As one who believes
in the poetics of the big tent,
I say we make this an annual event
in the season of changing leaves.
And this year, as you turn seventy-seven,
whom do I see
but Igor Stravinsky
speaking for all
In celebrating, as a rite of fall,
your birthday, Mr. Pinsky.
Everything is adagio. And you can quote me on that, too.
Looking at the ocean Fairfield Porter once said to me, very slowly, "it's very hard to paint a good painting."
"A dog's obeyed in office. That was my father's favorite line."
"From King Lear."
"Very good. If they were good enough, we know them by heart, the poems we love. Do you love Walter de la Mare? "Here lies a most beautiful lady, / Light of step and heart was she; / I think she was the most beautiful lady / That ever was in the West Country."
I now understand "frozen speech, frozen language."
Psychiatrists say it's sweet to abandon your life and go anywhere but I'm too timid to do that.
Someone wants me to write a libretto [for an opera] on the death of Eichmann. Isn't that crazy?
Listen to Barber's violin concerto.
When I met E. M. Forster I told him I had decided to give up music. He said, "I fail to see how anyone can give up music." I've never used that phrase since.
"O wild chocolate is difficult to find." That's my best line in the last day or two.
Full many a glorious morning have I seen. So let's hope for glory.
As an addendum let me quote the rest of Shakespeare’s sonnet thirty-three. -- DL
Full many a glorious morning have I seen
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy;
Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace.
Even so my sun one early morn did shine
With all-triumphant splendour on my brow;
But out, alack! he was but one hour mine;
The region cloud hath mask'd him from me now.
Yet him for this my love no whit disdaineth;
Suns of the world may stain when heaven's sun staineth.
Ce chanson est meilleur en francais. La version americaine, "If you Go Away," traduit par Rod McKuen, est beaucoup moins satisfaisant. Dee Dee Bridgewater, qui est nee a Flint, Michigan mais a passe un an a France (ou elle a joue Sally Bowles dans une version francaise de "Cabaret"), hits it out of the park. The video below is excellent, or try this one. Thank you, Rhonda Hamilton of "Real Jazz," for bringing this amazing recording to my attention. My keyboard has no accent marks so please, dear reader, supply the accents aigues where needed. -- DL
This week on Next Line, Please, we take up the false confession. Think murder mysteries, The Wire, Law and Order. How many times has someone taken the blame to cover up for someone else? What are their motives? Out of love? Out of fear?
As Dr. Lehman points out, "The false confession points to a logical problem inherent in language. There is nothing to assure us that any statement, even a confession of wrongdoing, is truthful, sincere, and accurate."
How can we manipulate this problem to our benefit, in poetry? The readers of Next Line, Please await your reply. Write 15 lines or less (or a prose paragraph) in which you take responsibility (or credit) for having done something despicable, nasty, improper, unexpected, or unusual.
Visit the American Scholar's page to enter your candidate! Deadline is Saturday, October 20, midnight any time zone.
Mes absences sont du sentiment
- “Christine” – Christine & the Queens
Multidisciplinary artist LNI’s Le Baiser de la pute/Kiss of the whore performance piece, which I experienced at FRASQ#2 performance art program last summer at the Générateur de Gentilly, is a good illustration of how a performance piece can impose itself as any other work of art can: through a combination of right theme, right action, right time, right place.
As a person who can’t, or won’t, sit peacefully at home – I have many brothers and sisters in this family I think – it might be said of us that we liked LNI’s piece because it gave us something to do in the evening. Or because we are ferocious. Or because I’m a dirty old man. Or because Karine is a cougar.
True enough in one respect. If not gadding the evening away out and about, I lie restless and disgruntled on the couch. True, she busies herself, furious, damn her. I furiously jiggle my legs more than usual as she works out her désoeuvrement by swiping at stuff with a rag dangling from the tips of her long, dry, strong, sharply nailed, fingers, what she calls “tidying” but is really self-medication.
Poor woman, brought up girl.
And my désoeuvrement does not cry out to her, “Be still thou unquiet heart!” seize and plunge those long, hard fingers into my raging flesh.
Instead, brought up boy, poor man, my mind’s eye begins contemplating in the smear of unwashed windows the heavier fecal matter of what’s left of our nasty, short and brutish lives as they sink toward the unclean bottom of this overheated, under-oxygenated gutter we absurdly call a life.
In such circumstances, it is far, far better to take each other by the hand and boldly venture into the world of performance art. Is it not?
Unstill lives apart, the whole truth is that – my girl and me – we like performance art because a one-time live performance like LNI’s Le Baiser has the same potential esthetic depth as Tristan and Isolde or The Nightwatch.
Deliberately not hemmed in by a lot of conventional or customary constraints, as are more formal modern and contemporary genres, live performance art is always a lot more accessible, which is one of the reasons why I suppose it’s developed so much over the last 50 years or so.
The uniqueness inherent in the ephemerality of live performance generally – Tristan or Le Baiser and especially “performance art” – “events”, “happenings” and “situations”, indeed, any un-nameable, bound-and-determined Queen-Elizabeth look-alike setting fire to a brace of milk-fed pink kittens – lends all performance, including “performance art” intrinsic value.
But the particular value of performance art is not just in its uniqueness but also its performance: Tatsachen (“fact” in German) is “done stuff”. Tatsachen in the sense of bread and wine at mass as blood and flesh in life, a unique thing made of, in and by the rightness of a moment.
So what about Miss LNI’s Le Baiser? How is it Tatsachen?
We might have satisfied ourselves, Karine and I, with a good laugh, but couldn’t. That’s already a great deal.
After all, what self-respecting disabused Catholic is not a sucker for silly things like an over-breasted Virgin Mary soliciting kisses, which is, at root, the premise for Le Baiser de la pute/Kiss of the whore? Isn’t it?
Maybe not. It may be that neither performer nor other observers could have the same consciousness or have had the same temptation as me and my girl.
While still very much in combat mode and ferocious enough for six, my girl and me were educated in another world as christians by people who were “born christians”. US politics notwithstanding, most people nowadays are not christian in this old sense as you’d notice, even when they claim to be.
This non-christianism implies that Le Baiser is post-christian or unreligious interpretation of essentially christian iconography and that we can’t interpret Miss LNI’s christian symbolism in the same light as we would, say, the painter Francis Bacon’s. For the unreligious, blasphemy or religious parody has little meaning. Perceived, these might even be seen as offensively attacking minority beliefs.
So, LNI’s well-thought-out scenography and scenario, subtle costuming, thespian gravity and pace that enables to project the heart and soul of one of those Catholic Virgin Mother devotional cards may have no religious content whatsoever.
But, whether her perspective is post-christian or not, by performing over better than three hours, and never, ever, slipping into any other mode than iconic – LNI managed to put in question the sense of the Mother-Whore-Virgin trinity. So, Tatsachen.
LNI’s performance – above and beyond whatever her intention or assumptions are – was to manifest the Mother-Whore-Virgin trinity as étrangeté. As étrangeté the performance pushed us past our usual appreciation and forced our brains think about the strangeness of these supposed female social/gender roles (associations? permutations? conditions? statuses? situations?).
After, my girl and I walked out into the evening feeling that we don’t actually have any emotional or intellectual skin in it, the Mother-Whore-Virgin stuff, I mean. Because it is unimportant to our lives, we just accept that there are such female “Ur-roles” or “archetypes”, that there really is a “Trinity of femaleness”, that there is some link between three archetypes. But it doesn’t matter.
On the other hand, this female trinity, these three female roles, are strange, are they not?
Beyond an organization such as Christianity’s power to impose the rhetorical structure of its beliefs, does it, has it, could such imagery have ever spoken to, of, about human femaleness at all? Did it ever even refer to anything at all outside christian belief structure?
Put aside personal discontents and troubles that might be due to problematic psychic or organic programming systems and I, personally, have and Karine, personally, has never linked “Mother,Whore,Virgin” without some sort of prompting to imply that it had some fundamental psychic importance. We asked each other as we waited for the bus. Instead of smoking.
Also, left to herself, my girl told me, without prompting, that she might reference, then link, something like “Woman-Mother-Girl” as life-steps, like “Man-Father-Boy”, descriptive of situation, but by no means prescriptive of condition or role. Me, neither.
We don’t think we are any more alone in our reflections than we are on public transportation, either.
In pornography, which is mostly all about what males want to see, and to which my girl is indifferent, you’d think some sort of Mother-Whore-Virgin sweat would show up if it had even minimal draw value. But it doesn’t seem to.
As far as we can tell, men mostly like visualizing every type of penetration and its foreplay in every possible pose, moment, place and social role – not different, except in respect to anatomy, when it comes to male-male sex (which my girl, rather disconcertingly, seems to like out of the corner of her eye) or even when it comes to imagining female-female sex.
Step- mothers, fathers, daughters and sons figure a lot, reflecting social facts, and I think “cougar” – sexually aggressive mature females – has replaced “whore” in the popular imagination except as erotic insult, “Mother” (MILF) or “virgin” are age categories more than anything else, like “teen” or “mature”. So.
This Mother-Whore-Virgin stuff is strange, just as LNI’s performance shows.
As we changed to the metro at Porte d’Italie, Karine and I concluded that unless somebody tells you to believe there’s anything humanly fundamental in “Mother-Whore-Virgin”, anything beyond the rhetorical expression of the peculiar sexual beliefs of a religion there, there isn’t.
Bravo to LNI for the perspective altering Tatsachen …
Tags: FRASQ, Générateur de Gentilly, Le Baiser de la pute/Kiss of the whore, live performance, LNI, miss LNI, multidisciplinary art, performance, performance art
Vita Readings: Lit from the Basement, the new poetry podcast from poet, Danielle Cadena Deulen, and her husband, Max Stinson, offers entertainment and edification for general readers of poetry and for experts alike. The premise of the weekly podcast, as articulated by Deulen, is as follows:
"We’re a married couple who discuss poetry in our basement while our children are sleeping as a way to reconnect with each other, think about broader world issues, and remember our lives before having children (when we had more than an hour a night to ourselves).
Our format is pretty simple. I’m an author and professor. Max isn’t. I introduce Max to a poem, he asks questions about it, then we use it as a conversational prompt to discuss stories from our lives or issues we care about: love, literature, family, politics, parenting, spirituality, etc. The topics we cover are wide-ranging. Every so often, we have guests on the show who talk about a poem that is personally resonant for them."
Over the course of the first fifteen episodes, which come out once a week on Mondays, Deulen and Stinson (and guests) have discussed poems from poets, including Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Tracy K. Smith, Robert Hayden, Denis Johnson, Lisa Fay Coutley, Shara Lessley, Samiya Bashir, Rainer Maria Rilke, Jennifer Chang, Lindsay Bernal, and Richard Siken. Deulen generally begins the podcast by explaining the reason why a given poem was chosen for discussion; she then offers a close reading, which Stinson nuances by interposing questions from the perspective of a nonpoet.
As with most podcasts, the average episode, which runs about fifty minutes long, contains enough digressions to keep Tristram Shandy happy. These digressions often layer the close reading by introducing personal stories from the podcasters’ lives. The alternation between anecdote and scholarly analysis propels each episode forward with élan and buoyancy. Listening to Deulen and Stinson discuss poetry is a great joy; Deulen’s love for poetry is as contagious as it is deep. Stinson’s smart commentary deflates and demystifies even as it opens a space for Deulen to gather paradise about a given poem. The couple’s love for each other and for their children provides an unusual, but welcome, backdrop for their particular brand of poetry criticism. It is an honor to be welcomed into the home of two such fine people. Spend some time listening to Vita Readings. You will not regret it.
Dante Di Stefano is the author of two poetry collections: Love Is a Stone Endlessly in Flight (Brighthorse Books, 2016) and Ill Angels (Etruscan Press, forthcoming 2019). Along with María Isabel Alvarez, he is the co-editor of Misrepresented People: Poetic Responses to Trump's America (NYQ Books, 2018). All proceeds from this anthology go directly to the National Immigration Law Center.
When Kirk Gibson hit perhaps the most unlikely home run in baseball history – when, hobbled with injuries, he pinch-hit with two out and a man on first base, and the Dodgers were one pitch away from losing the game, and with one swing Gibson reversed the team’s fortunes – play-by-play man Jack Buck said “I don’t believe what I just saw.” Beautiful: a totally colloquial line of iambic tetrameter. Vin Scully, describing the same at-bat, let a few seconds of silence pass before saying, “In a year of the improbable, the impossible has just happened.”
I am going from memory and it is possible that I may have a word or two wrong there but the point of this piece is an appreciation of play-by-play announcers and the memorable things they say. This is Vin Scully’s last year as the voice of the Dodgers, and I dedicate these musings to him, the red-headed gentleman who invites viewers to pull up a chair and join him in Dodger Stadium.
There were many anecdotes about Scully making the rounds as he completed his astounding career – having broadcast or telecast Dodger games since 1950. Everyone loves his call of Sandy Koufax’s perfect game in 1965. In October of that year, when Koufax on two days’ rest shut out the Minnesota Twins to win the World Series for his team, Vinny said, “Sandy, two days ago you said you felt like a hundred years old. How do you feel now?” “Like a hundred and one,” Koufax replied.
Every so often Scully will surprise you with a literary allusion, and he usually doesn’t repeat himself, though Milton’s “They also serve who only stand and wait” has served him well for years. When he broke the news of the untimely death of Don Drysdale, the great pitcher who had become his broadcast partner, Scully said, with simple eloquence, “Never have I been asked to make an announcement that hurts me as much as this one. And I say it to you as best I can with a broken heart.”
Sometimes the humor of play-by-play announcers is wonderful if unintentional. Michael Kay, the Yankees’ TV announcer, remarked that some pitcher had a zaftig ERA.” The color man, I forget who it was, a former player, David Cone maybe, looked blank. “What,” Kay said. “You don’t know zaftig?” The other guy said sheepishly that he may heard the word “in English class.”
The Mets at the moment have an outstanding trio calling their games on television: Gary Cohen, Keith Hernandez, and Ron Darling. The versatile Howie Rose and Josh Lewin handle the radio. Columbia graduate Cohen (a government major) is like a one-man encyclopedia of Mets’ history. Here is his description of one of the greatest catches in Mets’ history, the catch made by Endy Chavez in the National League Championship Series in 2006, which the Mets ultimately lost to St. Louis:
“Edmonds at first and one out, and Pérez deals. Fastball hit in the air to left field, that's deep, back goes Chávez, back near the wall, leaping, and....he made the catch!! He took a home run away from Rolen! Trying to get back to first is Edmonds... he's doubled off! And the inning is over! Endy Chávez saves the day! He reached up high over the left field wall, right in front of the visitors' bullpen, and pulled back a two run homer! He went to the apex of his leap, and caught it in the webbing of his glove, with his elbow up above the fence. A miraculous play by Endy Chávez, and then Edmonds is doubled off first, and Oliver Perez escapes the 6th inning. The play of the year, the play maybe of the franchise history, for Endy Chávez. The inning is over.”
I savor "He went to the apex of his leap" followed by a sterling example of iambic pentameter: "and caught it in the webbing of his glove,"
All announcers have their signature phrases. When the Mets’ win, Howie Rose says, “Put it in the books.” The late Bob Murphy -- who could radiate enthusiasm when, in the September of a last-place season, the Mets turned an ordinary 6-4-3 double play -- would say, after every Mets’ victory, that he’d be back “with the happy recap” after the commercial break. At game’s end, Cohen says “and the ballgame is over,” accenting the “o” in “over.” Cohen’s home run call is “it’s outta here!”
The classic home run call is Mel Allen’s when with a straw hat and a smile he covered the Yankees of Mantle, Maris, Berra, and Ford. When Mickey launched one, Mel would follow the course of the ball and conclude “it’s going. . going. . .gone.” I cannot leave unmentioned Russ Hodges’ immortal call of Bobby Thomson’s home run off Ralph Branca in the 1951 playoffs. “The Giants win the pennant!” he exclaimed and repeated the sentence four times.
What prompted this post was my dissatisfaction with the national announcers on TV and the whole strategy of continual chatter interrupted by graphs, statistics, interviews, close-ups of fans in the stands. I hate such current catch phrases as "are you kidding me!" or "do you believe it!" I hate statcast and "redemption" and other artificial sweeteners. Red Barber, who was Vin Scully’s mentor, advised him not to root openly for the home team and to keep to facts. Radio announcers have no choice but to concentrate on each play rather than on marginal elements. Often I turn off the sound and listen to a radio feed of the visiting team's play-by-play guys.
I've had a soft spot in my heart for Eve Merriam's poem "The Coward" ever since I watched, when I was ten or eleven, the 1949 film Home of the Brave on the old Million Dollar Movie on TV (where they played the same movie back to back to back, and the theme from Gone with the Wind played before and after). The movie, which was directed by Mark Robson, dealt with racism in the army, centering on a platoon entrusted with a dangerous mission on an island in the Pacific that the Japanese tenaciously held.
Home of the Brave was based on a play of the same title by Arthur Laurents (1945), only there it was a Jewish GI subjected to anti-Semitic abuse. The substitution of a black man (played stirringly by James Edwards) was a shrewd stroke for more reasons than one even if it is entirely artificial. It could not have happened thus for the simple reason that the US Army was not integrated until Harry Truman made it happen in 1948, a year after Jackie Robinson won the Rookie of the Year award playing for the Brooklyn Dodgers and three years after World War II was in the books. Benny Goodman integrated his band a decade sooner than the United States military.
One thing in particular that interests me is the idea that an African-American man may be understood as an allegorical representation of a Jewish-American man -- especially in plays, movies, and musicals of the 1920s and '30s written by Jewish authors and composers. Consider, for example, “Ol’ Man River” from Show Boat (Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein) or all of the Gershwin’s’ Porgy and Bess. While the Jewish authorship of songs sung definitively though not exclusively by African American singers intimates an affinity between the two groups, it also implies a certain amount of more or less creative tension, and the more complicated feelings that inevitably attend such a relation. But back to the matter at hand.
In Home of the Brave two great friends and former basketball teammates, one black, one white, serve together until Finch, the white man, in a moment of panic, angrily calls Moss a “nitwit,” pausing long enough between the “ni” and the “twit” to leave the impression that he was going to reveal, in the one word, the real racism beyond the appearance of friendship. When Finch dies, Moss is -- and the cliche is justified here -- paralyzed not with fear but with guilt, and I won’t give the rest away. Carl Foreman and Arthur Laurents wrote the screenplay for Home of the Brave; Dmitri Tiomkin composed the music, Stanley Kramer produced. The cast included Frank Lovejoy, Lloyd Bridges, Steve Brodie, Jeff Corey, and James Edwards, Steve Brodie is very good as the redneck racist, Corporal Evans.
See it. In black-and-white.
As for Eve Merriam's poem, Lovejoy, playing a tough-as-nails sergeant, quotes the last six lines of "The Coward," saying that his wife wrote them. The lines are meant to embolden the listener by extending a hand. But the lines do more than that; they give the moment a majesty that it would not otherwise have. This is in part because they sound like poetry – the lines scan and rhyme. But if you analyze the final couplet you see how much more ambitious and complicated is the message conveyed.
It was very many years later that I discovered that the lines Sergeant Mingo quotes came from this poem in Eve Merriam's first book, Family Circle(1946), which won the Yale Younger Poets Prize.
You, weeping wide at war, weep with me now.
Cheating a little at peace, come near
And let us cheat together here.
Look at my guilt, mirror of my shame.
Deserter, I will not turn you in;
I am your trembling twin!
Afraid, our double knees lock in knocking fear;
Running from the guns we stumble upon each other.
Hide in my lap of terror: I am your mother.
-- Only we two, and yet our howling can
Encircle the world's end.
Frightened, you are my only friend.
And frightened, we are everyone.
Someone must make a stand.
Coward, take my coward's hand.
-- Eve Merriam (1916-1992)
The poem a deserves a wider audience – as does the movie after all these years. -- DL
1) My First Backpack
2) Bad Hair Day
3) A Selfie with Pope Francis
4) Brawn Trumps Brains
5) Yiddish for Nudniks
6) No Place Like Rome
7) Ode to the West Wing
8) To Indite / To Indict
9) The Watusi
10) Break Point at Roland Garros
11) A Level Playing Field
12) Cruising with Tom and Penelope
13) All Wives Matter
14) The World Trade Center and Me
15) The Search for the One-Armed Economist
16) "Madam, I'm Adam'" (and other pleasing palindromes)
17) Odes and Ends
18) Sonnet ("The last time I spoke truth to power. . .")
19) Madame Ovary
20) The Iconic Cigarette
21) Your Dog Has Your Back
22) The Best American Pottery
23) Life with Stalin
24) How to Stuff a Wild Bikini
25) Leaves of Absence
26) The Timid Toyota
These are in addition to the thirty-two listed on the back page of the Spring/ Summer 2017 issue of 32. These will be posted soon on this blog.
From our Stockholm correspondent, Morris Phillips, a pretty obvious pseudonym for a chain-smoking friend of ours (pictured above):
By now you've heard the cover story. A bunch of women were sexually harassed, assaulted, or disrespected by a French guy married to a Swedish poet who is a member of the Swedish Academy, and the French guy, an arts promoter whatever that is, went to prison when he was convicted of raping a woman in 2011.
All of this is true, but the real reason behind the decision to award no prize this year is more complicated and Scandinavian.
The Academy, in a fit of melancholy disguising itself as boredom, had dug itself into a trench. With Bob Dylan in 2016 and Kazuo Ishiguro last year, the odds against an English-speaking author were like the odds against tomorrow from a prisoner facing the firing squad today. Besides: Roth was dead, Updike was dead, and long gone were such nobly neglected authors as Auden, Borges, Forster, Frost, Graham Greene, Nabokov, Flannery O'Connor, and Gertrude Stein.
Turning to France, Stella Bergen said, "What about Patrick Modiano?" This was considered an enlightened solution until Greta Ohlsson reminded everyone that the Academy had already awarded Modiano the Nobel a few years ago.
The committee's search for an age-appropriate author of serious mediocrity and high moral aims had turned up the Platonic ideal of an author sympathetic to #Me-Too and staunchly opposed to the primitive masculine hegemony that characterizes ISIS. But while everyone loved the idea, the search was compromised by [REDACTED] and there was no concealing the fact that one of the academy members tied up with the accused rapist, though not literally, had found out the finalists' names and was making a killing in the gambling halls of Stockholm and, via proxy, at Ladbroke's of London.
Also, there was a nightclub called Forum, and don't even ask me what they were doing there, but funds from Swedish Academy members propped up the place. In one word: corruption.
Being a member of the Swedish Academy is a lifetime appointment, so resignation by the two who were implicated in the mess was not an option. Furthermore no one likes lifetime appointments anymore. Just consider the Supreme Court and the Queen of England.
Alicia Huberman and Joan of Arc advanced the idea that awarding no prize would make a statement more powerful for what it did not say, and Dr. Constance Peterson supplied the rationale, likening the decision to the interpretation of a dream by John Ballantyne when he thinks he is Dr. Edwardes and can't remember whom he killed, when, or how he has successfully assumed the identity of the murdered man, who looks nothing like him.
It was this motion that carried the day. A quote from Strindberg was considered for the press release but rejected as needlessly gloomy and insensitive to the tenor and alto of the time. -- M. P.
Cyrille Aimee of the curls
proves vocally that “Three Little Words”
as done with pianistic elegance by Dick Katz in 1992
remains a great jazz standard
in the “I love you” category
illustrated by Sinatra in “I Love You” (Harlan Thompson music,
Harry Archer words) in 1953, which I recommend you listen to
after watching Stalag 17 in which the song orchestrates
the POW party in the barracks where the Animal, drunk
and deluded, thinks he is dancing with Betty Grable.
Fuck me now in pale-fire
parking garages, against
U-haul trucks and trellised
fences that tread-mark skin,
against Victorian lampposts
that lull with their flicker,
on grated sidewalks, sideways,
upside down in Ferris wheels in
reverse in the backseat of the
Buick accelerating exponentially
between our thighs, pistoning
upwards in thunderous storm,
against Brownstone stoops
at dusk, in the sun stippled
yard of neighbors at noon,
in Luna Park at midnight,
whitefish sparking the beach,
on the boardwalk slick
like seal skin, in the tides
like Leviathans until dawn.
(From the archive: originally posted January 2012.)
When Lionel Trilling was 23 years old, he wrote to a friend, “There are two ways, I have discovered, of wearing despair. One is over all your clothes, a great vestment hanging well over your shoes and liable to trip you; the other is to tie it about your middle like a Cordelier’s rope—only under your pants—to make you keep your belly in.” Now, thinking back to our prompt in which NLP contributors were asked to write something from the point of view of a piece of clothing, how might this idea of wearing emotions turn into poetry.
One of the routes to take this prompt came about from a René Magritte painting in last week's post, and Patricia Wallace took it all the way with this prize-winning entry:
“We must think about objects at the very moment when all their meaning is abandoning them” (Magritte)
Closeted, floating on a wire wingspan
all unbuttoned, I no longer conceal
anything, not even the shadowed silk
of my lining. The very moment memory
evaporates like the scent of lavender
warding off moths, I become an angel
released from the earthly weight of meaning,
my fluttering empty sleeves rising and falling,
their gesture-less syllables unintelligible,
my folds collapsing the space where a mantled heart
once hid. The old, stale secrets—
ticket stubs, wrappers, crumpled notes now illegible—
spill from my pockets, light as the drift of leaves
Christine Rhein shares top honors with “Sequin Dress,”
I’m so blue, even in the dark, stuck
in the back of your closet, your mind.
For years you’ve kept me hanging,
layers of dust graying my shimmer
and the sparkling way we once danced
in that dressing room, how you smiled
driving me home, how you worried
I could wrinkle. What are you doing
out there, wearing a T-shirt, jeans?
Are you waiting to find the perfect
stilettos before you think of slipping
me on? Or is it some stage you await,
spotlights on me, you—in your next
life—when you’ll sing Night and Day.
A third award went to Angela Ball's “Talking Couture Pantoum” for taking up on the challenge of informing the NLP public about the “New Look” in women’s fashion in the late 1940s, another suggestion of where to take the prompt.
I’m Rita Hayworth’s black evening gown in Gilda
My straplessness anticipates Christian Dior—his New Look, 1947,
My opera gloves pay homage to Gypsy Rose Lee.
My swirl of fabric at the hip is magic.
My straplessness anticipates Christian Dior.
Rita wore me to the hilt, singing, swiveling her shoulders.
My swirl of fabric at the hip is magic.
I’m Rita Hayworth’s evening gown in Gilda.
And finally, Eric Fretz wins the parody award for this clever rewriting of William Carlos Williams’s signature poem:
so much depends
me, red wove
silk with matte
astride the white
Visit the American Scholar's page to read the full post! With more arresting lines and wonderful "pieces." And tune in next Tuesday for a new prompt.
“Violin Phase” (1981) is the first of the four 15-minute segments of Fase, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich, Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker’s first professionally-recognized work. The piece was staged as part of the Festival d'Automne's tribute to the choreographer's oeuvre, as well as Lafayette Anticipations' start-up Echelle Humaine dance festival.
De Keersmaeker had intended to dance it herself in the modulable spaces created in Lafayette Anticipations building, on an un-raised black-mat type platform carefully covered in very white sand and set on the ground floor in a well made by three wrap-around balconies. Her idea, she said, was to (use her own body to) renew the piece in light of 37 years of experience of listening,
rehearsing and performing.
performed in de Keersmaker's stead, in light of her own experience. As her performance showed, Hashimoto is a performer of great precision in gesture and of emotional power in movement.
I was on the first balcony facing the stage entry area, my
back to a heavy square pillar, so Hashimoto was in my direct line of sight, slightly right of my center.
As her darting feet drew a sand-dollar? or a
lotus? or a rose? or a spiral? I felt Hashimoto's concentration on her body in my own belly, as when my fingers draw negligently along Karine’s spine. As I
saw Karine look at me with a question, I saw in Hashimoto’s dance a tableau: nothing-nowhere, birth, ecstasy, become. Karine, looking, felt, she said, "a body that dares, a body that breaks out bit by bit by bit to join the movement of liberty".
When Hashimoto had taken her bows, as the white sand was swept away, de Keersmaeker came out
to talk. This was not scheduled but it apparently happened at all three performances.
She explained that a fall from a horse clipped her wings and as she explained, favoring strongly her left shoulder, in the traces of white sand on the black platform, the side-lined dancer scuffed out the sand-dollar? lotus? rose? spiral? figure performing "Violin Phase" creates.
For this first of her pieces, de Keersmaeker said, looking up into and around the balconies, she had wanted to start at the beginning of dance, like a kid: jump, turn and wave the hands: do that again and again.
So, with the arms as motor “Violin Phase” does just so: jump, turn, repeat and let loose the natural variation of natural geometries in natural movement.
It's a lovely, obviously important, modern dance piece almost 40 years on; earlier taped performances remain fascinating: the immediacy of live performance of quality such as Hashimoto's turns that fascination to real emotion.
Tags: Anne Teresa de Keersmaeker, Echelle Humaine, Fase, Festival d’Automne, Four Movements to the Music of Steve Reich, Lafayette Anticipations, Paris, Rosas dance troupe, Steve Reich, Violin Phase, Yuiki Hashimoto
Autumn was here
Then she left
Now she’s back
From summer to winter
without an interval for autumn
is like going
from glory to disgrace
like a sinner caught in the confessional
or from naked to naked
without the time to get masked
or from failure to acclaim
without a period of wished-for obscurity
a year or two of doing the same
thing everyday like any other person
who works in the spirits section of a liquor store
or from rejection to posthumous fame
like the history of avant-garde art
summed up by Gertrude Stein
(10 / 5 / 18)
The greatest literary hoax of the twentieth century was concocted by a couple of Australian soldiers at their desks in the offices of the Victoria Barracks in Melbourne, land headquarters of the Australian army, on a quiet Saturday in October 1943. The uniformed noncombatants, Lieutenant James McAuley and Corporal Harold Stewart, were a pair of Sydney poets with a shared animus toward modern poetry in general and a particular hatred of the surrealist stuff championed by Adelaide wunderkind Max Harris, the twenty-two-year-old editor of Angry Penguins, a well-heeled journal devoted to the spread of modernism down under. They made up the entire corpus of Ern Malley in a couple of afternoons lifting phrases from whatever was at hand, using a rhyming dictionary, and deliberately perpetrating bad poetry.
The wondrous twist in the Ern Malley story was not the exposure of Malley's champions but on the contrary the surprising, and actually quite heroic, intransigence of Max Harris and his cohorts, who maintained in the face of all ridicule their belief in Malley’s genius. ‘The myth is sometimes greater than its creator,’ said Harris (p. 152). Sir Herbert Read, tireless in his advocacy of vanguard art, wired his support from England. It seemed to him that the hoaxers had been ‘hoisted on their own petard’ (p. 156). It was, Read reasoned, possible to arrive at genuine art by spurious means — even if the motive of the writer was to perpetrate a travesty. In time others have come to share this view, and it is clear that the tide in Australia has turned in their favor. The editors of the new Penguin Book of Modern Australian Poetry(1992) elected to include all of Malley’s poems in their anthology.
for more of Lehman's essay, click here for the full treatment, in Jacket
Dante Di Stefano: How did Augury Books come into being?
Kate Angus: I started Augury Books in 2010 with Christine Kanownik, who I’d met in The New School’s MFA program. I’d been Meghan O’Rourke’s poetry reader at The Paris Review as well as a fiction reader at A Public Space so I felt like I understood at least the ins and outs of reading slush piles and such, if nothing else, and Christine was working at Litmus Press. Our friends Sharmi Cohen and Paul Legault had just started the translation journal Telephone (now also a book press affiliated with Nightboat Books), and my friend John David West had just begun his film website Moviefied NYC and I think, for me at least, watching them put their ideas into action made me realize: OK, yes, this is a thing our friends are doing and so can we. Around that time I’d been asked by a former poetry student of mine from Gotham Writers’ Workshop to curate a reading for The Rubin Museum’s “Talks About Nothing” series and so we decided to make that reading also a kind of publicity event to debut our press. After that, things moved quickly: Christine made a website on Wordpress, and we started soliciting poems from poets whose work we loved for an online literary journal, as well as opened up a reading period for manuscripts.
After the first year and our first round of books, Christine stepped down from Augury and Kimberly Steele and Matt Cunha, two other New School MFA friends stepped in. After a while, Matt also had to leave to focus on his outside work, but Kimberly and I kept on plugging away, adding on a former Augury intern, Nicolas Amara, as our Assistant Editor. Then in the summer of 2017, Joe Pan of Brooklyn Arts Press who was a friend and whose fantastic book Hiccups we’d published a few years earlier, approached me about becoming BAP’s first imprint and we enthusiastically said Yes. It’s been a great gift to become a part of BAP and bounce ideas back and forth with Joe and feel so supported.
DD: Could you talk a bit about your poetry catalog? What do Augury Books have in common?
KA: I think all of our books, not only the poetry titles but also our short story collections and our nonfiction title, although very different books by distinct individual voices, all do share certain qualities: surprising and vivid imagery, associative leaps, kinetic energy unfolding within the language, intellectual rigor, emotional expansiveness, and maybe also frequent use of the second person.
KA: These books are both such knockouts! I’m really excited that we are midwifing them into the world.
Arisa White’s book, Whose Your Daddy?, is a hybrid poetry and nonfiction memoir that delves deep into questions of how we are shaped by absence and inheritance, and how we grow. We had the honor of publishing Arisa’s Lambda-Literary-nominated poetry collection You’re the Most Beautiful Thing that Happened a few years ago and it’s such a pleasure to see her lyric playfulness and deftness manifest in this book too, as she takes additional artistic and emotional risks. The book takes the reader on a real journey of inquiry and healing.
t’ai freedom ford’s collection & more black is mesmerizing. Her poems, which she describes as “Black-ass sonnets” inspired by Wanda Coleman’s American Sonnets, are rebellious, stunning and revelatory. You can expect to have your socks knocked off; to stay up all night reading, pausing to sit and really take in each poem and let it echo inside you. These poems are so powerful and alive.
DD: What else is on the horizon for Augury Books?
KA: Well, most immediately, in October we are launching a book very close to my heart: poet and musician Alicia Jo Rabins’ Fruit Geode, a witchy collection of poems about motherhood, selfhood, herbalism, the divine and the human. Alicia and I first met as teenagers when we were finalists for the National Young Arts Foundation’s annual contest down in Miamai and then we were freshmen together at Barnard College, roaming around NYC reciting Poetry in Motion poems to each other and getting into ridiculous fights about James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. I don’t really solicit work for Augury—before Alicia’s book and Arisa’s forthcoming memoir, other than the two chapbooks we published our first year, 100% of our titles have come to us through the Open Reading period, but I knew Alicia had this manuscript (her first book, Divinity School, won the 2015 APR/Honickman Prize) and I was dying to read it so I asked her to let me take a look. As soon as I read the first poem I knew that I wanted Augury to be Fruit Geode’s home.
DD: What is one thing American poetry needs more of, in your opinion?
KA: Expansiveness. There should be more room for more voices and aesthetics and a way to make more people all across the board feel welcomed and at home. Sometimes I think poets can get caught up in defending their own turf, either in terms of artistic approach or clique or reputation or actual area, and I just don’t understand that. There is room for a lot of different approaches to our art. I don’t mean that everyone needs to collaborate or spend all their time making friends—solitude is important too and God knows I’m a bit shy and not the most outgoing person in any room—but I think that we’re all trying to do something beautiful and hard and we can respect and appreciate that we’re in that same boat together. Even if we don’t personally feel aesthetically aligned with what someone else is doing, at least we have that same impulse in common and can support each other in that.
DD: You have a great poem called “Schuyler today and the students” in which you say, so beautifully:
What I like
about Schuyler is the way sonatas
and Coca-Cola flourish in the same stanza,
morning glories opening
their bright mouths, and trailing down
I was wondering if you could talk a bit about James Schuyler and some other poets, past and present, whom you admire?
KA: Thank you so much; that’s really nice of you to mention that poem. I sometimes teach a Modern Poetry class at a fashion college in NYC and some students enroll because they’re interested in the subject but usually most are there just to fill a humanities credit and are on the fence about reading poetry. Schuyler changes all that. I can’t tell you how many students I’ve watched fall in love with poetry because of him. He wrote about things they recognize—streets they’ve walked down, he drinks soda and puts it in a poem, he writes about colors and plants and music and love and friendship and sadness and daily life in a way that they live too, and so when they read him they see their own lives echoed. The class always wakes up so much in that moment—a vivid energy sparks up the room.
There are so many poets I love, past and present, that it’s hard for me to only pick a few to mention, but I will say that Frank O’Hara, also, is someone whose work I return to over and over again. His charm and good nature, his energy and the way his poems unfold like you’re sitting on a bench at the park next to a friendly stranger who draws you into the most amazing conversation. And the beautiful longing in Rilke’s Duino Elegies I also have found myself going back to so many times over the years.
I love also Mary Ruefle for the associative leaps she makes, and the perfect strangeness of her poems. Whenever I read her, I want to write. Chen Chen’s work I feel the same way about—I have reread When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Future Possibilities at least 5 times so far—I even wrote him a fan message on Facebook. And Terrance Hayes—American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin is necessary reading: chilling and beautiful and brilliant. I’ve also been really into Tommy Pico’s work lately and Jillian Weise and Ely Shipley and Jennifer Chang.
DD: Could you end the interview by with a poem from an Augury poet?
KA: This is a poem from Alicia Jo Rabins’ upcoming collection, Fruit Geode, which I mentioned before is coming out this fall. Beyond that, I think I’ll let the poem speak for itself.
BOY, GIRL, ANGEL, GOLEM
I am a slot machine
I am a globe
put your finger down
buy a guidebook buy a ticket
find a cheap hotel
in the Old City
meet me on the roof
for a drink
show me the lights from above
read my tongue my bellyshape
boy, girl, angel, golem
you dissolve my allegiance
I forget who I was
I learn to say my new name
the globe collapses
to a dot
the dot is you
I’d follow you anywhere
Dante Di Stefano is the author of two poetry collections: Love Is a Stone Endlessly in Flight (Brighthorse Books, 2016) and Ill Angels (Etruscan Press, forthcoming 2019). Along with María Isabel Alvarez, he is the co-editor of Misrepresented People: Poetic Responses to Trump's America (NYQ Books, 2018). All proceeds from this anthology go directly to the National Immigration Law Center.
Kate Angus is the founding editor of Augury Books and the Creative Writing Advisor to the Mayapple Center for Arts and Humanities at Sarah Lawrence College. She is the author of So Late to the Party (Negative Capability Press 2016) and her poetry and nonfiction have also appeared in The Atlantic online, The Washington Post, Best New Poets 2010, Best New Poets 2014, and the Academy of American Poets’ “Poem-A-Day” email series. A former Writer in Residence at Interlochen Arts Academy, she currently lives in New York where she teaches at Gotham Writers Workshop, LIM College, and privately.
This just in from Scribner via Instagram:
scribnerbooks🌠🌠🌠#PoetryDayGiveaway🌠🌠🌠 It's National Poetry Day in the UK, and we're joining in with a poetry celebration of our own!
2018 means 30 years of the Best American Poetry series. To mark the occasion, we're giving away a complete set of all Best American Poetry editions to date!
Follow us and tag a friend in the comments below for a chance to win - a paperback copy of each Best American Poetry from 1988 to 2018, including two Best of the Best editions and our 1988 reissue out this year, are going to one lucky reader! An instant poetry collection could be yours.
No purchase necessary. Enter between 10:00 am ET on 10/4/18 and 11:59 pm ET on 10/7/18. Open to residents of the fifty United States and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older. Winner/s will be selected at random on or about 10/8/18. Odds of winning depend on number of eligible entries received. Void where prohibited or restricted by law. Official rules: https://tinyurl.com/yb65ldap.
October 4, 2018
This week on Next Line, Please, quizmaster David Lehman doles out yet another prompt worthy of our full attention: Do the clothes we wear have things in common with masks? Do they in some way disguise us, or do they project who we are? The phrase “a wardrobe of excuses,” from Auden’s great elegy for Sigmund Freud, implies yet another reading.
Write a poem from the point of view of a garment in your closet. Dress, suit, jacket, shoes, sartorial, or stylin'. One of the pleasures of poetry is to animate an inanimate object and give it a voice. If the “apparel oft proclaims the man,” what do your clothes say about the person who inhabits them? Can the history of a person be inferred from the history of a garment?
René Magritte has a lovely painting titled Les valeurs personnelles, in which you will find an oversized comb, shaving brush, match, cake of soap, and wine glass. It illustrates one possible direction to take this prompt.
Awards will go to (1) the best poem under 16 lines, (2) the best poem in three three-line stanzas, and (3) the best brief poem. NLP regulars are well aware of your captain’s delight in brevity. Deadline: Saturday, October 6, 2018, midnight any time zone.
Visit the American Scholar's page to enter your candidate!
I left it
on when I
left the house
for the pleasure
of coming back
ten hours later
to the greatness
of Teddy Wilson
"After You've Gone"
on the piano
in the corner
of the bedroom
as I enter
in the dark
from New and Selected Poems by David Lehman
THE RULE OF THUMB
Ringfinger was nervous
when they learned
that Hand might succumb
to the rule of Thumb.