In Which One Things Leads to Another

Part One, In Which One Thing Leads Clearly To Another

I got Austin Kleon’s Show Your Work from the library because someone on Facebook or somewhere posted his great “How to Support an Artist You Love” list and then I googled him.

[Go look at it then come back.]

[Welcome back. It’s great, right?] 

I liked Show Your Work, which is to say I agree, it seems pretty smart about trying to be an artist in that which is our now, how to get out there, how to connect, how to show your work. (Also, he quotes Dan Chaon, Alison Bechdel, Cyndi Lauper, and John Le Carre, so what’s not to like.) Continue reading

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Rimbaud/Rambo Essay & Poem Are Up!

RamboRimbaudBookshelf copy

So delighted to be a part of The Operating System’s 30/30/30 Poetry Month project, an always fascinating series of essays by a variety of artists about poets who have inspired them. New essays are posted each day of Poetry Month ( frequently including art directly inspired by that poet) and mine went up today — so you can read about my unconventional relationship with 19th century French bad boy poet Arthur Rimbaud and 1980s bad action hero Rambo, as well as my poem “Filling Station (Rambo & Rimbaud, Proprietors)” here.

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Thinking of Red

For this month’s Famous People poem, Linda Bierds’ “Thinking of Red” (epigraph: “Marie Curie, 1934“).

It’s a little like complaining that Rembrandt* is always doing beautiful things with light to talk about how Linda Bierds’ poems are so often doing the same thing, because they are doing that same thing so damn well and that thing is so exquisite and resonant, immediate. “Bierds’ persistent subject is the effort to imagine herself so fully into historical events that the past becomes the present, the public merges with the private” says David Walker in American Alphabets: 25 Contemporary Poets, “Her poems reflect a double vision, set in history and yet released from it by imagination. Though her research is impeccable, she is fortunately not confined by it; the facts keep giving way to intuition, intensely empathic and hauntingly articulate.”

*( goes with Vermeer instead: “Linda Bierds has become our premiere verbal portraitist of the space-time continuum, tracing the fine lines of transcendent human experience with the sure hand of a Vermeer, fashioning events of verbal meaning with the impeccable ear of a Yeats.”)

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Poetry Month 2015 is Nigh!

April is Poetry Month, of course!

Most bookstores have poetry book sales in April, and I urge you to seek out an in-person reading in the towns of wherever you are at some point in the month (though, really, in every month).

But there’s plenty online for a dose of poetry daily. Here are a few I like: Continue reading

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What Profit Is There In Being Marlene Dietrich

For this month’s Famous People poem, Barbara Hamby’s “What Profit is there in Being Marlene Dietrich

What profit is there in being Marlene Dietrich

if you don’t rip the intestines out of some dummkopf
who adores you? […]

This sonnet starts off with a roar — I admit I’m a sucker for poems that use sound combos like “intestines” and “dummkopf” in a single line. It’s a great setup for the attitude of the poem, and a really turn after the line break. Continue reading

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Random Books, Forgotten Poems, Funny Podcasts, and A Forklift Whose Beep Has Lost Its Tone

Pop Culture Happy Hour, the awesome NPR pop culture podcast hosted by Linda Holmes, ends each podcast with a round-the-table of “What’s making us happy this week.” And one of the things that’s making me happy this week is their Oscars Omnibus podcast (all about the nominated pictures) — an even more awesome than usual feast of smart, clever people being intelligent and entertaining about pop culture from high to low.

Other things that are making me happy this week: having been reminded of a poem I’d somehow forgotten about, Philip Levin’s “This Be the Verse” (the one that begins “They fuck you up, your mum and dad”), the two books I’m reading, The Bullpen Gospels, recommended by a friend last summer because I liked Scott Simon’s Home and Away so much, and The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, a mystery with, as the blurb promised, a heroine who’s a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Eloise, which I picked up at Mercer Street Books on a jaunt to lower Queen Anne last weekend.  Continue reading

AI’s “Hoover, Edgar J.”

For this month’s Famous People post, Ai’s “Hoover, Edgar J.

The poet Ai’s is usually summed up with something along the lines of “noted for her uncompromising poetic vision and bleak dramatic monologues” (Poetry Foundation bio). The first couple times I tried to read Vice, her National Book Award-winning new and selected from 1999, the bleak and uncompromising part turned me off. But friends kept recommending her because I write dramatic monologues, so I went back. My initial take: the 1st person (all her dramatic monologues are in 1st person) sometimes works well , and sometimes sounds like the poet putting words/metaphors the character wouldn’t actually say into their mouths, to less effect.

One poem I do like though is “Hoover, Edgar J.” It’s a long-ish, tight, fast-moving poem with internal rhyme that takes soundbite/quotation/political colloquial and pushes it to poetry without sounding like ‘poetry.’ The tension of line and speech holds things taut here, and the character painted, right in line with J Edgar’s pop culture persona (I don’t know much about his deep biography), is complex and fascinating (and a little scary).

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Babel’s Artifacts Reminds Me

Babel’s Artifacts” by Scott Cairn caught my eye on— I love “nattering tribe” and I like the in-in-and-back moves the rhythm makes.

Seeing this poem reminded me that I have on my shelf and really liked, years ago when I read it, his book Philokalia. Frequently the poems are quite engaged with the spiritual/religious, but they’re lovely poems that even heathens like me can get into (though presumably those who know their Bible better will get out of him even more). Like his poem “Nous” for example.

He’s good at the long sentence and its movement down lines, Continue reading


On Defeat

(A post-Super Bowl follow-up to the pre-Superbowl “How to Survive Living in a City Going To Its 2nd Super Bowl in a Row When You Don’t Care About Football: An Epiphany“.)

“Let’s go all “Whos in Whoville” and have a parade anyway,” says a friend so I ask her a question about the Worst. Call. Ever. without calling it the Worst. Call. Ever. But it’s too soon still, still too soon.

In public, in Seattle, it will always be too soon. Continue reading

“Nobody Dies Like Humphrey Bogart”

Sliding in with just over an hour of January to spare (in my time zone anyway), the first installment of 2015’s monthly series, which for this spin around the sun will look at poems about famous people. (Previous years having covered poems about Music, Animal poems, and poems —I was really hewing to the literal idea my first year of blogging, apparently—about Months).

I already know this topic’ll let me work in Linda Bierds, Ai, some more William Matthews, and a Frank O’Hara, maybe that great Barbara Hamby sonnet about Marlene Dietrich if I can find it again. I already fear it’ll devolve into a 12-part argument with myself about how much a reader needs to know about a poem’s subject (or be told in the poem, and how to do that) to really enjoy it/get it. Continue reading

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