I first encountered Bill Kushner’s work at a reading at the Poetry Project a few years ago. That night, he read from In Sunsetland With You, a book of poems that emanate from young Billy’s relationship with old Abe Lincoln, poems that, with a language of grace and humor, narrate the misadventures of a lonely, horny, eternally innocent, old, sad, and joyous spirit through the wars, highway-watching nights, and skinny-dippings of Sunsetland. What struck me most about these poems, and what continues to strike me through all of Bill's work, is the delicate balance between wrenching and buoying the heart. Bill’s poems are like walking through the world with one’s eyes open, with the workaday bullshit stripped away; he reads the raw Whitman writ on every street corner or fragment of memory, real or imagined. Over the course of eight books, Bill has rambled through the streets of Sunsetland and New York, across sonnets and daily diary poems, lustily crusing through time present and past, Billie Holiday records, beefcake babies, always in a mood of love, love, love. Yes, love appears on almost every page and it sure feels real, flapping in the face and the mind and the blood of a humble human life.
POETRY MONTH 30/30/30: Inspiration, Community, Tradition: DAY 13:: Lancelot Runge on Philippe Soupault
An interest in surrealist game play and collaboration brought me to Philippe Soupault years ago. My current manuscript deals with the doubling or mirroring of the self, as well as reconciling mythology and contemporary pissnshit vernacular (as a shamelessly romantic)- all of which I find in Soupault. Translations lead me to where I can mishear dialogue and rewrite my favorite songs, call them my own. Philippe Soupault est un poète français, né à Chaville le 2 août 1897, décédé à Paris le 12 mars 1990. Avec ses amis André Breton et Louis Aragon il participe à l'aventure Dada, qu'il considère comme une « table rase nécessaire », pour ensuite se tourner vers le surréalisme, dont il est un des principaux fondateurs avec André Breton. Avec ce dernier, ils ont en effet écrit le recueil de poésie Les Champs magnétiques en 1919, selon le principe novateur de l'écriture automatique. Ce recueil de poésie peut être considéré comme une des premières oeuvres surréalistes, alors que le mouvement ne se lancera vraiment qu'en 1924 avec le premier Manifeste du surréalisme d'André Breton.
Etel Adnan was born in 1925 in Beirut, Lebanon. Her father was a Syrian Muslim and her mother was a Greek Christian. She was raised speaking French, English, and her father taught her written Arabic. Adnan studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, Paris, University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard. She has many books of poetry and fiction published, including Paris When It's Naked, Of Cities and Women, and Sitt Marie Rose, which has been translated into over ten languages and is considered a classic of Middle Eastern literature. She also creates oils, ceramics and tapestry. “A life spent writing has taught me to be wary of words. Those that seem clearest are often the most treacherous.” So begins Amin Malouf's In the Name of Identity: Violence and the Need to Belong. [Ed: free e-book/pdf at link] As words are navigated into the public sphere, to be watchful requires an interrogation of language, conscious of its make up and observant of mutations as it travels across borders and time.
POETRY MONTH 30/30/30: Inspiration, Community, Tradition: Day 11 :: Pamela Laskin on Samantha Reiser
I have been enormously inspired by the work of my daughter, the poet Samantha Reiser. This might seem like an odd choice, since I am her Mom, and usually it works the other way around. Samantha Reiser recently completed her degree at Harvard College, where she was an English Concentrator. TOMAS SIMON AND OTHER POEMS, her senior thesis, was a finalist for the Yale Younger Poetry Prize for 2012, and her work has been published in SIC, THE ONE THREE EIGHT, LYRE, LYRE and THE J JOURNAL. Her essay, "Namibian Shoes" is included in the anthology, IT'S ALL ABOUT SHOES. She has been a poetry judge for the NYC Poetry Festival for several years, and she volunteers her time as a rape crisis advocate. [caption id="attachment_601" align="alignright" width="300" caption="World Teach School in Ondangwa, Namibia"][/caption] Samantha has opened up the door for me to start thinking of poetry outside of the box of my immediate surroundings. Samantha's poetry lives and breathes in the world, since her concerns are about humanity, social injustice, women's rights, both on a national and international level.
I encountered Libby Scheier’s work for the first time in my late teens, when I first moved to Toronto. It was a perfectly synchronous moment – I was so hungry for directness, and Scheier serves it up in spades. I devoured everything of hers I could get my hands on, treating the collections as guidebooks on possible routes to the places I wanted to go in my own work. She wrote so angry, and so tender, and candidly addressed relationships, violence and agency in ways that are paint-strippingly clear.
In November 2011 H_NGM_N Books reissued In Baltic Circles, Paul Violi's first book of poems, originally published in 1973 by The Kulchur Foundation. This resulted out of funny circumstances: after seeing a review by Matt Hart of his last book, Overnight, in Coldfront Magazine, Violi sent Hart a photocopy of the original book with a handwritten note saying, "I like to think it's not all juvenilia!" In Baltic Circles is hardly that – even as an early book it encompasses so much of Violi's essence. What does that mean? For one, if there were ever code of ethics for the poetic form, you also could count on him to violate it in a poem – and he did so in such an elegant and charming way that you could never hold it against him. This is his edgy cleverness, accompanied by a romantic streak and a surreal awareness of the everyday... They are qualities that also radiated like the sun from his personality.
[caption id="attachment_541" align="alignleft" width="142" caption="photo: Howard Goodman"][/caption] It's Easter. I don't have any chemically-colored eggs or chocolate that I can offer you here, no old zombie stories, just unnatural spring weather on a planet that has officially had 324 consecutive months of global temperatures exceeding their long-term average for any given month. You can convert that to years, if you're feeling brave. You can pray, if it helps. And you can read poetry. It's Easter, and before you go searching for new eggs or reborn gods or just plain hope, let me share this living soul, a human deity, whose intelligence and compassion fill me with that hope we are constantly seeking. His name is Andrew Acciaro, and he lives and works near me in Peekskill, next to the Hudson River. Andrew lives and breathes the poetic life, and it is impossible for me to chose even one poem of his to share, as each goes in such different directions, as if Andrew is dipping into the consciousness of all styles, past, present and future to offer vital messages of the now.
HO! TRIBE! April 1st brought us poetry month, and on that day of inauguration and celebration many members of this community came together for POTLATCH 2012 to share and co-create. (Photos, updates, and CoCo content to come -- follow link above for gallery). We read, we shared, we sang, we broke bread, we laughed, and we felt -- well, I'll speak for myself -- I felt in my very cells a shift towards what can be possible when a community commits to themselves and each other, and the work we make individually and together. The elation, the purity of relaxation into common purpose, the love and mutual respect has carried on not only from this event but from this week's posts, kicking off Exit Strata's wholehearted effort to serve as a platform for this love-in and value creation via virtual space.
POETRY MONTH 30/30/30: Inspiration, Community, Tradition :: DAY 7: Gregory Crosby on Kenneth Fearing
When I moved to New York nearly eight years ago, I became a determined flâneur—in Baudelaire’s formulation, one who walks the city in order to experience it—and although the New York I walked was not 1929 or 1938 or 1943, I heard everywhere, persistent, sardonic, and expansive, the voice of Kenneth Fearing (1902-1961) in the back of my mind. To read Fearing is to suddenly meet Walt Whitman not in a supermarket but in the neon shadows of a film noir. I can think of few other poets who capture the alienation and exultation of urban existence, at once cosmopolitan and proletariat, sophisticated and vulgar. To live in a city is to live at all times inside the human mind: Fearing’s best poems buzz in that hive of loneliness and longing: X Minus X Even when your friend, the radio, is still; even when her dream, the magazine, is finished; even when his life, the ticker, is silent; even when their destiny, the boulevard, is bare; And after that paradise, the dance-hall, is closed; after that theater, the clinic, is dark, Still there will be your desire, and hers, and his hopes and theirs, Your laughter, their laughter, Your curse and his curse, her reward and their reward, their dismay and his dismay and her dismay and yours— Even when your enemy, the collector, is dead; even when your counselor, the salesman, is sleeping; even when your sweetheart, the movie queen, has spoken; even when your friend, the magnate, is gone.
Interview with the Self by Jacob Perkins & Matt Nelson Q: In what way has Paul Legault improved your sex life? A: It’s a tough question. We’d like to point out that we didn’t get into sir Legault on our own. Like any good relationship it takes, at the very least, two. Our friend read from his book in the subway and all she had to say was, “This guy will turn you inside out,” which he of course didn’t. No one can do that to you and if they try, you should call the proper MTA authorities. But he did turn us outside in, as in what the ufkc? His poems trick you into thinking you’re reading multiple voices shouting in a space where shouts can echo, colliding with each other and creating new sounds. But the intellectual gift is that all the voices are thrown. There is only one Wizard in this Oz. Legault takes control of your equilibrium and maintains a kind of trustless navigation that is impossible to follow on first read. Q: What method of Paul Legault’s language turns you on and why? A: Well, if you are one of those who can pick out patterns, Mr. Legault, at least in The Other Poems, which, by the way is titled on the sub-title tacked to most collections of poetry, sticks pretty close to what we would describe as a format. In our own work the format relies on a series of folds (literal) which we attack as a unit, one space at a time, passing our work back and forth without verbal cooperation. This results in a timing based on mutual challenge and uncomfortability. It is unpredictable but refreshing, the rhythm. Paul (can we call him Paul?) discomforts the supposition that what you read before was what was you read before. Every line, every word is a question game. When did the adjective turn into a noun? How can time be turned into space with just the tiniest turn of a preposition? These are the types of strange knife twists Paul manipulates causing a poetry hemorrhage, showing you the insides of words.