This is The Best American Poetry's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following The Best American Poetry's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
The Best American Poetry
Welcome to The Best American Poetry blog. We launched this blog in January, 2008, to create a place where we and friends can exchange, discuss, and argue about poems and poetry. We soon discovered that it would be even more fun to post about anything that fuels our passions, be it movies or sex or baseball or ballet or cocktails or finance or music, because these are, after all, the same subjects that generate poems. Then we flung the doors open and invited others to join in. And we decided that contributors to the blog need not be poets as long as they share a love of good writing and poetry. The only things we ask our regular and guest bloggers to avoid are personal attacks. You'll find enough of that stuff elsewhere. We celebrate freedom of expression. The opinionS of our contributors are their own and not necessarily those of the blog's editorial team or of other contributors. We welcome comments as long as they keep within the bounds of civil discourse. Our roster of correspondents is always changing. We are large! We contain multitudes! Please visit often.Our roster of correspondents is always changing. We are large! We contain multitudes! Please visit often.
Interests: music, food, finance, cocktails, movies, baseball, sex, poetry, mad men.
Recent Activity
Image
Library of America’s latest anthology, Dance in America, brings together dancers and choreographers, impresarios and critics, and enthusiastic literary observers to present a kaleidoscopic portrait of a great art form. Edited by the veteran dance writer Mindy Aloff, the book tells the story—through more than a hundred selections spanning two centuries—of how dance took on fresh life with new, vital, and distinctly American innovations and adaptations. Aloff is Dance Editor of The University Press of Florida and has taught dance criticism and history at the Macaulay Honors College of CUNY (at Hunter College) and at Barnard College. She is a former editor of the Dance Critics Association News and serves as a consultant to The George Balanchine Foundation. The author of Dance Anecdotes: Stories from the Worlds of Ballet, Broadway, the Ballroom, and Modern Dance (2006) and Hippo in a Tutu: Dancing in Disney Animation (2008) and the editor of Agnes de Mille’s Leaps in the Dark: Art and the World (2011), Aloff has written for The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Village Voice, and The New Republic, among many other outlets. In this interview, Aloff explains how she made her selections. Library of America: In your introduction, you write that Dance in America “was not intended as a book of greatest hits by hall of famers.” Can you elaborate a little on what you mean by that? Mindy Aloff: Gladly. A “greatest hits” approach would require including pieces that are too long, too familiar, too expensive, or too arcane to be interesting to the general reader. If you wanted to put out an anthology of “greatest hits” relating to dance in America, you’d have to include some of the writings of aesthetician Susanne Langer because her legacy is so pervasive, even for writers and dancers who never heard of her. Then you’d have to include the “Burnt Norton” section of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets, a poem of universal veneration, where dance indicates a concept rather than a practice, and Edwin Denby’s game-changing essay on the photographs of Vaslav Nijinsky, which has been so widely reprinted that it’s included in other anthologies from Library of America. The same is true of Albert Murray’s chapter “The Blues as Dance Music,” from his widely admired and widely available collection Stomping the Blues, a crucial contribution for a dance hall of fame. You’d have to include other major essays from the landmark 1940s monograph series Dance Index, which the Eakins Press has just made easily available in its historical entirety online—essays such as Ann Barzel’s 1944 “European Dance Teachers in the United States,” a unique history of the origins of ballet in America. For range of research, no subsequent history of American ballet pedagogy can touch this one-hundred-page monograph. And among the greatest hits, I think you’d have to include the full version of Lillian Ross’s “Dancers in May,” her majestic Reporter at Large story that follows one public school teacher over an academic year as she introduces a class... Continue reading
Posted 2 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Image
Metaphors of seeds appear in three sonnets by African American poets during the two decades of literary optimism of the 1920s and 1930s often referred to as the Harlem Renaissance. These are not seeds of hatred but seeds of hope and possible flourishing. Countee Cullen’s “From the Dark Tower” (1924) tells of artistic yearnings that will not always be thwarted by social injustice: We shall not always plant while others reap The golden increment of bursting fruit, Not always countenance, abject and mute That lesser men should hold their brothers cheap; Not everlastingly while others sleep Shall we beguile their limbs with mellow flute, Not always bend to some more subtle brute; We were not made eternally to weep. The night whose sable breast relieves the stark White stars is no less lovely being dark, And there are buds that cannot bloom at all In light, but crumple, piteous, and fall; So in the dark we hide the heart that bleeds, And wait, and tend our agonizing seeds.[1] “From the Dark Tower” is one of Cullen’s most anthologized sonnets, reaching back to the Shakespearean tradition of authorial immortality, which Cullen deploys ironically to indict the physical and emotional suffering of Jim Crow that prevent him from flowering as a poet. Eugene Collier calls it “a restrained, dignified, poignant work, influenced in form by Keats and Shelley,” but she misses the anger implicit in his evocation of Shakespeare.[2] Cullen had studied and admired both Keats and Edna St. Vincent Millay in college (Amy Lowell’s widely praised biography of Keats had just been published), but Cullen’s poem contends with English tradition more broadly. Cullen’s first quatrain opens with an allusion to slavery in the bible; the second quatrain focuses on suffering under slavery.[3] The first couplet in the sestet praises blackness; the second alludes to Thomas Grey’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard” (1751), notably the line “Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,” near lines about darkness and a mute Milton.[4] Allusions to Grey’s “Elegy” appear regularly in African American poetry. Cullen will make the point about the agony and futility of black artistry more strongly in his more famous sonnet, “Yet Do I Marvel.” Here, he is contending with sonnet traditions that promote suffering to achieve spiritual awakening to argue that abjection can also destroy the drive to create. Cullen’s “agonizing seeds” are his poetic works that both agonize him and agonize the formal tradition in which he situates himself and demands a voice. Cullen appreciated the sonnet form and anthologized the young Sterling Brown’s sonnet “Salutamus,” which also includes seeds, in his collection Caroling Dusk (1927): —O Gentlemen the time of Life is short. Henry IV, Part I The bitterness of days like these we know; Much, much we know, yet cannot understand What was our crime that such a searing brand Not of our choosing, keeps us hated so. Despair and disappointment only grow, Whatever seeds are planted from our hand, What though some roads wind... Continue reading
Posted 3 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Image
Coming from Pittsburgh on April 2: Lehman’s latest “writing spree” pays tribute to acclaimed poet Ammons PITTSBURGH, Pa.—Written on the daily installment plan between November 21, 2017, and January 15, 2018, David Lehman’s new volume Playlist pays homage to A. R. (Archie) Ammons, whose great Tape for the Turn of the Year chronicled a similar period in 1963-1964. Playlist will be published this spring by the University of Pittsburgh Press. “Writing Playlist was one of the most enjoyable writing sprees I've ever been on,” Lehman says. “Every day I would wake up looking forward to composing that day's poem. Some days I would turn on the radio and start writing about Mahler, or Artie Shaw, or Doris Day, or Cannonball Adderley,” he explained. “I wanted to record my responses to the music of my life at the same time as I chronicled those weeks my wife and I spent shuttling between Ithaca, New York, and New York City. Rereading it, I can see that Playlist is also a love poem to Stacey [Harwood, his wife]." Lee Upton praised Playlist by saying, “What a gorgeous and ambitious poem this is—an elegy, a calendar, an enactment of beauty, a tribute to singers and musicians and those who love them, a musical compilation, a meditation on friendship and art, an evocation of hopefulness and the possibility of enhanced life, a summoning . . .” “Playlist is entirely wonderful,” stated Donald Revell. “I'd meant just to take a quick glance and then to read it through with my afternoon tea. But once I began, I could not put it down . . . that hasn't happened to me since the passing of Schuyler. Really, it's splendid. Apt and tender and candid.” James Cummins put it simply: “Pure joy.” Lehman is is the editor of The Oxford Book of American Poetry and Great American Prose Poems. He is also the general editor of the annual The Best American Poetry, which he initiated in 1988. His recent books of poetry include Poems in the Manner Of and New and Selected Poems. He has authored eight nonfiction books, including The State of the Art: A Chronicle of American Poetry, 1988-2014. Lehman has received a Guggenheim Fellowship and an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. # # # Playlist, a poem by David Lehman, will be on sale April 2, 2019 from the University of Pittsburgh Press. Cover art: Henri Matisse. 72 pp. · 6 x 9 · ISBN 9780822965848 · Paper $17.00 eBook available Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Image
(Ed note: Lloyd Schwartz made an interesting discovery. Read about here and over at ARTery. sdl) The Netherlandish artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1525-1569) is one of the most admired painters in the history of Western art. His ravishing and poignant "Hunters in the Snow" is one of the world’s best loved paintings. And he’s especially loved by poets. William Carlos Williams was awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize for his 1962 collection "Pictures from Brueghel and Other Poems," which includes his extraordinary series that gives the book its title. (The "h" in Bruegel, once commonly used, is no longer considered correct.) And one of the great poems about art is W.H. Auden’s “Musée des Beaux Arts” (from 1938, on the brink of world-wide suffering), which is about a painting called "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" in the museum in Brussels that gives the poem its title. If you look very closely, you can see the spindly legs of a small body that has just fallen into the sea, while the country folk on the shore are just going through their daily routine: About suffering, they were never wrong, The old Masters: how well they understood Its human position: how it takes place While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along… In Brueghel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry, But for him it was not an important failure… [Ed note: Click here for David Lehman's take on Auden's poem.] I was in Vienna at the end of October, to see the once-in-a-lifetime Bruegel exhibition (on view through Jan. 13) at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which owns the world’s largest collection of Bruegels — 12 of his surviving 40 paintings. That one room with all 12 paintings has been one of the supreme locations for great art. Now this show, celebrating the 450th anniversary of the master’s death, has brought together for the very first time practically every Bruegel painting not too fragile to travel, plus his even rarer drawings and a selection of contemporary prints based on original Bruegel drawings mostly lost. continue reading here. Lloyd Schwartz’s latest book of poems, "Little Kisses," was published by the University of Chicago Press. His work has been selected for the Best American Poetry, the Best of the Best American Poetry and the Pushcart Prize. He is the classical music critic for NPR’s Fresh Air and senior editor of Classical Music for New York Arts. Longtime classical music editor of The Boston Phoenix, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for criticism in 1994. He teaches in the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where he is the Frederick S. Troy Professor of English. Continue reading
Posted 4 days ago at The Best American Poetry
Image
Max Roach (c) Herman Leonard, 1954 Though it doesn’t appear on any calendar, January 10th is Max Roach Day. He was born in Great Dismal Swamp, North Carolina in 1924, but moved to Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn when he was 4. He died August 16, 2007 at 83. Max Roach was a percussionist, composer, bandleader, and a virtuoso on the American jazz drum kit, which is multiple percussion on a single instrument. Max Roach was one of those singular people who, to paraphrase Phil Schaap, “was essential to making others’ music sound better and his music sound best.” He was on Stan Getz’s first recording, Miles Davis’s first recording, and the first recordings of the innovation called Be-Bop. An innovator of percussion, Roach shows the drummer’s responsibility, which is to swing. Seeing Roach live, which I was fortunate to do a handful of times, was a thrill. He sometimes played with wire brushes and a single snare drum, and was able to create the most harmonic and musical sound in the world that was mesmerizing; you simply lost all awareness of everything outside of whatever he was doing on stage. Roach appears on the most important Charlie Parker records, for example the November 26, 1945 recordings on Savoy such as “Now’s the Time” : In 1954 he formed an important quintet with trumpeter Clifford Brown, heard doing magic on the standard “Cherokee,” which demonstrates Roach’s imagination and quick timing. When Brown was killed in a car crash on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in 1956, Roach was devastated both personally and musically. But he somehow picked up the pieces and formed a new band first with trumpeter Kenny Dorham and later trumpeter Booker Little, heard here on “Cliff Walk”: During the political changes in American society that happened in the 1960s, Roach emerged as an innovator again: there is no musician who more addressed the social concerns of progressive thought to freedom. He recorded explicitly political music We Insist! with his then-wife Abbey Lincoln, for example singing “Driva Man”: In what remains a high water mark in the expression of not just jazz, but in all of music, in 1962 Roach recorded “Fleurette Africaine” with Duke Ellington and Charles Mingus: In later decades, he performed some pretty extraordinary duets with Anthony Braxton while continuing the solo concerts that I mentioned earlier. He formed an innovative trio that experimented with the Chinese erhu player Jeibing Chen, and did some interesting collaborations with dance companies such as Alvin Ailey. Roach’s genius showed, among other things, the suspension of time. By changing the role of the drums from mere timekeeping to music-making, he was not only the driving force behind the swing element in Be-Bop, but because of his idea to shift the pulse of drums from the bass drum to the ride cymbal, was able to create a more flexible or fluid texture to the music. In terms of poetry, there are a few lessons I think Roach’s music gives: 1. Always be yourself in your... Continue reading
Posted Jan 8, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
Image
On the Cards and Dice Before the sixth day of the next new year, Strange wonders in this kingdom shall appear: Four kings shall be assembled in this isle, Where they shall keep great tumult for awhile. Many men then shall have an end of crosses, And many likewise shall sustain great losses; Many that now full joyful are and glad, Shall at that time be sorrowful and sad; Full many a Christian's heart shall quake for fear, The dreadful sound of trump when he shall hear. Dead bones shall then be tumbled up and down, In every city and in every town. By day or night this tumult shall not cease, Until an herald shall proclaim a peace; An herald strong, the like was never born, Whose very beard is flesh and mouth is horn – Sir Walter Raleigh (1552-1618) "On the Cards and Dice" is my favorite poem by the redoubtable Sir Walter Raleigh. What I admire most is the sustained metaphorical ingenuity and the slippage in the analogy between games of chance (cards and dice) and the events of the Christian calendar culminating in the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. The poem achieves a stirring and ominous effect, rising to a prophetic level, though at its base it is merely a vivid description of men playing poker (or bridge) and throwing dice. The implicit relation between gambling and religion is the poem's secret power. -- DL from the archives; first posted posted 9 / 22 / 08 Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
Image
Michael Dirda's review appeared in the Washington Post on January 2, 2019 under the headline "How do you define authenticity? A poetry collection explores a modern problem." Here is Dirda's opening: << Verbal felicities, haunting or explosive imagery, the architectonic dazzlements of rhyme and meter — all these are dwarfed by American poetry’s reverence for genuineness, for authenticity. “Look in thy heart and write” advised Sir Philip Sidney’s muse, but that injunction has long been our own literature’s credo. Yet in their introductory essays to “The Best American Poetry 2018,” the 30th installment of this always excellent annual anthology, series editor David Lehman and this year’s guest editor, Dana Gioia, present dissimilar views on precisely what authenticity entails. >> Among the poets Dirda singles out for praise are Julia Alvarez, George Bradley, Susan deSola, Dick Davis, Ernest Hilbert, Anna Maria Hong, Mandy Kahn, Jacqueline Osherow, Michael Robbins, Allyn Rosser, Mary Jo Salter, A. E. Stallings, Agnieszka Tworek, and Christian Wiman. Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
Image
If I were a fascist and you were a Republican, would you marry me anyway? Could I be your publican? If I were a rocket ship, and you were a galaxy, would you tickle my underarms? Could I drive your taxi? Would you give me an erection if you were an electron and I were a proton and not a politician? If I were a son of a bitch and you were a lady, would you let me scratch your itch? Would you have my baby? left: "Blast" by Adolph Gottlieb (1960) Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
Image
1. (a self-portrait in Mexico by Savannah Spirit). This is a photograph. My friend photographs her body at 40, in Ajijic, in December. She says that is when the conditions are right for photography, when needles of light will attach like music. She takes a hundred shots, sends a few out into the world, and waits for the next December. She knows cameras lie. Words smudge. She doesn’t know but suspects that one day her skin will be a ritual space on which weather will gather. I don't really know her: friend made event, a broken line, a porcupine of light. She gave me this photograph, and I show it to people who come to my apartment. Do you like it? I ask. They say, it’s amazing. Then, oh my gosh. I see the woman! (a painting by Alannah Farrell) This is a painting. There’s a blue hand, dead center, and below it, a pair of human legs. They’re in a room, which seems to have a remnant of an older room inside of it. The light from the east is dead and golden, an ancient warning to sailors who lived in worlds without rooms. The arm is lost in the afternoon; the hand is the color of daybreak. The front leg looks real: an unreliable narrator. The back leg reaches out: a bad victim. I’m trying to remember the story, but these legs don’t keep diaries. They are too personal. Life is precarious here. I do remember when the hand leaves—when it puts itself on the knob and turns itself—it walks off with the door. I see a hand, but the legs see only the infinite space between yellow and blue. There is no other world, however hard you want there to be. Why is there no furniture? He says other girls are easy. The legs don’t know how to answer and don’t answer. Who answers that. I remember reading the only thing that travels faster than light is shadow. It makes sense, if you think about it: shadow is just an absence, really nothing at all. In paint, the shadow is real. In paint, even light ages. Absences don’t obey speed limits. Even if they are posted clearly. But legs vote. Centuries later, he still haunts the light. -- Katie Peyton Image 1: Savannah Spirit, Eye of the Sun, 2017, Archival pigment print, 20 x 30 inches. Image 2: Alannah Farrell, Sleep Paralysis, 2018, Oil on linen, 11 x 14 inches Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Image
As a boy (who destroyed his eyesight reading in the dark by flashlight, I went to the library for Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens because I had heard of the artful dodger and figured he must have played for Brooklyn; and even now, years later, as an English major (who has read five novels by Dickens) I still like to think of the artful dodger as a baseball player, a pitcher preferably, Sandy Koufax to be exact: After shutting out the Twins in the fifth game of the 1965 World Series, Sandy was asked by Vin Scully (the Dodger announcer, like me a redhead) on television how he felt. "Like a hundred years old," Sandy replied, softly, sincerely embarrassed by the camera more than the question and by an arthritic elbow, pained. Three days later, he came back, despite insufficient rest and the curious absence of his curve ball, again to shut out Minnesota, this time in the decisive seventh game, with a show of skill and determination that demoralized the opposition, Killebrew, Allison, and company. "Sandy," now how you feel?" asked the persistent Scully. "Like a hundred and one," was Sandy's reply as an hysterical Lou Johnson (who hit the game-winning homer) poured champagne over his bashful dark semitic head. -- David Lehman (published in The Paris Review #63, Fall 1975; never collected) Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Love those pretzels, Alan -- not a bad alternative title for these wonderful insights, aphorisms, witticisms, jokes, anecdotes, and short takes. Cheers. -- DL
Image
Mr. d’Amboise in the title role of George Balanchine’s “Apollo” in 1962. “I want American boy!” Mr. d’Amboise said Balanchine told him. “He wanted me to be a wild, untamed youth, not just look pretty and make poses.”CreditJack Mitchell/Getty Images [Jerome] Robbins took what you did naturally, enhanced, packaged, and presented it--he helped you become more of what you already were. [George] Balanchine took the music, developed his own ideas of movement, and challenged you to become more than you thought you could be. With Robbins, you were amplified; with Balanchine, you were transformed. - from I Was A Dancer by Jacques d'Amboise Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Image
It was Lorenz Hart, in "The Most Beautiful Girl in the World," who rhymed "Dietrich" and "sweet trick." The great Marlene was born on December 27, 1901 in Berlin at 9:15 PM. That tells you a lot right there. She lived to a grand old age and died in Paris in 1992. She had affairs with Jean Gabin, Yul Brynner, Frank Sinatra, and Edward R. Murrow, and was bi-sexual. There is a rumor that she went down on Tallulah Bankhead at a party. In the dictionary of slang that Oxford University Press recently published, the phrase that most fascinated her was "cock holster," denoting the mouth in the act of oral sex though she could think of other apt uses for the phrase. Marlene's natal chart reveals a lusty Capricorn with Virgo rising. Her Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are in Capricorn, which is significant in the sense that John Donne intended in his "Nocturnal on St. Lucy's Eve" ("Ye lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun / at this time to the goat has run / to fetch new lust and give it you"). Her moon is in Leo and she has a bunch of Mercury, blonde Venus, and Saturn playing behind the scenes like the frolicking gods of Olympus. This is consistent with her talent for arousing attention, her desire for same, and her serious and melancholic edge that adds complexity to her poker-faced personality. When your mid-heaven is in Taurus and all else is aligned as above, the chances are that you will grow to a height of five feet six inches, if you're a woman, and that is exactly how tall Marlene was, and blonde, with a cigarette between forefinger and thumb, lush lipstick, and bedroom eyes. Her cards (The Chariot, The Moon, Knave of Swords, Nine of Wands) reinforce the impression of a woman of rare beauty and charm, with a husky singing voice of limited range but great effectiveness. In addition, one would predict that she would have a fluency in languages, an appetite for sex, shapely legs, and a cute lisp. The yin in her chart outweighs the yang by a healthy margin. But there is enough stellar ambiguity to make her the object of desire of males across the sexual spectrum. She is a role model for dominant women and an icon of veneration among the submissive. It is said there are two kinds of men. One kind favors Garbo, the other goes for Dietrich. But you had to live in the twentieth century to grasp all the implications. When she sang "Lilli Marlene," the Nazi and Allied soldiers simultaneously laid down their arms for the length of the song. The greatness achieved in the career of Marlene Dietrich indicates a fifth-house dominant personality. As a young woman she starred as a sultry seductress, the cabaret singer who turns the starchy professor into a lovesick bum, in "Blue Angel." She is Circe mixed with Carmen, who demands a man who gets what he... Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Great comment, Robert. Many thanks. -- DL
from Love, an Index A Abandon, what I did when you touched me that winter with an ungloved hand. Ache, the heal of broken things: bones, disappointments. Allegories of Love, Fragonard’s babycolored paintings, Ovid’s pursuers and storied looms, his Atalanta her golden balls. The longing to know how things become what they weren’t always. of Death, skulls, as in depictions of the penitent Magdalene. What should knowing we’ll die elicit? What does salvation have to do with being safe? Angelbones, you alone have them. Where the wings came off. Where the wings belong. Apartments, Brooklyn, its winding stair reminding me of Yeats: “all men rise to greatness by..” A bicycle chained there. South Dakota, we gave your son the only bedroom, woke early to salted baguette and snow. Salt Lake City, a porch ghost, a view of the valley’s glittering grid, my sister, your poor broken friend, we grilled squid on the Smokey Joe. Tripod. Carpet. Halloween. Laramie, a basement, a stoveless kitchen, toaster-roasted eggplant, baseboard heat and sex in woolen socks. Rome, 5B, stone floors, white kitchen, white as the madness I felt there, a bed that was twin beds held together with so much duct tape, always suggesting itself as metaphor; Anger, yours, with your father maybe, me maybe. mine, with you for finding expression of it towards my family instead; there are other ways of telling the story of our two angers, entwined like bodies in the act of love. But in this one I am not a villain. Anne Carson, the “Short Talks” from Plainwater, poolside in Greece during an Easter Parade, clanking in doorways for ouzo and bread; The Autobiography of Red, in which Geryon understood that people need acts of attention from each other. Attention (see also: Anne Carson) “Geryon understood that people need acts of attention from each other.” B Binary, code, allows a computer to represent text – b is "000011110”. L-O-V-E too is a series of 1’s and 0’s where 0 means “off” and 1 means “on”. opposition, like presence-absence, male-female, love- innocence, love-hate, love-longing. star, two astronomical bodies orbiting each other so closely they’re lost in each other’s light, and appear as one. Bogota, city in the Andes surrounded by steep jungle. We did not fight in Bogota. Beaten gold. White sanctuary. We love the Mexican restaurant full of wooden stairs overlooking vast expanses of Modernist architecture, colonial plazaslit-up slums. La Candelaria is home to statues of ghosts, presence of absence. Carts sell hot corn. We passed a woman laying on the sidewalk, pregnant a second time – her belly swelled in half-globes around a dark scar like a peach around its deep groove. Storytellers ride the busses, shattered petals and piles of thorns and broad bruised leaves carpet the lot where a flower market teems in the day. Sushi joint. Iranian embassy. A row of buildings trimmed in tropical flowers and razor wire. Bookstore. We watched Bollywood dubbed into Spanish on the old-fashioned TV in your sublet apartment. Bollywood,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Image
I found the work of Shaindel Beers online. I was interested that she grew up in rural Indiana where once I was wont to roam. In the town of North Liberty a man asked me the date. I told him and he replied, “Eighty-five years ago today I shot my first duck.” Then he began to cry. The great Theodore Dreiser was an Indiana native, as was his brother Paul, who wrote the beautiful song, “Moonlight on the Wabash.” Also from Indiana: James Dean, Michael Jackson, and Alex Karras, one of the last players to wear a leather helmet in the National Football League. Shaindel Beers' book A Brief History of Time draws on her early life in a very authentic way. Her hometown is not far from Culver, where my friend B. attended the military academy. An overweight dyslexic math prodigy addicted to aspirin, B. was a bridge champion at Culver. But that’s another story, one that was played out several cicada generations before the following poem was written… Cicadas Where will we be the next time they emerge, in 17 years, when brood X nymphs first wriggle their way out of exit holes, climb the trunks of oaks and maples, sun themselves on viburnum, pale and helpless, before their wings dry and darken so they can fly safely to trees to mate, lay eggs, and die? I'm not sure I have a concept of 17 years. I remember Ronald Reagan was President, I was jealous of my friend Lindsey because she had a Debbie Gibson hat. The Princess Bride came out, and is still my favorite movie. Seventeen years in the future seems daunting. The boys at the little league field behind my house will be men, the neighbors’ dog will be dead and the tree in my backyard will no longer be mine. I could be living anywhere— not one to put down roots, I can't even guess. Just yesterday, I realized, looking out your window, that in less than two months new trees will greet me from another window. No longer the canopy of hardwoods, but lush, tropical greens year-round 1,300 miles away from you. And though we've talked about this, I wonder what you're thinking, what you would like to be doing with the seventeen years that this year's nymphs will spend underground, burrowing, living on the roots of all those trees. -- Shaindel Beers from the archives; originally published July 7, 2009 Continue reading
Posted Dec 20, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Good column. "Just Ask Dante" is an inspired idea.
Image
You can read The Burnt Orange Heresy as either a murder mystery or a parable about the hoax element in modern art. Charles Willeford’s 1971 novel (Carroll & Graf) gives satisfaction on both counts. It is an inverted detective story in the approved noir manner: the first-person narration takes us into the killer’s mind. Yet not until digesting most of the book does the fallible reader guess who is to be murdered and why. The plot centers on a painter named Jacques Debierue, avatar of “Nihilistic Surrealism,” whose most famous work is “No. One.”-- meaning both “number one” and “nobody.” Debierue, a European transplant, lives in Willeford country: Palm Beach, Florida. James Figueras, an art critic with his eye on the main chance, obtains an interview with the great recluse. To ingratiate himself with an influential collector, he agrees to steal one of Debieurue’s paintings. The catch is that there are no paintings to steal. Like a version of Mallarme as dreamed by Borges, Debierue is convinced his ideas are so far superior to any possible execution that in logical consequence he does not paint. Instead he has committed his life to the “unfulfilled preparation for painting.” He puts in his four hours daily, “a slave to hope,” yet always refuses in the end to violate “the virgin canvas.” Figueras has no such compunction. After breaking into Debierue’s pristine studio and discovering there is nothing to pilfer, he sets fire to the place, counterfeits a painting by Deberieu, forges his signature, then writes the article that offers the definitive interpretation of works that never existed. In a curious way it is as if painter and writer have colluded to invent Debieurue’s “American period.” Willeford, highly esteemed for his Hoke Moseley novels, weaves the aesthetic theory and the criminal mischief expertly together. The Burnt Orange Heresy is a rich enigma: a monument to “a qualified Nothing,” suggestive of “deep despair” on the one hand and total “dedication to artistic expression” on the other. It is noir not only in the sense of, say, Ad Reinhardt’s black-on-black canvases but also in the violent romantic sense of Robert Mitchum and Jane Greer in Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past. -- from the archives; originally in Tin House Continue reading
Posted Dec 14, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Here's to Moe Drabowski, the ex-Cub who had his day in the sun pitching for the Orioles in game one of the 1966 World Series. -- DL
Image
<<< Today is Frank Sinatra's birthday. We should all celebrate because he was a tremendous man who touched many, many lives. He did something for me that I never ever thought possible, and that I will always be thankful for. Frank called my mother and my sister-in-law answered. He asked for Ma Lasorda and said it was Frank Sinatra calling. My sister-in-law hung up in him. I called back and said, "Hey, that was really Frank. Put Mom on the phone." Frank told my mother that he was coming to Philadelphia for a concert and wanted to invite her to be his guest. He also told her that he wanted her to cook my favorite meal, scarole and beans, and hot peppers and sausage. Well, to ask an Italian lady to cook is a very high honor. So Frank comes to Philadelphia and pulls onto our block. Jilly, his right-hand man, gets out of the car and knocks on our neighbor's door. He asks is Ma Lasorda is there, and of course she tells him that she lived next door. That lady saw Frank and within twenty minutes there was a swarm of cars and the police had to be called in. The next night at the concert, Frank sent a limo to pick up my mother. There was a doctor and nurse in the limo who Frank wanted there just to make sure she was okay. They got to the show, and her seats were in the front row. As Frank started the show, which was at the Valley Forge Theater, he introduced her to the crowd, came down from the stage to give her a kiss and flowers, and dedicated the entire show to her. What a man! So today I wish Frank's family all of my love, and I will always treasure the memories we made during our friendship. Happy Birthday, Frank. >> Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Good poem, Heather. I love "a rough chap." DL
Image
Poets & Artists 100 is here. Click here and you'll arrive at a Didi Menendez's groundbreaking magazine devoted to "figurative realism" in art -- with poetry tossed in by such stalwarts as Nin Andrews, Grace Cavalieri, and Denise Duhamel. Figurative realism is a good name for a movement in favor of representational art with the human figure at its center. The revival of the nude as an aesthetic ideal is significant. It is especially impressive in a puritanical era and may be a harbinger of welcome changes to come. The black and white painting on the left is by Dirk Dzimirsky, who curated the "Figurative Art" show up now. The current issue of Poets & Artists includes gorgeous, sensuous paintings by such new (to me) artists as Anne-Christine Roda, Aixa Oliyeras, Veronica Winters, Megan Read, Nadine Robbins, Conne Karlera-Sales, Daniel Maidman, Victoria Selbach, Miriam Escofet (Portrait of Sophia, on right). It's an exciting development, a cry for beauty against brutality. -- DL Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2018 at The Best American Poetry