Thursday, January 20, 2011
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
This just came up. Someone backed out and I stepped in. I'm really excited to be reading with these folks, though, to be honest, I'm most excited to be reading with Jaswinder Bolina. A few years ago, his "Carrier Wave," forced me to reconsider exactly what "fucking awesome" meant to me. That's a big project, doing something like that.
What I was, and still am, most taken by with this book, is not just the beautiful writing, but how solid the construction is. This isn't just a collection of poems, this is a fucking BOOK! And now, our names are stacked...I'm the cheese to his ham!
Tuesday, January 11, 2011
So, over break, I've been reading both Michael Chabon's "The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay," and Jay-Z's "DECODED." These, oddly, tell basically the same story. Poor kids from poor neighborhoods locking into an art form just as it explodes; K&C, comics, Jay-Z, hip-hop. Both tell the stories of unsuspecting young men, who are more fans of their art than practitioners, better, seemingly, at idolizing than being idols. Jay-Z felt it important to tell the stories of his streets, K&C, as young Jews, felt compelled to fight the battles no one else was fighting, i.e., going toe-to-toe with Hitler years before the rest of America would.
Both parties, by keeping their art personal, infused it with a passion their audiences could almost hold in their hands, and both make clear, that is where their true talents lie..."how distant is the story of your own life ever going to be?" Moreover, both took art forms considered simple...trashy...uncomplicated, and made them, really, made them impossible to ignore, impossible to not take seriously.
What is, perhaps, the most interesting overlapping in these two books, is how both use personal stories, not just to relay the histories of their respective genres, but also to grow and expand American history, by looking at it through specific windows, by acknowledging its effects on them and their effects on it.
Maybe, though, what I like best about these two books, is that they manage to make relevant today, the things I loved when I was young. That they make serious two things I had, for awhile, stopped being so serious about. I love comics and I love hip-hop, and especially I love the escapism both allowed me when I too was young and poor and often scared, the escapism both are allowing me right now.
In short, I feel like it has been snowing forever...
Thursday, January 06, 2011
I've been going on a lot of late night walks lately, nightly. My therapist says they are probably good for me, as walking is good for most people, but she can't know for certain. She doesn't know anything for certain, but that's why I like her. Iowa City is kind of pretty at night, but also pretty lonely. Everyone else appears to be home. But, oh, the glow! I like being a part of it.
Another thing I've always wanted to be a part of? AWP readings. And guess what? I am. I'll let you know the details when they become more readily available to me. I will also be reading January 29th in Milwaukee at Woodland Pattern's Poetry Marathon. I'm in the 9-10 slot with a few other amazing poets. After that, I think there is something in Chicago in March, then I'm reading at DMACC's Celebration of Literary Arts Festival on April 4. There are few others that are much too tentative to speak of now, but I'll let you know if they solidify at all.
Tuesday, January 04, 2011
Jen Bervin is a pretty amazing poet (and rumor has it, a pretty good sister too), with a pretty amazing ability to package poems...seriously, in 2005 who the fuck published e-chaps? Her work is often sparse and spacey, in a spatial way, and so controlled you feel the tension like you do when someone is making you hit yourself (the act of being "made" is far more immediate than the blows). In short, Bervin's poems are often in the act of being made; you are being made, but you are also doing the making. As textual experiments, you the observer are often made to consider the act of reading/viewing, made to engage yourself, made to see reading as an active rather than, as it often is, a passive experience.
With that, and maybe some of this, you really should read Bervin's new chap, "The Silver Book." Where most of her previous projects seemed intent on witnessing words, this book, like a new kind of mantra, begs you to make them...
write to get lost in the day — get
the time from friends — make them a
memorable meal and forget what you made
— write — we are tasting new peaches
— all the time — write you waste
nothing — write nothing is wasted on
you —This poem is a love letter that could be for you, but probably isn't, and you feel dirty but also quite beautiful as you read it. While pleading, the poem never loses its power, never seems out of control...it's plainness, it's nakedness driving you toward moments of pure and purposeful awe. You are still being made, but there's a lack of awareness in the poem that bleeds over into you that leaves you feeling surprised, struck, and often delighted (and I mean that). To be made to delight...why isn't that the only thing we try to do in poems?
Look, buy the fucking book, alright? I'm tired.
Monday, January 03, 2011
Okay, so these eagles have been hanging around outside my apartment, which is cool, but also appears to have another side to it...the sight of an eagle soaring, or sitting, or even snatching fish from the river has become more common place than I ever could have imagined. Also, I've written way more poems about eagles than I am comfortable with and am beginning to feel a certain amount of majesty escaping me. My majesty is a fleeing regularity. Eagles! Please, I need some space from you...
Did you ever read Travis Nichols' new book, "See Me Improving"? It's pretty unbelievable. There is a recklessness to the poems that comes across like man with more power than he knows, who is, nevertheless, letting it all shoot from his fingers. Come what may. The danger is greater than that though. The underlying force to these poems seems to have come on a dare, whether it was one made to himself, or from some outlying source. Each poem is quite goal oriented, but like the kid who spends an entire summer tricking out his bike, nobody is asked to care until you see the thing sitting before you on the first day of school and you can't help but be in awe of not just the bike, but the work and devotion put into it...an example:
On the 730th Day God Made Me Happy
I dreamt we fell in love.
You bought new sheets for the bed
and made dinner from breadcrumbs
and yellow squash. The red-fringed ivy bobbed
as the wind touched it,
stirring the building to feel.
This was before our descent
into winter, when I believed
the world would freeze me
for secretly believing I could be satisfied
forever without fiery ropes
dredging my shoulders nightly.
These are not tricky poems, but they are poems that can do tricks. They are plaintive invitations to sex and the worrisome yarns that come afterward, they are shout outs to friends on pop radio and the realization the next day that no one heard you, but most of all, they are love poems to anything and anyone who looks over the words...the words of a poet who loves simply, but holistically and never apologizes for any of it (but often wonders if he should be).
Travis Nichols could probably make me care about the eagles once more...there's nothing to worry about there.
Sunday, January 02, 2011
It's been awhile since I've seen things, but I saw all this today. What I can't share with you is the grumbling the ice was making, the sounds of weight and expanse and immobility. It was terrifying and amazing. It was like a secret. It was like a secret quickly spreading but unable to break free or even be true. And like that kind of secret, I found myself unable to trust the ice, unable to accept its invitation to stand in places I've never before stood. Whatever ice, I see your fissures, I see your cracking, I see the other leaves you've already swallowed. I see. I see. I see.