The Spoils: July 2012

From left to right, top to bottom:

  1. Sonnets from the Singlish by Joshua Ip
  2. Who Wants to Buy a Book of Poems? by Gwee Li Sui (review)
  3. The Lightning That Strikes the Neighbors’ House by Nick Lantz (review of this book and Lantz’s We Don’t Know We Don’t Know, which I already own and love)
  4. Sad Little Breathing Machine by Matthea Harvey (reviewed with three other books)
  5. Modern Life by Matthea Harvey (reviewed here, here, here, here, and here)
  6. Company of Moths by Michael Palmer (mashed up here)
  7. Mythology of Touch by Mary Stone Dockery
  8. The Wait of Atom by Jessie Carty
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Man on the Dump 2

Because I need to start closing tabs on my Web browser:

  1. Benjamin Friedlander‘s One Hundred Etudes and Citizen Cain (Friedlander interviewed by Nada Gordon)
  2. Bryan D. Dietrich’s “Gotham Wanes,” Chad Parmenter‘s Bat & Man: A Sonnet Comic Book, and Stephen Burt’s essay “Poems about Superheroes.” Samples of Parmenter’s work, though not all are sonnets:
    1. “Batman Leaves a Sonnet on Selina Kyle’s Voicemail”
    2. “Batman in the Garden of Eden”
    3. “Batman vs. Osiris”
    4. “Batman in Mr. Freeze’s Glacierworks”
    5. “Batman’s Closing Time”
  3. “These Great Sentinels” by Geoffrey Nutter is a contemporary nature poem I like. And yes, I initially thought it was about these Sentinels.
  4. Caryl Pagel’s Experiments I Should Like Tried at My Own Death
  5. notes on Umberto Eco’s “Dreaming of the Middle Ages” and “Living in the New Middle Ages”
  6. “To Be Not Stupid” (great title) by Amy De’Ath (great name) from her collection Caribou (great song). Earlier collection: Erec & Enide.
  7. Susan Schultz’s “Memory Cards: Oppen Series” (prose poems that begin with a phrase from George Oppen’s New Collected Poems)
  8. I actually first came across Oppen’s “lyric valuables” through Hank Lazer. Here’s a review of his essay collection Lyric & Spirit.
  9. excerpt from Andrew Mossin’s Drafts of Shelley
  10. A blog entry displaying a collection of vinyl from Dischord Records.

at Length’s Short Takes on Long Poems

I want to write the long poem, but I’m not sure I can.

Lately, I’ve been working with a particular form I’m tempted to call the singsong skinny sonnet and dismiss as hokey, but I don’t want to be ungrateful to something that’s been goading me to write more poems quickly. In addition, there’s also a commonality in the material that triggers these poems: they mostly have a specific focus on a pop-cultural artifact I barely remember or misremember (unintentionally or intentionally). That intrigues me, as it wasn’t part of the design. Finally, it’s also forcing me to think/write in shorter lines, which I wasn’t wont to do before, despite how much I enjoy reading, say, Graham Foust.

I don’t know how I’ll arrange these in my thesis. I can put them one after the other and call it a series; that would be justifiable. However, there may also be an advantage to spreading them out across the collection. We’ll see. I’ll think about these after writing more poems, whether in this form or another, as well as the critical essay.

(One worry that I do have is how I’m beginning to doubt my abilities to write in the jagged irregular-lined free verse poem I used to be comfortable in. Never satisfied, c’est moi.)

Anyway: I’ve loved at Length ever since I first read Jee Leong Koh’s ghazal sequence Barthes tribute “A Lover’s Recourse” some time back. I hope to submit something with length and quality to them someday. In the meantime, I’m very pleased they asked FIFTY writers to offer “Short Takes on Long Poems.” This is research, scoping out the landscape. Except that I wonder if a long poem is a mountain, because one reads it vertically on the Web, or a horizon, because it stretches in my mind as I read it.

  1. Short Takes on Long Poems, Volume 1 (Dana Levin on Anne Carson‘s “The Glass Essay“)
  2. Short Takes on Long Poems, Volume 2 (David Caplan on T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”)*
  3. Short Takes on Long Poems, Volume 3 (Michael Collier on John Berryman’s “Homage to Mistress Bradstreet”)**
  4. Short Takes on Long Poems, Volume 4 (Darcie Dennigan on Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s “Three Cows and the Moon”)

Some brief comments:

  1. I could have sworn I’ve read Levin before, but nothing strikes me as strongly familiar. That said, I love “The Glass Essay,” and I’m glad they chose that over, say, the book-length works Carson usually likes writing.
  2. While Caplan’s first experience with this poem matches my own, it’s a little weird that this would be the Eliot poem discussed for this series of articles instead of, say, The Waste Land or Four Quartets.
  3. Choosing this over The Dream Songs works, partly because of my relative familiarity with Dream Songs over Bradstreet.
  4. I’ve never heard of Kelly before this, but I love Dennigan, so this is great reading.

Poetics: Dead Kitten and Emergent

Seven years later, I finally bump into the discussion of “Dead Kitten Poetics” in Kasey Mohammad’s blog. It’s a fascinating discussion, and, despite how it seems, it’s not actually very snarky towards Oliver:

  1. Dead Kitten Poetics Pt. 1: Mary Oliver’s “The Kitten”
  2. Dead Kitten Poetics Pt. 2: Ineptitude?
  3. Dead Kitten Poetics Pt. 3: Unworkshopability
  4. Dead Kitten Poetics Pt. 4: Cat & Mouse
  5. Dead Kitten Poetics Pt. 5: Beating a Dead Kitten

It’s not my first time to read Mohammad’s blog entries, I’ve just realized. I’ve read all three of his January 2006 entries, for instance, on three separate occasions, without realizing they were written one after the other. (Great reading, by the way.)

I also like his post about borrowing the language of Raymond Williams to use “Emergent Poetics” as a label, but mostly because he links to Jane Dark’s blog entry on it.

Lines from Mark Levine

I’ve been coming across Mark Levine lately, mostly because I’ve been reading this book (which I pretty much bought because of his poem “John Keats”) but also coincidentally, because the latest issue of Poetry magazine has three of his poems, all entitled “Unemployment” (1, 2, 3). I read those poems at the right moment; for some reason, they just made emotional sense to me and even got me writing a poem that I knew I’ve been wanting to write for some time now.

I found a review of his early collection Debt. It was extremely critical of the book, though strangely, the lines singled out as problematic by the critic (who I like a lot, actually) seem to me interesting, in one way or another. I decided to put them here for my reference, even if I don’t have access to the complete poems from which they were taken.

From “Morning Song”:

Here I am ringing all the alarm bells!
Here I am lighting the ovens!
Here I am waking the guests, here passing out numbers!
Look, I’ve armed the corpses–they’re angry, Boss,
they don’t feel like talking.”

From “Intervention”:

“The head, properly speaking, is an ornament, the icing
on God’s rotting biscuit.” Don’t look now, Partners

in this Poem, but I think we have said the wrong thing.
The Government has stolen my mask, and my skin

is a fiercely decorated, flaming banner.”

From “Inside”:

“The noises coming from his room like wounded birds
turn out to be wounded birds.”

From “Poem for the Left Hand”:

“I’m all that’s left
behind, half of me. I shall not want”

From “The Message”:

“He found me.
It’s so dark I can hear his finger
pointing at me. Which is my cue”

From “Double Agents”:

They knock on my door in whiteface speaking for God.

Go away, I say, I’m in bed
with my mother, I can’t be disturbed. She denies it.

Stanzas from Frederick Seidel

These lines from Frederick Seidel’s “Sonnet” hit me hard:

A dying man literally without a face
Pointed at where his face had been.
He did this without a sound.

But not as much as these other bits from other poems, all of them final stanzas or leading up to one. The first is from “Glory”:

United States of America v. Ezra Pound
My song will seek and detonate your heat.
Pound reciting with his eyes closed filled the alcove with glory.
My art will find and detonate your heart.
I was a freshman and everywhere in Washington, D.C.
I walked, I dreamed.

This one is from “On Wings of Song”:

Flesh and juice of the refreshing and delicious.
Inside a crashproof housing. But I don’t recognize the voice.
This is your Captain. In the unisex soprano of children his age.
We are trying to restart the engines
On wings of song. The pilot giggles posthumously–
“You may kiss my hond,” he drawls, for the last time
Holding a hond out to be kissed from this page. (Sound of crash.)

And these are the last three stanzas from, er, “Fucking”:

There was a man named Pericles Belleville,
There is a man named Pericles Belleville,
Half American.

At a very formal dinner party,
At which I have met the woman I loved the most
In my life, Belleville
Pulled out a sterling silver-plated revolver
And waved it around, pointing it at people, who smiled.
One didn’t know if the thing could be fired.

That is the poem.

I love this. I also got into stairs via Escher and the tribute to him at the end of Labyrinth. I also liked learning about l’esprit d’escalier from an issue of The Sandman.  These days, my favorite personal associations with stairs have to do with the cover of Bauhaus’s Swing the Heartache and Ann Lauterbach’s On a Stair and the photographs she took for the cover of Or to Begin Again.

 

More stairs here.