27 August 2009

Rae Armantrout

[from Rae Armantrout's Versed, Wesleyan, 2009]


A solution is found
when creatures
from the last ice age
band together
to survive.

Circumstances spin
like the mobile
above a baby crib.

Follow along
with an endearing
first person,

a penguin.

You won't get far.

You're the thing
that waits

to trap
each passing thought,

the anxious
that God loves.

22 August 2009

Jack Spicer

[from Jack Spicer's My Vocabulary Did This to Me: Collected Poems, Wesleyan, 2008]

For Harvey

When you break a line nothing
Becomes better.
There is no new (unless you are humming
Old Uncle's Tom's Cabin) there is no new
You breathe the same and Rimbaud
Would never even look at you.
Your poem
Like you could cut a grapefruit
It go to sleep for you
And each line (There is no Pacific Ocean) And make each line
Cut itself. Like seaweed thrown
Against the pier.

21 August 2009

Jack Spicer

[from Jack Spicer's My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poems of Jack Spicer, ed. Peter Gizzi, Kevin Killian, Wesleyan, 2008]

Dear Lorca,

When I translate one of your poems and I come across words I do not understand, I always guess at their meanings. I am inevitably right. A really perfect poem (no one yet has written one) could be perfectly translated by a person who did not know one word of the language it was written in. A really perfect poem has an infinitely small vocabulary.

It is very difficult. We want to transfer the immediate object, the immediate emotion to the poem -- and yet the immediate always has hundreds of its own words clinging to it, short-lived and tenacious as barnacles. And it is wrong to scrape them off and substitute others. A poet is a time mechanic not an embalmer. The words around the immediate shrivel and decay like flesh around the body. No mummy-sheet of tradition can be used to stop the process. Objects, words must be led across time not preserved against it.

I yell "Shit" down a cliff at an ocean. Even in my lifetime the immediacy of that word will fade. It will be as dead as "Alas." But if I put the real cliff and the real ocean into the poem, the word "Shit" will ride along with them, travel the time-machine until cliffs and oceans disappear.

Most of my friends like words too well. They set them under the blinding light of the poem and try to extract every possible connotation from each of them, every temporary pun, every direct or indirect connection -- as if a word could become an object by mere additino of consequences. Others pick up words from the street, from their bars, from their offices and display them proudly in their poems as if they were shouting, "See what I have collected from the American language. Look at my butterflies, my stamps, my old shoes!" What does one do with all this crap?

Words are what sticks to the real. We use them to push the real, to drag the real into the poem. They are what we hold on with, nothing else. They are as valuable in themselves as rope with nothing to be tied to.

I repeat -- the perfect poem has an infinitely small vocabulary.


20 August 2009

Cathy Park Hong

Year of the Pig


Brother, we were thralled by massif dead pigs floating
downriver          we hauled butchered feasted
then squalled for it was rotted meat.
Feeblest of bipeds we were but monks prayed for us,
cured us of our rankled bodies.
Now the new observatory’s been ransacked for its myths,
the telescope          shattered to a million bifocals
the furrier uses em now to sew tiny rabbit mitts
w’hayseed beads for forcep babes
of the landlord foe. . . .

-- read the rest of this poem and more poems by Cathy Park Hong and others at Octopus Magazine #12

19 August 2009

Jack Spicer

A Postscript to the Berkeley Renaissance

What have I lost? When shall I start to sing
A loud and idiotic song that makes
The heart rise frightened into poetry
Like birds disturbed?

I was a singer once. I sang that song.
I saw the thousands of bewildered birds
Breaking their cover into poetry
Up from the heart. . . .

-- read the rest of this poem by Jack Spicer @ EPC

18 August 2009

Courtney Queeney

Courtney Queeney talks about women poets in August 2009 Bookslut


To restore silence is the role of objects. — Samuel Beckett

Can it be the language now contains more words than there are things? — Clark Coolidge

What mind worthy of the name ever reached a conclusion? — Gustave Flaubert

Indeed the whole visible world is perhaps nothing other than a motivation of man's wish to rest for a moment. — Franz Kafka

The poem may have to mean nothing for a while or reflect in its meaning just the image of meaning. . . . There's something that isn't learned or even known yet. — Bernadette Mayer

Man is a curious body whose center of gravity is not in himself. — Francis Ponge

Thought is made in the mouth. — Tristan Tzara

There is a PREMONITION IN LANGUAGE of the unknown vaster world. — Benjamin Lee Whorf

15 August 2009

Walt Whitman

[from Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass, 1860]

Calamus 39

Sometimes with one I love, I fill myself with rage, for I fear I effuse unreturned love;
But now I think there is no unreturned love -- the pay is certain, one way or another,
Doubtless I could not have perceived the universe, or written one of my poems, if I had not
    freely given myself to comrades, to love.

07 August 2009

05 August 2009

trying to publish a poetry e-book

Instead of publishing my first full-length poetry book in the traditional way, I decided I would go all-digital, no paper unless a reader decides to print a hard copy. Factors contributing to my decision include my wish for as many people as possible to read my poems, my geek longing to learn how to create an electronic book, my unwillingness to pay contest fees, my unwillingness to wait a year (or forever) for a publisher to select the manuscript and release the book; and my wish not burden the economy with cost and the planet with pollution caused by paper, ink, printing, inventory, and shipping.

When I began to convert my manuscript from Microsoft Word to PDF, webpage, and Kindle formats, I assumed it would be difficult and it might have been had the text been prose and not poetry. The key problems I encountered were inter-line and intra-line spacing, indents, special characters like em dashes and diacritical marks, and the table of contents. Microsoft Word is a horror, but there is not a replacement yet.

Converting to Kindle format was the most difficult because their converter does not give detailed error reports, and their Kindle previewer is not a full function previewer. Hyperlinks, for example, do not work. Nonetheless, I've done it, although I won't know for sure how well I've done it until I submit the book to Amazon and read it on my Kindle.

I will publish a how-to-guide when I'm finished.