Sunday, 22 November 2015
Sunday, 15 November 2015
Beat poet, member of the San Francisco Renaissance, spiritual poet, political poet, eco poet - Gary Snyder fits all these categories and none.
As one of the six poets who read at the historic Six Gallery reading in San Francisco in 1955 which helped launch the Beat movement, he is often associated with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure and Philip Whalen, yet as Hoover notes in the anthology: “unlike many of the Beats, […] he rarely deals in urban subjects.” Instead Snyder’s writing is far more diverse as he is equally interested in the politics of ecology, performance, and non-western cultures.
Snyder has authored numerous volumes of poetry, including Axe Handles (1983), for which he received an American Book Award and Turtle Island (1974), which won the Pulitzer Prize for poetry.
He was the recipient of the 2012 Wallace Stevens Award for lifetime achievement by the Academy of American Poets. He is a professor of English at the University of California, Davis.
http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n10/iain-sinclair/the-man-in-the-clearing - London Review of Books feature including podcast
http://www.theguardian.com/books/2005/jul/16/featuresreviews.guardianreview19 - Guardian profile
My below poem took its inspiration from Snyder’s “As for Poets”.
~ - ~
The Space Poet has grown old and frail
on his wait for the Space Age.
His Space Hands are shaky and thin
in his giant, white Space Gloves.
He cannot even push the right Space Buttons
anymore to navigate the Space Ship on its course
or write about what he saw in Space
all that he saw in Space
from a distance
when it was too close
Wednesday, 11 November 2015
Born in Massena, New York, John Godfrey attended Princeton University. Often associated with the New York School, he has lived in the East Village of Manhattan since the 1960s.
Godfrey’s work was praised by Ron Padgett for its “lyrical and metaphysical” qualities as well as its “irresistible philosophical hauteur” and also Hoover mentions his particular use of “packed syntax and exuberant word choice” which creates a kind of surrealism.
Godfrey is the author of 14 collections of poetry. He has received fellowships from the General Electric Foundation (1984), the Foundation for Contemporary Arts (2009), and the Z Foundation (2013). He retired in 2011 after 17 years as a nurse clinician in HIV/AIDS.
https://vimeo.com/62674082 (video of a 2013 reading)
My below poem took its inspiration (and opening lines) from Godfrey's poem "Wings".
~ - ~
(after John Godfrey)
I know I come off a little bit wavy.
but you must realise the material world
is constantly crumpling before my eyes.
a pile of discarded drafts in a bin.
good luck trying to smooth out
those creases. they run across everything.
just like nothing escapes the inky
hands of the print-maker. all
bound up tightly, glued together
forever happily between the flimsy bent
cardboard covers of a cheap paperback:
romance and murder mystery,
always plenty of laughs and tragedy.
in one volume compiled. what an excellent
bargain! but turn the first page and you’ll see
everyone’s names are changed.
you e.g. are Grace and I am
Prudence, and every man you ever
met was called Jack.
which is just a metaphor or
maybe an innuendo that nobody
ever cares to look up. we read
while we write:
mixed source paper certificate --
fibres from certified forests can be
mixed with recycled material and
products from sources beyond our
Sunday, 8 November 2015
Harry Mathews grew up on Manhattan’s Upper East Side and was educated at Princeton and Harvard University. He spent many years in Paris where he not only met John Ashbery but also became the only American member of the French avant-garde literary society Oulipo (Ouvroir de literature potentielle).
Mathews has also been associated with the New York School of poets. He started the literary magazine Locus Solus – named after the surrealist novel by Raymond Rousel – in 1960 together with John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler.
Mathews’ writing is often inspired by language games and formal constraints – a fact which also makes him a favourite with the language poets. As the Poetry Foundation notes:
“Mathews’s poetry and prose often use overarching formal constraints to examine the relationship between sound and meaning or pattern and lyric.”
In addition to his poetry he has published several novels. His honors include a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and an award for his fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
My below poem was inspired by Mathews’ Selected Declarations of Dependence which uses modifications of common proverbs to build new poetic texts.
~ - ~
Like something the cat brought
Like something the cat caught
Like something the chat sort
Like something the chat bought
Like something the VAT brought
Like something the VAT ought
Like something the rat sought
Like something the rat court
Like something the brat snort
Like something the brat sport
Like something the tat court
Like something the bat sport
Like something the bat fought
Like something the bat sort
Like something the bat bought
Like something the bat thwart
Like something the cat ought
Like something the cat thought
Like something the cat brought
Wednesday, 4 November 2015
Born in Chicago in 1952, Art Lange is the author of hundreds of essays, reviews, articles, and interviews on music and poetry. A music critic of international reputation, he was editor of DownBeat magazine from 1984-88.
His work has been published in publications as diverse as the Neue Zeitschrift für Musik and the Village Voice, New American Writing and the Partisan Review, and he has written programme notes for over 200 jazz and classical recordings. He also published and edited Brilliant Corners: a magazine of the arts, from 1975-77. He is the co-editor (with Nathaniel Mackey) of Moment's Notice: Jazz in Poetry and Prose (1993), and the author of four books of poetry.
Lange’s poetry is strongly influenced by William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, and Robert Creeley, as becomes apparent in his “musical use of the short poetic line” (Hoover). Hoover also sees a strong connection between his sparse phrasing and the jazz compositions of Thelonious Monk.
I was very taken by the poetry of Lange included in the anthology and thus extremely disappointed to find very little trace of his poetic work online. I can only suggest trying to track down copies of his poetry collections: Glee: Song (1977), The Monk Poems (1977), Evidence (1981), and Needles at Midnight (1986) – I most certainly will!
My below poem used Lange’s “Sonnet for the Season” as a starting point for a reflection about a different kind of “season”.
~ - ~
Requiem for a Season:
How To Get Away With Murder S1
There is a crack in this thing called trust where questions seep in until a pool of doubt has gathered. Dark and deep enough for someone to get all soaking wet. Better learn how to swim in it. Better hold your breath. Better keep paddling. Or hold on to someone or something that floats well. Unless of course, there’s a crack in this thing called trust where questions seep in until a pool of doubt has gathered. Dark and deep enough for someone to get all soaking wet.
Sunday, 1 November 2015
Maxine Chernoff is mostly known for her prose poems. A form which she compares to metaphysical poetry claiming it “may be a contemporary equivalent […] since in both cases metaphor can expand to become the central concept (conceit) of the writing.” The Poetry Foundation calls her innovative, decidedly post-modern poems “surreal, witty, and politically engaged.” A fact which won her the PIP Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Poetry in 2006.
Chernoff has also written fiction, and her short story collection Signs of Devotion was a New York Times Notable Book in 1993. Her translations, with Paul Hoover, of the work of Friedrich Hölderlin won the PEN Center USA Translation Award.
Chernoff has authored more than a dozen collections of poetry. She is an editor of the journal New American Writing and a professor at San Francisco State University.
My below poem is inspired by Chernoff’s poem “Lost and Found” and uses the poems first sentence as a starting point for a reflection on the internet’s obsession with imagery.
~ - ~
I am looking for the photo that would make all the difference in my life. It is at a certain height, at a certain angle. It catches the light in a certain way. It makes the scene. It stands out. It is me virtually. It shows where I am and where I am coming from. It displays how far I have made it up until now. It reveals my potential. It projects my path. This photo is my past and my presence. It lives my dreams. It reflects my soul. This photo holds meaning. It tells a story. It captures some profound truth. This photo sends a message. It shows a completely different side. It expresses the way I feel about you. It reveals my deepest secrets. This photo is a connection. It makes you think. It wants to challenge. This photo captures every little detail. It hides those embarrassing spots and blemishes. It erases scars. It cleans pores. It draws your attention to the beauty of the world. This photo gives you hope. It makes you laugh. It reminds you of love and sympathy. This photo makes you think about me differently. It says what I never dared to say to you. It wins you over. It makes me cool.
Wednesday, 28 October 2015
Jack Kerouac – do I have to say anything?
A key figure of the Beat Generation, famed author of the ground-breaking On the Road.
Kerouac is of course mostly known for this prose works, but he also wrote a large number of poems. Like his prose, his poetry was strongly influenced by the improvisational style of jazz. He wanted “to be considered as a jazz poet blowing a long blues in an afternoon jazz session on Sunday” (Kerouac).
His most well-known collection, Mexico City Blues was published in 1959, followed by the posthumous Scattered Poems in 1971.
My below response to Kerouac draws from his idea of “jazz-like” poetry. It uses the lyrics of the jazz standard “Black Coffee” as a starting point – a theme on which to improvise...
~ - ~
A standard like black coffee
solo on a xylophone with
one hand across the bars
the rhythm of the rain
glass pane mirror metronome:
Love’s a hand me down brew
A flavour like black coffee
bitter in my veins
milk curdled ‘round the silver spoon
pumpkin spice spout cup mockery
sugar on the floor:
Since the blues caught my eye
A feeling like black coffee
burning time like toast
morning nutrient recipe
toxin trace in every face
stomp-down down-town countenance:
Feelin' low as the ground
Sunday, 25 October 2015
Kenneth Rexroth once referred to Robert Duncan as “one of the most accomplished, one of the most influential” of the post-war American poets, yet he himself insisted that he is a derivative poet who borrowed from sources as diverse as Dante, Pound, Blake, H.D., Stein, Yeats, Garcia, Lorca and St. John of the Cross. His way of mixing different influences in his densely woven, multi-layered poems was also described by Stephen Stepanchev in American Poetry since 1945, who saw Duncan’s poems as “a compositional field where anything might enter: a prose quotation, a catalogue, a recipe, a dramatic monologue, a diatribe.”
Duncan was born in 1919 in Oakland, California and studied at the University of California-Berkeley. Due to his friendship with Charles Olson and his stay at Black Mountain College he is often associated with Black Mountain poetics. He was however also a key figure in the emergence of the San Francisco Renaissance in the 1950s.
Duncan published more than twenty collections of poetry. His honours include the Harriet Monroe Memorial Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Levinson Prize from Poetry magazine, and three writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. In 1985 he also received the National Poetry Award.
Duncan died in San Francisco in 1988.
My poem below is a response to Duncan’s “Poetry, a Natural Thing”.
~ - ~
Poetry, a language thing
neither rigid definition nor ideological certainty
further the poem. “pronoun verb preposition
conjunction preposition pronoun verb determiner noun
preposition determiner noun.”
emerges somewhere between the written
and the read
popularly drawn toward mystical half-meanings and evasive metaphor.
The appearance of coherence based upon
the cultural expectations
of a (formal) pattern of white space
around a string of symbols which
in the lateness of the world
as formal and material aspects are suffused.
A visual or sonic pattern or rhythm
or puzzle reference intended for the
well-informed poetic archaeologist.
This is one line open to textual interpretation.
A second: introduction of the disruptive techniques
of postmodernism de-constructivism third-wave feminism
or pop and collocation,
creating an ever-expanding field of
“literary signifiers of otherness and intrusion”,
borrowing from those who wrote
Wednesday, 21 October 2015
Kenward Elmslie was born in New York City in 1929. He grew up in Colorado Springs and Washington, DC and studied at Harvard University before moving back to New York City in the 1960s. He became a central figure in the New York School and promoted the work of fellow poets such as John Ashbery, Joe Brainard, Anne Waldman, and James Schuyler through his work as editor of Z Magazine.
Elmslie’s first writing experiences were as a lyricist and librettist, a fact which is still evident in his work which often explores the intersection of experimental poetry and musical theatre. In addition to his musical collaborations, he has also worked extensively with visual artists.
Elmslie’s honors include a grant from the Ford Foundation, the Project for Innovative Poetry’s Gertrude Stein Award for Innovative Poetry, and an award from the National Council of the Arts.
I highly recommend going on his website (enable pop-ups!) and having a listen on Penn Sound – his stuff is simply amazing!
http://www.kenwardelmslie.com/ - this is officially my favourite website ever!
My little poem below is a silly response to Elmslie’s “Feathered Dancers” and is strongly influenced by a recent new (feline) addition to my family.
~ - ~
On invisible string you tow me over Persian rugs and parquet
chuckling while he is chasing with razor claws.
“panem et circenses” he thinks of me as both, you think it’s okay
but I have holes now, a broken quill, crushed in his paws
I lost my feathers, my dreams, been pondering dying
I see Icarus’ fate drawing closer each day
still you drag me out again and again for the pleasure of the lion
I call it cruel, cynic, you call it play.
Sunday, 18 October 2015
Carla Harryman was born in Orange, California and studied at the University of California, Santa Barbara and San Francisco State University. Her genre-disrupting poetry is usually associated with the Language poets as it explores fictive and essayistic elements as well as performance.Paul Hoover highlights Harryman’s interest in exploring narrative in particular, quoting her:
“If narrative is imitating anything, it’s the intention to convince the audience to enjoy its imitation, whatever the lack of truth or reasonableness.”
Harryman has authored seventeen books including numerous collections of poetry. She serves on the faculty of Eastern Michigan University and is currently a Senior Artist-in-Residence in The University of Washington at Bothell’s MFA in Poetics Program.
https://www.asu.edu/piper/how2journal/vol_3_no_3/harryman/ (A Harryman Feature in How2)
My below poem was inspired by Harryman’s poem of the same title.
~ - ~
The phone rang. 10 times. A strange voice answered. The woman sat on a park bench writing in her notebook on a sunny October day. The story was vacant. I answered the door. The room remained highly doubtful. Instead of a woman there was black and white. It happened simultaneously, one after the other. It happened before it even began. The phone rang. Tuesday was dark and rainy. The voice on the other end coarse with suspense. A woman without characterisation stepped into the room when I was turning the pages. A pile of ripped paper on the floor. She raised the tip of the fountain pen from the paper and paused. She never got phone calls from anyone. It was up to her to make the most out of the thinly veiled stereotype rom-com plot. The story stepped in wet from the autumn rain shaking its umbrella. Her response made little difference as long as she remembered to answer the door. The obvious landmarks removed, we were left with little in the way of orientation. I was on page 20. Little was known about any of the characters. A pile of ripped paper on the floor. Her intentions remained oblivious. They ran out of ink halfway through her life. She put the milk back into the fridge on a date past the printed numbers. A nondescript moon abandoned in the sky. Verses in a jumble in the kitchen drawer with the tape and the matches. The setting could be practically anywhere. The main plotline, snapped and tangled, forgotten in a corner. The phone kept ringing on and on. Her fate as a minor character mattered most to the slow-moving parts of the story. She waited for something. All of her efforts didn’t move the plot forward a single inch. She changed characters in the bathroom of the railway station just beyond the border. I was on page 58. She wondered when the next chapter might finally be over. It felt as if someone had earmarked this page in her life. Trapped in a three act structure she considered a Brechtian intervention. The introduction of a new character required some radical changes to the plot. A pile of ripped paper. These things seeping through language like dirty linen. A time. A frame. Looking back I wonder about her sometimes.
Thursday, 15 October 2015
As Hoover points out in the anthology, James Laughlin was primarily known “as the leading publisher of avant-garde poetry” and the founder of New Directions Publishing.
Laughlin was born into one of Pittsburgh’s leading steel-making families in 1914. He attended Harvard University before embarking on a trip to the Europe where he sought out Gertrude Stein and Ezra Pound. Upon his return to the US he founded New Directions Publishing with money from his father. The first edition of the New Directions in Prose & Poetry series was published in 1936. The anthology included experimental writing from contributors such as Elizabeth Bishop, E. E. Cummings, Marianne Moore, Pound, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams. In the following years New Directions emerged as the publisher who shaped the careers of countless poets and playwrights including Tennessee Williams, Paul Goodman, George Oppen, Robert Creeley, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Gary Snyder, Kenneth Rexroth, Denise Levertov, and Robert Duncan.
His own writings however remained mainly unknown outside of literary circles. As John A. Harrison and Donald W. Faulkner point out in the Dictionary of Literary Biography:
"[Laughlin] is perceived as a minor poet, in part because he has chosen to publish so little [...]. That [he] continues to apologize for his poetry is unfortunate, for it has been recognized as fresh, concise, full of wit, of impeccable quality, lucid, ironic, and often intense."
Laughlin received the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters in 1992. He died in 1997 at the age of eighty-three.
http://www.nytimes.com/1997/11/14/books/james-laughlin-publisher-with-bold-taste-dies-at-83.html (New York Times Obituary)
My below poem is a found poem which was inspired by Laughlin’s “The Inn at Kirchstetten”. Laughlin’s poem claims to be the reproduction of “notes pencilled in the margins of a book of the Dichtungen of Georg Trakl”. My poem “flippant tone” is likewise entirely made up of marginalia – in my case from the notes left by the previous owner of my copy of “Postmodern American Poetry”.
~ - ~
- lens process
→ mediating devices
(urgent) matter – universe (or) god
perception berkeley sight (as )
(is this the)
actual physical process
details → Δ in stance
poetry (or should I say)
→ process reader
→ poetry in constant
- coherence in performance
- pressures of poetry- democratic
→ scientific immaterialism
(or) conscious of agency
long → looking in both ways
in & out of discourse →
individual, idiomatic, body carries
accrual of lang. hist. percep’n.
- syllable → bits → fragments
- non-semantic expectations
- breath →
- as part of
→ field of bodies
(the) connection btwn
rather than similes
intrinsic rhythm of the body as opp. to
→ prosthetic * process → levelling the hierarchy
- eco poetic
→ flippant tone
Charlotte County Florida 1921
Sunday, 11 October 2015
Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Clarence Major was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1936 and grew up in Chicago where he attended the School of the Art Institute before joining the US Air Force in 1955. He founded the literary magazine Coercion Review in 1957, which put him in contact with many poets such as Allen Ginsberg and Robert Creeley. In 1966, Major moved to New York City and became associated with the Umbra Workshop group of black writers.
In addition to his work as a poet he has gained wide recognition for his numerous fictional works as well as for his paintings.
Major is professor emeritus of 20th-Century American Literature at the University of California at Davis.
My below poem took its inspiration from Major’s 1985 poem “Inside Diameter”.
~ - ~
Inside Diameter: 8 megapixels
at arm’s length
at a slight upward angle
the position is a classic
forget the reclining muse
strike a pose
put on a smile
it’s in your hands now
the position is so
the position works so well
choose your filter
add a caption hashtag
you might wanna experiment with props
throw in a little wink
a supersize sandwich
choose a striking setting
a bit of cleavage never hurt anyone
this is who you are
keep it real
don’t overdo it
flat design won’t reduce the penetration
don’t be fooled
let them see you
there are many ways you can make it work for you
the position is a classic
you cannot count the variation
just don’t be too obvious
just don’t be fake
the keyword let me spell
it out is “verisimilitude”
that is to say “life-like”
as the position continues to be
struck and turned
don’t let them see your
your broken nails
and bleeding gums
battles are won and lost
in this position
the position is so
the position works so well
Wednesday, 7 October 2015
David Lehman was born and raised in New York City. He went to Columbia University and Cambridge University before embarking on an extraordinary career not only as a poet but also as one of most important editors, literary critics, and anthologists of contemporary American literature. Lehman inaugurated The Best American Poetry series in 1988, a series of publications which has earned high acclaim for introducing contemporary American poetry to a larger audience.
In his numerous poetry collections he “reveals a playful fascination with formal gamesmanship” (Hoover) and irony. The poet John Hollander writes of Lehman:
“This increasingly impressive poet keeps reminding us that putting aside childish things can be done only wisely and well by keeping in touch with them, and that American life is best understood and celebrated by those who are, with Whitman, both in and out of the game and watching and wondering at it.”
Lehman’s honors include fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ingram Merrill Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts, and an award in literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He teaches both at the New School and New York University.
My below poem borrows from Lehman’s “The Difference Between Pepsi and Coke” in the way it is constructed, while dwelling on some political ideas close to my heart.
~ - ~
Can’t sing; worries about his job a lot
and the economy; just followed his old uni friends
into a spineless career; dreams about going to space
some day or become prime minister; likes that
weird indie folk artists that you were crazy about last year;
tried to lose a few pounds in the last years to look better in
the dark suit he has to wear to work each day even if
that’s tailored and he always looks pale; cannot help
but look awkward in front of the cameras and slightly
helpless when he smiles; and still George stands for austerity
and social injustice; doesn’t really care about
macroeconomics or true change; won’t hand out money to anyone
who hasn’t earned loads of it; is part of the club;
considers dignity sacred, more so than life itself;
wants you to work hard and earn and earn and earn
so you can buy more; he wonders what his life would be
like if things had gone differently back in Oxford; loves
his wife and children, and his country; goes to bed, hopes
for the best
Sunday, 4 October 2015
Rae Armantrout is one of the founding members of the West Coast group of Language poets. Born and raised in California she attended the University of California in Berkeley where she studied with Denise Levertov before moving to San Francisco State University for her MA.
She has published more than a dozen collections of poetry and her 2009 collection Versed was awarded both the National Book Critics Circle Award (2009) as well as the Pulitzer Price for Poetry (2010).
What sets her work apart from many other Language poets is her constant exploration and confrontation of the lyric. As Ron Silliman describes her work in the preface to her 2001 selected poems, Veil:
“the literature of the anti-lyric, those poems that at first glance appear contained and perhaps even simple, but which upon the slightest examination rapidly provoke a sort of vertigo effect as element after element begins to spin wildly toward more radical...possibilities.”
Armantrout is a professor and director of the New Writing Series at the University of California, San Diego.
My below poem was inspired by Armantrout’s poem “Language of Love”. As her poem made me think about the connection between poetry, language, and love I decided to compose a poem which explores these aspects. In my below poem I am using the first and the last line of Lord Byron’s famous “She Walks In Beauty” as well as the poems general form to explore aspects of tradition of the love poem.
~ - ~
she walks in beauty through the night
a silly habit hard to beat
in verse as in relationships
especially when grammar strays
two blocks away from any kind
of decent midnight takeaway
by flicker of a porchlight left
on vicious droves of b’s or n’s
around my head and in my ears
keep me awake though centuries
to ponder every single flab
of nightly moths caught in a net
constrained by 26 and white
my margin in your ancient fist
still quivers like each simile
among the blatant simple speech
you used to blush when little said
A heart whose love is literate!
Wednesday, 30 September 2015
How to summarise Jerome Rothenberg’s career? From the humble beginnings as a translator of German post-war poetry for City Lights Books in the 1950s to his celebrated 1968 ethnopoetic volume Technicians of the Sacred? From his Deep Image poetry to the compilation of the anthology-assemblage Poems for the Millennium in 2000?
Rothenberg has published over seventy books and pamphlets of poetry. He has assembled, edited, and annotated over ten anthologies of experimental and traditional poetry and performance art and translated an enormous amount of world literature, including Pablo Picasso and Vítezslav Nezval.
There are indeed few poets who could rival is vast and diverse practice.As Kenneth Rexroth puts it:
"Jerome Rothenberg is one of the truly contemporary American poets who has returned U.S. poetry to the mainstream of international modern literature. At the same time, he is a true autochthon. Only here and now could have produced him—a swinging orgy of Martin Buber, Marcel Duchamp, Gertrude Stein, and Sitting Bull. No one writing poetry today has dug deeper into the roots of poetry."
I can only say: read it, listen to it, read some more.
http://poemsandpoetics.blogspot.co.uk/ (Rothenberg’s blog)
I found it extremely difficult to write a response to Rothenberg’s work. Particularly the poem included in Hoover’s anthology “Cokboy” is such a monolith that I was completely at a loss. Instead I decided to follow Rothenberg’s footsteps in a different way by choosing to translate a poem from a different language. The below poem is my translation of Alfred Lichtenstein’s expressionist poem “Nebel”.
~ - ~
by Alfred Lichtenstein
A fog has softly pulled apart the world
as bloodless trees dissolve gently into smoke
and shadows weave where cries were hurled
burning beasts evaporate, expire, choke
The gas lights are nothing more than captured flies
each flickering with foul hope for freedom yet
but in the distance gleaming high in wait still lies
the toxic moon, Nebula fat spider in her net
Yet wicked we who suit this deadly price
with heavy boots crunch this wasteland’s splendid sight
in silence pierce with pallid hellhole eyes
spears thrown again into the bloated night
Sunday, 27 September 2015
Picture by Hidalgo944.
“A poetic reporter and a parodist, always on the alert for the telling encounter, the ripe bit of urban speech, the priceless instance of pop vulgarity” (New York Times) - Paul Violi was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1944 and attended Boston University. Following his return from Peace Corp service in Nigeria, he worked as managing editor of Architectural Forum. He also organised poetry readings at the Museum of Modern Art from 1974 to 1983 and co-founded Swollen Magpie Press. Violi is usually associated with the second generation of New York School poets, known for his poetry of wit and conceptual energy.
As David Lehman, editor of the Oxford Book of American Poetry, said of Violi’s work:
“I picked Violi because of the virtues I have admired all these years: his wit, his ability to find the poetic resonance of non-poetic language, his deadpan, and his ability to get serious ideas across without didactic earnestness. He is, in my view, among our most talented poets.”
Violi is the author of eleven books of poetry. His honours include the John Ciardi Lifetime Achievement Award in Poetry, the Ingram Merrill Foundation Poetry Award, the American Academy of Arts & Letters Morton Dauwen Zabel Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts.
He died from cancer in 2011.
http://jacketmagazine.com/33/quattrone-violi.shtml (2007 article about Violi)
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/16/books/paul-violi-poet-dies-at-66.html?_r=0 (New York Times Obituary)
My below poem took its inspiration from Violi’s “Index” – a poem mimicking the form of a book’s index. I chose the format of a record track listing for a short poem about the existentialist philosophy of Heidegger.
~ - ~
- A waltz in the world of the They
- All consciousness is consciousness of you
- It’s just another mood (let’s Dasein tonight)
- Always old enough to die in Messkirch
- The Turn
- Things showing up in the light of our understanding of being
- Destruktion Instruktion
- The spirit of disponibilité
- What to do about worldhood
- The Thrown-ness Blues
Wednesday, 23 September 2015
Michael Davidson was born in Oakland, California in 1944, and is generally associated with the West Coast Language poetry scene. He is the author of eight books of poetry and has served as Distinguished Professor of Literature at the University of California, San Diego, since 1988.
His poetry often explores “the rift between the world and its representation in language” (Hoover) and thus tends towards the theoretical and self-referential.
However, as the poet CJ Morello says of Davidson’s work in his review of Bleed Through:
"While sometimes upending grammarians and often explicit about the pitfalls of language, a lyric relationship is still often present, if immaterial. […] Language poetry at its best seems to perform a collapse of the rules of its system for a user of the language. Davidson’s work is filled with such moments of open vulnerability before the operations of the various systems."
Davidson who recently became deaf, has also contributed criticism to the fields of disabilities studies and gender studies. His work, Concerto for the Left Hand (2008), explores impacts of disability through various artistic mediums, from literature to visual art and photography.
http://htmlgiant.com/reviews/bleed-through-by-michael-davidson/ (review of his 2013 collection Bleed Through)
My below poem was inspired by Davidson’s witty, self-reflective work in general and refers back to the copy text on a package of blu tack.
~ - ~
1000s of uses. Repositionable without
a stain. The nation’s favourite rhyme
is a great alternative to pins
and tape. Clean, safe and hugely
versatile. You can use iambic pentameter
at home, in your office or
at school for fixing cards and
posters, securing loose items and even
tricky jobs like cleaning dirt from
keyboards or fluff from your heart. The
uses of verse are as unlimited
as your imagination. Keep a collection
of poetry on your desk or
in your kitchen drawer – you never
know when you’ll need it again.
suggestions are for
guidance only, as conditions
of use are completely
beyond our control.
Sunday, 20 September 2015
One of my favourite poets included in Hoover’s anthology is probably Lyn Hejinian. As an important member of the Language writing movement, her work has been pushing the boundaries of experimental and avant-garde poetics since the 1970s.
Texts like her famous 1987 autobiographical long poem “My Life” don’t just question the authority of the writer over the reader in their mosaic of discontinuous sentences, they also draw attention to the complexity and constructedness of narration.
The poet Juliana Spahr commented on Hejinian’s work:
“[It] often demonstrates how poetry is a way of thinking, a way of encountering and constructing the world, one endless utopian moment even as it is full of failures.”
This is also reflected in the way “My Life” is constantly writing and rewriting itself, repeating sections and beginning again. In this way the text suggests the process of remembering as it reassembles pieces of the poet’s biography.
From 1976 to 1984, Hejinian was editor of Tuumba Press, and since 1981 she has been the co-editor of Poetics Journal. She has published over a dozen books of poetry and numerous books of essays as well as two volumes of translations from the Russian poet Arkadii Dragomoshchenko
Her honors include a Writing Fellowship from the California Arts Council, a grant from the Poetry Fund, and a Translation Fellowship (for her Russian translations) from the National Endowment of the Arts. She received the 2000 Academy Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets for distinguished poetic achievement.
My below poem took its inspiration from Hejinian’s “My Life”. But instead of reassembling a life in memories I decided to reassemble an old Greek fable, focussing on its political message and the ripples these kind of ideologies might have in the lives of people today.
~ - ~
Everyday corn and grain --- The children played hide and seek among the billowing white sheets on the drying green in the back of the houses. Her eyes dancing with laughter again for the first time. “What else can you do?” he smiled wearily. She gave out a sigh of relief when she saw that the brown envelope was just about voter registration and quickly shoved it into the drawer with the takeaway menus and the spare keys. They started calling it “de-inflation” to take away the dread. It was the drawing of a wonky terraced house with a swing in the garden and a smiling sun. An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. The refrigerator’s humming was louder on the nights he wasn’t home.
To the nest --- The queues were worse now than a couple of weeks ago but she had stopped paying attention. They tried to find another “p” in the bowl of soup to spell out “happiness” on a spoon and feed it to the baby. "I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the ant, "and recommend you to do the same." He came over with a bottle of red but she was too ill to drink any. Rainwater had gathered in a welly one of them must have left out last time they went for a walk. It was hard to keep up with all these changes. Then the grasshopper knew: it is best to prepare for the days of necessity. She wanted so badly to tell him “you know nothing of our lives” but she didn’t want to embarrass the children and the parking ticket was running out.
In that way? --- In a field one summer's day a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. The Beatles “Lady Madonna” on full blast in the bathroom. They had moved the worn part of the carpet under the dining table just in time before the doorbell rang. "Why not come and chat with me," said the grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?" The handle of the coffee cup had broken off a long time ago. She had circled the day in the calendar. An overflowing ashtray in the morning sun. But the ant went on its way and continued its toil.
The days of necessity --- "Why bother about winter?" said the grasshopper; “we have got plenty of food at present." An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. “You have to understand that these kind of jobs are extremely competitive”, his voice was matter-of-factly. There was a hole in the left pocket of her rain coat. "I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the ant, "and recommend you to do the same." Someone on telly was talking about social justice but she turned away when the phone began to ring. The brochure advertised a bright and promising future. In a field one summer's day a Grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content.
Hopping about, chirping --- When the winter came the grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. It felt good to open the windows on this first warm day of spring. An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. They picked flowers in the long grass behind the old factory. In a field one summer's day a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. “You’re not watching any telly, are you?” she coaxed. But the ant went on its way and continued its toil. Then the grasshopper knew: it is best to prepare for the days of necessity.
And continued its toil --- An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. "Why bother about winter?" said the grasshopper; “we have got plenty of food at present." She waited until no one was watching. "Why not come and chat with me," said the grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?" Then the grasshopper knew: it is best to prepare for the days of necessity. But the ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. She could not stand the way they had started to look at her.
An ant passed by --- "Why bother about winter?" said the grasshopper; “we have got plenty of food at present." On that night they held each other tight. "I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the ant, "and recommend you to do the same." In a field one summer's day a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. "Why not come and chat with me," said the grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?" When the winter came the grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. Then the grasshopper knew: it is best to prepare for the days of necessity.
Then the grasshopper knew --- In a field one summer's day a grasshopper was hopping about, chirping and singing to its heart's content. An ant passed by, bearing along with great toil an ear of corn he was taking to the nest. "Why not come and chat with me," said the grasshopper, "instead of toiling and moiling in that way?" "I am helping to lay up food for the winter," said the ant, "and recommend you to do the same." "Why bother about winter?" said the grasshopper; “we have got plenty of food at present." But the ant went on its way and continued its toil. When the winter came the grasshopper found itself dying of hunger, while it saw the ants distributing, every day, corn and grain from the stores they had collected in the summer. Then the grasshopper knew: it is best to prepare for the days of necessity.
Wednesday, 16 September 2015
image by urbanartcore.eu
As one of the driving forces of the San Francisco Renaissance and the co-founder of City Lights Booksellers & Publishers, Lawrence Ferlinghetti is definitely one of the most important figures of the avant-garde poetry movement in the 1950s – a fact which was paid tribute to not least of all in his 2005 Literarian Award for “outstanding service to the American literary community.” Even though Ferlinghetti’s role as a publisher was important for the careers of many Beats including Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs, Diane diPrima, Michael McClure, and Gary Snyder, he is also an extremely successful poet in his own right. His poetry collection A Coney Island of the Mind has sold more than a million copies since it was first published in 1952 – which makes it the most popular poetry book in the U.S.As the critic Larry Smith points out in his 1983 book Lawrence Ferlinghetti: Poet-at-Large:
“[Ferlinghetti] writes truly memorable poetry, poems that lodge themselves in the consciousness of the reader and generate awareness and change. And his writing sings, with the sad and comic music of the streets.”It is particularly jazz music which had a strong influence on Ferlinghetti, as Hoover writes in the anthology:
“[He] has indicated that some of the poems in A Coney Island of the Mind, including the enormously popular “I am Waiting” were “conceived specifically for jazz accompaniment and as such should be considered as spontaneously written ‘oral messages’ rather than as poems written for the printed page.”
Ferlinghetti writes a weekly column for the San Francisco Chronicle. He also continues to operate the City Lights bookstore, and he travels frequently to participate in literary conferences and poetry readings.
In response to Ferlinghetti’s understanding of his poetry as ‘oral messages’ designed to be read with jazz music accompaniment, I decided to likewise create a ‘jazz poem’ instead of a written one.
~ - ~
Music by Ocean Exposition: Untitled improvisation
Sunday, 13 September 2015
George Evans’ biography is somewhat different than that of many other poets. Born in 1948 in Pittsburgh, he did not even finish high school and instead joined the US Air Force at the age of eighteen. He served in Vietnam but soon got into trouble for staging anti-war protests. During his service he also received his high school diploma through a GED test. Since the end of the war Evans has then been an outspoken anti-war activist and advocate for the homeless.
Since 1985, Evans has published five collections of poetry both in the US and Great Britain. His honors include writing fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lannan Foundation, the California Arts Council, and a Japanese government Monbusho Fellowship for the study of Japanese literature. He lives in San Francisco.
When I tried to write my own response the Evans’ work, I was struck by the important role his experience of the war seems to have (at least in the poems Hoover included in the anthology). I, of course, have no such experience and any attempt to speak about war therefore seemed futile. Instead I decided to write about the impact the faraway war in Syria has on my life in this peaceful part of the world, i.e. Europe.
~ - ~
he was there
when we finally
opened our eyes
to a cold
dawn on a
thursday in early
September as the
tide proceeded to
rub off the
sand salt water
streaming in dark
patches across europe
red & blue
Wednesday, 9 September 2015
Clayton Eshleman was born in 1935 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and earned degrees in philosophy and creative writing from Indiana University. After graduation he started travelling extensively, living for several years in Japan and spending time in Mexico. He also frequently travelled to France and his visits to the Dordogne region of France have significantly shaped his poetics. The experience of the Lascaux, Combarelle and Trois Freres caves and their prehistoric paintings led him to adopt a particular mix of myth, psychology, archeology, and surrealism in his poetry.
In World Literature Today Susan Smith Nash says of Eshleman’s work:
“Eshleman’s poems possess a heavy reliance on juxtaposition and the belief that an essential truth may emerge from the dionysiac combining of art, anthropology, poetry, and historical events.”
In addition to his creative work as a poet, Eshleman is also the main American translator of the Peruvian César Vallejo, and he received the National Book Award in 1979 for his co-translation of Vallejo’s Complete Posthumous Poetry.
The author of more than thirty books, he as published not only numerous collections of poetry but also books of essays, prose and interviews. Eshleman also founded and edited two important literary magazines: Caterpillar which appeared between 1967 and 1973 and Sulfur (1981-2000), which received thirteen National Endowment for the Arts grants.
Today, Eshleman is a professor of English at Eastern Michigan University, and lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan.
My poem below took its inspiration from Eshleman’s “Note on a Visit to Le Tuc d’Audoubert”. His poetry which weaves together past and present, site and imagination, image and text reminded me of my own 2013 project A Westminster Pilgrim and made me once again consider the connections between architectural sites and their building materials, their past and their present use.
~ - ~
a thick sequence of rocks in squares around me i am
formed more than 350 million years old a migrant
the earth’s teenage years maybe like this rock i have
built my house from it travelled here from far away
and many others all come to rest now thick deposits of
the way to sand and mud 11000 meters deep and
america. often stained with red, slowly accumulated.
Sunday, 6 September 2015
Frank O’Hara – do I even have to say anything?
The New York Poet. The avant-garde poet. The “urbane, ironic, sometimes genuinely celebratory and often wildly funny” poet (Mark Doty). The poet of immediacy, spontaneity, of everyday American vernacular, of popular culture. The poet of “Personism”. The personality-transcribed-into-text poet (Dan Chiasson) The read-again-and-again-and-again poet. The poet who died too soon.
http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/04/07/fast-company New Yorker review of Mark Ford’s “Frank O’Hara: Selected Poems” by Dan Chiasson
My below poem takes its inspiration from O’Hara’s “Personal Poem”. It mixes my own version of an ordinary lunch hour in 2015 with the results from Google’s auto-complete which I got when I typed in the first words of each of O’Hara’s original lines.
~ - ~
now when i get paid my checks be looking like phone numbers
i have only two emotions careful fear and a tab in the background
an old romance stephen haller for the cosmopolitan feel
a and a bolt company looking at the weather
when i was in french in the N.Y. section kind of hoping I recognise a place
brought me to the fold of god or something from when Axel and I were visiting
help keep your account secure a week last year which feels ages ago now in Glasgow
but now i’m a dog advert and updating here
i walk through the valley of the shadow of death I scroll through de-saturated reds and burned out
passing the baton of cappuccinos, sourdough bread, and holiday
and it’s like I lose myself in dreaming beaches on Instagram with the occasional selfie but not
the left the melody sample thankfully since that’s sort of embarrassing
do i ever get to be upset effy or at least like early 2014 as Ellen DeGeneres
i’d like to teach the world to sing that shot at the Oscars
and get together send a message to Sylwie who doesn’t take her lunch
leroi and cinzia hair salon until later hungover anyway
shaker the baker an article about Sylvia Plath having used basic as an insult
is .01 statistically significant before Kate Moss or something which I didn’t even know
and the bible tells me so and I try to bear it in mind
times last minute holidays for the next time
a lady awakened when I watch David Bowie’s hairstyle change on a gif
disease butterfly effect and again for thirty seconds
don’t like it i love it Miley Cyrus the other day
we go eat ihop just with different makeup and I wonder if she was
cool but easy things to draw or maybe just referencing someone
we decide who comes to this country before her which is possible because she really is only
henry james shoes and music history is just piling up pretty badly
we don’t wanna go home and I know I certainly don’t envy her instead I just have a
san francisco earthquake glance over my Facebook feed and like some
and walk it out of women’s self-defence classes in the 1930s
i wonder if heaven got a ghetto which Celeste found somewhere although
thinking of moving to australia is in Swedish and the auto-translate doesn’t make sense
and buy a sword but at my desk when I put my phone back into my handbag
back to work I notice that you are online too
Wednesday, 2 September 2015
Jessica Hagedorn was born in the Philippines and moved to the United States at the age of 14. She spent her teens and early adulthood in San Francisco where her writing was brought to the attention of Kenneth Rexroth who acted as a mentor for the young writer for a number of years. Hagedorn studied theatre at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco and she works as a successful playwright, novelist and multimedia artist as well as a poet.
Popular music and the performing arts have also been a strong influence on Hagedorn’s poetry who as Hoover quotes her in the anthology, aims for a kind of poetry which creates an “extravaganza of voices and moving bodies playing instruments that would hypnotize an audience numbed by the pomp and circumstance of academia, forgetting that the origins of poetry are oral and physical.”
As a result, Hagedorn has often chosen to perform her poetry with musicians and from 1975 to 1985 also performed with her own band, the West Coast Gangster Choir.
Hagedorn has taught in the Graduate Playwriting Program at the Yale School Of Drama, and in the MFA Creative Writing Program at NYU and Columbia University. She is the Parsons Family University Professor of Creative Writing and the Director of the MFA Writing Program at LIU Brooklyn.
My response to Jessica Hagedorn’s work took its inspiration from her poem “Latin Music in New York”. It plays with my own city’s marketing image of a “City of Music”.
~ - ~
City of Music
Sunday, 30 August 2015
Image by Seán Grisdale.
David Shapiro was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1947 and attended Columbia University and Clare College in Cambridge, UK. A childhood prodigy on the violin, he also took up poetry at an early age and published his first poems in Poetry magazine at the age of 16. Two years later his first collection January (1965) was published.
Shapiro has been associated with the New York School and his work shows the particular influence of John Ashbery, about whom he has also written a book of criticism. However, Shapiro himself considered the “Jewish liturgical tradition […] and his literary heroes, Meyer Schapiro and Walter Benjamin” (Hoover) as even more important influences on his writing.
In the Rocky Mountain Review, Carl Whithaus wrote of Shapiro’s work:
“To call David Shapiro a poet of the surreal, of collage, of the erotic, of endless transition, of formless form, of fin-de- siècle regret is to touch upon the variety of poetic techniques he has explored … he has refused to write poetry which organizes the real into a clean and neat poetic.”
Shapiro has authored over twenty books of literary and art criticism and poetry. He has taught at Columbia University, Brooklyn College, Princeton University, and the Cooper Union School of Architecture. He is a tenured professor of art history at William Paterson University.
My below poem took its inspiration from the line “Two more bodies were discovered in the Spanish forest fire” from Shapiro’s 1983 poem “Commentary Text Commentary Text Commentary Text”.
~ - ~
It’s raining in Scotland and I want to go away somewhere sunny but it’s not easy
to scrape [19 more bodies were discovered in salt water]
together the money so in the end I just buy cheap flights to see my
(6 August) family back in
southern Germany where it is really hot at least compared
to the miserable [25 more
bodies were discovered in salt water]
temperatures of Glasgow I enjoy walking in my sandals (15 August) for
4 days and come
home [51 more bodies were discovered in the hold]
on a late Saturday flight with
a bit of a sunburn as if I had been by (18 August)
but I didn’t receive a single postcard from any
of my old
[6 more bodies were discovered in salt water] London
friends which probably means they
are using Instagram as a substitute or don’t have my new (24 August)
address and [5 more bodies
were discovered in salt water] I like (27 August)
the sun-filtered images
of Greece and Spain while the
[71 more bodies were discovered in the back]
weeks pass on and it’s the first week
(28 August) of school again
and summer is almost over
[52 more bodies were discovered in the sand]
Wednesday, 26 August 2015
Robert Creeley was born in Arlington, Massachusetts, on May 21, 1926. He attended Harvard University from 1944, but abandoned his studies only a year later to serve in the American Field Service in Burma and India. Upon his return to the US in 1946, he started publishing his poetry and began corresponding with William Carlos Williams and Ezra Pound. It was also through correspondence that he became friends with Charles Olson who invited Creeley to teach at Black Mountain College from 1954.
As Michael Hrebeniak put it in his obituary to Creeley for the Guardian:
“[Creeley’s] pared-down poems activate the nervous, interior measures of a restless underground man, with halting line-breaks determined by breath and bop jump-cuts. The speaker's stance is amoral and passive, more so when women are the subject (in life, the reverse was true). Phrases are terse and elliptical, devoid of argument, conceptualisation or characterisation; each work is a minutely detailed pressure point set into motion.”In a review, Forrest Gander wrote of Creeley’s work:
“Robert Creeley has forged a signature style in American poetry, an idiosyncratic, highly elliptical, syntactical compression by which the character of his mind’s concentrated and stumbling proposals might be expressed ... Reading his poems, we experience the gnash of arriving through feeling at thought and word.”
Creeley published more than sixty books of poetry. His honours include the Frost Medal, the Shelley Memorial Award, a National Endowment for the Arts grant, a Rockefeller Foundation grant, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation. He also served as New York state poet laureate from 1989 to 1991 and as the Samuel P. Capen Professor of Poetry and Humanities at the State University of New York, Buffalo. Creeley died in 2005 at the age of 78.
http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,,1452159,00.html – The Guardian Obituary
Trying to write a response to Creeley I found myself struggling with his inward-facing, philosophical lyricism which feels miles away from my own social and political understanding of poetry. My response therefore took Creeley’s “Locate I love you” from his poem “The Language” and redirected its poetic inquiry into a completely different direction.
~ - ~
locate the political
your ears, your armpits
at your finger-
tips leaking from
from the flat screen
in the corner
of your mouth
when you smile and
I smile back at
Sunday, 23 August 2015
Kathleen Fraser grew up in Oklahoma, Colorado, and California and received a degree in English Literature from Occidental College (California) in 1959. She was a Full Professor of Writing at San Francisco State University and the director of its Poetry Centre for several years before deciding to dedicate herself to writing full-time. From 1983 to 1991 she also published and edited the journal HOW(ever), which was devoted to innovative and experimental writing by women.
Fraser has published more than 15 books, including several mixed-genre collections. Her honours and awards include the New School’s Frank O’Hara Poetry Prize and the American Academy’s Discovery Award, as well as a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Fraser splits her time between San Francisco and Rome.
My below poem is inspired by the last line of Fraser’s “re:searches”: “this / language we come up against” and develops the idea of the cosmetics industry’s linguistic influence on women in a kind of Dada play.
~ - ~
Or: This Language We Come Up Against (after Kathleen Fraser)
Active Nature, two women; the Bottle.
feel the damage essence ends shine scalp deep
required condition hence: feel deep
scars & skin & scalp
WOMEN [in chorus]:
for to adorn us
and our formulated hair looking
feel with skin revitalised of e
enriched oil replenishing for moisture surely?
smooth skin – of course, and daily!
moisture, you apply with youthful healthy for enriched often
your formulated look formation blend feels smooth
Vera with hair into appearance only.
help to look healthy and smooth
indulgent and …
feel restored and enriched revitalised for moisturisers
my hair to hair and hair hair skin
dry creamy smoothness
strokably yours certainly.
the oily silky richly natural strokability?
create the natural healthy clean, Vera
tightness daily and smoothness
you’re your smoothness
frizzy nails and hair and feels too long
Is it nature?
add strength to your frizzy body
add feel soft shiny & smooth moisturisation too
hair advanced your feel
what fresh nature often moisturise
the blissful down?
hair and formation
smoothness anti-evaporation strokability
frizzy replenished too
feel with damaged gorgeously
help down hair
or split massage with essence
WOMEN [in chorus]:
smooth if any
Wednesday, 19 August 2015
A true New York Poet, Bernadette Mayer was born in Brooklyn and spend most of her life in New York City. She received her BA from the New School of Social Research and published her first collection of poems, Moving in 1964.
Although she is associated to the New York School due to her use of daily occasions and her attraction to traditional form, especially the sonnet, her work also shows a particular interest in experimental forms and writing procedures. Her 1994 collection of prose-poems The Desires of Mothers to Please Others in Letters e.g. is a “series of letters never sent, written to unidentified friends, acquaintances, political figures, and poets over a nine-month period and ending with the birth of a baby” (Mayer). Her critically acclaimed Memory (1975) combines photography and narration in a writing process made up of texts and 36 images for each day of July 1971.
Mayer has published over 20 collections of poetry. She has taught at the New School for Social Research and The Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in New York City and now lives and works in East Nassau, New York.
~ - ~
Are we free? Are we autonomous?
Are these the same questions? you ask
on the back of an old dog-eared shopping list
next to sausage apples milk and grapes
the last line you left off with a dash
as for the answer in a prose conversation
like Will you come home soon, dear?
– I don’t know. I have to see.
it stuck between the cushions of the sofa.
I fished it out when I sat there the other day
trying to write something like a sonnet
while you were reading in the other room.
I want to kiss you for questions more than answers
when our lips part you will say: What was that for?
Sunday, 16 August 2015
Maureen Owen was born in Graceville, Minnesota and grew up on a farm and the California racetrack circuit, where her parents worked as horse trainers. She attended Seattle University and San Francisco State University before moving to Japan in 1965 to study Zen Buddhism.
Upon her return to the US, she moved to New York City. Owen is usually associated with the New York School and spent several years as Program Coordinator at the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church in NYC as well as working as editor for the literary magazine Telephone.
Owen has published a total of 10 collections of poetry so far. She now lives in Denver and teaches at Naropa University.
My poem below takes its inspiration from Owen’s poem of the same title.
~ - ~
Ni moto. With the sun at an awkward
angle as we sit on the terrace in the afternoon. You
pour a cup of English breakfast and I pour the milk slowly.
Salted on white Prussian porcelain
and heavy mvule wood. Kenya is
thirty years ago: Na sikuwa hata hai.
I grew up here in white porcelain faded colours
from images of zebras in the hall. Why do
you live away now always?
Are you coming home soon now?
“ Hakuna, mama.
Moyo wangu haiwezi
kutulia hapa. “
Wednesday, 12 August 2015
John Wieners was born in Milton, Massachusetts in 1934 and received his degree from Boston College in 1954. He studied at Black Mountain College with Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, and Robert Duncan from 1955 to 1956 and later followed Olson, his mentor, to SUNY Buffalo. As a Beat poet and a member of the San Francisco Renaissance his poetry is however more personal and less committed to poetic theory than Olson’s.
His poetry, which often combines accounts of sexual and drug-related experimentation with jazz-influenced improvisation, reflects his highly political view of lyricism. Wieners was an antiwar and gay rights activist and was deeply involved with publishing and education cooperatives.
He published his first book of poetry, The Hotel Wentley Poems (1958), at the age of 24. Numerous collections followed, including Ace of Pentacles (1964); Nerves (1970); Behind the State Capitol, or Cincinnati Pike (1975). Wieners died in Boston in 2002.
My below poem is inspired by Wieners "A Poem for the Insane".
~ - ~
A Poem For The Reasonable
over whom these rules purport
to have authority as vulnerable
to universal credit and post-
structualist ideas. standing
on corners with the milk
bottle wrapped around their
broadsheet moral duties. hesitant
beyond the breakfast cereal cardboard
box copy of a good life in low
calorie. an idea with its roots in
the work of elderly men dried up
in the windowsill pots of
gardenia. equally situated
at the end of the jointly accepted
middle ground between consent
and truth. how then can some
moral or political rule be rightly
imposed on all of us? you ask me
just in case the foreseeable
consequences and side-effects
of its general observance for
each individual could be jointly
accepted to be fair. this might
indeed seem to be rather
puzzling. i agree.