memorial for a brilliant woman

Friday, February 29, 2008

Poetry- the real cure

Check this out- Using verse as a kind of verbal massage for your emotions cheapens it terribly. And it won't do you much good

I'm so sick of people telling me how to fix my life- I have decided to write about THEM instead- so beware, advice-givers!!

here's an old one:

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Poetry and Money- BIG money

Check out this story on Tom Sleigh and his book Space Walk.

Another interview and link to a previous book.

I just got my copy today, so far, it's pretty good (though not as good as Tony Hoagland's Sweet Ruin, which also arrived- but you know how much I loves mah Tony)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

A Poem in Your Pocket April 17th

It's exactly two monthw to the day until National Poem in Your Pocket Day!!

We'll be celebrating at art6 that day, so keep watching this page and the art6 blog for more info!

You can check out my Poems in a Bag at the shop6 in the gallery to get started or go to the Academy of America Poets for more info and some ideas.

Tomorrow, check out the Shockoe Poets Open Mike at 2-4pm, downtown! Come read, come listen, come have some great coffee and eats (parking in the garage next door is cheap and easy).

I can't wait to hear the whiners talk about how dumb the poem in a pocket thing is- well, screw that- I think it's fun so shutdafokkup!

Friday, February 22, 2008

An open invitation to read your poems

Come to art6 tonight at 8pm and read up to 10 minutes of poetry- your own or someone else's.

The event is called 2x2x2 (Feb 22nd) and will feature members and other writersreading poems about couples, relationships, all manner of two's (no threesomes, please).

Come read or come listen!

art6 Gallery, 6 east broad st, downtown. 8-9:30.

(before. at 6pm- The moveable feast graduate reading at 1708 Gallery, 6pm- just walk down the street to art6 and read! Everybody else can go to Gallery5 and the new national theater- but it;s FREE at art6 and you get to be part of the scene, if you want to)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

if it weren't for blogs

I would never have heard about this atrocity-

Lawrence King (more here)

A friend had to go to a 'sensitivity' workshop today because some guy in his department made the remark to another (white) worker "You don't have to do n*gg*r work."

What the hell is wrong with some people?

I don't know how to even respond anymore, other than with outrage. You can't be too fat, too thin, too black, too brown, too gay- anything is reason for ridicule, harrassment, and possibly death, and God knows, don't fail a student, fire a worker, or dump your boyfriend/girlfriend.

I don't want to become a humorless bitch, but don't talk to me about gun control, talk to me about what people do to each other, with their mouths, with their fists, and sometimes their weapons.

Where's the poetry in that?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Criticizing my betters

This poem is in the current Atlantic Monthly-

Executive Shoe Shine by Mary Jo Salter

It may go on snowing forever,
but meanwhile, how he’s basking
in the sun of his own multi-tasking!
He’s perched erect on his throne,
looking down on the airport food court,
as the silver snail of a cell-phone
earpiece hooked to his ear
hangs on his every word.
No way to cut him short
until the runways are cleared
and they’ve finished out there de-icing
the right wing, then the left wing
of all those planes before his.
Could he strike us a deal with the weather?
The man hunched below him polishes
one wingtip, then the other.

I am incredibly unimpressed. This poem says nothing to me I haven't heard before. Crafted, well yes, it doesn't suck, but it's BORING- a little snippet about something, someone I have seen. If the wings, wingtips, shoeshine speaks volumes, my speakers must be on mute.


How many good poems were rejected to take this one by a familiar name?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A belated Valentine poem

To whom it may concern:

All my Valentines are lost in the mail
or returned unopened, unexamined,
like poems sent to the New Yorker,
not substantive enough to provoke.

What billet doux would you embrace,
consider? Not certain I want anyone
to know my tenuous intent, as it is
encoded in derisory, obfuscated goo.

Write this down, it will be on the test:
to yearn is to contrive, connive.
Concupiscence a natural state,
confess your heart’s desire and live

or fall in sin, untested. Grace is
prevenient. I wear the stripes
of awkward hope, yet call you
out with these imprudent lines.

Friday, February 15, 2008

yeah, I live where??

Not Henrico, Virginia- that's for sure-

The excuse is 'revenues are lost'- by who? Does the City of Richmond keep the money it gets from these mistakes?

I can't imagine the amount of money business owners (and I'm not one, I'm a poet with a few addrss labels) will spend getting all their records changed.

Do I have to get all the places that have my bios attached to my poetry to change my place of residence? (like they care and like I would)


lame, lame, lame

but typical

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why Tony Hoagland is my favorite poet

Here's his poem WINDCHIME, on the Writer's Almanac today-

It's the kind of poem that makes you understand why you settled instead of walked...

Tony Hoagland is my favorite poet. Scroll down on the page- I adopted him. You could too.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Poets, more poets, and 2 Valentines

Wednesday - Poetic Principles Reading by Tomaz Salamun
February 13, 2008 VMFA, Pauley Center Parlor, 6 pm, $7-$9

Thursday - Art After Hours- 6:30 & 7 pm ART OF POETRY: Michael Keller (music, food, more) $8-$10

Thursday - VCU Visiting Writers Series, featuring Jean Valentine 8pm at 1708 Gallery, free

and this, from Ted Kooser, previous poet laureate- Valentines

So much love!!!

Even poets sometimes vote

I have never voted in a primary in my life, but today I am going to do so.

Originally I was going to vote for Ron Paul as a show of support but then I thought I should help stop Huckabee and his Christian agenda and vote for McCain.

Now the Clinton and Obama puzzle looms-

I won't know what I will do until I'm standing there and forced to ask for the democrat or republican ballot.

It's hard out here for an independent!

Friday, February 08, 2008

A GREAT poem by James Hall

Someone had told me about this poem and I really wanted to hear it- and look! It showed up on C. Dale Young's blog-

(order this book NOW from the Fountain Bookstore -info below)


After my mother won independence in 1836,
she dysfunctioned as her own nation, passed laws,
erected monuments to men who would never again
be slaves to order and pain.

Remember the Alamo? That was my mother.

Then in 1845 that always-pleasing church-mouse voted
for annexation. My mother had too many selves and the desire
to enslave them all. Pregnant, she was forced
to become the twenty-eighth child of the American family.
Lone star no longer.

She joined a lineage of jacked-to-jesus hair, developed insatiable
cravings for honey barbecue. Her uncles sauntered up, stroked
the thin lace of her, declared she looked mighty good.
She let them say mighty good while grinning at one another.

Nothing grew then on the prairies of my mother.

Then she learned dissent, demanded men recognize her
sovereignty. She organized an embassy in a silver trailer
shaped like a virgin bullet. My mother renamed herself
The Republic of Texas, unfurled her flag all the way

into the 1980's, when the Republic kidnapped her neighbors,
Joe and Margaret Rowe, to highlight abuses she'd suffered.
My mother was an American terrorist.

Don't mess with Texas.

She died in the standoff. My new mother was elected
by a landslide and moved to Cuero, a city whose largesse
depends on retirement pensions. My peaceful mother
holds weekly rallies: 'What do we want? When do we want it?'

Her lipstick stains the bullhorn mauve.

In her spare time, my mother receives foreign dignitaries
and does dry-wall. The Global Conglomerate of my Mother
opened her first staffed consulate in Barcelona.
She insists visitors speak American.

Currently, the Republic is facing lean times.
The former treasurer neglected May's utilities,
refuses to return the funds. Pledge your support today.
My motherland is standing by
the rotary phone, waiting for your call.

Love her or leave her.

--James Allen Hall
from Now You're the Enemy (Arkansas 2008)

The Politics of Erotica (poetry)

Check out this blog entry over at The Best American Poetry. Today's guest writer is Denise Duchamel on the politics of erotica. There are other entries listed- I will be watching for February 10th: Jill Alexander Essbaum.

There is a huge difference in erotic and sexual writing- one of the things I always hated about certain slam events is how there is always a poem or two about "how much you will enjoy my.... (whatever) " and how "I will ......(whatever)", and those poems get wild audience reactions and big scores, though they are barely poems (more like commercials). Better to make me hot with subtlety and veiled suggestions and show me later.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Thoughts on Poems and Titles

When I hear someone say "This poem is untitled" I shudder- visibly- titles are important! As far as I'm concerned, it's as least as important as what you name your kids (Paul and Alia).

I know someone who has a small book where the poems are numbered- I gotta tell ya, thumbing through the damned thing looking for one I liked particularly is annoying- I don't think I've read it since the first two or three times, it's so frustrating.

Here's some thoughts on titles from Ross White (the numbers are mine)

1. Your poem's title is like the first jab in a boxing match-- you don't have to knock the reader out, but you had better establish yourself as a formidable presence in the ring. A poem which is sharp, precise, and economical deserves a title to match. Sloppy, awkward, and abstract titles always raise the hairs on the back of my neck. Tight, concrete titles that locate me immediately in what is happening in the poem make me happy.

2. If there's a clunky detail in your first stanza, it might be information that could be better conveyed to the reader in the title. Excess narrative information in the body of a poem, particularly early, irritates me-- because they suck the poetry out of the poem. Titles that convey that information in a plain style remove the burden of exposition. Specific dates, locations, or people show up in titles for this reason.

3. Nobody wants to be told what to feel. People want the emotional stakes of the poem to be earned. So, if the poem is titled "Happiness" and goes on to describe happiness, that's pretty lame. If the poem is titled "Happiness" and goes on to challenge the reader's perception of happiness, carry on.

4. Don't make every title the same. Pearl Jam's first album has eleven songs, right? But take a look at the track list, and it's mind-numbingly similar. When titling a poem, look at your related work, and see if you have any nasty habits when titling. If you find that every title is one word, or includes the setting of the poem, or is a borrowed line from Plath, vary it up. (It's worth noting that, if you are looking at manuscript shapes, and you find a conscious and strongly patterned repetitive urge, that's worth exploring. You may not want to ditch it too soon.)

5. A simple title can plug your poem into a much larger tradition very quickly. "Aubade" or "Alba" says a lot. (A funny aside-- Wikipedia lists Eagle Eye Cherry's crappy song "Save Tonight" as a modern example of aubade. Apparently, aside from one Philip Larkin poem, there are no other possible examples. This is what I get for being so fascinated with Wikipedia.)

6. Don't telegraph the end of the poem in the title. I hate to be the guy who gives examples from his own work, but here's one: if you're going to have the speaker disappear at the end of the poem, a title like "Disappearing Act" or "The Vanishing" might announce your intention a little too much.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Poetry Books to read this year-

Here's a list from the national book critics circle board of directors-

It would have been nice to have this BEFORE AWP where I could have gotten some of these titles for half price! I'm not sure I agree with all of them (Sir Gawain? Don't care) (Charles Wright? Another nature laden word splurge, no thanks- and BTW, get some new pictures out there on the web where you look distinguished instead of silly).

Poetry Books to read (from Critical Mass): (* marks are ones I have or would like to read)

Simon Armitage, "Sir Gawain and the Green Night: A New Verse Translation,"
*John Ashbery, "Notes from the Air: Selected Later Poems,"
Geoffrey Hill, "A Treatise of Civil Power,"
Michael O'Brien, "Sleeping and Waking,"
Philip Schulz, "Failure,"
Charles Simic, "Sixty Poems,"
Philip Whalen, "The Collected Poems of Philp Whalen,"
*Rae Armantrout, "Next Life,"
Rick Barot, "Want: Poems,"
Marvin Bell, "Mars Being Red,"
*Eavan Boland, "Domestic Violence: Poems,"
Charles Bukowski, "The Pleasures of the Damned: Poems, 1953-1991,"
Stuart Dischell, "Backwards Days,"
Allen Grossman, "Descartes' Loneliness,"
Matthea Harvey, "Modern Life: Poems,"
*Julia Hartwig, "In Praise of the Unfinished: Selected Poems,"
*Ted Kooser, "Valentines,"
Kevin Prufer, "National Anthem,"
Tadeusz Rozewicz, "New Poems,"
David Shapiro, "New and Selected Poems: 1965-2006,"
*Ellen Bryant Voigt, "Messenger: New and Selected Poems, 1976-2006,"
Charles Wright, "Littlefoot: A Poem,"
*Dean Young, "Embryoyo."

Monday, February 04, 2008

The responsibility of poets

To each other, if nothing else-

Check out this blog post by Oscar Bermeo re: Charles Simic and the state of poetry.

I commented : (edited)

I agree with you completely! I facilitate and participate in readings in the Richmond, VA area and while we have an active poetry communiy, if twenty people attend a reading, it's a raving success.

Simic could easily use his position to promote, rather than assume since he gets a crowd poetry is healthy. His last visit here was packed because tickets were given away and poetry students at two local colleges were required to attend.

The responsibility is ours, too. There is nothing more annoying than the poet who reads and leaves with his or her entourage. Or the poet who refuses to go to open mikes because they might hear "bad" poetry. A well-run open mike gives everyone a chance but doesn't let anyone dominate, bad or good.

More from my perspective:

One of my pets peeves involves the various poets who do readings when they have books to promote but never attend any local events or support local poetry. I will excuse older folks, who do have trouble with night driving, but an occasional visit to open mikes would increase their local status and maybe sell a book or two. (Hint- those are the people who will follow your career and buy your next book).

Another peeve is the university community and their apparent disdain of non-academic poetry. If I hear one more time "well, they're so busy." I might go postal! We're all busy, some of us REALLY busy and our poetry is written in the tiny spaces we carve out of our quite busy lives.
(Hint- those are the busy people who will follow your career and buy your books).

Poetry is dead when it cannot connect with the world in which it is created (there may be rare exceptions, but we don't know those poets- yet). A reading or open mike may be painful occasionally, but it may also be painfully sublime.

Support Your Local Poets!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

NYC was amazing!

Saw friends Dave Anchel, Claudia Emerson, Carolyn Foronda, Sheri Reynolds, Ron Smith, David Wojahn, Thom Ward, Mary Flinn, Tim Suermondt, and a whole passle of VCU faculty and students.

Met in person (some for the first time though I know them on the internet, some at the reading) C. Dale Young, Paul Guest, Dennis Loy Johnson, Denise Duchamel, Wyn Cooper, Simmons Buntin, Scott Calhoun, Susan Frickshorn, David Rothenberg, Deborah Fries, and many more that I'll have to dig out of my memory banks!!

I'll do a longer report later, but I saw and heard so very much! I don't think I'll go to Chicago, unless I hit the lottery, but DC in 2010 looks pretty likely.

In the meantime, I'm going to start saving money for the West Virginia Writer's Workshop in July and the Dodge Poetry Festival in the fall (we're trying to get a group from Richmond to go).

Poetry Lives!