Saturday, June 30, 2007

Are there American Poets?

From Jeannine Gailey's blog:

My new hairstylist had recently visited Chile with friends, one of whom offered to take her on a tour of Pablo Neruda's homes. We talked about how important poetry was to the culture there. Then she said, "ARE there any American poets?" And I said, "Yes, but they're all in hiding at universities."

This conversation led me to think that maybe all those studies showing people just aren't aware of contemporary poetry are right on. Perhaps poets should join an American Idol tour or something. Or we should create a show called "So You Think You Can Write..." My dream judging panel would be Louise Gluck or Margaret Atwood (for the strict one) Denise Duhamel (the bubbly one) and maybe Bob Hicok (the one who has the feel-good factor but says things that make very little sense.)

Would you watch that show?


This reminded me of something I heard yesterday while I was listening to one of the
Academy of American Poets (podcast) on my iPod. I know, I am so unhip in the world. But nonetheless, I'm well read.

Anyway, this poetcast was Sharon Olds talking about Muriel Rukeyser. Sharon said that Muriel told her when she was a student that no one *wanted* to read poetry--Sharon said that Muriel said it to enthusiastically that it sounded optimistic! Muriel continued, saying that what poets need to do is to write the poem that the reader *can't* put down, write something that won't allow someone to shut the book.

Are we writing poems that are compelling to read? What makes a poem one that you can't put down?

For me, I find myself putting down poems where the poet is too self-conscious or poems that I feel are too calculating. As much as I love Tony Hoagland, there are a few poems where I feel as a reader I'm just being manipulated--he knows his talent and his skill and I am the girl in the bar he is trying to work his magic on. I don't want the clever pick-up line, I want the gaze in crowd that makes me feel as if I'm the only one in the room.

Hoagland's early work in Sweet Ruin does this. He was a younger poet at the time. He didn't have the following, the fans, the groupies, now in certain ways, he's become a caricature of himself. Even the photo on his newest book, the one where he looks like the nutty professor, suggests this self-conscious image, this I'm-the-whole-package idea.

And know that I say with a little hesitation because Hoagland is one of my favorites and I think he's one of the poets that can reach out to a wider audience.
And mostly, his poems are ones that I can't put down, but occasionally there's a poem that becomes the creepy stranger who feels he knows me well enough to tell me about his eczema, who occasionally comes up with the cheesy line:
If I could rearrange the alphabet, I would put U and I together.

From The Virginia Quarterly Review Online

Read the full article on the link above...

Shoot the Messenger: Dana Goodyear, David Orr, and the Stewards of Poetry
John Casteen

When Dana Goodyear’s New Yorker piece on Poetry magazine and the Poetry Foundation appeared in March, many poets and readers felt a profound sense of gratitude to her. It came as a tremendous relief to find a writer as articulate and credible as Goodyear leveling the criticisms many of us have been developing privately for several years: that Ruth Lilly’s gift to the magazine is being squandered by managers with little imagination and no apparent sense of purpose or history; that the current editorial regime has lessened the magazine by making uninspired choices for the front of the magazine (poems) and vindictive ones for the back (reviews); and that many talented writers, whether new to publishing or well established, may smell decay between Poetry’s pages and choose as a result to send their best work elsewhere.

. . .
Poetry forgot the critic’s role along about the time its editors fell in love with the sound of William Logan’s voice, and in recent years most readers have found greater interest—albeit a tabloid, rubbernecking-after-a-car-crash interest—in its predictable prose than in its predictable verse. It has become the place for those who’d want to see Jeff Clark (the poet) compared to Kim Jong Il (the demagogue), who’d enjoy a public evisceration of Franz Wright in the Letters section, who’d find value in a review of Derek Walcott that condemns his body of work without discussing his poems, and so on.

. . .

Wiman’s stable of writers—Orr, Dan Chiasson, and Peter Campion chief among them—generally are brilliant and intense prose stylists—thoughtful, erudite and well-read thinkers, and passionate writers of clear rhetoric. That is to say, they resemble Logan. Also, like Logan, with some commendable exceptions, their work tends toward the arrogant, masturbatory, spiteful, bombastic, and mean-spirited hatchet job.

. . .

The pain a critic causes must be slight and illuminating. Hugh Kenner was a critic; Harold Bloom is a critic, and Helen Vendler, and probably James Longenbach. The writers in the back of Poetry are mere reviewers of books, mistaking their own pyrotechnically phrased opinions for the kind of enlightened utterance that reveals poetry to its readers and earns their good faith.

. . .

It saddens even those of us who’ve long since lost confidence in Orr and his colleagues to see him stoop to the kind of ad hominem tactics that bring Goodyear personally into an argument that was supposed to be about the best stewardship of poetry. Orr’s need to point out that Goodyear is thirty years old doesn’t tell us she’s not gifted enough to have appeared in The New Yorker; it tells us that his apparent bias against comparatively young poets might well keep him from bringing his readers the next John Keats, who died at 25.

. . .

Furthermore, some talented writers and readers will arrive at the conclusion that Poetry can no longer be considered English-language poetry’s gold standard, that its scope and reputation will be diminished for the imaginable future by a doctrinaire and wrong-headed editorial stance, and that their energies probably are best directed elsewhere. Those of us whose affections for the magazine predate the Lilly gift are deeply saddened by that prospect.

Forsythia by Mary Ellen Solt - Poem of the Day

Forsythia (1966)

Mary Ellen Solt (1920- )

“The design of ‘Forsythia’ is made from the letters of the name of the flowering shrub and their equivalents in the Morse Code. The text is part of the design.” (M.E.S.)

" Mary Ellen Solt…[was] typographically concretized by John Dearstyne. In the introduction to Flowers in Concrete, George Zadek writes: “Traditionally the typographer has given form and order to words, thus serving both the writer and the reader. His problem is mainly one of clarity of communication, literary meaning, and hopefully aesthetic contribution to the art of the printed page. When publishing concrete poetry, it is sometimes difficult to draw a line between the contributions, as well as the final responsibilities, of the poet and the typographer. The literary and visual meaning of concrete poetry as conceived by the poet and interpreted by the typographer is somewhat analogous to a stage performance of a play.”

An Anthology of Concrete Poetry , Edited by Emmet Williams, Something Else Press, New York , 1967

Friday, June 29, 2007

Small Town Life

Just Say No to Noxious Weeds
I'm participating in the "Take Back the Yard" event in our rural neighborhood.  No longer will the blackberry vines, the volunteer butterfly bushes, the morning glory, the buttercups, the volunteer alder trees and holly trees make me stay inside afraid of what they are doing to the garden.  I am not afraid.  I will press on.
Yogi, is that you?
Yesterday, a bear was spotted in my neighborhood crossing the street.  S/he was about a block and a half away from my house... dragging a picnic basket.
Scenes from a Walk--
Yesterday on my walk, I noticed something glimmering on a sign that said "Yard Sale."  When I approached the sign, I saw silver dogtags that said, "Lieutenant."  I thought about the war for a few moments, then continued on.

Reading List:
Read a few William Stafford poems yesterday as well as Honeymoon with my Brother, which I'm thoroughly enjoying.  I get lost in books about travel or unique places.  I also loved Under the Tuscan Sun though a friend told me reading that book was like watching paint dray.  But I love memoir and biographies.  I eat them up.  Other favorites-- Planet of the Blind by Stephen Kuusisto.  I'm looking forward to his new book The Art of Listening.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Contest Central - My 2 cents

A fantastic, to-the-point post on Contest Central about two presses (Ausable & Tupelo) and their non-reading fees & reading fees.

I have to agree that Tupelo's $35 reading fee is too much. It feels as if they want the press to profit from writers/poets and not through book sales. Tupelo has published some of my very favorite poets-- Aimee Nez, Ilya Kaminsky, Pat Fargnoli--and they produce beautiful books, but this reading fee rubs me the wrong way. Presses need to value writers, not find value by pressing the writer.

Monday, June 25, 2007



You Ask Why I Write About Death and Poetry



There's entirety in eternity,

and in the pearly gates—the pages relate.


I fall prey to



have hated



You know, I've never understood reality,

            then try to relay ittearily, irately

            and I'm a liar yet.


But when I write about death and poetry,

            it's donated therapy

     where I converse with

Emily Dickinson, my inky misled icon.


And when my dream songs are demon's rags,

            I dust my manuscript in a manic spurt    

hoping the reader will reread


because I want the world

to pray for poets as we are only a story of paper.





Previously Published in 32 Poems

* * * * *

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Good Reads!

Book Lovers! --
Here's a great website to help you keep track of your books and see what others are reading as well.  It's called Good Reads  
Enjoy & hope to see you there!

Monday, June 18, 2007


I just learned about this incredible organization called KIVA where you can help an entrepreneur in a third world country with his/her business. Now, they aren't looking for huge loans, in fact you can help someone out with as low as $25. 99.1% of the loans have been paid back. You can help one person with $25 or a few people, or make a large donation. They list people who need assistance and you read their stories and needs and choose who you'd like to help. Here's the list of loans needed.

Here's the story from NPR's World Vision where I learned about this opportunity.
Unlike normal loans, they aren't paid back with interest, but what you get is the one on one opportunity to help someone out, some unique individual in a country thousands of miles from you who needs a little help. Kiva calls them "loans that change lives." And while their life will ultimately be changed with the extra help, so will yours. So much happens when you give back to the world.
If you are reading this in the US at night on 6/18, it seems PayPal is down as I just tried myself, but try again in the morning.

Also, NPR's Marketplace did a story on this as well.
Here's a clip--

VIGELAND: So, what's the benefit to you of doing this?

KRISTOF (NY Times Columnist who donated/loaned money to people on Kiva) : A couple of different things. I mean, it is a way of feeling like you're making a difference, of doing so in a way that encourages economic activity, which ultimately will provide more employment to support the economy. I also think that there's really a benefit, though, of just engaging with the rest of the world, and of seeing who you are helping. And you know, in this case, I happened to lend to two men, but that is actually unusual in microcredit. Usually, the borrowers are women, and one central purpose of microcredit has been to raise the status of women in the developing world.

VIGELAND: As people, as consumers, as our listeners are deciding how to allocate their charitable giving, how is this kind of effort different from, say, just giving a charity donation to an aid group? Because for example, there is no tax deduction here.

KRISTOF: I think most people, in the case of Kiva, essentially roll over their loans. When one is paid back, then they roll it over to somebody else. And look, there are a million incredibly important potential recipients for donations. You know I, as you know I believe passionately in Darfur, malaria. You know, but, I think that especially for somebody who wants, you know, visibility, and they kinda want to know directly who does their money go to and what does that person look like? Kiva is, or that whole approach, is one useful addition to their portfolio.


Anyway, I was just listening to two nuns talking about how we have so much in America and if we, the folks with the money, could just live a little more simply, someone else could live a little more well.
Something to think about...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Gazing into the Abyss

Excellent essay written by Christian Wiman (editor of Poetry) in American Scholar.  Read it here.
The sudden appearance of love
and the galvanizing prospect of death
lead a young poet back to poetry and
a"hope toward God"
 "It is the same with us and God," she [Simone Weil] says. "Every separation is a link." . . .It has taken three events, each shattering in its way, for me to recognize both the full beauty, and the final insufficiency, of Weil's image.

Wish I Was Here!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Running of the Poems - Or Why Seattle is a Great Place for Poets & Poetry

This event was started by The Poetess of Greenlake who printed forty poems on forty shirts and gave them to runners who were circling the lake.

She wrote in a recent email:

"The Running Poets of Green Lake" (on Sunday 10 June) was a stellar success! Thank you to every poet, runner, spectator, friend and helper who contributed to the energy of the day. The weather was perfect, full sun with a cool breeze. Just before 9am, we set out 3 lovely signs made by local sign-maker Russ McDaniel and off they veered. There was no shortage of runners! Large, large, medium, large... Within 40 minutes the shirts had all been given away. I even gave away the shirt I was keeping for myself with Robert Dickhoff's poem on it. It had a hole in the seam so I figured I'd keep it, but how could I say no to that spirited, gray-haired grandmother raring to go? She didn't care about the hole. She wanted a poem!

Here are some photos she included from the day. They want to make it an annual event! Too cool!

Thinking Blogger Awards--

Thinking Blogger Award-- Deborah A. chose me (yeah! thank you) as one of her thinking bloggers and with that, I am now to choose 5 others. (If you are chosen, you can go here to read more about the Thinking Blogger Award & choose your top favorites...)
Jeannine Hall Gailey-- Jeannine's blog is always full of poetry information, news, (all with links!) and book reviews along with honest comments about her life (poetry and otherwise) as it happens. Like a box of chocolates-- you never know what you're gonna get!
Peter Pereira-- Peter's blog always has some new interesting word and definition along with just treats for inspiration like an image from the Seattle Asian Art Museum or notes from his garden. Upbeat and appreciated.
Cornshake's blog: This supersecret blog offers great links to you-never-know-what!, captured conversations (the me/madre conversations always leave me smiling), photos of a very special dog in outfits, and is just a happy welcoming place to visit.
Joanie Stangeland: Joannine's blog is a newer blog I wandered onto this year that explores the poetry life and process and asks questions directly to its readers. Always a treat to read.
Mary Biddinger: Mary's blog is a favorite because she always has great visual photos along with words. I'm always inspired to see what she's up to and she just started a new literary journal! Now how great is that?

Gratitude Journal

1.  Libraries
2.  Coffee in the morning
3.  S'mores
4.  The man who held the door open for me and said, "Chivalry isn't dead, it's just tired."
5.  Short happy hair

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Poetry Quotes:

From PoetMom:
Give us at least 10 quotations pertaining to poetry—from 10 different writers and/or poets—that best coincide with your philosophy, vis-à-vis ars poetica. They can be posthumous or otherwise. The order is not important—unless it is to you.

1)  "Poetry proceeds prose in all cultures and we don't want to be the generation that drops the ball."  Ed Hirsch


2)  "Poetry is not just about feelings flowing down your arm and to the page.  You can do that, but just don't ask someone else to read it."  Thomas Lux


3)  "Art gives back to you."  Li-Young Lee


4)  In a workshop, one student criticized something eccentric another student had tried to do in a poem, Theodore Roethke replied, "You want to be very careful when you criticize something like that, because it may be the hallmark of an emerging style." 


5)  "Never be ashamed of the strange" and "Don't be ashamed if you belch when you try to sing."  Theodore Roethke


6)  "The good stuff and the bad stuff are all part of the stuff. No good stuff without bad stuff. " Marvin Bell


7)  "People think you can't be a poet without being drunk.  Women poets are expected to commit suicide.  Someone once asked me when, not if, I would commit suicide."  Margaret Atwood


8)  "I think I developed language skills to deal with threat.  It's the girl thing to do—you know, instead of pulling out a gun."  Barbara Kruger


9)  "For me, humor is a way to catch the reader—as I sometimes catch myself—unaware.  Humor opens a poem and invites people in, even people who may not exactly agree with you.  It's a way to avoid being didactic in political poetry."  Denise Duhamel


10)  "Art is not a Tupperware party"  Albert Goldbarth


Sunday, June 10, 2007

What's on My Nightstand

At the Drive-In Volcano, Aimee Nezhukumatathil

The Wild Braid, Stanley Kunitz
God on a Harley, Joan Brady
Earlier Poems, Franz Wright
Native Guard, Natasha Trethewey
What I've recently finished:
The Writing Life, Annie Dillard
The Three-Martini Playdate, Christie Mellor

Friday, June 08, 2007

Okay, we get it, you're not interested...

"Chances are, you don't read much poetry, at least not the new stuff. Don't feel bad, hardly anybody does. To hit the best-seller list for verse, a book has to sell only around 30 copies. Poetry is the spinach in America's media diet: good for you, occasionally baked into other, tastier dishes (like the cameo that W.H. Auden's Funeral Blues made in Four Weddings and a Funeral) but rarely consumed on its own. In the hierarchy of cultural pursuits it sits somewhere just below classical music and just above clogging."
Okay, ouch.  But at least we're the spinach and not the beets.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Tea Partay

Straight out of Cape Cod and keepin' it real - the new ad for Smirnoff Iced Tea.

Too funny.

Poem of the Day--

nothing else to do
spread fallen leaves sleep on them
the mountain's beauty
---Taneda Santÿka
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