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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
When John Hollander died, four years ago: John Hollander died last weekend. He was two months shy of his 84th birthday and had been in poor health. We join the many who mourn him. He was the eleventh guest editor in the history of the Best American Poetry series, an obvious choice to take the helm of the 1998 edition. John, who taught at Yale, did so many things, all of them well. He was a poet of exquisite wit and formal prowess; a tireless scholar and critic of rare acumen; a distinguished editor and anthologist, with an extraordinary range that included the whole of American poetry, modern fiction, light verse, satire, and the great flowering of poetry criticism that marked the first two thirds of the twentieth century. (See, for example, Modern Poetry: Essays in Criticism, which John edited for Oxford University Press in 1968.) He was a born teacher; Chaucer had him in mind when he wrote, "And gladly wold he lerne, and gladly teche." He is an inspiration and his influence is something we are badly in need of today. Among his books I have a special fondness for Rhyme's Reason, an indispensable "guide to English verse," in which the poet exemplifies each form or metrical arrangement he defines. Reflections on Espionage, a book-length poem, uses the apparatus of spydom to demarcate the territory of American poetry. Everyone has a code name: Auden is Steampump, Frost is Morose (because it sounds like the Russian word for "frost"), Lake is Elizabeth Bishop ("Lakey" in Mary McCarthy's The Group), Lac is Robert Lowell ("Cal" backwards), Image is James Merrill, and Hollander himself is Cupcake. If spies are poets, each needs a cover -- just as each poet needs to make a living or figure out some other way to subsidize the true work he or she does. Powers of Thirteen, a stellar sequence of thirteen-line poems, may be my favorite of all of John's poetry collections. When it was published I wrote this in Newsweek (January 23, 1984): <<< No one has ever doubted John Hollander's poetic virtuosity. As early as his first volume, "A Crackling of Thorns" (1968), his technical mastery and ingenious wordplay were in abundant evidence. There are, however, those who charge that Hollander lets his sheer talent get the better of him; they find him too allusive and elusive, too self-delighting in his poetic conceits. "Powers of Thirteen" doesn't so much vindicate Hollander as show such complaints to be largely beside the point. An audaciously original sonnet sequence that in effect reinvents the rules of the game, "Powers of Thirteen" prove that it's sometimes wise for a poet to exaggerate the very traits in his work that some critics most loudly deplore. "Ecstasy affords the occasion and expediency determineds the form," wrote Marianne Moore of the genesis of a poem. In Hollander's case, it would be nearer the mark to say that all the occasions of poetry, be they ecstatic or ruminative, public or esoteric,... Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
I would never put down Betty Carter! Thank you for the link.
August 21, 2017 The Grand Eclipse I have it in my calendar The next time it comes around I’ll be dead, or at least I hope so But no Totality here In San Francisco Only the Path of Partiality And I’m not at all impartial When total or even partial darkness Blots out fear Or does it erupt with fear? Will there be mobs screaming in the streets Nazis on the loose Like some old movie? Teenagers running out of the movie house Ahead of The Blob? In fact I plan on watching that movie Or digging into a book While everyone else slips on their glasses To take a look At the Cosmic Clock Ticking to a stop I have no need to witness The Solar System as it makes its rounds I have seen it circle in my Heart I have felt it revolve around my Soul As Suns and Moons orbit Marking all of Time Should I forfeit Eternal Life? Or should I savor Partial Life? I’ll look inward When the Sun gets to blot Or I’ll watch the flowers in my yard As they tilt upwards Towards the Dark -- Hilton Obenzinger. Note that Gertrude Stein liked sitting with her back to a beautiful landscape. -- DL Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
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XXXIV It sounded as if the Streets were running And then - the Streets stood still - Eclipse - was all we could see at the Window And Awe - was all we could feel. By and by - the boldest stole out of his Covert To see if Time was there - Nature was in an Opal Apron, Mixing fresher Air. -- Emily Dickinson -- sdl Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
for Allen Ginsberg 92nd birthday: Allen, let’s fix America we are having a revolution: a marketing revolution. we are still in the wine roses goat and sesame seed phase of the revolution with a meat body full of unopened taste buds waiting for the unborn entrepreneurs to open new fragrances to palates that won’t die until we’ve tasted them. Our revolution will not stop for dead anybody because as the endorphin receptors multiply there needs to be a lot more cinema and monsters sliced thin in our glass cages diddling Echo and maybe Eros. Any time now art is just going to land inside and let us out. Flesh runs a smooth outfit here in the big city brain. I’m here for altruistic reasons so deliciously selfish I scream from when I wake up until my credit card expires -- Andrei Codrescu Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at The Best American Poetry
For Robert Pinsky, who observed that "Moonlight in Vermont" is one of the only standards -- possibly the only one -- without a rhyme. I'll have to check; I have a feeling that Hammerstein at some point or other tried writing a rhyme-less lyric. Here's the best recording of the great Green Mountain State standard. John Blackburn wrote the words, and Karl Suessdorf the music, of this 1944 song. And here's what happened when Sinatra and Ella got together on the song: -- DL Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
"But when you haven't a sou, / There's only one thing to do / Let's take an old-fashioned walk, / I'm just bursting with talk. . ." What Irving Berlin wrote in 1949 as sung in a marvelous duet by F. Sinatra and Doris Day -- Doris being the most underrated singer of the big band era. (This was in the days before she was a virgin, as Oscar Levant put it.) doris day & frank sinatra - let's take an old-fashioned walk written by Irving Berlin Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
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David Lehman, the series editor of The Best American Poetry, is also the editor of the Oxford Book of American Poetry. His newest book of poetry is Poems in the Manner Of. Other poetry books include New and Selected Poems, Yeshiva Boys, When a Woman Loves a Man, and The Daily Mirror. His most recent nonfiction book is Sinatra’s Century: One Hundred Notes on the Man and His World. He teaches at The New School and lives in New York City and Ithaca, New York. David Lehman has been writing “poems in the manner of” for years, in homage to the poems and people that have left an impression, experimenting with styles and voices that have lingered in his mind. He has gathered these pieces in a striking book of poems that channels poets from Walt Whitman to Sylvia Plath and also calls upon for inspiration jazz standards, Freudian questionnaires, and astrological profiles. Daniel Nester is an essayist, poet, journalist, editor, teacher, and Queen fan. He is the author most recently of Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Making Out in Church, Grief, and Other Unlearnable Subjects. His previous books include How to Be Inappropriate (Soft Skull, 2010), God Save My Queen I and II, and The Incredible Sestina Anthology, which he edited. His writing has appeared or is forthcoming in the New York Times, Buzzfeed, The Atlantic, and American Poetry Review, and collected in Best American Poetry, Third Rail: The Poetry of Rock and Roll, and Now Write! Nonfiction. He is associate professor of English at The College of Saint Rose in Albany, NY. Susan Comninos is a freelance arts journalist and poet. Her book reviews, author profiles and trend stories have appeared in The Atlantic Online, The Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, Christian Science Monitor and Jewish Daily Forward, among others. Her poetry’s most recently appeared in literary journals including Rattle, Harvard Review Online, Subtropics, TriQuarterly, Quarterly West, The Cortland Review, Nashville Review, The Common, Hobart and Southern Humanities Review. In 2010, she won the Yehuda Halevi Poetry Contest run by Tablet. Last year, she won a Tishman Review Staff Favorite prize, a VQR Writers’ Conference Scholarship award and a Poets Respond (to the news) contest run by Rattle. She has taught at The University of Michigan, RPI, Schenectady JCC, Temple Sinai in Saratoga and The Arts Center for the Capital Region. Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Alternate lyrics in Bob Eberly's portion of the song. Mercer wrote them. -- DL Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
From Marnie (1964; screenplay by Jay Presson Allen, based on a novel by Winston Graham) is the second most Freudian of Hitchcock's movies, two quotes: Marnie: "Men! You say 'no' to one of them, and bingo! you're a candidate for the funny farm." * Mark Rutland, to Marnie, re Mr. Strutt, the man who has threatened to blackmail her: "He's a businessman. That means he's in business to do business." "So?" "So we try to do business with him." * Quiz question: where does Hitchcock make his cameo in Marnie? a) leaving one hotel room as Tippi Hedren enters another b) walking across an elevated pedestrian bridge between two buildings c) in New York, with a bus door slammed in his face d) in a newspaper ad for a weight-reduction program e) in the room where the pianist keeps playing the same theme * Happy birthday to the "master of suspense," who observed astutely that "Drama is life with the dull bits cut out," a statement that justifies tagging this post under not only "Hitchcock quiz" but also "spontaneous aphorisms." When August 13 lands on a Friday, watch out -- a drunken poet may phone you at midnight while a couple of bats sneak in through the bathroom window. -- DL Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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A few years ago at the Tompkins County Friends of the Library sale I picked up a complete Ethel Cotton 1960 Course in Conversation comprising twelve lessons that promise to turn a shy wall flower into a master of repartee. Here's a tip for today: More on #5: Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Here is how Tommy's sweet trombone mixed with amazing voice of the skinny kid from Hoboken. DL Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Oh wearisome Condition of Humanity! Born under one law, to another bound: Vainly begot and yet forbidden vanity, Created sick, commanded to be sound: What meaneth Nature by these diverse laws? Passion and reason, self-division cause. There is a special category of greatness for lines quoted by masters as epigraphs -- the way Poe used Sir Thomas Browne in "The Murders in the Re Morgue" or Eliot's borrowing from a major speech in Measure for Measure. The lines quoted above are by Fulke Greville, the Elizabethan poet, author of Mustapha and Caelica, and my candidate for the most underrated poet in English literature. Aldous Huxley quoted a variant of these lines from "Chorus Sacerdotum" as the epigraph for Point Counter Point: Oh, wearisome conditions of humanity! Born under one law, to another bound, Vainly begot and yet forbidden vanity: Created sick, commanded to be sound. What meaneth Nature by these diverse laws --- Passion and reason, self-division's cause?. `Leave aside critical questions of punctuation and capitalization, and the most significant change is the transformation of the last word in the passage, "cause," from verb to noun. Point Counter Point is a substantial novel of ideas and talk about ideas, with a character based on DH Lawrence among other recognizable literati, though it is possible to regard the epigraph as the single best thing about it just as a Sinatra song over the closing credits ("It's Nice to Go Traveling," for example) may upstage the terrorist skyjacking thriller that ends with it. -- DL Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Artie Shaw went to Mexico for a vacation and came back with "Frenesi." Listen to that clarinet, now mellow, now a glissando smear. GIs in France after D=Day were taught to pronounce the French word for artichoke (artichaut) by saying the bandleader's name. -- DL Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
This is what you hear throughout Sergio Leone's movie masterpiece Once Upon a Time in America. The same one-two punch -- Eberly crooning, O'Connell jaunty and uptempo -- is also to be found in their great rendition of "Tangerine." -- DL Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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"How do you become a millionaire? You start out as a billionaire and you buy an airline." -- Warren Buffett Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Virginia Woolf was the unlikeliest artist on earth to stoop to propaganda, or to any form of public ingratiation. She did not do so here. Yet England and its people, its present, past, innocence and disease, are here summarized in much the way a night wind can summarize a continent. Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Sure as she’s a Catholic she’s sure of herself. I’m sure my life is fraying like shoestrings minus aglet except you wear shoes that slide or buckle. There’s nothing I’m sure I wouldn’t do. Sure, you’re beautiful, but that’s not it. Isn’t it? Your guilt runs over There’s enough to cobble gods with plenty left over for a hair shirt or two. Lie down in green plaid skirts; draw a bath of still water. Then forgive me—do you have that power? If I could ever forgive myself I wouldn’t. Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Youth positions a girl like Bardot ass up, questioning if truly he loves all of her. At twenty-two this charm captivates his wit. She squeals through wine by the case. On her back he traces, an alternating game of brush and linger until the plaster falls from the ceiling below. She is feral beneath so much cotton. Moonlight. If day light was near with a chance just to speak with him. Food ceases to taste good alone. There is no solace in sleeping alone. There is a deadness that rises as she reclines on the sofa to write a poem for him. There is a joy in suffering so deeply. -- Angela Brommel Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
It's Jo Stafford's sublime version you hear in "Dark Passage" (1947) with Bogart and Bacall. "Bogart: "you like swing?" Bacall: "yes, legitimate swing." Richard Whiting (Margaret's papa) wrote the music and Johnny Mercer the words of this all-time great love song Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
When Lizzie T. married her Mr. Todd did she think his eye odd? Oops I’ve got the wrong movie, the different team and I’m a few extra years off. Dear boys, can you ever and ever forgive you. A couple of average Joes; let’s call them Dave and Jim seemed to know their baseball and wrote that Hank and Jesus were baseball players who hit in odd positions in their lineups and on their bats in a book borrowed from Jim. The progress in a horror movie; various ring tones, well you just can’t stop it or the years as they march into lost and found years. Some say it could be a metaphor for baseball. I took many things as signs to miss you: The 3:57 six minutes late, the 4:03 on time. It was odd. Yet I was on board the movie. I should have looked up Jim 25 years ago, a homonym for gym. All the songs equate and divide the years. Her words were dubbed into his lines in the movie. Darragh said he’s off baseball; his dilemma was convincing or odd, not though compared to you and yours and what we knew about you. Lou, my roommate was called Jim by everyone but me. I’m afraid of the water how odd considering I’m a Pisces. Years ago I fell in. When my sister took me to a movie she would threaten to throw me off the balcony. So I watched baseball instead of, instead of the baseball that was preferred by the likes of you. If I go I prefer to see a movie alone, or perhaps with Jim who I still don’t know after all these wonderful years. Think of it shy, embarrassing, but not odd. They used the familiar you in a recent movie that took years to complete. It starred Jim rubbing up a baseball. Now that’s odd. -- Michael Malinowitz Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
These are great, Alan. In my dream it was "Because we suffer too much in this world," but there was a chorus of hooligans so I didn't take it seriously. What you say makes more sense. I know the sadness of that dish. But ever the romantic I had thought Superman (George Reeves) jumped off a building. I stand corrected. -- DL.