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What a terrific poem.
The perfect poem to welcome autumn. I love it.
COUNTRY MUSIC There’s really nothing to see inside. The austerity that once numbed the rooms Died of a fever and rotted in the shadows Of the few trees left on the lawn. You can stare through the windows all you want, Nothing inside will be broken, the guests The dogs and stray cats will never appear. But something keeps me here. Maybe it’s The old man who whistles through his teeth. He sways lightly on the porch swing. His rifle Is covered with dust. Birds listen from the barns, Wait for their big chance. Maybe it’s Upstairs Helen, weeping in the shadows of gold. Maybe it’s the children moaning from deep Under the ground where they’re passing their lives. They wait for the tale’s perfume to blow away. They have asked me to step back and drift off Through the suddenly softly falling snow, Launched into the future, my hands thrown up, So we can all disappear from my mind. -Richard Stull Richard Stull was born and raised in Mount Gilead, Ohio. He lived for many years in New York City, where he worked as an editor and a freelance writer. He now lives in Newburgh, a small city on the Hudson River, about fifty miles north of New York. He has been a resident at Yaddo and was awarded an Ingram Merrill Foundation grant. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The Paris Review, Sal Mimeo (edited by Larry Fagin), and Blazing Stadium. He is the author of several limited editions. These include A Walk With Jane, Drugged Like Mirrors, Canal, and The Adoration of the Golden Calf. The New York School Diaspora (Part Fifty-Nine): Richard Stull Richard Stull’s “Country Music” begins with a compelling disclaimer: “There’s really nothing to see inside” and moves on to a brilliant matter-of-fact personification: “The austerity that once numbed the rooms / Died of a fever and rotted in the shadows / Of the few trees left on the lawn.” This poverty, natural and human, is the source of country’s music’s tortured falsetto and gravelly base—anguish and comfort in one. The house has nothing to offer—even its unofficial guests, the strays, stay hidden. Then the poet/speaker says, “But something keeps me here,” and posits “it’s / The old man who whistles through his teeth”—a carnivore’s music. The man seems more dead than alive, like a photograph of someone once living: “He sways lightly on the porch swing. His rifle / Is covered with dust.” “Birds listen from the barns, / Wait for their big chance.” What this means is mysterious, made even more so by the arrival of “Upstairs / Helen, weeping in the shadows of gold.” Suddenly we are in the realm of myth—incongruous in this cornpone setting, but somehow right. Think of Loretta Lynn—was she not a kind of Iphigenia? In shadows of gold from the glittering costumes that surrounded her? I am far afield, but the poem invites that, I think. It takes us next to an underworld: “Maybe it’s the... Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Thank you, Denise. I am so sorry you have lost your brilliant collaborator and your generous editor, to whom I also owe gratitude. Rest in poetry is such a wonderful wish. You are a source of light and consolation.
David Schloss, I so much appreciate your comment. Thank you. Sarah Gelder, thank you for your generous response.
Deseret for John Ashbery Out here someone else is thinking of you, turning now towards you, to the west and away. Your table has been set—and that’s scary, why not? But the nominations have begun and soon you’ll substitute yourself in doorways, and on stairs when these hillsides burst in flames. It’s like tearing the sky with your nipple and then walking back into the scene, to the wound in the house, to the sink. Blue clouds rush on through your skull, in the windows of blood in your throat. Daylight throbs, just out of reach, there at the lip of your stumps while behind you, deep in the house, tools as solemn as kids reassert themselves in the carpeted light that sleeps beneath tables and chairs. This house has been you all along but soon it’s bedtime for vision and sound. Still, as long as it’s there you will want it, will want to be in it, to see it, to touch the blue tub and have been. And so, in the bath (where they’ll find you one day, your own mouth stuffed with cool blood) you pushed open the window and glazed off into space filled up with blips and new lanes. The world that you see is just so nearby; one is almost always surrounded, so that it is almost perfectly safe and you can open your eyes and still breathe. Meanwhile, out here, we listen for your breath like the bodies in songs where no one is home. It’s like turning with your throat in that memory of the house when already we’re inside touching the coats. But this, you’ll never know, you say turning twice away and then opening the car so the music all spilled out. So that nothing, or the land, can whistle, or be said, now the cars all went away in a blast of seeds and dust. This excitement leads you again to the house where you’ll find your own head, borrowed in glass, neglected, transpired and waiting to act, to greet you again with the holes of your face. The light flecks on your eyes are like fingers on skin tracing cloud shapes on backs, as they stretch out and pass. Let this be our city, weaving the light, in the light, on our backs, in beds, facing up. -Anthony McCann from I am the dead, who, you take care of me (forthcoming in 2023 from Wave Books) Anthony McCann is the author of five volumes of poetry including I am the dead, who, you take care of me and Thing Music. His non-fiction prose work, Shadowlands—on the 2016 armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge—was a finalist for the California Book Award and the Reading the West Award. Anthony is the current director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the California Institute of the Arts. He lives with this family in the Mojave Desert. The New York School Diaspora (Part Fifty-Eight): Anthony McCann Anthony McCann’s powerful... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Six Children ‘Though unmarried I have had six children’ Walt Whitman The first woman I ever got with child wore calico In Carolina. She was hoeing beans; as a languorous breeze I caressed her loins, until her hoe lay abandoned in the furrow. The second was braving the tumultuous seas that encircle This fish-shaped isle; by the time a sudden rip-tide tore Her from my grasp, she had known the full power of Paumanok. One matron I waylaid – or was it she who waylaid Me? – on a tram that shook and rattled and Rang from Battery Park to Washington Heights and back. O Pocahontas! You died as Rebecca Rolfe, and are buried In Gravesend. Your distant descendant, her swollen belly Taut as a drum, avoids my eye, and that of other men-folk. While my glorious diva hurls her enraptured soul to the gods, I sit, dove-like, brooding in the stalls: what in me is vast, Dark and abysmal, her voice illumines and makes pregnant. Some day, all together, we will stride the open road, wheeling In an outsized pram my sixth, this broken, mustachioed Soldier whose wounds I bind up nightly. His mother I forget. -Mark Ford From Six Children (2011) Mark Ford was born in Nairobi, Kenya in 1962, and is a professor in the English Department at University College London. His Selected Poems was published by Coffee House Press in 2014. Other publications include Raymond Roussel and the Republic of Dreams (2001), Thomas Hardy: Half a Londoner (2016), Woman Much Missed: Thomas Hardy, Emma Hardy, and Poetry (2023), and three collections of essays, the most recent of which, This Dialogue of One, was awarded the Poetry Foundation’s 2015 Pegasus Award for Poetry Criticism. He is the editor of London: A History in Verse and of the ongoing Library of America edition of the poems of John Ashbery. The New York School Diaspora (Part Fifty-Seven): Mark Ford Mark Ford’s brilliantly imagined soliloquy/monologue by Walt Whitman, its catalyst a simple but scandalous statement by the erstwhile “good gray poet” (the title of a pamphlet by William Douglas O’Connor) transforms sentimental notions of Whitman’s saintliness to a more complex, fraught persona. It’s as though Ford’s preparation for writing the poem included Whitman’s poem, “Are you the new person drawn toward me?” which starts, “To begin with, take warning, I am surely far different from what you suppose. . . .” “Six Children” embodies Whitman’s impulse to tally. The “29th Bather” section of “Song of Myself,” in which a lonely woman peers out from her curtained room at 28 joyful male bathers, gets some of its power from enumeration. To count a group of people objectifies it, supplies a firmer presence. Calling the woman the “29th Bather” renders the poem poignant. Her fantasy is given numerical actuality yet remains unreal. Here, enumeration seeks to make the “six children” more real. But, in a wonderfully oblique move, the poem actually enumerates—till the very end—their mothers, turning Whitman’s confession into a demonstration... Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Wonderful piece! Who else could encompass Romanticism in one paragraph? (The ante-penultimate.)
Thank you, Denise, for another great feature honoring a terrific-looking new book!
Dear Walter--thank you for your comment! David--so happy to see your enthusiasm. Thank you!
WHO WOULD WIN Ernie Shavers vs. Ernie Hemingway — who would win??? Norman Mailer vs. Norman Bates — who would win??? Betty vs. Veronica — who would win??? Jacques Cousteau vs. Jacques Strap — who would win??? Yellow vs. Blue — who would win??? Blue vs. Gruyère — who would win??? The 60s vs. the 90s — who would win??? Those in their 60s vs. those in their 90s — who would win??? Andre Breton vs. Andre Champagne — who would win??? William Shatner vs. Gil Gerard — who would win??? World War I vs. World War II — who would win??? Ironsides vs. Columbo — who would win??? Columbo (the private detective) vs. Colombo (Sri Lanka) — who would win??? Julius Erving vs. Irving Goodman — who would win??? Dialectical Hegemony vs. Axiological Heterogeneity — who would win??? Herman Melville vs. Herman Munster — who would win??? Corbett vs. Courbet — who would win??? Merlin Olson vs. Merlin — who would win??? Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Leonard Nimoy — who would win??? Ginger vs. Marianne — who would win??? Arnold Schwarzenegger vs. Zimbabwe — who would win??? Alfredo Evangelista vs. Linda Evangelista — who would win??? Gurkhas vs. Gherkins — who would win??? Those who are concerned with who would win vs. Those who are not concerned with who would win — who would win??? --Loren Goodman Loren Goodman is the author of Famous Americans, selected by W.S. Merwin for the 2002 Yale Series of Younger Poets, and Non-Existent Facts (otata’s bookshelf, 2018), as well as the chapbooks Suppository Writing (The Chuckwagon, 2008), New Products (Proper Tales Press, 2010) and, with Pirooz Kalayeh, Shitting on Elves & Other Poems (New Michigan Press, 2020). A Professor of creative writing and English literature at Yonsei University/Underwood International College in Seoul, South Korea, he serves as Creative Writing Director and enjoys teaching courses on dreams, manga, imaginative writing, kung fu, and ethnography. The New York School Diaspora (Part Fifty-Six) : Loren Goodman You may find Loren Goodman’s poem of urgent alternatives, “Who Would Win,” very funny. Does this mean it’s less valuable as art? Some critics would say so. They would be wrong. Humor, though consistently undervalued in American poetry, is a great tool for opening the mind to new associations, new grandeurs. Take this poem’s laser focus on winning. That’s American, n’est-ce pas? The wonderfully consistent trio of question marks at the end of each set of alternatives emphasizes the poem’s lurid preoccupation and America’s cultural obsession. It also hammers us with an unresolved question: what does “winning” mean??? and confronts us with our too-easy tendency to ignore such questions. “Who Would Win” shares some impulses with John Ashbery’s riotous “Memories of Imperialism,” which begins Dewey took Manila and soon after invented the decimal system that keeps libraries from collapsing even unto this day. The poem goes on to explore the emotional state of this hybrid “Dewey,” to hilarious effect. Goodman’s poem doesn’t merge the identities of his name look-a-likes; he... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Can't resist posting this excerpt from Martin Stannard's review: Of late I have yearned and longed for a poet new to me to take my breath away. And I have been living with this air of longing and, as a result, also with an air of disappointment. And for a month or two I have had this book – well, PDF to be exact – sitting around waiting to be picked up and reviewed, and I usually like Hanging Loose books because it’s a New York press I know, and I know Bob Hershon who runs it with Mark Pawlak, and it’s almost always all good, then today I sat down and opened the book and it was “goodbye breath” –
Thank you, Martin. Glad to have the link to the review. Thank you, David. Glad you enjoyed.
Early April Subway Again room fills up like leaf gutters With attractive grouplets of the stubbornly Coy and then everyone waits together Like the pleasing skinny S-shaped Trees that fill my enemy’s back yard, A place of wet thoughts where forsythia Is asked, cruelly, to be the weather It foretells, but changes nothing: It’s simply not the kind of yard To turn an ordinary woman Into the advancing giant, plunging An arm into the lawn And pulling out a bloody root. Oh, parsley-flavored attitude! Comfortable Shirt-tail atmosphere! Nice windiness! Rare as a smart magazine and better Than that and church coffee: The room pulls away and I’m standing. I’m standing and the room greets The audience. I’m standing and newspapers Open like folded pigeons, but I’m Listening and I’m standing and my favorite Citizens listen and I listen when I sit down When the room fills with angry hip-hop, When I’m happy as a screen door closing. -Justin Jamail from Exchangeable Bonds Justin Jamail is the General Counsel of the New York Botanical Garden. He is the author of Exchangeable Bonds (Hanging Loose, 2018). He grew up in Houston, Texas, and graduated from Columbia University in New York City where he studied with Kenneth Koch and Paul Violi. He later studied at the UMass Amherst Center for Poets and Writers, Waseda University in Tokyo, and Fordham University School of Law. From 2009 until 2015 he practiced corporate law in Tokyo, specializing in cross-border M&A transactions. He lives in Montclair, NJ with his wife, the playwright and community organizer Amber Reed. The New York School Diaspora (Part Fifty-Five): Justin Jamail Justin Jamail ‘s poem, "Early April Subway," is a scintillant cocktail of utterance. Ashbery is in the mix, with his defamiliarizing of the quotidian; and French Surrealism, and maybe Latin American, and perhaps Martian, and perhaps other kinds, if they exist. The poem’s manic energy is O’Hara-like—an exuberance in which everything glimpsed or thought of seems a lucky find in need of sharing (“But I’m listening and I’m standing”). Throughout, we glimpse the famous, fabulous excitability of Kenneth Koch. “Early April Subway” would be a good introduction to poetry, since it dances with language instead of using it to get somewhere. I love Moss Hart’s possibly obsolete dictum, “If you need to send a message, call Western Union!” The title gives us a context. We ride a subway in a tender season, and we grasp that fact like a strap. Reading, we recall John Ashbery’s affectionate parody of ordinary speech. The sentence that comprises stanza two parodies a familiar syntax and tone (low dudgeon?), but its nouns and verbs—particularly its plunging arm—discombobulate: It’s simply not the kind of yard To turn an ordinary woman Into the advancing giant, plunging An arm into the lawn And pulling out a bloody root. It’s easy to forget, for a moment, that this is a poem about getting somewhere. By subway! We are reading a distant descendent of Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro,”... Continue reading
Posted Jul 11, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
BLACK-AND-WHITE PHOTOGRAPH OF A RELATIVE Edges cut strange shadows this time of day. As sunlight strays, roof shade falls short on the porch, its doorway a slate-black slab behind a crouched man. Contrast dominates the scene, these dual grains of age a resistance to one another. Trees abate themselves in ashen air, their blades and pools of light crossed no more in the give and take of wind, branches lost against the bitter pale spates of sky that separate them. The cabin’s contours soften under scrutiny till a blotted onyx form remains. Nightfall hesitates at the backdrop’s wan broadness, absence locked in its momentous failure to arrive, unable to fade, unable to clarify. -Kevin Thomason Kevin Thomason is from Memphis, Tennessee and has lived and taught in Canada and South Korea. His work can be read in Narrative Magazine, Arkansas Review, Southern Poetry Review, and elsewhere. Last year, his poem, “Second Marriage,” was featured on He currently teaches at McNeese State University and lives between Lake Charles, Louisiana and Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The New York School Diaspora (Part Fifty-Four): Kevin Thomason Kevin Thomason’s mysterious and compelling ekphastic poem, “Black-and-White Photograph of a Relative,” is a great example of a work that’s subtly influenced by The New York School of Poets. Its salient features—a somber tone and insistence on diminishment—recall both Philip Larkin and Thomas Hardy. And its crepuscularity conceals a Yeatsian grandeur. Nonetheless, I contend that the New York School influence is present, leavening and transformative. For good reasons too numerous to go into, a bred-in-the-bone distrust of optimism and language play has to some extent persisted in British poetry. The brilliant biographer and essayist John Lahr has used American musical theatre to articulate the difference between British and American sensibilities. "No British person," he said (to visiting American students) would write a song called, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Thomason’s poem, while charged with fatalism, is subtly animated by the playful perversity, the sense that a thing is also what it is not, found in Frank O’Hara’s “Why I am Not A Painter,” in which he says, of his new poem, “it is even in / prose, I am a real poet.” First of all, the poem’s title over-insists on its genericness, drains its color with the phrase “a relative.” And this is nothing so personal as a “portrait”—it’s a “photograph,” merely. Exaggeration is by nature playful. And the exaggerated effacement of the photo’s subject—not mentioned until line seven, and then as a “crouched man” backed by a doorway that is a tomb-like “black slab”—renders the setting, a cabin’s porch, a combination cave and crypt. This is anything but the stock family snap, with its celebration of togetherness and possibility. In fact, the photograph’s subject is somehow absent while present. The sharply enjambed opening lines are ominous, dangerous, and packed with denial: “Edges cut strange / shadows this time of day,” and “roof shade falls short / on the porch . . . . Trees simultaneously provide and deprive: their... Continue reading
Posted Jun 27, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Poem for a Suicide The yellow flowers on the grave make an arch, they lie on a black stone that lies on the ground like a black door that will always remain closed down into the earth, into it is etched the name of a great poet who believed he had nothing more to say, he threw himself into literal water and everyone has done their mourning and been mourned over, and we all went on with our shopping, I stare at this photograph of that grave and think you died like him, like all the others, and the yellow flowers seem angry, they seem to want to refuse to be placed anywhere but in a vase next to the living, someday all of us will have our names etched where we cannot read them, she who sealed her envelopes full of poems about doubt with flowers called it her “granite lip,” I want mine to say Lucky Life, and what would a perfect elegy do? place the flowers back in the ground? take me where I can watch him sit eternally dreaming over his typewriter? then, at last, will I finally unlearn everything? and I admit that yes, while I could never leave everyone, here at last I understand these yellow flowers, the names, the black door he held open and you walked through. -Matthew Zapruder Matthew Zapruder is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently Father’s Day (Copper Canyon, 2019), and Story of a Poem (Unnamed, 2023). He is editor at large at Wave Books, where he edits contemporary poetry, prose, and translations. From 2016-7 he held the annually rotating position of editor of the poetry column for the New York Times Magazine, and was the editor of Best American Poetry 2022. He teaches in the MFA in Creative Writing at Saint Mary’s College of California. Photo by B.A. Van Sise The New York School Diaspora (Part Fifty-Two): Matthew Zapruder Matthew Zapruder’s intricate and absorbing “Poem for a Suicide” dramatizes an ever-present paradox: that language is part of art’s saving grace but also forms grief’s alphabet. Helped by Zapruder’s brief comment on the poem at Poets.Org, I know that it begins ekphrastically, prompted by a picture of the great poet Paul Celan’s grave and the contrast of sun-colored flowers that “lie” over black stone. “The ‘you’ addressed,” Zapruder says, “is not one person, but several people. I want to understand them, and I want to hold onto them, but have no choice but to let them go.” I think the phrase “have no choice” is of signal import; suicides “choose” to end their own lives, but the essence of suicide is its beyondness from choice. Or, put another way, choice has removed itself. It could be said that Celan died not by his own hand but at the hands of a language so blackened and blasphemed that he could no longer write or live inside it. Instinctively, we feel anger toward the suicide, who has rejected... Continue reading
Posted Jun 13, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
". . .she can be intimate and ironic at the same time": brilliant! Also brilliant: "But Channing serves the song where Monroe makes her songs sound like illustrations of her life."
What the Streets Look Like Mom: the sweet rotted summer stench still taps the nasal cavity inside breezes several times per block. I have a greater empathy for pigeons after two months at work in the unnatural country, & find it instinctively nerve- wracking to remove my wallet from its pocket here in town despite the general lack of threat. The streets look grey nonplussed, post- pubescent relative to ancient times but nonetheless grid-wizened in the face of an ever- changing lineup of banks, bars, and specialty shops with their weak signs and distant tones (lighting). Second Ave is giving up, slowly its cheap depth store- front by storefront. One feels less than nostalgic for the like- lihood of being mugged but likelihood itself feels less than evident unless one is being unstable and unspoken coming to dreaming while pushing a stroller over the variously cracked slabs of concrete each block yet greets the wheels with. The right part of the y heading west on tenth between 2nd and 3rd is still tree-lined and aristocratic as feint, though its sidewalk looks like late Auden's smoked cheeks. I loathe it, amiably, when Sylvie is asleep. -Anselm Berrigan Anselm Berrigan is the author of several books of poetry, including Pregrets (Black Square Editions, 2021), Something for Everybody (Wave Books, 2018), Come in Alone (Wave Books, 2016), Notes from Irrelevance (Wave Books, 2011), Free Cell (City Lights Books, 2009), and Integrity and Dramatic Life (Edge, 1999). With Alice Notley and his brother Edmund Berrigan, he coedited The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan (University of California, 2005) and the Selected Poems of Ted Berrigan (University of California, 2011). The New York School Diaspora (Part Fifty-One): Anselm Berrigan Anselm Berrigan's "What the Streets Look Like"—perhaps a letter to “Mom,” also a poet—employs a somatic/psychological Rimbaud-like intoxication—the speaker, immersed in the city, entrains us. A special feature is New York City’s “summer stench,” inseparable from the perception of it, as it “taps the nasal cavity / inside breezes.” Like most raptures “coming to dreaming,” this one is both personal and impersonal (“one feels less than / nostalgic”), both full-throated and guarded. The poet’s time “working in the unnatural country” has not only affected his “empathy for pigeons” but renders it “instinctively nerve-wracking” to take out his wallet “here in town despite / the general lack of threat.” The poem’s compact lineation and hard enjambment make the city’s press more than palpable, audible. We receive a vivid précis of the neighborhood's commercial background and prospects, its tired variety show: The streets look grey nonplussed, post- pubescent relative to ancient times but nonetheless grid-wizened in the face of an ever- changing lineup of banks, bars, and specialty shops with their weak signs and distant tones (lighting). The oddly-wonderful "grid-wizened" captures so much of the American city street, its "line-up" of putative entertainment also suggestive of crime's usual suspects. Two-thirds of the way through our walk, we discover that the poet pushes a stroller. This poem, part of a... Continue reading
Posted May 30, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Border Clashes We stroll out of El Zocalo to find a world turning white with snow. Not more than an hour ago, or so it seems, it was still just a neighborhood of homemade heaps and small dark houses huddled against the single-digit skies of southwest Detroit. Kim plods to his Escort. I fire up the Tempo, turn on the wipers. 1-75 to the Lodge, I pretend to follow the north star but pull off at the Warren-Forest exit and pull into the Third Street Saloon. I take out a five for a Stroh’s and take a look around at the only other patrons, a table of students, one of whom I know, a poet. She catches my eye, looks away, carelessly laughing as I recall * Christmas night at the Detroit- Windsor border. I sat alone in the back of an Accord being driven by Mary, Katie beside her, two sisters, nearsighted, brown-haired, blond. The guard bent down, jerked his head my way, and sneered, “You gals bringing anything across?” Flashing licenses and teeth— “Is—that--all?”— Katie, enraged, swore for hours, but how could I, I who have always lived between countries, between that night and another night, thirteen years before, when my girlfriend and I found ourselves detained by Customs because I was said to resemble a West Indian brother twenty years my senior? Later, back in the U.S.A., Katie and I danced our asses off. Sweat flung from the sprinkler our figures cut, twinkled like icy stars on the stage lit unlit by slo-mo strobes. I could smell the sweat of a hundred worlds, the sweet and sour stench of cheap perfume and bargain-brand soap. It was the hot sauce and garlic of Hamtramck and Highland Park, Rayis Brothers and Brothers Barbecue, Eastern Market and Lafayette Coney, an ethnic festival teeming with bloods. When the lights came up, we filed out, stunned, as though the places to which we had to return-- Plymouth and Detroit-- had been found dead in each other’s arms: murder-suicide. * Last call, and I’m just fine. I stumble to my car, spin out of the lot in a spray of sleet and mud and hit the northbound Lodge at sixty. Not a few of these vehicles are harboring drunks like me. The world is still turning white. The white dotted lines are useless now. We weave our ways home, as best we can, in lanes of our own making. -Tyrone Williams About the poem: It was written during, and about, the year I returned to Detroit (1986-1987) after spending three years in Cincinnati (1983-1986). For me it evokes that year I was trying to decide if I'd stay in my hometown or return to my job in Cincinnati (which I did) .-Tyrone Williams Tyrone Williams is the David Gray Chair of Poetry & Letters at SUNY Buffalo. He is the author of several chapbooks and seven books of poetry: c.c. (Krupskaya 2002), On Spec (Omnidawn 2008), The Hero Project of the Century (The... Continue reading
Posted May 16, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Poem for an Antique Korean Fishing Bobber Little glass planet, I like picking you up. As if I’m holding my own thought, one blown molten with a puff of some craftsman’s breath⏤is it still inside you? You are a beautiful bauble it’s hard to imagine anyone hurling you into the sea, but eventually we all have a job to do. I think of the early mornings and storm warnings you braved to find the village dinner. I don’t remember carrying you home on the plane from Seoul, crew dozing behind the cockpit door, autopilot engaged⏤what were they dreaming of? I don’t even know what shore you washed up on: Busan, Incheon, Samcheok. Are you glad we made you a home here so far from the sea? is a question I won’t ask in case your answer is the one you don’t want to give. I love how perfectly you fit in my hand, at first cold, and the way the morning looks through you, as green and cloudy as an unknown we no longer fear. But I wouldn’t want to be held up to the sun either, not because I’m a monster, but because I, too, am transparent and trusting, and mistake both for the truth. Beneath our lives there are sordid undulations and embraces brief and sweet, a nearly invisible line connecting us to the fleet, with every breath worth saving, like the sip of air inside us full of an old sea’s grace or the ancient word hidden in our lungs that once released back into the wild will finally set us free. -Dobby Gibson Someone told me a story, possibly apocryphal, that Robert Bly, at the height of his Bly-ness, would walk into a creative writing workshop, place a rock on the table and say: “Write a poem about this. When I’m back, we’ll share the results.” He’d then go across the street to a bar and enjoy a drink. For a while, I employed this same somatic ritual, using objects around my house. I drafted this poem quickly, beginning to end, in a few minutes. When I showed it to a friend, they said it was about fatherhood. I revised it with the belief they were right. - Dobby Gibson Dobby Gibson is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Little Glass Planet (Graywolf Press, 2019). He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota. The New York School Diaspora (Part Forty-Nine) Dobby Gibson “Poem for An Antique Korean Fishing Bobber” is an ode, a poem of praise for an object with implications beyond itself. It begins intimately, “Little glass planet, / I like picking you up.” Isn’t the pleasure of holding a small object a sine qua non for collecting? The image move outwards from the speaker’s “own thought” to the craftsman’s creating breath perhaps still contained in the “beautiful bauble.” But this is no fancy objet d’art, but a tool “with a job to do” that has earned its praise through the hardship of “early... Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Poem for Wendy’s Eyes Last week as I was eating an apple pie With my bare hands all by myself In a small room painted lime green And lit by a dim chandelier which Hung from a white ceiling that sparkled I thought about Wendy’s green eyes Which made Wendy’s eyelashes look green Which reminded me of the ocean Which was spitting up so many jigsaw pieces Sea glass empty shells old wigs Dead fish elongated squid folded jellyfish All the junk of friendship the bracelets and twigs And then Wendy closed her eyes -- Nothing lasts forever, not Wendy Not apple pie, not the crappy light bulbs In the dusty chandelier, not the pain As one awakens in an empty room So cheer up -- even the nurse won’t Ignore your screams all night -- When the battery acid bubbles out It looks like a syrup but I resist The urge to lick it and instead watch The flaccid plastic bag that drifts Like a winged creature or a leaky brain Hyperactively dreaming of Wendy -- Look how it comforts the bulldozer While the thunder bumbles its way Around the arid interior -Nathan Hoks Nathan Hoks's most recent book is Nests in Air (Black Ocean). He teaches in the Program in Creative Writing at the University of Chicago, and in the MFA Writing Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The New York School Diaspora (Part Forty-Eight): Nathan Hoks The title of Nathan Hoks's “Poem for Wendy’s Eyes” leads us to expect a conventional love poem. We get everything but. The speaker is currently “eating an apple pie / with my bare hands all by myself”—unexpected behavior from a troubadour. But who doesn’t sometimes eat like a mythical Goth or slightly more complex Visigoth? The speaker notes his surroundings, “a small room painted lime green / And lit by a dim chandelier”—and this fixture, and its magic effect on the ceiling, brings him to “Wendy’s green eyes”—and to their connection, not to the rest of Wendy, but to the sea, not eating, but disgorging "jigsaw pieces": Sea glass empty shells old wigs Dead fish elongated squid folded jellyfish All the junk of friendship the bracelets and twigs Then we are unexpectedly again with Wendy, but only long enough to see her close her eyes. Just for a moment? In sleep? Death? Then the poem becomes memento mori and/or ubi sunt, Nothing lasts forever, not Wendy Not apple pie, not the crappy light bulbs In the dusty chandelier, not the pain As one awakens in an empty room So cheer up -- even the nurse won’t Ignore your screams all night The poem’s nadir may be its fourth negation : “not the pain / As one awakens in an empty room. . . .” From there, we are urged to “cheer up” and given the back-handed comfort that even over-taxed medical professionals will eventually respond to our “all night” screams. This is a poetry of direct announcement,... Continue reading
Posted Apr 18, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
The Ballet The dancers In a terribly bright Light blue gauze Retained the mystery Skating on a lake Blue and ice An illusionary time Where poetry feels inevitable The terrific clown Who lies inside Every blue dress Does he see me Always a star Always a root Horrible auras At the door But no matter where we start It all ends in an ocean Hard and fast On the approaching blue dawn Until then A deep low whisper What is language anyway An ending that never happens -Dorothea Lasky "The Ballet" was originally published in American Poetry Review in 2021. It is from a book called The Green Lake, which is forthcoming from Wave Books. The book is in conversation with the horrors of our time, particularly in regards to climate change and its effects. -Dorothea Lasky Dorothea Lasky is the author of nine books of poetry and prose, including Animal (Wave Books). Currently, she is an Associate Professor of Poetry in the MFA program at Columbia University School of the Arts, where she directs the Poetry program. The New York School Diaspora (Part Forty-Six): Dorothea Lasky In her luminous “The Ballet,” Dorothea Lasky both caresses the idealization art brings and exposes its divided nature. Her address to ballet reminds us of Emily Dickinson’s address to God as “burglar, banker, father.” We are also perhaps reminded of Frank O’Hara’s love of ballet as embodied by his lover, dancer and dance-historian Vincent Warren; and of O’Hara’s frequent comic alternation between idealism and realism (“we love you get up”). The poem’s short, heavily stressed lines carry candor close to the unspeakable. In the first stanza, “terribly bright” is a first suggestion of a deformed reality that jealously retains “the mystery.” The second stanza, moving from a specific past to a sweeping present, works a little like an old toy in which figures are slotted into a base, below which the player’s hand moves them unseen, so that that they glide from one position to the next, “Skating on a lake / Blue and ice.” By now, it’s clear that this is a poetry of constraint, of frightening concentration, of the breaking of the “illusionary time / Where poetry feels inevitable.” “The terrific clown / Who lives inside/ Every blue dress / Does it see me? brings a coterie of associations. The circle of blue gauze (the poem’s central color) hides the dancer’s sex, with its horrific mysogenized lips, so like a clown’s—like Lon Chaney’s rictus in the silent film, Laugh Clown Laugh, in which Chaney’s character is terrorized by desire for his innocent, beautiful ward (Loretta Young, in her first film role). We may think of the custom, in the 19th-century foyer de la danse of the Paris Opera Ballet, of devoting the hours from five to seven to assignations between impoverished dancers and the aristocratic “patrons” who make of them divided creatures, ethereal and hungry, gliding and grasping. This is a world tied to two horses who gallop in diametrical directions:... Continue reading
Posted Mar 21, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
The Ongoing Lamentation of Anna Nicole Smith “You have a beautiful face Mr. Gray. Don’t frown.” - Wilde ….Right now, for instance, there’s my terrycloth robe, the walls, the curtains, the carpet, my slippers, and the sofa. Six pink things. Six pink things I can see. There’s also the mirror I like, with the real gold-plated frame, which, from where I sit, multiplies some of the pink. (It must be lucky for such a pretty mirror to get to mirror such pretty things.) And my skin’s almost pink (it’s peach) and underneath my pink furry slippers, unseen, are ten pink-painted toenails. In the corner of the mirror, a shame, is the window, showing off some drifts of cumuli, but even when skies are clear, the picture’s pretty much the same: just green trees and green hills, a few white specks of houses, berserk-looking and all spread out, with jutting decks and sparkling light blue pools – houses just like mine, that manage to be different but all alike. California is not so great. It’d be better, I think, if I were to replace all the windows with mirrors to keep all this pink inside. Then my pink would bang around, wild, like a bird in a sealed glass box! Maybe I could even get those mirrors like the ones they have in the cop movies, that can be seen through in one direction. That way, people outside could enjoy the room, and I’d never have to give any of it up or look at their faces. I’d stare at the mirrors, and the people would think I was staring at them and would wonder how I stayed so expressionless. Poise, they would think, and grace. I would like that… The world’s pinkest prettiest room. I’m fat. I’m old. I’m a fat old woman now, though I’m fatter than I am old. Sitting makes it worse. My stomach is gross; it bulges; it’s big always as if half-sticking up out of tub-water. But I’ve been fat before. I was a fat little girl. If you could pull apart my closet doors, slide the hangers, finger the tags, you’d see. You’d see my story; that’s all I mean. There are so many sizes, a department store rack’s worth of rising sizes. I keep them anymore so I won’t have to re-buy them, which is sad, at least to me. Up and down I go, fatting out and slimming down. It’s odd; I’ve been alive thirty-eight years, and no-one’s ever asked me what size I am when I dream. Not even Daniel. Well…I’m fat. Every night! I’m fat and I stomp around, and I don’t know what to do; I look down, and the fat pushes out the tops of my shoes. And even when it’s gone, when I’m thin, when even my arms are thin, it tingles. It tingled even when I was beautiful and in magazines because I was beautiful. It tingles like those limbs of amputees and scares the daylights... Continue reading
Posted Mar 7, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
This is such a wonderful idea! Hooray, Patricia; thank you, Denise!