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Denise Duhamel
Hollywood, FL
Denise Duhamel is the author of Ka-Ching!
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I just came across Málaga, Lucinda Ebersole’s novella, published posthumously by Peacock Press in 2023. Written in 224 chapters, none longer than a page and some as short as a sentence, Lucinda takes us on a journey from Jane Bowle’s unmarked grave to the ghost of Anaïs Nin to a suitcase full of plastic saints—via a threesome with strangers and an affair with a strange bullfighter. It’s a novella with a poet’s sensibility. Lucinda Ebersole (March 12, 1956 – March 20, 2017) described Málaga as "a really weird little novel that is sort of 'transgendered' kind of poetry, kind of a novel." It’s the perfect beach read as much of the action takes place by the sea! -- Denise Duhamel Continue reading
Posted 5 days ago at The Best American Poetry
My friend Maureen Seaton (1947 –2023) was a dedicated collaborator. She was part of a writing group Tres Abuelas y Una Mamá whose chapbook was just published by Anhinga Press. Maureen (one of the abuelas) wrote with two other abuelas—Carolina Hospital and Holly Iglesias—and one mamá Nicole Hospital-Medina. This is what I provided for the back cover: HOW TO GET INTO TROUBLE will delight you in every possible wicked (and sacred) way! Tres Abuelas y Una Mamá weave their poetry magic, collaborating on poems so sly you’ll never be sure which mamá wrote which (witch?) line. Now that you’ve had your cake and eaten it too, surrender to the wiles of your foolhardy heart and go wherever she wants to go. When the poets go solo (each poem is identified by initials) you still feel the influence of the other mamás. This is a gem of a chapbook with great advice— Call upon a fairy who is yourself. You’ll find yourself reading and chuckling then wanting to write poems, too, to join in the mischievous fun. You can hear this fabulous foursome here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7lOWpHgacmY Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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Catherine Barnett’s Solutions for the Problem of Bodies in Space was published yesterday by Graywolf. Grief and farce collide throughout the book, the vertebrae of which are ten exquisite prose poems called “Studies in Loneliness.” The opening stanza of Solutions finds the child speaker asking for her own room, away from her two little sisters. She wants to move to a spare near her “father’s prized ice machine dropping its tiny cubes automatically, all night long.” Solitude vs. loneliness—the dilemna of most writers who want to observe, be apart, sometimes seemingly cold to the rest of the world. In the second “Studies in Loneliness” entry we find “I like to fall asleep and wake up in a cold room.” The sixth ends with “Ash on my winter hat.” By the penultimate installment of “Studies in Loneliness,” we learn the speaker “keeps buying secondhand cashmere sweaters because wearing cashmere makes me feel as if [she’s] wearing another human body.” And in the last poem we are back to the cold, this time refilling a dying friend’s “glass with cold water.” In between these “studies” are more gorgeous poems about living with the knowledge of our singular existence, what we must so often face alone. Congratulations, Catherine! Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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Lisa Hase-Jackson's Insomnia in Another Town was published this spring by Clemson University Press as winner of the Converse MFA alumni Prize for Poetry. Claire Bateman, the contest judge, writes in part about Lisa’s “significant courage with grace notes of buoyancy.” Lisa’s poems navigate, among other things, mother and daughter relationships (speakers as mothers and speakers as daughters.) Here a poet-daughter watches her mother with her own dreams of writing… “MEEP AND MOPE” Mom wrote a book one time, titled Meep and Mope, about two pretend characters not unlike the two of us. They lived together alone far from familiar streets, walked or took the bus most everywhere, hitchhiking when it came to leaving town. She used her budding drawing skills, filled their world with watercolors, finished the story with her own quirk then sent the book to a publisher with seldom hope. Like the narcissist professor who criticized her work the semester before, the editors rejected it straight away; both our feelings were hurt. I had no chance to reread or claim it before she threw the book away; hadn’t known until I asked one day about the future adventures of Meep and Mope when they resumed their story in books two, three, and four. Mom just shrugged and turned back to her text leaving me to grieve newly lost found friends, for that is how I saw those pretend characters based on her and me. Congratulations, Lisa! -- Denise Duhamel Note: All posts by Denise Duhamel under the title "Wednesdays with Denise" are copyright (c) 2024 by Denise Duhamel. All rights reserved. Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
Last month Poem-A-Day ran this wonderful prose poem by Ellen Bass that I can’t get out of my head…It reminded me of my grandmother teaching me “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive” as sung by Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters. Though the song was recorded almost two decades before I was born, it remains one of my favorites. Yay to Nanas everywhere for teaching babies Bing Crosby-duet showtunes. <<< You're the Top Last night I get all the way to Ocean Street Extension, squinting through the windshield, wipers smearing the rain, lights of the oncoming cars half-blinding me. The baby’s in her seat in the back singing the first three words of “You’re the Top.” Not softly and sweetly the way she did when she woke in her crib, but belting it out like Ethel Merman. I don’t drive much at night anymore. And then the rain and the bad wipers. But I tell myself it’s too soon to give it up. Though the dark seems darker than I ever remember. And as I make the turn and head uphill, I can’t find the lines on the road. I start to panic. No! Yes—the lights! I flick them on and the world resolves. My god, I could have killed her. And I’ll think about that more later. But right now new galaxies are being birthed in my chest. There are no gods, but not everyone is cursed every moment. There are minutes, hours, sometimes even whole days when the earth is spinning 1.6 million miles around the sun and nothing tragic happens to you. I do not have to enter the land of everlasting sorrow. Every mistake I’ve made, every terrible decision—how I married the wrong man, hurt my child, didn’t go to Florence when she was dying—I take it all because the baby is commanding, “Sing, Nana.” And I sing, You’re the top. You’re the Coliseum, and the baby comes in right on cue. >>> You can hear Ellen read the poem here: https://poets.org/poem/youre-top And you can hear the song she references here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCfqIXiLxSE Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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Tayi Tibble’s second book of poems Rangikura was just reprinted with Knopf. (The volume was first published in 2021 in New Zealand.) Tibble, from Wellington, New Zealand, writes a poetry that blends her Māori culture with the attitude and wisdom of a young Millennial or the elder stateswoman of Gen Z. (Tibble was born in 1995.) Her poems are wildly bold, not shying away from colonialism, climate change, and the banality of pop culture. They are defiant and tender, as illustrated in these lines from “Tohunga”: good on you babe. / You got what you wanted. / The juicy earth / the factoried women / the rivers / the mountains / all bowing for you. / I’m proud of you / the way you erected / monuments in your image…. You can read the whole poem here: https://lithub.com/tohunga-a-poem-by-tayi-tibble/ Congratulations, Tayi! Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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Sara Daniele Rivera’s debut collection The Blue Mimes was just published by Graywolf Press as the winner of the Academy of American Poets’ 2023 First Book Award. Rivera is a Cuban Peruvian American poet whose landscapes include Havana and Lima, the sea and the mountains. Her gestures include code-switching and rompecabezas/ puzzles to get at the terrifying heart of her subjects. In these lush and powerful poems, she faces the geopolitical realities of migration , the 2016 election, and mourns the loss of those taken by Covid-19. The Blue Mimes is a tour-de-force. You can read (and hear Rivera read) “Someone curls into themselves/Al borde del mar” here: https://www.lamajadesnuda.com/sara-daniele-rivera-2/ Congratulations, Sara! Continue reading
Posted Apr 10, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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Just in time for Poetry Month comes Invisible Mending: The Best of C. K. Williams. This generous (272 pages, Farrar, Straus and Giroux ) volume of selected poems includes work from his earliest (and often hard to find) books up to his posthumous Falling Ill. C. K.Williams (1936 – 2015) was a prolific, inventive poet whose creative trajectory changed and deepened over time. Alan Shapiro, in an introduction to this volume, charts Williams growth into his characteristic long lines that use “all the tools of essay writing and prose fiction…a poetry that can think about what it’s feeling and feel intensely the consequences of its thought.” This is an important book for Williams’ fans and a wonderful primer for those just getting to know his work. Here is “Tar,” one of his most famous poems: https://poets.org/poem/tar Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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Congratulations to Miriam Levine whose book Forget about Sleep was published this month by NYQ Press as winner of the of the Laura Boss Narrative Poetry Award, chosen by José Antonio Rodríguez. This is what I wrote for the book jacket— Miriam Levine's Forget about Sleep is a love letter to our world, an ode to memory and all she has wistfully stored. “Such terrible things in this world,” it's true, and yet Levine holds on to all that is bright—daffodils, Zebra longwings, victory gardens, the moon, and the sea. Celebratory, clear-eyed, meditative, Levine's poems are mature and honest renderings on our humanness. You can read three of her gorgeous poems here: https://www.ronslate.com/exclusion-in-the-park-and-union-street/ Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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Hala Alyan’s The Moon That Turns You Back was published this month by Harper Collins. Alyan is an Palestinian American poet who explores violence, displacement, and loss. She uses a myriad of inventive poetic forms to contain diaspora and resilience in the face of war. In “Half-Life in Exile,” she writes: There is nothing more terrible than waiting for the terrible. I promise. Was the grief worth the poem? No, but you don’t interrogate a weed for what it does with wreckage. For what it’s done to get here. For examples of her work, here is a lineated poem “September, a week in” and a fierce prose poem “Habituation” which contains my favorite passage in the book but hasn’t the story already changed because I told it: https://www.thrushpoetryjournal.com/january-2020-hala-alyan.html Congratulations, Hala! Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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Henrietta Goodman’s book Antilla takes its title from a phantom island that appeared on 15th century maps. The lush poems in Antilla (The Backwaters Press) continually question what is here and what isn’t, through ghostly presences. In “What Are We Going to Turn Into?” Goodman even refers to her son as pop culture’s friendly ghost after he has a scary stint in the hospital, thinking: …how Gabriel’s father used to go around shirtless with huge muscles and a huge grin calling my son Casper, how we laughed together, and I’m thinking about that question, based on the simplest metaphor I know, the only one that matters. Goodman explores what/who is real again in the wonderfully feverish title poem: https://www.poetrynw.org/henrietta-goodman-antillia/ Congratulations, Henrietta! Continue reading
Posted Mar 13, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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If only I’d had Diane Seuss’s Modern Poetry when I first encountered the bulky textbook by the same title! If only we all had Diane Suess back then—we might have been a little less scared of verse and how to engage with it. Luckily we have her now! Modern Poetry (Graywolf Press, published today) is a gorgeous undertaking. While delving into issues of gender and class and who poetry is meant for, Suess acknowledges her deep love (and sometimes distrust) of it. Here she is channeling Marianne Moore in “Against Poetry”: https://yalereview.org/article/diane-seuss-against-poetry Congratulations, Diane Continue reading
Posted Mar 6, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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There are so many reasons to love Mary Gilliland’s latest book Ember Days, which will be published on March 1 by Codhill Press. Her title describes the light during both the summer and winter solstice, and her poems reverberate with that same golden brightness. Gilliland is a poet of witness and spirituality, grappling with climate devastation while also interrogating world policies and politics. But maybe the number one reason to love Ember Days is the savvy poem “Up with People” which brought me back to that 1970’s singing group of traveling teens funded by corporate America. UP WITH PEOPLE I remember the opening salute, the hours of taping and reshoot, our show’s chief sponsor Bab-O. I’d had to apply. It floors me now: the ticked questionnaire on American history, the patriotic essay I composed so eagerly, a stalk among the standing waves of grain. During commercial breaks for cleanser, I tended my tender self-regard, inked in every anacrostic in the book, won all spelling bees. Deadlines colder than zero Kelvin in the outer regions before sleep carried dust I could not fathom. Three. Two. One. and camera rolled, the rest of the cast singing out. They could not work me into their permanent Youth Corps. Some they did, gathered at the 30-year reunion, unbroken on the moving belt of hearty cereal, furtive sex, and overtime. I would have failed at reminiscing between dances, blank on what I’d looked like, what I’d said. For those of you too young to remember, you can hear the group’s signature song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skK1CKKlc0M Congratulations, Mary! Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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In January, Knopf published Gregory Pardlo’s Spectral Evidence. “Spectral evidence” is an actual legal term referring to “witness testimony that the accused person's spirit or spectral shape appeared to him/her in a dream at the time the accused person's physical body was at another location.” Huh? Yes, I am serious. And so is Pardlo. This kind of evidence was accepted during the Salem Witch Trials. Pardlo’s poems brilliantly explore this notion as he brings forward the fear of “the other” not only in terms of gender but also of race—America’s continual projection and demonization. Pardlo’s poems takes us through history, the big injustices alongside the microaggressions of today. Here is his wonderful poem “Theater Selfie.” https://yalereview.org/article/gregory-pardlo-theater-selfie Congratulations, Gregory! Continue reading
Posted Feb 21, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Sharing my favorite love poem. TO X Somewhere in history Somewhere in untold ages Somewhere in the sands of time Somewhere in the vast seas of eternity There is one person Only one Who could understand me and love me And you're it So get with it. Bill Knott (1940-2014) Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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Just when you think Dorianne Laux’s poems could not get any better—more beautifully sonic, more profound, more YES!—she gives us Life on Earth. The title poem begins: The odds are we never should have been born./Not one of us. Not one in 400 trillion to be/exact… From there, Dorianne praises the miraculousness of what comes next for each of us, including our pain. Published by Norton last month, the poems in Life on Earth give a domestic nod to “Bisquick” and “Singer” (the sewing machine), elevating and complicating the life of women and mothers. You can get a sneak peek of just how connected she is (to life, to poetry, to the past) in her poem “Spirit Level”: https://aprweb.org/poems/spirit-level Congratulations, Dorianne! Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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WEDNESDAYS WITH DENISE: January 31, 2024 with graphic Yesterday Scribner released Diana Khoi Nguyen’s Root Fractures following her 2018 debut book Ghost Of. Diana once again uses her skills as a visual artist—this time her poems are superimposed on silhouettes of family photos. Her work concerns itself with generational trauma and boundaries—boundaries of countries (Vietnam, after the fall of Saigon, and the U.S.), the boundaries of our bodies (mothers and daughters, the living and ghosts), as well as the very boundaries of poetry itself. An exciting, haunting collection. Here is an example of what she’s up to: https://www.kwelijournal.org/poetry-1/2018/11/19/beside-by-diana-khoi-nguyen Congratulations, Diana! Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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Holly Iglesias writes a kickass prose poem! Here is one of her many delightful offerings. The Day I Was Radioactive at Mass, I sat behind a young man who exhibited symptoms of acute devotionalism—bowing at the waist at each utterance of the word Jesus, kneeling on the stone floor, tap-tap- tapping his chest, raising his arms, palms up. The doctor had warned me to stay at least six feet away from other people for two days and to use disposable utensils and plates and to not have sex and to not get close to pregnant women and to not sleep in the same bed as children for a week. As we finished the Our Father, it struck me that I should not shake the man’s hand, nor that of the woman down the pew from me who had re-arranged the contents of her purse during the Kyrie. Nor did I want to say, Sorry, I’m radioactive. What a pity I had no asbestos glove to serve as a barrier so that I could extend my hand in earnest and say, Peace be with you. But the man did not turn around to face me, and the woman did not look up from her missal, so I wrapped my arms around myself instead, an embrace to limit the isotope’s range and to keep the fearful parts of me from flying out. You can read more of Holly’s prose poems here: https://www.holeintheheadreview.com/txtv1i4-1/holly-iglesias Continue reading
Posted Jan 24, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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Today’s offering is by Cassandra Atherton, an Australian prose poet and scholar. Her poem below is from the first issue of The Mackinaw which “celebrate(s) prose poetry, in the present as well as its history and its future, and provide(s) a space to publish, read, and discuss this wonderful genre.” “Plum(b)” is full of wordplay and literary references. Smart and fun, this poet sees not a red wheelbarrow, but a fancy red fridge. Always ahead of her time, it will already be tomorrow (for us in the US) by the time Cassandra reads this in Australia. Plum(b) William Carlos Williams was a genius. And he has my lover’s initials. Or rather my lover has his initials. I often eat the plums that were in the fridge. But I don’t expect to be forgiven. Not everything depends upon that. Or the wheelbarrow of promises that still lies at the bottom of his heart. That’s just a vain hope. My lover likes plums. The ones with the tough skins and the scarlet flesh. Not the yellow. We like the same food. Except for chops. I won’t eat lambs to the slaughter. Once I was called a ‘goo-goo-eyed’ vegetarian. Which basically means I won’t eat anything cute. With big imploring eyes. Because it would be almost like me eating myself. Baby cows are cute. Pigs are cute. And lambs are definitely cute. Even mutton dressed as lamb. So they are all out. But I eat chicken and fish and sometimes beef. If it isn’t veal. He lived on a farm once. So he hates sheep. He tells me that sheep are the stupidest animals ever. They deserve to be eaten. He even tells me the story about how sheep follow each other in straight lines and that the earth becomes shiny and solid beneath their feet. And he and his brothers would ride along their little tracks. On their bikes. Red bikes. Like that wheelbarrow in his faulty heart. One day he might even grow me some plums so that I can pick them and put them in our fridge. I want a red Smeg 473L fridge. I want my whole kitchen to be red. He draws the line at a red fridge. He has never heard of Smeg. Smeagol. Smaug, the dragon. He doesn't believe in the nuance of sound. He doesn’t understand the importance of a big, red, expensive fridge. He thinks they are just for keeping things cold. Like plums. -- Denise Duhamel Cassandra Atherton You can read more from The Mackinaw here: https://www.themackinaw.net Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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Lately I have been with obsessed with the sonnet—all it can hold within those 14 lines. So many variations of the sonnet (Coleman, Hayes, Hamby, just to name a few!)...Enter Aaron Smith who uses the same end word—sissy—all the way through…. Sissy I can’t remember my dad calling me a sissy, but he definitely told me not to be a sissy. I secretly (or not so secretly) liked all the sissy things. We had a hunting dog named Sissy. Really: Sissy. My father nicknamed my sister: Sissy. Still, he says, “How’s Sissy?” and calls her Sissy when she goes home to visit him. Belinda (Sissy) is one of the toughest people I know. My sissy (sister) has kicked someone’s ass, which isn’t sissy- ish, I guess, though I want to redefine sissy into something fabulous, tough, tender, “sissy- tough.” Drag queens are damn tough and sissies. I’m pretty fucking tough and a big, big sissy, too. And kind. Tough and kind and happy: a sissy. You can hear Aaron read the poem here: https://poets.org/poem/sissy Continue reading
Posted Jan 10, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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The first poetry book I’m recommending in 2024 is Pittsburghese by Robert Gibb, published by Michigan State University Press/Wheelbarrow Books on January 1. Pittsburghese is part elegy for the no-longer steel mills and part ode to the inhabitants of Pittsburgh and nearby Homestead. As a person who grew up in a dying mill town (Woonsocket, RI), I felt a deep connection to the displaced blue-collar and pink-collar workers in these plucky, utterly unsentimental poems. The book is a testament to a disappearing slice of Americana. Here’s a sample: Frances Perkins at the Homestead Post Office Her tricornered hat’s all but trademarked, Her suits well-cut and suitably dark. Patrician disguise for our one great Secretary of Labor, the tireless tony agitator With her firm, man-the-barricades touch. In 1933 she’s in Homestead drumming up Support for the newly established steel Code and the agencies of the New Deal. The borough hall’s packed, with hundreds More locked out— “undesirable reds,” According to the burgess who refuses To admit them or permit her the use Of the stairs in front. Nor is Frick Park’s Municipal block ordinanced for such talk, Or so they’re insisting when she sees The post office and thinking federal property Simply sets up shop within its haven. (Clerks and customers, their startled faces, My Uncle Arch looking up from his desk.) The cops are fuming, as is the burgess, But there’s not much they can do now, Even though theirs is a company town. How close she came, during her tenure, To putting paid to such places forever. Minimum wage, overtime, social security . . . A storm of progress to the angel of history, The debris of paradise scattered about The aggrieved, beseeching crowds. Congratulations, Robert! Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2024 at The Best American Poetry
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Earlier this year, Souvenir Spoon Books published Gregg Shapiro’s Refrain in Light. With its sly nod to the 1980’s album by the Talking Heads, Refrain in Light embraces the historical geography of place, remembering what has come before and celebrating with odes to what is here now. In this Americana road trip of poems you’ll find verse both vintage (a “bicentennial Viewmaster”) and contemporary (“a blue land crab crossing Ocean Drive” in South Beach). Shapiro is a cultural critic and scholar of the heart who asks “whose homeland is this anyway?” In fact, this book is full of questions — What does fire want? What does a tornado want? Must we listen to songs from the Armageddon soundtrack? Read Refrain in Light to find out. It is only "Once in a Lifetime" that a poet like Gregg Shapiro comes around. Here’s a sample poem: SoFlo Barbie Rescue ​The worst part about living in South Florida isn’t elder abuse or vaccine hesitancy, the humidity, or hurricanes. It’s all the orphaned Barbies, in various stages of undress and distress, piled like junkyard cars at American Thrift, Goodwill and Hadassah Resale. Knotted, discolored, and hacked hair, ink-stained skin and Sharpied pubic region, missing a limb, with a double mastectomy. At least the queens who shop at Out of the Closet on Wilton Drive know how to make Barbie feel loved and valued again. Take her home to mid-century architecture and decor. Bathe her in Calgon, shampoo her damaged locks with Kerastase Discipline Bain Fluidealiste, massage coconut oil into her cracking scalp. Apply Lancome Hydra Zen to her visage. Christian Louboutin Silky Satin Lip Colour to make her perpetual smirk even more desirable, kissable. Nothing but Chanel Le Vernis tints her finger and toenails. A diminutive, white gold Rolex Oyster Perpetual Day-Date 36 with diamond-paved dial, diamond-set bezel and a diamond-set President bracelet wrapped around her slender, tapered wrist. Tiffany diamond studs for her ears with matching diamond and platinum pendant for her throat. Dressed to the nines; Stuart Weitzman Cinderella slippers adorn her perfectly pedicured and arched feet. Only vintage Valentino or Karl Lagerfeld will do when it comes to her gowns, to be worn on the red carpet at galas or picking up a few nibblies at Sprouts. Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
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Earlier this year Ecco/Harper Collins published Hell, I Love Everybody: The Essential James Tate. For fans of Tate, the book is essential! As a fan myself, I even own Lucky Darryl (a novel Tate co-wrote with Bill Knott in 1997). Edited judiciously by Emily Pettit, Kate Lindroos, and Dara Barrois/Dixon, the book is whittled down to just 52 poems, their reasoning to make an “intimate book.” And it works! In the foreword, Terrance Hayes lists a delightful account of readers and how they found Tate’s work. And I feel compelled to add my own. As an undergraduate at Emerson College, I found a used copy of his book The Lost Pilot. The title poem is an elegy for Tate’s father—and looking at the birth and death dates made me queasy. I myself was 22 when I first read this poem. Tate’s father, a co-pilot of a fighter B-17, was killed in World War II when Tate was just a baby. I loved the title poem so much—a child creating a father he never knew. Congratulations, editors! And rest in poetry, James Tate. The Lost Pilot for my father, 1922-1944 Your face did not rot like the others—the co-pilot, for example, I saw him yesterday. His face is corn- mush: his wife and daughter, the poor ignorant people, stare as if he will compose soon. He was more wronged than Job. But your face did not rot like the others—it grew dark, and hard like ebony; the features progressed in their distinction. If I could cajole you to come back for an evening, down from your compulsive orbiting, I would touch you, read your face as Dallas, your hoodlum gunner, now, with the blistered eyes, reads his braille editions. I would touch your face as a disinterested scholar touches an original page. However frightening, I would discover you, and I would not turn you in; I would not make you face your wife, or Dallas, or the co-pilot, Jim. You could return to your crazy orbiting, and I would not try to fully understand what it means to you. All I know is this: when I see you, as I have seen you at least once every year of my life, spin across the wilds of the sky like a tiny, African god, I feel dead. I feel as if I were the residue of a stranger’s life, that I should pursue you. My head cocked toward the sky, I cannot get off the ground, and, you, passing over again, fast, perfect, and unwilling to tell me that you are doing well, or that it was mistake that placed you in that world, and me in this; or that misfortune placed these worlds in us. Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
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Robert Bly (via Rothenberg, Kelly, and Lorca) popularized deep-image prose poetry that emphasized concentrating on concrete images to arrive at spiritual meaning. Decades later photographer Jody Servon and poet Lorene Delany-Ullman re-energize this concept with their gorgeous artist book SAVED: OBJECTS OF THE DEAD (Published by Artsuite, 2023). The collaborators gathered items of those who had passed and interviewed the survivors for stories and narrative. Each of Servon’s photographs is presented with clarity, the plain white background suggesting an almost relic-like presentation of ordinary objects—a colander, a high school diploma, a snow scraper, a charm bracelet, a scapular. Delany-Ullman’s prose poems are exquisite and tender. In “Alan’s Hairbrush,” she writes “It was genetics—Alan had good hair. He never left the house without his hair brushed into place and sprayed. His wife, Grace, claims that Alan had this Avon hairbrush longer than her, more than twenty-five years.” The book also includes essays and micro-essays by Cora Fisher, Sonya Clark, Alex Espinoza, Erika Hayasaki, Swati Khurana, and Leslie Gray Streeter. You can read about Jody Servon and Lorene Delany-Ullman in a fascinating CNN interview: https://www.cnn.com/style/saved-objects-dead-book-servon-delany-ullman/index.html Congratulations, Jody and Lorene! photo by Todd Turner Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
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Congratulations to Mary Jo Bang whose book A Film in which I Play Everyone was published earlier this fall by Graywolf. Here’s a spectacular sample poem: SPEAKING OF THE FUTURE, HAMLET is saying, someday this day will be over. A moon will presumably still be above: a bone quiet, an inflatable in the scene —the cool blue swimming pool it finds itself in. And I will want to be. My mother, the Queen, will want only my father, the King. All will be want &get. And I will be me. And O, O, Ophelia—will be the essence of love. The love of a sister. Or, the love of the brother. Compassion. Forgiveness. All will be want & get. We will all be together, on stage & in dress, reciting our lines: “What a fine day. What a wonderful way. To be.” No sirens. Fifty stars, a cloud. A drawing of an all-night sky. We’ll be there. You as you. And I. Continue reading
Posted Dec 6, 2023 at The Best American Poetry