Category Archives: poetry

Quotes for January

“Writing requires the concentration of the writer, demands that nothing else be done except that.”Carlos Fuentes

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Maeve Brennan’s advice to writer Tillie Olsen (as seen on Twitter)

“Surviving Love”
Linda Gregg

I work hard at managing, grateful
and spare. I try to forgive all trespasses
and give thanks for the desert. Rejoice
in being alive here in my simple world.
Each evening I walk for an hour, paying
attention to real things. The plover
sweeping at my face to get me away from
its ground nest. An ant carrying the wing
of a butterfly like a flag in the wind.
A grasshopper eating a dead grasshopper.
The antelope close up, just staring at me.
Back in the house, I lie down in the heat
for a nap, realizing forgiveness is hard
for the wounded. Near the border,
between this country and the next one.

“El amor nunca trae nada bueno. El amor siempre trae algo mejor.” —Bolaño, Amuleto

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I often wondered: is it some kind of trade-off? Do others have to lose so we can win? —Zadie Smith, Swing Time (a beautiful, brilliant, compassionate & open-hearted novel… best Zadie Smith I’ve read yet)

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Filed under poetry, quotes

Cheltenham & UK Proof cover

I have been very busy with edits recently (both for the collection and the dissertation) and have thus sadly had less time to read for pleasure than I would like. Hopefully this will change soon. However, I did go to Cheltenham last week for the literature festival, as part of Faber’s proof party. This was my first festival-type reading in support of The Lucky Ones. I’d done a similar reading before, in support of my pamphlet The Tourists at the Daunt Books festival a few years ago, which was good preparation for an introvert like me. I was on a panel with Kate Hamer, author of The Girl in the Red Coat and the upcoming The Doll Funeral, who was so kind and full of advice about Everything. Her partner gave my traveling companion a business card for his mole-killing company–how cool is that? How does one get into mole-killing? #FutureGoals

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UK proof cover! The final one won’t look like this, but I’m really digging the red.

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Onstage on Cheltenham. My mother’s childhood best friend lives nearby and was able to attend, so thankfully there was a familiar face in the audience. It was also amazing getting to meet tons of other people who are obsessed with reading.

I obviously have a lot of Thoughts and Feelings about having finished the book (to put it mildly), but I guess all there is to say is that I worked on it as hard as I could, it feels very personal to me, and I’m glad I’m working on the next one.

I look forward to posting more book reviews soon…! For now, here’s another poem by the great Mary Ruefle that I read recently:

White Buttons

Having been blown away
by a book
I am in the gutter
at the end of the street
in little pieces
like the alphabet
(mother do not worry
letters are not flesh
though there’s meaning in them
but not when they are mean
my letters to you were mean
I found them after you died
and read them and tore them up
and fed them to the wind
thank you for intruding
I love you now leave)
Also at the end of the street
there is a magnolia tree
the white kind
that tatters
after it blooms
so the tree winds up
in the street
Our naked shivering bodies
must be at some distance
missing us come back
come back they cry
come home
put down that book
whenever you read
you drift away on a raft
you like your parrot
more than you like me
and stuff like that
(dear father
you always were a bore
but I loved you more
than interesting things
and in your honor
I’ve felt the same about myself
and everyone I’ve ever met)
I like to read in tree houses
whenever I can which is seldom
and sometimes never
The book that blew me away
held all the problems
of the world
and those of being alive
under my nose
but I felt far away from them
at the same time
reading is like that
(I am sorry I did not
go to your funeral
but like you said
on the phone
an insect cannot crawl
to China)
Here at the end of the street
the insects go on living
under the dome
of the pacific sky
If Mary and Joseph
had walked the sixty miles
to Bethlehem vertically
they would have found
themselves floating
in the outer pitch of space
it would have been cold
no inns
a long night
in the dark endless
and when they began to cry
the whole world would think
something had just been born
I like to read into things
as I am continually borne forward
in time by the winds like the snow
(dear sister
you were perfect in every way
like a baby
please tell brother
the only reason
we never spoke
was out of our great love
for each other
which made a big wind
that blew us apart)
I think I am coming back
I feel shoulders
where a parrot could land
though a tree would be
as good a place as any
You cannot teach a tree to talk
Trees can say it is spring
but not though bright sunlight
can also be very sad
have you noticed?

 

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Filed under events, poetry, The Lucky Ones, update, writing

A few poems

Good Bones

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

Maggie Smith

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Station Island – XII (excerpt)

and suddenly he hit a litter basket

with his stick, saying, ‘Your obligation
is not discharged by any common rite.
What you do you must do on your own.

The main thing is to write
for the joy of it. Cultivate a work-lust
that imagines its haven like your hands at night

dreaming the sun in the sunspot of a breast.
You are fasted now, light-headed, dangerous.
Take off from here. And don’t be so earnest,

so ready for the sackcloth and the ashes.
Let go, let fly, forget.
You’ve listened long enough. Now strike  your note.’

Seamus Heany

***********************************************************

And It Came To Pass

This june 3
would be different

Time to draw lines

I’ve grown into the family pores
and the bronchitis

Even up east
I get by saying goddamnit

Who was that masked man
I left for dead
in the shadow of mt. shadow

Who crumbles there

Not touching anything
but satin and dandelions

Not laid his eyes
on the likes of you

Because the unconnected life
is not worth living

Thorntrees overtake the spot

Hands appear to push back pain

Because no poet’s death

Can be the sole author
of another poet’s life

What will my new instrument be

Just this water glass
this untunable spoon

Something else is out there
goddamnit

And I want to hear it

C.D. Wright

***********************************************************

Isn’t there something

Isn’t there something in me
like the dogs I’ve heard at home
who bark all night from hunger? Something
in me like trains leaving,

isn’t there something in me
like a gun? I wanted to be
loud squirrels, around the trees’ feet,
bees, coming back & back

to the wooden porch,
wanting something–and wooden planks,
wanting something. To go back into
a tree?

Jean Valentine

***********************************************************

Are all the things

Are all the things that never happened, OK?
–The wide river at dawn, the hippo’s lifted face
–The slow, violet curtains of Antarctica light
(Hide you under the shadow of their wings)

And all the things that came–
The awful, and then love on earth, OK?
my own friend?          where you are?

Jean Valentine

***********************************************************

Lo Fatal

Dichoso el árbol, que es apenas sensitivo,
y más la piedra dura porque ésa ya no siente,
pues no hay dolor más grande que el dolor de ser vivo
ni mayor pesadumbre que la vida consciente.
Ser, y no saber nada, y ser sin rumbo cierto,
y el temor de haber sido y un futuro terror…
¡Y el espanto seguro de estar mañana muerto,
y sufrir por la vida y por la sombra y porlo que no conocemos y apenas sospechamos,
y la carne que tienta con sus frescos racimos,
y la tumba que aguarda con sus fúnebres ramos
y no saber adónde vamos,
ni de dónde venimos!…

Ruben Dario

***********************************************************
My Life Was the Size of My Life

My life was the size of my life.
Its rooms were room-sized,
its soul was the size of a soul.
In its background, mitochondria hummed,
above it sun, clouds, snow,
the transit of stars and planets.
It rode elevators, bullet trains,
various airplanes, a donkey.
It wore socks, shirts, its own ears and nose.
It ate, it slept, it opened
and closed its hands, its windows.
Others, I know, had lives larger.
Others, I know, had lives shorter.
The depth of lives, too, is different.
There were times my life and I made jokes together.
There were times we made bread.
Once, I grew moody and distant.
I told my life I would like some time,
I would like to try seeing others.
In a week, my empty suitcase and I returned.
I was hungry, then, and my life,
my life, too, was hungry, we could not keep
our hands off our clothes on
our tongues from

Jane Hirshfield

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return to spain

Just like three years ago I went to Spain, the south this time, I lost my passport for the second time in seven months, I miraculously found it, my friends are the most amazing people ever, I ate bread every day, I read The Beast by Óscar Martínez and My Struggle 2: A Man in Love by Karl Ove Knausgaard (both amazing, excellent, I will review them soon), I came back to England, I’m working on my edits, I’m working on my PhD, I have a few weeks left of teaching and marking before summer, I still work in the library but no longer in the outreach office, I have a part-time gig marking papers online for extra cash, I told my landlord I would stay in this house for one my year, my cat got into a fight and had to wear a cone for ages but has now recovered, I went hiking in Thetford Forest, it was extremely sunny today, I am ready and waiting for summer, summer, summer, summer!

(Here are some photos, and two poems:)

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To My Twenties (Kenneth Koch)

How lucky that I ran into you
When everything was possible
For my legs and arms, and with hope in my heart
And so happy to see any woman–
O woman! O my twentieth year!
Basking in you, you
Oasis from both growing and decay
Fantastic unheard of nine- or ten-year oasis
A palm tree, hey! And then another
And another–and water!
I’m still very impressed by you. Whither,
Midst falling decades, have you gone? Oh in what lucky fellow,
Unsure of himself, upset, and unemployable
For the moment in any case, do you live now?
From my window I drop a nickel
By mistake. With
You I race down to get it
But I find there on
The street instead, a good friend
X—- N—-, who says to me
Kenneth do you have a minute?
And I say yes! I am in my twenties!
I have plenty of time! In you I marry,
In you I first go to France; I make my best friends
In you, and a few enemies. I
Write a lot and am living all the time
And thinking about living. I loved to frequent you
After my teens and before my thirties.
You three together in a bar
I always preferred you because you were midmost
Most lustrous apparently strongest
Although now that I look back on you
What part have you played?
You never, ever, were stingy.
What you gave me you gave whole
But as for telling
Me how best to use it
You weren’t a genius at that.
Twenties, my soul
Is yours for the asking
You know that, if you ever come back.

Oath to my former life (Bob Hicok)
It used to be enough to be bigger
in soul by any means,
whether climbing the water tower
drunk or coked or driving
to the frozen lake on mushrooms
to throw up as the ice breathed my skin in and out.
I can offer no more literal
description of pilgrimage
than seven black pills
and holding my hand
over fire when pain
as the extent of the world was perfect clarity.
If not my overturned dog
moaning at the wanderings
of my fingers across her teats
and just a beer shared with my wife
as two girls across the street
in t-shirts etch their thoughts
with sparklers into the air
is the life I want of all
possible miracles, I promise
to remember how to roll a joint
while steering with my thighs.
How to stand in one corner
of a room while looking at myself
waving back at me. How to have
a mouth but no brain, to sell oregano
to men with guns, to fall asleep
in the middle of a room
like babies do, with my ass
in the air and face on the floor,
to wake in this posture
with sunlight washing my skin
and go out for coffee and a slower
life. How to say yes like a river
jumping off a cliff.

 

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Filed under photos, poetry, travel, update

Some poems; one quote

Body, Remember

Body, remember that night you pretended
it was a film, you had a soundtrack running
through your head, don’t lie to me body,
you know what it is. You’re keeping it from me,
the stretched white sheets of a bed,
the spinning round of it, the high whining sound
in the head. Body, you remember how it felt,
surely, surely. You’re lying to me. Show me
how to recognise the glint in the eye of the dog,
the rabid dog. Remind me, O body, of the way
he moved when he drank, that dangerous silence.
Let me feel how I let my eyes drop, birds falling
from a sky, how my heart was a field, and there
was a dog, loose in the field, it was worrying
the sheep, they were running and then
they were still. O body, let me remember
what it was to have a field in my chest,
O body, let me recognise the dog.

                                              Kim Moore (amazing poet + reader!)

*

Song

I am stuck in traffic in a taxicab
which is typical
and not just of modern life

mud clambers up the trellis of my nerves
must lovers of Eros end up with Venus
muss es sein? es muss nicht sein, I tell you

how I hate disease, it’s like worrying
that comes true
and it simply must not be able to happen

in a world where you are possible
my love
nothing can go wrong for us, tell me

Frank O’Hara

*

My Young Son Asks Me

My young son asks me: Should I learn mathematics?
What for, I’m inclined to say. That two bits of bread are more than one
You’ll notice anyway

My young son asks me: Should I learn French?
What for, I’m inclined to say. That empire is going under.
Just rub your hand across your belly and groan
And you’ll be understood all right.

My young son asks me: Should I learn history?
What for, I’m inclined to say. Learn to stick your head in the ground
Then maybe you’ll come through.

Yes, learn mathematics, I tell him
Learn French, learn history!

Bertold Brecht

*

The Sensual World [excerpt]

I was not prepared: sunset, end of summer. Demonstrations
of time as a continuum, as something coming to an end,
not a suspension; the senses wouldn’t protect me.
I caution you as I was never cautioned:

you will never let go, you will never be satiated.
You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.

Your body will age, you will continue to need.
You will want the earth, then more of the earth—

Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond.
It is encompassing, it will not minister.

Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you,
it will not keep you alive

Louise Glück

*

Le Livre de Ma Vie

I love you.
But who is the I
and who is the you?

Mr. Potato Head
Mr. Potato Head

Please accept the pressing in
of your eyes.

Here are your glasses.
A book for the evening.

In the book a person
is smiling at you.

Smiling and smiling
like a mother over a baby.

Remove the pipe from your mouth
and smile.

Help me behave,
weeping in the dark earth.

Mary Ruefle

*

Terrible Deer

I am in a hospital bed when I feel an overwhelming pain in my stomach. I am sure I am going to die if I don’t get any help. Nurse! Nurse! I yell, but no nurse comes. There are no signs of any nurses. There are no signs of any other patients. There are no signs that electricity has been invented. There is no glass in the windows. I get up from the bed and walk slowly out into the corridor. Some papers are swept up in a breeze across the floor. Someone please help me! My water broke! My pleas echo in the corridor and then it finally happens. The terrible deer that has been clawing and biting at my insides for years crashes out of me and spills onto the tiles. It then quickly leaps into the night through the window. I can hear it dash through the bushes. I can hear it splash into the ocean. I can hear it tear at the air in the sky. It is the world’s problem now.

Zachary Schomburg

*

“From my mother: grace under pressure; the uses of mystery; how to get what I want. From my father: how to disappear, how to not exist.

I was born free, I’ve had the time of my life and for all we know I’m going to live forever.”

Ali Smith, The Accidental

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Optimistic poems :)

Letter to Kizer from Seattle

(Richardo Hugo)

Dear Condor: Much thanks for that telephonic support
from North Carolina when I suddenly went ape
in the Iowa tulips. Lord, but I’m ashamed.
I was afraid, it seemed, according to the doctor
of impending success, winning some poetry prizes
or getting a wet kiss. The more popular I got,
the softer the soft cry in my head: Don’t believe them.
You were never good. Then I broke and proved it.
Ten successive days I alienated women
I liked best. I told a coed why her poems were bad
(they weren’t) and didn’t understand a word I said.
Really warped. The phrase “I’ll be all right”
came out too many unsolicited times. I’m o.k. now.
I’m back at the primal source of poems: wind, sea
and rain, the market and the salmon. Speaking
of the market, they’re having a vital election here.
Save the market? Tear it down? The forces of evil
maintain they’re trying to save it too, obscuring,
of course, the issue. The forces of righteousness,
me and my friends, are praying for a storm, one
of those grim dark rolling southwest downpours
that will leave the electorate sane. I’m the last poet
to teach the Roethke chair under Heilman.
He’s retiring after 23 years. Most of the old gang
is gone. Sol Katz is aging. Who isn’t? It’s close now
to the end of summer and would you believe it
I’ve ignored the Blue Moon. I did go to White Center,
you know, my home town, and the people there,
many are the same, but also aging, balking, remarkably
polite and calm. A man whose name escapes me
said he thinks he had known me, the boy who went alone
to Longfellow Creek and who laughed and cried
for no reason. The city is huge, maybe three quarters
of a million and lots of crime. They are indicting
the former chief of police. Sorry to be so rambling.
I eat lunch with J. Hillis Miller, brilliant and nice
as they come, in the faculty club, overlooking the lake,
much of it now filled in. And I tour old haunts,
been twice to Kapowsin. One trout. One perch. One poem.
Take care, oh wisest of condors. Love. Dick. Thanks again.

My Literary Career

(Bolaño)

Rejections from Anagrama, Grijalbo, Planeta, certainly also
                  from Alfaguara,
Mondadori. A no from Muchnik, Seix Barral, Destino… All
                  the publishers… All the readers
All the sales managers…
Under the bridge, while it rains, a golden opportunity
to take a look at myself:
like a snake in the North Pole, but writing.
Writing poetry in the land of idiots.
Writing with my son on my knee.
Writing until night falls
with the thunder of a thousand demons.
The demons who will carry me to hell,
but writing.

October 1990

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Amazing Emily Kendal Frey quotes

I know nothing about poetry. Virtually nothing. But I do know is that this collection spoke to me on a deeply personal level, and I enjoyed reading it very much. How did it do this? And why? How does poetry do anything? Why do I like some poets and not others? What must a poem have in order for it to “speak” to me? Is it simply that I prefer contemporary poems that express relatable ideas in straightforward language?

I don’t know the answer to any of these questions. What I do know is that I thought these poems were amazing.

I also know that I saw Jurassic World recently. It was an escapist film and “entertaining” enough. It also made me deeply uncomfortable. Like it was espousing the very things it was pretending to make fun of (like corporate advertising, or a deadening Infinite Jest-like drive for more-more-MOAARRR entertainment). God!! What a world we live in. Anyway. Jurassic World made me think of the deadening, flat language in these poems (how’s that for a connection?). As though that’s the only appropriate way to express these contemporary themes of technology + alienation.

Other themes and/or reoccurring imagery in this collection: the Greeks. Birds eating each other. The Journey of Natty Gann. Deadening, numb, flat, affectless style; peculiar dark humor.

Lines I underlined:

  • “I want to cut up photos of flags / Send a stripe to you.”

  • “The cheapest thing to do in winter is get a disease.”

  • “You sit on a log / What’s sadder than a car / At the beach / A car parked.”

  • “I got so sad I remembered being high in high school / How we pretended to be mummies, arms by our sides / Or chiefs of forgotten villages”

  • “The industrial revolution killed a lot of people”

  • “I wish you didn’t have so many small people on your face”

  • “White people who think feelings are interesting”

  • “What’s this time bullshit / I want dilemmas involving god and coastal highways”

  • “There’s a video of me crying / I was going to stream it live in your bedroom / But I couldn’t find your bedroom”

  • “I can see someone is failing / A great failure might occur”

  • “A pigeon drags another pigeon to a tree / Eats”

  • “You want to put the cold egg of her breast into your mouth”

  • “People eating and eating and eating and eating / I guess there’s a point to it”

  • “The moon hurting itself on the sky / Waiting one day longer to die”

  • “I leave the room so hard it burns a hole in the bed”

  • “Don’t die, summer / There are wolves among us / We promise to make more art”

  • “I don’t want my donut” / “… lob my machines into the cold swollen river”

  • “The question is always whether to be kind / To whom”

  • “Give the birds their ocean / Delete the god document / You’ve got to get inside language to be free”

  • “Let me be shitty a little longer”

  • “When a woman talks / A few people listen / I’d like to suggest that when a woman talks we listen”

  • “Even though I have this giant problem in my pants / I am not going to do anything”

  • “Teach me to cook with green garlic”

Buy this book! Highly recommended.

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Filed under poetry, review

5 years of poetry

I have been reading a poem-a-day and posting it online (first on a livejournal account, then cross-posting on tumblr) for five years now (so basically since Februrary 24th, 2010, sitting in my frigid air-conditioned office in Bucaramanga, Colombia…!).  That is roughly 1,825 poems, give or take the odd leap year. After doing this every day I now think I am going to take a little break from it for a while. Or only post when I find a poem that I really, really like. Or who knows. Maybe posting a poem a day for the past 5 years will have proven so addictive that I won’t be able to stop. It certainly led to me reading LOTS of poetry and discovering lots of poets that I’d never have otherwise. But either way 5 years feels like a good time to be self-reflective.

It is pretty much impossible for me to choose “favorite poems” or whatever, but here are some poems/poets I discovered via this daily practice that I am very, very grateful to have found:

Frank O’Hara – A classic. Love his readable, humorous style, though I always find myself wishing I could be reading him in New York City in the summertime while eating a giant pastrami sandwich.

Autobiographia Literaria

When I was a child
I played by myself in a
corner of the schoolyard
all alone.

I hated dolls and I
hated games, animals were
not friendly and birds
flew away.

If anyone was looking
for me I hid behind a
tree and cried out “I am
an orphan.”

And here I am, the
center of all beauty!
writing these poems!
Imagine!

Emily Dickinson – Still one of the most experimental and gnarliest poets I have ever read, despite the whole 19th-century thing. I love thinking about how her poetry still teaches us lessons about estrangement, train-of-thought and defamiliarization that are still highly relevant today. Her poems are just so strange. How could something written so long ago still be so inaccessible and mysterious? And those master letters! The just plain weirdness of it all! The Kafkaesque eccentricity, the unique and singular view of the world embodied in that one little dash! Dickinson is someone I would want to have in the gladiator arena with me, I think. Or on my team of survivors hiding out in the shopping mall after the apocalypse. In general, I feel like her writing provides us with Important Tools for Fighting the Good Fight of Life.

Beauty—be not caused—It Is—

Beauty—be not caused—It Is—
Chase it, and it ceases—
Chase it not, and it abides—

Overtake the Creases

In the Meadow—when the Wind
Runs his fingers thro’ it—
Deity will see to it
That You never do it—

Mary Ruefle – my favorite!

Provenance

In the fifth grade
I made a horse of papier-mache
and painted it white
and named it Aurora
We were all going to the hospital
each one with his little animal
to give to the girl who was
lying on her deathbed there
whose name I can’t recall

A classmate with freckles perhaps
or such small feet her footsteps
never mattered much

I did not want to give her anything
It seemed unfair she got to ride Aurora
whom I made with my own two hands
and took aside at birth and said go
while I had to walk
perhaps for a very long time

I thought perhaps the animals
would all come back
together and on one day
but they never did

And so I have had to deal with wild
intractable people all my days
and have been led astray in a world
of shattered moonlight and beasts and trees
where no one ever even curtsies anymore
or has an understudy

So I have gone up to the little room
in my face, I am making something
out of a jar of freckles
and a jar of glue

I hate childhood
I hate adulthood
And I love being alive

James Tate – Love him! Would definitely read a whole book by him. I love the whole prose-poetry style, poems that work doubly as surreal little anecdotes, and the way animals keep popping up in strange unexpected ways. “The Camel” is a classic that has already appeared once on this blog, and the poem posted below is the one I always use in classrooms as a “poetry introduction”:

It Happens Like This

I was outside St. Cecelia’s Rectory
smoking a cigarette when a goat appeared beside me.
It was mostly black and white, with a little reddish
brown here and there. When I started to walk away,
it followed. I was amused and delighted, but wondered
what the laws were on this kind of thing. There’s
a leash law for dogs, but what about goats? People
smiled at me and admired the goat. “It’s not my goat,”
I explained. “It’s the town’s goat. I’m just taking
my turn caring for it.” “I didn’t know we had a goat,”
one of them said. “I wonder when my turn is.” “Soon,”
I said. “Be patient. Your time is coming.” The goat
stayed by my side. It stopped when I stopped. It looked
up at me and I stared into its eyes. I felt he knew
everything essential about me. We walked on. A police-
man on his beat looked us over. “That’s a mighty
fine goat you got there,” he said, stopping to admire.
“It’s the town’s goat,” I said. “His family goes back
three-hundred years with us,” I said, “from the beginning.”
The officer leaned forward to touch him, then stopped
and looked up at me. “Mind if I pat him?” he asked.
“Touching this goat will change your life,” I said.
“It’s your decision.” He thought real hard for a minute,
and then stood up and said, “What’s his name?” “He’s
called the Prince of Peace,” I said. “God! This town
is like a fairy tale. Everywhere you turn there’s mystery
and wonder. And I’m just a child playing cops and robbers
forever. Please forgive me if I cry.” “We forgive you,
Officer,” I said. “And we understand why you, more than
anybody, should never touch the Prince.” The goat and
I walked on. It was getting dark and we were beginning
to wonder where we would spend the night.

Jeffrey McDaniel – Another surreal yet highly readable & humorous poet. Is that basically my jam? I.e. the style I most dig? Maybe. I love “Dear America” the most, and this one:

Disasterology

The Badger is the thirteenth astrological sign.
My sign. The one the other signs evicted: unanimously.

So what?! Think I want to read about my future
in the newspaper next to the comics?

My third grade teacher told me I had no future.
I run through snow and turn around
just to make sure I’ve got a past.

My life’s a chandelier dropped from an airplane.
I graduated first in my class from alibi school.

There ought to be a healthy family cage at the zoo,
or an open field, where I can lose my mother
as many times as I need.

When I get bored, I call the cops, tell them
there’s a pervert peeking in my window!
then I slip on a flimsy nightgown, go outside,
press my face against the glass and wait…

This makes me proud to be an American

where drunk drivers ought to wear necklaces
made from the spines of children they’ve run over.

I remember my face being invented
through a windshield.

All the wounds stitched with horsehair
So the scars galloped across my forehead.

I remember the hymns cherubs sang
in my bloodstream. The way even my shadow ached
when the chubby infants stopped.

I remember wishing I could be boiled like water
and made pure again. Desire
so real it could be outlined in chalk.

My eyes were the color of palm trees
in a hurricane. I’d wake up
and my id would start the day without me.

Somewhere a junkie fixes the hole in his arm
and a racing car zips around my halo.

A good God is hard to find.

Each morning I look in the mirror
and say promise me something
don’t do the things I’ve done.

Zachary Schomburg – Another surreal prose-poet in the style of Tate and McDaniel (at least in my eyes…). If I could write poetry I would want to write like this. Apparently he lives in Portland (!!). Definitely regret not buying his book at Powell’s. I really like all the ones I’ve read, but I think my favorite (if only for the title alone) is this one:

Your Limbs Will Be Torn off in a Farm Accident

Your limbs
will be torn off
in a farm accident.
Tree limbs
will grow
in those places.

You’ll cry at night
as your limbs curl a little around your still soft face face
As your skin toughens
A hummingbird will begin
to hover near your ear.

Soon you’ll be
more tree
than person.

You’ll go camping
in the woods
and never come back.

Tony Hoagland – Another poet I’ve posted a lot in the poetry tag of this blog. Three of my favorite poems of all time are “Personal,” “A Color of the Sky” and the one below:

One Season

That was the summer my best friend
called me a faggot on the telephone,
hung up, and vanished from the earth,

a normal occurance in this country
where we change our lives
with the swiftness of hysterical finality

of dividing cells. That month
the rain refused to fall,
and fire engines streaked back and forth crosstown

towards smoke-filled residential zones
where people stood around outside, drank beer
and watched their neighbors houses burn.

It was a bad time to be affected
by nearly anything,
especially anything as dangerous

as loving a man, if you happened to be
a man yourself, ashamed and unable to explain
how your feelings could be torn apart

by something ritual and understated
as friendship between males.
Probably I talked too loud that year

and thought an extra minute
before I crossed my legs; probably
I chose a girl I didn’t care about

and took her everywhere,
knowing I would dump her in the fall
as part of evening the score,

part of practicing the scorn
it was clear I was going to need
to get across this planet

of violent emotional addition
and subtraction. Looking back, I can see
that I came through

in the spastic, furtive, half-alive manner
of accident survivors. Fuck anyone
who says I could have done it

differently. Though now I find myself
returning to the scene
as if the pain I fled

were the only place that I had left to go;
as if my love, whatever kind it was, or is,
were still trapped beneath the wreckage

of that year,
and I was one of those angry firemen
having to go back into the burning house;
climbing a ladder

through the heavy smoke and acrid smell
of my own feelings,
as if they were the only
goddamn thing worth living for.

Emily Kendal Frey – Another (apparently) local Portland poet I’ve been reading a lot of lately and really enjoying despite a lot of her poems being super weird. I really love this one even though it feels slightly too long to post in its entirety here–I especially love the phrase “sassy tomatoes.”

Charles Wright – Would like to read more of him. His “Black Zodiac” book was recommended to me. I like how into nature he seems.

Emily Berry – An alumna from the same graduate school as me,  I think her writing is just fantastic. I read her collection Dear Boy last year and just loved it–a perfect balance between the surreal, the personal and wry, demented humor. Highly, highly recommended. Another poet who teaches at the school I attend is Sophie Robinson, who I also find ridonkulously good and deliciously contemporary.

I am missing SO MANY (this list is noticeably white dude-heavy) but that feels like enough for now. Yay for five years of discovering poetry!

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Exciting news!

A short story I wrote last year for Lighthouse Literary Journal has been longlisted for a prize in the Sunday Times! Very exciting! I am dead chuffed, as they say here in in England (at least I THINK that’s something people say…). Or as they say in Colombia: ¡QUE EMOCIÓN!

You can read all 19 Short Story Award longlisted stories on The Sunday Times website. Among others, they include Yiyun Li (I’ve been a big fan for years), Colin Barrett (on my to-read list for ages) and Mark Haddon (author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, a long-time fav). QUE ES ESTA LOCURA.

In other news (just to make this post a little more than here-is-the-thing), I went running today in rain that gradually turned into wet slushy snow and then back to rain again. It was intense. But I had to do it, ’cause I am running the Lisbon half-marathon in March. I’m looking forward to discovering the land of my Portuguese ancestors (although they mainly inhabited the Azores).

Also, here is the poem I posted today on my poem-a-day (um, more like every couple of days) blog, which I really liked:

Poem That Wants to Be Called the West Side Highway

(Samuel Amadon)
You can do the work just by starting it. You can
do whatever you want. A bill
is drafted on a train to Albany, or in a black
limousine. Like how one day I walked
the entire length of Manhattan, except I didn’t.
I didn’t finish. Not nearly. How could I?
Stopped as I was by the boat basin. These
credit cards fill with gin
and tonic. They pool with the stuff. Maybe
I get a little lost sometimes,
start thinking I went to Yale. Once I swam
to Governors Island, between the ferries
and freighters. It was like a job you should’ve seen
me quit. Maybe they looked for me. Maybe
it wasn’t someone else’s shift, and then
it was. Sometimes people are just turnstiles.
You have to tell them to keep
turning, keep turning into someone else. The rain
crashes across a cab, and the road
has filled. We’re waterborne. Or whatever
the word is for that little moment
when the heart lifts. Why don’t you devote
yourself the way you once did? It’s
an old answer, and an early
one. The alarm goes off for a while after it
stops. In your face in the bathroom
mirror. You play that little song to look at
your teeth. My teeth. They haven’t been cared for.
The class giggles at my age. This is
my hearing. The chances taken on a new face.

 

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THE TOURISTS

My pamphlet with Daunt Books was released today!

It’s called “The Tourists,” it’s set in Colombia and here is the cover:

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You can get it here or on Amazon. Please consider checking it out; I’d be VERY honored… :)

Que emoción, no??!

And now here is a poem by Franz Wright (love the last line…):

Publication Date

One of the few pleasures of writing
is the thought of one’s book in the hands of a kind-hearted
intelligent person somewhere. I can’t remember what the
     others are right now.
I just noticed that it is my own private

National I Hate Myself and Want to Die Day
(which means the next day I will love my life
and want to live forever). The forecast calls
for a cold night in Boston all morning

and all afternoon. They say
tomorrow will be just like today,
only different. I’m in the cemetery now
at the edge of town, how did I get here?

A sparrow limps past on its little bone crutch saying
I am Federico Garcia Lorca
risen from the dead–
literature will lose, sunlight will win, don’t worry.

 

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