Archive for April, 2008

The Coconut Overfloweth …
April 30, 2008

NEW ISSUE OF COCONUT!

Contents


david trinidad/jeffery conway/gillian mccain reb livingston

chelsey minnis elizabeth treadwell christopher salerno

lauren spohrer terita heath-wlaz tyler carter elisa gabbert

michael ball brenda iijima sam truitt jessica piazza

claire hero matthew zapruder james sanders linnea ogden

emily kendal frey kc trommer gina myers seth landman

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Not One, But a Lovely Two!
April 17, 2008

http://amyking.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/two-go-walking-alice-and-gertrude-and-basket-maybe2.jpg

Brandi Homan reviews I’M THE MAN WHO LOVES YOU in The Cutbank Review today (an excerpt):

Even though King does something that there should be more of in contemporary poetry—addresses the sociopolitical aspects of life in the 21st century head on—I’m The Man Who Loves You accomplishes much more. It is disjointed, beautifully grotesque, and unsparing, yet it is ultimately hopeful, kind, and entertaining. In “I Used to Be Amy King,” King says, “…we are bred to be the best neglected fun, forthcoming” (32). Believe you me, King is this type of fun. I’m The Man Who Loves You is not to be neglected. This book is for anyone who has ever stepped into, or wanted to step into, their own “long black dream.”

Thanks, Brandi!

~~~

And Caroline Wilkinson reviews KISS ME WITH THE MOUTH OF YOUR COUNTRY over at Tarpaulin Sky (an excerpt):

Kiss Me with the Mouth of Your Country is a potent work not only artistically but politically, more so than King’s earlier poetry. Instead of loaded words, we get moments that bring us into a body where the borders shift. In this “country,” the “I” and “you” suddenly change because the line between the two keeps moving. The borders here are insecure because they are defended by private, piecemeal methods—“a pile of ash / that blows back into you.” This “country” is the body of a woman, and it stubbornly remains in quotes because it is a permeable thing, especially when trapped inside the home. Laws about rape and incest, ineffectual in practice, help keep it that way, as does the sexist culture. As a country, this body looks real enough, but because its borders don’t mean a great deal, it isn’t. Near the end of the chapbook, King returns to her earlier more cerebral style, turning images at a manic rate, but this idea of the body and its borders lingers. The poetry is haunted by it, like a house haunted by the idea of not being there.

Thanks, Caroline!

~~~

Aimé Césaire, Martinique poet, has died
April 17, 2008

Aime Cesaire

Thursday, April 17, 2008

PARIS: The esteemed Martinique poet and politician Aimé Césaire, a leading figure in the movement for black consciousness, died Thursday, the French president’s office and a hospital said. He was 94.

Césaire was involved in the fight for French West Indian rights, and he also served as a lawmaker in the lower house of France’s parliament for nearly 50 years. French President Nicolas Sarkozy successfully led a campaign last year to change the name of Martinique’s airport in honor of Césaire.

Sarkozy on Thursday praised Césaire as “a great poet” and a “great humanist.”

“As a free and independent spirit, throughout his whole life he embodied the fight for the recognition of his identity and the richness of his African roots,” Sarkozy said. “Through his universal call for the respect of human dignity, consciousness and responsibility, he will remain a symbol of hope for all oppressed peoples.”

~~~

From The liberating power of words – interview with poet Aime Cesaire – Interview

Aimé Césaire: I’ve always had the feeling that I was on a quest to reconquer something, my name, my country or myself.

That is why my approach has in essence always been poetic.

Because it seems to me that in a way that’s what poetry is.

The reconquest of the self by the self….

I think it was Heidegger who said that words are the abode of being. There are many such quotations. I believe it was Rene Char, in his surrealist days, who said that words know much more about us than we know about them.

I too believe that words have a revealing as well as a creative function…

The Abbe Gregoire(1), Victor Schoelcher(2) and all those who spoke out and still speak out, who campaigned for human rights without distinction of race and against discrimination, these were my guides in life. They stand forever as representatives of the West’s great outpouring of magnanimity and solidarity, an essential contribution to the advancement of the ideas of practical universality and human values, ideas without which the world of today would not be able to see its way forward. I am forever a brother to them, at one with them in their combat and in their hopes…

I really do believe in human beings. I find. something of myself in all cultures, in that extraordinary effort that all people, everywhere, have made – and for what purpose?

Quite simply to make life livable!

It is no easy matter to put up with life and face up to death.

And this is what is so moving.

We are all taking part in the same great adventure.

That is what is meant by cultures, cultures that come together at some meeting-point….

I think it was in a passage in Hegel emphasizing the master-slave dialectic that we found this idea about specificity. He points out that the particular and the universal are not to be seen as opposites, that the universal is not the negation of the particular but is reached by a deeper exploration of the particular.

The West told us that in order to be universal we had to start by denying that we were black. I, on the contrary, said to myself that the more we were black, the more universal we would be.

It was a totally different approach. It was not a choice between alternatives, but an effort at reconciliation.

Not a cold reconciliation, but reconciliation in the heat of the fire, an alchemical reconciliation if you like.

The identity in question was an identity reconciled with the universal. For me there can never be any imprisonment within an identity.

Identity means having roots, but it is also a transition, a transition to the universal….

We are far removed from that romantic idyll beneath the calm sea. These are angry, exasperated lands, lands that spit and spew, that vomit forth life.

That is what we must live up to. We must draw upon the creativity of this plot of land! We must keep it going and not sink into a slumber of acceptance and resignation. It is a kind of summons to us from history and from nature….

And so I have tried to reconcile those two worlds, because that was what had to be done. On the other hand, I feel just as relaxed about claiming kinship with the African griot and the African epic as about claiming kinship with Rimbaud and Lautreamont – and through them with Sophocles and Aeschylus! …

I have never harboured any illusions about the risks of history, be it in Africa, in Martinique, in the Americas or anywhere else. History is always dangerous, the world of history is a risky world; but it is up to us at any given moment to establish and readjust the hierarchy of dangers. …

At any rate, it is for me the fundamental mode of expression, and the world’s salvation depends on its ability to heed that voice. It is obvious that the voice of poetry has been less and less heeded during the century we have lived through, but it will come to be realized more and more that it is the only voice that can still be life-giving and that can provide a basis on which to build and reconstruct….

* And yet this century has not been one where ethics has triumphed, has it?

A.C.: Certainly not, but one must speak out, whether one is heeded or not; we hold certain things to be fundamental, things that we cling to. Even if it means swimming against the tide, they must be upheld.

In other words, poetry is for me a searching after truth and sincerity, sincerity outside of the world, outside of alien times. We seek it deep within ourselves, often despite ourselves, despite what we seem to be, within our innermost selves.

Poetry wells up from the depths, with explosive force.

The volcano again.

No doubt I have reached the moment of crossing the great divide but I face it imperturbably in the knowledge of having put forward what I see as essential, in the knowledge, if you like, of having called out ahead of me and proclaimed the future aloud.

That is what I believe I have done; somewhat disoriented though I am to find the seasons going backwards, as it were, that is how it is and that is what I believe to be my vocation.

No resentments, none at all, no ill feelings but the inescapable solitude of the human condition. That is the most important thing.

~

1. Henri Gregoire (1750-1831), French ecclesiastic and politician, a leader of the movement in the Convention for the abolition of slavery. Ed.

2. French politician (1804-1893), campaigner for the abolition of slavery in the colonies, Deputy for Guadeloupe and Martinique. Ed.

–The liberating power of words – interview with poet Aime Cesaire – Interview

~~~

When Lightning Bolts From My Chest …
April 15, 2008

A Few Random Poets Speak on National Poetry Month –

And We Eat …

“God has a brown voice, as soft and full as beer.” —Anne Sexton

Jerome Rothenberg“As for poetry ‘belonging’ in the classroom, it’s like the way they taught us sex in those old hygiene classes: not performance but semiotics. If it I had taken Hygiene 71 seriously, I would have become a monk; & if I had taken college English seriously, I would have become an accountant.” —Jerome Rothenberg

On Clouds – “…what primitive tastes the ancients must have had if their poets were inspired by those absurd, untidy clumps of mist, idiotically jostling one another about…” —Yevgeny Zamyatin

“Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.” —Carl Sandburg

“For each letter received from a creditor, write fifty lines on an extraterrestrial subject and you will be saved.” —Charles Baudelaire

“I have been in Sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountain wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and a sword in my hands.” —Zora Neale Hurston

“The purpose of art, including literature, is not to reflect life but to organize it, to build it.” —Yevgeny Zamyatin (The Goal, ca. 1926)

Elizabeth Bishop“One can smell it turning to gas; if one were Baudelaire one could probably hear it turning to marimba music.” —Elizabeth Bishop

“If the poet wants to be a poet, the poet must force the poet to revise. If the poet doesn’t wish to revise, let the poet abandon poetry and take up stamp-collecting or real estate.” —Donald Hall

Zora Neale Hurston “Nothing that God ever made is the same thing to more than one person. That is natural.” —Zora Neale Hurston

“I took a deep breath and listened to the old bray of my heart. I am. I am. I am.” —Sylvia Plath

“In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it’s the exact opposite.” —Paul Dirac

“Heaven is not like flying or swimming, but has something to do with blackness and a strong glare.” —Elizabeth Bishop

“Poetry is a rich, full-bodied whistle, cracked ice crunching in pails, the night that numbs the leaf, the duel of two nightingales, the sweet pea that has run wild, Creation’s tears in shoulder blades.” —Boris Pasternak

Anne Sexton“It doesn’t matter who my father was; it matters who I remember he was.” —Anne Sexton

“Wanted: a needle swift enough to sew this poem into a blanket.” —Charles Simic

“The composition is the thing seen by everyone living in the living they are doing, they are the composing of the composition that at the time they are living is the composition of the time in which they are living.” —Gertrude Stein

“Apparently, the most difficult feat for a Cambridge male is to accept a woman not merely as feeling, not merely as thinking, but as managing a complex, vital interweaving of both.” —Sylvia Plath

“There is no single face in nature, because every eye that looks upon it, sees it from its own angle. So every man’s spice-box seasons his own food.” —Zora Neale Hurston

“She even had a kind of special position among men: she was an exception, she fitted none of the categories they commonly used when talking about girls; she wasn’t a cock-teaser, a cold fish, an easy lay or a snarky bitch; she was an honorary person. She had grown to share their contempt for most women.” —Margaret Atwood

“Language is a cracked kettle on which we beat out tunes for bears to dance to, while all the time we long to move the stars to pity.” —Gustave Flaubert

Allen Ginsberg -- Nude“Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It’s that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that’s what the poet does.” —Allen Ginsberg

“I did not believe political directives could be successfully applied to creative writing . . . not to poetry or fiction, which to be valid had to express as truthfully as possible the individual emotions and reactions of the writer.” —Langston Hughes

Gertrude Stein“A diary means yes indeed.” —Gertrude Stein

“I think one of poetry’s functions is not to give us what we want… [T]he poet isn’t always of use to the tribe. The tribe thrives on the consensual. The tribe is pulling together to face the intruder who threatens it. Meanwhile, the poet is sitting by himself in the graveyard talking to a skull.” —Heather McHugh

“Poetry is the journal of the sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air. Poetry is a search for syllables to shoot at the barriers of the unknown and the unknowable. Poetry is a phantom script telling how rainbows are made and why they go away.” —Carl Sandburg

Virginia Woolf“When, however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet. . . indeed, I would venture to guess that Anon, who wrote so many poems without signing them, was often a woman.” —Virginia Woolf

“This cop told me, furthermore, that it had been difficult for him to follow me because I had signaled too soon. I told him that, because I didn’t know there was anyone else in the world, any signaling was an act of faith.” —Kathy Acker

“Even in the centuries which appear to us to be the most monstrous and foolish, the immortal appetite for beauty has always found satisfaction.” —Charles Baudelaire

Frank O Hara“I am ashamed of my century, but I have to smile” —Frank O’Hara

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~~~

GO LOCAL: National Poetry Month x 10!
April 13, 2008

WHY: Eating, growing, and celebrating locally to find the world in a grain of Brooklyn and eternity in an hour or two!

WHEN: Friday, April 25th @ 7 p.m. – Sharp!

WHERE: Stain Bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn

WHO: ~~ BANIAS ~~ BERRIGAN ~~ BOZICEVIC ~~ BRYANT ~~ DICKOW ~~ HOY ~~ KOCOT ~~ SMITH ~~ STARKWEATHER ~~ WILLIAMSON

~~~~

ARI BANIAS grew up in California, Texas, and Illinois. He now lives in Brooklyn, NY and teaches undergraduate creative writing and literature at Hunter College. His poems are forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, Literary Imagination, and FIELD, and have recently appeared in Mid-American Review (as a feature), Arts & Letters, and RealPoetik.

EDMUND BERRIGAN is the author of Glad Stone Children (Farfalla Press, 2008) and is co-editor with Anselm Berrigan and Alice Notley of a forthcoming Selected Poems of Ted Berrigan (University of California).

ANA BOZICEVIC moved to NYC from Croatia in 1997. She’s the author of chapbooks Document (Octopus Books, 2007) and Morning News (Kitchen Press, 2006). Look for her recent work in Denver Quarterly, Hotel Amerika, absent, The New York Quarterly, Bat City Review, MiPOesias, Octopus Magazine and The Portable Boog Reader 2: An Anthology of NYC Poetry. Ana coedits RealPoetik.

TISA BRYANT is the author of Tzimmes (A+Bend Press, 2000), which collages concerns of breast cancer, Barbados genealogy research, a Passover seder and a film by Yvonne Rainer, and her first book, Unexplained Presence (Leon Works, 2007), is a collection of original, hybrid essays that remix narratives from Eurocentric film, literature and visual arts and zoom in on the black presences operating within them. She currently lives in Brooklyn, NY.

ALEXANDER DICKOW grew up in Moscow, Idaho, traveled to France, got married to a French woman, studies French literature at Rutgers, and writes poems. His work has appeared in both Yankee and Hexagonal journals including MiPO, RealPoetik, Sitaudis, Il Particolare, Hapax, can we have our ball back? and others. A full-length bilingual collection, _Caramboles_, will be published by the Parisian press Argol Editions in October 2008. Alex currently lives in bucolic central New Jersey.

DAN HOY lives in Brooklyn and is an editor for SOFT TARGETS. His poetry chapbook, Outtakes, was published by Lame House Press in 2007.

NOELLE KOCOT is the author of 3 books of poems, 4 and The Raving Fortune, out from Four Way Books in 2001 and 2004, respectively, and Poem for the End of Time, out from Wave Books in 2006, of which the NY Times Book Review deemed the long title poem, “extraordinary.” She has won awards from The National Endowment for the Arts, The Fund For Poetry, The Academy of American Poets and The American Poetry Review, among others. She lives in Brooklyn, where she was born and raised, and teaches for a living. Her fourth book, Sunny Wednesday, will be published by Wave Books in spring, 2009.

JESSICA SMITH is the editor of Outside Voices Press, which publishes Foursquare magazine. She wrote a book called Organic Furniture Cellar. She maintains a blog that incites both hate mail and proposals. She recently moved to Brooklyn and is looking for a job.

SAMPSON STARKWEATHER is a small African village patrolled by dream-fed lions. They sway in the grasses when you move. His handwriting, which has been featured in several medical journals, strong-armed him into a life of asemic writing. He is the author of The Book of Sky, a wordless text published by anyone.

DUSTIN WILLIAMSON is the author of Heavy Panda (Goodbye Better), Gorilla Dust (Open24Hours Press), and Exhausted Grunts (Cannibal Books). He publishes Rust Buckle Books and is the current curator of the Zinc Talk Reading Series.

~~~

STAIN BAR

766 Grand Street Brooklyn , NY 11211

(L train to Grand Street Stop, walk 1 block west)

718/387-7840

~~~~

“The thing about performance, even if it’s only an illusion, is that it is a celebration of the fact that we do contain within ourselves infinite possibilities.” — Sydney Smith

~~~~

Ron Padgett Sings His Poetry!
April 11, 2008

Poet Ron Padgett with Poet John Ashbery

April 5, 2008

This week on A Prairie Home Companion, we’re setting up our giant radio antenna atop the historic Town Hall in New York City for three shows in April. This week’s special guests include, the phenomenon in boots and a hat, Brad Paisley, American film actress Kimberly Williams-Paisley, poet Ron Padgett, and the subject of more email inquiries at APHC than anyone else, legendary Scottish folk-singer Jean Redpath. Also with us, The Royal Academy of Radio Actors: Tim Russell, Sue Scott, and Fred Newman, The Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band, and The News from Lake Wobegon. Join us this week from action-packed West 43rd & Broadway.

Segment 1
00:00 Logo
00:11 Tishomingo Blues
03:48 It’s Only a Cyber Moon
06:09 Rhubarb script
10:09 “Caterpillar Cakewalk” – Shoe Band and Brad Paisley
13:10 GK intros Ron Padgett
14:48 Ron Padgett reads “The Drink”, “Poet As A Mortal Bird”, “Haiku” and “Morning”
18:50 “April Come She Will”- GK/ Pat/ Shoes
21:00 Jump script
22:19 GK intros Jean Redpath
24:15 “If You Could Wait A Moment Longer” – Jean Redpath and Shoe Band
28:06 Jean intros next tune
29:10 “Mally Lee” – Jean Redpath with the Guy’s All-Star Shoe Band
31:11 Powdermilk Biscuit Break
Segment 2
32:45 Guy Noir script
48:54 GK intros Brad Paisley
49:42 “I’m Still A Guy” – Brad Paisley
53:13 Brad Paisley talks to crowd
53:46 “Waiting on a Woman”- Brad Paisley
57:03 Intermission- “Somebody Stole My Gal”
Segment 3
1:01:15 Bob Elliott script
1:05:23 Sonnet Contest Announcement
1:06:17 Bob’s Bank script
1:07:50 Subway script
1:09:10 Greetings
1:12:56 “Cruisin’ Downtown” – Shoe Band and Brad Paisley
1:15:30 GK intros Ron Padgett
1:16:02 Ron Padgett recites “Dead or Alive in Belgium”, “Words From the Front” and “Bastille Day”
1:20:00 “Say You Love Me Sadie” – Shoe Band
1:20:35 GK intros Brad Paisley
1:22:16 “Ode de Toilet”- Brad Paisley
1:26:00 “Letter To Me” – Brad Paisley
Segment 4
1:31:00 The News from Lake Wobegon (Download MP3)
Segment 5
1:44:20 “The Old Woman”- Jean Redpath
1:46:23 “Steal Away” – Jean Redpath and Garrison Keillor
1:49:30 Indie script
1:54:05 Online
1:56:50 Credits, “Next Time I’m in Town” closer

Birthing…
April 10, 2008

I forgot about this kick-ass picture Jennifer Firestone and I posed for some year or so ago (Well, mostly she’s kick ass and daring while I ride her coattails here!). That is, I forgot until I got word of her new book, HOLIDAY. Then, I thought that celebrating this book would also be a means to showcase the above.

But don’t let the photo override Firestone’s new bliss! Eileen Myles writes,

“Jennifer Firestone’s Holiday makes big sense to me. It make me think largely about why I like anyone’s writing – and sometimes it’s as simple as this: I like its physicality. I like its jumps. Holiday is extremely private, extremely active. It’s notebooky in the best sense of the word because I feel privileged to get these fractured views of how Jennifer Firestone moves around the world. Her style at times is telegraphic (and insatiable) like Ginsberg. Let me say Gail Scott and Ginsberg. Also why do we bother reading. Why do we want to trail around in anyone’s else’s mind at all. Jennifer asks:

‘Is it worth
going down these steps
are the bottom rooms worth it?’

I say yeah. Enthusiastically yes.”
—Eileen Myles

I’d say she’s right on the money, and here’s a poem to further tempt you to it:

OR

Away it is creeping to find out what to do

It tunnels to a home that burns at the tip

Art barely gave

Sand was vast

All vacations fused

Red flags disappeared

There was wheat and fog

–Jennifer Firestone, HOLIDAY

Stellar Audio of Megan Volpert, Deborah Poe, & Laura Mullen
April 3, 2008

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For some excellent poetry readings, perk up your ears here:

Deborah Poe – http://odeo.com/audio/17981583/view

Megan A. Volpert – http://odeo.com/audio/17981433/view

Laura Mullen – http://odeo.com/audio/17981483/view

Enjoy!

 

Never a More Generous Man
April 3, 2008

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Never a more generous man have I met than poet and friend, Matthew Rotando. I take great pleasure in singing the praises of his first book of poems, THE COMEBACK’S EXOSKELETON. I wish you could all know him too, as you will find that once you fall in love with this collection, you will long to meet the person who has such zest for life as well as an eye not afraid to behold our evils. It’s really a lovely collection — and I’m not just saying that because I’ve been waiting for years for it to appear. You should throw caution to the wind and take up this EXOSKELETON! Discover how well dresses up your own worldview!

What others are saying:

Incorporating the density of Spanish surrealism and a sprawling Whitmanesque line, this amazing first book finds Rotando engaged in a poetic biathlon which draws equally from maximal and minimal traditions. There are tight, economical poems, free verse forms derived from the sonnet, poems leaping about the page, but my favorites are the wonderful prose poems tumbling over and under themselves toward gnomish statements that feel both didactic and self-parodying. –Tim Peterson, from the Foreword

The rich, exultant writing in Matthew Rotando’s first collection is both comic and cosmic. Lyrics steeped in the Latin American literary tradition disclose what might be called the surreality of reality in contemporary American culture, while cadences of Stein and Barthelme make the prose poems in The Comeback’s Exoskeleton ring with laughter of great philosophical depth. This is a writer unafraid to love and to err, and to do so with irrepressible grace and humour. To read such unapologetically joyous work is a tonic for melancholy and a prescription for wonder. –Srikanth Reddy, Facts for Visitors


And a few short poems from the collection, though there are many longer ones to gleefully sink into:

THE OCTOPUS MAN, TO HIS SON

 

Son, watch the way the eaves bend when you breathe.

They move the way a star would

If you could corral water into spheres.

 

Shadows play in the paint under the floor:

Tentacular spirits!

They will hold your cages and laboratory equipment.

 

Your time as a human is near at hand;

I am repealing all the old regulations

Regarding prostrations and guttural pronouncements.

 

There will be things called Souvenir Shops;

Bring back an “I ♥ Mt. Rushmore” keychain for your mother.

 

~~

 

TOM DEVANEY, LON CHANEY

 

I snave this heaking suspicion

That the poung yoet, Tom Devaney,

Is really the mold oviestar, Lon Chaney.

If lou yisten to the way they laugh,

Or notice their hartling, storror movie eyes,

You’ll sefinitely dee

That they’re both obvious dasters of misguise.

 

 

AMY, I’M GOING TO CALL YOU THE TROUBLE GIRL

 

I like trouble. I like to shoot watermelon seeds at passing barges. I wanna

put Elmer’s Glue in your hair and make it stick straight up. I wanna go

down to the docks and kick some ass! Your shoes small like skunk. And

so do mine. If we were lizards, I bet we would both be geckoes with

sticky round fingers. A friend is someone who decides to find you out.

Let’s have a broken bottle party! A Chinese dude, Shih-Wu, said, “Pine

trees and strange rocks remain unknown to those who look for mind

with mind.” So let’s not bother. Let’s just walk arm in arm through a

crumbling metropolis, clacking castanets.

 

–From THE COMEBACK’S EXOSKELETON by Matthew Rotando

 

 

In the mood for one more? Try this one, complete with a nearly naked pic!

☻☺☻☺☻☺

Daisy Fried’s Poetry Exercises
April 2, 2008

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Daisy Fried on Poetry:

* I’ve never found an explanation for why poetry, apparently alone among the art forms, is asked to do more than be itself.

* But poetry’s the High Art which is also democratic: inexpensive, portable, reproducible, quickly consumed (except for epic and very difficult poetry), requiring only literacy to participate. So maybe it’s good that poetry carries this extra burden, even if it means that the idea of poetry is more necessary to people than individual poems, and that people tend not to pay attention to what’s happening on the page. But this doesn’t explain why the superfluous demands are often made by educated poetry experts. I doubt most poets, good and bad, political or not, put these demands on their own work. Why should we make them of poetry in general?

* Words matter. Use is not function. War and Peace makes an excellent paperweight; I’ve used it that way myself, after reading it. The function of War and Peace is greater than its many uses. So too poetry. Bad poems are often more useful for healing, persuasion, and celebration than good ones. They lack that rich ambiguity which Keats called negative capability, and so fail as poems. Take, for example, bad 9/11 poems, at which I do “sniff the air.” There are good 9/11 poems. The degraded Romanticism of the mass of bad ones often amounts to decorative displays of the poet’s own sensibility. Such displays may be emotionally or politically useful, but who needs them? They seem to claim authenticity for individual experiences derived from watching TV—and fail to ask the question, why do these people want to kill us? Good 9/11 poems sustain the possibility that America was both victim and guilty. I believe 9/11 solace poetry has given support, however indirectly and unintentionally, to the Bush administration. Solace poetry is to serious poetry as pornography is to serious art. Sex pornography has its uses, even positive ones, but nobody confuses it with serious art about love. The difference between solace porn and sex porn is that solace pornographers seldom seem aware that they’re making pornography. Shame on them.* Poetry matters. Great poems don’t always fit categories of usage: Martial’s hilariously filthy invectives, Dickinson’s apolitical lyrics, and, despite their stupid fascism, Pound’s Cantos, all function as great poetry. Meanwhile, the four of us write poems. We might begin by intending to be merely useful (I never have). But at some point the poem takes over, makes requirements of us instead of vice versa. That’s the moment of poetry; poems exist to let readers share in that moment. So our focus on mere use strikes me as odd: is this really all we know about our poems? Why exclude ourselves from our own readership?

* Enjoyment matters. Poetry is fun! I mean this seriously. In “Lapis Lazuli,” Yeats insists on the gaiety of human existence alongside its tragedy. Yes, there is terrible suffering; we are all going to die. And when, on the carved lapis lazuli, a man “asks for mournful melodies;/Accomplished fingers begin to play;/…their eyes,/Their ancient, glittering eyes, are gay.” The gaiety of great poetry reinforces and deepens our humanity. That’s personal—and therefore social. Forget that, and we forget poetry’s true function.

–from “Does Poetry Have a Social Function” @ The Poetry Foundation

~~~

ALSO, listen in on a conversation I had with Daisy Fried HERE: powered by ODEO

~~~

A POEM A DAY BY DAISY FRIED

1. Write a ten-line poem in which each line is a lie.

2. Write a poem that tells a story in 18 lines or less, and includes at least four proper nouns.

3. Write a poem that uses any of the senses EXCEPT SIGHT as its predominant imagery.

4. Write a poem inspired by a newspaper article you read this week.

5. Write a poem without adjectives.

6. Ask your roommate/neighbor/lover/friend/mother/anyone for a subject (as wild as they want to make it) for a ten-minute poem. Now write a poem about that subject in ten minutes; make it have a beginning, a middle and an end.

7. Write the worst poem you possibly can. Now edit it and make it even worse.

8. Poem subject: A wind blows something down. Or else it doesn’t. Write it in ten minutes.

9. Write a poem with each line, or at least many of the lines, filling in the blanks of “I used to________, but now I_________.”

11. Write a poem consisting entirely of things you’d like to say, but never would, to a parent, lover, sibling, child, teacher, roommate, best

friend, mayor, president, corporate CEO, etc.

12. Write a poem that uses as a starting point a conversation you overheard.

13. First line of today’s poem: “This is not a poem, but…”

14. Write a poem in the form of either a letter or a speech which uses at least six of the following words: horses, “no, duh,” adolescent, autumn

leaves, necklace, lamb chop, Tikrit, country rock, mother, scamper, zap, bankrupt. Take no more than 13 minutes to write it.

15. Write a poem which includes a list or lists-shopping list, things to do, lists of flowers or rocks, lists of colors, inventory lists,

lists of events, lists of names…

16. Poem subject: A person runs where no running is allowed. Write it in ten minutes.

17. Write a poem in the form of a personal ad.

18. Write a poem made up entirely of questions. Or write a poem made up entirely of directions.

19. Write a poem about the first time you did something.

20. Write a poem about falling out of love.

21. Make up a secret. Then write a poem about it. Or ask someone to give you a made-up or real secret, and write a poem about it.

22. Write a poem about a bird you don’t know the name of.

23. Write a hate poem.

24. Free-write for, say, 15 minutes, but start with the phrase “In the kitchen” and every time you get stuck, repeat the phrase “In the

kitchen.” Alternatively, use any part of a house you have lots of associations with-“In the garage,” “In the basement,” “In the bathroom,” “In the yard.”

25. Write down 5-10 words that sound ugly to you. Use them in a poem.

26. Write a poem in which a motorcycle and a ballerina appear.

27. Write a poem out of the worst part of your character.

28. Write a poem that involves modern technology-voice mail, or instant messaging, or video games, or… 29. Write a seduction poem in which somebody seduces you.

30. Radically revise a poem you wrote earlier this month.