Category Archives: Contemporary Poetry

A Few of my Favorite Things of Late

People matching artworks in museums

The poem “Shadowbox” by Susan Rich which, if I’d been on it, I would have put up on Halloween just as Poem-a-Day did.

Continuing the slightly late for Halloween but always interesting topic of bats, Continue reading

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1 Perfect Title, 2 Oof Endings, and some other fun

The mix this week: two poems with hella amazing endings, one with a perfect title, a cool website devoted to black history (including in the West), and for fun some “The Future that Liberals Want” meme and french bulldogs in sweatshirts on a couch.

Ghazal, the Dark Times” by Marilyn Hacker begins:

Tell us that line again, the thing about the dark times…
“When the dark times come, we will sing about the dark times.”

and includes this stanza, so delicious to read aloud and an excellent use of “bling”:

Naysayers in sequins or tweeds, libertine or ascetic
Find a sensual frisson in what they’d call bling about the dark times.

and after much more like that ends with this gut punch reminder:

You come home from your meeting, your clinic, make coffee and look in the mirror
And ask yourself once more what you did to bring about the dark times.

Read the whole thing. Continue reading

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Oh 1987, O Little Man at the Foot of My Bed, O’Keefe’s Studio, Oh Hamlet Off-Stage

Some Links To Some Things I Thought You Might Like

David Bowie’s reading list

David Bowie’s 1987 READ library poster, re-issued!

Hamlet Off-Stage, Don’t Country This Snapper” by D.C. Berry in Rattle

Rambeau de la Snapper
rides high, ten-horsepower blitzblade whirling,
the mindlessness more pleasant than even madness.

Pictures of famous artists in their studios (I want either O’Keefe’s or Christo’s) Continue reading

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Thanks 2015

Thanks for poetry, thanks for places to hear about new poetry, thanks for bookstores, thanks for booksellers.

My job, for which I am of course also thankful, has been inordinately time- and focus-intensive of late so not that much reading of poetry (not to mention writing of or about poetry) has snuck in through the cracks, but that just makes the force of coming across a good poem all the sweeter.

Here are a few poems I’ve read in the past few weeks that have struck me like a tractor beam — not necessarily about gratitude per se, just ones for which I myself am giving thanks for having read today: Continue reading

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Book Bingo NW

The theme for my 2015 is totally clear: Reading.

Books, bookstores, book contests, books books books. Hot on the heels of the Independent Bookstore Day challenge came Summer Book Bingo, the Seattle Public Library and Seattle Arts & Lectures’ totally awesome summer reading program for adults.

Get a Bingo, get entered for a gift certificate from a bookstore. Do a Blackout, get entered for a chance at season tickets to Seattle Arts & Lectures’ next season and books by all the speakers. Deadline: Labor Day.

SummerBookBingo_card

OH HELL YEAH.

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Independent Bookstore Day Adventures

Oh what a glorious day we had yesterday! My mother and I met the Seattle Independent Bookstore Day Challenge and went to all 17 participating stores, got a fabulous haul of books, and had a blast all day long.

IndieBookstoreDay2015_Done17

Proof! (with a funny note from Phinney Books who momentarily caused PANIC when I thought we’d forgotten to get a stamp from them and that they were already closed. But no, they had extended hours yesterday, and we had only gone one store on so we rushed back – turns out they had stamped it, just in the wrong place. Phew! And hey what’s a Challenge without a little adrenaline rush somewhere. I did have a receipt so probably could have proved our visit with that, but I wanted a complete passport and no chance of a technicality problem!

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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.”

*(Poets.org 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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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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Bessie Smith & Bessie Smith

Here’s a two-fer Music Poems post (since I missed November by a mile) — two with Bessie Smith, the ‘Empress of the Blues’ who had an unsurpassed voice and was in her time (the 1920s) the highest paid black performer around.

First up, Jericho Brown’s “Langston Blues“. I saw Jericho Brown last weekend at a Copper Canyon Press shindig in Seattle and holy moly is he a great performer! He was mesmerizing and his work was beautiful (not pretty beautiful, hard beautiful). I strongly urge you, if you have the chance to hear him live, to take it.

[…]

Let my words

Lie sound in the mouths of men
Repeating invocations pure
And perfect as a moan

That mounts in the mouth of Bessie Smith.
Blues for the angels kicked out
Of heaven. Blues for the angels

Who miss them still. Blues
For my people and what water
They know. O weary drinkers

Drinking from the bloody river,
Why go to heaven with Harlem
So close? […]

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Traumerei

October’s music poem: Linda Bierds’ Traumerei.

You will have to forgive me — I just moved apartments, cities and jobs (hello, Seattle!) — for leaving you with just this for this month’s Music Poems post. Read Linda Bierds’ “Traumerei“.

(If you want to know more, read it while listening to Traumerei. Or read this about Schumann’s Traumerei and this about Schumann’s life, and then read Linda Bierds’ Traumerei again while listening to this Traumerei.)

And then come back and we can get into an argument about whether or not ‘knowing what it’s about’ matters to the beauty of the poem…

 

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