Sunday, November 28, 2010

my apology for poetry

Crazy Brain II - Peter Ciccariello

How in this swank parade of fragments, erasures, selflesh, no one knows; interrogations and extraordinary renditions, surrendering to information, to mind as screen, surfing channels, survival of the flittest, self a locus where voces cross always. Voice is Latin for word. Where are the women in the litmags? Why aren't we submitting?

Because I am at home, taking care of my two metaphysics. Particular friendships are dangerous. Also the unobservable virtual unicorn particles. I am afraid they are right. The beginning of fear. The worse the better. The night the day.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Degrees of Separation

I met a man once in Manhattan who had known Auden. Not as remarkable, perhaps, as meeting someone who had known the secretive Greta Garbo, but I'm a West-coast girl and have only been twice to New York. Over tea, he gave me a new simile for the poet's face: "like a waffle iron," he said, which I found vivid. And Auden met Yeats once, and thought he was "pure evil." And it is a little known fact that Yeats once met Hopkins in Dublin, though it was a dull evening and they didn't have much to say to each other.

I don't like the idea of talking to famous people - it makes me dizzy. I'm afraid I would talk gibberish; or worse, fall completely silent. Though Seamus Heaney visited Lexington just before I began studying here, and I do kick myself for missing him. Oh well. I can continue folding my paper snowflake.

Hopkins' grandfather, as it so happens, studied medicine with Keats. Whew. After that I can't go on. Everything goes misty. What other poets can I wiki-walk over to? Hmmm... my mother and Dana Gioia were in a class together in the seventies. I met Erik Keilholtz in San Francisco once; he had given a lecture on Fra Angelico. Erik was friends with surrealist poet Philip Lamantia, who was friends with all the Beats.

I wonder dreamily if I can connect myself to Virgil somehow. I did meet Cardinal Arinze once. He is hilarious. He also knows Pope Benedict, who knew John Paul II, who knew... and etc., etc. Every pope either knows the old pontiff or knows other cardinals who knew him. This is the easy part. Virgil, on the other hand, knew the Emperor Augustus. Is Constantine the first link between popes and emperors? I assume they weren't talking before the whole "In Hoc Signo Vinces" incident.

But what I'd rather imagine is that Virgil used to get his breakfast sometimes in a thermopolium near the Palatine Hill, and he had a bit of a crush on the cute guy who worked there, one Quintus Fabius, who later opened a new shop trans tiberim, or as they now say, in Trastevere, where he made friends with a Jewish scribe, whose grandson briefly worked for the poet Statius... and so on for centuries... and the farmer from Bracciano, just north of Rome, met a girl from Gubbio, and they got married, and their son, who was studious, became a professor at the Sapienza University of Rome, and one of his students fought in the Second World War, survived, and took charge of Zubboli's Books in Assisi, and when I dropped in in 2007 and asked if he had any Vergilio, he said no, but we do have some Ovidio. And he smiled wryly through his white beard and sold me the Metamorfosi di Publio Ovidio Nasone.

Who are you connected to?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

New Pavel Chichikov! new links!

A new book from Pavel! Must get this now!

I ran across Pavel's poetry when I was in high school, and I've been reading him ever since. If I ever get over my spider/moth phobia and make friends with the insect kingdom, it will be his doing.

He also has a podcast. Maybe I should get me one of those.

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I updated the links in my sidebar today. Are there any that you guys think I should add? This is your moment to agitate for your favorite arts-related blog!

Optime valeatis.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

lush new poetry in Dappled Things

I just got the newest issue of Dappled Things in the mail... it looks lovely, as always. Alas, the website has not been updated yet, so if you don't subscribe, you'll have to wait a bit. I am still gleeful that we have published the poems of one Stephen Milne. Perusing his website, I marvel at the way all of his poems hit a certain baseline of interest and pleasure, a rare feat for a contemporary poet (or for any poet, really). I am tempted to wonder if this is because he is English, which seems like an embarrassingly retrograde thought... but maybe British poets haven't heard of the false dichotomy between anecdotes in colloquial language on the one hand and High Experimental Word Salad on the other. Or maybe it's just because he's good. This is poetry in love with place, in love with visual detail, in love with history. It seems to take its cue from those crunchy, countryside-loving poets whose names begin with H: Hopkins, Heaney, Hughes, Hill. Check out "Hopkins at Bovey Tracey" for a taste.

We are also publishing a nice essay by Robert T. Miller on teaching the Iliad. Miller is a law professor at Villanova University and a friend of James Matthew Wilson, who wrote (and is still writing?) one of the most thoughtful critiques of contemporary poetry and criticism that you're likely to find: parts I, II, III.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Poetry "Do"s and "Don't"s

Verbal fashions which may or may not be real. Because I'm feeling silly.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Aeneid and Zombies

Chaucer is back! And he has thought up even more middle English horror novels for your entertainment:
In thys sequel to the moost-loved epique of classical tymes, the howlinge soule of Turnus gooth nat to helle but rathir infecteth the manye deade left from the horribel werres that the booke doth narrate. Zombie Pallas, Zombie Mezentius on hys Zombie horse Rhaebus, and Zombie stag-of-Tyrrus-that-Ascanius-accidentallye-killede, all lumber wyth muchel gore and litel speede Aeneas-toward. Aeneas hideth wyth the men of Troye in a shoppinge mall, in which he saith to them “Peraventure oon daye yt shall do us goode to thinke upon thes tymes,” and hys men saye to hym, “Peraventure oon daye ye shal get a newe lyne.” And then thei shal maken good battel ayeinst the Zombies, bewieldinge the many wepens that are redily founde yn an anciente Etruscan shoppinge malle. Many a zombie is slayne wyth a club of golf, a baseballe bat, or a smalle terracotta figuratyve sculpture. At the ende of the greate tournement ayeinst the undeade, Aeneas sheweth his hardinesse and knighthede by backinge ovir the last of the zombyes wyth a truck, commetinge upon which deede of chivalrie he saith: “Hic sunt lacrimae rearended!”

More terrible macaronic puns await.

AE Stalling's "Anti-Muses"

I was very sad indeed when this post disapeared from Harriet, but I found it again on Squandermania and decided to repost the whole thing here. Enjoy!
Like the Muses, they are attracted to talent and promising projects, and the presence of several at once probably means you are on to something big. Still, they can frustrate or even destroy the most inspired tender new poem, and send the poet into despair, alcoholism, or flash fiction. The more we know about them, the better.

Their mother is Amnesia, “Forgetfulness.”

They are goddesses, 13 in number:

She who holds the alphabet under her terrifying mis-spell.

The Anti-Muse of computer (typewriter, fountain pen, goose quill) malfunction

The Anti-Muse charged with the terrifying void of the blank page. As her symbol is Zero, she also governs poetry royalty checks.

The Anti-Muse of unsympathetic, snarky and condescending reviews. Yes, it is possible to dismiss an entire book of poetry on the grounds of capitalized lines.

“She of two left feet.” If your rhythms clunk, your lines lurch, your sonnet does not scan, this Anti-Muse may well be to blame. Mind you, if everything you write goes da-DUM, da-DUM, da-DUM, you may be under the sway of her equally evil twin, the jackbooted Metronomē.

Not to be confused with her half-sister, Erato. She is the (Anti-) Muse of false revision. Also, she whispers the name “Cortez” when you should be writing “Balboa”.

She governs rejection slips and rigged book-publishing contests and all impediments, real and imagined, to publication. She also inspires poets to versify pointless incidents from their everyday lives.

Her name means “voice from afar,” thus “interruption”. Sometimes this Anti-Muse manifests herself as the shrill ringing of an annoying device. Sometimes it is a small child calling for a cookie from across the length of the house. Her seat of worship is Porlock.

She is the Anti-Muse of Prose disguised as Verse by Line-breaks.

Represented with the head of a warthog, the body of a Slinky, the wings of a bat, and the tail of a beaver, she holds sway over all mixed and misbegotten metaphors.

The Anti-Muse of verbiage, 1000 words that create no picture. She also governs graphomania in all its manifestations, and the related ekdotomania, the compulsion to publish a new book every year.

The goddess of blurbs.

A total lack of subject matter, thus a curse on confessional poets with nothing to confess. Suddenly the poet starts writing poems about sitting down at his desk with his leisurely morning coffee, looking out the window, and writing a poem ("Morning Coffee"). See also Anecdotē."

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

the poetry of old textbooks

A First Latin Verse Book, circa 1890.

First Exercise

1. Rome was falling.

2. Fire in the city.

Second Exercise

1. Vergilius, the poet, made most-beautiful songs.
2. The beautiful mother comes, the beautiful girl comes.
3. A bird comes, the messenger of light.
4. The horsemen come out of the wood.
5. The horsemen hurry through the waves.
6. The wind carries the swift ships.

Third Exercise

These-things remain to-us.
Buried bones.
The waves of the sea.
Lay-aside tears now.
Let others relate these-things.

Fourth Exercise

The wind carries the swift ships over the waves of the sea.
The husband crosses the ocean: the wife returns to the city.
A year ripens the grapes on the sunny hills;
    A year carries the stars in fixed succession.
The wind carries the swift ships over the waves of the sea.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Name that Rhetorical Device! and some links

As I look at my post on "Fern Hill" again, I see that I was trying to express how the word "sea" is contained in "easy" and "mercy," so that it seems to emerge of necessity. "easy...mercy...sea." Mer-sea. Ain't I clever! But I have been tallying up instances of this device for a while. Does anyone know if it has a name? Here are three examples:
Her earliest stars, earl-stars, stars principal, overbend us - Hopkins

Omnipresence, equilibrium, brim. - Seamus Heaney

egret, killdeer, bittern, tern. - Robert Hass

Interview with AE Stallings, and three eery new poems.

I would really like to read what Victor Segovia wrote when he was trapped in the mine.

Coolest poet name ever. And she gives good review-writing advice.

The new musicality.

If you haven't seen the ongoing poetry articles in the Atlantic Monthly, here is the series so far: 1,2, 3.

And a little treat from My Mom the Style Icon: a dress with an Alan Ginsberg poem on it.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

On the power of Y

Sometimes a poem's stylistic power comes from the smallest, humblest units of meaning. Alliteration, metaphors, nonce words, magical conceits - all of these splashy tactics are wonderful, but sometimes you can work wonders with a quirk of syntax or the connotations of a suffix. I was marvelling at this as I read "Fern Hill" again the other day. This poem is unashamedly lush, but some of the greenery is suprisingly common and dandelion-like. Think about adjective suffixes for a moment, and the finicky differences in tone that they can create. "Childlike," vs. "childish," The visceral, tactile quality of toothsome, loathsome, handsome, lightsome. That marker of latinity: feral, liminal, sepulchral, cerebral. Then there is the -y suffix, which has a diminutive, childlike feeling to it. Airy, watery, fuzzy, yummy... happy, tipsy, itsy-bitsy... you get the picture. Dylan Thomas uses it brilliantly in Fern Hill. It's a very simple tincture of childhood in this nostalgic, happy-sad poem; and he gets it just right: not so much of it that it becomes babytalk.

Look at the first stanza. "easy, happy, starry, lordly, barley." The 'y' in barley isn't a suffix, but it's an elegant little echo. "easy" and "happy" are insistent motifs in the poem. Next stanza: "happy, only, mercy, slowly." I love the bittersweetness of "only" and "mercy," where the -y becomes a little filip of innocence under the influence of "happy." Third stanza, laying it on thick: "lovely, lovely, watery, nightly."
All the sun long it was running, it was lovely, the hay
Fields high as the house, the tunes from the chimneys, it was air
And playing, lovely and watery
And fire green as grass.

Now we're mid-poem. Switch! The tone becomes bass-like and sonorous.
And then to awake, and the farm, like a wanderer white
With the dew, come back, the cock on his shoulder: it was all
Shining, it was Adam and maiden,
The sky gathered again
And the sun grew round that very day.
So it must have been after the birth of the simple light
In the first, spinning place, the spellbound horses walking warm
Out of the whinnying green stable
On to the fields of praise.

No '-y' endings here, except for 'very' (and perhaps "whinnying"?) Is that devious or what? Then the next to last stanza: "happy." That's all. But the repetition makes it clear and obvious. Final stanza: "easy, mercy."

Oh as I was young and easy in the mercy of his means,
Time held me green and dying
Though I sang in my chains like the sea.

That final line is well known for its beauty. But marvel for a minute at how that last word, "sea," rolls up like a huge snowball from the white field of all those teeny little words: "easy, happy, starry, watery, lovely."