Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mystery Solved Thanks to Loomful of Hues

Thank you to Jeanne Heifetz for solving the Verse Daily mystery! Using expert detective skills and a dash of common sense, Jeanne surmised that someone at Verse Daily might have confused the poet from the Saturday feature with Wesley McNair, Verse Daily's Sunday feature. Now why didn't I think of that? Thankfully, Wesley McNair is the author of  "Mistakes about Heaven" and thus I did order the right book. The bio connected with him belongs to Karyna McGlynn - the Saturday feature - who it turns out has a Seattle connection. Verse Daily has yet to issue a correction --- so it's fair to say, The Alchemist's Kitchen blog has broken the story. Ground breaking news reported here!

And should you be interested in gorgeous sculptures, hand-crafted rugs and wall hangings - take a look at my favorite detective's website, A Loomful of Hues --- Jeanne shows all over the east coast, but it looks like the west coast is on her itinerary for the fall. Thank you, Jeanne!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Off the Page features The Alchemist's Kitchen

Okay - so I guess it's more of an interview that Drew Myron has kindly done with me on Off the Page. Drew has included a portion of my poem, "Letter to the End of the Year," with the interview and a bio. Feel free to visit here.  It was fun to do and I am very grateful to Drew for asking. One of the cool things about the blogging community is becoming friends with people who without the internet, I probably would never know. Thank you, Drew.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

It's a Mystery (to me)

Sunday's poem on Verse Daily was titled "Mistakes About Heaven" by Wesley McNair. I love the poem so much that I ordered her / his book. And here begins the mystery. According to Verse Daily, Wesley McNair is a woman with only a couple of books out. According to everything else on the internet, Wesley McNair is a middle aged, bald man from New England with over a dozen books of poetry. Could there be two Wesley McNairs? Which one wrote the poem "Mistakes About Heaven"? Whose book did I order? Can you help solve the mystery?

Here is the first section of the poem. It gets better and better: Go to Verse Daily to read the rest.

1 .
Contrary to what is said,
longing exists there.
Imagine the soul as one
so involved with the music
as it played the game
of walking around the chairs,
it discovered too late
that it had no chair. Having lived
its only life in the body,
it sometimes misses
the walking and the sitting down
and above all, the music.

The Writer's Life: Rakesh Satyal Raises the Bar on Acceptance Speeches

Thank you Peter Pereira for this. It has me laughing out loud each time. And yet -- is it that funny? Yes! It's so unexpected. "I want to thank everyone here - from the straightest person to the littlest queer."
And finally, "thank you very much for letting me join the ranks." If I ever win a big prize I want to do something this outlandish. And yet what shines through for me in this video is exuberance. Congratulations Rakesh Satyal. May your book, Blue Boy, sell like hot cakes -- like crazy pants -- like a song.

Review in Miniature: Between Water & Song

One of the many lovely surprises at this year's AWP conference in Denver was the book launch for Between Water and Song  anthology published by White Pine Press (full disclosure - also, my press). Although many of the poets were familiar to me -- poetry pals Ilya Kaminsky and Brian Turner are included here -- there were many other poets who were new to me. I was especially drawn to the women poets that read that night: Maria Melendez and Malena Morling. I can't help but mention that out of the fifteen poets, described as "New Poets for the Twenty-First Century," Norman Minnick has been somewhat short-sighted in including only five women. Yet, I am glad for the women he did include. Maria Melendez has published three collections of poems, is the editor/publisher of Pilgrimage Magazine and lives in Pueblo, Colorado. The title of the anthology come from her poem of the same title.

Between Water and Song

Many ancient americano
            calendars agree ---

This era is on its way out.
           One prophecy

says the next world
           will be water,

another says
         mundo floral.

Do we have time
       to argue the difference?

between flower and water
      water and song?

             ----  Maria Melendez

This type of condensed lyric looks deceptively simple  - add to that writing about the environment -- and this poem becomes even more impressive. The idea of the next world being one of flowers has stayed with me. And although the issue of environmental degradation is certainly here, I can't help but linger in a view of heaven,  a world to come with lilac and jasmine, honeysuckle and rose. Because praise for the world is also here.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Writing Life: Now It's Time to Get Writing

Now that school is out, it's time to get writing again. Each year I am surprised by how hard a transition this is for me. How to start writing poems again? I need to trick myself into it. Begin by reading. Today it was The Poetry of Rilke,  translated by Edward Snow -- with a gorgeous introduction by Adam Zagajewski. I know I will be reading and re-reading it forever.

Tonight I heard Rae Armantrout read from her Pulitzer prize-winning collection, Versed. An utterly charming woman, and a pleasure to have her voice to accompany her words. I was especially struck by how often her lines balanced pathos and humor in the same instant. Here's one poem for her son, Aaron.


Complex systems can arise
from simple rules.

It's not
that we want to survive,
it's that we've been drugged
and made to act
as if we do

while all the while
the sea breaks
and rolls, painlessly, under.

If we're not copying it,
we're lonely.

Is this the knowledge
that demands to be
to be passed down?

Time is made from swatches
of heaven and hell.

If we're not killing it,
we're hungry.

I admire the imaginative leaps Armantrout makes and how deceptively simple the poem seems - or maybe genuinely is ...once you realize it's written for her son. Many of the poems address Time with a capital T. Her poems make me want to reach beyond what I think I can do --- not to leave meaning behind -- not at all -- but communicate with it differently.

When I was a young writer, I wanted to reside with my poetic mentors only and to close out everyone else. As I get older (gasp) I'm more interested in an inclusive approach. Who wants to write the same way decade after decade? It took Rilke several books to shake off the style of his time and build his own style. Rilke and Armantrout in the same day. I'm wondering what might happen tomorrow?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Late Night Snack

Instead of succumbing to the munchies and eating waffles slathered in farm fresh yogurt, strawberries, and yes, maple syrup, I'm going to try and derive pleasure from just the image. I'm going to dream of waffle poems, waffle wonder heros, waffle wishes. And one thing is certain, I know what I'm making for breakfast. Does looking at pictures of decadent food make one eat more, or less?

"And Many More" - New Poets of the American West

Is there something fishy about Washington poets that all but two of us are categorized under "And many more?" That's okay; I'm happy to be in the superb company of Allen Braden,  Kathleen Flenniken, Marjorie Manwaring, Derek Sheffield, "and many more" wonderful Washington poets. I'm especially ecstatic to be considered a "Poet of the American West." Good-bye, Boston! 

New Poets Of The American West coming in July ...

New Poets of the American West

an anthology of poets
from eleven Western states

Edited by Lowell Jaeger

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Daniel Spendlove ~ Website Wizard ~ Specializing in Writers Sites

My web wizard, Daniel Spendlove, is free from his university classes for the summer and available to work on poets' websites. I highly recommend his services! As a writer himself, Daniel was patient, creative, and fun to work with. Together, we came up with the design for my site. I would give Daniel a half-baked idea, and he would create something beautiful from it.

I know that he will be conscientious, communicative, and creative in his work with you. Please contact Daniel if you are in the market for a web designer. Most importantly, once he "deploys" your site, you will have the ability to update it, as you like. Very reasonable rates!

Daniel Spendlove  Star web designer/developer knowledgeable in XHTML, CSS, PHP, MySQL, JavaScript, WordPress – anything you want (web wise). 

Email Daniel at inquire0within@gmail.com

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Writer's Life - Thinking About: How Do You Know If You've Had a Good Reading?

I read this weekend at Elliott Bay Book Company, my favorite all-service bookstore on the planet. This was my second reading in Seattle for The Alchemist's Kitchen and so understandably it was a more intimate crowd than my Open Books book launch last April. Although I am nervous and excited before each reading, it is the questions that arise after the reading that I want to address.

This year at AWP I went to a session called "Shameless Self Promotion" which wasn't shameless at all. The group from the Twin Cities called Squad 365 presented. They are a group of writer friends -- poets, fiction writers, and non-fiction writers who have come together to share ideas on book promotion with a very humane approach. (Todd Boss and Margaret Hasse are the poets of the group.) And one of many smart things they said was, "you need a way to judge success other than book sales when doing a reading." Interestingly, it was the non-fiction writer who said this -- and of course non-fiction sells better than poetry or fiction as a genre.

Here are my thoughts "the morning after" the reading.

1. There were no catastrophes. No hecklers. And I only tripped over one word. Be thankful for the small things.

2. The dinner beforehand with friends at Oddfellows was wonderful. Whenever possible I schedule a dinner with a good friend before or after the reading. I need to make sure I plan to include good food and friendship as part of the evening.

3. What I remember from my readings are the unscripted parts -- like walking off the stage to hand-out the photographs I brought of Myra Albert Wiggin's work so the audience could see the image that inspired the poem. It felt good to move into the audience, if only for a moment.

4. Somewhere in the first third of my reading I heard the audience all laughing together at something I said. I have no idea what I said (or I would  write it down right now) but I do know that their laughter relaxed me. Once I hear genuine laughter from the group, I know they are with me.

5. Although the room was very dark, I could see people's faces. I always pick out a few faces in the crowd, men or women, that look especially attentive and their eyes tell me that they are with me. I keep those faces the next day as markers that someone was listening. If I touch a few people in the audience, that is enough.

6. When I attend readings I am always paying attention to the set-up for the poems as much as the poems themselves. Set-up is tricky, but I know it is key to welcoming the audience into the poem, especially audiences that are new to poetry readings. Make notes on which set-ups worked and which still need some revising.

7. OK. So book sales aren't the be all of readings, but they can't be completely ignored either. Yes, I did sell some books, even to strangers. Selling books feels good. Hannah, the bookseller, asked me to sign books for Elliott Bay to have on hand, this means I get "autographed" stickers. Always sign books for the store to keep on hand --

8. Fan mail. Again, not something to count on, but so cool when it happens! I received an email from a friend's husband saying that he was 57 and this was his first poetry reading. He was so taken that he bought all of my books. Cool. Another person (who I had just met)  used her Facebook update to say she'd had a good time. Bask in the concrete evidence that your words matter... to some.

9. Ignore the downers. OK. Just so you know, three people walked out of my reading. One couple (whom I don't know) and one young woman (also random) and it hurt. I told myself they must have to get to the hospital because their (collective) appendix just ruptured, but how likely is that? Perhaps they were just in the store and had a few moments before their bus left for Timbuktu? In any case, many more people stayed until the end. You can't hold on to the minor negatives, life is just too short.

10. This is being a writer in the world. Putting yourself out there. Connecting with an audience. It's scary, exhilarating, and always uncertain. The poet's equivalent to scaling a mountain. Thank god I get a chance to be a poet in this life. Do you take this love, poetry, for better or worse, in sickness and in health. Say, yes!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Starting a Blog Roll -- Would You Like to Join?

Friends have been telling me for awhile that any blog worth its pixels has a blog roll. Sometimes I take awhile to catch on. I also needed an analogy to what a blog roll actually is. I think it's the neighborhood we live in on-line. The shops you can bicycle to, the locally grown fruits and vegetables at the farmer's market. So if you have a blog and would like to be listed on my very first blog roll, just leave me your name and the name of your blog in the comments. And if you don't have a blog (yet) why not start one?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Poetry Giveaway at Goodreads!

The poetry book giveaway is back, but in another guise. If you can't make it to Elliott Bay Books in Seattle tonight, here is another way to get a copy of my book. Simply go over to Goodreads and search for The Alchemist's Kitchen. You may have to sign-up for Goodreads to enter -- but there are no costs involved. I actually think this site really is about people sharing book lists and reviews. I've been on this site as a civilian for years and am just learning about the way to make use of the site as an author.

And while you are over at Goodreads, you should also check out Diane Lockward's new book - just out this month -- Temptation by Water. I haven't read it yet, but it's on my summer "to-read" list. Meanwhile, there is a giveaway of Temptation by Water, too. Happy reading!

Poetry Tonight @ 7:00 PM Elliott Bay Books with Surprises

It's a rainy, cool, evening in Seattle? What to do? Why not come out and keep me company at 7:00 PM at Elliott Bay Book Company? I began blogging with a love song to Elliott Bay Books and now I get to read at the new beautiful location on 10th Avenue between Pike and Pine. Next door is a superb restaurant, Oddfellows, (I even love their website) and around the corner, Molly Moon - Seattle's new homemade ice cream craze. When Lorca read in New York he told his audience he was not there to entertain them, and as much as I adore Lorca, I have to disagree. A poetry reading should be entertaining (even if this happens in unforeseen ways). Come find out what I mean ...See you at 7:00.

Friday, June 18, 2010

What Should Poets Know When Starting Out?

Thanks, Kelli! I've borrowed this question from Kelli Russell Agodon's blog, Book of Kells today. I can't quite get used to the idea that I am a poet who has been writing and publishing for more than a decade. This means that I no longer qualify as a young poet starting out. Go figure.

1. Many ways we see ourselves as poets never change: a little stranger, a bit outside the norm, not looking to become rich or secure a spot on reality TV.

2. Your relationship with poetry can last forever. Poetry will not divorce you. It will not leave town for a better job or decide to become a monk. In other words, developing your life in poetry will guide who you become -- no matter what else does or does not happen in your life.

3. Although poetry is most often pursued in quiet spaces (or maybe with the din of coffee shops and airline terminals) poets need each other. Find your poetry friends; create community.

4. You don't need an MFA, but it will not hurt you to commit yourself to poetry in this way - "You must change your life" Rilke states. Leaving the comfort of your life to travel to a new state, a new country, to pursue your art isn't a bad way to spend two years. Consider it an extended honeymoon with your sexy spouse, Poetry.

5.  It will always be hard to write the next piece / it should always be hard to write the next piece. OK maybe this is not true for everyone, but I still wonder how to write a better poem, how to push outside my comfort zone, how to break-out into new and exciting forms. If I were to find writing poems came easily, I might have to take-up professional surfing instead.

6. Find your dead poet mentors. Bishop, Brooks, Levertov, Lorca, Rilke, and Celan are some of mine, I immerse myself in their work; I read their letters, biographies, critical studies. I imagine them as close friends. If available, I get CDs of them reading their work and drive around town with them in the car with me. You want to find your poetic progenitors. Create your own family.

7. Enjoy the accessories of your craft. Choose a pen and a notebook, or a laptop or Ipad that you want to spend a lifetime with. I've been using the same kind of writing notebooks for 15 years, they are intimately connected with my writing. I was devastated when the Canadian company changed the style a few years back. I have now stockpiled extra supplies.

8. Be generous. Be generous with yourself and others. Know that you need to write some awful poems in order to hopefully write some that you are proud to sign your name to. Be generous and write often without the critic on your shoulder. Be generous with the world around you so that the world responds in kind.

9. Reading and writing are inextricably linked for me - and for many other poets I know. I need to read work that excites me as a pathway into my own work. It is a good thing to be influenced by poets that you love. Don't be afraid.

10. Poetry is a communication point between the poet -- the poem -- the reader. This means when you begin to find your readers, you will want to cherish them. Be generous when someone emails you for one of your poems; help other writers; attend readings; show that you understand that poetry is a way to communicate. Or so I feel -- to quote a poet.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The First Review of The Alchemist's Kitchen - Thank you Mark Brazaitis wherever you are...

I just found this review on the Peace Corps Worldwide website --- and I am thrilled that this first review, by an RPCV from Guatemala -- and a writer -- found a bit of sustenance in The Alchemist's Kitchen. If only he didn't live in West Virginia (I googled him) I'd invite him out Saturday night to my reading and treat him to a meal at Oddfellows next door to the new Elliott Bay.

Here is the beginning of the review with a link to read more - should you want to indulge.

The Alchemist’s Kitchen
by Susan Rich (Niger 1984–86)

Reviewed by Mark Brazaitis (Guatemala 1991–93)

DON’T READ Susan Rich’s latest book on an empty stomach. Although The Alchemist’s Kitchen contains a wide, intelligent, and thought-provoking variety of poems, it does food better than most of the restaurants I’ve been in.

A sample from the Kitchen’s kitchen:
“. . . a spoon glistening with pomegranate seeds. . .”
“. . . we’ll sip cups of Arabic coffee, linger with lavender chocolate. . .”
“. . . Vietnamese coriander, Thai basil, Chinese leaves. . .”
“. . . taste cheeses lined up like small children: asiago, machango, a drunken goat spread from Spain. . .”

My favorite food poem in Rich’s collection is “Chanterelle,” which asks the reader to compare poetry to a “gourmet grocery shop.”  Poets can experiment with forms whose traditions they may not know well, just as chefs can make use of herbs whose names they cannot pronounce. But a poem will never be something it’s not. The reader — “the check-out girl” in the poem’s extended metaphor — will see to this, ringing it up accurately. Nevertheless, it is the poet’s obligation — like the gourmet shop’s — to offer the unusual and the exquisite and to resist “the safe way” (which, if I’m reading Rich correctly, is a play on Safeway, where my mother used to shop in Washington, D.C., before Whole Foods came to town).

The last line of the poem — “Bring home a mango/muddle it with Kosher salt”-speaks eloquently to the intentions of the collection as a whole. This isn’t a book with a single focus, although if Rich wanted to write an entire collection about food — heck, about a salted mango alone — I’d read it. No, The Alchemist’s Kitchen is indeed a muddle — a fortunate muddle, a compelling muddle. In addition to poems about food, The Alchemist’s Kitchen contains poems about the wars in Bosnia and Somalia, about the photographer and painter Myra Albert Wiggins, and, perhaps most winningly, about love and growing old.

“An Army of Ellipses Traveling Over All She Does Not Say…” leaves readers to fill in most of the horrors of the war in Somalia, but includes this poignant, un-elided image of a woman sitting by the open window of a bus who:
lost her bracelets, and her wrist
to the handiwork of bandits.
“Not a Still Life” is a summing up, in loose sonnet form, of Myra Albert Wiggins’ rich life and art. But as successful as Wiggins’ career was, the poem tells us:
. . . what she wanted most has all but disappeared.
The museum walls, the fame — the name not written here.

When reading poems about visual artists’ work, one is often tempted to look up the original work, which of course I did. But truth be told, Rich’s descriptions of Wiggins’ photographs and paintings are vivid enough to make this exercise redundant.

In addition to her descriptive powers, Rich handles psychological portraits with aplomb. While she credits Carole Glauber’s The Witch of Kodakry: The Photography of Myra Albert Wiggins, 1869–1956 for informing and jumpstarting her Wiggins’ poems, it’s hard to imagine Glauber’s biography being both as succinct and insightful as, say, “Mr. Myra Albert Wiggins Recalls Their Arrangement”:

. . . And so if there were men
of Salem, Toppenish, Seattle, lovely and rich-
who snickered at our last-season suits
and sequined gowns, who hinted not infrequently —
that a husband should not be so happy
packing picture frames and mounting
photographs. Christ. They knew nothing.

My favorite of favorites? “At Middle-Life: A Romance,” whose energetic, imperative opening — “Let love be imminent and let it be a train” — sets the appealing, optimistic tone. Oh — and there’s a (scrumptious, of course) food reference (”Let love be a breakfast of crème cakes, pomegranate juice, a lively Spanish torte”).
Given the menu, who wouldn’t want to indulge?

Terrance Hayes, My New Poetry Crush - Get In Line

I confess that Terrance Hayes is my new poetry crush. He is a poet that makes me think, makes me laugh, and challenges me in my own writing to be more innovative; take more risks. Most of all, it's his palpable empathy that I am drawn to. He is where feeling and thought meet. And yes, he is very easy on the eyes. In person, he is as lovely as he is on the page. Maybe more. Listen up.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Denise Levertov on the subject of Mt. Rainier


I've been thinking about Denise Levertov lately. I believe she is the second poet I ever saw read her work. I'd just gotten my driver's license - sixteen? My friend Lynne and I drove to Brandeis University to see Levertov read in a small classroom. What I remember most is that she seemed unlike any adult I had ever met. Dressed in a black turtle neck and jeans sitting cross-legged on a desk, she giggled. This was 1977, so she must have been fifty-four. I remember her as joyous and playful -- very different than what we see in this 1993 video. Levertov was extremely particular about linebreaks and believed there was a specific length one should pause at the end of a line. Here you can see how carefully she reads each word -- the determination almost too stern for my taste -- or rather, is such opposition to my memory of the younger Levertov.

Denise Levertov was living in Seattle at the time of this recording. The first poems she reads here concern Mt. Rainier. I  love how the presence of the mountain  becomes a source of meditation - so much so that Levertov states that she will not visit the mountain - that it is, and should remain, unknowable. The video is a bit long, but I was thrilled to find it -- not realizing that any of her poetry readings were available. If you are interested in her work, I'd really recommend This Great Unknowing. It's her last book, the poems she was working on when she died. But that's not the reason to read it -- read it because the work is gorgeous and stripped down in a way that her early poems are. There was a long time in-between the early poems and This Great Unknowing when I lost the connection with her work. Her essays, however, have been a constant companion.

A Sunday Poem - Think January

I brought this poem to my Community of Poetry Readers (COP'Rs) this afternoon. Each month we read a book of poems and come together to talk about them -- but we also (and this is my favorite part) also bring single poems to share. I love how this poem deals with its subject -- not Christmastime snow, not virginal snow, but the actual wet stuff. The linkage between the beauty of "snow is deep in blue shadow" or "wind sculpts cornices" is offset by the absolute danger of snow "recite the cycles of thaw and freeze" or "reconsider your gear." The speaker understands snow on so many levels: actual, lyrical, philosophical. My favorite line is: "Snow is the wordless mind."

I've taught this poem as a catalogue poem - a list poem that moves  beyond the typical use of the form. I also hear an under current of Elizabeth Bishop's "think of the long trip home" from Questions of Travel. I'm so excited when I find poems like this -- ones that blow my mind -- by poets I've never heard of. It gives me great pleasure to share this poem here with you.


Checklist for a Trek in New Snow

1.  Snow is never the same.
Memorize its lore late into a winter evening.

2.  Snow is deep in blue shadow;
then, all at once in flame, sunslant in your eyes;
glassy on the Gunsight overlook.

3.  Recite the cycles of thaw and freeze,
new snow on the old packed Northside base
just waiting to slide.

4.  Look both ways, crossing the Sisters cirque;
listen for whoomphs underfoot as you traverse
that falling slope under Cinder Top.

5.  Consider falling/rising ticks
of mercury, how wind sculpts cornices.

6.  Analyze every aspect and degree of slope.
Snow is never the same.

7.  Reconsider your gear. Did you pack
probes and beacons, hot coffee?

8.  Snow is the wordless mind,
a wild creature with pale eyes. Snow
is never the same.

9.  Think of home with its white sheets,
where you’ll sleep deeply in dreams
of the cold bride, Avalanche.

Taylor Graham
Umbrella Journal

Friday, June 11, 2010

And now for something completely different ~ a couch!

Need a new couch for Father's Day? This couch belongs to a friend who lives on the Eastside (across the bridge from Seattle). It's in excellent shape and if I had the space for it, I would take it in a heartbeat. The only catch is that you must pick it up from her house this weekend, before the new couch arrives. I can vouch for it's comfort! If you are interested, email me or leave a post. I will respond ASAP with my friend's contact information. Can't you just see yourself writing a poem curled up here?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Favorite Quotes on Writing - Please Add Yours Here

"The first task of the poet is to create the person who will write the poems."
                                                                                              Stanley Kunitz

"Originality is nothing other than the deepest honesty."

                                             Denise Levertov

"A poem is a serious joke, one that has learned jujitsu."

                                                William Stafford

"If we don't make our claim, the world is simply that which others have described for us."

                                                Kathleen Fraser

"Art is the attention we pay to the wholeness of the world."

                                                  Guy Davenport

"Poetry gives us the gift of interiority and intimacy with another; it gives us privacy and participation. Poetry is the way we participate in the world."

                                                    Ed Hirsch

"Poetry is the safest of safe sex."

           Robert Hass

"Poetry comes out of the inchoate, unvoiced world we all carry within us."

             Adrienne Rich

"Poetry has a great digestive system and can consume and recycle almost anything."

            Stanley Kunitz

When I first began teaching at the University of Oregon, I began each class with a quote on writing. I must not have been teaching four days a week. I find the right quote at the right time can amplify my own belief in words. As the school year winds down and I look forward to focusing on my own writing again, I am in search of more quotes. Maybe I will find exactly what I need to learn right now. Maybe from the quote you leave for me.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

A Poem on Flirting or a Poem on Death? I Vote for Death - Matthew Dickman

Thanks to January O'Neil's Poet Mom for this video of Matthew Dickman's poem "Slow Dance" from All American Poem. I discovered something pretty cool in trying to copy this to my blog. I opened three different windows that had Matt reading this poem three different times so that he was essentially doing a round with himself. The stress of the rhythms and pauses was more pronounced and having heard it once in the "solo" version, I liked it even more with the voiceover stereo +1. In any case, it's a beautiful poem --. "Like an over-sexed chandelier" is a line I don't think I'll forget.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Humor Me - Adam Halbur New Poet of the Day


bridegroom of Earth, priest of
the prairie parish, paunchy
monk cloistered in dirt-
packed den, traveling
minister to the ditches
of daisies and black-eyed
Susans, saint of the interstate
sunned in all God’s glory,
martyr of the tractor trailer,
woodchuck and whistlepig,
humor us in this hour of need.

Adam Halbur

I cane across Halbur's name when looking at information on The Frost Place -- somewhere I have never been, bout would like to go someday. I didn't know the name of this year's resident so I decided to check out his work. This is what I found at Ahada Books.  I didn't expect to like it based on the title, but was utterly surprised by its mix of humor and pathos. One ongoing sentence provides a constant pressure to move on and emphasizes the last "humor us in our hour of need." A new poet to watch - is perhaps a groundhog of sorts, too.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Anne Sexton Again ~ "I wouldn't want to have an orgasm right in front of you"

I've just been watching different youtube videos of Anne Sexton. Chilling. Like a beautiful accident. There is a series of her "Anne Sexton at Home" and I'm linking to part one. I forgot how sexual she appears - always. There's the dogs, a daughter, cigarettes and a Budweiser. The original desperate housewife. The timbre of her reading voice sounds identical to that of her contemporary, Adrienne Rich. In Anne Sexton at Home, part two she talks about sounding "royal" when she reads. In this segment she reads, "Wanting to Die."

Anne Sexton and Her Kind

When I was a teenager I worked at a plant shop in Chestnut Hill - the other side of the tracks from where I grew up. One of my co-workers had been a maid to Anne Sexton, and since Sexton had recently committed suicide, my friend needed a new job. How I wish I had asked more questions! All I remember now is that her boyfriend had also worked there as the gardener or chauffeur - it's too long ago to be sure. What I do remember is my co-worker's car - a bright red Karmann Ghia  - a convertible. My friend, the only woman I've ever known to have such a car, seemed to me as independent and magical woman as I have known. She was older and more worldly, and today I still associate her directly with Anne Sexton.

I'm including a poem here and a date in history (April 22, 1960) when Sexton published her first book of poems. To Bedhlam and Halfway Back. Anne Sexton's band was called "Anne Sexton and Her Kind." Here is a cool "Mass Moments" about her from Boston.com I am also trying to add the youtube video which has photographs of Sexton and a recording of her reading Her Kind.

Her Kind

by Anne Sexton

I have gone out, a possessed witch,   
haunting the black air, braver at night;   
dreaming evil, I have done my hitch   
over the plain houses, light by light:   
lonely thing, twelve-fingered, out of mind.   
A woman like that is not a woman, quite.   
I have been her kind.

I have found the warm caves in the woods,   
filled them with skillets, carvings, shelves,   
closets, silks, innumerable goods;
fixed the suppers for the worms and the elves:   
whining, rearranging the disaligned.
A woman like that is misunderstood.
I have been her kind.

I have ridden in your cart, driver,
waved my nude arms at villages going by,   
learning the last bright routes, survivor   
where your flames still bite my thigh
and my ribs crack where your wheels wind.   
A woman like that is not ashamed to die.   
I have been her kind.