as "kitsch"? 4. In psychological terms, more than any mystical past life, nostalgia probably indicates youthful dissatisfaction with the present (e.g., the suburban teenager who longs for California in the 1960s, Paris in the 1920s, London in the 1990s, etc.), or else that you're getting old. 5. I suspect my own interest in nostalgia is rooted in having left one country for another as a child. 6. Nostalgia used to be thought of as an actual medical condition, associated especially with the Swiss (thanks, Wikipedia): "The term was coined in 1688 by Johannes Hofer (1669–1752) in his Basel dissertation. Hofer introduced nostalgia or mal du pays ''homesickness' for the condition also known as mal du Suisse 'Swiss illness' or Schweizerheimweh 'Swiss homesickness,' because of its frequent occurrence in Swiss mercenaries who in the plains of lowlands of France or Italy were pining for their native mountain landscapes. Symptoms were also thought to include fainting, high fever, indigestion, stomach pain, and death." 7. "In the eighteenth century, scientists were looking for a locus of nostalgia, a nostalgic bone." 8. The metaphor that comes to my mind is of a fine liquor: there's a golden flush, the thrill of belonging that comes from imbibing a suitable quantity, and a delirium, a distorted sense of reality, a dependence, that comes with consuming it in excess. 9. Anyone who moves to New York City has to contend with other people's nostalgia. It was all better before you got here, whenever that happened to be. It's one of the ways New Yorkers establish a pecking order (others involve your rent and your neighborhood). Probably they lived through some shitty stuff growing up here, or when they moved here, too, and nostalgia is a way of giving it some currency. (I don't mean that maliciously, I've done it myself, as in, "When I lived in this neighborhood, there was human excrement on the subway stairs and a long-time resident advised me not to buy... Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
While my first-person singular takes a breather, unaccustomed as it is to public blogging (like a frog), I'll use this opportunity to share some of my prized catches from the ocean of the Internet. HOT LINKS Interviews with creative people * This interview with one of my favorite weirdo poets, Russell Edson, contains his own thrilling account of his poetics. (His answers make a lot more sense than the questions, you probably don't have to read the questions if they become too impenetrable...) * Poetry people will no doubt have come across this profile of another of my favorite weirdo poets, Anne Carson, in Sunday's New York Times Magazine. (I was pleased to learn that she refers to her husband as "the randomizer" and made him t-shirt made with those words on the front, and a image of one of her painted volcanoes printed on the back...) However, poetry people may not have read this much meatier interview she did with the Paris Review back in 2004. Carson is unvarnished here, and unflinching and funny, and reveals a great deal more about her relationship to ancient Greek, her mother, being female, etc. Funny * In deference to the great feline overlord of the WWW, here is a GIF of a cat figuring out it was her human shaking the feather stick all along. * A few years ago, I had a dream about a carp twisting and dying in my arms. In my search for a fairytale about a talking carp I thought the dream was referencing, I came across this New York Times story about a 20-lb carp in Rockland County that began shouting in Hebrew when it was about to be bludgeoned to death... I will let you discover the details of the story on your own... (I never did find the fairytale, which I must have dreamt, as well.) Song In my head these days, this lovely end-of-love song by a young Serge Gainsbourg. If you know some French, the lyrics are a poème. And a poem, to finish Here's an Edson-ish poem by Anne Carson, from "Short Talks," in Plainwater. On the Total Collection From childhood he dreamed of being able to keep with him all the objects in the world lined up on his shelves and bookcases. He denied lack, oblivion or even the likelihood of a missing piece. Order streamed from Noah in blue tri- angles and as the pure fury of his classifications rose around him, engulfing his life, they came to be called waves by others, who drowned, a world of them. Continue reading
Posted Mar 14, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
In yesterday's post, I suggested that women have emerged as the big fiction readers of our time because they are less bound to masculine or feminine identity. I was thinking this through based on my own experience of reading fiction as a young person, free of the constant gender radar that has to classify books "for girls" or "for boys" (i.e., meant for me or not meant for me). The other side of the story, or another side of the story, is that the magical full surrender to the voice in the book wasn't the same when I began to be perceived as a woman, out there in the world, probably around age 15 or 16. The first book I remember making me recoil, as a woman, was Kerouac's On the Road. I liked the exuberance of the language, at times, but I never became the gallivanting Dean and Sal as I had once become poor funny, wandering Holden Caulfield; I kept thinking about all of the people that had to keep cleaning up after them, the trail of indistinguishable girls. The recoil became more extreme in my twenties, when, for a stretch, I only wanted to read books written by women. This wasn't a deliberate decision; I only noticed after the fact. It was an unconscious search that had to do with wanting to write, which suddenly made a difference in what I needed to read. Even former friends like Neruda became problematic. (What do you do with a concept of existence that finds its answer, its relief, in the oblivion found in "conquering" the body of a woman, if you yourself are a woman?) And for a time, yes, I did reject reading the novels that are crudely lumped into the adult version of "boy books": works by Hemingway, Cormac MacCarthy, Philip Roth, John Updike, Don DeLillo, all classified as more important than the books I was looking for. That kind of reductionism is as unfair, of course, as the dismissal of "girl books" we women are always on about. It was useful for a while, to help process the damage that things like street harassment, sexual violence, job discrimination or simple condescension begin to inflict on you when you're a woman waking up from childhood. Literature exists to help us think about our lives, after all, not to fulfill a reading quota. But gender distinctions break down at some point; trying to draw a strict line only ends up denying the experience available to you. My book diet is more balanced now, I still don't to manage it consciously. (Not to say it's not worth searching out lesser-known works by women, they may offer what you are actually in need of.) This dance between masculine and feminine sensibility in my reading habits reminds me of the spectrum in which women are allowed to experiment with their external identity. Over the course of years I, like many women I know, have sampled, adopted, discarded and returned to various... Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
I was startled into a new thought when, in college, I presented one of my teachers with a translation of Neruda's poem, "Ritual of My Legs." He was surprised by a line where the poet is staring at his legs "as if they had been the legs of a divine woman, / deeply sunk in the abyss of my thorax", or rather, surprised by the thought of me translating those words. He wondered what those lines would make me feel as a young woman. "What the Water Gave Me," Frida Kahlo I was startled because it created a sudden rift between me and Neruda. He had been mine before, mine as if I weren't bound to be defined as a woman. I had entered his poems without thinking of Neruda as a man and myself as a woman. I had been the poet staring at his legs, I had chosen this poem because I identified so much with lines like: one talks favourably of clothes, it is possible to speak of trousers, of suits, and of women's underwear (of "ladies'" stockings and garters) as if the articles and the suits went completely empty through the streets and a dark and obscene clothes closet occupied the world. (Except I translated the word "ladies" as "misses," because I've always hated that word, dreaded ever having to browse the racks in the "misses" section of a department store.) It's rare to read in this way anymore, with complete surrender, becoming the voice in the book. This was the bliss of reading from ages 10 to 15. I read most indiscriminately, without giving a second thought to the author's gender, the time the book was written or the quality of the writing. I would check out a stack of 10 from the library, place them beside my bed and work my way down. I read Ken Follett spy novels, I read Wuthering Heights and many Sherlock Holmes books, F. Scott Fitzgerald, I read my way through the "young adult" section (which ranged from Margery Sharp's tMiss Bianca to Robert Cormier); W. Somerset Maugham became my favorite writer (eventually displaced). I didn't distinguish between "boy books" or "girl books," (though I'm not being disingenuous, I did know there was a difference between being a boy or a girl). It makes me wonder if boys allowed themselves to read in this way. Certainly it must be difficult for them to read "girl books" like The Secret Garden. There's a lot of speculation as to why women read so much more than men. (NPR: "When it comes to fiction, the gender gap is at its widest. Men account for only 20 percent of the fiction market, according to surveys conducted in the U.S., Canada and Britain.") Of course, the speculation centers, as usual, on the composition of our brains and how women are "wired" better for empathy and patience, which are both required to enjoy novels. This strikes me as a lot of bunk, because it was... Continue reading
Posted Mar 12, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
I like it when someone doesn't like a movie (a novel, a painting, a poem). I like it so much more than anyone's bland acceptance, like the word "good," when presented with a manmade creation. A friend's passionate aversion to a work of art conjures my defense of it. Sometimes it changes my mind. It pushes me beyond sitting silently with only my unformed experience of the book (the play, the album). "Connoisseur" by Norman Rockwell Having a less-than-favorable opinion about a work of art does not mean you don't respect the artist, or that you can't recognize effort exerted or talent on evidence. It means that you considered the work on its own particular terms (i.e., its intentions, time and place) and you had your own reaction to it. It's a risk to say you didn't like something. (I guess a disclaimer is needed here: I'm not referring to personal attacks or opinions based on ignorance, which are really the worst. I am also not referring to comment trolls. I compulsively read comments; it's a curse, really, on my internet life. I have discovered people will have comment wars over anything, including a recipe for borscht or a YouTube video with instructions for replacing an oven door. I don't like that. The sort of critique I'm getting at is rarer.) Needless to say, a friend, a party-mate, a colleague liking something with zeal is most welcome, too, but only if the approval is articulated to the same degree as the intense aversion (somehow people find the words more easily when they dislike). Tell me what was good about it. Often people don't like to disagree on a work of art; they will back away from the conversation, as if disagreeing about a movie were a form of aggression or the argument were personal. As if aesthetics were on the list of topics to avoid at social occasions, along with politics, religion and sex: but then, what else is there? Please invite me to a party where the talk is mostly along the lines of politics, religion, sex and aesthetics! Artist hosting a dinner party The saying goes that critics are failed artists. Because they cannot do anything, they critique others, spewing envy and frustration. I go back and forth with a friend who thinks that if you're not making something, you're not entitled to pronounce your own snippy thoughts, because making something--for example, directing even a crappy Hollywood movie--is hard. You haven't directed a movie, who are you to say it was crappy? To this, I say, Is there no room for the thinking viewer? We're being asked to give our attention, our time. Are we then supposed to withhold any thoughts it inspires, or offer only the favorable ones? I do think it's a different story when the critic represents a greater authority, like the notorious Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times Book Review. I can understand a novelist objecting to the fact that the king-maker, the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
Melissa Broder + Martine Bellen April 16, 2012 Reading starts at 7:30 Hosted by Megin Jimenez and Matthew Yeager Admission is FREE 85 East 4th Street Melissa Broder is the author of two poetry collections, Meat Heart (Publishing Genius, 2012) andWhen You Say One Thing But Mean Your Mother (Ampersand Books, 2010). Poems appear or are forthcoming in Guernica, Redivider, Court Green, The Missouri Review online, Barrelhouse, The Awl, and Drunken Boat. She edits La Petite Zine and curates the Polestar Poetry Series at Cakeshop in NYC. By day, she is a publicity manager at Penguin. Broder received her BA from Tufts University and is getting a slow, scenic MFA at CCNY. Martine Bellen is the author of seven collections of poetry, most recently Ghosts! (Spuyten Duyvil Press). Her collection Tales of Murasaki and Other Poems (Sun & Moon Press), won the National Poetry Series. She collaborated with David Rosenboom on Ah! Opera No-Opera, which had its world premiere at REDCAT in L.A. She is currently collaborating with Zhang Er on the libretto Moon Lady: The Story of Chang E. Continue reading
Posted Apr 16, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
UPDATED: John Deming + Christopher Salerno March 5, 2012 We regret to inform that Sampson Starkweather is unable to read tonight. Hosted by Megin Jimenez and Matthew Yeager Reading starts at 7:30pm Admission is FREE 85 East 4th Street * New York, NY ***** John Deming's chapbook 8 Poems was published by Eye For an Iris Press, and his four-song Tugboat EP, which features members of P-Funk, was released in 2011 by BozFonk Music. Poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Boston Review, FENCE, Verse Daily, Tarpaulin Sky, POOL and elsewhere. He is Editor-in-Chief of Coldfront Magazine, lives in New York City, and teaches at Baruch College and LIM College. Christopher Salerno’s books of poems include Minimum Heroic, winner of the 2010 Mississippi Review Poetry Series Award, and Whirligig (Spuyten Duyvil, 2006). A chapbook,ATM is available from Horse Less Press. Recent and future poems can be found in journals such as Fence, LIT, Denver Quarterly, Boston Review, American Letters and Commentary, Black Warrior Review, Verse Daily, and elsewhere. Currently, he’s an Assistant Professor of English at William Paterson University where manages the new journal, Map Literary. ***** Upcoming, Spring 2012 March 12 Paul Legault + Christian Hawkey March 19 Rob MacDonald + Jason Schneiderman March 26 Eleni Sikelianos + Anne Waldman April 2 Myra Shapiro + Jennifer Michael Hecht April 16 Melissa Broder + Martine Bellen April 23 Laura Cronk + Marie Ponsot April 30 Rebecca Lindenberg, Neil Shepard + Elizabeth Powell May 7 Macgregor Card + Matt Hart Continue reading
Posted Mar 4, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
In one of her brilliant essays, poet and novelist Fanny Howe proposes the diary as the ultimate subversive genre: anarchic, directionless, unconcerned with narrative or context. (I believe it's in the collection The Wedding Dress, I will insert the quote when I'm near the book.) Not every diarist is writing for a reader other than herself, but there is something curious in that activity: manifesting thought through writing - what does that change inside the self? In her journals (published in 2008), Susan Sontag justified reading a lover's diary by saying one keeps a diary, in part, in to have it read secretly by one's lover... She describes her self as expressed in the journal: “Superficial to understand the journal as just a receptacle for one’s private, secret thoughts—like a confidante who is deaf, dumb, and illiterate. In the journal I do not just express myself more openly than I could do to any person; I create myself. "The journal is a vehicle for my sense of selfhood. It represents me as emotionally and spiritually independent. Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather—in many cases—offers an alternative to it." I have been taken with reading writers' journals for the past few years, not only for the glimpse it offers at their lives and inner thoughts, but for the unparalleled reading experience they offer. This isn't the case for any diary or journal, I don't mean the day-to-day notes and records, but rather the writer "thinking out loud". It's that place between fiction and poetry, which I find myself writing in, as well (prose poems, or collections of sentences) - the skeleton of the sentence bearing the luscious flesh of poetry. Plot is not a loss, rather, there's a sense that the pressure, the drive for a tidy beginning-middle-end is removed. There's time to hang out with a thought, or a paragraph, without rushing to find out what happens. The structure, while remaining prose, can bear a poetic approach to language, where the language is the happening itself, rather than a vehicle for getting the reader from point A to point B. (Aside on the prose poem: I heard Russell Edson, prince of the prose poem, refer to contemporary poets' fascination with form as a distraction. Writing the poem, reading the poem in relation to its form is ultimately a distraction from the language.) I recently re-read the first volume of The Diary of Anais Nin and found myself taking it slow, in a really good way, in a poetry sort of way. There was movement, events happening, descriptions of people, but I did not exercise my irritating habit of rushing through, as I do too often when reading fiction. This time I noticed much more her own awareness of The Diary as its own sort of writing. She describes it variously as her vice, her greatest pleasure, the place for writing all. She took passages out of it to use in her fiction (at... Continue reading
Posted Mar 3, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Not much time to blog tonight, but I will share some assorted tidbits while I have the chance. The Count, 2011 VIDA: Women in Literary Arts just issued The Count for 2011, a breakdown in hard numbers of "the rates of publication between women and men in many of our writing world’s most respected literary outlets." There is still a shocking amount of disparity. Check it out. I would also encourage you to poke around the site, there are some really thought-provoking pieces to be found there, including Eileen Myles' essay, called "Being Female", which she wote after seeing The Count for 2010. More on poets, envy, the gift economy As I alluded to earlier this week, there's a lot negativity and doubts thrown at the endeavor of poetry, both from within and without the world of writers. With all the nastiness on the web, I thought I would share some of the positive stuff I've found and find myself returning to. A quote from force-to-be-reckoned with, poet and publisher Reb Livingston: "I believe poetry is a gift economy and to keep that economy moving along, those who participate need to contribute in some way in addition to attempting to reap the benefits (as paltry as they may seem). I say this not as an attempt to make anyone feel guilty for not doing enough or anything at all, but to point out that without poets donning second, third and fourth hats as editors, publishers, reviewers, interviewers, curators, hosts, etc., we’d all be limited to reading our poems to ourselves in the bathroom mirror." The quote is from an interview she did with Bookslut. And here's a link to her call to action to people with MFAs, urging them to fucking use that experience for something (her use of profanity is pretty awesome), like participate in that gift economy. Envy is a very basic, very raw emotion common to all writers. The best antidote is to be aware that it is envy (not the world plotting against you, not someone else being undeserving) and to do your own work. Here is an interview with lovely poet Mark Wunderlich, in which he touches very honestly on the issue of envy, the ambivalence that comes with publishing a first book, and other issues. I especially love his answer to the last question "Do you believe that poetry can create change in the world?". A Song Just for fun. This has been my song this week. "True Love WIll Find You in the End" by Daniel Johnston. Continue reading
Posted Mar 1, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Thanks, everyone! Stacey, you've now made me very curious as to what publication you were writing for ("a very different demographic"...hmmm...)! I felt I had more to say, too, I had to dash this off in about an hour between activities, but the thoughts have been in my mind for years. So satisfying to have it online, instantly, though! Thank you for the encouragement, I will think about taking time to make it a longer piece...
Thank you for taking the time to comment, Caroline and Amy, it's so nice to hear some responses! Caroline, it is the sweetest photo, it makes me wonder what they were talking about, strolling along the beach. The book of their correspondence is on my "to read" shelf. Amy, that's a lovely change to witness! Writing was always so private for me, but I'm realizing more & more that it's important to figure out ways to live it out in the world of other people, though it's hard.
A few years ago, when I was working as a Freelance Everything (writer, editor, translator), I spent some time as a copy writer at Victoria's Secret, two days a week for about a year. It felt like Megin's Secret, because I was coming from the non-profit world, specifically international organizations working for women's health and rights, whose philosophical roots were grounded in questioning traditional gender roles. And then there I was, in the glossy offices of a gigantic corporation. My task: make the clothes and shoes in the famous catalog (its many many editions over the course of a year) and the website alluring, irresistible, in the "voice" of the brand. I think the job was intriguing precisely because I had spent so much time thinking about feminism, femininity and all of its trappings. This was an opportunity to dive into the fragrant, silicone bosom of the beast. I ended up at VS via a writer friend who generously gave me a chance to try something I hadn't done before; I surprised myself by having fun writing copy and actually being pretty good at it. Readers may be surprised to learn that the creative department was not populated by busty, bright-eyed vixens chattering at their desks and indulging in the occasional spirited pillow-fight. What I observed in the copy writers section was a group of very fashion-savvy, creative women, many of them writers with their own personal projects across a range of genres (essays, fiction, poetry, young adult novels). I used to wonder what we could produce if we were actually able to write and design something together of our own choosing. It was easy to joke about the job (the writers themselves joked about it), because it was so much about the frothy confection. But it's really not something just anyone can do, which is why it's paid handsomely. (This isn't mine, but here's a taste: Meet the hottest little halter for warm-weather fun. The shimmery Beach Dress is the perfect pack-and-play, with a plunging v-neck and a built-in shelf bra that lends light support at the beach and beyond. In an exceptionally soft cotton blend with sparkling sequin stripes, it’s your go-to frock when you want to outshine the sun.) It was not about endlessly repeating cliches (I was asked to avoid the word "sexy"), it was about turning them inside out, picking up on slang, trends of the time, fabrics, fashion history... I wasn't writing about gender-based violence or the feminization of the AIDS epidemic (like at my other gigs), I was writing about shoes and flirty nighties. But that job is hands-down the one that most valued my creativity as a poet. I was encouraged to pull out my full bag of tricks -- rhyming, alliteration, personas, puns -- and basically to have fun with the English language for a few hours a day. I was quietly proud that my skills were valued to the point that in the year 2009, surrounded by computers filled with... Continue reading
Posted Feb 29, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
At the reading last night, I heard several people talking about this big conference coming up. Perhaps it will be of interest to readers of the blog. It's called something like "AWB"? Yes, yes, the largest gathering of the residents of Poetryland (as Jordan Davis usefully referred to it last week) and other literary lands will be starting soon, and we will no doubt be hearing dispatches from writers in Chicago on this very site and across the web. I'm not going to AWP this year, and I haven't been to AWP. I am a little curious, as the common reaction when it comes up is a groaning sound, followed by "It's great... It's exhausting... but it's fun at the same time! ... groan... there's a lot of drinking." I also have an allergic reaction to the use of the word "network" as a verb and fear going into anaphylactic shock if I should attend... That sounds snottier than anything I intended; I have actually come to see this as a shortcoming on my part. A bit of "network-as-verb" is necessary to getting anywhere in public life, and I do realize a lot more goes on at these epic gatherings than The Schmooze, including a great range of panels, readings, and debauchery (antidote to the allergy?), so I wouldn't rule out attending in the future... Happy travels to all heading to Chicago and I look forward to reading live dispatches. This question of the kind of public life we assign to the writer, of peddling your writer-wares, makes me think of the heated debates that have been burning up literary-minded corners of the web and print journals for the past couple of decades (longer?). The questions are: Can poetry matter? What is the value of a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing? (Or alternatively, "Why the hell would anyone get an MFA in Creative Writing"?) Who reads poetry? Who decides what is poetry? Why doesn't anyone read poetry? What does it mean to teach creative writing? Is the whole endeavor of "creative writing" too institutionalized or hermetic? Is there such a thing as a sustainable model for publishing poetry? Etc., etc. (For a primer of the complaints and some answers, once again here's the link to Jordan Davis's excellent précis.) I have read a lot of opinions in these various these debates, from nearly every camp, with varying degrees of interest, dread, excitement, and bewilderment. I certainly don't intend to take on all of these questions in a humble blog post, but I can say something about the MFA issue from a personal perspective. When I was in grad school at The New School, we would commiserate about how difficult it was to talk about what it was we were studying with family members, strangers at a party, at our day jobs. There was something embarrassing about talking about being a writer of poetry (uh, a poet), not because I was embarrassed about what I was doing, but because... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
Thanks, Larry and Bill! I will have to check out the one you recommend, Bill. It's an important little map to keep in your head, the one with the bookstores. I have this image of Manhattan in the 60s with record stores and book stores abounding. It didn't used to seem far-fetched, but it gets harder to imagine over time, as the city landscape changes. Would like to know what the bookstore map looked like in 1967...
A few notes on poetry readings (gotta make it quick today): Reminder to NYC poetry people/poetry people in NYC that we are hosting Martha Rhodes and Lynn Emanuel at KGB Bar tonight, 7:30. Here is a taste of Lynn Emanuel: from Dream in Which I Meet Myself Dear Diary, here in New York City, the snow descends. The days go on forever. Hash made my mind from my fingertips stream out. My brain was tapped, under surveillance by the eyes of the traffic lights jewelling the foreheads of the avenues. Inside my red dress I was a sunset. I lingered and blinked in the gold windows of NEW WORLD FETISH at the nun in her rubber habit. I tried on her wimple of lurid beauty and it fit. Then suddenly back in the cold I was stolen upon by the voice of an unemployed actor who was walking me home to my small room, bruised floorboards, more (blonde) hash, lurk of heat from the snickering serpentine radiator and I drank six inches of black Barolo until I didn't have to think about the hyper-privileged and under-subverted, until I was too buzzed to be devoured by these cannibalistic times, until I became a blizzard of nothingness. Undulant dust. from Noose and Hook (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2010) and Martha Rhodes: An Immense I liked sitting in our room by the early morning window. I'd watch him stretch his legs just shy of violent cramp until he'd wake, the bed's smell an immense blend of sex so that I'd rush back to him. This blank room's smell is like that, persistent, as I rest against the wall; I'm merely passing through, to visit someone, though I am not quite sure who, actually, and if I am to say hello, or goodbye-- from The Beds (Autumn House Press, 2012) ...It will be a good reading. Hearing the poem or reading the poem Speaking of poetry readings, in pursuit of an answer to the eternal question, "Why do people go to poetry readings?" (which I explored on this site a couple of years ago), I keep returning to a point my friend and brilliant co-curator/co-host at KGB, poet Matthew Yeager, made about the existence of a poem (or a poet) on two planes: on the page and out loud. Matt was speaking in the context of the National Book Awards. Every year, the week the awards are presented, a big reading is held for all nominees in all categories, giving them a chance to share some of their work. I attended one year -- it's a bit of a marathon, but it's especially fun to see non-fiction writers get their moment in the sun (i.e., read their words before an appreciative live audience), and the poets kind of kick everyone's ass. The judges of the awards (prominent writers in their genre) get together that week, too, to make their final decision... but they're not allowed to go to the reading, for fear that the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 27, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
First of all, many thanks to Stacey Harwood and David Lehman for this opportunity to share a few thoughts and for hosting this community. I enjoy reading the broad range of voices represented here and am happy to take part. (Recent guest posts that have stayed in my thoughts include Robert P. Baird's thoughts on how poetry "spends it all" and Amy Glynn Greacen's week of posts on Rome, language, chance, loss.) Today is Sunday, day of looking out the window, day of strolls, day of meditational cleaning, day of loafing, day of reading. Sunday is the day I often find myself at the bookstore, so I thought I would start with a little ode. I started thinking about the importance of this space after reading an opinion piece by technology writer Farhad Manjoo called "Don't Support Your Local Bookseller" published on Slate in December, which was almost comically tone-deaf (possibly to generate maximum page views?) regarding the various roles a bookstore plays in a community or in the life of an individual. He argues that if you love books, you should embrace and prefer Amazon, as it allows people to buy even more books and generates "smart" recommendations of other books you would like based on its access to vast book-buying data, versus the limited tastes and knowledge of bookstore employees. He compares shopping at independent bookstores to shopping at the more expensive Whole Foods rather than your regular grocery store: a luxury experience. I don't think I need to bring up counter-arguments, as I have no doubt that Manjoo already got a lot of heat from book lovers, and I am no doubt preaching to the Bible-study group in defending the value of a bookstore here. I'm also setting aside the questions of economic models, the publishing industry, e-books vs. print, "what people buy", etc., as much has been eloquently written on these issues already. What the piece made me ponder is what psychic space the bookstore inhabits. What does it mean to love the book as an object? It's not simply about sentimentality, or possession, or the fact that used bookstores are required to have a fat cat in them in order to be fully respectable. I'm not a rare book collector, but from my years of picking through stacks, I have collected, among other artifacts, a cheap 1959 paperback edition of Lolita (originally 50 cents, purchased for $5), which has only the book title, author, and the words "MOST TALKED ABOUT NOVEL OF OUR DAY" printed on the cover. The inside cover has the name ARTHUR CALLOWAY printed in blue pen. I found a faded red bookmark inside it with the seal of North Carolina and facts about the state printed in black ("Motto: 'To Be Rather Than To Seem"). The back cover has a blurb by "Dorothy Parker in Esquire": "A fine book, a distinguished book... a great book." "About the author" on page 2 begins with the following: "Vladimir Nabokov learned English at his... Continue reading
Posted Feb 26, 2012 at The Best American Poetry
SEASON FINALE Tonight! December 12 Hosted by Megin Jimenez and Matthew Yeager Reading starts at 7:30pm Admission is FREE 85 East 4th Street Shelley Stenhouse won the Pavement Saw Press Award for her collection, PANTS; was a finalist for the 2009 National Poetry Series; received a New York Foundation for the Arts poetry fellowship; an Allen Ginsberg Award; two Pushcart Prize nominations, and three residencies at Yaddo Art Colony. Her poem, “AIDS,” has been quoted in Poet’s Market. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in The Antioch Review, Prairie Schooner, Quarterly West, Third Coast, Margie, and New York Quarterly (among others), and in Poetry After 9-11: An Anthology of New York Poets. Shelley has read on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered and on several television networks: NY1, Oxygen and Manhattan Cable’s Poetry Thin Air. Her collection Impunity was published this year by NYQ Books Tony Hoagland was born in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. His books of poems include Unincorporated Personas in the Late Honda Dynasty (Graywolf Press, 2010); What Narcissism Means to Me (2003), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award; Donkey Gospel (1998), which received the James Laughlin Award; and Sweet Ruin (1992), chosen by Donald Justice for the 1992 Brittingham Prize in Poetry and winner of the Zacharis Award from Emerson College. Hoagland's honors include two grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, a fellowship to the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center, the 2008 Jackson Poetry Prize from Poets & Writers magazine, as well as the Poetry Foundation's 2005 Mark Twain Award in recognition of his contribution to humor in American poetry. ***** Happy New Year from Monday Night Poetry! We will return in February 2012. Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
Monday Night Poetry at KGB Bar is proud to host three of this year's National Book Award judges. Tonight! November 14 Hosted by Megin Jimenez and Matthew Yeager Reading starts at 7:30pm Admission is FREE 85 East 4th Street Thomas Sayers Ellis received his M.F.A. from Brown University. He is the author of The Maverick Room (2005), which won the John C. Zacharis First Book Award. His poems and photographs have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Callaloo, Best American Poetry (1997, 2001 and 2010), Grand Street, The Baffler, Jubilat, Tin House, Poetry, and The Nation. He is an Assistant Professor of Writing at Sarah Lawrence College, a faculty member of the Lesley University low-residency M.F.A Program and a Caven Canem faculty member. He lives in Brooklyn, NY and is currently working on The Go-Go Book: People in the Pocket in Washington, D.C. A new collection of poetry, Skin, Inc., was recently published by Graywolf Press. Kathleen Graber is the author of The Eternal City (2010), chosen for the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets and a finalist for the National Book Award, and Correspondence (2006), winner of the Saturnalia Books Poetry Prize and a finalist for the National Poetry Series. Graber’s honors include a Rona Jaffe Writer’s Award, an Artist Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, the Hodder Fellowship in Creative Writing at Princeton University, and an Amy Lowell Traveling Scholarship. She has taught at New York University and Virginia Commonwealth University. Roberto Tejada is a poet and art historian, specializing in Latino and Latin American art. He is the author of the poetry chapbooks Gift & Verdict (1999) and Amulet Anatomy (2001) as well as the full-length collections Mirrors for Gold (2006) and Exposition Park (2010). Tejada’s publications on art history include National Camera: Photography and Mexico’s Image Environment (2009) and Celia Alvarez Muñoz (2009). He founded and co-edits the journal Mandorla: New Writing from the Americas and is the Distinguished Endowed Chair in Art History by Southern Methodist University’s Meadows School of the Arts. **** Upcoming, Fall 2011 November 21 Michael Cirelli + Jeffrey McDaniel November 28 Viva VIDA: Erin Belieu + Cate Marvin December 5 David Lehman + Vijay Seshadri December 12 Tony Hoagland + Shelley Stenhouse Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
Tonight! November 7 Hosted by Megin Jimenez and Matthew Yeager Reading starts at 7:30pm Admission is FREE 85 East 4th Street Star Black is a poet, photographer, and collage artist living and working in New York City. Her books of poems include, Velleity’s Shade, Double Time, Waterworn, October for Idas, Ghostwood, and Balefire. She has taught at The New School and Stony Brook University, and lectured at the Bennington Writing Seminars. Her collages in hand-made books were recently exhibited at the Center for Book Arts. Miranda Field was born and raised in London. Her first book, Swallow, won the Katherine Bakeless Nason Literary Publication Award. She has also received a Discovery/The Nation Award and Pushcart Prize. Her poems have appeared in numerous journals, and several anthologies, including The Pushcart Book of Poetry: The Best Poems From Thirty Years of The Pushcart Prize; Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century (Sarabande) and Not for Mothers Only: American Poets of the New Century (Fence Books). She teaches poetry workshops at the New School and New York University. Mark Wunderlich grew up in Fountain City, Wisconsin. He holds an MFA from Columbia University School of the Arts and a BA in German Literature and English from the University of Wisconsin. His first collection, The Anchorage (University of Massachusetts Press, 1999), won the Lambda Literary Award. He is also the author of Voluntary Servitude (Graywolf Press, 2004). He is the recipient of The Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University, the Amy Lowell Traveling Fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and two fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. He has taught at Stanford University and Barnard College and in the graduate writing programs at Sarah Lawrence College, San Francisco State University, Ohio University, and Columbia University. Wunderlich is currently a Professor of Literature at Bennington College in Vermont, where he has taught since 2004. He lives in New York's Hudson River Valley. **** Upcoming, Fall 2011 November 14 Thomas Sayers Ellis, Amy Gerstler, Kathleen Graber + Roberto Tejada November 21 Michael Cirelli + Jeffrey McDaniel November 28 Viva VIDA: Erin Belieu + Cate Marvin December 5 David Lehman + Vijay Seshadri December 12 Tony Hoagland + Shelley Stenhouse Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
KGB Monday Night Poetry is pleased to present... Tina Chang + Angie Estes Tonight! October 3 Hosted by Megin Jimenez and Matthew Yeager Reading starts at 7:30pm Admission is FREE 85 East 4th Street Tina Chang was raised in New York City. Newly appointed Brooklyn Poet Laureate, she is the author of the poetry collection Half-Lit Houses (Four Way Books) and co-editor of the anthology Language for a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia and Beyond (W.W. Norton, 2008, with Nathalie Handal and Ravi Shankar). Her work has also been anthologized in Identity Lessons, Poetry Nation, Asian American Literature, From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems and in Poetry 30: Poets in Their Thirties. She currently teaches poetry at Sarah Lawrence College. Her new book, Of Gods & Strangers, was just published by Four Way Books. Read some of her poems at her website. Angie Estes is the author of four books, most recently Tryst (Oberlin College Press, 2009), which was selected as one of two finalists for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. Her previous book, Chez Nous, also from Oberlin, appeared in 2005. Her second book, Voice-Over (Oberlin College Press, 2002), won the 2001 FIELD Poetry Prize. Her first book, The Uses of Passion (1995), was the winner of the Peregrine Smith Poetry Prize. She has received fellowships, grants, and residencies from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Academy in Rome, the California Arts Council and the MacDowell Colony. Read some of her poems at Verse Daily. ***** Upcoming, Fall 2011 October 17 Gabrielle Calvocoressi + Timothy Donnelly October 24 Bruce Covey + Emily Kendal Frey November 7 Star Black, Miranda Field + Mark Wunderlich November 14 Thomas Sayers Ellis, Amy Gerstler + Roberto Tejada November 21 Michael Cirelli + Jeffrey McDaniel November 28 Viva VIDA: Erin Belieu + Cate Marvin December 5 David Lehman + Vijay Seshadri December 12 Tony Hoagland + Special Guest Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
KGB Monday Night Poetry is pleased to present... Michael Dumanis + Mathias Svalina October 3 Hosted by Megin Jimenez and Matthew Yeager Reading starts at 7:30pm Admission is FREE 85 East 4th Street Michael Dumanis was born in the former Soviet Union and lived there until 1981, when his parents were granted political asylum in the United States. Since then, he has lived in Boston, Buffalo, Rochester, Baltimore, Iowa City, New York, Bulgaria, Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, Nebraska, and Cleveland. He is the author of My Soviet Union, winner of the 2006 Juniper Prize for Poetry, and the co-editor, with poet Cate Marvin, of Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century. He is presently an assistant professor of English at Cleveland State University, where he also serves as Director of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center. Read some of his work in Jacket. Mathias Svalina is a co-editor of Octopus Books and Magazine and author of numerous chapbooks, including the award-winning Creation Myths from New Michigan Press. His first book, Destruction Myth, was recently published by Cleveland State University Poetry Center. His second book, I Am A Very Productive Entrepreneur, is available from Mud Luscious Press. The book is a series of absurdist business plans. And it's a novel(la). Read some of his poems in H_NGM_N. ***** Upcoming, Fall 2011 October 10 Tina Chang + Angie Estes October 17 Gabrielle Calvocoressi + Timothy Donnelly October 24 Bruce Covey + Emily Kendal Frey November 7 Star Black, Miranda Field + Mark Wunderlich November 14 Thomas Sayers Ellis, Amy Gerstler + Roberto Tejada November 21 Michael Cirelli + Jeffrey McDaniel November 28 Viva VIDA: Erin Belieu + Cate Marvin December 5 David Lehman + Vijay Seshadri December 12 Tony Hoagland + Special Guest Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
Monday Night Poetry will be back at KGB Bar starting September 26. We're quite proud & unabashedly excited to present our Fall 2011 line-up below. Mark your calendars, & we will see you soon! In solidarity, Megin Jimenez & Matthew Yeager Co-Curators **** September 26 Kathleen Ossip + Susan Wheeler October 3 Michael Dumanis + Mathias Svalina October 10 Tina Chang + Angie Estes October 17 Gabrielle Calvocoressi + Timothy Donnelly October 24 Bruce Covey + Emily Kendal Frey November 7 Star Black, Miranda Field + Mark Wunderlich November 14 Thomas Sayers Ellis, Amy Gerstler + Roberto Tejada November 21 Michael Cirelli + Jeffrey McDaniel November 28 Viva VIDA: Erin Belieu + Cate Marvin December 5 David Lehman + Vijay Seshadri December 12 Tony Hoagland + Special Guest All readings start at 7:30pm. Admission is FREE. KGB Bar ● 85 East 4th Street ● New York, NY ● Continue reading
Posted Sep 1, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
March 28, 2011. A few personal highlights from an evening too packed for me to give a just chronicle: Matthew Yeager launches his reading with a long poem, "Sleep Mothers," which makes everyone spontaneously burst into applause after he's done. The poem is a kind of inverse lullaby, verses to all mothers, sleeping everywhere. His reading is an incantation, the title is apt, it's like a Catholic prayer, weaving the threads of the words "sleeping" and "mothers." (Matt tells us during the break that it came from the experience of walking around sober in the wee 2-4am hours, thinking about those who are sleeping, rather than the raucous awake.) Then, poems on blues and basketball. A half-man, half-flower. A knock-out "gut sonnet" (from his series sonnets written in the voice of a talking gut, with the basest motives) on envy. A very funny prose poem about what happens when you rent an apartment without a ceiling (response: a series of pleasant one-night stands in a tent). David Lehman, ever prolific, reads all new work, including prose pieces. A poem inspired by the Johnny Mercer song "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home," another with the evocative title "Breeder's Cup," where Manet's Olympia stares and seduces, a flower in her hair. A prose piece on his favorite word... turns out it's "you." It's chatty, wandering essay that nods to Marvell & Eliot on its way - how "you" captures readers of all times. (There's really nothing like "you.") A final longer prose piece, an astrological-biographical reading of Kafka makes us giggle. The crowd is buzzing, energetic, asks for more. Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
March 14, 2011. Elizabeth Fodaski dips a toe and then takes a nervy leap into work with a personal edge. Nervy for her, I think, because her poems would not be classified as "lyric," but are rather the sort that test out words to see what they could possibly do beside each other. (As in much of her new book, Document: "A palimpsest of fruity horizons harangues the interloper"). She starts with an elegy to her father ("reader, I married him to my memory"), followed by poems from Document. She then reads a kind of minuet on the couple, with the recurring image of a husband's face at the dining room table (place of family meals, sex, arguments, apologies), taking Dickinson's line "I like a look of agony" as its point of departure. The kind of poem, she confesses, that is difficult to return to once written. Language frissons: "shaky custard," "a glass of noise," "your designated tough-guy novel moment." Edward Hirsch comes with a collection of new and selected, The Living Fire, which spans seven previous books and a life lived in the company of poetry. In contrast, Hirsch's work could serve as the definition of "lyric" (as a category). He, too, begins with an elegy to his father ("Special Orders") and offers a poem that takes a line from Petrarch as its point of departure: "The times my sad heart knew a little sweetness." He describes the summer of being a young poet in New York and writing the first breakthrough poems, ones he knew would stick around, and shares one ("Song"). There's a nervy poem, too, involving breast milk and "a mirrored room off Highway 59" (called "Milk"... that's all I'll say!). And "Green Couch", a kind of ode to the object, a repository of "difficult reading," and the silent witness to the end of a marriage. It ends with the wonderfully simple stanza: I go back and forth to work. I walk in the botanical gardens on weekends and take a narrow green path to the clearing. ***** Join us next week, March 21, when we co-hosts (Laura Cronk, Megin Jimenez and Michael Quattrone) take over for our own reading. To see the complete Spring 2011 series, click here. Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2011 at The Best American Poetry