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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
Some six years ago, Rick Moody and I were asked to talk about -- and write about -- Bob Dylan. Rick and I did our thing one enjoyable evening -- in January 2011, I believe -- and recent events have impelled me to go back and check out what we wrote then at the behest of Ken Gordon, maestro of Quickmuse. (When I find a link to Rick's piece, I'll add it.) I believe Ken gave us ten minutes and I don't remember whether he gave a prompt beyond "write about Bob Dylan." This is what I came up with: The Jerk asked Cher about the Middle East and she said Honey I'm Cher You don't want to know what I think about the Middle east So the jerk went on to Robbie Robertson and asked him about The Weight and Robbie said Man it's late What do you know about the Middle East Have you ever seen a motorcycle crash? Have you ever tasted ash? You too busy going to A birthday bash, aren't you? Then the guy took off his Jerk mask and the reporter asked Bob Dylan how it felt to be him how it felt all these years later And Dylan looked at the fool on the hill and what he asked and said no you tell me how it felt and he put on the Jerk mask -- David Lehman Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
<<< David had beautiful eyes, a shepherd among the lilies. David had beautiful eyes, a shepherd among the lilies. Saul smote his thousands, and David his tens of thousands. David, King of Israel, lives, Lives to this day. David, King of Israel, lives, Lives to this day. >>> Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
Bombay gin first; Sambuca Romana after dessert. -- SK
PRESS RELEASE SUCHNESS – New Work by Eric Brown CRUSH Curatorial Chelsea 526 West 26th Street, Suite 709, NY, NY 10001 Dates: Friday October 28- November 19, 2016 Hours: Thursday, Friday and Saturday 1-5PM Opening Reception: Friday October 28, 6-8PM Contact: Website: CRUSH CURATORIAL Chelsea is pleased to announce “SUCHNESS: New Work by Eric Brown,” opening Friday, October 28, from 6-8 pm, and running through November 19. Painter John Zinsser writes: Eric Brown is having his first proper New York City solo show debut. He’s been a serious abstractionist for 25 years, while working as an arts professional, mounting shows for other painters and bringing a scholarly eye to the post-war American canon. He used to call himself a “secret painter,” but has quite visibly gone public over the past three years, with solo outings at Ille Arts in Amagansett and at a survey show at Vassar College. Brown’s small-scale and medium-scale works are all about possibilities. Each displays a record of generative and transformational visual logic. They are mostly limited to two or three colors in hard-edged interplay. Often, a chromatic hue—orange, green, blue—surrounds silhouetted black form. The internal shapes can read as biomorphic figures, bulbous, symmetrical, often placed off- center in a kind of precarious imbalance. Two very recent larger black-and-white works employ shaped stretcher bar configurations. Throughout, subtly-inflected layerings of oil paint result in densely optical areas of flat opaque color. Painted freehand, there is always a tenderness of human engagement. Mischievous absurdist humor runs against more traditional absolutist readings. At times, Brown allows a singular moment of “narrative” awkwardness to assert itself as a work’s central subject. Here, it’s like an invitation for the viewer to actively enter into the “crisis mode” of a painting’s own moment of coming-into-being. The nine works in this exhibition capture Brown at a critical moment in his development. Following an intense three-week residency at the MacDowell Colony this past summer, each new effort has an urgency of purpose: stating anew the terms of the previous works. Viewers may initially bring their own lexicon of indexical sources: Ellsworth Kelly, Leon Polk Smith, Myron Stout. But the paintings resist such identification. They seem, in fact, adamantly non-appropriative. Instead, they arrive as “beings” among us—very much in the present. —New York, October 2016 Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at The Best American Poetry
When you must, you must / dip you big toe / Chicago or bust. And then came down to the sea, / you and me / sticks and bones / from blowing to blown/ there's no place like home.
According to the lauded Australian poet and editor, the vast bulk of the Journal of Poetics Research number FIVE is now available Free on the internet at featuring: Dozens of articles and essays and book reviews, such as [partial list] Robert Wood: an autobiography I was not exposed to a wide range of poetry. § Chris Stroffolino: Crisis? What Crisis? Hollywood and TV gained in influence § Susan M.Schultz: Poetry as Attention he is seeing the world as it is § Larissa Shmailo: Bob Holman and metre an additional analytic tool is required § Murray Edmond: The Backpacker Compromise (New Zealand Poetry’s Contribution to the Tourist Industry (with apologies to John Dryden) You have a poem too? § David Lehman in New York on Walter Lehmann (a pseudonym of Gwen Harwood in Tasmania) There was egg on the face of the venerable editor § Brentley Frazer: Creative writing with English Prime (Writing/speaking in the English language without the copula, i.e. excluding tenses of the verb to be) This failed; the process felt restrictive and laborious § A.J. Carruthers: The Long Poems of (US poet) Rochelle Owens (Rochelle Owens has a website at broaden the scope for future criticism on long poems § Art Beck (the pen-name of Dennis Dybeck): Doctor Fell (and Latin poetry) Scowling in his office, Dr. Fell gave poor Tom one last chance § Graham Foust: On Ashbery’s poem ‘Myrtle’ For Ruskin, the ‘source’ is ‘real’ § Patrick Pritchett reviews Fugue Meadow, by Keith Jones (“Fugue Meadow”, his latest book, is similarly keyed around another path-breaking postmodern artist, jazz trumpeter Don Cherry who in 1969, with drummer Ed Blackwell, recorded Mu, a double-album that many consider to have sounded the first notes of world music.”) And poems! more poems that you can believe, from all over the world: Zhang Er: 3 poems (selected work from First Mountain (forthcoming from Zephyr Press) English version by Joseph Donahue) Is there any pattern to this labyrinth? § Roberto Echavarren (trans. Donald Wellman): Animalaccio (A native of Uruguay and professor of world literature, long associated with New York University, Echavarren is the co-editor, along with José Kozer and Jacobo Sefamí, of Medusario: muestra de poesía Latinoamericana (Medusario: A Survey of Latin-American Poetry), the leading anthology of poetry in the Neo-Baroque style.) They hunted in the sierra, / ate in canvas chairs. § Donald Wellman: God is love (Donald Wellman is a North American poet and translator. As editor of O.ARS, he produced a series of annual anthologies of experimental work, including Coherence (1981) and Translations: Experiments in Reading (1984). His poetry works with sources from several languages.) God resides in the heat / generated by the sense organs § Marc Vincenz: 5 poems (Marc Vincenz is Swiss-British, was born in Hong Kong, and has published eight collections of poetry.) roped together / by words in a thicket of senses. § Chris Tysh: 3 poems (Chris Tish is a poet and playwright and the author of several collections of poetry... Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
This week we welcome back Eleanor Goodman as our guest author. Eleanor is a Research Associate at the Harvard University Fairbank Center, and spent a year at Peking University on a Fulbright Fellowship. She has been an artist in residence at the American Academy in Rome and was awarded a Henry Luce Translation Fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. Her first book of translations,Something Crosses My Mind: Selected Poems of Wang Xiaoni (Zephyr Press, 2014) was the recipient of a 2013 PEN/Heim Translation Grant and winner of the 2015 Lucien Stryk Prize. The book was also shortlisted for the International Griffin Prize. The anthology Iron Moon, a translation of Chinese worker’s poetry, will be out in 2017. Her first poetry book, Nine Dragon Island (Enclave/Zephyr, 2016), was a finalist for the Drunken Boat First Book Prize. Welcome back, Eleanor. -- sdh Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Happy birthday Mitch We did it for you We beat the glamorous Giants and dogged Dodgers, which Is a pretty big fucking deal and we did it for you On your birthday because you Are undoubtedly the greatest writer and Ex-gemologist among our many fans Around the country and even far distant lands -- And the genius who assembled this crew Of Cubs as strong as Ajax and swifter than the wind Was a bris kind Just like you, Mitch Sisskind --- Samuel Meshuga (10 /22/ 16) Samuel Meshuga is the pseudonym of a writer and editor based in New York. Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Special to The Best American Poetry blog After the Dodgers were eliminated last night in the "friendly confines" of Wrigley Field in Chicago, where the Cubs under Theo Epstein's executive management triumphed 5-0, an emergency meeting of the rat pack was held with Sandy Koufax as toastmaster. The fellows voted unanimously to give Dodger field manager Dave Roberts a pat on the back for a job well-done. On June 30, no one thought the boys in blue had a chance of overtaking the Giants for the NL West crown, let alone defeating Washington to qualify for the National League Championship series. 'It was a great season," Koufax declared before fielding questions regarding his post-season heroics versus the Yanees in 1963 and his legendary refusal to pitch on Yom Kippur in the 1965 fall classic. Sandy toasted his Hall-of-Fame teammate Don Drysdale, now deceased. Sandy said: When the Twins knocked out Don [game one starter in Sandy's stead], the tall righthander told [manager Walt] Alston, "bet you wish I, too, were Jewish," and Alston was impressed by Drysdale's use of the subjunctive. Frank drank a shot of Jack and talked about his duet with Elvis Presley in March 1960. Dean sang "Volare" and modulated into "On an Evening in Roma": "Do they take 'em for espresso, / Yeah, I guess so, / On each lover's arm a girl, l wish I knew, / On an evening in Roma." Then he took a drag of his cigarette and winked at Frank, who sang, "Come fly with me, let's fly, let's fly away / If you can use some exotic booze / There's a bar in far Bombay." It would be up to Koufax to determine the itinerary: Bombay first, then Rome? Notice Sandy's thin tie and the elegant pocket squares around the horn, a dead giveaway. -- DL Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Subj: My Flu Date: 96_12_21 15:22:57 EST From: (Reetika Gina Vazirani) To: Hello. I caught the flu there is nothing I can do but entertain myself as u- sual, it's fun reading your books which out of the blue put up sprigs of mistletoe rapid random kisses ensue achoo, achoo, achoo it's all a dream on my part I know but a good one thank you David I am walking on broken glass it’s so crunchy! If there's ice or snow I won't be able to check my email, it’s cold the wind is blow ing, I blow you good wishes Blow you in this case has a direct object O- kay master explainer of interpretive theo-_ ries of our day -- take care of you sweet ego You friend, Reetika Also do Not get a Flu Shot that's how I got this horrible disease the flu I don't need a doctor I need a lawyer so I can approach the Nat’l Agency on Flu with one sentence: I plan to sue! O, so do go ahead and get a flu shot we can sue them together just we two we will threaten the agency execu- tives: Look you -- holding up a photo (exhibit A) of you with a silencer to your head, ready for death to take you The flu is a silent killer and to kill off po- ets is a terrible thing for a country to do! Achoo, is that your sneeze, God Bless You! -- December 21, 1996 Continue reading
Posted 6 days ago at The Best American Poetry
This week we welcome Heather J. Macpherson as our guest author. Heather is the executive director at Damfino Press, which publishes an online journal, sponsors an annual chapbook contest, and publishes Five Poems, a yearly chapbook series. The most recent Five Poems is by Ilya Kaminisky. Heather's own poetry and other writings have appeared in Niche Lit Magazine , The Broken Plate, Spillway, Pearl, ATOMIC, CLARE Literary, OVS, Rougarou, and elsewhere. She has twice been features editor for The Worcester Review, and is currently at work on her third feature, forthcoming in 2017. Heather is also finishing her second Master's degree and hopes to pursue a Ph.D. You can find out more about Heather at her blog, Scribble Hysteria. Welcome, Heather. -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
ILLUSTRATION: CHRISTOPHER SERRA From the Wall Street Journal, October 15-16, 2016 Not the least of Robert Frost’s accomplishments is that he managed to balance popularity with artistic excellence. Take “The Road Not Taken” (1916), arguably his most famous poem. You probably read it in high school. You will find it in any good poetry anthology. In its wizardry, the poem deserves the highest accolades. The irony is that it has often been loved and quoted for the wrong reasons. The further irony is that this misunderstanding itself testifies to the subtlety and genius of its creator. The critic David Orr has written an entire book—“The Road Not Taken: Finding America in the Poem Everyone Loves and Almost Everyone Gets Wrong” (2015), newly in paperback—on this misunderstanding and the nuances of Frost’s design. Here is the poem: Continue reading here. Continue reading
Posted Oct 15, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
People may not realize that Nobel Prizes, like other awards, are actively campaigned for. It is as if lobbyists, albeit unpaid ones, were out there petitioning the committee in Stockholm. Here is Gordon Ball's brief for Dylan, which is entitled "I nominated Bob Dylan for the Nobel Prize. You’re welcome" and which appears in today's Washington Post. Ball has campaigned for a Nobel for Dylan since 1996. -- DL Bob Dylan aboard a train. For decades I’ve admired the work of Bob Dylan, whom I first saw at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965, but it was in August of 1996 that I first wrote the Nobel Committee, nominating Dylan for its literature prize. The idea to do so originated not with me but with two Dylan aficionados in Norway, journalist Reidar Indrebø and attorney Gunnar Lunde, who had recently written Allen Ginsberg about a Nobel for Dylan. Ginsberg’s office then asked if I’d write a nominating letter. (Nominators must be professors of literature or linguistics, past laureates, presidents of national writers’ groups, or members of the Swedish Academy or similar groups.) Over the next few months, several other professors, including Stephen Scobie, Daniel Karlin, and Betsy Bowden, endorsed Dylan for the Nobel. I would go on to nominate Dylan for the next dozen years. This year, he finally won. Continue reading here. Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
Very good to have this post up, Larry. Thanks. -- DL
In the name of Abe – biblical predecessor of honest Abe, who freed the slaves, and also Bobby’s dad -- I stand at your gate with faith equal to doubt, and I say, look out kid, no matter what you did, and incredulity gives way to unconditional surrender. Abe say “Where do you want this killing done?” God say “Out on Highway 61.” God directs traffic, and young Isaac say it’s all right Ma I’m only bleeding. And Ma say it’s all right boy I’m only breathing. And Dad unpack his heart with words like a whore. Young Isaac ain’t gonna work for Maggie's brother no more. Ike no like the white man boss, and when stuck inside of Mobile to even the score he looks at the stream he needs to cross despite schemes of grinning oilpot oligarch arschloch who wanna be on the side that’s winning. So he climbs up to the captain’s tower and does his sinning and has read all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books. He no get where he got because of his looks. He’s on the pavement talking about the government, and he knows something’s happening but he don’t know what it is. A strange man, Mr. Jones. Isaac Jones that is. -- David Lehman Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
We are disoriented. Cubs fans are used to moving on to football by October. Our association with baseball in the fall has usually been looking over someone’s shoulder at a TV in a bar asking, “Who’s playing? Oh yeah? What’s the score?” This year is all new. That’s because not only are the Cubs still playing on October 15th, but they have a really good chance of winning. Honest. I would not have said that through eight innings on Tuesday night. None of us would have. No, despite 103 regular season victories, we were thinking 1969 when the Cubs blew a 9 1/2 game lead in September. We were thinking 1984 when they were up two zip and got swept by the Padres in San Diego. We were thinking 1989 when San Francisco made easy work of them in the NLCS and 2003 when Steve Bartman seemed a latter day manifestation of Billy Sianis’s goat or 2015 when the New York Mets swept the Cubs in the NLCS. Now we are thinking, “Maybe, just maybe.” That’s because Tuesday night the Cubs scored 4 runs in the 9th inning in a come from behind playoff victory over the San Francisco Giants. The Chicago National League baseball club had never done that in its 140 year history. In fact, now listen to this, no one had. No major league team in post season history had ever come from behind to score 4 runs in the 9th to win. Sorry to be repetitious. I could say it over and over again. How did they do it? With children. Twenty-four-year-old Willson Contreras in his first half season in the majors drove in the tying run, and twenty-three-year-old Javier Baez in his first full major league season -- who is not only a wonderful baseball player but a gymnast and magician as well (look for his highlight film on YouTube in which he slides over, around, under and through tags, and in the field reaches behind himself in mid-air to tag out the other guy who can’t believe it until he sees the replay later) -- got the game-winning hit, and twenty-five year old Carl Edwards Jr. pitched a perfect seventh. And that is not to mention 22-year-old-shortstop Addison Russell who looks like a fawn and may be the team’s best all-around player, or 24-year-old-Jorge Soler who got so excited earlier in the year that he jumped out of the dugout and ran the bases with a teammate who had hit a homer, or 23-year-old Kyle Schwarber who wrecked his knee in the third game of the season going all-out to catch a ball in the outfield and is lying in wait for the 2017 National League, or 24-year-old Kris Bryant and gray beard Anthony Rizzo (he’s 27) who are vying for NL MVP honors or the best starting rotation in baseball or hired gun closer Aroldis Chapman who threw 13 pitches Tuesday not one of which was less than a hundred miles an hour... Continue reading
Posted Oct 14, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
Hilarious! Thanks Mitch!
Concert (2015) collage (c) John Ashbery We're excited to announce the first issue of a new online magazine of art and poetry: Decals of Desire. The founding editor is British artist and poet Rupert Mallin, and the poetry editor is British poet Martin Stannard, who lives and works in China (and who has been a guest here). Martin Stannard used to edit joe soap’s canoe, a UK magazine that was the first in the UK to draw heavily upon the New York School, publishing among others Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Paul Violi, Charles North, and Tony Towle. One can expect a similar taste to show up in Decals of Desire. The first issue demonstrates its commitment to both the visual and the written, and kicks off in stunning fashion by featuring 8 collages by John Ashbery, as well as a poem, and extracts from Ashbery’s 1968 essay on the avant-garde. Among other writers featured in the issue are Ron Padgett, Sharon Mesmer and Mark Halliday from the U.S., Ian Seed and Alan Baker from the UK, and Mairéad Byrne, who was born in Ireland, emigrated to the U.S., and now appears to be travelling…. But it’s not all “poetry”. There’s even a short play in there. Variety is almost all. In terms of the visual arts, Decals of Desire will look back but also across to traditional, experimental and off-the-wall art forms today. Featured in the first issue is the work of contemporary landscape painter Martin Laurance. Laurance’s work captures the crumbling English coastline through dramatic, captivating studies. The magazine also reviews The British Art Show touring exhibition – a show that claims to represent the “most dynamic” art produced in Britain today, but which probably doesn’t. There is sculpture, too: sculpture of the 20th century is often viewed in terms of form and mass. Decals of Desire outlines how sculptor Alberto Giacometti dealt primarily in scale and human distance. Other articles include a sideways look at the Turner Prize 2016. Back in 1999 Tracy Emin turned the prize into prime time TV viewing but didn’t win. Will a female artist win this year? And whither the Avant-Garde? In this piece evidence of its existence and withering is found in contemporary dance and the ‘NO Manifesto.’ And in each issue an unusual artistic technique will be explored and the side streets of modern art history revisited. Decals of Desire can be found at We're already looking forward to Issue 2, which will include a review of the Abstract Expressionism exhibition at the Royal Academy, an exploration of Catalan Contemporary Art, the Anglo-French Art Centre 1945-51 plus an abundance of poetry and regular columns – featured artists, Decals DIY and more. Decals of Desire does not accept unsolicited manuscripts or poetry submissions. -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Oct 12, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
o·ti·ose ˈōSHēˌōs,ˈōtēˌōs/ adjective 1..serving no practical purpose or result. "So we must be vigilant in keeping story lengths appropriate. Bluntly — but obviously, I hope — every story should be as short as it needs to be. There's no excuse for a single otiose word or punctuation mark in our writing. Too many stories have repetitive anecdotes or unnecessary quotes. We will cut them." Memo on October 11 by Wall Street Journal Editor-in-Chief Gerard Baker to reporters advising them that unnecessarily long stories would be trimmed as the newsroom ups its focus on digital journalism. -- sdl Continue reading
Posted Oct 11, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
This week we welcome Sonja Johanson as our guest author. Sonja is president of the Massachusetts Master Gardener Association. She is a contributing editor at the Found Poetry Review, and the author of Impossible Dovetail (Ides, Silver Birch Press), all those ragged scars (Choose the Sword Press), and Trees in Our Dooryards (Redbird Chapbooks). She has recent work appearing or forthcoming in BOAAT, Concis, and The Writer’s Almanac. Sonja divides her time between work in Massachusetts and her home in the mountains of western Maine. Welcome, Sonja. -- sdh Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2016 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. Not until the turn of the twentieth century was Traherne’s authorship of Poems (1903) and the prose Centuries of Meditation (1908) recognized. The latter comprises paragraphs of reflection that may be considered forerunners of the prose poem. Traherne wrote as one for whom angels were real. 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.” Continue reading
Posted Oct 7, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
Poets especially when young are all too prone to take an exclusive and exclusionary position on the form versus freedom debate and other such "critical" subjects. Too avant-garde for the academics, too academic for the avant-gardists -- I think a lot of us are in that box. But maybe we should ignore the box in favor of the particular pleasures we prize. For example, the delight of Stein's "If I Told You." Thanks for this stimulating post. -- DL