This is The Best American Poetry's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following The Best American Poetry's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
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
<<< And the sad man is cock of all his jests. -- George Herbert >>> Epigraph to Graham Greene's novel Our Man in Havana (1958). The protagonist -- an English widower living in pre-Castro Cuba -- is a vacuum-cleaning salesman named Wormwold, as unattractive a name as Greene could manage. In order to satisfy the demands of intelligence officers in a gray faceless London building, Wormwold dupes them by creating "purely notional spies" and killing them off, "like a bad novelist preparing an effect." (Alec Guiness plays him in the movie.) The book is in a comic tenor but is less a spoof than a forcible statement of the extent to which military intelligence work and espionage fiction resemble one another. -- DL Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
Image
This week we welcome back Matthew Yeager as our guest author. Matthew's poems have appeared in Sixthfinch, Gulf Coast, NY Quarterly, and elsewhere, as well as in Best American Poetry 2005 and Best American Poetry 2010. His short film "A Big Ball of Foil in a Small NY Apartment" was an official selection at thirteen film festivals in 2009-2010, picking up three awards. Other distinctions include the Barthelme Prize in Short Prose and two MacDowell fellowships. He is the co-curator of the long running KGB Monday Night Poetry Series, and he lives in Ridgewood, Queens, NY. You can read an interview with Matthew here. Read Matthew's poem Sleep Mothers here. Welcome back, Matthew. Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
The blessed babe in a divine Eden is a Romantic trope, but it received a pure exposition long before the age of Blake and Wordsworth. A shoemaker’s son from Hereford, Thomas Traherne (1636-1674) captured the radical wonderment of childhood in his poems. Educated at Oxford (Brasenose College), he published next to nothing in his lifetime, and for many years his poems were casually and mistakenly attributed to Henry Vaughan. No until the turn of the twentieth century was Traherne’s authorship of Poems (1903) and the prose Centuries of Meditation (1908) established. The latter comprises paragraphs of reflection that may be considered forerunners of the prose poem. Traherne wrote as one for whom angels were real and the innocence of childhood a state that can survive maturity. The child is “heir of the whole world,” able to converse with everything he sees. Clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars, he was born to celebrate creation: “the skies in their magnificence, / The lively, lovely air.” From Centuries of Meditation: “Once I remember (I think I was about 4 years old when) I thus reasoned with myself, sitting in a little obscure room in my father's poor house: If there be a God, certainly He must be infinite in Goodness: and that I was prompted to, by a real whispering instinct of Nature. And if He be infinite in Goodness, and a perfect Being in Wisdom and Love, certainly He must do most glorious things, and give us infinite riches; how comes it to pass therefore that I am so poor? Of so scanty and narrow a fortune, enjoying few and obscure comforts? I thought I could not believe Him a God to me, unless all His power were employed to glorify me. I knew not then my Soul, or Body; nor did I think of the Heavens and the Earth, the rivers and the stars, the sun or the seas: all those were lost, and absent from me. But when I found them made out of nothing for me, then I had a God indeed, whom I could praise, and rejoice in.” -- DL Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
Image
<<< The Emily Dickinson competition awakened an enthusiastic and voluminous response—no surprise, given her deserved popularity. But what did surprise me was the high quality of the submissions. Dickinson is easy to caricature but notoriously difficult to imitate well. Kudos to the contestants who took Dickinson’s fragment—“Soft as the massacre of Suns / By Evening’s Sabres slain”—and supplied the rest of the poem. First prize goes to Jennifer Clarvoe (pictured left) for her ingenious extension of the simile. Her lines offer complexity, a satisfying sound pattern ending with two full rhymes, and the sense that she has appropriated Dickinson for her own poetic agenda, which is disclosed to us in its entirety only with the last word of her poem. >>> For Clarvoe's poem -- and for runners up -- visit "Next Line, Please" on the American Scholar web site. And next Tuesday a new competition commences. . . -- DL Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Image
Photo by Matthew Murphy At his recent New York solo recital debut at The Frick Collection, English pianist Charles Owen featured the compositions of past masters—J.S. Bach, Mendelssohn, and Debussy—as well as two brief pieces by the composer Nico Muhly, who was in attendance. Owen gave Muhly’s scores a skillful and energetic reading, and Muhly seemed genuinely pleased by the performance. Muhly, now 33, has been in the public eye for quite some time. Music critic Alex Ross first wrote about him in the New Yorker ten years ago, when Muhly was a 22-year-old Juilliard student. Rebecca Mead profiled him in the pages of the magazine in 2008, and Ross has since covered the premieres of Muhly’s two operas, Two Boys—which received its U.S. premiere at the Metropolitan Opera a year ago—and Dark Sisters. Andrew Solomon included Muhly in Far from the Tree, inthe chapter on prodigies. In the following interview, conducted by email, Muhly shares his thoughts on setting verse to music, among other topics. JS: I enjoyed Charles Owen’s recent performance of your compositions—my only quibble is that he ought to have played more of your music. I wondered whether the pairing of pieces he played in the first and second halves of the recital was meant to suggest ideas about influence: Mendelssohn’s Variations sérieuses are clearly in dialogue with Bach, and your Short Stuff and A Hudson Cycle seem to echo Debussy’s Preludes, no? NM: Concert programming is really the art of imagined correspondences, isn’t it? I think that you hear a lot of Debussy in A Hudson Cycle, with those tight French chords, but really, you could well have played Short Stuff next to the Bach and it would have had its own resonances with Bach’s clear economy. I’m touched that you’d think to ask for more contemporary music! JS: Another influence I heard in A Hudson Cyclewas Philip Glass. NM: Glass is always there for me. That piece takes a fundamental building block of his music—the two-against-three rhythm—and subjects it to hiccoughs and bumps. It’s sort of like taking the first cycle of Mad Rush, slowing it down, putting it all in the same register, and then going through and erasing beats at random. The idea is that there is an implied regularity that actually never happens. JS: You’ve composed a lot of vocal music. What qualities in a text inspire you to set it to music? NM: I have found that the best text to set is the King James Bible. The trick becomes about finding language that is simple and that can unfold over the length that music requires without losing its meaning. This is harder than it seems; one of the tricks of great poetry is that each line, when read silently, retains its meaning from beginning to end. Set to music, it becomes more complicated, and by the time you’ve got to the end of the line, the beginning is forgotten. So I’ve found that short, simple, declamatory statements work best.... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at The Best American Poetry
The Latin poet Catullus is often presented in expurgated versions thought to be suitable for teenage boys. But the whole transgressive flavor of the original is lost in the process. His poems are full of invective, passion, lust, and a graphic delight in body parts.Catullus was born in Verona in 87 B.C. and died in Rome in 58 B.C. He had a love affair with a consul's wife, whom he calls Lesbia and whose real name may have been Clodia. He praised her pussy ("A single whiff and you'll get on your knees") and denounced his rivals for her affections ("scumbags") in immortal verse. The following is a good example of the intimate insult as practiced by Catullus: * Improba Carmina by Catullus I will fuck you up the ass and in the mouth, Aurelius you sodomized ass-licker And Furius, you perverted cock-sucker Who read my sensual poems and conclude I'm too wanton. For everyone knows It's meet and proper for a poet to be Pure, pious, and always correct in his behavior. But we don't expect the same of his poems. Of mine they'll say sure, they have wit, they have charm They're so sexy and lewd they can Arouse – I won't say boys, but these hairy Men whose unstiff dicks wilt on the vine. You who have kissed many thousands of mouths Upper and nether, man and girl, How dare you think me less than manly? I will fuck you up the ass and in the mouth. * Molly Arden (translator) majored in classics at Bryn Mawr. She has worked as a librarian and an arts administrator. Her translations of Catullus have appeared in Classic Literature in Translation. She is working on new translations of Gaius Valerius Catullus and Decimus Iunius Iuvenalis, known in English as Juvenal. Poem copyright c 2003, 2014. * For more "F-U" poems. . .see issue # 17 of SLOPE: http://slope.org/archive/issue17/FU_main.html Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
<<< In Jinan, as previously in Dalian, we can post, but we cannot read the blog, nor can we make comments -- so let me take a moment to express our sympathy for you, Jim, on the loss of your father, and our appreciation of your poem. You're in our thoughts, good friend. On Monday the 19th, lecturing on American poetry to a room of over 100 college juniors majoring in foreign languages, I read my fifty-line "Oxford Cento," all lines culled from "The Oxford Book of America Poetry." I asked the students to write down their favorite line and make it the opening line of a poem of their own. Near the end of the lecture a student stood up and told us her name in Chinese, then added that her "Western name" is Daisy. (Evidently, the Chinese choose their own Western forenames, which need have no relation to their Chinese names.) Daisy, who announced that Rabindranath Tagore has influenced her, recited the poem she had just written beginning with Poe's line from "Annabel Lee": "and the stars never rise but I see the bright eyes." The poem was about the Sichuan earthquake. "If you shed tears for the stars, you won't see the sun," she wrote. Her poem concluided, "and the sun also rises." At this point a young man challenged me to write a one-line prose poem on the spot about my visit to the university. Luckily I had been reading Whitman. I said, "At your university I see a sea of faces and in the sea of faces I see the face of God." Appreciation was expressed with a collective murmuring sigh. The students liked two-line poems I read by Pound, Charles Reznikoff ("The Old Man"), J.V. Cunningham ("An Epitaph for Anyone"), Dryden, Dorothy Parker ("News Item"), A. R. Ammons ("Their Sex Life"), and Ogden Nash. Someone asked for my opinion of Edgar Allan Poe. Just as at West Point, I encountered a strong, genuine, populist love of Poe that countered the received negative judgment that has dogged the writer from the start. The fact that Poe's name is identical with the first three letters of "poetry" seemed to clinch the case. >>> (May 20, 2008) Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Image
I can still see his in my mind. Leather boots, dark like night, shining like mirrors. I'd never seen such shoes. In the tiny town of Pavlovo, Czechoslovakia, where I grew up, everyone had a farm, so boots were worn. But not shiny boots, not like these. Shooting up and out the tops of his boots were billowy pants, no crease. His crisp shirt was tucked flat under his belt. A tightly tailored jacket covered in shiny buttons and pins drew my eyes up to his dark, smoothed-back hair. His elegant, calm face framed the gleaming monocle in his eye. I did not yet know that this was the man called the "Angel of Death." I did not know that Dr. Josef Mengele was the Nazi physician who performed amputations without anesthesia, plucked out and collected blue eyeballs, tossed live babies into crackling fires, and gave twin girls candies before shooting them in the neck and using their corpses for medical experimantaion. I knew none of these things. How could I know? I was a fifteen-year-old boy. All I knew, standing in that line in Auschwitz, was that my father, Joseph Grünfeld; my mother, Tzyvia; my sisters, Simcha and Rivka; my five-year-old baby brother, Sruel Baer; and I, Maximilian, were in trouble and far from home. -- from Measure of a Man, A Memoir: From Auschwitz Survivor to Presidents' Tailor by Martin Greenfield with Wynton Hall. Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at The Best American Poetry
The best advice I’ve received as a writer comes down to a single word: relax.Variants of that advice include: “Let the plot breathe.” “Allow digressions.” “Follow your own mind.” But sometimes, being a witness to an actual scene of instruction can be more significant than advice. I would have been no more than four or five when I heard my mother, sitting at the dining room table, talking to herself. Only she and I were in the house. Her face was contorted and she was whispering. Was she hurt? How could I help her? I put my hand on her arm. She comforted me briefly and then went on whispering. This scene repeated itself in the future. Continue reading over at the American Scholar . . . Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Hillary Jones declared her intention to register as a Republican today. "She did it at breakfast, " said her sister Paula. "It was like awesome. She announced that she was just plain fed up with being an Independent because, like, even though she is an independent-minded individual, this status prevents her from voting in the primaries of either party except in certain crossover states like, I think, Texas." Paula Jones (not to be confused with the woman of the same name who hurled allegedly baseless accusations of sexual misconduct at Bill Clinton when he ran for president in 1992) said she tried to discourage her sister. "Now that all the midterms are over, is this really the time for a change?" -- Giacomo Joyce Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Image
It's Like a Monthly Mini-Vacation on Long Island. (L to R: Laura Cronk, Liz Axelrod, David Lehman It's easy to see why the 19th Century poet, William Cullen Byrant, wrote much of his nature poetry at his Long Island summer home. For just a few hours, you too can be Bryant's guest at a brand new poetry reading series that began this fall. You can take in the harbor views, admire the stained glass windows, and enjoy a reception that follows each reading at Bryant's home and historic landmark, Cedarmere. Located just a short train ride away from Brooklyn and Manhattan, it feels many miles and centuries away. Poetry at Cedarmere has brought some serious talent out to read poems and celebrate the life and work of William Cullen Bryant at his Gold Coast summer "cottage." On November 2nd, three prominent New York poets came to celebrate Bryant's 220th birthday. David Lehman, Star Black, Laura Cronk read and Liz Axelrod hosted to a full and appreciative audience. Star Black put us all in a mystical trance as she read poems from her books, Ghostwood and Waterworn. Laura Cronk's food poems were the talk of the afternoon post-poetry reception. Her advice in one of them: "Just don't eat!" David Lehman impressed the Friends of Cedarmere with his expertise on the life and poetry of William Cullen Bryant. Of course his own poetry was pretty spectacular, too. We wished olnly he brought more copies to sell of his New and Selected Poems. Liz Axelrod, Stefanie Lipsey, Star Black The first event in the series brought Long Island poets Julie Sheehan, George Guida, Liz Axelrod, and George Wallace for a reading and outdoor reception on the grand porch. Thanks to some generous funding and the efforts of Friends of Cedarmere, a non-profit that helps maintain the culture, grounds, and history of Cedarmere, poetry will keep going all year long. (There will be a winter break in January and February). December's holiday reading features award-winning poets Gregory Pardlo and Cynthia Cruz. There's an open mic too. (Limited to the first names that sign up!) Come to Cedarmere and get inspired by the waterfowl , mill, harbor and sky. Like us on Facebook or visit the Friends of Cedarmere to learn more about the series. Continue reading
Posted 7 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Image
John Ashbery & James Cummins (photo (c) Stacey Harwood) Dog We truncate what you need to be to fit you in your lucky life with us. We cut and paste, to see the version that brings us delight. The almost-language in your eye, that seems such sorrow to my own, is just a suffocated cry that leaves you, finally, alone, and willing to accept much less: a place beside the hearth, had we still hearths; mock food; a pedigree that shapes, yet won’t admit, redress. Pies Odrzucamy to, czym musisz być, by wpasować cię w twe szczęście z nami. Wycinamy i wklejamy wersję ciebie, która nam jest miła. Ten prawie-język w twoich oczach, widzę, że jest straszliwym bólem – zdławiony krzyk, który w końcu przynosi ci twój święty spokój; gotowość, by przyjąć o wiele mniej: miejsce przy ogniu – jakbyśmy wciąż mieli ogień; karykaturę jedzenia; rodowód – rodzaj zadośćuczynienia. przekład z angielskiego: Joanna Kurowska Continue reading here. -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Enjoy an evening with fall workshop poets as they showcase new work honed in Erica Hunt’s Letters to the Future. Reception to follow. Free and open to the public. Cave Canem 20 Jay Street Suite 310-A Brooklyn, NY For more information and to find out about upcoming events, go here. Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Image
This week we welcome Karen Chase as our guest author. Karen is the author of two collections of poems, Kazimierz Square and BEAR, (both from CavanKerry) as well as Jamali-Kamali, a book-length homoerotic poem which takes place in Mughal India. Her award-winning book, Land of Stone, tells the story of her work with a silent young man in a psychiatric hospital where she was the hospital poet. Polio Boulevard, a memoir, is just out from SUNY University Press. The Larooco Log: FDR on the Houseboat is forthcoming in early 2016. Her poems have been anthologized in The Norton Introduction To Poetry, Andrei Codrescu’s An Exquisite Corpse Reader, and Billy Collins’ Poetry 180. Chase lives in Western Massachusetts. Find out more about Karen here. Welcome, Karen. In other news . . . Lisa Marie-Basile will continue her interviews with poets about poetry and belief. You can catch up here. -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Nov 16, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Image
Marcel Carne's little-shown pre-war classic "Le Jour se leve" is at the Film Forum on West Houston Street in downtown New York and must be seen by fans of Jean Gabin, admirers of Arletty (daringly naked in one scene), devotees of "film noir" in its earliest incarnation, and would-be writers and artists of all stripes who will, with a nostalgic ache, watch Gabin smoke one Gauloise after another as he is holed up in his top-story hideout, alone, with dawn about to break and les flics poised to come in for the kill. The dialogue is by Jacques Prevert and while it is fashionable to denigrate the man's poetry, as a writer of screenplays he possessed something approaching genius. The picture's title translates as "Daybreak" but is best left in the original. That's Gabin with co-star Jacqueline Laurent in the picture on the right. If you plan to take in the 9:30 PM screening on Monday the 17th, you can make a rare double-bill for yourself as "Vertigo," one of Hitchcock's greatest pictures, will be ending its limited run at the Film Forum -- and you can take in the 6:45 PM show, refresh yourself in powder room or nearby bar for a quickie, and head back to the theater for "Le Jour se leve" at 9:30 PM. The former explores the consequences of unquenched desire for an illusory object; the latter is a masterpiece of melancholy and murder. In a sense both movies qualify under the heading of murder mysteries; the plot in each case revolves around a homicide. But the real subject -- one might say the real hero -- is Eros. -- DL Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Image
Here's the singer: Here's a great big but beautiful clue. And I'm thinking, if you were mine, I'd never let you go. . . -- DL Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
June 1939. Standing left to right: Bert Lahr (the Cowardly Lion), Ray Bolger (the Scarecrow), MGM executive L.K. Sidney, Yip Harburg, composer/ conductor Meredith Willson (who wrote The Music Man), music publisher Harry Link. Seated: Judy Garland and Harold Arlen. (Photo courtesy of Yip Harburg Estate) Arlen wrote the music and Harburg the lyrics for the score of The Wizard of Oz. Harold turned 34 that year and had the world on a string. -- DL Continue reading
Posted Nov 14, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
<< The Germans are called brutal, the Spanish cruel, the Americans superficial, and so on; but we are perfide Albion, the island of hypocrites, the people who have built up an Empire with a Bible in one hand, a pistol in the other, and financial concessions in both pockets. >> – E. M. Forster (on being English) Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Chamber music patrons are a mellow lot. I’ve always thought the act of seeking beauty in a small space acts as a tonic to calm the mind before a single note’s been played. Music lovers enter the elegant concert halls of this city, like the lovely jewel box theater at the Frick (above, right), with quiet assurance that the performance they are about to hear will meet a deep need to spend an hour or two with great works of art in an intimate setting. Concert halls in museums are a double gift: strolling through the galleries before a chamber music concert is one of the greatest pleasures I know. There’s something wonderfully extravagant about listening to chamber music. When composers express themselves in miniature, it’s as if all their gifts are compressed for maximum effect. For his New York recital debut in October, the English pianist Charles Owen (above, left) chose a traditionally structured program of works from four centuries that displayed his considerable talents and reminded all of us of the big impression an artist can make in a small venue. The first half of the program was devoted to music of the 18th and 19th centuries. Opening with a late work of Felix Mendelssohn, Variations serieuses, Op. 54, Owen’s elegant playing filled the tiny concert hall—it seats only 175—and we were plunged into a wonderful afternoon of music. The pianist’s deeply felt slow movements were magical throughout his performance. Mendelssohn’s elegiac melodies unfolded with great beauty and solemnity. In the early going the tempos of the faster variations were occasionally rushed, sacrificing some of the work’s emotional depth. By the second piece on the program, Bach’s Partita No. 4 in D Major, Owen brought the full force of his ability to the music at hand. The Bach had an unexpected regal quality and a tenderness that charmed the audience. After the intermission Owen performed two short works by the young contemporary composer Nico Muhly and finished the program with Claude Debussy’s Twelve Preludes, Book One. Debussy, the accessible revolutionary of the early 20th century, was determined to discard the vast Germanic heritage of the previous two centuries, preferring instead the art of seduction. Owen took just the right approach in each piece, playing with grace and pointed enthusiasm. Concerts at The Frick Collection are recorded by WQXR, 105.9 FM, for future broadcast and stream at wqxr.org. The 2014–2015 concert season is the Frick’s 76th. The schedule for the remaining concerts, which run through April, 2015, can be found here. For more on the works by Nico Muhly, stay tuned to The Best American Poetry blog for an upcoming interview with the composer. Georgia Tucker is on the faculty of Riverdale Country School. Prior to her career in education she worked in fine arts broadcasting. Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Image
We follow the work of Anna West, which is why we're eager to see this exhibit. Opening Reception: Friday, November 14th from 6-9PM Figureworks 168 North 6th Street Williamsburg • Brooklyn, NY 11211 718-486-7021 Saturday, Sunday 1 - 6 pm or by appointment More information here. Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Image
Above: David Lehman, Mary Jo Bang, and Vincent Katz read John Ashbery's The Heroes, at The Bowery Poetry Club during the Ashbery Festival of 2006. Seated top: Tony Towle. (Photos by Stacey Harwood) L to R: Bob Holman, Patricia Spears Jones, Mary Jo Bang. (Photo by Stacey Harwood) John Ashbery applauds the cast which applauds John Ashbery. L to R: Christopher Stackhouse, David Lehman, Vincent Katz. (Photo by Stacey Harwood.) -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
Image
Even though I’ve never been on an actual book tour I do have a fantasy book tour. Continue reading
Posted Nov 12, 2014 at The Best American Poetry