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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.
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The Savage is flying back home from the New Country in native-style dress with a baggage of sensibility to gaze on the ancestral plains with the myths thought up and dreamed in her kitchens as guides. –Denise Riley, ‘A Note on Sex and “The Reclaiming of Language”’ This Easter I spent five weeks or so living and writing in Hong Kong. It was only the third time I had been back since my family left for England in 1991, when I was almost eight. That childhood migration didn’t surprise me or, I think, my Chinese mother (though my little brother was tearful for days after it was announced, believing he would have to leave all his toys behind). My father had swapped East London for the Far East thirty years earlier, but had always encouraged us to think of England – a country we had scarcely visited – as ‘home’. I had it marked with a toothpick Union Jack on the world map in my childhood bedroom. But two decades later, it was Hong Kong that had come to feel for me like a place in the imagination. People often ask me how much I can remember of it – and the answer is, surprisingly, a lot. But of course they’re a small child’s memories. The yellow-crested cranes in the enclosure at the park. The banyans hung with fishing-line hairs that sentried my walk down the hill to the school bus. The neon-silver vista of the skyscrapered harbour, peered at through the kumquat trees that lined our living room window. But I had no residual sense of the island’s geography, of how those memories would relate to each other plotted on a map. So this year, in what turned out to be an unusually wet and sultry April even by Hong Kong standards, I went on long walks, trying to knit together the places I could remember, or at least could remember being told about – sometimes a bit of both. My hope was that all this would seed new poems, but what I didn’t expect was the unintended fact checking of older poems I fell into. Unintended, because it hadn’t really occurred to me I might have got things wrong – or that it would matter if I had – in the handful of poems about Hong Kong I’d already written over the past few years. One long poem, ‘A loop of jade’, which interleaves my early memories with my mother’s childhood in ’50s Hong Kong, proved especially problematic. Some errors were simply factual – retelling a Chinese fable, and embroidering one particular scene, I’d placed the draped bride at the ‘head’ of her wedding procession rather than in its midst. If I hadn’t stumbled on a traditional bridal sedan (plus explanatory plaque) in the history museum, I would still be oblivious of that modest howler. With its smoothed dark wood carry-poles, it looked much too small to fit a person inside. Other errors were more to do with... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
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Photo credit: Marc Lixenberg To celebrate Sarah Howe's T. S. Eliot award for her debut collection Loop of Jade (Chatto & Windus, 2015), we are pleased to share a series of her posts that first appeared here in 2013. Loop of Jade also received the The Sunday Times / PFD Young Writer of the Year Award and was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. Born in Hong Kong in 1983 to an English father and Chinese mother, she moved to England as a child. Her pamphlet, A Certain Chinese Encyclopedia (Tall-lighthouse, 2009), won an Eric Gregory Award from the Society of Authors. Sarah studied at Cambridge and later as a Kennedy Scholar at Harvard. She is the founding editor of Prac Crit, an online journal of poetry and criticism. Sarah has been the recipient of a Research Fellowship at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge and a Hawthornden Fellowship and the Harper-Wood Studentship for English Poetry. She is a 2015-2016 Fellow at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute. Find out more about Sarah here. Congratulations, Sarah. -- sdh Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
Mr Griffey is on to something, I think. One of the biggest mysteries to me has always been: what did Oswald think he was doing? How did the co-conspirators manage to get him into that Texas depository? And then the plan, as I understand it, was to have Officer Tippet shoot Oswald instead of the other way around but by then I guess Oswald realized he'd been had. "I'm a patsy," he said,which should be as famous a line as "I didn't inhale" or "I didn't have sex with that woman, Ms. Lewinski." Speaking of Bill, the Bills, it seems to me, have borne Buffalo's curse with more dignity than did the long-suffering boosters of the Bosox, let alone the gum-chewing denizens of Wrigley. The fact is that Hemingway did not have an affair with Ava Gardner, but might have, if he had been younger and scouting out the "Green Hills of Africa" while the Carolina cutie was shooting "Mogambo" with Clark Gable and Grace Kelly. So I think you're on the right track, as Jim Ryun said to Zola Budd. Anyway, thanks Ken. This Budd's for you, bud. -- DL
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DD: Robert Frost said, “My definition of literature would be just this: words that have become deeds.” Cooper Dillon Books is building an impressive catalogue of authors ranging from the re-issue of William Matthews first book, Ruining the New Road, to Jill Alexander Essbaum’s chapbook length poem, “The Devastation.” When you look at the books that Cooper Dillon has published, what definition of literature comes to your mind? AD: I probably default to the Robert Lowell idea of the poem as an event, which is to say that we’re pulled into a place where we stay, even if only for a moment. The books we’ve published each bring the reader into a place that (I hope) we want to return to over and over again. There are lots of great pieces of writing, but a poetry we come to call “literature” is a work that is always resonating, and for different reasons at different times. CBC: Our hope as a press, however nano-sized of a small poetry press we are, is to bring timeless poetry into our cultural conversation. Timelessness is a very lofty goal for a book or a press, but that resonance in rereading that Adam mentions is what I mean, too. The Devastation is timeless to me because Jill's lines ring in my head, as do Rick Pierce's poems in The Book of Mankey. I suppose that literary publishing could be thought of, in a literal sense, as words becoming deeds, if Frost meant words becoming an entity that can affect us. Cooper Dillon aims to publish poetry that affects us, that we want to be affected by over a span of time. DD: How did Cooper Dillon Books come into being? AD: Colleen Ryor, after founding and operating Black Lawrence and Adirondack Review, wanted to create an entity that was dedicated to poetry. She took me on to help with a couple of projects at Black Lawrence, but then she ran the idea by me, and we ran with it. She had/has young children, and I took it over promising I wouldn’t change the mission we’d created. The resolve to regard the values that make poems timeless has always been at the center of our being. CBC: Adam invited me on as assistant editor in spring 2014, so the press has existed without me for a long time. But as for me, I love being part of poetry publishing again. The core of Cooper Dillon is those books of poems that keep us coming back, and I’m delighted to have a hand in shepherding those poems into our cultural conversation. DD: Cooper Dillon Books has published six chapbooks and four full length collections, with two more full-length collections coming soon. How many books do you publish in an average year? Do you have plans to expand? AD: We only do one or two books per year, and it’s a really pleasant pace. It means that we’re never spread thin, and we can give the attention that... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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Remember when the Sunday Times Book Review, frankly middlebrow and proud of it, used to run author's queries ("for a biography of Maxwell Anderson I would be grateful . . .") and legitimate questions from college grads who wanted to track down a favorite quotation (was it Scott Fitzgerald who said "live fast, die young, and have a handsome corpse?") In that spirit I offer you this cocktail party line that would have beguiled Flo Bear. "If the Kennedy White House was decadent; the Clinton White House was sordid." Who said it? I have asked a lot of smart people, to no avail, and would be grateful for any leads. Meanwhile, my friend Burt Hooton proposes this multiple choice list of possible candidates: 1) Jane Fonda 2) Arthur Schlesinger 3) Diana Trilling 4) Pat Lawford 5) Jacques Barzun 6) Lawrence P. Berra I'm not convinced by any of Burt's suggestions, though the terms of the distinction do sound as though they could have come from #3 or #5, and I appreciate the convention observed in #6. You get extra points (which you will need this Sunday) if you can say what Ava Gardner is doing in this post or if you can make a convincing case in favor of Oliver Stone's theory of JFK's assassination. -- DL Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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The Auditorium, Alvin Johnson/J.M. Kaplan Hall The New School 66 West 12th Street, New York, NY 10011 Join us for an event to honor the acclaimed poet James Tate, featuring poets John Ashbery, Gillian Conoley, Michael Earl Craig, Jorie Graham, Matthea Harvey, Yusef Komunyakaa, Dorothea Lasky, Emily Pettit, Guy Pettit, Srikanth Reddy, Charles Simic, Arisa White, Charles Wright, Dean Young, and Matthew Zapruder. The event will be introduced by David Lehman, Associate Professor of Writing, and feature music by Eve Beglarian and Charles Wuorinen and vocals by Maya Sharpe. Co-sponsored by The New School Creative Writing Program; the Academy of American Poets; Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins; the Poetry Foundation; the Poetry Society of America; Poets House; the University of Massachusetts Amherst MFA for Poets and Writers; the Unterberg Poetry Center, and 92nd Street Y. Free to all. Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
Which of the following was offered -- and turned down -- the part of Dirty Harry (Callahan) before Clint Eastwood made the role his own? a) Paul Newman b) Frank Sinatra c) Steve McQueen d) Burt Lancaster e) John Wayne f) All of the above except Ernest Borgnine g) None of the above except Joan Crawford Continue reading
Posted Jan 29, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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I've been having fun lately making love comics out of Shakespeare's comics. This week I am playing with Sonnet 25, and of course, Emily Dickinson. -- Nin Andrews Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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This week we welcome Javier Zamora as our guest author. Javier was born in El Salvador and migrated to the US when he was nine. He holds fellowships from CantoMundo, Colgate University, MacDowell, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Yaddo. The recipient of the 2016 Barnes and Noble Writer for Writer’s Award, his poems appear or are forthcoming in APR, Narrative, Ploughshares, POETRY, The Kenyon Review, and elsewhere. His first full-length book is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press. Follow Javier on twitter at https://twitter.com/jzsalvipoet or @jzsalvipoet and on instagram : @jzsalvipoet Welcome, Javier. In other news: Celebrate the life and work of James Tate, February 4, 7-8:30 pm, The New School, 66 W. 12th Street, NY, NY. Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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Ready for Burns Night (photo (c) Karen Resta) I’d never been to a Burns Supper before, though of course I knew about them. Burns Suppers, in my mind, were loud, fun and full of Scottish people gathered together on Robert Burns’ birthday to celebrate his poetry and life. The main ritualistic novelty would be the serving of the haggis, the meat pudding pulled from the pot fresh,hot, dripping with juices, waiting to be punctured with a ready fork, brought to the head of the table on a huge silver platter at full arms’ length, steaming away as if it were a battleship – in my mind, maybe even the type of battleship called a ‘dreadnought”. Haggis has always seemed scary to me, though I’m an adventurous eater. I have a block, actually, about the word “haggis”. Each time I try to remember the word I have to look it up. It escapes my memory, and all I can think about is the image of this large grey-brown tuberous shape, steaming furiously away. The recently Burns Dinner (not Supper, Dinner) I attended was planned as a “new” form of Burns Supper, more easily digested, perhaps, by what one thinks of as “generalist” eaters (which is what most people are, no matter what they claim). Hosted by The Glenlivet whiskey, the idea was to reinvent the traditional Scottish foods to suit modern tastes. The main course of business, of course, was the whiskey tasting that accompanied the dinner as well as the dessert created and prepared at the end of the dinner by chef Christina Tosi of Milkbar/Momofuku fame. Peter Karras, The Glenlivet Master of Scotch, gave tasting notes on the progression of four whiskeys at dinner. I’d already introduced myself to Peter at the bar before dinner simply because his jacket was the most magnificent color of dark burgundy (and after my first few sips of the whiskey cocktail they’d given us I absolutely had to comment on it). His sartorial taste was matched by his knowledgable and humorous instruction on the whiskeys. No poetry was read at dinner except a hopeful sing along of Auld Lang Syne (the full version, with all the difficult pronunciations) at the end of dinner, but Burns’ poems were posted along the walls on elegant sconces, lit by flickering candles. Care to join me? “Whiskey, like a beautiful woman, demands appreciation. You gaze first, then it's time to drink.” – Haruki Murakami “Some of us look for the Way in opium and some in God, some of us in whiskey and some in love. It is all the same Way and it leads nowhither.” – W. Somerset Maugham It may be impossible to make haggis look good but these haggis crostini were delicious. (photo (c) Karen Resta) “Love makes the world go round? Not at all. Whiskey makes it go round twice as fast.” - Compton Mackenzie House made smoked salmon salad paired with The Glenlivet Nadurra First Fill (photo (c) Karen Resta) “Too much... Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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A few light taps upon the pane made him turn to the window. It had begun to snow again. He watched sleepily the flakes, silver and dark, falling obliquely against the lamplight. The time had come for him to set out on his journey westward. Yes, the newspapers were right: snow was general all over Ireland. It was falling on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, falling softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly falling into the dark mutinous Shannon waves. It was falling, too, upon every part of the lonely churchyard on the hill where Michael Furey lay buried. It lay thickly drifted on the crooked crosses and headstones, on the spears of the little gate, on the barren thorns. His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead. -- James Joyce, The Dead -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Jan 23, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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George Balanchine rehearsing "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" (music by Richard Rodgers) with Suzanne Farrell and Arthur Mitchell, 1968. George Balanchine's "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" is permanently imprinted on my brain, perhaps because I saw it during the year of its debut as a stand-alone ballet and with the original cast but also because the choreography perfectly matches the music, which is gorgeous, sexy, and haunting (listen to the theme that begins at around 1:30). I've seen it many times, most recently with David, during a NYCB collaboration with The Dance Theater of Harlem, the acclaimed company started by Arthur Mitchell. Suzanne Farrell has written that she was unaccustomed to dancing a part that required her to be overtly sexual - she plays a stripper in the ballet. Early on in rehearsal, her partner Arthur Mitchell said, "Come on, Suzanne, sex it up!" When Farrell stepped onto the stage, she really let loose. The heat these two premier dancers generated when they performed together was captivating and memorable. It's hard to pick a favorite from among so many brilliant dances but if I had to, I might settle on Balanchine's Serenade with music by Tchaikovsky (Serenade in Strings in C, Op. 48). First conceived as a lesson in stage technique, Balanchine worked unexpected rehearsal events into the choreography. When one student fell, he incorporated it into the dance; another day, a student arrived late, and this too became part of the ballet. Balanchine is famous also for his table talk and witty aphorisms: "God creates, I do not create. I assemble and I steal everywhere to do it - from what I see, from what the dancers can do, from what others do" and "I disagree with everybody but I don't even want to argue” and “Someone once said that dancers work just as hard as policemen, always alert, always tense. But I don't agree with that because policemen don't have to look beautiful at the same time.” When a young choreographer sought his advice, he said, "Just keep making dances. Every now and then you'll make a good one." Good advice for poets, too. Happy Birthday! -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
Do male poets have crushes on female poems? Maybe, but the reverse is also true, and the old canard that male poetry editors like it when the women talk dirty implies bad faith on the part of the males and bad morals on the part of the females and is as reductive as concluding from a man's appreciation of, say, Marianne Moore's poems that the chap likes scholarly and quaint. There's more to Moore than that, and a poem with the tits to start "Fuck me" is daring not so much because of the grab-you opening but because that's a high standard of intensity for the rest of the poem to live up to. Do (some) male poets have a weakness (or a yen) for lustful poems by women on the order of Olena Kalytiak Davis, Jill Alexander Essbaum, Kim Addonizio, Jennifer L. Knox, Nin Andrews, Deborah Landau, Moira Egan, Cynthia Hungtington, Sharon Olds? Sure, but the length of that list and the fact that it could be twice as long lead to a different explanation, and I would argue that female sexuality is an area of experience that had not until recently been explored quite as candidly and with language as frank and sometimes even deliberately crude as you find in the best American erotic poetry. After the 1960s you could tell there was a void in the literature and you knew you could do something about it. Taking advantage of the opportunity, talented women have given us some wonderful erotic poems. Now the idea of "gendering" neutral objects fascinates me. In Grench and Ferman, I mean French and German, the nouns are grammatically either masculine or feminine. I believe this is for arcane reasons having more to do with signs than with meanings, and there are oddities aplenty -- in French the word for the female breast (sein) is masculine and the word for the male chest (poitrine) is feminine. There was always a semantic difference between gender and sex, and though it has been obscured tremendously in recent usage, it's a pity if the distinction is lost, and "the difference between gender and sex" has real possibilities as a title. That said, don't you love the idea of assigning a sex to the parts of speech -- or to individual poems? Please then, dear reader, guess the sexual identity of the following works: "Ode on a Grecian Urn." "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking." "The Waste Land." "In Memoriam." "The Sick Rose." Though all were written by men, I'd say at least one of these is female. Read The Iliad and you are in a universe that is male and tragic. Read The Odyssey and you are in a universe that is female and comic. Mark Van Doren said that. The Odyssey has the greatest cast of female characters: Calypso, Nausikaa, Circe, Athena, and Penelope. But that is just one reason The Odyssey is feminine. A more challenging case is that of "To His Coy Mistress" (Andrew... Continue reading
Posted Jan 21, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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As news of the of the Friday, November 13, 2015 attacks in Paris spread, a friend wrote me that she “was heart broken”. Another wrote, “Those crazy bastards!”. I was inclined to agree with the characterization, but the sentiment perplexed me. How could some crazy bastards break a heart? I have since been de-perplexed. Looking back, the break began, with an eentsy teensy tear in the fabric, on Tuesday, November 17th. It was then I saw for the first time the infantry! patrol! passing through the Square du Salamandre. Automatic weapons unslung and safeties OFF, helmeted, with semi-crouched point man, radio guy and wary rear guard, six boys pass through, attentively scanning roofs, scrutinizing windows and doorways. Pre-school kids, also boys, are running between, around them, oblivious, laughing, yelling their heads off. From benches here and there, mothers watch the puppyish brouhaha. They nod, call Bonjour!, smile, wave timidly at the patrol … They are maybe trying to make these smooth-faced agents of War feel grown up? I can’t not smile: does experience make these good women fear the uniformed ones might suddenly decide to join the littler ones? Better safe then sorry! In the evening, I go to the movies. There is a full-enough house and I have no trouble sniggering at Crazy Amy. On Wednesday, November 18th, at five in the morning, I wake in pre-dawn vagueness, sleep fled for the day. I get up and go quietly to the the living room. I like to console myself with the bored drone of the radio when I wake early like this. I snap it on. I become an unwilling, astonished long-distance witness to machine gun rattle, rocket whoosh and high-explosive whoomp. Waco-Texas-style, the police and army are in a firefight with armed religious fanatics in the center of the near-north suburb of St. Denis, near the renowned Basilique de Saint Denis, the most luminous Gothic church in the whole wide world. I go back to Karine. At my touch, she turns over, opens her wide eyes, takes my hand and puts it to her cheek. She was already awake. The sound and fury at Saint Denis keeps pounding out of the radio. I think of Ed Sheeran’s line in “Tenerife Sea”: We are surrounded by all of these lies/ And people who talk too much. I would like to fly away from here. But where can we go, really? I think of Macbeth. Macbeth is a crazy bastard just like these: murdering because he’s feeling powerless and blaming a woman he loves in more ways than he can admit for the poor results he achieves. I tend to forget the would-be King’s misogynist grievance because Sam Johnson’s version of the play makes him a Christian doing himself an evil by way of a woman’s temptation thus encouraging good. But, as my personal, unchristian, edition of the Wadsworth (Ohio) Shakespeare clearly shows, Macbeth was a just another sad jerk-off with a serious internal girlie-problem: (Macbeth enters) Baron de Tracy:... Continue reading
Posted Jan 19, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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photo (c) Stacey Lehman To His Coy Mistress Andrew Marvell, 1621 - 1678 Had we but world enough, and time, This coyness, Lady, were no crime. We would sit down and think which way To walk and pass our long love’s day. Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide Of Humber would complain. I would Love you ten years before the Flood, And you should, if you please, refuse Till the conversion of the Jews. My vegetable love should grow Vaster than empires, and more slow; An hundred years should go to praise Thine eyes and on thy forehead gaze; Two hundred to adore each breast; But thirty thousand to the rest; An age at least to every part, And the last age should show your heart; For, Lady, you deserve this state, Nor would I love at lower rate. But at my back I always hear Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near; And yonder all before us lie Deserts of vast eternity. Thy beauty shall no more be found, Nor, in thy marble vault, shall sound My echoing song: then worms shall try That long preserved virginity, And your quaint honour turn to dust, And into ashes all my lust: The grave’s a fine and private place, But none, I think, do there embrace. Now therefore, while the youthful hue Sits on thy skin like morning dew, And while thy willing soul transpires At every pore with instant fires, Now let us sport us while we may, And now, like amorous birds of prey, Rather at once our time devour Than languish in his slow-chapt power. Let us roll all our strength and all Our sweetness up into one ball, And tear our pleasures with rough strife Thorough the iron gates of life: Thus, though we cannot make our sun Stand still, yet we will make him run. -sdh Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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If you take a walk around out of doors and are attentive in Paris, you will see that lots of people seem to have dogs. Perhaps you might even have noticed myself au chien, tee-shirt, hoodie and skintight jeans, huddling against the elements. But probably not. On the other hand, you would have noticed Karine.If you take a walk around out of doors and are attentive in Paris, you will see that lots of people seem to have dogs. Perhaps you might even have noticed myself au chien, tee-shirt, hoodie and skintight jeans, huddling against the elements. But probably not. The reason for the distinction is simple. ‘Though thoroughly respectable, I do not look so. On the other hand, not so respectable as I feel myself, I fear, Karine looks good, even in skintight jeans. In the superficial World we have been thrust into, mere physical attractiveness counts for more than solid moralism. I’ve lodged many a complaint about this, but it hasn’t so far done any good. So. Under the influence certain cartoons, you may imagine that these Parisian canines belonging mostly to good-looking women are also mostly a sort of poodle, caniches. But, superficiality notwithstanding, the World, not yet being a cartoon (though, by Jesus, we can sometimes wonder) is also one still happily at a bit of a short remove from the popular Imagination. Keats and Coleridge, along with Warner-Disney-Spielberg Imaginatronismo, also notwithstanding, Imagination is a backwoodsman’s broom closet compared to the great sparkling constellation of World out there on the sidewalk, also notwithstanding Dogpoopismo, Trumpismo, Terrorismo & grouchy neighbors. In the World these days, a caniche is usually either a canine companion of any race or a homo sapiens arse licker, both in the sense of “lapdog”. As you can see in Maïtena Barret’s portrait of a Parisienne, your lapdog doesn’t even have to fit snugly in the lap. And, if you are not faking your attentiveness, you might be able to see from Barret’s portrait of a Parisien that men can also have caniches, or, at least, if asked nicely, can take care of their lady friends’ canines. Finally, as Madeleine Lemaire’s 19th-century portrait of Collette Dumas shows (above), poodles have never had an especially privileged place among the French capital’s Beau monde, at least in the Republican period. Barrett paints her contemporaries with and without crocodiles, monkeys, and lapdogs. I sometimes think it all might come down to the same thing – my beloved peers being at the same time crocodiles, monkeys & lapdogs, I mean. However, I am sure that Barret’s clear, ocean-grey eyes see none of this dark cogitation. At least, her hands don’t paint it. So that’s the World as it is; so much for cartoons and paltry Imagination. As a fact, and quite apart from having had to walk one from time to time, the real-World caniche parisien has affected me, ‘though I did not acknowledge it as my personal savior. Nobody ever did notice me out there in the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 13, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
For the last fifteen weeks, we have worked on a sonnet -- publicly, collaboratively, courtesy of the "Next Line, Please" feature on The American Scholar website. Here is the winning sonnet. We wrote he poem line-by-line and had a lot of intellectual fun doing so. If you click here, you will get an explanation of the title and the rules of the game as it evolved. Jailbreak Our dreams as disparate as our days uniform, We crave a lovely scandal with someone well-known; Midnight champagne, penthouse lit by thunderstorm, In this version of darkness, we are never alone. If marriage is a cage, we can force the lock, but he Clutches the key, a jailer too stubborn to learn To read the graffiti. If need be, he can turn A bouquet to a wreath. Then we will be Two mourners arguing terms of interment. We must Appease our lust, our momentary bliss subject to The rules of engagement. The conflicts of lust. Just Look at the way they look at us. As though we're too Precipitous with a plot, as if we can Dig up the words to write the wrongs of man. The poem's authors are Michael C. Rush, Angela Ball, Elizabeth Solsburg, Christine Rhein, Patricia Smith, Paul Michelson, "Poem Today," Berwyn Moore, Joe Lawlor, Brandon Crist, Charise Hoge, David Lehman, and Millicent Caliban. A pseudonym -- and who knows, maybe even a heteronym -- is in the works. Continue reading
Posted Jan 12, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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This week we welcome Karen Steinmetz as our guest author. Karen is a poet and novelist. Her poems have appeared in The Cortland Review, Coal Hill Review, Southern Poetry Review, The Midwest Quarterly, So To Speak: a Feminist Journal of Language and Art, Illuminations, Poet Lore, and the Still Against War anthologies published by Jamie Stern, Nan Lombardi, and Catherine Woodard in honor of Marie Ponsot. Her poetry manuscript, Little Heretic Gods, was a finalist for the 2010 Washington Prize and a semi-finalist for the Four Way Books Intro Prize. Her young adult novel, The Mourning Wars, was published by Roaring Brook Press/Macmillan in 2010. She earned her B.A from New York University and her MA and MFA in poetry from Manhattanville College, where she currently teaches. Karen Steinmetz lives in the Hudson Valley, where she raised two children, Andrew and Kate with her husband Donald, a painter and environmentalist. Welcome, Karen. -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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DD: The entry for “American Poetry” in an old edition of the Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics reads: “The often idiosyncratic strength, boldness, and ambition of American poetry derives from two interrelated factors: its problematic and often marginalized relationship to American society, and the lack of a defined and established literary class, culture, and audience.” You have published many strong, bold, and ambitious books of poetry in the past twelve years. Can you talk about how Write Bloody Publishing engages these problems of authorship and audience? DB: Literary class sounds very Princeton, doesn’t it? I imagine it was written over flakey, buttered crumpets and a warm goblet of peasant blood. Write Bloody has an aesthetic and a belief guide for what gets chosen to go out into the world based off my personal taste and sense of boredom. I like people who live their ass off. I like the working class. I don’t believe in the sometimes masturbatory circle of academia lifting up only it’s peers into circles of acclaim. We recognized a problem: many poetry shows were very boring and not very authentic to the power of poetry. Tons of authors were writing about witnessing life’s grandeur and then would drone at a live reading for an hour, slobbering into podium mics like the world’s worst lovers. Their fellow professor’s would hem and haw, proud of the confusion. Poetry is not precious. Guitars shouldn’t only be revered in Opera houses. I found, through travel, there was a tribe of ‘underground’ authors who were writing well on the page and reading well out loud and I thought that this formula, along with the mandate of touring to build a fan base, could send a lightning bolt right through the butthole of the current poetry scene. It worked. It hurt, but it worked. DD: How did Write Bloody come into being? DB: It was a lie. I was on a few other small presses and they were all folding. I had my first German tour coming up in 2001 or 2002 and I tried to buy old stock for the tour, but it was destroyed. I was allowed to reprint all my poems and tried to hunt for a printer who would get them rolling for tour. I found one in Ohio that gave discounts to publishers and said, “oh, um, yes. I’m a publisher.” My buddy made a fake website called “write bloody,” which was a Derrick Brown tour t-shirt slogan and I found Buddy Wakefield. He had a book cover and design that I felt wasn’t so hot and I offered to help him too. I went full time with it in 2004. DD: Write Bloody has published over 111 books and 40 eBooks in the past twelve years. That seems like a breakneck pace! How do you do it? How many books do you publish in an average year? DB: We published 2 the first year. Then I realized I needed help and I hired two freelancers... Continue reading
Posted Jan 9, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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PHOTO: LETTERING BY ANGELA SOUTHERN; F. MARTIN RAMIN/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (BOTTLE) 1. The Background Frank Sinatra discovered Jack Daniel’s one sleepless night in the early 1940s. “It’s been the oil to my engine ever since,” he later said. He famously praised “anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers or Jack Daniel’s.” Frank always kept a bottle nearby, offstage, and he was buried with a flask of JD in his casket. In her autobiography, Judith Campbell Exner—the moll who was mistress to both John F. Kennedy and the head of the Chicago mob—recalled a day spent with Sinatra. He “acknowledged the comings and goings of an endless string of visitors, growled at flunkies, drank martinis, ate lunch, drank Jack Daniel’s, ate hors d’oeuvres, drank Jack Daniel’s, ate dinner, and drank more Jack Daniel’s.” By the mid-1960s, Sinatra could drink a fifth of Jack Daniel’s and still go on stage. Like any respectable Sinatra aficionado, I’ve imbibed my share of Tennessee’s trademark sour mash whiskey. And as the author of a new book titled “Sinatra’s Century,” I had extra incentive to try the latest ultra-premium Jack Daniel’s bottle, sent to me by my editor at The Wall Street Journal. Called, by coincidence, Sinatra Century, the limited-edition 100-proof whiskey was aged in 100 “alligator-charred” oak barrels (so called for their scaly interior surface, the deepest of all the chars used to impart flavor and color to the liquor). It hit shelves in October, in plenty of time for toasts to Frank Sinatra on his 100th birthday, December 12, 2015. I wrote my book because I’ve loved the singer’s voice, musical savvy and definitive versions of standards ever since I heard “All the Way” and “Witchcraft” on the radio when I was 8 or 9. Timing it to the centennial, I wrote the book in 100 parts, because Sinatra’s career ran parallel to and threw into relief what Henry Luce called the “American century,” and because the century is the perfect form for a subject with so many facets. Continue reading over at the Wall Street Journal. Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
Before the sixth day of the next new year, Strange wonders in this kingdom shall appear: Four kings shall be assembled in this isle, Where they shall keep great tumult for awhile. Many men then shall have an end of crosses, And many likewise shall sustain great losses; Many that now full joyful are and glad, Shall at that time be sorrowful and sad; Full many a Christian's heart shall quake for fear, The dreadful sound of trump when he shall hear. Dead bones shall then be tumbled up and down, In every city and in every town. By day or night this tumult shall not cease, Until an herald shall proclaim a peace; An herald strong, the like was never born, Whose very beard is flesh and mouth is horn – Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) "On the Cards and Dice" is my favorite poem by the redoubtable Sir Walter Raleigh. What I admire most is the sustained metaphorical ingenuity and the slippage in the analogy between games of chance (cards and dice) and the events of the Christian calendar culminating in the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. The poem achieves a stirring and ominous effect, rising to a prophetic level, though at its base it is merely a vivid description of men playing poker (or bridge) and throwing dice. The implicit relation between gambling and religion is the poem's secret power.-- DL Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
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We kick off 2016 with Tara Skurtu as our guest author. Tara is a Boston-based poet, teacher, and translator currently living in Romania, where she teaches creative writing as a Fulbright grantee. She is the recipient of two Academy of American Poets prizes and a Robert Pinsky Global Fellowship, and her recent poems appear or are forthcoming in The Kenyon Review, Plume, Poetry Review, Poetry Wales, Memorious,The Common, and Tahoma Literary Review. She has recently completed her first manuscript of poems, The Amoeba Game. Find out more about Tara at her website: www.taraskurtu.com . Follow her on twitter @taraskurtu Welcome, Tara. Happy New Year. -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2016 at The Best American Poetry