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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
I don’t believe in fate, but I don’t tempt it by lending umbrellas. It could rain, or worse, you could fall in love with me for all the wrong reasons. Don’t expect me to keep you dry. When I fall in love it will be with someone who has her own umbrella & unending generosity, & come to think of it, maybe she’ll lend you hers. She’s better than me that way & I’m worse because I’ll only share with her. Speaking of which, what happened to your umbrella? Can I offer to share mine? It was, after all, so generous of you to give yours away. Take mine, I insist. & if it rains, at least you’ll have an umbrella. & if I’m wet & alone it will be a beautiful catastrophe. Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
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Diane Cameron I read Diane Cameron's story about her stepfather last summer and have been thinking about it ever since. Donald Watkins, a former Marine, returned in 1939 from military service in China and in 1953 murdered his first wife and his mother-in-law. He was sentenced to Fairview State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, where he remained for twenty-two years. From the foreword by William P. Nash, MD, Director of Psychological Health, United States Marine Corps: Whether engaged in warfare, peacekeeping, or humanitarian assistance, the greatest challenges warriors face are moral rather than physical. For deployed warriors, physical dangers come and go, but moral dangers are everywhere, all the time. In the high-stakes world of the warrior, there is usually one, or perhaps just a few, right things to do in each situation. And both the cost and consequences of those right actions can be enormous. For a Marine on guard duty, the right thing is to find every threat to those being guarded and to let none pass. For a Navy corpsman tending the wounds of Marines on a battlefield, the right thing is to save every life and limb. For a China Marine in Shanghai in 1937, the right thing was to do nothing--to merely watch as thousands were raped and killed. That's not a tough job; it's an impossible job. We now know that one of the consequences of failing to live up to one's own moral expectation can be moral injury, a deep and lasting wound to one's personal identity. At a deeper level, perhaps the warrior's challenge is more than just choosing right actions over wrong. Perhaps the most fundamental role warriors play in our society is to venture into the unclaimed territory between good and evil, to construct goodness right there on evil's doorstep, and then to defend it with their lives. To serve selflessly while others exploit, to show compassion while others are cruel, to forgive the unforgiveable--these are all ways to create goodness in the face of evil. So also is making sense of a brutal double murder that happened to decades ago in order to find and celebrate the humanity of a veteran China Marine. Diane Cameron took a deep dive into her stepfather's life. She spent many months--years, really--digging for any bit of material that she could use to understand the particulars of his experience and to grasp how the trauma of war shaped his life. She put the pieces together with the attention and skill of an archaeologist assembling the bones of a dinosaur. Her book is a page-turner, as gripping as a suspenseful mystery novel. She moves back and forth through time as she charts her own development alongside Watkins'. As the child of someone fought with the US Army during WWII and who died before I had a chance to ask him about his service, Diane's book brings me closer to my father. One of the more memorable passages is the following, in which Diane writes about... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Beautiful review. Eloquent last paragraph. -- DL
I always need someone to tell I want to be left alone Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
In case you missed the recent reading at the NYU Bookstore, you can watch below as David reads from Poems in the Manner Of Thank you Yael Yisraeli of the NYU Bookstore for hosting such a spectacular evening. Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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illustrations by Derek Heldenbergh There’s a delicious scene in the third season of Amazon’s Mozart in the Jungle in which Nico Muhly ’03, Juilliard’04, playing himself, introduces an aria he has composed expressly for La Fiamma, a Maria Callas-style prima donna portrayed by Italian actress Monica Bellucci. He demonstrates her singing part on a grand piano in her Venetian parlor, explaining that the piece will also feature pre-recorded sounds and fragments of text that she will sing into a microphone and then repeat using a foot pedal. Before the proud La Fiamma will agree to this departure from her standard repertoire, however, she needs some convincing. “What is the story about?” she asks. “The character is a young American woman named Amy Fisher,” Muhly tells her. “She’s having an affair with an older man, and she goes over to his house and shoots his wife in the head. His name is Joey Buttafuoco.” He pronounces it the American way, the way newscasters did when the “Long Island Lolita” made sensational headlines in the early ’90s: Buttah-fewco. La Fiamma corrects him. “Boota-fwocko,” she says. If this were an old-school sitcom, the laugh track would kick in right about here. But while Mozart in the Jungle is fun, it takes music seriously enough not to waste a cameo by the world-renowned Muhly, who in his 20s became the youngest composer ever commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera. So we’re treated to a glimpse of the real Nico: artistically adventurous, charming and sensitive to the hopes and agonies of Fisher or anyone else whose private passions lead to public tragedy. “Fisher’s world is really intense,” Muhly reflects in his West 37th Street music studio in Manhattan. “Like Romeo and Juliet, she’s in this highly charged erotic and emotional situation — only it isn’t in a glamorous place. It isn’t Verona; it’s Massapequa. But I don’t like this idea of high versus low [culture], because it’s really just people.” Continue reading . . . Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Emily Wore White: Dickinson’s A Spider sewed at Night, 2017, lace, thread, photographs, needles, drawing & collage, 20 1/2 x 54” (c) Bascove Dickinson, Emily, 1830-1886. Poems: Loose sheets. A Spider sewed at Night. MS Am 1118.3 (238). Houghton Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass. Houghton Library - J1138, Fr1163 -- sdl Continue reading
Posted May 12, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
It was a first rate audience in every sense. Jerome read first. His corporate sonnets reflect years of labor that Marx would characterize as alienated in the tall tower of Time and Life on Sixth Avenue. There is beauty in a cliche just as there is humor and then just to clinch the deal comes the rhyme.. Well played, Jerome. The host beckoned. I read second: I read poems in the manner of Catullus,Herrick, Goethe, Keats, Mayakovsky, Millay, Stevens, Dorothy Parker, Charles Bukowski, and Kenneth Koch. I also told an old joke. David Shapiro read poems from his new book including "Why Rimabud?" and conversed with the darkness wondering whether you could see the darkness or whether total darkness was a poem. "As Kafka wrote, there is hope, but not for us," he concluded. The mermaids sang to him and the crowd cheered. All were glad. Drinks were had. -- David Lehman Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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ZINC BAR Sunday, May 7th, 5-7PM 82 W. 3rd Street NYC Three poets read to celebrate their new books: David Lehman: Poems in the Manner of... (Scribner) David Lehman is the series editor of The Best American Poetry, and is also the editor of the Oxford Book of American Poetry. His other books of poetry 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. He teaches at The New School and lives in New York City and Ithaca, New York. Jerome Sala: Corporations Are People, Too! (NYQ Books) Jerome Sala’s other books of poems include The Cheapskates, Prom Night (a collaboration with artist Tamara Gonzales), Look Slimmer Instantly, Raw Deal: New and Selected Poems, The Trip, I Am Not a Juvenile Delinquent and Spaz Attack. His poems and essays have appeared in The Nation, Pleiades, Evergreen Review and Rolling Stone. David Shapiro: In Memory of an Angel (City Lights Books) David Shapiro is a poet, literary and art critic. He teaches art history at Patterson College and literature at Cooper Union. He published his first poem at age 13 and his first collection, January (1965), at age 18. Subsequent volumes include Poems from Deal (1969), A Man Holding an Acoustic Panel (1971), The Page-Turner (1972), Lateness (1977), To an Idea (1983), House (Blown Apart) (1988), After a Lost Original (1994), A Burning Interior (2002), and New and Selected Poems (1965–2006) (2007). Continue reading
Posted May 5, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
feels like such a betrayal: the hurt not denied, not pushed away, but gone entirely for that moment you can't help feeling good in, a moment of sudden, irrational joy over nothing of consequence, really, which makes it all somehow seem even worse. Shouldn't happiness be the result of some grand event, something adequate to counter that aching, gaping chasm that opened when . . . But, no: it's merely this: there goes our little neighbor, running bare-foot, no pants, fox stole wrapped around her shoulders. from Lucifer at the Starlite: Poems by Kim Addonizio Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Thank you for the wonderful review -- astute, insightful and generous. I love thinking of the book as both "a grand map of misreading" and "a pheasant disappearing in the brush." That latter phrase is one of Stevens's definitions of poetry, and I love it. As for the former, why don't I have a copy sent t hard-to-pleas Harold and see what he says.
Eternity---is a Neighbor’s plot— Sleeping in one Trench-- a Wish— Bisected by the Plow—then Doubt— The Sun---a peering Dish. My Apron--holds the Horizon— And in my Eye—a Globe— Then Corn-- a tall Procession-- Seraphim-- of the Ground-- -- Billy Collins Continue reading
Posted Apr 21, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
This comes to us from poet Bernard Welt via Terence Winch: [O]ur friend and colleague Doug Lang faces serious medical issues, and his expenses exceed his resources—as so often is the case with those who have devoted themselves to writing and teaching. We are reaching out to you, the community for whom Doug so often proved a tireless advocate and ally, to donate what you can to defray the expenses of his care at Springvale Terrace in Silver Spring MD. Doug Lang, born in Swansea, Wales, came to the US in 1973, and quickly became the most American of poets. In Washington, DC, he has been for many years a human hub of the local community of writers and artists. The reading series he directed at Folio Books helped establish the DC-New York-Bay Area poetry axis that fostered the work of dozens of emerging poets in the ‘70s and ‘80s. His own work, in collections like Hot Shot, Magic Fire Chevrolet, and Dérangé, and in many small-press and zine publications, has influenced American poets and poetry for decades. His erudite command of literature, cinema, music, and visual art, his wit, and his indefatigable spirit of patience and good will have inspired the admiration of writers throughout the US and around the world. Please help Doug Lang's friends reach their fundraising goal so that Doug can get the medical help he needs. Find out more about this campaign here. And please spread the word. -- sdl Continue reading
Posted Apr 21, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
There will never be another you, softly crooned the singing star, and there will never be another me, muttered the poet alone at the bar. -- Billy Collins Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Johnny Podres, 1955 World Series Game 3 We have our friend Jim Cummins to thank for this podcast of baseball-inspired poems that comes to us from University of Cincinnati Elliston Project. Jim is the innovator who curated the Elliston Poetry Collection for over three decades, beginning in the mid-1970s. He was inspired to record visiting poets and writers and compile the archive during an especially beautiful reading on a spring afternoon by Lucien Stryk. Alas the Elliston Project as it was shaped and steered by Jim Cummins no longer exists. But thanks to his vision, we have a rich and deep archive (800 hours!) filled with the voices of some of our most celebrated poets. Click on the links to hear these great poems: All tracks Podcast [complete] Track 01 Introduction Track 02 Jim Hall reading Ernest Thayer's "Casey at the Bat" (1985) Track 03 Jim Cummins reading Grantland Rice's "Casey's Revenge" (1985) Track 04 John Drury, "Stadium" (2003) Track 05 John Drury, "Ghazal of Baseball" (2003) Track 06 Wyatt Prunty, "Baseball" (1999) Track 07 Wyatt Prunty, "A Baseball Team of Unknown Navy Pilots, Pacific Theater, 1944" (1999) Track 08 Robert Pinsky, "Night Game" (1991) Track 09 Ada Limón, "The Good Wave" (2017) Track 10 Alan Feldman, "Monday Evening Softball" (1979) Track 11 David Lehman, "Ninth Inning" (1995) Track 12 Arthur Smith, "Extra Innings" (1986) Read Jim Cummin's posts about the Elliston Project here, here, and here, -- sdl Continue reading
Posted Apr 14, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Elizabeth Lund, in her latest poetry round-up for the Washington Post, reviews the latest collections by David Lehman, Airea D. Matthews, and Robert Wrigley. About David Lehman's collection, she writes, <<< In 2002, David Lehman began an intriguing exercise: to write poems that both honored and mimicked the works of his favorite poets. Lehman’s choices were wide — ranging from Wordsworth, Whitman and Keats to Gwendolyn Brooks, Charles Bukowski and Bob Dylan. His approximations also paid homage to cultural icons, including Marilyn Monroe and the Brooklyn Bridge. Together in one volume, Poems in the Manner Of(Scribner), these works read like an eclectic course in major poets and poetic movements. Lehman, who founded and is the series editor of Best American Poetry, introduces each “poem in the manner of” with notes about the subject’s style and approach, or about what he tried to achieve with his rendition. The strongest work captures the spirit of the original yet also stands on its own merits, as with “Poem in the manner of Basho: “Pond/ Frog/ Splash” or with the lovely translation of Goethe’s “Wandrers Nachtlied,” which begins with quiet coming across the treetops and ends with “Just wait; soon you/ Will be quiet, too.” As the collection continues, readers see how modeling one’s writing after the masters can lead to fascinating discoveries and extend one’s own poetic range. >>> Cick here for her reviews of Matthews and Wrigley. "You have to read the punctuation." Alan Zeigler (r) comments on David Lehman's "Poem in the Manner of Emily Dickinson" during an interview at Book Culture Bookstore, April 6, 2017 Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
It didn't happen because of last-minute cancellation.
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What a great and unlikely conjunction of names and sensibilities: Bob Dylan opens up about his recent turn to the standards that Sinatra, Ella, Nat Cole, Crosby, Torme, Judy Garland and Jo Stafford sang. Dylan's understanding of the music is impressive, and if only he had a better voice the records would be wonderful. As it is I would sooner listen to Dylan sing an Irving Berlin song than, say, Rod Stewart, who turns everything into elevator music. Dylan can feel the lyrics and knows his job is to serve them as best he can. The voice carries conviction if not always the tune. It is easy to imagine young Bob listening to Sinatra. Bob loved Harold Arlen and no one sang Arlen songs better than Sinatra: 'Blues in the Night,' 'Last Night when We Were Young,' 'That Old Black Magic," 'I've Got the World on a String.' I can't imagine Sinatra listening to Dylan records, but the scene of the blue-eyed boys as described by Dylan below has the smack of truth.-- DL Q&A with Bill Flanagan MAR 22, 2017 Bob Dylan, from an interview with Bill Flanagan, March 22, 2017 Exclusive to bobdylan.com Up to the sixties, these songs were everywhere – now they have almost faded away. Do they mean more to you when you hear them now? They do mean a lot more. These songs are some of the most heartbreaking stuff ever put on record and I wanted to do them justice. Now that I have lived them and lived through them I understand them better. They take you out of that mainstream grind where you’re trapped between differences which might seem different but are essentially the same. Modern music and songs are so institutionalized that you don’t realize it. These songs are cold and clear-sighted, there is a direct realism in them, faith in ordinary life just like in early rock and roll. It’s hard not to think of World War II when we hear some of these. You were born during the war – do you remember anything about it? Not much. I was born in Duluth – industrial town, ship yards, ore docks, grain elevators, mainline train yards, switching yards. It’s on the banks of Lake Superior, built on granite rock. Lot of fog horns, sailors, loggers, storms, blizzards. My mom says there were food shortages, food rationing, hardly any gas, electricity cutting off – everything metal in your house you gave to the war effort. It was a dark place, even in the light of day – curfews, gloomy, lonely, all that sort of stuff – we lived there till I was about five, till the end of the war. *** People called Shadows in the Night a tribute to Frank Sinatra. Did you know Sinatra had recorded all those songs when you put that record out? Yeah, I knew he did, but a lot of other people recorded them as well, it just so happened that he had the best... Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
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Inside sources tell us that Tom Selleck (above left), who plays police commissioner Francis (Frank) Reagan on TV's "Blue Bloods," has established a New York City residence on the down low in order to place his name in nomination for this year's mayoralty race in New York. Selleck has long nursed political ambitions. The surprise is that the actor, wooed by Republicans, is mulling over the idea of running against Mayor de Blasio in the Democratic primary. The rumor has excited fans of the veteran actor. "Staten Island needs more respect," said one islander, Stella Carabella, who noted that the Reagans eat their Sunday night dinners in a big house on Staten Island. "It's the most underrated borough," she told New York Post reporter Jackie Lyons. The Reagan family was said to have discussed the possibility of a mayoral run with yes votes from Danny, Jamie, Erin (played by Bridget Moynihan, pictured right) and Nicky. Grandpa Henry abstained, as did Linda Reagan (Danny's spouse). Jack and Sean, though too young to vote, voiced their support. Vanessa Ray, who plays Eddie Jenko, Jamie's partner, refused to comment though she did call attention to the dubious fundraising tactics of the de Blasio administration. It is conceivable that Eddie and Jamie, who kissed on November 11, 2016, will campaign in tandem for Jamie's dad. Henry Reagan (played by Len Cariou) refused to explain his abstention on the key vote but insisted that, contrary to published reports, the TV Reagans are unrelated to the late Ronald Reagan (above right). The early Ronald Reagan was an FDR Democrat who supported abortion rights during his tenure as governor of California, which means a lot to my wife Stacey. Erin Reagan moved to New York City at age eighteen and began her modeling career with high-profile appearances in Vogue and Elle. "Erin and I are alike," Bridget Moynihan told David Frost, with the crucial difference that unlike the police commissioner's daughter, who is an assistant district attorney, she (Bridget) dated Patriots' quarterback Tom Brady for three years (with an amicable parting of the ways that was duly reported in People in 2006). Brady is the father of their son, John Edward Thomas Moynihan, who turns ten on August 22 of this year. Bridget is unrelated to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan. She resides in Pacific Palisades and is married to businessman Andrew Frankel. -- Allie Reynolds Ed. note: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Arthur Krock is a pseudonym for Yankee pitcher Allie ("the Chief") Reynolds. Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
What was it like to be interviewed by Nancy Mitchell, the poet and painter whom Nin Andrews profiled on the Best American Poetry blog (Jan 24, 2017)? I loved the exchanges while they were going on and again when Nancy put them together for Plume. Read it yourself and you'll see. It is always a pleasure to be drawn into an unexpected direction, which is what happened. I think both nancy and I were surprised at the turns the conversation took. If you haven't read Nancy Mitchell's stunning poem "What About," here it is as featured by Nin Andrews: --- DL What about sushi with the Merkles merlot or cabernet would be fine with Martin What about taking Max for a stroll at sunset taking Max What about dinner with the dean coffee with Don at ten What about he said he’d call by 11 hopping in the shower at 11:15 dropping the whole thing What about she doesn’t like being on top What about mayonnaise method of removing water stain from wood What about Mother’s face behind a comic book Brother’s face What about lime neon bra with matching panties a doll with my face a full-time phone lover a phone life a phone liar a phony the silence of cold spoons -- Nancy Mitchell Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Excellent piece. I love "What About." -- DL
Love it, Alan. - DL