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Angela Ball
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Love your comment, Amy, how great the way you describe the poem's delight in the unsolvable: "that delight, rather than any complete understanding, is the juice we can wring from being alive."
Thank you for this beyond-generous comment, David.
Chaos Magic for Beginners Don’t we all love when the announcer gets choked up? When the roller coaster gets stuck, that an octopus can eat one of its own hearts when stressed enough and aren’t we all? Don’t you like to know stuff? Sperm leaves the penis at 28mph, in many countries being bird-pooped-on is considered lucky, Goya’s skull is still missing although the last thing my mother said no one understood and I’m okay with that. Let’s try to take pleasure in the contradictory heavy footfalls on the roof, whatever the dog’s dug up. Let’s appreciate the pyramid’s false floors, trap doors, the detective who’s yet to realize he’s stalking himself. It’s okay to be a demon, to be a thrown angel on the spectrum. Maybe you just feel too much, too much serotonin so even swans make you crazy, anyone talking on their phone in the elevator. Nothing needs a reason to happen, the cause of all this has yet to occur if it ever will. Often it’s like being fed to raptor hatchlings or trying to get information from a corpse, possibly your own. Almost everything doesn’t work. I like when the lovers can somehow stay together. I like when the tower collapses, that sense at the end that it’s never over --Dean Young I think one of the most important lessons and permissions I have tried to absorb from the originals of the New York School is the sense that anything language can do can be in a poem, be it cri de coeur or blunt information, if the poem and the poet's receptivity is open and playful enough. –Dean Young Dean Young's most recent book is Solar Perplexus. His poems have appeared a dozen times in Best American Poetry. The New York School Diaspora (Part Thirty): Dean Young The title of Dean Young’s “Chaos Magic for Beginners,” is a welter of contradictions—“magic,” as a skill, depends on utmost precision—what is “Chaos Magic” and how begin to impart its principles? Perhaps the way is demonstration, and “Chaos Magic for Beginners” is wonderfully demonstrative. The poem’s outer subject is expressed in its title, its inner one in the pattern of its imagery: things being blocked or unblocked, expressed. Bird poop turned awkwardly proverbial, a famous skull on the loose. Extractions, ingestions. Its method is not so much “ultra talk” as ultra thought—expression so swift as to almost precede formulation. The poem begins with schadenfreude prompted by a broadcaster’s fallibility. The late Jon Anderson once said, “The secret of poetry is cruelty.” It may also be the case that chaos is its secret. Who can explain the wonder of reading Young’s list of comic frustrations and striking oddities—the stuck rollercoaster, the heart-eating octopi (that we resemble), the speed of sperm, the great artist’s cranium, ending with the scalding mystery of a mother’s last words--lines that might also be read, as I did at first, as the mother saying, “No one understood. And I’m OK with that.” With “Let’s... Continue reading
Posted Jun 28, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
I am helpfully informed by the author that "Dean" is primarily Dean Young--and only secondarily the academic functionary I take him for.(Why did I not listen to the capital letter? Who knows?) Dean Young, what a refreshing oracle. I am glad for your presence in this poem. Obviously, I must count myself among the errant.
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DEAR BERSERKER The light came into my dream from the right, so I opened my eyes to a mulberry bicycle that Sam stole heavenward in a poem of many errors. Then I was puffed rice or a poisonous enjambment. I ate a bowl of scrambled eggs. I could’ve sworn I was drowning in the engines of an airport. Patiently, I contrived to replace the painted target with a small silver policeman, redacted from the force. But all of that was earlier, before I drove Agnes and Juliet to their final exams in Algebra and Chemistry, and also before I went back to blitzing in the denim and dimming—sitting for my portrait in the juice of a lemon. Sometimes more than one of them puckers a Venus Flytrap or rattles a contingent of cloches that stream from the Exits to enter the drag-strip, the testicle, the syrup of The Muses. Why The Fates and The Hours often fail to intervene is a question. Why The Sirens often fail to alert me to their presence is another. I’m already dead when I notice the petunia. This particular occasion is whatever/wherever you want it to be, or merely the time I have left before I go to meet Dean and drink more of the oracular in the future where I’m shards in the maw of the racehorse Conundrum. To start or not to start? To stop or not to go? One thing I can recommend is Andrei Voznesensky via Anselm Hollo, where I, too, am hollow and translated into a speakeasy, though nothing’s ever easy that involves language, and just to be clear, this is not “channel surfing,” so don’t believe the one-trick readers of ponies. I have never been a pony, and this isn’t some trick, it’s a real fucking miracle. If you can’t see the ineffable in the shattered geraniums of saints, then you have problems that I can’t even begin to address. Let’s just say we agree to split the baby birds into teams—your failure of imagination versus my deliberate distortions. The long bombs get longer in the teeth with every wallop. I’ve never met a shadow in the light I didn’t like. The score is a touchdown on an alien planet. I am the alien at home in my amazement, and you’re what comes in waves to destroy me. --Matt Hart I hope, if nothing else, you can tell that I enjoy tremendously the process of writing poems and that I am in all of them trying to discover something about, and/or be surprised by, language and life. Writing is always, for me, a celebratory occasion. Even when the shadows rise up and the darkness falls, there may be some possibility that the soul will be shattered or moved or redirected, and through that we might connect in some way to the self, other people, and the world. A poem is a call for a response, and any response is itself a new call. --Matt Hart Matt Hart is... Continue reading
Posted Jun 14, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Thank you, Leah Martinson. So glad you enjoyed.
Life-Sentence(s) One full-grown woman A recently born child A gleam of sunshine & Pointed hill One saint in a silent movie Agee in a cab Martin King on a Memphis balcony Clouds when examined under glass Salt water on solid rock Jesus on the cross Father in the guest room 4 to 6 feet Now Stupid Fucking White Man Then A pebble and a clod The Future Mr. William Blake The stars of the southern hemisphere Moisture The climbing up Doris Lanard The climbing down Robert Creeley Overhanging ferns and lilies A level and brilliantly white sea A little haystack Port Desire The first landing Flaccid Overlook Entropy’s missed triumph Your luminous body Mine --Claudia Keelan Claudia Keelan's most recent books are We Step into the Sea: New and Selected Poems (Barrow Street) and Ecstatic Emigre: An Ethics of Practice (University of Michigan Press). She is the editor of Interim and the Test Site Poetry Series. The New York School Diaspora (Part Twenty-Eight): Claudia Keelan Claudia Keelan’s enthralling “Life-Sentence(s)” is thirty-three end-stops. Thirty-three doors. Lives and deaths our experience may elaborate. Is abundance and disappearance, both playful and solemn, like Frank O’Hara’s in such poems as “Talking the Sun at Fire Island." The first line, “One full-grown woman,” suggests a catalogue. But instead we taxi thirty-three runways for imagination. Their directions different for each reader. But not runways, because that suggests that the context, the universe inhabited, is consistent. The mortalities of the first twelve lines alone encompass quotidian fact (in the woman and “recently born” child), the fevered world of a silent movie, geography, literary history, chemistry, martyrdom, and familial grief. The poem’s cross-sections interrogate time’s givens: Now Stupid Fucking White Man Then A pebble and a clod The Future Mr. William Blake The stars of the southern hemisphere Throughout the poem, contextual shifts jolt, disrupt memory. The snatch of invective, “Stupid Fucking White Man” prompts many sad examples. Pebbles and clods endure in their lowly ubiquity—here, two paragons of the indistinguishable. To think of William Blake with the honorific accorded a living man, moving about the world, makes him again an agent of eternity that we leap from into stars. The quotation above reveals a signal part of the poem’s method: diverse entities alternate with familiar markers: “Now”. . .”Then”. . . “The Future” . . . that suddenly seem to us insubstantial. We live a world not of progress, but of disordered parallels. For me, looking up “Doris Lanard” yielded a jumble of similar names, but also the heading “We have found Doris,” a poignant assertion. Here, in finding “Robert Creeley,” we dwell on a great poet entrained by a litany of small and large beauties: Overhanging ferns and lilies A level and brilliantly white sea A little haystack Port Desire A tumble, a plane, a cone of sustenance, an inlet of longing. Claudia Keelan’s vivid and unsettling “Life-Sentence(s)” contains no period, no confining mark of closure. Ending, it gives us “The first landing,” that may remind... Continue reading
Posted May 31, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Isn't it lovely! Indeed. Thank you, Annette.
Thank you bunches, Karen Beckworth. Glad you are reading.
Thank you for these home truths, Stanley Moss. A PRELUDE but one that fits now, and refreshes. Every young poet should read.
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Nothing to See Here, Move Along All through my days, elaborate silken rays coming through screens carrying its own occult. I am in the habit of questioning love which is a storm of rare light silvering spider webs in a sacred forest, the silent clock in the town square, the heavy footprints of the homeless, the museum we do not enter. So when I say I’ve subdued the stallions raging in my blood, know that I travel here only to watch the sparrow hawk flying low over marl prairie, to take in the sedge wren’s flits and jukes like teenagers learning a new dance. I’m here guarding my freedom, rubbing my hands over yesterday fires. --Major Jackson Major Jackson is the author of five books of poetry, including The Absurd Man (2020), Roll Deep (2015), Holding Company (2010), Hoops (2006) and Leaving Saturn (2002), which won the Cave Canem Poetry Prize for a first book of poems. His edited volumes include: Best American Poetry 2019, Renga for Obama, and Library of America’s Countee Cullen: Collected Poems. A recipient of fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, Major Jackson has been awarded a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Writers’ Award, and has been honored by the Pew Fellowship in the Arts and the Witter Bynner Foundation in conjunction with the Library of Congress. He has published poems and essays in American Poetry Review, The New Yorker, Orion Magazine, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, Poetry London, and Zyzzva. Major Jackson lives in Nashville, Tennessee where he is the Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Chair in the Humanities at Vanderbilt University. He serves as the Poetry Editor of The Harvard Review. Photo Credit: Erin Patrice O’Brien The New York School Diaspora (Part Twenty-Seven): Major Jackson Major Jackson’s intricate “Nothing to See Here, Move Along,” begins by conflating biography (“All through my days”) with car accident; readers with gawkers. The title, appropriated from law enforcement, suggests not just smashups, but more sinister scenarios involving abuse of power and denial of freedom. We see none of these things, but think of them while witnessing a series of complex relations. An aura of enforcement, of necessity, surrounds the poem. Jackson’s work resembles John Ashbery’s in its ability to establish a metaphysical place. For Ashbery, his early poem ,“The Instruction Manual,” is foundational—providing an imagined version of a real Guadalajara—later poems travel further, producing mind-dwelling places, “lacustrine cities,” definite in detail. This is the realm we inhabit here, but with a freshness and vitality of image that is Jackson’s own. Jackson’s first stanza lives in the metaphysical, its “screens” of “silken rays”—light’s waves “coming through screens” (of molecules?) “carrying its own occult.” Its serial definitions of love, the results of “questioning,” are ethereal— which is a storm of rare light silvering spider webs in a sacred forest, the silent clock in the town square, --until “the heavy footsteps of the homeless” lead... Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Denise, what a pleasure to read this memoir confirming my suspicion that the best poets begin in luck, confusion, difficulty, and persistence. What a great invitation to the book. I agree with Karen Beckworth's comment wholeheartedly.
David, thanks for posting this brilliant poem. Especially love "when the id of March exposed the ego's feet of clay." And the boffo last couplet.
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We May Never Get Back Here That soft yellow two-story place in the Spanish style was a movie house, remember? Marilyn who pitied horses danced the desert conscious while Clark watched. They don’t open doors in Niagara: too many bodies in the bell tower. At the movie house, they exclusively served expired snack cakes. Everyone should have to see a horse experience a storm for the first time much like the way it is a sin not to sneak into a movie house. When sad birds sleep, certain moths salivate, eat from eyes like a record needle, music carving circles in a mirror, like when you hear a sound or phrase so right you have to hum. Every once in a while, you notice you’re the only animal at home & no one is waiting to remember you & no, there’s not a person with a different perfume in each individual eyelash waiting to be squeezed like honeysuckle, someone you can turn to & say, I think you’re the talking I’ve been with all day, someone to help you miss a movie house & a dog that lives to bite the air, the right there. Again, I climbed into a taxi with all your time. The dog you don’t even own yet hears your disc slip. Our home is a lilac dropped at the feet like cigars or the afternoon, all those fortresses at the mercy of my breathing. Driving by the movie house can turn you confident enough to make a noise, regret small things like owning one too many clocks, the trouble of objects that give you no trouble. One day, all at once, your neighbors realize they’re old & in the wrong room & I’ll just wish I had been there the night you got your eyes. Who wouldn’t want their whole life to be a funeral for a movie house, & who can afford to live in a house with a person no one bothered to name? The mind is a generous butcher. You’ve forgotten me like a child spending his entire life in a water tower. At least I was always a laugh. Just one more film before they feed us vacation footage. Perhaps it’s not a sad idea to stay children, a home without money, laughed human. What I mean is many families moved, were moved in this house. That’s all. What kind of families? Who cares. I was going underground until I touched you. Now I want to be old & realize the room I’m in is not what I meant. When I watch movies, I often think about the time my teacher hugged his daughter like a haunted rocking chair. Had I stepped into a play by Pinter? Was I a bird crying on pictures of more beautiful birds? I think of how the angel left Mary in Luke, like my grandpa left Nilda with hell on her hands, shrinking in some coffee shop. Stay for the morning, I’d say, my wings... Continue reading
Posted Mar 22, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Collin, that's a great association--thank you!
Denise, I love your comment. Thank you!
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Müller and Me Wilhelm Müller, 1794-1827 I am an ordinary fauna, one who can’t remember if a fife is a rifle or a flute. After all, there’s strife and fight in it, but on the other hand it’s a short sweet word that rhymes with life. The way the cemetery looks made of books and the library is a graveyard. When love frees itself from pain the angels cut off their wings and throw them down to earth (throw in your scarf to cover my eyes so your shadow won’t wake me). I’d like to teach a young starling to speak, but clearly and distinctly so his words wouldn’t be like human ones. I really believed my pain was not that small, but how heavy is my happiness that no sound on earth can encompass it? I’m on a fifer’s ride My steed is black and steady I say goodnight to everyone To everyone goodmorn --Mary Ruefle "Müller and Me" from Trances of the Blast. Copyright 2013. Printed with permission of the author and Wave Books. Mary Ruefle is the author of many books, including Dunce (Wave Books, 2019), which was a finalist for the 2020 Pulitzer Prize, longlisted for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics’ Circle Award, as well as a finalist for the LA Times Book Prize. She is also the author of My Private Property (Wave Books, 2016), Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013), Madness, Rack, and Honey: Collected Lectures (Wave Books, 2012), a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism, and Selected Poems (Wave Books, 2010), winner of the William Carlos Williams Award from the Poetry Society of America. She has also published a comic book, Go Home and Go to Bed! (Pilot Books/Orange Table Comics, 2007), and is an erasure artist, whose treatments of nineteenth century texts have been exhibited in museums and galleries and published in A Little White Shadow (Wave Books, 2006). Ruefle is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Robert Creeley Award, an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim fellowship, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and a Whiting Award. She lives in Bennington, Vermont, where she serves as the state’s poet laureate. Photo credit: Libby Lewis Photography The New York School Diaspora (Part Twenty-Five): Mary Ruefle Mary Ruefle’s “Müller and Me” is an imagined collaboration with William Müller, the great German poet whose best-known works are Die shöne Müllerin and Winterreise, transformed by Franz Shubert into song cycles. It begins with the surprise announcement, “I am an ordinary fauna. . .”—word coined in 1771, normally plural in usage—and moves to the word “fife,” embedding it in childlike, jokey play: After all, there’s strife and fight in it, but on the other hand it’s a short sweet word that rhymes with life. We think, perhaps, of the well-known Archibald Willard painting, The Spirit of 1776, featuring three musicians marching into battle, one of them a bandaged... Continue reading
Posted Mar 8, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Thank you, J. Guaner, for your apt comment. Annette Boehm, thank you for your appreciative words. David, thank you for your kudos and for pointing out the Deerfield Academy connection--uncanny.
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Deerfield Crossing Sheet lightning pulses like blood vessels in the sky above the post office. It is Sunday empty. I caress the edges of failed delivery in my pocket and continue on the acid- rain pocked sidewalk to the station. Down the block, a dog fights his leash toward the smell of angel hair and meatballs escaping from a kitchen window. Television sets and crickets coalesce with the steady hum of residential air conditioning units. The syncopated eyes of wind turbines blink red in the distance. Families fold together their fingers in prayer. When the thunder claps like an infomercial the streetlamps come on all at once. (originally published in Blue Earth Review) --Collin Callahan In the poem before this one in Thunderbird Inn, “Horizontal Tuxedo,” a woman left her address in wet hair on the shower wall. –Collin Callahan Collin Callahan was born in Illinois. His first collection of poetry, Thunderbird Inn, is forthcoming with Conduit Books & Ephemera. His poems have appeared in Denver Quarterly, SLICE, Ninth Letter, and elsewhere. He is the recipient of the 2021 Bat City Review Editors’ Prize in poetry. You can find his work at collincallahanwrites.com. The New York School Diaspora (Part Twenty-Four): Collin Callahan A poem of blended messages, beginning with lightning that strobes itself somatic, “Deerfield Crossing” intersects what Robert Frost called “inner and outer weather”: the limited scope of its interplay a despoiled landscape, a “Deerfield” without deer or fields, only crossings, a Levittown diaspora community far from the animation of Frank O’Hara’s NYC, but nonetheless a place with things to say, and with a poet willing to listen. The first half line of stanza two, “It is Sunday empty,” may be the most economical, on-the-nose description ever provided for a day of the week. We see the speaker for the first and only time, automatically caressing a returned letter he has received, headed for “the station”—a still place, sieve for travel. We glimpse the ghost of T.S. Eliot, towering figure that the New York School of Poets dismissed, but that John Ashbery received via W.H. Auden. Ashbery once characterized New York City as a large empty space perfect for poetry, and Deerfield Crossing possesses some of the same emptiness, one that enjoys defying itself, as in Down the block, a dog fights his leash toward the smell of angel hair and meatballs escaping from a kitchen window. Throughout, this poem is a model of what Paul Fussell calls “vigorous enjambment”: its line breaks faking closure, supplying surprise. In the lines above, we are half prepared for something celestial--and get, instead, “meatballs”—the dog’s eagerness vivid against flatness. Then, the stark loveliness of the post-natural, Television sets and crickets coalesce with the steady hum of residential air conditioning units. The syncopated eyes of wind turbines blink red in the distance. in which nature is unnaturally included in the amalgam of “Television sets and crickets” and the wind turbine’s robotic “syncopated eyes” that “blink red,” composing a kind of heartbeat “in the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Thank you, JQ Zheng, for your generous comments. Thank you, as well, Sarah Gelder, for your words here. Kevin Thomason, I appreciate what you have to say here.
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SENESCO SED AMO “Starlight is almost flesh.”—Basil Bunting One life, not one among A thousand others of quail Like tipsy mandarins crowding The cold of a low wall Along a line of trees, the angel Promised me and nothing More, nothing to weigh. Menippus and Lucian Be with me now as I Feel my way among Misted pillars and ghosts Of breath on upper Broadway. A quick kiss in the crosswalk is More to me than mankind. There is no middle ground. There is our empty bench. There is the stoop of pigeons. Either I have been alone Every hour of my life or Never once, not even One moment, and the mist rising. Angel, how stern you have become. Stricken, almost as strange as Uruguay Against traffic in the middle distance, You stride, and there is bread in your step And sunlight ground into fine powder. All the same, I feel comforted. The sharper the mist, the sweeter the hour. For good reason, enormous windows Gape the walls of our museums. Brancusi’s woman asleep awakes to see Riotous sunlight feeding the air Because air is what becomes of light When no one is looking. Only myself, And I have never been alone until now. The stern angel gives me bread and the courage Of satire. Crossing the street towards me Menippus and Lucian extend their arms, And birds alight upon their arms, shitting, Cooing. What is mankind to me When I have remembered a kiss in the night sweats Against the traffic, without a breath of air? The word “steadfast” comes to mind, a word Like “dusk”, awaiting its formal elegy In abandoned train-yards. Little fires In bins are all that remains of English. I step into the crook of the wing of my Steadfast angel. I catch the scent Of newly washed hair, and she says to me “Shelter here.” Satire is shelter in extremis. Christ has the dispatch of it, having Inscribed bitter verses upon human eyes For angels’ delight and the increase Of crooked human sleep. Let mankind sleep Forever. Christ has suffered enough, And my angel is clean enough to kiss. We kiss. --Donald Revell Donald Revell is the author of sixteen collections of poetry, most recently of White Campion (2021) and The English Boat (2018), both from Alice James Books. Revell has also published six volumes of translations from the French, including Apollinaire’s Alcools, Rimbaud’s A Season in Hell, Laforgue’s Last Verses, and Verlaine's Songs without Words. His critical writings have been collected as: Sudden Eden: Essays; Essay: A Critical Memoir; The Art of Attention; and Invisible Green: Selected Prose. Winner of the PEN USA Translation Award and two-time winner of the PEN USA Award for Poetry, he has also won the Academy of American Poets’ Lenore Marshall Prize and is a former Fellow of the Ingram Merrill and Guggenheim Foundations. Additionally, he has twice been awarded Fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Having previously taught at the Universities of Alabama, Denver,... Continue reading
Posted Feb 8, 2022 at The Best American Poetry
Yes, Olga Ponomareva, Jianqing Zheng is great at describing the delta, that he knows so well.
Thank you for your comment, George Drew!
How good to see this affecting poem by Herbert Gold. I met him and his wife at a reception after Gold's fine reading at Ohio University. I was a young undergraduate with lots to say; they were friendly and kind.