Friday, May 28, 2010

Anonymous Friend Comments on the Poem "My Wisdom Belongs in a Book" by Douglas Manson (2010)

A friend called to wish me a happy birthday. We've been friends for over 15 years. If I thought she wanted me to mention her name, I'd gladly post it here, but she might not.

Below is the portion of our conversation relevant to my new poem:

"So have you been writing any poetry?"

"Yes! I just wrote a poem. Hang on."

[reads poem]

"Boy, that's racy."

"Do you think?"

"That's what happens when you turn 40."

. . .

"Should I keep writing poetry?"

"Why would you want to do that?"

[laughter, though I felt my heart twist into a knot]

"It's a sonnet, but I didn't intend it to be when I wrote it."

"It doesn't rhyme."

"It's not metered. So what do you think?"

"Its in open form, with short lines. It certainly seems done. You have all these little things going on in the way you write. But so does everyone."

"Should I revise it?"



Keep going, little poem!


Monday, May 24, 2010

Buffalo 2008 New Jersey 1608

Richard Ownes is traveling a river in his poem. The river of time. He titles his book delaware memoranda, though I don’t find any instructions here. A 93-page book of memos? Ownes is a fine man, loving husband, editor and publisher of a good journal called damn the caesars. The last I heard he is also studying poetry in Buffalo. He’s kept up a lot of correspondence with the poets he likes. I remember that Cid Corman played a big role in his writing, and in his talk. The concept in this book should be a familiar one to readers of poetry, or at least readers of The New American Poetry (1960). It’s like he’s writing poetic letters to the poets in that book. His influences are right there; but I wish he’d divulged a little more about the history books he’s using. This is a scholarly and archival book. As a poem, it relies on historical weight applied to short lines, and almost becomes a series of haiku derived from historical prose. Ed Sanders it ain’t. Lorine Niedecker, Charles Reznikov, Charles Olson, William Carlos Williams: these names figure largely. I don’t quite understand the last section about the letters from “Dad”. I guess that section bookends with the “Foreword” section. This book is the poet’s personal history of a place. It’s tough and manly—with history, fishing, rocks, Indians, and the hard work and sweat of a metal factory in it. Drinking, whoring. Well, references to such things. He doesn’t describe what it feels like to drink, or to whore. A lot of instruction surrounds this book. I like it for that fact—the guy stuff. I respect it for that. A lot of personal reflection and love for poetry and family are in the book. The centerpiece for all these things is a collection of historical events: the discovery of the river, how the people already living there are driven out, killed, enslaved, with a few friends almost being made. But mostly it’s about the adventurers and conquerors. Sad news. Ugly.

A moment in my reading stands out, sort of brings me around to what this book is all about. It hits like a punch. It’s like being punched, or especially, being punched by one’s father. Yes, I guess this book is significant for the fact that a moment takes place in it that I equate with being punched by one’s father for having gone out drinking one night, and then sleeping in on a work day.

My old man never punched me in the face to knock sense into me. I guess that would have been one way to respond to, put an end to, the sloth and vagaries of my youth. Instead, my dad would kind of pin me to the ground until I went limp and cried uncle. I wonder if that shows up in my poems? I’m sure it does, somewhere. Maybe the more important fact is that I didn’t get any sense knocked into me. I’m confident that that shows up in my work.

Ownes ends the “foreword” to the poem with a mellow, lyric and playful image: “Barefoot on the banks/swinging from tires fastened to trees”, and concludes with an evocative scene: “Foam over ancient stone/moving through wooded valley/scrub oak bending over the basin.” (19) There’s a crisp, Gary Snyderish, missing-article kind of thing going on there (except for the one at the end, which I think he could have dropped as well). It has that “just so” quality. I was getting a dreamy, nostalgic feeling reading that—and the “foam” reminded me of the detergent-polluted rivers of my youth, the ones I wasn’t allowed to swim in. And then, at the beginning of the next section he writes: “Not to fetishize the fucking river/but to think through the transformation”.

Wham! Boy does Ownes get to fucking work! History comes galloping in, and we see the ages piled up and compressed. I never got over the shock of the poem turning so sharply. And then I was confused when it turns again at the end, in Section VI, to a transcription of letters from “Dad”, and then there’s an inexplicable typewritten note about Whitman’s poetry jammed in there. Here is the lineage: Pound to Olson, haiku Gary Snyder, maybe Susan Howe, and Richard Ownes. That’s not a fair list, as there are tons of poets whose tones and phrases are sounded and invoked in this book. Some of these are named in the blurb on the cover.

I guess I have to express what it is I feel is happening here. This is an excellent, condensed, layered historical poem about personal and political reality. But the two modalities are really, I mean really fighting for your attention. It leaves the contradiction of those modes right there on the page. The lyric and the poem-including-history are here, but they don’t sit comfortably side by side. I really respect that. Like it, even; but it makes me uncomfortable. It feels jagged, sad and angry. If I thought the poem wanted us to sense it, I would even say it is a confused poem. But I won’t say that, because this poem is above all else about clarity, memory, a commitment to place and family. It is a serious commitment to American Poetry. It follows the instructions.

Did you get my memo?


Sunday, May 23, 2010

I Suppose I Could Buy Words From Rob

I've decided that, two days into my "paid criticism" effort, I could go down to Rob's Word Shop on Tuesday and buy three sentences from him. With about 10 words per sentence, this would cost me $30. That's a lot of money to buy three sentences of constructive criticism. Do people who write blogs even read many blogs? My birthday is coming up. Maybe someone could go to Rob and buy 30 words from him for my birthday. Here's the link to Rob's Word Shop, open for only one more week. Good luck, Rob! Good luck, little poem!


Friday, May 21, 2010

I Am Paying You Five Dollars for Criticism

Poetry workshops afford us the chance to pay money to a college or university or institution so that other people will say stuff about our poetry right to our face in a room.

The poetry communities of the United States are fun to hang out with. We usually like each other's poems, and we often get together in a room to say our poems, though we don't often say something at the time about the poems we heard.

I will pay you five dollars if you comment on my poem: meaning, if you say something in sentence form about it. If you leave three well-formed sentences about the following poem in the comments section, I will give you five dollars. I will mail you five dollars, or put five dollars in your palm. I don't want to enroll in a university or be credentialed by an institution to consider myself a fine artist. I feel fine. Most of the time. But I do want to pay to play. I mean, if you comment, you should try to characterize the poem, help me become a better poet. I'd love it if you said something interpretive and critical about it, and maybe less in a crafty-advice mode. But I do like crafty comments, too.

I am introducing myself to poetry-writing again after a very long & bizarre break from it, so I'm starting from a new place in how one learns to be a poet. A more fun poet, I mean.

Just look at this blog! When was the last time I posted a new poem on this blog?

Here is the Poem:

My Wisdom Belongs In A Book

a cheap mystery that is no mystery hovers

everyone over there is naked

everyone won’t let me take off all my clothes

and she makes me some kind of rubbery fish

dish with burnt instead

she dances like she’s going down on

she dances and rams her shoulder

against my chest she rams her shoulder

I’m saying goodbye after midnight

and squeezing her hip

someone throws water on us

from a window everyone throws water on us

they won’t let me under my clothes

she really holds me tight


Friday, May 14, 2010

Meet our New Authors!

The Chapbook Festival at the CUNY Graduate Center hosted a number of exciting presses on May 3 and 4.

little scratch pad press was there, and offered instant publishing of new works for attendees. The press will be working on new editions in this format in upcoming weeks, so stay tuned for event information.

The Festival offered a good way for the press to get back up to scratch.

Here are the new authors, and the titles of the poems published in unique editions of one copy, printed onto the air of the concourse:

Montana Ray, “Menagerie” (no photo)

Amanda Deutch, “While You Were Out Another Man/Woman Has Come to Replace You” and "Scene 46"

Amanda Deutch and Cara Benson

Cara Benson, untitled (“medusa head…”) (2nd Edition), originally published in (made), Book Thug, 2010.

Elise Buchman, “Mother Goosed Part XI” (no photo)

Patricia Sazani, “Prayer to St. Anthony” (3rd Edition)

Patricia Sazani

Pamela Laskin, “Teacher (to Norma Dunkley)”

Pamela Laskin

Lonely Christopher, “Hello Nurse”

Lonely Christopher

Zohra Saed, “Kabul 1974”

Zohra Saed

Cynthia Polutanovich, “2/16/10” (no photo)

Aliyah Taylor, “Overdraft” (2nd Edition)

Aliyah Taylor

Ken Chen, “Heartbreak Is A Leak of Self” (2nd “all italics” edition, first published by Yale UP)

The Publisher and Ken Chen

The marathon reading introduced me to many authors I had not heard before, and I went home with a caddy full of new chaps. I'll be writing on these books in coming weeks.

The Goods

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Chapbook Festival. Day Two!

Today is the last day of the CUNY Chapbook Festival. Yesterday I shared my table with the Greying Ghost Press from Salem, Massachusetts. They were very cool humans, makers of beautiful chapbooks, but I forgot to write their names down for the sake of the blog, and they've gone home today. They gave away little tiny Gumby dolls and homemade buttons, as well as folded single-sheet poems.

POETS! Bring your poems for me to publish today!

I was able to publish two poems yesterday, Montana Ray's "Menagerie" and Amanda Deutch's "While You Were Away Another Man/Woman Came to Replace You". I want to publish at least 30 more poems today. After I read the poem aloud (which constitutes the edition), the author receives a publication card. Please bring a poem today, peeps! We can also talk about how you want it published before we move on to the edition.

I wasn't able to sit for very long at the table before I went walking around to meet people, sit in on the Marathon reading, step outside to sit between the huge columns of the Graduate Center on Fifth Avenue smoking my rollies and digging the mix of people walking by, staring up at the Empire State Building from the most foreshortened angle ever.

After browsing through presses & their poems for a while, I started to feel a kind of style or a general tendency emerging in the way a lot of people (not all, of course!) are making words into poems. It's very difficult to discuss such a thing, but I couldn't help feeling a kind of cumulative effect, so that, at one point I was standing in front of a table reading a poem and exclaimed (to Double-Cross's Sarah Green? no, I think I was at the Bateau Press table [Free T-Shirts!]) "I have to go sit down now, because I'm getting overwhelmed." Whatever this spirit or style or mood may be, it's a good thing--something I may or may not be able to characterize in the near future. And now I'm afraid that today I'm going to be going around LOOKING for it, or something.

The real highlight for me was to meet Carolyn Zaikowski and her partner Mike Young, editor of the NOO Journal, both of them of Magic Helicopter Books. She has an amazingly great book of poems and drawings / admonitions and beckonings entitled OUCH, HUMANS. Today I will take this book along with me to read on the train, and show her the only other book I think comes close to it, a book that is friends with her book: S.P. Ehman's The Buck-Toothed Magnifying Glass.

Zaikowski is reading today at 2 p.m., so be there to hear!

I got to read with Dorothea (Dottie) Lasky, Eric Amling (who spiraled out these awesome Brighton Beach Mnemonic Anemonies!), Laura Jaramillo and Lana Hectman Ayers. Dottie made me feel guilty that the word "project" had crept into my vocabulary. I used it the night before when Mir and I mused about making a book of hers! I agree. Poetry is not a project. Poetry is a fine art, and a billion other things.

I'm publishing poems all day today. I'm gonna stay glued to my table. Maybe I'll read you my book The Table if you ask me to. I'm selling books today, too. Here are the books you should come and buy from me:

Jonathan Skinner (here in town at Poets House next week: May 12-15). With Naked Foot.

Douglas Manson. The Dew Neal (Slack Buddha), FREE misprinted copies of the now classic Snack Size (yes, come get a copy with "REVIEW COPY" scrawled all over it), and my awesome Kenneth Patchen magazine Celery Flute.

Michael Basinski. Of Venus 93.

L.A. Howe. NTR PIC E ST R.

Jaye Bartell. Ever After / Never Under.

Tom Beckett and Geof Huth. Interpenetrations (Little Scratch Pad Version--Geof made one with the same title and we both published them on the same day--bibliographers beware!)

Plus other gems from the trove!

I read two poems the afternoon last--a kind of diptych called "Idiot Just Playing Idiot". I had such butterflies. Some kind of weird television monster monitor thing loomed behind me, bigger than me. The room had no windows. I cultivated my inner meadow. I was sad I missed the Jawbone readings in Kent Ohio this weekend. And then afterward I went and danced a bit to Chicha Libre at Barbes with Matt and Mir.

I love my sisters.

I heart new york.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Spectacular Readers At Chapfest!!

Where: CUNY Graduate Center for the Humanities.
365 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan

Marathon Reading Schedule

2-3 PM
River Poets Journal/Lilly Press: Phoebe Wilcox
Poinciana Paper Press: Angelique V. Nixon
2nd Ave Poetry: Jill Magi
Bateau Press: James Grinwis
Belladonna*: E. Tracy Grinnell

3-4 PM
BOOK Works: Estha Weiner
H_NGM_N: Ben Mirov
Cervena Barva Press: Susan Lewis
CUNY Lost & Found: Josh Schneiderman&Claudia Pisano

4-5 PM
Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs: Brenda Iijima
Creature Press: John Harkey
Cy Gist Press: Veronica Wong
DoubleCross Press: Sarah Green
Dusie Kollektiv: Mark Lamoureux&Amanda Deutch

5-6 PM
Etched Press: Kevin Dublin
Finishing Line Press: Ruth Handel&Melora Walters
Forklift, Ohio: Amy King
Octopus Books: Emily Pettit
Brave Men Press

6-7 PM
Ugly Duckling Presse: Dorothea Lasky
Greying Ghost Press
Kissena Park Press: Lana Hechtman Ayers
Little Scratch Pad: Douglas Manson
Love Among the Ruins: Laura Jaramillo


2-3 PM
Flying Guillotine Press: Steven Karl&Angela Veronica Wong
Magic Helicopter Books: Carolyn Zaikowski
Noemi Press
Pen Press: Marcos Wasem&Mercedes Roffé
Center for Book Arts: Sharon Dolin

3-4 PM
Plan B Press
Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press: Zeadryn Meade
Rain Taxi
Corollary Press: Jason Schwartz
Big Hands Magazine

4-5 PM
Slapering Hol Press: Susana H. Case
Small Anchor Press: Joseph Mcelroy
Sona Books: Paolo Javier
Spire Press: Shelly Reed&Matthew Hittinger
The Corresponding Society: David Swesen

5-6 PM
Poets Wear Prada: Austin Alexis&Michael Montlack
The Physiocrats: Daniel Nohejl
BookThug: Cara Benson
sunnyoutside: MRB Chelko
Tarpaulin Sky Press

6-7 PM
Booklyn: Charmaine Wheatley
Instance Press: Kim Lyons
Toadlily Press: George Kraus
Upset Press: Denise Galang&Amy Lemmon-Bowen
X-ing Press/Agriculture Reader