Sunday, January 22, 2012

Glenn Ingersoll reading from a Roger story, plus some Fact poems

Louis Cuneo has uploaded to youtube selections from the Touch of the Poet series, which took place in the basement of the UC Berkeley Art Museum. This is me reading from a notebook. The video announces itself as documenting a 1997 reading then seems to change its mind and say it's 1998. I can't remember myself, but I may be able to get the correct date from a diary. Not that it matters so much. The chapbook I read from at the end is one Kent put together on the computer at home.

Monday, January 09, 2012

The Best Poems of 2010

Steven J. Bernstein ….. “Murdered in the Middle of the Dance”
Walid Bitar ….. “A Moral Climate”
Sargon Boulus ….. “How Middle-Eastern Singing Was Born”
John Cage ….. from “Themes and Variations”
Heidi E. Cooper ….. “untitled”
Najwari Darwish ….. “Clouds”
Michael Davidson ….. “Thinking the Alps”
Lucille Lang Day ….. “In Praise of Jellyfish” and “Near Kibbutz Nir David”
Andrew Demcak ….. “Postcard”
Dmitry Golynko-Volfson ….. “Passing the Church of the French Consulate”
Ko Un ….. from “Flowers of a Moment”
Alexander Kushner ….. “Memoirs”
Ann Lauterbach ….. “Clamor”
Rachida Madani ….. from “Tales of a Severed Head”
Thylias Moss ….. “The Lynching”
Rea Nikonova ….. “312 steps …”
Michael Palmer ….. “Voice and Address”
Po Chu I ….. “Sleeplessness”
Vasko Popa ….. “The Starry Snail” from “Heaven’s Ring”
Samih Al-Qasim ….. from “An Inquest”
Alejo Dao’ud Rodriguez ….. “Sing Sing Sits Up the River”
Sohrab Sepehri ….. “At the Hamlet of Golestaneh”
John Oliver Simon ….. “Caminos” and “El Canto” and “Endecasilabos” and “Jade”
Patricia Smith ….. “Annie Pearl Smith Discovers Moonlight”
Jeet Thayil ….. “Spiritus Mundi”
Alexandr Ulanov ….. “Untitled”
Keith Waldrop ….. “Wandering Curves”
Wang Shih Ch’eng ….. “The Red-Petaled Plum”
Marjorie Welish ….. “Skin”
Adam Zagajewski ….. “At Daybreak”

plus haiku by Buson, Seibi

In the links below I talked about how my “best poems” lists come about, so if you’ve Googled yourself or some other obscure poet and come here all unknowing, but really want to know, do a little link diving.

The Best Poems of 2011

The Best Poems of 2008

The Best Poems of 2007

The Best Poems of 2006

The Best Poems of 2005

The Best Poems of 2004

Sunday, January 08, 2012

pile of reading

Timescape by Gregory Benford
This science fiction novel was published in 1980. I remember reading a review of it, probably in Isaac Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine. I don’t remember the review being an all out rave, but it was positive enough for me to pick Timescape off the shelf at the paperback book exchange in Sebastopol when I had credit to use. The book then sat in a box in the closet for years. I brought it to Berkeley when I cleared out my mother’s house. It’s okay. I’m about halfway through. Characters living in 1998 are trying to send messages via tachyons to characters living in 1963, hoping the folks in ’63 will manage to head off some of the fomenting ecological disasters of the late ‘90s. I read another SF novel recently that was set in a year that came and went. Benford doesn’t fill his 1998 with spaceships the way Frederic Brown did.

If You Knew Then What I Know Now by Ryan Van Meter
A collection of essays, the ones I’ve read so far recounting memories of a sissy boy childhood and awakening gay sexual feelings. “First” describes a car ride in which the five-year-old Ryan proposes to his five-year-old beloved, Ben. That’s what people in love do, they get married, right?

Close Calls with Nonsense: reading new poetry essays by Stephen Burt
Twenty years ago I swore off reading critical essays because I was reading all these critical essays in order to find out what I should be reading but rarely actually reading the works the essays were written about. That’s what you do when you’re an intellectual, read thinkers writing about art. Right? No more reading about fiction or poetry, I sternly directed myself. You must devote your reading time to the poetry or fiction that these critical thinkers are thinking critically about. It was a good choice. I gave myself permission very recently to read essays again. Since I’ve been reading without the help of the judgments of others I have developed judgments of my own so when I read a critic, Stephen Burt in this case, I have confidence in my own opinions and have some perspective on the critic’s take. I’ve read a few of the contemporary poets Burt talks about here – D.A. Powell, August Kleinzahler, Rae Armantrout – but mostly not – Liz Waldner, Laura Kasischke, H.L. Hix. I don’t know what I’ll take away from this book, exactly. On the whole I think it better I go back to reading poetry to the exclusion of people talking about poetry. It only matters so much what others think. If Burt loves somebody I care not for, so what?

Paradiso Diaspora poems by John Yau
John Yau is a favorite. I just read a selected by him. Liking this one less, the writing seems slacker, but there are lots of fun lines. “[T]hose of us perched in the back rows, and there are far more of us than there are seats, can’t tell which entrance in the hours erected by the sky’s solid fa├žade might prove useful should the mounting chatter take a turn for the worse …”

The Wounded Alphabet: poems collected and new, 1953-1983 by George Hitchcock
Both Yau and Hitchcock ply surrealistic bayous. Yau is playful and shifts from serious to goofy over the course of a poem (or a line). Hitchcock doesn’t do fun. He’s all serious, often in that melodramatic tone I associate with 19th century verse. “[S]omewhere in the years outside these walls / A boy, shivering, dives in a golden river // Still searching for a bit of porcelain, / White, in the shape of a fish.”

The Cento: a collection of collage poems edited by Theresa Malphrus Welford
The poems I crafted from titles owned by the UC Berkeley library would fit well in here.

News of the Universe: poems of twofold consciousness chosen and introduced by Robert Bly
A Sierra Club publication that wants to be more ambitious that just being a collection of nature poems. I understand there’s a new edition available, but I’m reading the old one which was given to me by my first landlady in Berkeley.

Drama: an actor’s education by John Lithgow
This memoir can be fun, can be a bit much. “In the towns, the streets are eerily empty. The carousel in Oak Bluffs is shuttered and silent. As the days pass, all signs of human life disappear from the windswept beaches, leaving them desolate and melancholy.” The streets can’t just be empty, they have to be “eerily empty.” The beaches without humans on them are necessarily “melancholy”? Drama, indeed.

From Hell a graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
I was going to read this someday. When I saw that the West Branch copy had been misshelved at Central I decided I would be doing the library a favor by checking it out so that when it came back it could be directed to the owning location. Alan Moore is interesting. I don’t always love his stuff. In fact, I often find it a tad overwritten. And Eddie Campbell’s art is a bit scratchy and stiff. But I don’t doubt this is worth reading, even if I did see the forgettable movie version (Moore hates all movie adaptations of his work) and don’t care about Jack the Ripper.

Friday, January 06, 2012

The Best Poems of 2011

Anita Barrows ….. “The Ancestors”
Guy Bennett …. “Poem after Josef Sudek” and “Condensed Poem” and “Necessary Poem”
Molly Fisk ….. “Red River” and “This is the Story of My Life”
Angela Weld Grimke ….. “Tenebris”
Paul Guest ….. “Elba”
Judith Herzberg ….. “Kinneret”
Rachel Korn ….. “From Here to There”
Donna M. Lane ….. “Pajamas”
Nicanor Parra ….. “A Man”
Gyorgy Petri ….. “I Am Stuck, Lord, on Your Hook”
Edouard Roditi ….. “The Paths of Prayer”
Harvey Shapiro ….. “Like a Beach”
Leonora Speyer ….. “The Ladder”
Anna Swir ….. “He Was Lucky”
Julia Vinograd ….. “Street Musician”
Stanislaw Wygodski ….. “Winter Journey”

plus haiku by John Brandi (2), Margaret Chula (2), Cid Corman (2), Raffael de Gruttola, Diane di Prima, Bernard Lionel Einbond, David Elliott, Sandra Fuhringer, Christopher Herold (3), Brent Partridge, Alan Pizzarelli, Jane Reichhold, Frank K. Robinson, Alexis Rotella (2), Edith Shiffert, Ruby Spriggs, Tom Tico, Anita Virgil

Did you make my list of the Best Poems of 2011? If you did, yay for you, I guess. If you didn’t, well, maybe I didn’t read any of your poems.

The list is a favorites list, which poems I liked best of those read in 2011.

I keep a stack of placemarks ready whenever I’m reading poetry. If a poem strikes me just right, I pop a placemark into the book so I can revisit. If, after several rereadings, I decide it’s a poem I don’t want to leave behind, I hand copy the poem and slip it into a 3-ring binder. I’ve been doing this for about 24 years so I’ve got some fat binders.The one I’ve been filling for the last twelve years has finally gotten too tight, so I’m moving it to the archive shelf and starting anew.

On the first of the year I read aloud all the poems I’ve collected over the previous year. Usually I’m reading to myself, in case you were wondering. This year Kent listened in. Of course, he had his own opinions and wasn’t afraid to question my choices. If you want your tastes reflected, friends, fill your own notebooks. On the whole, though, he seemed to enjoy it, even tearing up over Donna Lane’s “Pajamas.”

I haven’t posted a “Best Poems” list since 2008, so I have 2009 and 2010 to share with you folks. Yes, I had favorites those years, too.

The Best Poems of 2008

The Best Poems of 2007

The Best Poems of 2006

The Best Poems of 2005

The Best Poems of 2004

Thursday, January 05, 2012

a tale of two Burroughses

Tarzan fascinated me and inspired a lifelong love of Africa, its people, and its wildlife. … When I first read Tarzan, going to Africa became an imperative. And I also desperately wanted to be able to communicate with animals as my hero did. Edgar Rice Burroughs never set foot in Africa (in fact, William S. Burroughs has probably been a more reliable guide to me), and his descriptions bear no relation to what it actually looks like, or what it’s like to live there …
So the book that set Tony Fitzjohn on his way to becoming the main assistant to George Adamson in the camp Adamson set up to return orphaned and failed pet lions to the wild in Kenya was a book that bore “no relation” to reality … There’s something about the magic of the imagination, eh? Africa is more accessible than Barsoom!

There’s something else in the quote I’m going to point out. I read several books at once and it’s not uncommon for me to turn from one book, a book on lions, say, to another set in an entirely different milieu, U.S. indie rock, maybe, and in that same reading period find the different books talk about the same thing. William S. Burroughs, in this case. In my January First post I quote from Bob Mould. He stole a book from the library, Naked Lunch by William S. Burroughs. A Brit who ends up a lion caretaker in Africa and an upstate NYer who ends up a rock star were both into William Burroughs.

source: Born Wild: the extraordinary story of one man’s passion for Africa by Tony Fitzjohn

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

“the ground had become impregnated with urine”

[L]ions are not particular about where they urinate. They will do it lying, sitting or standing, at any time and in any place, although they are most particular about where they defecate and will always move well away from their sleeping places. It is quite possible that their free and easy habits of urination have a definite purpose. Lion urine appears to be an insect repellent as I noticed this to be the case of Elsa and her sisters; their small night enclosure became heavily infested by fleas, but after a time, when the ground had become impregnated with urine, the fleas disappeared.
source: A Lifetime with Lions by George Adamson

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

According to Masters & Johnson

I’d heard that Masters & Johnson, the sex researchers, had studied gay people, but that their final report was riddled with homophobia. In her book on sex research Mary Roach reads the M&J report and lets us know, not only is it flawed by homophobia, the gay people come off as better lovers than hets.
They ‘tended to move slowly … and to linger at … [each] stage of stimulative response, making each step in tension increment something to be appreciated …’ They teased each other ‘in an obvious effort to prolong the stimulatee’s high levels of sexual excitation.’
Those are some of Roach’s excerpts from Masters & Johnson, thus Roach’s elisions and interpolation. Some of the couples were singles randomly assigned by the researchers. For the shy among us, you might note that all the couples, male/male, female/female, and female/male, performed under lights in a lab while being observed. All must have been pretty confident about their ability to showcase their skills.

According to Masters & Johnson a woman would get about as turned on by her female lover’s arousal as by anything happening exclusive to herself. This, you might or might not be surprised to learn, was not the case with hets. The goal in het sex is climax, with both boys and girls trying to push their partners to rapid release. M&J call this “goal orientation, … trying to get something done,” with main focus on the genitals, and by that I mean the penis.
Meanwhile, the homosexual men lavished attention on their partners’ entire bodies. And the gay men, like the gay women, were adept at the tease.
The gay lovers “talked far more easily, often, and openly about what they did and didn’t enjoy. Gay men and women simply seemed more comfortable in the world of sex.”

And the homophobia? Where did that come in? “Masters & Johnson spent the second half of the book touting a therapy for helping homosexuals convert to heterosexuality.” Oh. One can see how that would overshadow the research’s positives.

source: Bonk: the curious coupling of science and sex by Mary Roach

Monday, January 02, 2012

“Smoking … the timepiece of my life”

I started smoking a pack a day at the beginning of college, and by the end, I was up to three packs a day. Smoking had become both the centerpiece and timepiece of my life. Every cigarette was six minutes long, and I could practically mark out the whole day with smoking, like a sundial. Six minutes on, nine minutes off. Repeat sixty times a day.
When I came across this passage in Bob Mould’s new memoir I was surprised. Here was a reason for smoking that had never occurred to me. Cigarette as timepiece!

I remember being delighted the first time I was given candy cigarettes. I could mime the grown-ups at last. I could playact the mystery of smoking. It wasn’t very good candy. And I wasn’t that picky about candy! Fiddling with the candy cigarette told me nothing about what would make one want to suck smoke and stink up their clothes. I did like fire. And cigarette lighters. Having permission to set little fires all day everywhere seemed seductive.

When my brother told me he’d been secretly smoking cigarettes I pestered him to explain what he got out of it. The explanation didn’t sound sufficient. Something about a waky buzz? I tried, smoking at least one cigarette sitting behind a bush near the little league bleachers. When it made me sick I was told that’s what happens to everybody, but you get over that. Plus there’s something cool about it because the people who smoke are cool. Oh? My stepmother was cool? I liked her all right. But, I don’t know, cool?

source: See a Little Light: the trail of rage and melody by Bob Mould with Michael Azerrad

Sunday, January 01, 2012

another memoir, another library thief

During the day, my work-study job was at the library. I would move quietly through the stacks, restocking the returned books and observing people studying quietly – or discreetly pleasuring themselves in an obscure alcove. It happened all the time. I also lifted the library’s lone copy of Naked Lunch for my personal collection.
source: See a Little Light: the trail of rage and melody by Bob Mould with Michael Azerrad

compare to our last library thief