A charming chapbook and a charming concept. Bernadette Mayer writes a poem for each one of the Helens who live in the town of Troy, NY. The poems rangA charming chapbook and a charming concept. Bernadette Mayer writes a poem for each one of the Helens who live in the town of Troy, NY. The poems range from formal whimsy to experimental. Each poem is accompanied by a photo of said Helen in her natural environment. This book made me smile. I loved the poems where she uses the voice of the Helen she is portraying, you really get a sense of these women and the little town they live in. Playfulness abounds....more
It is 10 years since 9/11 and poetry doesn't matter. But this here is to revive my heart to the common palpitations of dance music, to the crowd who sIt is 10 years since 9/11 and poetry doesn't matter. But this here is to revive my heart to the common palpitations of dance music, to the crowd who sweats my sweat. This is the only poetry book that makes me feel like OK here's a something that actually reflects what it feels like to be half alive in this inexpressibly sad as fuck powerless paralysis of a 2012 where we pretend things matter but they don't they're just fucking status updates! Wow oh god OK this book makes me sad, or rather it just puts me back in touch with why I've been sad without knowing it for ten years, and I can't even say why I just now read it over my lunch break (it's short, read it now, it's free too, download it here) and you know how sometimes, very rarely, you read something that expresses basically everything that is the zeitgeist of what's going on in the moment in the world but nobody talks about it because it is so all-encompassing that nobody can see it enough to express it? Read this fucking book now!...more
There is not. It is quiet In the room the plastic house is orange, glowing orange. Sonia says, "Daddy this pillow is not cold enough." It sounds like enu
There is not. It is quiet In the room the plastic house is orange, glowing orange. Sonia says, "Daddy this pillow is not cold enough." It sounds like enush. Daddy there is not. In the quiet.
Dan Thomas-Glass has fallen in that gap between child and child. Something is afresh not there, re etches a future looking back at himself where are clouds which are in the sky, he notes, but this is this. This Sonia and this Kate whom he pre eulogizes the present already a long-ago memory. Lives cast like those shadows in the playground overlapping one on one, and the parts that do not match where do they go? Where does the sweetness go once done? A sea of plastic awaits like the eye of some harm.
Let us wish: for the beach- iest Sundays before burnt skin draws us under, in the shadow of redwood trees a respite we conspire to hold tight, in the shadow of vowel shifts as language invaded language on islands in undifferentiated moments called history then particular for individuals living it--Oh I guess we are no different, if you ask sweet, little larks who flit from branch to branch as evening deepens.
I hear the couplet of fat as it grows in the night like a dune. from "Midnight"
This Chilean poet has been on my radar for a while now, and I actually bou
I hear the couplet of fat as it grows in the night like a dune. from "Midnight"
This Chilean poet has been on my radar for a while now, and I actually bought a different book of prose-poem translations a while ago, but was never able to really get into it. The other more-available translation is this Selected Poems by Ursula K. Le Guin (which I do not own yet, but will be seeking out). I've been hearing so many good things about Gabriela Mistral but there's always that risk with translated poetry of being completely underwhelmed, and not knowing if it's the translation or the poems themselves. When I started reading this volume, translated by Langston Hughes, I realized immediately that it was not the poet's fault that I never connected with her before.
From the eyes of wild beasts gentle tears will flow, and the mountains You forged of stone will understand and weep through their white eyelids of snow: the whole earth will learn of forgiveness at Your hand. from "Prayer"
Gabriela Mistral writes from an intense simplicity of expression, image, and emotion and I think Langston Hughes really understood that. Her poems really shine through in these translations. He pays much attention to the music and energy of her line.
In the thicket they look like fire; when they rise, like silver darting. And they go by even before they go, cutting through your wonder. from "Larks"
She moves from physical to metaphysical in a few syllables. She inverts cliches gracefully, without breaking a sweat or calling attention to it. Often her poems seem modest, small, and sweet, while hinting at something deeper.
and she became as water that from a wounded deer turns bloody. from "The Flower of the Air"
One quirk about this volume, though: the title "Selected Poems" suggests these are her best poems covering a broad range of topics. They may be her best poems, but they're not very broad ranging--over half of them deal with pregnancy, motherhood, and children. Many are lullabies. So it seems more like a selection of poems curated on one topic. I think (from browsing the Google Books preview) that the Ursula K. Le Guin translation may have a more broad range of poems on various topics.
This son of mine is more beautiful than the world on which he steals a look. from "Charm"
Now I am nothing but a veil; all my body is a veil beneath which a child sleeps. from "To My Husband"
I feel my breasts growing, rising like water in a wide pool, noiselessly. And their great sponginess casts a shadow like a promise across my belly. Who in all the valley could be poorer than I if my breasts never grew moist? Like those jars that women put out to catch the dew of night, I place my breasts before God.
That's not a complaint though, because before this I had only read a handful of poems about motherhood (mostly by my friend Sarah Vap). It was really nice to see this seldom explored topic given its due all the way back in the 1920's (which was when Mistral published her first poems).
A breath that vanishes in a breath and a face that trembles because of it in a meadow where nothing trembles. from "Paradise"
A book by Bernadette Mayer that I admire on a morning in late Fall upon a day in midwinter that goes mid-way from poetry's prose to prose poetry and through a century of differently graded pencils, a way from roses are violet to roses are roses, or as violence does a day good, a day's end is in a sort of dream's hay spun to a rhythm and a play conforming to its circular path upon the footpath that leads away to only leaves left undisplayed though large as my papa's hands are palms stretched all that ways back to the age of 4 a counter rewinding, re- wound in my child's mind's black bank shuttered like seconds are in frames we each are each what we remember of that day-- a day's so easy lost in the shuffle of day-today a momentary lapse, obscured in that comment, a look that quickly gains in significance, that look, a comment becomes itself the day the week the month the winter and a winter's gone to its grave-- I did hold it so long but holding on's not fixed my place in this going on, forth and back what is it that in 'Vertigo' takes the stairs down and up at the same time is what puts me here reading Midwinter Day in August not December as I should I read and I walk look up from page to page to where I'm going, in form--the walk made of pedestrians, cyclists on the Beltline path newly laid across the mid-metro belly my foot has a way of knowing the words I read are moving ambiguous, not forward, not back like a ship on a ship's deck or that 'Vertigo' thing again that sense when I'm pulling out of my parking space and the other's pooling in in that space-- a place in time without referring I float, memoryless--or all memory--only what matters isn't the land as land is sea too broken imperceptible over a breaking sense of senses shifted during flight, what is there to return to but the day? the day is a procession minute hours go by second by second a procession without meaning, a 'process', only what I see, I hear the surface area of that experience-- breakfast, lunch, dinner (the sound of the fork is silver!) a six-course meal (depends how you break the line) is consumed hand to mouth, bite to bite (and a car is covered in a tarp) it is what makes meaning possible-- these meaninglessnesses that build on seeming (let be be finale, etc.) that builds a day so long so precise--twenty four-- as agreed upon by whom or what we don't remember any more than what year it was made such an impression on Miss Mayer that twenty-second of late December when she was alive (she's still alive) we know all there is to know but when the evidence is laid out like a patient etherized upon a table (oh but what patient, what table, what day was he or she admitted under what circ- umstances?) that white of the white table medical, sanitary, saintly the white snow of December brighter than the sun it gets its brightness from that bright ether it seems something's missing the day has escaped the day--it is no longer an accumulation, but, undetected I see the scene quite well through a closed opening without my eyes open without finding my feet it is in there in the air the procession consists of pauses that make an event an event by separating the event from the event that follows the event it is this I worm into into the day (though the day is nothing nothing separated from nothing by nothing-- the ether of the day dissipates) the ever- divisible units of matter divide (atom's a lie, Adam too in that garden filled with frogs) full up nightly mating (sounds as though the sun's gone down) this as good as any undifferentiated day is from green to red but a shade-- orange and yellow a shade of the season that is Fall in which I look forward to--and backwards too to--that midwinter day
My Review, as prose: (view spoiler)[ A few years ago, some friends and I formed a group called ZooPo. We were a 'literary movement' consisting mostly of University of Arizona poetry MFA students, but also some outliers (like me). We didn't exactly have a 'philosophy' or a manifesto or anything, but we did have a sort of general attitude, which I'm not sure we ever spelled out. Guiding principles if you will. First, we were light-hearted, didn't take ourselves too seriously (but in a good way, not a self demeaning way). Secondly, we liked to write about animals (thus the name). Third, we tried to push ourselves with various constraints, challenges, etc.
One of our constraints was we wanted to write a book of poems in one day. This idea came to us from the book Midwinter Day by Bernadette Mayer, which apparently she wrote entirely on December 22, 1978. We did this relay style, for a week. The first poet would write for a day (and we had several things each poet had to do in the course of the day, to add to the challenge, like visiting the zoo, or visiting one of the other ZooPo poets), and we had a baton that the poet would pass on to the next poet at the designated hour, whereupon the next poet will try to write a book of poems in the next 24 hours.
At the time Midwinter Day was just a concept to me, and I imagined a book that was more accomplished as ours, but still an experiment, so having many of the flaws that our books did. Well, yesterday I read this book and it is no longer a concept to me. Instead it is a brilliant long poem, probably one of the best ones I've read.
Reading it now, it seems to me the written-in-one-day thing is much less of a big deal than the actual poem. In fact, I doubt it was written in one day (it took me all day just to read it, it is 120 pages long). But I feel like that's really not the point. The point is that it is about one day, from waking up from dreams to going to the post office, to lunch, dinner, putting the kids to sleep, and back to sleep and dreams. It continues the tradition of books like Ulysses (the poem has the same first word "Stately") and Mrs. Dalloway, but blends it with the personal and the poetic. Like Ulysses, each of its six parts is written in a slightly different style. And like others who try to contain everything in a day, it seems Whitmanian in its need to catalog everything at times, but that categorization is musical. Some may find these sections boring, but I feel they are extremely important, and enjoyable if read aloud. What day does not have its trivial prosaic moments?
But most of this is soaring with great lines. This is from the first section (which is mostly about waking up from dreams):
Now that our days Are full of normal parts It seems we have all lived forever so far Eyes open, eyes closed, half-open, one eye open One closed to the coming day, past's insistence, Dream's vivid presence, no one knows why Though you can see all I say with half an eye I always have an eye to fascination, you catch my eye This meditation Not on sleep but on awakening With dreams with everything quickening, you and I Survive this work and rest, not so much lost, We only seem to dream as quickly as we live One for the other to make up time And it's as if Today I had someone else's dreams Everything's the reverse of what it seems
Typing this out I noticed how the poem works so much better as a whole, pulling out sections or lines does not do it justice as it reflects upon itself and doubles back on its own themes time and time again to create this wonderful effect. This poem is also often funny and playful. At least to me. In little ways that make me smile. In ways that don't come through in excerpts. Oh well. Here's part of the second section, which as you see is written in a different style (and also affected by the children's waking up and their speed/rhythm/logic/language):
Look at this, see, you do, which one are you. The book is said to be a duck. The color wheel reflecting you hiding, the bus, empty green swing for people, smiling tiger nothingness puzzle, empty-eyed monkey mask right there, battered stolen musical egg, look, bright old playgroup radio playing raindrops and so on, there's something about a thermometer you wouldn't understand yet, silly identical grounded queen bees, you put things into things now, you empty cups and trucks on your own articulating oh and no the same, grabbing for the fifteenth-century Dutch woman who looks chiding, that's why I put her up, that polar bear won't go into that nesting cup.
So many more great sections. I can't share them all, or do them justice in little pieces, but here's part of the end of section 5:
I know you speak And are as suddenly forgiven, It's the consequence of love's having no cause Then we wonder what we can say I can say I turn formally to love to spend the day, To you to form the night as what I know, An image of love allows what I can't say, Sun's lost in the window and love is below Love is the same and does not keep that name I keep that name and I am not the same A shadow of ice exchanges the color of light, Love's figure to begin the absent night.
Heather is playing 'house' in this book. I don't mean to imply the domesticity, but the pretend, the imagination, the whimsiness, and the playing of rHeather is playing 'house' in this book. I don't mean to imply the domesticity, but the pretend, the imagination, the whimsiness, and the playing of roles. Often, like an only child, Heather has to play all the roles herself.
Half-Hedgehog Half-Man talk to me I said okay said the tree and it twinkled not like that I said I already know that talk to me about something new you monster it said that was a little better could we try this I said from a different perspective so we swapped places I was still the monster this would be easier if you could see the video in the video there are all these owls like bang bang bang all over the tree which I was now only that might be clearer in writing because I was also still myself half-hedgehog half-man and that could be hard to communicate visually and also my man-jaw was glass
My Enemy I have a new enemy he is so good-looking here is a photograph of him in the snow he is in the snow and so is the photo I put it there because I hate him and because it is always snowing in the photograph my enemy is acting like there are no neighbors but there are always neighbors they just might be far away he is 100% evil and good-looking he looks good in his parka in the snow if you asked he would call it a helmet all he ever does is lie he does not breathe or move or glow he is not that kind of man it is not that kind of snow
Some of these poems work better than others. And it could just be me, but some of the humor is too clever here (on the page), though she makes it work so well when she reads it. ...more
(he apologizes later for fellating younger men) immortal natures have immortal sorrows yet if we mortals are unhappy death is the harbour from our quarrels troubles
His stuff has an antiquated music to it that I love. Sometimes I have no idea what he is talking about, but the sense is still there, confident music, that lyric wave. But cut short like statuesque limbs, interrupted, spliced in with references & anachronistic quotes anachronistic wares.
A great walke of an elme and a walnutt set one after another in order
I walked, also, into the ruined garden The ways, very bad, and the weather worse
I miss the mystery of his other books. This book felt more focused, more researched and less messy. There was something undefinable in his other books but that you just trust worked. That going with it.
The coombes breed whole families daintiest snails in saxifrage & moschatel the spurge and spurge laurel
The book is about internal/external constructs where we feel at home, be they physical structures, gardens, language, or thought. Though the best parts of the book transcend this rather serious thesis, forgetting itself as it may, unselfconscious.
We are swallowed up irreparably, irrevocably, irremediably...envy the sparrows and the swallows, yea. — John Donne
Have you ever been to a landfill? Once I went with my dad to a landfill. I was surprised that it was open to the public. Vultures wheeled overhead. WeHave you ever been to a landfill? Once I went with my dad to a landfill. I was surprised that it was open to the public. Vultures wheeled overhead. We drove through mountains of trash until we got to this one place where you got to dump your shit, all while the sun baked it all into a perfect souffle of stink. We unloaded some unwanted furniture. As we were leaving, I noticed a dead horse in the bed of a truck. Three men were pushing the dead weight off their vehicle. The horse flopped off the truck like wet carpet, rolled a little ways before stopping.
How come this is not allowed to be exterior to the poem. Because the poem does not shoot out from a source it is of the world. While American poetry dissolved its I the starvational and massacred bodies of all the world larded newspapers with their blood
and guts. Shit. LYRIC. An integrity must come back to a body, and from thence, into a world, a world where a body can adore another one, or the sun, or a part of a thought under it, or the night. Maybe nobody wants to kill you because of what they think you are, or rape you, or treat you like a piece of shit. Maybe you don't need an I. An I's a dress literature can wear to be everything. Want to be infinity. Speaking but over yourself. Can a book carry you into the world you have to pretend doesn't exist most of the time, can a book carry you back out into what first made you alive.
To be laid open, metaphorically speaking is not enough, must be carried out literally. The need for a kind of connection through the splayed innards of the poet, a bodily connection where a spiritual connection is lacking or impossible because. It's 2011. Ariana's strategy is shock-cum-deadened-mass, and I admire her urgency, her good intentions. She wants her reader to become deadened in order to realize their already deadened state, so that they can begin the work of discarding the corpse. Having the corpse rejuvenated in a million forms, into the plastic we eat and the plastic we sit on.
INDUSTRY IS EVERYTHING
Sometimes I think if I can find a way to really feel my mere going could become as succor to the ruined women I love but it never does. The guilt of knowing the world's evil and still wanting to live in it.
JUST SAW OPEN AND SEE
That which the palmerworm hath left hath the locust eaten; and that which the locust hath left hath the cankerworm eaten; and that which the cankerworm hath left hath the caterpillar eaten
The urgency to say the unsayable, but also that nothing is unsayable. That none of this is shocking, though so desparately wanting to be, is sad. So the unsayable takes the form of the unfashionable, the insensible, the silly, the personal (for the personal is the residue of shit, the casualty of lights). But extremities are absorbed into everydayness. We hear you not.
Where does life exist. What if everything could be as tender and durable as a genital. I want to found a country where everybody feels. Universes shooting out of matter so tiny you can feel it. How to be liquid how to be gas how to be Freon, music, how to be flesh or inside of flesh that is living and how to be its equal, how not to be less than it, how not to divide the capital from the provinces, how to be.
Cortázar isn't known for his poetry, but his poetry is pretty good. This is a very charming, soft book. It has the childlike playful quality of his prCortázar isn't known for his poetry, but his poetry is pretty good. This is a very charming, soft book. It has the childlike playful quality of his prose, and the rhythms of a dream, and can sometimes be endearingly simple without being simplistic.
Every day we're more, we who believe less in so many things that made our lives more full, Plato's or Goethe's highest, most indisputable values, the word, its dove above history's ark, the work's survival, the family line and our inheritance.
The translator notes in the preface that Cortázar wrote poems his whole life, but never published until the last year of his life. The result was a 339 page book of poems that he insisted be read in a random manner. He didn't want to impose an order to them at all. It's as if he feels uneasy calling it a finished product, to be appreciated in a certain way.
Which isn't to say we fall with the fervor of neophytes for that science landing its robots on the moon; the truth of the matter is it leaves us cold, and if Dr. Barnard transplants a heart we'd prefer a thousand times over that anyone's happiness be the exact, essential reflection of life until their irreplaceable heart might softly say enough.
He injects prose-pieces in the middle of the poems as well as "found graphics and amusing asides on the process of making his selection." Unfortunately for English readers, this has been edited into a 167 page bilingual edition (which means only half that amount of pages in English). I would have loved to see some of those found graphics, since I think that kind of playfulness is integral to appreciating Cortazar's unique aesthetic, but none of them have been included in this smaller version.
Every day we're more, we who believe less in the utilization of humanism for the stereophonic nirvana of mandarins and esthetes.
Still, a lot of his personality comes through in these poems, not only because they are personal, but because the prose pieces put a refreshing light on his thought processes. Cortázar does not hide behind his art. I like to imagine him forever the way he is sitting on this book cover, completely absorbed in communication paw-wise, he looks so at home, so open and relaxed, as if he had just woken up from a long dream refreshed. Many of the poems have this feel too (the prose poem 'Background' about insomnia and dreams is fantastic).
Which doesn't mean that when there's a moment's peace we don't read Rilke, Plato or Verlaine, or listen to the clear clarions, or look at the trembling angels of Angelico.
Incidentally, I just learned that his cats names are Calac and Polanco, which suddenly adds charm to those recurring characters who keep resurfacing and inserting their chit-chat in almost all his books. ...more
A little too 'project'-ey for my taste; that project being 'the soul' in this case; not that there aren't really
Mysteries and corn stand side by side.
A little too 'project'-ey for my taste; that project being 'the soul' in this case; not that there aren't really great parts in there as well (esp. loved Mutability Chorus on p82). I didn't like when he related the body/soul thing to writing/literature. It seemed a bit too myopic.
The terrible thing about being a writer is that it is what I wanted.
I never really understood the appeal of Les Fleurs du Mal, but so many people love it that I started to feel bad. What was I missing? Along comes thisI never really understood the appeal of Les Fleurs du Mal, but so many people love it that I started to feel bad. What was I missing? Along comes this book, Paris Spleen, which is full of prose poems made of equal parts humor, cynicism, and insight (and often all three within a paragraph). I like these poems because reading it, I feel like I have a sense of who Baudelaire might have been as a person...
Plus, his humor is so odd:
Soup and Clouds
My adorable little minx was serving me supper; through the dining room's open window I was contemplating the shifting architectures God creates from vapour, those marvellous constructions of the evanescent. As I watched, I thought: "Those apparitions are nearly as beautiful as my sweet lady's eyes, the mad little green-eyed monster."
Suddenly a violent fist landed in my back and I heard a charming, raw voice hysterical and brandy-damaged, the voice of my little darling, saying: "Get on with your bloody soup, cloud merchant."
It never hurts immediately, father. Or son. Or holy spirit. As I was in the beginning, nests and shells, and ever shall be. World, still hidden, Amen.
It never hurts immediately, father. Or son. Or holy spirit. As I was in the beginning, nests and shells, and ever shall be. World, still hidden, Amen.
I'm friends with Sarah, so I have had time to know her through both poems and life. I used to think her poems were difficult, but her voice has only grown deeper with time, by which I mean the time I have had to read more and more of her poems has made that difficulty almost irrelevant. Now, her poems make a very immediate sense to me, in the way that poems are meant to do. Poems filled with her intimate language, her intuitive leaps, and her ear for music and odd rhythms. This book in particular is often about the experience of pregnancy and motherhood, but you won't find the familiar motherhood cliches here. Because Sarah pays attention. Her experience is one of hushed silence, a reverence that includes the irreverent, the erotic, and the small sillinesses of private musing. I really loved this book.
Palace, cathedral: the thickening light in the heart of the house.
Tiny bug buried below the rock
or drawn like the moth
toward light? Little daemon. Unfaithful part of the house. What is the first thing
the house took. Upright spirit, pound the floors,
pound the hearth, and who would save the house.
Who would kill the house
with a whisper inside the house. The slow and the detailed thickening at the house. The house thickening
and the heat
thickening to ornate the house. Heat thickens deep to the house. Heat that would snarl the cathedral,
heat would wilderness
the steeple. Heat would break and rebuild the whole hell, that held house. ...more
To be a valley Find a hill And lie down at its feet.
These are easy logics. They sound good but are they true? That's part of the fun of readi
To be a valley Find a hill And lie down at its feet.
These are easy logics. They sound good but are they true? That's part of the fun of reading this book. The middle section is the most fun, full of short poems on every subject, reminding me sometimes of haikus and sometimes of aphorisms. Lots of quick humor. Based on this section, I think Suzanne would be great at Free Poems.
Of course, it goes beyond that, and there is more depth to it than my description suggests. She's preoccupied with time and relativity and perspective. Also: the end of the world, or the world without humans. The speaker of these poems is a little sad, a little mocking, a little cynical. She often brings scientific or mathematical subjects to life through vivid metaphors.
To be a cloud Find a hill And swallow it.
ON LAST LINES
The last line should strike like a lover's complaint. You should never see it coming. And you should never hear the end of it.
ON RIDING BACKWARDS ON TRAINS
Through the red hills and over green dells The shock of it shakes from you Endless farewells.
There goes a fountain. There goes a goat. Back to the future Heart in your throat.
It's been a few days since I read this, and I don't know if I can give a good review of it anymore.
Lalla was a 14th century Kashmir poet who decidedIt's been a few days since I read this, and I don't know if I can give a good review of it anymore.
Lalla was a 14th century Kashmir poet who decided to go naked and wander around, dancing. Her poems can strike me at first as too mystical or containing shades of new agey buddhism, or the voice can be a bit like the 'wise' voice of the poet. And indeed some of her poems are like that, which is either unfortunate, or lost in translation, or must be considered along with her entire body of work.
But a lot of her poems are more complex. The 'wise' voice cracks at times and shows vulnerability, doubt. Also, her philosophy seems reminiscent of buddhism, zen, sufism, and a few other things, but is actually quite complex and probably unique to her. I love personal philosophies, they are so much more interesting than orthodox ways of thinking along prepared lines of thought. She can talk about something in the abstract/ideal philosophy but then stick in some really interesting concrete nouns that I was not expecting.
In the following poem, I like how didactic it at first appears, but then she puts her own name in there, as if she were giving herself a pep talk! And that bit about moderation... is wisdom but so unlike wisdom afterall that it's refereshing:
When you eat too much, you forget your truth,
and fasting makes you conceited, so eat with some discipline, and consciously. Be an ordinary human being.
Then the door will open, and you'll recognize the way. Lalla, be moderate!
Especially interesting are the double poems here, translated as two poems but originally one poem. They hinge on a word containing two meanings, so that the poem can be read in two different ways. Here is an example, where the main pun in these two poems are "onion" and "breath":
(read as "onion")
I locked the doors and windows. I grabbed the onion-thief and yelled for help.
I tied him up in an inside closet and threatened him with Om. Om.
(read as "breath")
I shut the body openings and found out what steals