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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
Life is a labyrinth, and so is death, A labyrinth without end, said the Master of Ho. The slave remains in chains. Prometheus is born again to suffer again. One prison opens onto another, Corridor onto corridor. The river feeds its tributaries. The river and its tributaries are a labyrinth, And the man who believes he can shuffle off his coil And live to tell the tale Is the card shark who shuffles the deck And deals. Nothing avails. The centuries also live underground, said the Master of Ho. -- Henri Michaux; trans. David Lehman. Today (May 24) is Henri Michaux's birthday. Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at The Best American Poetry
To the Editor, I am writing in response to today’s front-page article asking when the time is right for an old geezer past his prime to get off the stage. The piece begins with a scathing account of a recent concert by Bob Dylan. You illustrated it with a cartoon of Dylan with a prune juice bottle at his elbow. My first reaction was yeah. I was at that concert. I’ll never pay to hear him anymore. And it was expensive. The cost to pleasure ratio was way out of whack. However, then I considered the unexamined premise behind the piece, which is that age brings infirmity and loss of prowess without a compensatory gift, in this case the beautiful nobility of Mr. Dylan’s professional presence. I’d rather have a croaking Bob Dylan than 90% of what’s out there. And how typically inconsistent for the Wall Street Journal to say in one breath that Dylan at 69 is too old to perform and in the next breath that we should extend the retirement age to 69. As a free-market capitalist I feel that Dylan should retire when the market says he should. (signed) R. Zimmerman Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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Have we taught a generation of college graduates to vilify capitalism without doing it the honor of knowing how it works? Spot checks at New York’s Penn Station reveal that a vast majority of college-educated commuters do not have a clue about the relation of the prime rate to the federal funds rate, for example, or the advantage of capital gains over wages, or the difference between a progressive income tax and a sales tax, or the reason bond prices go up when interests rates go down, or the best age at which to start taking Social Security benefits. In league with a team of professors from Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, we devised this quiz to see who knows what and, as always with multiple-choice tests, to entertain with the wrong answers, proving, in this case, that the gloomy science can generate its share of yucks.. – DL 1) The Dow-Jones Industrial Average was created by a) Charles H. Dow, either alone or with Edward Jones, two cofounders of the company that bears their names b) Charles W. Dow in partnership with Samuel J. Jones, the Princeton-educated sheriff of Douglas County in the Kansas Territory portrayed by James Stewart in Anthony Mann's second feature film c) Standard & Poor’s d) Dow's stepdaughters Jane and Martha Bancroft, on instructions from Clarence Barron prior to his acquisition of the company in 1902 e) Meyer Wolfsheim 2) According to the Dow Theory, there are three phases to a primary bull market and three to a primary bear market. The theory was developed by which of the following, for which purpose: a) Charles W. Dow and Alexander Hamilton, to develop a metric to gauge the wealth factor associated with the Louisiana Purchase b) Charles H. Dow -- and refined and sustained after his death in 1903 by his understudy William Hamilton -- for the purpose of predicting stock fluctuations c) Elmer Bernstein, Carolyn Leigh, and Max Shulman, the Tony Award-winning producers of the musical comedy How Now, Dow Jones? (1967), mainly for laughs and the sheer pleasure of it but also to entertain audiences, employ actors and musicians, and make a profit at the box office, all by poking fun at the academic study of risk, economics, and finance d) John Maynard Keynes in a 1938 letter to President Roosevelt arguing that “the present recession is partly due to an ‘error of optimism’ which led to an overestimation of future demand” and that continuation of “public works and other investments aided by Government funds or guarantees” was essential going forward. e) Herbert Henry Dow, a grandson of the founder of Dow Chemical, in 1969, as a way to divert public attention from protests against the use of napalm, which the company manufactured, during the war in Vietnam. 3) Mutual funds are a) An attempt by rogue elements in the legal profession to monetize the value of a married couple’s community property b) The amount on the... Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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We welcome the publication of In the Empire of the Air: The Poems of Donald Britton, a posthumous collection by a wonderful poet who died in 1994, entirely too young. The publisher is Nightboat Books, and the work of editing it was shared by Philip Clark and the late Reginald Shepherd. I knew Donald well; he is represented in an anthology I edited, Ecstatic Occasions, Expedient Forms, for which he wrote a statement about the occasion and objectives of one of his poems. It may be the only critical statement that he ever published. Three of Donald's poems appeared in a low-circulation magazine I edited, Poetry in Motion, in the late 1970s. There will be a release party for the book at Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York City on Friday, May 20, at 6 PM. In he picture above, Donald is the fourth poet from the left. To his right is Tim Dlugos, with Dennis Cooper standing on the other side of Tim. Amy Gerstler is second from the right. Also in the picture are Michael Silverblatt, Bob Flanagan, and Ed Smith. The venue is the Ear Inn and I'd have to guess the date as early 1980s. Here is the first paragraph of Douglas Crase's afterword to the new collection. << The appearance in print of the selected poems of Donald Britton is an affront to cynicism and a triumph over fate. When Donald died, in 1994, it was sadly reasonable to assume that the influence of his poetry would be confined to the few who had preserved a copy of his single book, the slender, deceptively titled Italy, published thirteen years earlier. As the few became fewer it seemed all but certain the audience for his poems would disappear. Donald never taught, so there were no students to mature into positions of critical authority. There was no keeper of the flame to incite publication, no posthumous foundation to subsidize it, not even a martyrology in place to demand it out of sentiment. The survival of his work would have to come about, instead, as a pure instance of “go little booke”—an instance that must now warm the heart of anyone who has ever believed in poetry. It was the poems in Italy themselves, free of professional standing or obligation, that inspired the successive affections of two remarkable editors and the confident publisher of the present selection. Donald, who despite his brilliance was a modest and self-effacing person, would be surprised. >> Crase's afterword concludes with this thought about the "longevity" of poetry as opposed to a "career" in the field. <<< Donald’s posthumous success in inspiring the publication of his selected poems, coupled with the undeniable failure in worldly terms of his career, is occasion to wonder if the career is ever the same as poetry itself. From time to time a critic will observe that Hart Crane’s suicide, for example, or Joe Brainard’s decision to stop making art, may be regarded as proof the artist... Continue reading
Posted May 18, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
At end, I lied I am abend when we’re off drunk again Or swimming in sincere blue oceans—gists, all of them foreign. When in the door steps Three of my kin, weird-eyed with essence. What’s that? I see a serenade, trying again. Kind heart. This story has been ruined, I run, turn, hole under a bush Scan the ground for a moving you. Frailings, they walk, stay uber quiet and austere at that I, there, much older, heightened in wait Give it a dame smiling handy and Shrug! Do leave, I run all them off. They say it: hang her! Then when it’s darker, while out, I see him such Her shining ways in the from days, her stitched up hand Shot. Can see all Last era says and I am more for a cure by death, see, in contrast to those who tremble ..Or a comedy set. Be it valet or beyond the way, they don’t say no. Sweet laments from the infancy. Death in reposado or cold sambuca Guardians of my grave! Nobody really knows my city like you She gives me one moment of time, electric. But when I take your hand down the aisle Battering piano glee surrounding us The hour is perfect The mass is one of beauty, harmony, peonies land in me And on your white paisley dress, autumn at the core. -- Kirsten Chen Continue reading
Posted May 17, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
The Perfect Guy He picks me up at eight in his mother’s BMW. He rolls up the sleeves of his maroon wool sweater and orders an Old Fashioned. He's been drilling oil in Saudi Arabia and he gets lonely there. He reads for pleasure and misses the way company makes him feel. He was a Civil Engineer at Vanderbilt and he says I remind him of a Southern girl. I am waiting patiently for him to kiss me. I am into another guy who is a little bit colorblind. He wants to wear more green because he has gray-green eyes, but he can’t find the shirts in the store. He holds my hand in the black light of dirty college bars. He fucks me then assures me he's not looking for a girlfriend. He pushes my hair back and tells me I look hotter au naturale. -- Lily Bowen Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Albert Gleizes, Portrait of Igor Stravinsky, 1914, Oil on canvas, 129.5 x 114.3 cm. Muséum of Modern Art Collection "My freedom thus consists in my moving about within the narrow frame that I have assigned myself for each one of my undertakings. I shall go even further: my freedom will be so much the greater and more meaningful the more narrowly I limit my field of action and the more I surround myself with obstacles. Whatever diminishes constraint, diminishes strength. The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees one’s self of the chains that shackle the spirit." —Igor Stravinsky, Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons -- sdl Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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KGB Bar: 85 E 4th St, New York, New York 10003 Renowned Russian-American composer, writer, visual artist and concert pianist Lera Auerbach will be reading from Excess of Being, her new book of aphorisms and original artwork, by turns provocative, dark, ironic and humorous. Poet David Lehman is a prominent editor, author and literary critic. He serves as the editor of The Best American Poetry series, which he initiated in 1988, and teaches at The New School. His most recent book is Sinatra's Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World. He will read poems from his forthcoming book Poems in the Manner Of (Scribner, 2017). -- sdh Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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‘Landscape With the Fall of Icarus’ (c. 1560s), by Pieter Brueghel the Elder—the focus of Auden’s final stanza. PHOTO: ROYAL MUSEUMS OF FINE ARTS OF BELGIUM Of the many memorable poems about paintings and sculpture—“ekphrastic poems” is the technical but ugly term for them—my favorite is W.H. Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts.” Named for the Brussels museum of fine art that Auden visited late in 1938, the poem begins with a stanza about two emblematic if generic paintings, one that depicts the birth of Christ (lines 5-8), the other depicting the crucifixion (lines 10-13)—the two most solemn moments in the Christian year: About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters: how well they understood Its human position: how it takes place While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along; How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting For the miraculous birth, there always must be Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating On a pond at the edge of the wood: They never forgot That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse Scratches its innocent behind on a tree. The poem’s opening statement is guaranteed to stop you in your tracks. To appreciate the artistry, imagine a more conventional way of saying the same thing: “The old masters were never wrong about suffering.” Though virtually identical in language, the sentence loses all its power. There may be no better demonstration of a crucial lesson in the rhetoric of verse: that word order—combined with the strategic pause at the end of the line—is crucial in arousing and sustaining the reader’s attention. Note, too, the staggered rhymes in the stanza, which approaches prose but turns back to verse at each line’s end. Not until line four of this 13-line stanza do we encounter the first rhyme, and the last word of line six does not meet its mate until the stanza’s end. Continue reading here. Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
It’s Friday the 13th and I wonder how the superstition got started. I’d always thought it was because there were thirteen diners at the Last Supper but I recently saw a documentary about the Knights Templar according to which King Philip of France mounted a ruthlessly efficient surprise attack on the Templars and tortured them until they confessed they were heretics, gnostics. That happened on a Friday the 13th in the 14th century, and ever since it’s been an unlucky day to be caught in a storm or shoplifting or in bed with a person other than your mate or just crossing the street before looking both ways in New York, where, from one point of view, it’s always Friday the 13th -- 2 / 13 / 98 [from The Daily Mirror, 2000] Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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The new, just-published edition of Hyam Plutzik's Letter from a Young Poet (Watkinson / Trinity College / Books and Books Press, 2016) is a welcome event. Plutzik (1911-1962), the son of Jewish immigrants from Russia, studied at Trinity College in Connecticut and at Yale, and later established himself as a beloved professor of English at the University of Rochester. A poet ripe for rediscovery, Plutzik wrote the ambitious book-length poem Horatio in which Hamlet's confidante takes to heart the injunction to absent himself from felicity awhile and give a true account of the events that wrecked the royal court of Denmark. Begun while Plutzik served in the U. S. army during World War II, the book narrowly missed winning the Pulitzer back in 1962. Plutzik's acclaimed collection Apples from Shinar appeared from Wesleyan in 1959 and was reissued by the same publisher on his centenary While in residence at a Connecticut farmhouse as a young man, the Brooklyn-born poet found himself bedeviled by an aggressive woodchuck about whom he wrote, "There was a sort of agony in his desire. . .[and] I saw in this brutish creature the kin and symbol of mankind, bestial in form but aspiring to heaven." From this quotation alone one can sense the spiritual connection that the poet felt with the prince of Denmark, who wonders at man, the "paragon" of the animals, who yet amounts to nothing more than a "quintessence of dust." Letter from a Young Poet -- perhaps inspired by Rilke's Letters to a Young Poet and by the ideal of literary mentorship -- was written just before the United States entered the second World War. The poet is buried in Queens, New York, with this simple epitaph on his gravestone, the concluding lines from one of his own poems: "Nothing can be done / But something can be said / At least." We are pleased to post, with permission, Daniel Halpern's foreword to the new edition of Letter from a Young Poet. -- DL <<< It's slightly ironic that it took twenty-nine year old Hyam Plutzik seven years to compose this novella of a letter to his college professor at Trinity College, Odell Shepard. An outpouring of heart and soul, to be sure. A young man's Biographia Literaria, a biographical ars poetica, sent to a man who, it's never clear from the letter he wrote in response, was more of a projection of Hyam's youthful self than true mentor or confidante, but whose remembered existence allowed Hyam to pen so openly such an impassioned and insightful epistle of his literary dreams and ambitions. Ironic, because Professor Shepard's return letter, three pages to Hyam’s seventy, was never sent. In Hyam's fervid letter, he addresses the concerns of an artist coming to terms with the world he's inherited. The prose is filled with determination, philosophic wonderings, thoughts on the nature of the artistic endeavor, enveloped throughout with a youthful ambition, a hopefulness, an admixture of self-confidence and self-doubt that in Hyam’s voice never... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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This week we welcome Jay Parini as our guest author. Jay's five books of poetry include Anthracite Country, House of Days and New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015 (Beacon Press, March 29, 2016). He has written eight novels, including Benjamin’s Crossing, The Apprentice Lover, The Passages of H.M., and The Last Station—the last was made into an Academy Award–nominated film starring Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer. Parini has written biographies of John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, William Faulkner, and, most recently, Gore Vidal. His nonfiction works include Jesus: The Human Face of God, Why Poetry Matters, and Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America. Welcome, Jay. -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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On the night of April 16-17, 1941, the Luftwaffe conducted a raid over London. Several hours after midnight, two bombs fell into Jermyn Street, causing extensive damage and killing 23 people. One of the victims, a well-known professional entertainer named Al Bowlly, had declined the offer of overnight lodgings in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, after having performed there the previous evening, preferring to catch the last train home. He was in bed reading when the parachute bomb went off outside his apartment building. His bedroom door, blown off its hinges by the force of the explosion, was propelled across the room, hitting him in the face and killing him instantly. He was 42 years old. Al Bowlly, January 7, 1898 – April 17, 1941 Though he is still well remembered in Britain, Al Bowlly’s name is not widely known here. Many know it only as a reference in the title and lyrics of Richard Thompson’s song “Al Bowlly’s in Heaven” (from which my title is taken), on his 1986 album Daring Adventures. Yet, for every American who knows his name, there are scores who have heard Al Bowlly’s music. His recording of Noël Coward’s “Twentieth Century Blues” was used over the main titles of the 1968 BBC miniseries (shown here on PBS in 1972) made from Aldous Huxley’s Point Counter Point. Stanley Kubrick used Bowlly’s “Midnight, the Stars and You” and “It’s All Forgotten Now” in The Shining (1980), and Steven Spielberg featured his “South of the Border (Down Mexico Way)” in Empire of the Sun (1987). Al Bowlly songs have been used in films as recent as The King’s Speech (2010) and Woody Allen’s Magic in the Moonlight (2014). Everything Is Copy, Jacob Bernstein’s documentary film about his mother, Nora Ephron, which premiered on HBO premiere only four weeks ago, concludes with Bowlly’s “Love Is the Sweetest Thing” playing over the closing credits. But beyond all doubt, the one person most responsible for keeping the name and music of Al Bowlly alive was the late Dennis Potter, whose enthusiasm for the singer bordered on the obsessive. In fact, Potter’s 1969 teleplay Moonlight on the Highway (the title of a 1938 Bowlly recording) starred Ian Holm as a sexual abuse victim whose own obsession with Bowlly becomes a psychological coping mechanism. Potter made use of Bowlly’s music in several other television dramas and serials, including his last major work, The Singing Detective (1986), but it is Pennies from Heaven (1978), the six-part series that is universally acknowledged to be Potter’s masterpiece, that makes the most prominent use of Al Bowlly’s records, fourteen songs in all. Long before we knew one another, my wife, Vicky, watched it when it was broadcast on PBS and was overwhelmed by both the drama and the music—so much so that she flew from New York to London shortly thereafter, partly to visit her then-favorite city, but principally to find, in those pre-Amazonian days, the otherwise unobtainable soundtrack LP. Years later, it was through her insistence that... Continue reading
Posted Apr 15, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
Sinatra is great but when I'm in a melancholy mood I'll take Chet over Frank. Stacey
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Together we saw an imagined buffalo This is the bison I rode when Cherokee and you were not, did not. I rode it to ride with the Wind Gods. On open plains bordered by clumps of brushy cottonwoods so distant they seem other countries. This is the shaggy creature you see, the magnificent beast we share, whose temblor gallop shakes and remakes the features of your face I see I saw you before quite indistinctly. This was before you rode this bison to ride with the Wind Gods when Cherokee and I can just turn my head to see you true. Merci to Muriel Patarroni, painter of natures Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
When Steven Rea agreed to blog this week, I immediately thought of this song in connection with his new book Hollywood Cafe: Coffee With the Stars. I promise that if you listen to it you won't need your afternoon pick-me-up. "You date a girl and find out later she smells just like a percolator." -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Apr 6, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Philadelphia Inquirer movie critic Steven Rea hosts an evening of coffee-centric film clips, including a Charlie Chaplin silent classic, a mid-'60s Michael Caine spy thriller, scenes from a pair of highly caffeinated Hitchcock classics, Quentin Tarantino talking gourmet beans in "Pulp Fiction," Audrey Hepburn sipping from a to-go cup in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," plus lots more! Copies of Hollywood Cafe: Coffee With the Stars, the new coffee table celebration of cinema and a cup of joe, will be on hand for sale and signing. And coffee from Parry Coffee Roasters, the amazing artisinal roastery based in Ambler, PA, will be served. And did we say that the whole show is free?! The County Theater 20 East State Street Doylestown, PA 18901 |215-345-6789 Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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I've been collecting photographs seriously for the last seven years or so: First, focusing pretty much entirely on vintage Hollywood images of movie stars riding bikes, issued by the studios' publicity departments to promote their melodramas and westerns, rom-coms and noirs -- and the actors and actresses playing all type of hero and heroine, villain and vamp, in them. It's an ongoing obsession: I post a few new (old) photos on my blog, Rides a Bike, every week. Movies and bikes are two of my passions, and landing on, say, a photo of a Mad Men-era Paul Newman pedaling around the backlot on a clunky delivery bike, or Virna Lisi in a white sundress on an Atala step-through, stopping on a country road somewhere... well, pretty much bliss. Same thing happened -- the kick of discovery, surprise, joy -- when I started searching through dealers' collections and movie memorabilia shops for photographs of stars having coffee, making coffee, clinking their mugs next to craft services tables (and grabbing a donut while they're at it), refilling from a trusty percolator in their dressing room, or in their kitchen back home. Coffee: another passion, and, yes, probably an addiction, too. Last night my wife and I went to hear Kelly Jones and Teddy Thompson play at a club in Philadelphia -- the two singers and songwriters have teamed for Little Windows, a collection of heartbreakingly beautiful duets that recall classic country couples like George Jones and Tammy Wynette, Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris (and the Everlys and the Louvins). There was one song with a line about sugar in a coffee cup, how it dissolves like true love can dissolve.... It was a sweet moment, or bittersweet, anyway. Where am I going with this? Well, as I continue (daily) to troll for bike photos and coffee photos on the eBay sites of dealers in Canada and California, France and Argentina (yes, there's a gentleman in Buenos Aires who has a collection of 50,000 photos, 20,000 posters, all hailing from Hollywood), I sometimes screech to a stop on an image that has neither a bike nor a steaming cup of joe in it, but it's a photo that I nonetheless feel compelled to bid on, to own. An iconic star from an iconic movie, a still from one of my all-time favorites (I've got an expanding folder of press photos from Preston Sturges' Sullivan's Travels, with Joel McCrea and Veronica Lake in and out of their hobo gear), an incongruous, odd or just-plain-beautiful shot. So, on this a.m., as guest author on the Best American Poetry blog, I thought I'd share two of these gems, at least I think they are. Poetry in motion... pictures. First, here's Jean Parker in an artfully staged shot from 1934's Sequoia, an MGM wildlife drama set in California's sequoia forests. Parker's character, Toni Martin, grew up in the woods, befriending puma and deer, and then loggers came rolling in threatening the animals'... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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This week we welcome back Steven Rea as our guest author. Steven is the movie critic for the Philadelphia Inquirer, a member of the National Society of Film Critics, author of Hollywood Cafe: Coffee With the Stars and Hollywood Rides a Bike: Cycling With the Stars. He is also the producer of the photo blog ridesabike.com . You can read his movie reviews here and follow his twitter feed (which is really fun) @Steven_Rea. Welcome back, Steven. -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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<<< Fortunately for the family, my uncles and brothers had liquidated most of their holdings in the firm by the time of its collapse in September 2008. Nevertheless, whether out of nostalgia or pure forgetfulness, or perhaps just in order to keep getting annual reports and the like, a few of us kept some odd lots and attended shareholder meetings once in a while. And I maintained friendships with old friends, including the source of some scuttlebutt that I am now legally entitled to share. One villain in the tale is the little known Peter Rubella, who headed the firm's missing documents department. The department comprised debentures, affidavits, flight manifests, stock certificates, and bills of lading, each one a surprising source of revenue for financial outfits wary of IPOs and LBOs but acutely conscious of the millions that go unclaimed each year in the form of lost lottery tickets, savings accounts of the deceased, uncanceled autopay, insurance reimbursements sent to defunct addresses, payments to remittance men, dead letters, the contents of grandma's safe deposit box, and the like. The department proved that working for an investment company is not just being a glorified broker or accountant but has elements of detection as in the dime novels you devour, though it has been decades since any book cost a dime. James M. Cain, author of Double Indemnity, would have been considered a classic if he had only taken the precaution of being born in France. But for the analogy to hold, you need an Edward G. Robinson in the driver’s seat -- not an unctuous snot like Rubella. According to spokesperson Dana Goodrear of the YWC, an NGO whose turf is serious white-shoe wingtip investment-banker crime, Rubella engineered a complicated Ponzi scheme that cost an estimated 1.2 million investors upwards of $225 billion dollars. He put together a consortium of Indian companies that was thought to be running so-called "chit funds" in Delhi, Mumbai, Calcutta, and Eastern India. A partial list of the celebrities he defrauded includes Phyllis Dietrickson, Lucky Garnet, Julie Jordan, Ilse Lundt, Joel Cairo, Garance, Sam Malone, Fred Derry, Norma Desmond, Peter Joshua, Alicia Huberman, Noah Cullen, Melanie Wilkes, Pepe Le Moko, Schuyler Green, Privates Finch and Moss, Sergeant J. J. Sefton, Commander Shears, Mark Dixon, Waldo Lydecker, Carmen Sternwood, Khartoum, Roger Thornhill, Terry Malloy, Popeye Doyle, Sally Draper, Barbara Doll, Bunter, Sollozzo, Alice Kramden, Dianna Scott, Madelene Elster, Robert E. Lee Prewitt, Frankie Five Angels, and Addison DeWitt. The scheme had become so vast that it threatened to sink the whole company. How did Rubella elude the scrutiny of investigators for so long? And how, even after the crisis of September 2008 broke and he duly went to jail, did he avoid the unfavorable publicity that lesser thieves, cheats, con artists, and other felons received? While operating the scheme, the son of a bitch went unsuspected largely because he bribed the right officials and purported to be an advocate of liberal causes. He gave it out that... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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On Easter Monday of 1916, 150 or so Irish rebels took armed action against their British rulers, seizing the General Post Office (GPO) in Dublin. After a week of fighting, they lost to the thousands of British troops arrayed against them, but the Rising ultimately led to Irish independence from the mighty British Empire. Given the musical and literary traditions of the Irish, it is no surprise that the rebellion also gave rise to poems, songs, movies, and books. (In fact, Patrick Pearse, one of the leaders of the Rising, was himself a poet.) Probably the best-known of the poems is William Butler Yeats's "Easter 1916": Easter 1916 I I have met them at close of day Coming with vivid faces From counter or desk among grey Eighteenth-century houses. I have passed with a nod of the head Or polite meaningless words, Or have lingered awhile and said Polite meaningless words, And thought before I had done Of a mocking tale or a gibe To please a companion Around the fire at the club, Being certain that they and I But lived where motley is worn: All changed, changed utterly: A terrible beauty is born. II That woman's days were spent In ignorant good will, Her nights in argument Until her voice grew shrill. What voice more sweet than hers When young and beautiful, She rode to harriers? This man had kept a school And rode our winged horse. This other his helper and friend Was coming into his force; He might have won fame in the end, So sensitive his nature seemed, So daring and sweet his thought. This other man I had dreamed A drunken, vain-glorious lout. He had done most bitter wrong To some who are near my heart, Yet I number him in the song; He, too, has resigned his part In the casual comedy; He, too, has been changed in his turn, Transformed utterly: A terrible beauty is born. III Hearts with one purpose alone Through summer and winter, seem Enchanted to a stone To trouble the living stream. The horse that comes from the road, The rider, the birds that range From cloud to tumbling cloud, Minute by minute change. A shadow of cloud on the stream Changes minute by minute; A horse-hoof slides on the brim; And a horse plashes within it Where long-legged moor-hens dive And hens to moor-cocks call. Minute by minute they live: The stone's in the midst of all. IV Too long a sacrifice Can make a stone of the heart. O when may it suffice? That is heaven's part, our part To murmur name upon name, As a mother names her child When sleep at last has come On limbs that had run wild. What is it but nightfall? No, no, not night but death. Was it needless death after all? For England may keep faith For all that is done and said. We know their dream; enough To know they dreamed and are dead. And what if... Continue reading
Posted Mar 26, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
Jim Cummins initially filed this report in 2009. It has become a classic. -- DL <<< Everybody my age knows about Hemingway's story about measuring F. Scott Fitzgerald's penis in A Moveable Feast, but maybe it's a good way to introduce a younger generation to Big Papa's work. I've always wanted to write a poem about it, but nothing I ever came up with came close to matching Hemingway's account. The story is this. F. Scott Fitzgerald asked Hemingway to advise him about an important problem that had come up between Scott and Zelda. (So to speak.) So Scott and Papa go to Michaud's ("on the corner of the rue Jacob and the rue des Saints-Peres") for lunch and consultation. Fitzgerald swore Hemingway to tell "the absolute truth" when answering. Hemingway says, "He drank wine at the lunch but it did not affect him and he had not prepared for the lunch by drinking before it." (This doesn't have a lot to do with the story, but the sentence knocks me out; I think it's the "did not" and "had not" constructions.) Anyway, Zelda had told Scott his penis was too small. Here's the Hemingway: 'Finally when we were eating the cherry tart and had a last carafe of wine he said, "You know I never slept with anyone except Zelda." 'No, I didn't.' 'I thought I'd told you.' 'No. You told me a lot of things but not that.' 'That is what I want to ask you about.' 'Good. Go on.' 'Zelda said that the way I was built I could never make any woman happy and that was what upset her originally. [Ed. note: This conversation was held somewhat after what Hemingway describes as "what was then called her first nervous breakdown."] She said it was a matter of measurements. I have never felt the same since she said that and I have to know truly.' 'Come out to the office,' I said. 'Where is the office?' 'Le water" [the "WC," i.e. the men's room], I said. We came back into the room and sat down at the table. 'You're perfectly fine,' I said. 'You are O.K. There's nothing wrong with you. You look at yourself from above and you look foreshortened. Go over to the Louvre and look at the people in the statues and then go home and look at yourself in the mirror in profile.' 'Those statues may not be accurate.' 'They are pretty good. Most people would settle for them.' 'But why would she say it?' 'To put you out of business. That's the oldest way in the world of putting people out of business. Scott, you asked me to tell you the truth and I can tell you a lot more but this is the absolute truth and all you need. You could have gone to a doctor.' 'I didn't want to. I wanted you to tell me truly.' 'Now do you believe me?' 'I don't know,' he said. 'Come on over to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Trochaic theory, the political forecasting system based on poetic metrics, which correctly predicted Obama's presidential victories in 2008 and 2012, has shortened the odds on Bernie Sanders -- if, and it's a big if, the Sandman gets the Democratic party nomination. The reason: his name conforms to the double trochee pattern that has reliably given us an array of chief executives including Andrew Jackson, Millard Fillmore, Grover Cleveland, Warren Harding, Harry Truman, and Richard Nixon. The odds of presidential triumph shorten further if the candidate's first and last name alliterate (e.g. Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Ronald Reagan). But it is probably too late for Bernie to change his name to Sandy. While deeply critical of Israeli PM Netanyahu, the Brooklyn-born Sanders remains a Zionist ("Do I think Israel has the right to exist? Yeah, I do") who scores high on the "Jew You" test devised by a team of experts including Larry David, Sarah Silverman, and University of Vermont professor Richard Sugarman. His favorite poet would be Yehuda Amichai if he had a favorite poet and were at liberty to disclose the name. Hilary Clinton merits an asterisk if only because the two major precedents for her name are those of Zachary Taylor and Abraham Lincoln -- in both cases a dactyl before a trochee. Astrological analysis sees the likelihood of war following such an ascendant. But maybe that's just talk. If Clinton were to consider an "Abraham Clinton" ad campaign, with an actress playing Hillary in the role of Honest Abe, she would gain ten points in some polls. Deliberate mispellings of her last name (Clitnon), common in right-wing supermarket tabloids, are bound to backfire. The monosyllabicTed Cruz doth lose unless, like George Bush he faces an opponent who shortens his name to the same thump thump (2000) or a hapless chap on water skis (2004) The triumph of the first George Bush against Michael Dukakis in 1988 remains an aberrant case that is usually explained (a) as an expression of satisfaction with the Reagan administration, (b) proof that a picture (Dukakis in tank with helmet) is worth a thousand words, and (c) the insertion of two middle initials in Mr. Bush's name, ostensibly to distinguish the 41st from the 43rd US president, but with attendant metrical mischief. It is however pertinent to note that the metrical makeup of "Michael Dukakis" resembles that of Barack Obama except that, luckily for Barry, his first name scans as an iamb not a trochee and so he escapes the Dukakis ignominy. Of John Kasich, it may be said that his best hope is to add a middle initial, preferably F, and launch an "all the way with JFK" campaign, but that would cost a huge amount of money and the candidate would dismiss the idea in line with his no-nonsense Ohioan personality. The relative fates of the governors of Ohio and Michigan during this primary season fall into their own pattern -- the many seasons when the Buckeyes trounced the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2016 at The Best American Poetry