Wednesday, December 17, 2014

pile of reading

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
I bought an iPad Mini the week we left for Vietnam. I wanted it for its camera, mostly. And I’ve been happier with the iPad camera than with any camera I’ve owned. Imagine being able to see the photo exactly as you’re taking it, the photo as you will see it when you get home from the trip. I grew up snapping photos squinting through a viewfinder that was clearly displaced from the lens. One never knew what was going to come back from the drug store. When you opened the envelope and got your first look at the photos — your precious memories — and saw with horror the lack of focus, the washed out clothes, the cut off heads, the snaps that were entirely black, it made you want to leave the camera in the drawer next time. I taught myself how to use the iPad camera no the fly — and made a bunch of dumb mistakes. But I got better. I bought the iPad Mini for other reasons, too. I didn’t want to lug around a laptop but I wanted a computer, something I could check my email and Facebook on. I thought it would be fun to carry along an ebook library rather than stuff paperbacks into my pack. It’s been my habit on trips to bring used paperback classics, like Dickens, so if I lost a book or dropped it in a puddle it would be no big deal, easily replaced. With the iPad I could download a stack of books and the luggage would be no heavier than without. I checked out one book from the public library just to see if I could (Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls by David Sedaris), but I also zipped over to Project Gutenberg — and O! what riches to choose from. All that Dickens! But I downloaded only a couple things. I figured I really wouldn’t be reading that much. I would probably have internet access in Southeast Asia and I could download more there, right? (As insurance I did jam some old New Yorkers into the bottom of the duffel bag. No, I did not read them.) I read the David Sedaris book and enjoyed it. It’s not as good as some of his others, but it’s still fun. I started reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer on the cruise ship on the Tonle Sap River in Cambodia. I read its sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, back in the 80s when there was a big sales job about it being The Great American Novel. Huck Finn was okay, but the hype did it no favors, especially in regards to the supposedly anti-racist depiction Nigger Jim, who just seemed to me infantile. Tom Sawyer is good. I’ve never seen a dramatization, but I’m familiar with some of the elements — the most famous fence painting in American literature, the scary Injun Joe. I did see a live-action/cartoon hybrid on TV that continued the adventures of the main characters. I remember at one point Becky Thatcher squeezes through the lungs of some gigantic monster (or maybe our heroes have been shrunk a la Fantastic Voyage). The file I downloaded from Project Gutenberg came out a little strange in that the book is more than 900 pages. At first I thought it must be because of formatting issues, a giant font? But at some point I skipped ahead, accidentally I think, and discovered the book completely duplicated in the second half of those 900 pages. Well, that changed my expectations for the story. I haven’t yet checked to see if something similar happened with the other Gutenberg books.

The Cruising Diaries by Brontez Purnell, illustrated by Janelle Hessig
Anecdotes about queer sex, often anonymous, in all sorts of situations. In a preface Purnell calls it, “a document of a sexually precocious and mis-spent youth told in the style of anti-erotica.”

A Short History of Cambodia: from Empire to Survival by John Tully
I wanted a book that covered everything from Classic Angkor when Cambodia ruled Southeast Asia to the horrors of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia’s nadir, and after. I’m not sure “breezy” is the right word for such a history but Tully’s prose is easy to like. Having been to Cambodia myself now I think I’m getting more from this account than I would have if I’d read it before I went.

Bed-Knob and Broomstick by Mary Norton
With my current pile poetry-heavy and with the prose tending to the serious I wanted something easy and fun. A story! I read all Mary Norton’s Borrowers books recently so when I saw Bed-Knob and Broomstick drop down the return slot at the library, I snapped it up. I haven’t seen Disney’s movie version (which makes plural the words in the title). I’m liking the book.

Parthenon West Review issue seven
I’ve been very impressed with earlier issues. This one is good, too. It was published in 2010 and is the newest I’ve seen. According to the Parthenon West website, there is an eighth issue.

Poetry December 2010
Several years ago I read a year of Poetry and was appalled. “If Poetry were poetry I wouldn’t read poetry,” I told friends. The magazine changed editors and I’ve finally read a few of the issues edited by Christian Wiman. Big improvement! I understand Wiman is out now though.

This In Which by George Oppen
These days I want my pile to include at least one book by one poet (alongside the usual anthologies). Having finished a book by Bob Hicok I browsed my library — there are a lot of books in my library that I haven’t read. I pulled Oppen from the shelf and was quickly through the first few pages.

Juice by Renee Gladman
Another short book that I pulled from the shelf upstairs. I’m 15 pages in.

Against Forgetting: twentieth century poetry of witness edited by Carolyn Forche
The big anthology in the pile. Heavy in more than one sense. Considering the subject matter (living through bad shit), I can’t read more than a few pages at a sitting so I expect to be reading Against Forgetting for months.

There are always books hovering near the pile. Should I list it if I haven’t picked it up in weeks? If I’ve not read past the first paragraph? No. I have to draw a line!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

word of the day: rort

context: After describing various corrupt practices in the Cambodian army in the early 1970s — superior officers continuing to collect the pay of deceased soldiers (instead of asking for replacement soldiers), army personnel selling materiel to the rebels they were supposedly fighting — historian John Tully says:

These treacherous rorts were costing the treasury almost US$11 million per annum, and cost the lives of countless Khmer soldiers and civilians.

definition (dictionary.com): a dishonest scheme

also, it seems, a rowdy party

Monday, December 15, 2014

word of the day: malmsey

context:
Remembering entering San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1962, Robert Stone sees a place unreal. “[I]t was … profoundly Chinatown in no ethnic sense. Rather, the Polanski sense of a lost and terrifying cityscape; its clinky, clunky exoticism, designed to divert the tourists …” Stone calls Chinatown “so rich and strange … I would not spend another such a night though ‘twere to win a world of happy days (Richard III, act I, scene 4). It was like drowning in a vat of the strangest malmsey.” [my bold]

dictionary.com has a definition: a strong, sweet wine with a strong flavor, originally made in Greece but now made mainly in Madeira.

Apparently, Mr Stone is not the first to imagine drowning in a vat of the stuff:
George, Duke of Clarence, being allowed to choose by what death he would die, chose drowning in malmsey wine (1477).

Stone quote source: Prime Green: remembering the sixties by Robert Stone

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Questions about Bests

I have now posted the list of every year of my personal anthology project. (See: Best Poems of the Year.) In January I will post my 2014 list. December is young; who knows what poems I will approve of before the New Year comes?

I’ve wondered about the collection. I made an attempt to categorize the poems so I could answer questions about the whole. That was a project that stalled, but I’m still curious.

How many are translations? From which languages? What translator is represented by more poems than any other?

How many poems are by women? How many by Americans? How many by children? What nationality is most frequently represented?

How many are by people I know?

How many are from a single poet’s collection versus an anthology? How many poets that I first encountered in an anthology did I follow to their own books — and find more poems to love? What poet is represented by more poems than any other? By more lines?

How many are haiku? What’s the longest poem? The second longest?

From what single source did I copy out the largest number of poems? How many are from the Best American Poetry annual?

How many English-language poems pre-date the Twentieth Century? How many of the poets are currently alive? How many were alive when I copied out their poems?

How many did I find in magazines? Which magazine was the best source? How many did I find on the internet? How many did I copy from manuscript (that is, poems that were not published)?

What subjects recur? I know there is a poem about putting down the cat (Billy Collins) and one about putting down the dog (John Updike). Are there any more in that vein? How many poems feature rain? Night? Greek gods? The Christian god?

What about narrative poems versus those that aren’t interested in story? How many of the poems are in traditional form?

Do I have clear favorites? Could I pare the anthology to a Best of the Best? When I started the project I had a real suspicion of Great Poets: Do I still? Do the poems by obscure poets hold up against those by poets universally acclaimed? Do I have obvious biases? Blind spots? Is there an area I’ve neglected?

I can answer some of the questions, provisionally, at least.

The longest poem I’ve copied out is The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll. Because that poem is so long Carroll has a strong start on the competition for poet with most lines. I’ve copied out a few other Carroll poems, too, so add those on. A simple piling up of words does not win Lewis Carroll Favorite Poet. But there probably is no Favorite Poet. Carroll easily places among those I would heartily recommend. I’m sure there are Carroll poems I dislike, but is there any poet who has avoided writing a poem I dislike? I’m not that poet, that’s sure.

I know I’ve neglected pre-Twentieth Century English-language verse. When I try it I usually don’t like it. I will try it again. And, no doubt, again.

I’m going to guess that I’ve copied out more poems by Americans than by any other nationality. Maybe by every other nationality combined. A crunching of numbers would be required to confirm. I certainly have a greater access to American poetry than to any other. Add the fact that I am an American poet and would like to be regarded among them so read my peers and think it important to read my peers.

I seek out poets and read anthologies that look promising. But I also want randomness. I am ready for my next favorite poem to be blowing down the street on a sheet of paper rumpled by a footprint. I am ready for it to be by Alexander Pope on a gilt-edged page.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Best Poems of 2004

Every time I read a book of poems I stuff in the back a batch of placemarks. When I read a poem I quite like, one that I want to revisit, explore, I pop a placemark in next to it. I return to the poem a few times, reading it carefully, sometimes aloud. If after 5 readings or so I still don't want to leave the poem behind I hand copy the poem into a looseleaf notebook. By hand copying the poem I incorporate it into my body of work -- I've written it, after all. At the end of the year I read aloud all the poems I copied out in that year. This year I didn't get around to the reading until Tuesday night. Here's the list of poems:

"Mom told me to grow up and win the Nobel Prize" by Val Gerstle

"I Remember Clearly" by Imre Oravecz

"Theorem" by Walter Conrad Arensberg

"You say, 'I will come'" by Lady Otomo

"My long white hair is framed by green mountains" by Han-shan Te-ch'ing

"mountain sounds carry a chill wisdom" by Shih-Shu

"Written in the Year of the Parrot" by John Yau

"Hangover" by Jeffrey Conway

"A Week in the Life of the Ethnically Indeterminate" by Elena Georgiou

"As From a Quiver of Arrows" by Carl Phillips

"My Body" by Joan Larkin

"The Cow-Boy" by Vicente Huidobro

"Lovely Childhood" by Gottfried Benn

"People" by Hans Arp

two dinosaur haiku, "Fluxist Poem #5", "Friday", "Beautiful Cowards", and "You" by Sparrow

"Instinct" by Edith Sodergran

"Shhh", "Teeth", and "Heaven" by Billy Merrell

"I tie my Hat - I crease by Shawl", "Because I could not stop for Death -", and "Four Trees - upon a solitary Acre -" by Emily Dickinson

[The above originally appeared (and still appears) on my other blog, LoveSettlement. I am now posting it to Dare I Read because the other Best Poems of the Year posts are on Dare I Read and it seems to me nice to have them all accessible under the Best Poems of the Year tag.]

Friday, December 12, 2014

Best Poems of 1999

Amrita ….. “This morning he left as”
Suzanne R. Bowers ….. Please Don’t Wake the Dog
Cumberland Sound Eskimo song ….. Shaman’s Song
John Hollander ….. Beach Whispers
a Hopi song ….. Hopi Virgins Seduced
Langston Hughes ….. Dream Variations
Langston Hughes ….. Hope
Issa ….. four haiku
Avedik Issahakian ….. I Can See Them
Ki no Tsurayuki ….. “On a spring hillside”
from a Kinaalda Racing Song (Navajo) ….. “The breeze coming from her as she runs”
Latvian folk poem ….. “I lost / my mother”
Li Pai (Li Po) …. Pulling a Lotus Flower as a Present
Li Pai (Li Po) ….. The Sound of a Flute Coming from Yellow Crane Tower
a Mide song ….. “In the middle of the sea”
Lin Pu ….. Written While Viewing the River in Autumn
NYC Dept of Health ….. from a partial list of animals banned as pets …
Hamo Sahian ….. Unhappiness
D. A. Powell ….. [between Scott’s asshole and his mouth …]
from the Prakrit ….. 245: “He stood at her door”
from the Prakrit ….. 221: “Her back bears the prints”
from the Prakrit ….. 173: “Lovers should be gentle always”
from the Prakrit ….. 30: “The flood trembles like a woman”
from the Prakrit ….. “the sky has fallen”
from the Prakrit ….. 158: “Though the entire village burned down”
Gertrude Stein ….. Careless Water
Gertrude Stein ….. A Feather
Gertrude Stein ….. Sugar
Su Tung-p’o …. Held Up by Head Winds on the Tz’u-h-chia (#1 of 5)
Arthur Sze ….. from Before Completion: #1
Arthur Sze ….. from Before Completion: #2
Arthur Sze ….. The Silence
from the Rig Veda ….. Creation Hymn
Will Walker ….. Jesus Saith unto Them, Loose him, and let him go
Wang Wei ….. Arriving at Ba Gorge in the Morning
Yamaguchi Seishi ….. one haiku
Natan Zach ….. Here They Come

By 1999 I had been hand copying poems for a personal anthology for ten years. I’d pretty much met my goals for the project — learn what I liked, push myself to learn from what I liked, figure out why I didn’t like stuff, and get comfortable with having my own opinion. I don’t feel defensive about my quirky likes and dislikes, but part of that is because I continue to be open. I don’t say I don’t like that sort of thing and stay away from it. I stay open to every sort of thing, even if, by experience, I’ve found things I like more often here than there.

I like careful description, for instance. I like wild metaphors. I like playful language and language play. I prefer to be told strange things over expected things. I have a sympathy for awkward language and uncertainty. I am less interested in the authoritative voice — although I do like it when it is used subversively. I like humor. I like exaggeration. I like wild claims. I like melancholy. I like a certain amount of bitchiness. I like learning to like something I didn’t like at first. I like immediately connecting, but also want a distant sputter in the line. I like beauty but think ugliness can be beautiful. I like it when the poem says Yes! and No? — No! and Yes? I like liking something and spending time liking it. I like being done with disliking.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Best Poems of 1998

David Alpaugh ….. As We Watch MacNeil-Lehrer
Justin Chin ….. Bar Poem
Justin Chin ….. These Nervous Days
Barbara Drake ….. When the Airplane Stopped
Buson ….. one haiku
Elliot Fried ….. Campground
Donald Hall ….. Letter After a Year
Harry Humes ….. The Butterfly Effect
David Ignatow ….. 52: “I sink back upon the ground”
Issa ….. two haiku
Jesus ….. “A host sent his servant to invite friends to an impromptu dinner party”
Jesus ….. “Ask and receive”
Jesus ….. “If someone strikes your right cheek”
Jesus ….. “What you hear / in darkness”
Czeslaw Milosz ….. Pictures
Czeslaw Milosz ….. A Poetic State
Wislawa Szymborska ….. Elegiac Calculation
Wislawa Szymborska ….. A Moment in Troy
Wislawa Szymborska ….. No Title Required
Taigi ….. one haiku
Shinkichi Takahashi ….. Fish
John Waldman ….. The Water Month
Yang Wan-li ….. Banana Leaves
Yang Wan-li ….. In the Gorge: We Encounter Wind
Yang Wan-li ….. Napping in a Boat
Yang Wan-li ….. On the Way to T’ung-Lu
Yang Wan-li ….. Passing An-Jen by Boat
Yang Wan-li ….. Passing by Waterwheel Bay
Yang Wan-li ….. Passing South Stream Bridge on the Way Home
Yang Wan-li ….. The Pavilion Behind the Temple
Yang Wan-li ….. Walking Along the Seashore
Yuan Chung-tao ….. A Wild Crane
Yuan Chung-tao ….. from Snow at the River Pavilion on Wang Lung-hsu
Yuan Chung-tao ….. The Studio of Ten Thousand Gibbons

In yesterday’s post, Best Poems of 1997, I speculated on why I read so few poems that year. I neglected to note that there have been times I read a lot of poems, but they were poems less likely to show up in a Best collection. I’ve done stints as an editor for a magazine. You’ve gotta read a lot of poems when you’re deciding what goes in a magazine, but most of what you read you’re not going to publish — or think well of. I will say that my criteria for my personal anthology (see list above) are different from my criteria for what’s publishable. For my personal anthology I need a real personal resonance, as well as good writing. When choosing for a magazine I want something striking, something that is made well and that rewards attention. I can be impressed enough to publish without requiring a deep personal connection. In fact, over the years, that’s one of the things I’ve said to myself when rereading a poem I’ve marked for possible hand copying. “It’s really good. I would publish that. But I don’t need to hang onto it.”

There was also a time, when the internet was relatively new, and I was working intermittently, that I devoted several hours a week to poetry bulletin boards — reading and critiquing poets with a variety of skill levels and experience with poetry criticism. That business was both good and bad, but I tried to learn from it, tried to teach myself how to critique usefully — that is, without creating such bad feeling that the poet was blinded to any suggestions or advice. I tried to teach myself to teach in order to see if it would be something I could do, say, for money. Can’t say as I liked it. Not that I think I could never teach, more that I think the better model for me is one of encouraging creation, rather than working to change things that have already been made.

I had experience with the feelings around critiquing (and the effectiveness of critiques) in workshop classes in college. Despite the open nature of the bulletin boards (college workshops are more closed and sometimes not all prospective participants are allowed in), the reactions to critiques — and the quality of critiques — was pretty similar in both bulletin boards and college workshops. I’m not really a fan of the format. On the other hand, it is a way to get eyes (plus college credit?) on what you’d be doing anyway. However readers react to what you’ve written, there will always be somebody who reacts differently from how you’d thought they could. Just seeing that can be useful. Provides perspective.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Best Poems of 1997

Basho ….. eight haiku
Buson ….. four haiku
Emily Dickinson ….. “I heard a fly buzz when I died”
Tim Dlugos ….. At the Point
Tim Dlugos ….. July
Larry Eigner ….. “gutter”
Larry Eigner ….. “a puddle”
Henry Israeli ….. Four a.m. Eastern
Issa ….. three haiku
Matt Jasper ….. The Golden Rule
Dacia Maraini ….. in the palm of my right hand
Simon Mpondo ….. The Season of the Rains
Izumi Shikibu ….. “In this world”
a Yoruba song ….. Three Friends
Ray A. Young Bear ….. Our Bird Aegis

What happened? So few good poems? Did I stop reading poetry?

Yes. I don’t remember why. Burn out?

It’s not that I stopped reading poems entirely. I read more poetry in 1997 than most people in their lives, probably. But I did read a lot fewer than the year before and the year before that.

There have been periods where I haven’t written much poetry either. Part of it is discouragement over its lack of reception in the world. Why write if nobody cares?

Why copy out poems if it’s just effort? If there’s no consequence? I’ve thought about trying to turn my personal anthology into public anthologies, that is, to look for interest among publishers. There are publishers who print anthologies. I know because I read those anthologies. I haven’t ruled out the possibility, but I’m pretty equivocal about it. Would putting together a marketable anthology be a project that would work for me? For anybody else?

I come back to reading and writing poems, even in the absence of outside validation, because poetry has inner rewards — and one spends a lot of time inside. One wants to keep one’s inside healthy. The great outside world has all sorts of notions, many of them nice, many of them mercurial, many of them toxic. If you’ve found something that helps maintain your inner resources, well, it may not work all the time and in every circumstance, but you’ll probably come back to it.

The effort to get work out has not provided reliable reward. That doesn’t mean I don’t want my work out there, that I don’t want readers. I very much do. I have made successful efforts in the past, and I haven’t given up. One of the things I decided to do at Berkeley Zinefest on Saturday was to present myself as a creator, too. I didn’t feel up to renting a table all by myself, but when I stopped in front of someone who had, I started with my little book, Fact. I traded it for what the other writer/artist had done. Only one creator flipped through my book and handed it back as of no interest; some didn’t really look at what they were trading for but seemed to be doing it on principle. I hope everyone who got Fact feels it is of value. I am looking forward to giving attention to the work I got in the exchange.

There have been a few occasions where a poet has discovered that he or she has a poem on one of my Best lists and has thanked me. The list is one way to thank you, poets.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Best Poems of 1996

Chris Burden ….. The Big Wheel
Chris Burden ….. White Light/White Heat
Andre Breton ….. Choose Life
Andre Breton ….. The Deadly Helping Hand
Andre Breton ….. Ghostly Stances
Andre Breton ….. Unbreakable Fishnet
Andre Breton ….. Vigilance
Clark Coolidge ….. Brass Land I Live In
Clark Coolidge ….. Crawlway Heights
Clark Coolidge ….. Early Hours Colors
Clark Coolidge ….. In the Place of Names
Clark Coolidge ….. One of the Quitter’s Obliquities
Laurie Duggan ….. from the Ash Range: 5.1
a Hawaiian song ….. Night Births (from the Kumulipo)
Geoffrey Lehmann ….. from Ross’s Poems: 36
Geoffrey Lehmann ….. from Ross’s Poems: 57
Philip Levine ….. You Can Have It
a Maori geneaology ….. The Genealogy of the Gods from Primal Nothingness
Pablo Neruda ….. Autumn Returns
Pablo Neruda ….. XIV Every Day You Play …
Pablo Neruda ….. Lone Gentleman (a variant translation from the version copied in 1992)
Jacob Nibenegenesabe ….. from the Wishing Bone Cycle
Lance Olsen ….. Stories
a Quechua song ….. “It’s today I’m supposed”
Nicholas Sanz-Gould ….. Sad Sun
Derek Walcott ….. from A Sea-Chantey (see other excerpt copied in 1991)
Judith Wright ….. Skins

Every so often I include in my personal anthology things that aren’t presented as poems. The two Chris Burden items I photocopied from an art book. The descriptions of the art pieces fascinated me. I will also occasionally copy out very brief stories or quotations, a definition, a list, language that achieves poetry and that I think is good company for the poems.

I’m also willing to copy out more than one translation of the same poem if the versions strike me differently. When I read several Sappho books I encountered the same poems translated by different people. In the case of Sappho I don’t think I copied out the same poem in different versions. With Pablo Neruda’s Lone Gentleman, however, each version was excellent but different enough that I didn’t want to lose what either one did.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Best Poems of 1995

A. R. Ammons ….. Going Without Saying
Nechum Bronze ….. A Medieval Jewish Prayer
Robert Browning ….. Meeting at Night
Larry Eigner ….. “big wind in the treetops”
Larry Eigner ….. “steam / pipes / coil”
Larry Eigner ….. “the cat all wet”
Larry Eigner ….. “the needle getting stuck”
Larry Eigner ….. “the wind stirs up”
Larry Eigner ….. “trying to see”
Larry Eigner ….. “What’s that cooking”
Michael Fried ….. The Blue
Gerard Manley Hopkins ….. The Windhover
David Ignatow ….. Autumn
David Ignatow ….. Birds in Winter
W. B. Keckler ….. As Ararat to Ark
Li Ch’ing Chao ….. The Day of Cold Food (a variant translation from the one copied in 1993)
Li Ch’ing Chao ….. Spring Fades
Li Ch’ing Chao ….. Spring in the Women’s Quarter
excerpt from the Mayan Popul Vuh ….. The Murmur at Night
Vladimir Nabukov ….. “Only the birds are able to throw off their shadows.”
Owl Woman (Juana Manwell) ….. from Songs of Owl Woman: The Morning Star
Charles Reznikoff ….. from Testimony (1885-1890): The South (4)
Rainer Maria Rilke ….. The Leper King
Rainer Maria Rilke ….. The Site of the Fire
Shiki ….. two haiku
Izumi Shikibu ….. Night Rain
Paulus Silentiarius ….. “Take off your clothes, my love!”
Wallace Stevens ….. Anecdote of the Jar
Wallace Stevens ….. Dance of the Macabre Mice
Wallace Stevens ….. Like Decorations in a Nigger Cemetery
Wallace Stevens ….. Sea Surface Full of Clouds
Theodor Storm ….. At the Desk
Alfonsini Storni ….. I’m Going to Sleep
Walt Whitman ….. The Runner
Walt Whitman ….. I Stand and Look

When I read a poem I want to read again, I mark it. Before I move on from the book or magazine where I found it, I read the poem a few times. If I decide I don’t want to leave the poem behind, I hand copy it into a notebook. These are the poems I hand copied in 1995.

Sunday, December 07, 2014

What I got at Berkeley Zinefest 2014

The Solstice Submarine a 3D mini comic (with 3D glasses!) by Christopher Joel and Donna Almendrala
published by Macaque Attack
check out solsticesub.com

Blobography an art zine by Brendan Monroe
part of an exhibition presented at Heath Ceramics
check out BrendanMonroe.com

When We Were Kids a mini comic by Andy Warner
published by Irene Comics

Perpetual Nervousness #6 and #6.5, a diary zine by Maira
check out Maira’s tumblr

Self-Destruction and Self-Growth: a zine by Kristen Leckie

I Hugged This Pony Today #happiness comics by Caroline Saddul, Jason Martin and Leo Puppytime
each of the creators has a web destination: Saddul, Martin, Puppytime

Adult Contemporary a mini comic by Leo Puppytime

The Stop and Go Show #1, a mini comic by Leo Puppytime

A Simple Life, A Good Life? a zine/chapbook by Katie Habermas
Grit in Bed

Wet Reckless a book of poems by Cassandra Dallett
Manic D Press

The Cruising Diaries by Brontez Purnell, illustrated by Janelle Hessig
Gimme Action

Thanks, Berkeley Zinefest!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Best Poems of 1994

Akan song ….. Cradle Song
Akan talking drum poem ….. “I carry father, he is too heavy for me”
alta ….. “a car has pulled up outside”
Carlos Drummond de Andrade ….. from Postcards from Ouro Preto: IV: Hotel Toffolo
Anonymous from the Sanskrit ….. “Next morning”
Antler ….. Catching the Sunrise
Antler ….. Childfoot Visitation
Antler ….. Put This in Your Pipe and Smoke It!
Bhavabhuti ….. “Critics scoff”
Patrizia Cavalli ….. “Far from kingdoms”
Alex Cory ….. “The books are hardbound and would kill if dropped”
Larry Eigner ….. “Break the dogfight”
Larry Eigner ….. I will have an image
Larry Eigner ….. Islands
Larry Eigner ….. Letter for Duncan
Larry Eigner ….. Low
Larry Eigner ….. Occasionally
Larry Eigner ….. “shadowy”
Larry Eigner ….. “what time is”
Jean Follain ….. The Secret
Jean Follain ….. “She stops short at something said to her …”
Jean Follain ….. The Students’ Dog
Gajasimha ….. “First time”
Zbigniew Herbert ….. The Return of the Proconsul
Hottentot song ….. Civil War Song
Hottentot song ….. Love Song
David Ignatow ….. 6: “I want a poem that tells itself”
David Ignatow ….. 13: “Why was I born if I have to die”
David Ignatow ….. 14: “I am leaving earth with little knowledge of it”
David Ignatow ….. 52: “The world into which I was born”
Issa ….. three haiku
Linda Johnson ….. Apocalypse
Roberto Juarroz ….. “Use your own hand for a pillow”
Bob Kaufman ….. Song of the Broken Giraffe
Koyukon poem ….. riddle poem (12/J42): “like fine hair”
Mende song ….. On Wealth
Nyanja prayer ….. Prayer for Rain
Tadeusz Rozewicz ….. Leave Us Alone
Rumi ….. The Bottle Is Corked
Rumi ….. 388: “I would love to kiss you.”
Rumi ….. 446: “Today I’m out wandering, turning my skull”
Sherod Santos ….. The Garden Party
Sherod Santos ….. The Palace Hotel at 2 a.m.
Sherod Santos ….. from Three Fragments: #2
Charles Simic ….. Fear
Theognis ….. “You made a mistake in being loved too much”
Theognis ….. “My heart’s uneasy with your love.”
David Trinidad ….. What Ira Said in His Sleep
Tennessee Williams ….. Evening
Barry Yourgrau ….. Golden Years
Barry Yourgrau ….. In the Ice Age
Barry Yourgrau ….. Nursery Tale
Zulu song ….. Song of Those Growing Old

On the Dare I Read blog I react to reading. Sometimes I write about something immediately after reading it. But not usually. Usually I slip a placemark in and write out my thoughts when I get around to it. I got into the habit of multiple placemarks during this personal anthology project. If I read a poem I want to revisit, in goes the placemark. After a few readings, I decide whether I will copy out the poem. The copying is a hassle, but not a big one. Longer poems are bigger hassles. Long poems also have more space to hit wrong notes which can argue against putting up with the hassle. Yes, short poems, you have the advantage when it comes to seizing a page in my book.

Larry Eigner and David Ignatow are poets I was first put off by. Yet here they are, gobbling up pages.

Ignatow is such a sad sack and his poems so prosy that I thought him unbearable and only read a few poems before returning his book to the library. I don’t remember what got me back to him — maybe the challenge? But once I got into him, I found the humor in his depressive poems and their typical brevity made each poem/statement sharper, more piquant than similar sentiments drawn out.

Larry Eigner had a poem wrapped around the exterior walls of the Berkeley Art Museum. I didn’t like it. It didn’t say anything to me. I attended a reading to celebrate the poet partly because a mentor, Paul Mariah, was on the program. There are still many Eigner poems I don’t feel I get — or like — but I discovered settling down with one of Eigner’s books really changed the ambience. I would become absorbed, even if mystified, and move along through a new and different place. I also discovered that there were Eigner poems that I loved all by themselves.

I would also like to note Andrew Schelling’s Dropping the Bow, his collection of translations from ancient Sanskrit. Loved!

Friday, December 05, 2014

Best Poems of 1993

Carlos Drummond de Andrade ….. Motionless Faces
Carlos Drummond de Andrade ….. Siesta
Carlos Drummond de Andrade ….. Souvenir of the Ancient World
Carlos Drummond de Andrade ….. Travelling in the Family
Rae Armantrout ….. You Float
John Ash ….. Braid
John Ash ….. The Monuments
John Ash ….. A Novel
John Ash ….. Salon Pieces
John Ash ….. The Second Lecture: An over-excite man tells us about some clouds
John Ash ….. The Seventeenth Sermon
Bill Berkson ….. Ivesiana
Bill Berkson ….. Russian New Year
Linda Bierds ….. The Stillness, the Dancing
Michael Brownstein ….. War
Joseph Bruchac ….. Lady’s Slippers By Deer Pond
Augusto de Campos ….. Caracol
Lewis Carroll ….. The Hunting of the Snark
Catullus ….. poem 85: “I hate & love.”
Chinese Courtesan’s Song (Yuan Dynasty) ….. To the tune “Red Embroidered Shoes”
Clark Coolidge ….. “car parked up pocket starling”
Clark Coolidge ….. four poems: “contact back” / “green left sound bore add” / “time coal hum base” / “quasi”
Clark Coolidge …. “of”
Clark Coolidge ….. three poems: “tions” / “is so” / “an un”
Clark Coolidge ….. “tion / inertia / ity”
Clark Coolidge ….. “erything”
Robert Cording ….. Cardinal
Jean Day ….. Gas
Tim Donnelly ….. “you know the feeling”
Russell Edson ….. A Journey Through the Moonlight
Russell Edson ….. The Retirement of the Elephant
Edward Field ….. Prologue
Paul Goodman ….. Long Lines on the Left Bank
Paul Goodman ….. Oscar Williams
Jorie Graham ….. Salmon
Ronald Gross ….. Why Negroes Prefer Treatment as Human Beings
Basuki Gunawan ….. Night
William J. Harris ….. Hey Fella Would You Mind Holding This Piano A Moment
Hastipaka ….. “Rain slants steadily”
Hawaiian song ….. Song to Greet the King
Miroslav Holub ….. Alphabet
Miroslav Holub ….. A Dog in the Quarry
Miroslav Holub ….. The Fly
Miroslav Holub ….. The New House
Miroslav Holub ….. Suffering
Miroslav Holub ….. What the Heart Is Like
Ted Hughes ….. Crow’s Undersong
The Dajak of Borneo, Indonesia ….. The Creation
from Flores Island, Indonesia ….. Creation Song
from the Sumbawa of Indonesia ….. Rejection of a Lover
Gogo Ivanovski ….. Sadness and Rain
Kathleen Jamie ….. one of Katie’s poems from A Flame in Your Heart (#35): “He is 25”
Richard Jones ….. Leaving Town after the Funeral
Andrea Kelsey ….. Power Does Not Know Time
Brendan Kennelly ….. LIghtning
Kuan Tao-sheng ….. Married Love
Li Ch’ing Chao ….. The Day of Cold Food
Mei Yao Ch’en ….. An Excuse for Not Returning the Visit of a Friend
from the Middle English Bestiary ….. The Siren
Tatsuji Miyoshi ….. Great Aso
Modoc song fragment ….. Introduction: “I / the song”
Natchez story ….. The Cannibal’s Seven Sons
Pablo Neruda ….. Sexual Water
Sharon Olds ….. Summer Solstice, New York City
Pima song ….. Rain Song
Pima song ….. Mouse Song
Pima song ….. Song of the Black Tail Deer
Francis Ponge ….. Fire
Francis Ponge ….. Rain
Charles Reznikoff ….. from Autobiography, New York: V, XVII, XXVII
Charles Reznikoff ….. from Autobiography, New York: XXXV: Going West
Charles Reznikoff ….. from Autobiography: Hollywood: II
Charles Reznikoff ….. The Belly
Charles Reznikoff ….. from Kaddish: part VI
Charles Reznikoff ….. In Memoriam, S. R.
Charles Reznikoff ….. from Uriel Accosta: 30
Adrienne Rich ….. Dedications
Stephen Rodefer ….. from Pretext
Floyd Salas ….. Steve Nash, Homosexual Transient, Executed …
Ron Schreiber ….. diagnosis (4-10-86)
Su Tung P’o ….. The Terrace in the Snow
an anonymous Swiss child ….. “When the rain falls”
William Talcott ….. “One morning”
Tu Fu ….. Banquet at the Tso Family Manor
Tu Fu ….. Full Moon
Tu Fu ….. New Moon
Tu Fu ….. To Wei Pa, a Retired Scholar
Tu Fu ….. Random Pleasures (VII)
Vlada Urosevilk ….. Forbidden Zone
Paul Vangelisti ….. Event 24: John the Baptist
Julia Vinograd ….. For the Young Men Who Died of AIDS
Wang Ch’ing-hui ….. To the tune “The River is Red”
John Yau ….. Album
Yoruba song ….. Leopard
Zuni definitions ….. Moon, month

Another list of poems I have hand copied, this batch from the year 1993. As I had been doing since 1989 I read a lot of poetry and kept on hand a batch of placemarks. When I would read a poem that struck me I would slip a placemark in next to it so I could return to the poem for a reread. If after a few readings I decided I couldn’t leave the poem behind I would hand copy it.

I was attending UC Berkeley in 1993. John Ash was the visiting Holloway poet and I got into a workshop with him. As you can see by six of his poems appearing on the list, I enjoyed his writing. I don’t remember whether I told him I had copied out his poems. I probably didn’t. Kenneth Rexroth’s translations of ancient Chinese poets got me on an ancient Chinese poet kick for awhile. I looked for Ulli Beier’s Papua Pocket Poets because I’d loved some Beier translations that had appeared in another anthology. At least six of the poems on the list are Beier translations (the Yoruba, the creation songs from Indonesia).

Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark is easily the longest poem I have copied out. It fills 24 pages of lined notebook paper. It’s an amazing performance and, even considering the drudgery of the physical copying, spending the time with it necessary to get it into the notebook was a pleasure.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Best Poems of 1992

Oswald de Andrade ….. National Library
Eleanor Antin ….. A Certain Color (from Painter Poems)
Author Unknown ….. One Bright Morning …
Author Unknown ….. Up and Down the City Road …
A’yunini / Cherokee ….. The Killer
Ronald Baatz ….. These Cold Mountains
Michael Benedikt ….. The Golden Years
George Brecht ….. Six Exhibits
Karen Brodine ….. The Room Poised Outside the Window
Joaquim Cardozo ….. Elegy for Maria Alves
Jorge Carrera Andrade ….. Biography for the Use of the Birds
Lewis Carroll ….. Brother and Sister
Lewis Carroll ….. The Gardener’s Song
Lewis Carroll ….. Jabberwocky
Lewis Carroll ….. My Fairy
Lewis Carroll ….. The Walrus and the Carpenter
Alan Catlin ….. Still Life with Martini
C. P. Cavafy ….. The Afternoon Sun
C. P. Cavafy ….. Hidden Things
C. P. Cavafy ….. Kleithos’ Illness
C. P. Cavafy ….. The Next Table
C. P. Cavafy ….. On Board Ship
C. P. Cavafy ….. Two Young Men, 23 to 24 Years Old
C. P. Cavafy ….. Unfaithfulness
C. P. Cavafy ….. A Young Poet in his Twenty-fourth Year
Billy Collins ….. Another Reason Why I Don’t Keep a Gun in the House
Billy Collins ….. Putting Down the Cat
Billy Collins ….. Walking Across the Atlantic
John Robert Columbo ….. Levitations
John Robert Columbo ….. Rabbi Huna’s Cure for Fever
Clark Coolidge ….. Movies
Eskimo …. Language Event
Eskimo ….. Vision Event I and Vision Event II
Eskimo ….. the old man’s song, about his wife
Paavo Haavikko ….. “You don’t want what you desire, says the dream.”
Andrew J. Grossman ….. one haiku
Joe Nutt ….. one haiku
Cor van den Heuvel ….. one haiku
Emily Romano ….. one haiku
Wally Swist ….. one haiku
Onitsura ….. one haiku
Basho ….. one haiku
Masahide ….. one haiku
Robert Hass ….. My Mother’s Nipples
Anselm Hollo ….. big dog
Horace ….. Venus’ Chapel
Ibykos ….. On a Man-Made Peninsula in Syracuse
Chief Joseph ….. The Surrender Speech of Chief Joseph
Kim Ch’un-su ….. The Wall
Eila Kivikk’aho ….. Recollection
Ronald Koertge ….. Diary Cows
Gail Kuenstler ….. Stagecraft: the Machinery for the Paradise
Jorge de Lima ….. The Big Mystical Circus
Jorge de Lima ….. The Bird
John Lowry ….. Situation Normal
Eeva-Liisa Manner ….. “I thought it was a letter, thrown on the porch,”
Eeva-Liisa Manner ….. “If it’s true that when I go”
William Marsh ….. Cambodia
William Marsh ….. Vietnam
Cecilia Meireles ….. The Dead Horse
Joao Cabral de Melo Neto ….. A Knife All Blade
Cesar Moro ….. Vision of Moth-eaten Pianos Falling to Pieces
Peter Morris ….. Hawaiian Shirts
Peter Morris ….. Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow
Peter Morris ….. Zero Motivation
Pablo Neruda ….. Lone Gentleman
Ezekial Nissim ….. Goodbye Party for Miss Pushpa T. S.
Sharon Olds ….. First Sex
Sharon Olds ….. Ideographs
Maureen Owen ….. African Sunday
Pawnee ….. definition of the word: Risha
Ezra Pound ….. Papyrus
Miklos Radnoti ….. Autumn Begins Restlessly
Miklos Radnoti ….. parts II and IV from Postcards
A. K. Ramanujan ….. Small-Scale Reflections on a Great House
Rihaku / Li T’ai Po ….. Exile’s Letter
Pattiann Rogers ….. The Dead Never Fight Against Anything
Pattiann Rogers ….. How the Moon Becomes Itself
Pattiann Rogers ….. The Next Story
Pattiann Rogers ….. When You Watch Us Sleeping
Pentti Saarikoski ….. “Right till the last”
Pentti Saaritsa ….. “A sage old man”
Sherod Santos ….. The Evening Light Along the Sound
Sappho ….. Now I Begin
Sappho ….. Then
Sappho ….. “I said, Sappho”
Sappho ….. “You may forget but”
Sappho ….. “I thought the talented”
Sappho ….. “To an army wife, in Sardis”
Sappho ….. To Aphrodite
Sappho ….. “not even / lovely”
Sappho ….. “He seems to be a god, that man”
Sappho ….. “slick with slime”
Sappho ….. “their hearts grew chill”
Sappho ….. “it is not for me, it seems”
Sappho ….. “Love shakes my heart”
Sappho ….. two fragments
Sappho ….. “like the sweet apple”
Chief Seattle ….. “What happens to the beasts”
Semonides ….. Life and Death
Sin Tong-jip ….. Life
Gary Soto ….. In the Madness of Love
May Swenson ….. In Florida
Sara Teasdale ….. I Shall Not Care
Sara Teasdale ….. In a Restaurant
Julia Vinograd ….. Summer Murder
Caj Westerberg ….. “A dry alder leaf drifts”
Caj Westerberg ….. “I’m in a cafe”
Danielle Willis ….. The Awful Truth
from the Wintu ….. Dream Song
Xenophanes ….. The Making of Gods
Yi Un-sang ….. Songbul Temple
Rafael Zepeda ….. During Vietnam

These are the poems I hand copied in 1992. As always I read and reread each poem before deciding to commit myself not only to the effort of copying it out but to the years ahead of being faced with the choice (and I’ve lived long enough for that to be the case). By 1992 I’d settled into the project and no longer questioned it; it just seemed natural.

I raided the UC Berkeley library collection for their bound back issues of Wormwood Review, a digest-sized, saddle-stapled quarterly edited by Marvin Malone, which championed a plain-spoken, prosy poetry. I found many poems to like and copied out a few: Rafael Zepeda, Peter Morris, William Marsh, John Lowry, Ronald Baatz. I subscribed for a while and sent my own work to editor Malone. Malone made encouraging noises at first, then changed his mind. Most the haiku are from another magazine I’d subscribed to, Modern Haiku.