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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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Look for Remus in the index of a book And you are bound to get “See Romulus” Which is perfectly logical but makes me wonder About indexes, or indices, and why I prefer the former As the plural except in a financial context, and how An index to a book that may not exist may imply A whole biography, as my friend Paul Violi Showed in his poem “Index.” My late friend Paul Violi, whom I still see in the street Sometimes, walking along at an unhurried pace So if I walk fast I will catch up to him at the corner Before the light turns green. -- David Lehman (2013 An avid student of history, Paul was born on 20 July 1944, an historic day; the day the plot to take Hitler's life failed. From an interview (with Martin Stannard, May 2004): "I was quite happy to get the award but it was that "'lifetime' modifier -- 'Lifetime Bereavement' is what I also heard. Sounded more like a gong than a bell. A 'Hey, don't rush me!' reaction. The check hasn't arrived yet. Now that always has a rejuvenating effect." "The main thing about the NY School was the openness, the adventurousness, the links with artists and painting." "There are poems I've been reading for decades and they're still giving me reasons to read them again. Keats' 'On First Looking at Chapman's Homer' -- That's magnificence! Images of vast silence used to describe astonishment at a "loud and bold" voice. Not bad for a 21-year old." Michael Quattrone's profile of Paul Violi appeared in Jacket. A brief excerpt: "Sixty-six West Twelfth Street. Paul Violi wears a Harris Tweed jacket over a pale blue Oxford shirt, a pair of chinos and practical leather shoes. He looks decidedly sheveled, although he has been shuttling between uptown and downtown campuses all day. He has just had another espresso and a smoke. He has made some last minute photocopies for this evening’s workshop, which will begin at eight. His sheaf of papers includes the student work that caught his fancy this week, as well as sample poems by Gregory Corso, Rudyard Kipling, Sir Philip Sidney, and Stephen Dunn. On a different day it might be Mayakovsky, Robert Herrick, Rilke and Verlaine." "The critic Terence Diggory, whose readings Violi admires, was the first to posit that Violi acts the part of Renaissance Fool. That characterization of the poems is appealing because it accounts for their humor without neglecting the more serious concerns of craft or depth. In a review of Breakers, Diggory writes, ‘The spirit of spoof is so prevalent in Violi’s work that it is easy to mistake it for mere game playing.’ He adds that the work ‘reveals serious aesthetic, cultural, even metaphysical implications.’" "A partial inventory of the mundane forms Violi has poetically adapted includes: a page of errata, a glossary, a multiple choice exam, and a survival guide; the notes of a naturalist, an elevator notice, mock histories, mock translations,... Continue reading
Posted 4 hours ago at The Best American Poetry
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<<< The American poet John Ashbery, who turns 90 this month, is often figured as the epitome of cosmopolitan sophistication – as a refined but radical innovator whose open-ended lyrics and narrative-free long poems refract and dramatize the anxieties of postmodernity. Doyen of the avant-garde Ashbery may have become, and yet, as Karin Roffman demonstrates in this illuminating account of his early life, the originality of his poetic idiom owes as much to his provincial rural upbringing, and to the compound of guilt and nostalgia that was its legacy, as it does to his embrace of the experimental in New York and Paris. Ashbery’s parents, Chester and Helen, ran a fruit farm about a mile south of Lake Ontario, where winters are long and snowy. Chet, as his father was known, could be ill tempered. “He used to wallop me a great deal,” Ashbery recalled in an interview, “so I felt always as though I were living on the edge of a live volcano.” I’ve often wondered if the evasiveness of Ashbery’s poetry, its habit of tiptoeing or sliding around a crisis in states ranging from mild apprehension to ominous foreboding, reflects the simmering domestic tensions of these early years. Young Ashbery escaped whenever he could to the reassuring home of his maternal grandparents, Henry and Addie Lawrence, who were more interested in artistic and intellectual matters. Indeed, since there was no kindergarten in Sodus, the small town nearest to the Ashbery homestead, he spent much of the first seven years of his life living in Rochester with Addie and Henry, who was a professor of physics at the university. It was there he developed a taste for reading, poring over The Child’s Book of Poetry in his grandparents’ well-stocked library, as well as Things to Make and Things to Do, a volume affectionately parodied in his first great long poem, “The Skaters”. >>> Continue here. Continue reading
Posted 9 hours ago at The Best American Poetry
a real concern may turn out in a dream as “to be continued” or make you sleep soundly for being common currency splintering off café tables where free-lance shrinks keep office spreading patter butter out of which “sex,” the word, pops up at a higher or lower octave like a pigeon pretending to ignore the fallen crumb of pizza shining nearby. so that’s what you sound like, new york, no different than you always sounded, though more at ease with pop-psych lingo, and maybe less ability to tie your shoelace or another’s without talk. In my absence you have acquired a lot of bla-blah underwear. Newsprint and screens obscure “sex,” the thing not the word, but what do I know? I can afford to be alone, deliciously alone, and when I gain the street I am with others tripping over their shoelaces to get to their café therapists where they can tie their shoelaces together. Unless they are working for the city with health benefits uppermost in mind. When these employees want sex they pay for it. They wear work boots tightly laced. Dear city, the same always, making twisted nothings and steel towers. I spent time in america and I can feel your shoelace coming loose -- Andrei Codrescu Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
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This week we're thrilled to welcome Richard Kutner as our guest author. Richard graduated from Yale University with a major in French Literature. His translations from French to English include After the Roundup: Escape and Survival in Hitler's France by Joseph Weismann (Indiana University Press, 2017). Now 85, Weissman is a survivor of the 1942 Vél' d'Hiv Roundup in Paris. His story inspired the French film, La Rafle. Richard has also translated the novel Fear of Paradise by Vincent Engel (Owl Canyon Press, 2015), three Greek myths, and three graphic novels. He was awarded a Hemingway Grant from the Book Department of the French Embassy for his translation of Cast Away on the Letter A by Fred (TOON Graphics 2013). Richard also works in the other direction and has translated 31 songs for Disneyland Paris, an entertainment website, and four Ghanaian folktales from English to French. Richard taught at the United Nations International School in New York City for 33 years. He and his wife, Lynn, live in Manhattan, a short subway ride from both their sons. This year he began to translate and summarize nineteenth-century French letters at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. Welcome, Richard. -- sdl Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
All my exes wish they lived by the ocean. We wear boots on the firm sand as you blend in, lack of color, blue and gray liquid revolving, I think maybe I could live here too for a while. I smile as our dreams lace like red crabs on the seafloor, we are lacing undetected by light, scurrying across oceans- Baja California, farther South now to Panama. I am searching for your flaws in my magnifying glass, revolving optical clarity, tiny squares in search of color. It is revealed to me in a flood of carnation, spectacles color my list of pros and cons, I find I am wearing bright lace under all this density of choice. We resolve to bring our drinks out on the ocean. My submarine eyes cannot stop examining you, scarlet invertebrate, we too, are juvenile, abundance of enthusiasm, we too must eventually settle into a melting pot of color. This new southern extreme aggregated by you pulling at my ends like lace strands, swarming in heat, an El Niño in my oceans our moons and tides revolve, your whiskey and smoke revolves around our ecosystem. Some vital point depends on the two of us upwelling from the bottom of the ocean floor, our faces drained of color, where spotlights blind us near the seamount, me laced in patchworked fragments of you. This phenomenon is not new to you, who dreams in waves of rolling hypnic jerks. A sleep paralysis of cola laced bursts of bourbon on your tongue, I too am not innocent in all this amnesia of color, the tail-end of a successful recruitment in our ocean. You, washed up on a San Diego beach, and I was there too, revolving amid clouds of sediment, another anomaly of color, Our spiked legs laced in bitterness, no longer submerged in a sheen. Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at The Best American Poetry
On the day I went to visit Dostoevsky's grave... it rained. It rained that cold & constant Petrograd rain that gets between your bones and the meat. I thought to get out of the rain at the Moskva Intourist Hotel. My Russian blue overcoat was wet white sneakers soaked muddy brown at the ends. As I went in a big guy in a blue blazer looked down at my shoes and shouted at me in Russian "You, where you going..." (Ti— Kooda!) I said I wanted to buy a magazine & he turned me around hand big as a rump roast on my chest "go on, go on, get out... ". With my wronged American self image my Russian faltered: "but what but why can't I how buy magazine..." In that moment he realized I wasn't Russian and in clear English: "Excuse me, sir, the newsstand is on the second floor." -- Bruce Isaacson Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at The Best American Poetry
All I can think about is her shiny, golden retriever hair, falling down her back. I can’t believe you share a dog with someone. I lied when I said I was allergic. I wonder if sometimes, when you’re fucking her from behind, you mistake her for me. It makes me want to dye my hair brown. Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Penso che un sogno così non ritorni mai più Mi dipingevo le mani e la faccia di blu Poi d'improvviso venivo dal vento rapito E incominciavo a volare nel cielo infinito Volare. . .oh oh Cantare, ohohoho... Nel blu dipinto di blu Felice di stare lassù "No wonder my happy heart sings, Your love has given me wings" Segue "Do they take 'em for espresso Yeah, I guess so On each lover's arm a girl I wish I knew So meet me in the plaza Near your casa" Continue reading
Posted Jul 7, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Selections from Moscow’s Argument & Fact which, with a circulation of 15 million, is the world's most widely read newspaper. -1- I am 85 years old. I'm in love with the TV serial "Los Ricos Tambien Lloran" —"The Rich Also Weep"— and I'm not sure I'll live to see the end. I promise to leave my legacy to the person who can tell me when and how it ends. —Address & Name Published -2- I know 86 methods of fraud. I will trade one for another or sell the entire collection. —Address Published -3- I am sick. I can't walk or go out far. Doctors say a cure is possible if I can have someone close to love. I'd like to meet a man who will love me as I am. I am 18 years old. I can do everything with my hands: cook food, wash clothes, clean an apartment. Who are you? Student? Soldier? Released from prison? Orphan? Be a kind man. Be close to me. —Alyona Phone Number & Address Published -4- A drunk doctor in an ambulance dragged me when I was unconscious to the morgue. When I woke up I saw Terrible Things. I will tell all to all who want to hear. —Address Given -5- I'm looking for partners in a mobile slaughterhouse. When private slaughterhouses kill their livestock they lose the stomach and the blood. I have an idea for a better system. Contact me at... —His family name, "Conovoleev", translates roughly as "horse doctor". -6- I did my time in prison for killing my unfaithful wife. I've taken my daughters from a boarding school and want to begin a new life. Family and friends have turned away from me. I want to find other people who've had troubles to help me start again. Merciful & kind Allah will help you on Judgment Day. -7- I am 112. I feel great. My loving wife is 106. We've been married for 90 years. For all those who want the secret of this life contact... —Address given for Tblisi, Georgia, which I've since unfortunately misplaced. -- Bruce Isaacson Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
George Balanchine loved America. This Russian émigré choreographer, who founded the New York City Ballet with Lincoln Kirstein, delighted in everything from the songs of George Gershwin to the city's ''Don't Walk'' signs. When asked why he why he would choreograph to the marches of John Phillip Sousa, as he did for "Stars and Stripes," Balanchine replied, "because he makes me happy." On January 25, 1981, just five days after the American hostages were released from Iran, Balanchine added "Stars and Stripes" to program, as a special encore. It remains one of my favorite ballets. It is in this country that Balanchine was able to make his great contributions to dance. It pains me to think that there might be another Balanchine waiting to get here so his or her gifts can find their full expression on our shores. Here are highlights from Stars & Stripes. Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
A Palestinian Novel Unearths Dirty Secrets in the Arab World / by JOUMANA HADDAD / July 3, 2017 We are a people of dirty secrets hiding beneath a veil of fake morality. That’s the first thought that came to mind when I read about the banning of the novel Crime in Ramallah by the Palestinian author Abbad Yahya, and about the death threats he has been receiving. Published this year and the fourth book by Mr. Yahya, the novel narrates the everyday lives of three young men (Raouf, Nour and Wissam) in the West Bank city of Ramallah. The Palestinian Authority’s attorney general banned it in February because it contained indecent texts and terms that endangered morality and public decency. Some Palestinians have even threatened to burn bookstores selling the novel. When I heard the news, I immediately went out and bought a copy. Because I live in Beirut, the freedom haven of the Arab Middle East, this proved easy. That evening, I started reading Crime in Ramallah and did not stop until I finished it. It was refreshingly genuine. It did not shy away from exposing the ugliness, the desperateness, the corruption, the loss of purpose, the unavoidable wrong turns and the uncomfortable truths of life in Ramallah after the second intifada. The sexual fragments are quite graphic, which was surprising and exhilarating. An Arab author writing about a homosexual character (Nour) enjoying oral sex, to cite but one example, is not something we encounter often. But, as the response to the book has shown, there can be no homosexuals in a reality-obliterating Arab world, where real manhood is defined by a chauvinist heterosexuality. Continued here from The New York Times, July 3, 2017. Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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It is July 4th in The Great Escape and in the POW camp dominated by Brits, Steve McQueen lifts his glass of homemade rotgut and says "Independence." In one word he characterize an entire way of life. We observe the privileges of freedom and independence on a day when we must also remember that the fruits of freedom begin with peace and that a hallmark of peace is civility in discourse and an agreement to respect ourselves by respecting each other. The great music in The Great Escape was written by Elmer Bernstein. << Poets tend to be more in love with love, with ideas, with death, or with the details of their own autobiographies-in-progress than in peace, or health, or well-being as a subject in its own right. Peace in poetry is the necessary but only implied backdrop for all productive human endeavors. I sometimes think of William Carlos Williams as the one modern poet whose collected works seem a hymn to peace as the ground condition that makes all else possible, beauty included. I have wondered whether this may be because he preferred things to ideas. He captures fragments of being: plums in a paper bag or in the ice-box, a young housewife, flowers and farm implements, people at a ballgame, rain, a cat in its stealth, an eight-foot strip of copper, the “rank odor of a passing springtime.” But before I get carried away, Bob Hass reminds me that Williams could also be warlike; he wrote enthusiastically about the cleansing blaze of violence in “Burning the Christmas Greens” (1944). In the poem, green turns into ash, and we stand there “breathless to be witnesses, / as if we stood / ourselves refreshed among / the shining fauna of that fire.” Poems of war announce themselves as such; poems of peace do not invariably do so. An exception is Kenneth Koch’s long poem “The Pleasures of Peace,” which he wrote in the late 1960s when the Vietnam War was raging and poets felt a tremendous pressure to write anti-war poems or take part in protest rallies. Many bad antiwar poems were written at this time. Political urgency leads often to poetical triteness. Koch’s solution to the problem was to write a joyful poem not an angry one, radiating pleasure, not scorn or detestation. The madcap poem affirms that the natural state of man is peace, not war. In a last,valedictory stanza, boats sail and apes run and the sun shines for peace, and monkeys climb for peace, and serpents writhe for peace, and “the Alps, Mount Vesuvius, all the really big important mountains / Are rising for peace.” The poem reaches its highest level of pathos when the poet punctuates his closing peroration with a plea, not a prediction: “Surely it won’t be long.” >>> For more of the essay "Peace and War in American Poetry," written at the behest of the Library of Congress, click here. Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Weather Report by Sharon Preiss In the year of our lord, zip code 12198, in the summer Of abstract art, I wrote a book. It read like this: Her name is Nina, her name is Sandra, his name is Lane. They dislike each other equally under the same roof. C’est la vie. At least it’s a roof. And god said, “Let it be 48°,” and it was so. And god said, “Let it be 91°,” and it was done. And god said, “Let it all happen in a 24 hour span,” And Upstate New York was born. And god saw the people grumble, but he let it go, Because, for crying out loud, it’s only weather. Did the hate grow deeper that summer? Did Rothko and Calder and Nevelson learn to live side by side? Did the people come to blows? Do we really love New York? Which roof and which zip code should we live under? Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Best American Poetry readers who pledge/pre-order from the book’s webpage will have their names included in the back of the special hardcover edition. This offer extends to readers who pledge before the end of the end of July. Use promo code: yahia17 Yahia Lababidi, whose work has appeared in these pages, is an Egyptian immigrant and bewildered Muslim in Trump’s America seeking to do some good through his art. His new book – Where Epics Fail – is a work of hope, peace and healing for our wounded world. Lababidi writes that he chose the title, based on a Persian proverb: “Epigrams succeed where epics fail.” His subtitle, Art, Morality and the Life of the Spirit refers to three life-giving spheres of our existence where, Lababidi believes, the grand narratives seem to be failing to hold our attention or capture our imagination. Instead, this is where he hopes his own epigrams might succeed. Lababidi began writing aphorisms as a teenager in Egypt, more than twenty years ago. Aphorisms may read like headlines, but they contain stories, too—inviting readers of sensitivity and conscience to breathe life into them, by living at a higher level of consciousness. Composed over the past decade or so, Epics, is Lababidi's second collection of aphorisms, featuring over 800 of his elegant brief arts–many of which have gone viral online, been translated internationally, and used in classrooms. Epics will be published by Unbound (UK), the world’s first crowd-funding publisher, in partnership with Penguin Random House. The term “aphorism” comes from the Greek “Aphorismos.” Hippocrates, a Greek physician of the Age of Pericles (450 BCE to 380 BCE), is reportedly the first person to use the term. According to Oxford Dictionary, an aphorism is defined as: “a pithy observation which contains a general truth; a concise statement of scientific principle.” As novelist Kris Saknussemm writers in Epics’ Introduction: The aphorism may well be regarded as one of the oldest literary forms, and yet, in this age of Facebook memes, text messages, and sound bites, it may be the most accessible and relevant form of literary expression there is. Where Epics Fail is generously endorsed by poets and intellectuals, including Richard Blanco, Barack Obama’s inaugural poet. Blanco refers to Lababidi as the “current-day master” of aphorisms. Blanco goes on to describe Lababidi’s aphorisms as “simple, natural gestures, that in fact hold multitudes of meaning rooted in the eternal.” Poet Sharon Dolin appears to agree: “His aphorisms could form a new gnostic religion, and I could dwell a long while inside them. Yahia Lababidi may be our greatest living aphorist.” Recently, Lababidi’s book of short meditations was featured on PBS Newshour: The aphorisms in “Where Epics Fail” exhort us to pay attention, believe we can make a difference, keep our hearts open in the face of pain, take responsibility for our actions, avoid ego and do the hard work that comes with sticking to ideals. Epics is Lababidi’s seventh book. His first book of aphorisms – Signposts to Elsewhere, was... Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Listen to this praise of Lydia the tattooed lady, the most glorious creature under the sun: "She has eyes that folks adore so and a torso even more so. . ." in The Marx Brothers At the Circus (1939) On her back is the battle of Waterloo! When a robe is unfurled she will show you the world! If you tell her where she'll show you Washington crossing the Delaware! Here is Captain Spalding exploring the Amazon -- Here's Godiva but with her pajamas on -- You can learn a lot from Lydia! music by Harold Arlen words by Yip Harburg Lemonade! Romance! The World's Fair of 1900 marked down from 1940 a happy way to start your day Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
I've always been deeply moved by Frank Sinatra's original recording of this song (music Earl Robinson, lyrics Abel Meeropol under the pen name Lewis Allan. You can find it here.) but this version by Paul Robeson is also beautiful and worth sharing: THE HOUSE I LIVE IN (1947) What is America to me? A name, a map or a flag I see, A certain word, "Democracy", What is America to me? The house I live in, The friends that I have found, The folks beyond the railroad and the people all around, The worker and the farmer, the sailor on the sea, The men who built this country, that's America to me. The words of old Abe Lincoln, of Jefferson and Paine, of Washington and Jackson and the tasks that still remain. The little bridge at Concord, where Freedom's Fight began, of Gettysburg and Midway and the story of Bataan. The house I live in, my neighbors White and Black, the people who just came here or from generations back, the town hall and the soapbox, the torch of Liberty, a home for all God's children, that's America to me. The house I live in, the goodness everywhere, a land of wealth and beauty with enough for all to share. A house that we call "Freedom", the home of Liberty, but especially the people, that's America to me. But especially the people--that's the true America... -- sdl Continue reading
Posted Jul 2, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Once a jolly swagman camped by a billabong Under the shade of a coolibah tree, And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled: "You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me." Chorus: Waltzing Matilda, waltzing Matilda You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me And he sang as he watched and waited till his billy boiled: "You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me." Down came a jumbuck to drink at that billabong. Up jumped the swagman and grabbed him with glee. And he sang as he shoved that jumbuck in his tucker bag: "You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me." (Chorus) Up rode the squatter, mounted on his thoroughbred. Down came the troopers, one, two, and three. "Who's the jolly jumbuck you've got in your tucker bag? You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me." (Chorus) Up jumped the swagman and sprang into the billabong. "You'll never catch me alive!" said he And his ghost may be heard as you pass by that billabong: "You'll come a-waltzing Matilda, with me." Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
It's witchcraft wicked witchcraft when Elvis came home from the army and he and Sinatra sang this duet What a thrill For my darling I love you and I always will Continue reading
Posted Jul 1, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Wall Street has “headline risk”—the possibility that bad news will result in swift stock market corrections. Journalism has headline poetry. The ingenuity displayed in a headline limited to very few characters creates memorable lines that engrave themselves in the mind like prose haiku. The headline of a piece may be decisive in establishing the poem’s main meaning, its primary thrust. In its print issue of June 24, 2016, The Wall Street Journal ran my masterpiece column on Shelley’s Ozymandias under the heading “What Trumps Vain Boasts.” The editors, not the author, are responsible for the headlines and sub-heads, so I am not tooting my own horn in calling it a brilliant headline, and perfectly appropriate because “Ozymandias” deals a devastating blow to the boastful vanity of despots. Shelley’s sonnet presses the case for poetry as opposed to statuary – and for the spirit of art to triumph over the meanness of human nature as represented by the self-glorifying “King of Kings,” with his “sneer of cold command.” Here are the last five lines of Shelley’s great sonnet: ‘My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!’ Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away. About these lines I wrote that <<< . . . the magnificence of the poem’s conclusion goes beyond rhetoric. The disjunction between “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” and the curt sentence that follows, “Nothing beside remains,” is a breathtaking example of how a poet can use the line-break as a meaning-making mechanism. The phrase “colossal wreck,” a near oxymoron, is as landlocked in the poem’s last three lines as the ruined statue in the endless desert. The alliteration—“boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away”—smoothly conveys a sense of the vast continuous distance covered in that “stretch.” In “Ozymandias,” Shelley, the brash idealist, argues against tyranny itself—“the [ruler’s] frown, / And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command”—in the course of presenting the evidence that time defeats despots with their monumental vanity. >>> The segue to Emma Lazarus’s Statue of Liberty sonnet was a logical way to conclude: <<< “The New Colossus” (1883), Emma Lazarus’s stirring sonnet about the Statue of Liberty, borrows a rhyme from “Ozymandias” (stand, land, command) and invites us to read it as a rejoinder to Shelley’s sonnet. The statue in Lazarus’s poem is a replacement for the Colossus of Rhodes, “the brazen giant of Greek fame.” The great bronze monument to the sun god, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, stood in the harbor of Rhodes. (It crumbled in an earthquake in 226 B.C.) Not as a warrior with “conquering limbs” but as a woman with “mild eyes” and “silent lips,” the new colossus will stand as tall as the old, honoring not a god but an ideal that will make it a wonder of the modern world. The legend in Lazarus’s poem could... Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
is it Saturday morning —talking to a lover in bed? Nothing top-hits or big decisions I mean something windy and forgettable. Jazz breakfast. Construction alarm. That must be it. It can’t be the sun-rose skyline or the one-way ticket. Fuck that, it’s too easy. Liechtenstein for half an hour? It isn’t worth the stamp. Better to have stayed behind studying the bus driver’s jacket as he phones his daughter in Naples. Better to have stayed at home, tending to the five-dollar bodega flowers, dyed blue and still alive an entire month later. Those flowers, they’re free free so much as they are aware of their own artifice and stay in bloom anyway. Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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On June 23, 2017, the Wall Street Journal published David Lehman's essay "What Trumps Vain Boasts: Shelley’s ‘Ozymandias’ serves as a reminder that time mocks us all." The essay, part of the WSJ's "Masterpiece" series, sparked a lively debate in the comments. I've pasted them below and inserted a picture of Percy Bysshe Shelley. You can read the essay and add your comments here: -- SDH T. Tatka 3 days ago Percy created Ozymandias and his wife, Mary, created Frankenstein. A coincidence? David C Smith 4 days ago The poet struts his politics upon the little stage and then, his smirk dissolving in the weedy smoke, fades out. The statue stays. Richard Lentz 5 days ago Can't bear to see a story about poetry without making a haiku or two: Ozymandias Poster child for term limits Keeps his head in sand Sandstone erections Can not withstand erosion Trunkless man indeed. Tweets carved in sandstone Another faulty hard drive Our stuff’s in the cloud William Braun 5 days ago Even before I read the comments I knew - I just knew - people would turn this into a defense of Trump the president instead of the use of the verb 'trump'. Al Nunez 6 days ago I pray that my sons will read this and be as inspired and motivated to read more poetry and books that inspire and elevate and take the time to contemplate and wrestle with the imperfectness of life and strive to make this world a better place by being a better person. D Schultz 6 days ago A pity that the analysis of a "masterwork" has been subtly suborned for crassly partisan ends. Kathleen Adams 6 days ago Timeless truths for our times. Dwight Oxley 6 days ago One of the most beautiful of essays. Hats off to WSJ for printing this. Few, if any, other papers go this far. NAT IRVIN 6 days ago A powerful and timely reminder of the dangers of vanity not only in our would be rulers but those whose own vainglory would worship them, having forsook [sic] all sense of modesty, commonsense, and a sense of both time and place... cheers. JON NELSON 6 days ago This email has nothing to do with our president. Donald Trump is an extremely competent man who believes in himself and the United States. That is certainly not the definition of "vanity." Vincent Tedone 6 days ago @JON NELSON Well said. This author is promoting his own book what could be more Vain? Don Hudson 6 days ago @JON NELSON The "message" in Shelley's "Ozymandias" most certainly does apply to Mr Trump. The WSJ's inclusion of Shelley's sonnet is an ironic stroke of journalistic inspiration. It applies to all, but particularly to those who believe their power, their supreme competence, their force-of-will and their "works" are gifts to mankind. The message is, Time mocks hubris; the mighty always fall. Mr Trump would not know of or comprehend the scientific concept of entropy, but he... Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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It's my lunch hour, so I go for for a walk among the hum-colored cabs. First, down the sidewalk where laborers feed their dirty glistening torsos sandwiches and Coca-Cola, with yellow helmets on. They protect them from falling bricks, I guess. Then onto the avenue where skirts are flipping above heels and blow up over grates. The sun is hot, but the cabs stir up the air. I look at bargains in wristwatches. There are cats playing in sawdust. On to Times Square, where the sign blows smoke over my head, and higher the waterfall pours lightly. A Negro stands in a doorway with a toothpick, languorously agitating. A blonde chorus girl clicks: he smiles and rubs his chin. Everything suddenly honks: it is 12:40 of a Thursday. Neon in daylight is a great pleasure, as Edwin Denby would write, as are light bulbs in daylight. I stop for a cheeseburger at JULIET'S CORNER. Giulietta Masina, wife of Federico Fellini, èè bell' attrice. And chocolate malted. A lady in foxes on such a day puts her poodle in a cab. There are several Puerto Ricans on the avenue today, which makes it beautiful and warm. First Bunny died, then John Latouche, then Jackson Pollock. But is the earth as full as life was full, of them? And one has eaten and one walks, past the magazines with nudes and the posters for BULLFIGHT and the Manhattan Storage Warehouse, which they'll soon tear down. I used to think they had the Armory Show there. A glass of papaya juice and back to work. My heart is in my pocket, it is Poems by Pierre Reverdy. (1956) Continue reading
Posted Jun 30, 2017 at The Best American Poetry