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The Best American Poetry
Welcome to The Best American Poetry blog. We launched this blog in January, 2008, to create a place where we and friends can exchange, discuss, and argue about poems and poetry. We soon discovered that it would be even more fun to post about anything that fuels our passions, be it movies or sex or baseball or ballet or cocktails or finance or music, because these are, after all, the same subjects that generate poems. Then we flung the doors open and invited others to join in. And we decided that contributors to the blog need not be poets as long as they share a love of good writing and poetry. The only things we ask our regular and guest bloggers to avoid are personal attacks. You'll find enough of that stuff elsewhere. We celebrate freedom of expression. The opinionS of our contributors are their own and not necessarily those of the blog's editorial team or of other contributors. We welcome comments as long as they keep within the bounds of civil discourse. Our roster of correspondents is always changing. We are large! We contain multitudes! Please visit often.Our roster of correspondents is always changing. We are large! We contain multitudes! Please visit often.
Interests: music, food, finance, cocktails, movies, baseball, sex, poetry, mad men.
Recent Activity
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The great Philip Roth has passed away at age 85. from Tablet (2013) in honor of fake news: << Philip Roth didn't win the 2013 Nobel Prize in Literature on Thursday. Announcing the award in Stockholm, the Swedish Academy said that Mr. Roth, 80, the author of 29 novels and the only living American author to have his works anthologized by the Library of America, is “an epicist who examines contemporary American life with incorruptible scrutiny.” He is the 14th American and the 14th Jew to be anointed with the honor. The Newark-bred author will add the Nobel Prize to an unparalleled array of accolades, including two National Book Awards, two National Book Critics Circle Awards, three PEN/Faulkner Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, the inaugural Franz Kafka Prize, the Man Booker Prize, the French Legion of Honor, and the National Humanities Medal. Often short-listed by the betting site Ladbrokes, in recent years, Mr. Roth’s name had dropped to 50/1 odds, making him a perennial long shot. When reached by phone at his apartment in Manhattan, Mr. Roth seemed nonchalant about his new laurels. “I wasn’t in a hurry,” he said. >>> Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Happy birthday, Artie Shaw, and let us not forget when GIs learned street French, they pronounced the French word for artichoke "Artie Shaw." Married to beautiful women, an ornery cuss, excellent marksman, innovative bandleader Artie was a major Gemini. like Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Dean Martin, and Judy Garland. In Tarot Artie is represented by the king of hearts. The two and three of hearts. appear in his chart. He lived a long time. His clarinet will live for all time.-- DL. Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Thank you, Sally. -- DL
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In this New Yorker podcast, David Lehman joins New Yorker poetry editor Kevin Young to read and discuss John Ashbery’s poem “Worsening Situation” and his own poem “Stages on Life’s Way" To prep for the interview, David (pictured left in this 1997 photo by Jack Mitchell) wrote "On John Ashbery's 'Worsening Situation'": On John Ashbery’s “Worsening Situation” Like a collage, I wrote, the bruised words Shampoo the hair of the dog. Or like The simile eclipsing the thing it is likened to, Which remains unnamed. The feast is Near enough to watch but too far to reach By foot. To up the ante, we get an echo Of Keats's last poem or a quote from Rimbaud. The key repetition occurs here. We feel We have been riding the A train since 1965. Rides, ceremonies, rites. What's the point? Yet it bothers me, everything I haven't disclosed Fully. I still read spy novels and get crank Phone calls. I'm like the guy whose wife You see on TV wondering how to get My collars clean. Tell her I'm somewhere Else -- Paris, Texas, for instance.. -- David Lehman [November 2017; in American Poetry Review, May/June 2018] Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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Freud was seen leaving the theater after a showing of Terence Malick's new movie "The Tree of Life." Our intrepid reporter caught up with the great man and what do you think happened? (1) Freud introduced the reporter and his significant other to Jean Piaget, with whom he had witnessed the picture. He called it "picture." (2) Freud said the technique was impressive and that the content was at bottom the "same old same old" complex that afflicted Oedipus, though in this case the murderous impulse was repressed, with lingering emotions of rage and guilt. (3) Freud's customary glare flirted with a smile when his female companion said "Brad Pitt was excellent but who needs Sean Penn?" (4) Freud said the picture was the best depiction of evolution since 2001 (the movie, not the year) (5) The bearded man in the three-piece suit, with the chain of his pocketwatch stylishly in view, and with a lighted cigar between the index and middle finger of his right hand, denied being Freud despite being a dead ringer for him. "You're not the first person to make that mistake," he said. [from the archive:originally posted 2011] Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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There are no words for the greatest commencement speech which is devoid of words but is the perfect blend of melodies, alma mater themes and drinking songs, that Brahms put together in his "Academic Festival Overture" conducted by the peerless Leonard Bernstein listen -- and watch T Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Happy birthday, Bobby, and let's hear you sing some tunes and so some impressions. Start with this amazing a translation of what Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht wrote: Bobby's impersonation of Andy Williams is amazing, and Vic Damone's version of Bobby is pretty close: Here's our boy in black and white: Best of all, "no more sailing. . ."- Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Beautiful. -- DL
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Twenty years have gone by since the Voice was silenced by the grim reaper. But you can still hear him -- the smooth beauty of the 1940s, the roughened swinger of the Capitol Years, the Chairman of the Board who sang "That's Life" and "Fly Me to the Moon" -- they're all available on vinyl, tape, CD, and satellite radio. But if you're in NYC you have one more excellent option -- you can catch Steve Maglio in tuxedo with three accompanists taking requests and singing "The Best is Yet to Come," "Summer Wind," "It was a Very Good Year," "All of Me," and "High Hopes" at the Beach Cafe on Sunday nights. Read all about it in today's Daily News. -- DL Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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It looks like Officer Janko and Jameson (Jamie) Reagan are going to couple off and remain partners in crime prevention as well as man and wife. The writers went to a lot of trouble to make this happen. They contrived a way to get Janko to dash out of a coffee joint to save her partner's life in a beautiful illustration of Delmore Schwartz's poem "The Beautiful American Word Sure." She even called the Commissioner "Dad." That sealed the deal. So Linda's chances of making a comeback from the dead, at very high odds to begin with, are now even more of a long shot. Danny is pretty much condemned to be single and visit the grave site. Erin (Brigid Moynihan) is too good for her ex. Nicky is too young. Frank is too proud. The old man is bait for gold-digging homicide queens. Janko's short stature and very youthful feminine looks have provoked a range of reactions from fans of the show from "beautiful" to "unreal." Some viewers had hoped that the bullets meant for Jamie had entered Eddy, though everyone felt guilty about that thought. It is a safe prediction that we are likely to see more of Erin Reagan in weeks to come. Her old husband remains interested. But no way do they reconcile. Who is man enough to deserve her? Rumors that Tom Brady will make a guest appearance are an April Fool's joke at Erin's expense. Lorraine Bracco was more convincing in "Good Fellas" (as Henry's Jewish wife) and "The Sopranos" (as a shrink) than as the mayor. It's a safe bet that Frank will continue to have lovely older female antagonists. But will Baker join the Tweedledums in Frank's office? Hers is the voice of reason. We can also expect to see a lot more of beat cop Jack Hammer, who is about six inches taller than Jamie, and has royal American parentage. He is currently attending Harvard Law School. Say a prayer at Linda Reagan's grave. -- Walter Carey Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
I believe he sincerely felt they would talk themselves out of the war if only they'd get on his couch. -- Raymond Rakubian
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If you went “beyond the pleasure principle,” where would you be going, and with whom? (a) the Italian Renaissance with Vasari (b) the Spanish Inquisition with Loyola (c) the French Revolution with Saint-Just (d) the Trojan War with Agamemnon (e) the American century with Henry Ford Extra credit: Although this question has no correct answer, the question mattered to Freud because (1) Depending on the patient’s answer he would know whether she was an Alice or a Mabel. (2) When the tide ebbs you can see which bathers are naked. (3) He had set out to refute Henry Ford’s line that “history is bunk” (4) He knew that “the present is a future that came through” (Frank O’Hara”) (5) He was certain that the Great War would have been prevented had they heeded his counsel. -- DL Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
15 Poems to Avoid The “very punny” The overly enthusiastic— Dickinson!— Fan! The simile that’s as overused as your favorite tee-shirt The cliché that has all the teenagers rolling their eyes moodily The hyperbolic behemoth, the extreme titan of a poem to end all poems, born of Apollo and watched over by Poe’s own raven Speaking of which…anything involving a raven or a blackbird. Crows are iffy at best. The poem that r e l i e s TOO much on form to make a point that could have been (made) easily Don’t understate TOO ABSTRACT TO UNDERSTAND O! To attempt to venture thither and evoke the language of previous poets! Muses, be with me as I attempt to elucidate my Reader on the dangerous ignus fatuus of Trying Too Hard! The nonsensical metaphor, a bird in a pair of fishnet stockings The repetition, the repetition, the repetition, the repetition, the repetition, the repetition, the repetition, the repetition, the repetition, the repetition, the repetition, the repetition, the repetition, the repetition Beware: when it comes to rhyming it’s all about timing. The poem that spends too much time in a field of flowers, or in any proximity to a rosebush, especially a beautiful rosebush that also contains thorns. When it comes to list poems, you’re on thin ice. So just watch yourself. Continue reading
Posted May 11, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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Mother died today. That's how it began. Or maybe yesterday, I can't be sure. I gave the book to my mother in the hospital. She read the first sentence. Mother died today. She laughed and said you sure know how to cheer me up. The telegram came. It said, Mother dead Stop Funeral tomorrow Stop. Mother read it in the hospital and laughed at her college boy son. Or maybe yesterday, I don't remember. Mama died yesterday. The telegram arrived a day too late. I had already left. Europe is going down, the Euro is finished, and what does it matter? My mother served plum cake and I read the page aloud. Mother died today or yesterday and I can't be sure and it doesn't matter. Germany can lose two world wars and still rule all of Europe, and does it matter whether you die at thirty or seventy? Mother died today. It was Mother's Day, the day she died, the year she died. In 1940 it was the day the Germans invaded Belgium and France and Churchill succeeded Chamberlain as Prime Minister. The telegram came from the asylum, the home, the hospital, the "assisted living" facility, the hospice, the clinic. Your mother passed away. Heartfelt condolences. The price of rice is going up, and what does it matter? I'Il tell you what I told the nurse and anyone that asks. Mother died today. May 10, 2012 -- David Lehman Continue reading
Posted May 10, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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Join us and Harper's Magazine on Tuesday, May 15th at 7pm as David Lehman discusses Next Line, Please at Book Culture on Columbus! 450 Columbus Ave. New York, NY In this book, David Lehman, the longtime series editor of the Best American Poetry, offers a masterclass in writing in form and collaborative composition. An inspired compilation of his weekly column on the American Scholar website, Next Line, Please makes the case for poetry open to all. Next Line, Pleasegathers in one place the popular column's plethora of exercises and prompts that Lehman designed to unlock the imaginations of poets and creative writers. He offers his generous and playful mentorship on forms such as the sonnet, haiku, tanka, sestina, limerick, and the cento and shares strategies for how to build one line from the last. This groundbreaking book shows how pop-up crowds of poets can inspire one another, making art, with what poet and guest editor Angela Ball refers to as "spontaneous feats of language." How can poetry thrive in the digital age? Next Line, Please shows the way. Lehman writes, "There is something magical about poetry, and though we think of the poet as working alone, working in the dark, it is all the better when a community of like-minded individuals emerges, sharing their joy in the written word." David Lehman has served as quizmaster of "Next Line, Please" since The American Scholar launched the feature in May 2014. His books include Poems in the Manner of... and Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World. Lehman is the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry and series editor of The Best American Poetry. He teaches in the graduate writing program of the New School in New York City. Event address: 450 Columbus Ave. New York, NY 10024 Can't make it? Reserve a signed copy by calling our store today: (212) 595-1962 Next Line, Please: Prompts to Inspire Poets and Writers (Paperback) By David Lehman (Editor), Angela Ball (With), Robert Wilson (Foreword by) $18.95 ISBN: 9781501715006 Availability: On Our Shelves Now - Click Title to See Location Inventory. Published: Cornell University Press - March 15th, 2018 Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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We got together in secret the other day and discussed the center field position We decided among ourselves you are the greatest in New York, which means everywhere. Sincerely, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle Duke Snider Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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Freud’s Immortal Question Or, one student’s adventures in higher yearning By David Lehman May 6, 2018 To: Colleagues in the Writing Module From: Jack Hexter Many of you who have worked with Richard Treacy will be impressed by the progress he has made, as shown by his essay (below) on the take-home final (open-book, three hours). Sigmund Freud asked, in evident exasperation, “What do women want?” Based on your understanding of at least three of the works we read this semester, how would you answer Freud’s question? Be sure to give a title to your essay. What Women Want by Richard H. Tracey Some would say they want to get married and raise a family. Others want to “have it all.” I am not sure whether that is even possible, but it is the ideal pursued by some. I think the answer is more complicated than that. It is hard to generalize about women, but I will try, because half of us are them, slightly more than a majority, and maybe even more than that according to demographic studies indicating that women live longer than men, and it is something like 50.2% versus 49.8% of the population. So technically it is possible that they could vote a woman president into office if they all stuck together. When I think of Antigone, Major Barbara, The Death of Ivan Ilych, the Bible, and even Lucky Jim, looking for what they have in common, each woman is a unique individual, with an identity that sets them apart at the same time that they belong to a larger group, just like each of us who come from different backgrounds, and yet, as was mentioned in class, there is “unity in diversity” for despite our variegated pasts we share a “stake in humanity” by endeavoring to do the same little everyday things like brush our teeth, put on our clothes, and eat breakfast before we come to class on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9 A.M. in Hartwick Hall. Let me give an example. Of these various female characters. And what they want. Since that is the question. They all want to help. Antigone helps her brother, Barbara tries to help those whose souls need saving, Lady Britomart tries to help her family and herself, and Praskovya helps society by conforming with it. Also, Eve helps to fulfill human destiny by eating the apple, and Kurtz’s fiancée in Heart of Darkness wants to help the war effort in the Congo by honoring Kurtz and the sacrifices he made. Thus, each of these four women leads an individual life, with individual desires that sets them apart. One desires the ordinary, one the extraordinary; one desires to save souls, and one wants to be the center of attention. Yet they have one thing in common. Whatever they desire, each wants to succeed in that desire. And furthermore each goes to extremes to fulfill that desire. Praskovya ignores her husband’s death, Antigone hangs herself, Barbara accepts the entirely different... Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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Freud visited the United States in December 1929 (1) To investigate the spate of suicides following the stock market crash in October (2) To meet with his American editor, Maxwell Perkins. (3) To give the celebrated Kramden lectures at Princeton. (4) Freud never visited the United States (5) Do you mean Lucien Freud This one didn't make it into the published version of "Freud Quiz." But this one did -- and triggered a response from Kathleen Heil in 2008: February 23, 2008 Freud Quiz #5 What is the "compulsion to repeat"? (a) the impulse to keep doing the thing that scares you -- in an effort to master the fear (b) the wish to make the same mistake twice, and be forgiven (c) the reason why Hitler copied Napoleon’s disastrous invasion of Russia (d) the need to repeat the same futile action and the madness of expecting a different result (e) the rhetorical strategy of using the same word (or an anagram of it) in every sentence of a paragraph -- DL The Compulsion to Repeat (after reading David Lehman's Freud Quiz #5) I'm going to begin by repeating a phrase oft repeated and despised by those like me who dislike repetition for impression a friend of mine a poet made a quiz about Freud: what is the compulsion to repeat to do the thing that scares you over again and be forgiven or should we ask Hitler about Napoleon and Russians about the madness of repeating the same futile action in hopes of expecting a different result repeat it in repeating your quiz, David I pretend to make a poem because pretender in Spanish is a lovely way to say you tried, didn't you implied, the failure being the outcome of your compulsion, also to woo, court, pretender try it is better than our word to be repeated repeat try in a rhetorical strategy to be better than pretending to repeat what almost was yet another attempt to try and get that Spaniard to pretend. Kathleen Ignatius [i.e. Kathleen Heil] Madrid, Spain 5 marzo Continue reading
Posted May 6, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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Because he lies on the couch and hollers at the TV set. I believe in America, the undertaker said. Continue reading
Posted May 3, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Here is the epigraph John Ashbery chose for his poem "The Picture of Little J. A. in a Prospect of Flowers":(in his first book, Some Trees): << He was spoilt from childhood by the future, which he mastered rather early and apparently without great difficulty. -- Boris Pasternak (Safe Conduct) >> Ashbery adapted the title of his poem from Andrew Marvell ("The Picture of Little T. C. in a Prospect of Flowers"). I believe he wrote the poem while waiting for Kenneth Koch, who arrived a half hour late for an appointment. -- DL Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
To rhyme Defoe with so-so is not as or maybe even more so than Kim Novak in Vertigo who played Moll Flanders a decade later of whom it may be said (as it may also be said of Robert Taylor) that if you look like one of these two that's all you have to do.
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I like the book by DeFoe. The movie is only so so. But I should put that more positively. The movie is not ungood. My favorite left-handed compliment is what this guy I dated said when he saw me naked. He said my tits were underrated -- Molly Arden Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2018 at The Best American Poetry