Saturday, April 28, 2007

Why I Like The Midwest

The driving with the top down is just too smooth.
Spend the day about 20 miles out of town to celebrate the release of Arley McNeney's first novel, Post. Plus, Madonick has a thing for pressure cooking ribs, dropping them on the grill for a few minutes. Too tasty.
It's driving season.
Safety Fast.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Franz Wright Interview (adding some substance to this blog)

Poetry Called An Experience Offered to Others

Wednesday, April 25, 2007 7:55 AM
By Bill Eichenberger

At the tender age of 15, Franz Wright sent one of his poems to his father, Pulitzer Prize-winning poet James Wright.
The father's response: "You're a poet. Welcome to hell."

Franz Wright - now a Pulitzer Prize-winner himself for his 2003 collection Walking to Martha's Vineyard - described the comment as "the kind of thing one older soldier might say to a young soldier newly arrived to fight in a terrible war."

"I think that was largely an expression of my father's somewhat dark sense of humor, which I guess I share to a great degree...

I think he felt something like the way I now feel when confronted with a young poet of talent - I feel a great worry, a terror almost, of what is in store for this person of talent, because things in the literary world do not proceed rationally, anymore than they do elsewhere, and a lot depends on chance."

"I myself have been incredibly lucky and blessed, for some reason - but I did go through years, indeed decades of terribly desperate discouragement, loneliness, very real poverty, etc. I don't know what to tell someone embarking on a life in art - that chances are they will have a sad and very difficult life? Anyway, it must be awful to know what a hard painful road that is, and then have to watch your own child embarking on it."

Franz Wright, who will appear Thursday at the South Side Settlement House, recently answered questions via e-mail.

Q. Poet and critic Gerard Hanberry wrote that hope "shimmers" in your poems. True?

A. I don't know how many of my poems give an impression of hope, but I am certain that each one was a desperate act of hope. (Romanian essayist Emil) Cioran said, somewhat melodramatically, that every book is a postponed suicide - for me that might include every poem, if I were inclined to express myself in these terms, and I'm not really. But I know what he's getting at.

In my case, though, it would be more accurate to say that every poem represents a faith that beyond my particular view of things, of what is apparent to my senses - which provide me with little to hope for, since on the surface the world is so hopelessly lost - there is an absolute reality which might be described as the exact opposite of the way things appear to my senses: a reality in which what appears to me personally as loss and failure and disaster is actually the ultimate good, in which poverty is wealth, failure success, death life, and so forth.

These are things that have shown themselves to be true in my life, again and again, and my faith in the ultimate rightness of things as they are is very strong, however appalling things may seem to me in my personal life or in the world in general at any given moment.

Q. The poet Denise Levertov once wrote, "A poetry articulating the dreads and horrors of our time is necessary in order to make readers understand what is happening, really understand it, not just know about it but feel it: and should be accompanied by a willingness on the part of those who write it to take additional action towards stopping the great miseries which they record." Is this the role of the poet, as you see it?

A. I think that is a magnificent remark of Levertov (a poet I have felt great reverence for since I was in high school) - and after many trials, and a tendency when young to see poetry as the highest end imaginable of all human activity, almost a sort of religion, I have come to understand that there can be no real art in the absence of a heart actively attempting, through prayer and compassionate interaction others, to lessen suffering in the world.

Perhaps all that is really necessary is to come to an understanding or a sort of peace with the reality of suffering, the mystery of suffering - that it is guiding people toward an awakening, possibly, just as it did in my life, that we are in fact instruments of a higher power which wishes no more than to love and forgive us, and perhaps our suffering is teaching us to turn to that power, to finally understand that there really is nowhere else to turn, and to express our love for it by loving other human beings still suffering without understanding why.

Q. Robert Penn Warren once said, "The poem is a little myth of man's capacity of making life meaningful. And in the end, the poem is not a thing we see - it is, rather, a light by which we may see - and what we see if life." What do you think?

A. I think one way of grasping a genuine poem is to perceive it as pointing to something beyond itself, some vast experience which had to precede it and of which it is merely the translation, or the beautiful death-mask. Take Whitman - I believe he experienced a cosmic and ecstatic merging or oneness with all things, and his poems were attempts to report back on this momentous event.

But at the same time, a poem is also a series of seemingly endless technical problems that must be solved, and resembles in its ultimate elegance and clarity and simplicity the great effort that went into formulating it. I don't know what else to say about that. It must in the end be a thing in itself, apart from the writer, an improved reality, or the place where some vast experience is both stored and offered to others. Maybe in its symmetry and mystery and perfection, it can serve as an indication of some perfect serenity, some condition vastly happier and more intelligent and fortunate than the one in which we find ourselves.

Q. The essayist Russell Baker once confided, "I gave up on new poetry myself 30 years ago, when most of it began to read like coded messages passing between lonely aliens on a hostile world."

A. If poetry is written only for the benefit of other linguistic specialists, it is of no permanent value. All the poetry that lasts from century to century, including the very greatest poetry - Shakespeare, Homer, the New Testament, the great Greek writers of tragedy - can be read by any reasonably intelligent person with a sixth grade ability to read. The rest sinks like a stone, thought it may in certain technical ways contribute to the work of the next genuine poet.

Q. Are you, as one critic had it, a poetic miniaturist?

A. No I am not, certainly not exclusively anyway.

I have a deep and abiding love for what we would call "short" poems - though a haiku of Basho can be as weighty as the Iliad, and the physical length of a poem seems to me irrelevant. Besides, people who speak of me this way forget that I have frequently published poems - they are all through my books, including my earlier four books which have just been released by Knopf in one volume as Earlier Poems - which are as long as 200 lines long.

Q. Looking back, what do you make of the young man who wrote those Earlier Poems?

A. My younger self was an active drug addict and alcoholic, and this colored all my perceptions, and of course tended to give them quite a lurid cast. Though at times also a desperately spiritual one, as well, if you ask me - a longing for release from a seemingly unescapable prison.

Q. Robert Frost said that "Poetry is what gets lost in translation." As a translator of poetry, would you argue that it's the other way around?

A. I think Frost was just asserting the real fact that there is something very different about language in the service of poetry than language in the service of prose. The language of poetry is, for one thing, infinitely more an expression of all that is unique about a particular language, at its deepest sources, and so is far more difficult to adequately translate than prose, which tends more to merely communicate universal information in an abstract way.

You cannot really translate Blake, say, or Emily Dickinson into another language and still maintain their eerily songlike qualities. Poetry is closer to music, which is irreducible, untranslatable, and communicates its meaning to the body, directly, without need or possibility of paraphrase.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

41 cents

Monday, April 23, 2007

Delgado the Funky Homo Sapien

She's the featured artist for the month at Casa Libre en la Solana. But, if you really wanna keep reading kick ass work by Diana Delgado, can I recommend picking up the next issue of Ninth Letter, on a shelf or in a mailbox near you in the next few weeks?

Just a polite suggestion from a blog like any other.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Happy Earth Day!

Shots from Balboa Park's San Diego EarthFair 2001. I recall green rice crispy treats, not much else.

On this special day, I will spend a little time working on the new addition to my typewriter family:

Some friends got it for me for a buck, so I'm recycling it: fixed the broken key, and pounding away.
Happy Earth Day. (And if you're in SD, get to Balboa. If you're any place else, BBQ a boca burger or something.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

"Poetry is Dangerous"

Don't mean to start Saturday off on a serious note, but Please check out Kazim Ali's site to read an experience that needs to be shared.

I've never gotten to see him read his poems, but between his book, The Far Mosque, and his presentation on a panel in Atlanta, Ali's intensity is simply enormous.

You can hear him reading at Bowdoin College by going to The Fishouse.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Straight Outta Canton

A reading:

Mary Biddinger, George Bilgere,
Neil Carpathios, and Joanne Lehman

Saturday, 21 April, 2:00 pm
Poetry Series for National Poetry Month
at the Plain Community Branch Library
1803 Schneider Street NE
Canton, Ohio 44721


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

9L Deadline Approaching

I just wanted to put up a quick post that the deadline for submissions to Ninth Letter, the sexy & award-winning Poetry/Fiction/Creative Nonfiction mag I work for, is 4/30/07. Dig the Submission Guidelines, if you need. While you're at that site, might as well check out the blog and other online-exclusive features. They got a myspace page too, if that's your kinda thing.

Meanwhile, The Endorsement:

That's Chipotle Tobasco. Tasty tasty tasty. I even thought of putting on some ice's that effin' good. (And if anyone from the Tobasco Co. reads this blog, feel free to send a case to me. I'll add it to the summer-of-no-teaching-income menu).


Saturday, April 14, 2007

Another Literary Saturday

First, a poem by Paul Violi from Shiny Magazine #13:


What'll it be?

Roast beef on rye, with tomato and mayo.

Whudduhyuh want on it?

A swipe of mayo.
Pepper but no salt.

You got it. Roast beef on rye
. . . You want lettuce on that?

No. Just tomato and mayo.

Tomato and mayo. You got it.
. . . Salt and pepper?

No salt. Just a little pepper.

You got it. No salt.
You want tomato.

Yes. Tomato. No lettuce.

No lettuce. You got it.
. . . No salt, right?

Right. No salt.
You got it. — Pickle?

No, no pickle. Just tomato and mayo.
And pepper.


Yes, a little pepper.

Right. A little pepper.
No pickle.

Right. No pickle.

You got it.

Roast beef on whole wheat, please,
With lettuce, mayonnaise and a center slice
Of beefsteak tomato.
The lettuce splayed, if you will,
In a Beaux Arts derivative of classical acanthus,
And the roast beef, thinly sliced, folded
In a multi-foil arrangement
That eschews Bragdonian pretensions
Or any idea of divine geometric projection
For that matter, but simply provides
A setting for the tomato
To form a medallion with a dab
Of mayonnaise as a fleuron.
And — as eclectic as this may sound —
If the mayonnaise can also be applied
Along the crust in a Vitruvian scroll
And as a festoon below the medallion,
That would be swell.

You mean like in the Cathedral St. Pierre in Geneva?

Yes, but the swag more like the one below the rosette
At the Royal Palace in Amsterdam.

You got it.


Today is the last Graduate MFA Reading:
David Coyoca
Leslie Singleton
Jackie May

If you're in Champaign-Urbana, 1pm, Levis Center.
Come. Enjoy. Madonick has worked hard on his introductions.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Delgado, Gonzalez & Hightower

Night & Day...Stuff the Taxman Can't Touch

Scott Hightower
Diana Marie Delgado
Rigoberto Gonzalez

Sunday April 15th, 6 p.m.
@ Biscuit BBQ
formerly Night And Day
230 Fifth Avenue, Brooklyn

Fine food & fine writing from the folks who bring you The Cornelia Street Café

Take the M or R Train to Union Street

In other news, VOICE is cancelled on the 19th. So I ain't readin' in public with a microphone this semester. I will continue muttering over books to myself when I am by myself at Murphy's (6th & Green, Urb-Ill) if it's been a long that-kinda day.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut

1922 - 2007

I never got to see him read, but he was amazing in his performance in 1986's Back to School. He also essentially helped me into a sleeping bag with a wonderful woman on New Years Eve going into 2000. She's long gone. I still have the books.

Good morning.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Digging What's Fresh

First, the work of Janice N. Harrington. She read yesterday here at UIUC, and was full of wonderful energy that more readings need.

In addition to Still Life's Cut to the Chase, my order from Sleeping Giant Music also included a Summer Mix from DJ Fresh One--a weaving together of hot remixed feelgood tracks over classic beats that make the non-break junkies scream. It's part of the benefit of ordering from small labels: they love to send you more than you expected (including a dope sticker that accents my monitor perfectly). If one were so inclined, s/he could go over to the Sleeping Giant site, and download the DJ Fresh One Summer 2006 Mix Tape for free.

Beats & Poems. Yup.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Happy Birthday Willy!

It's William Wordsworth's birthday! 236, and doesn't look a day over 39!

In honor of him, I'll be spending the afternoon watching Harmony Neal, Christine Bryant Cohen and Ted Sanders read from their MFA Manuscripts. 1pm in the Reading Room at the Levis Faculty Center, 919 W.Illinois St. in Urbana.

Next Saturday will be Jackie May, David Coyoca and Leslie Singleton.

Oh, and dig my grill (the two on the left are gone--and I'm no wiser than before):

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Comics are like Poems you don't have to read...

The comicbook podcast, STUN!, is featuring an interview with the creators of White Picket Fences. If you're into that sort of thing, check it out. Micah's one of the voices. And I think they're throwing back some drinks. If you're interested in musings on the process of making the comicbook, it's an interesting conversation. Facinating. Perhaps, even, Intriguing!

Micah's also drawn issue 13 of Strange Girl, if you're interested.

As for NaPoWriMo, I"m not writing a poem a day, but I have thrown myself into re-writing the vast majority of my entire manuscript. Turns out, I'm a fairly opaque mo'fugga sometimes. Sorry. I'm gonna fix it, hold you're hand and we'll be sure everything's all right. But it is National Poetry Month, so here:

Read/Listen to good poems.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Still Life

First, a poem by Robert Creeley:

Nature Morte

It's still
life. It
just ain't moving.


Now, check out the link to DJ Still Life that's off to the right. Listen to his dope-osity. Maybe order his new CD. If you like the flavor of it all, dig the rest of the Sleeping Giant Music crew.

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