March 30, 2009

in a field, i am the absence of field

my friend becca recently made a list of songs that she could remember hearing for the first time. there aren't many songs that i can remember exactly when or where i first heard them. actually there are only two that come to mind: "you're so vain" by carly simon and "mahgeeta" by my morning jacket. 
poems on the other hand... there are tons. i guess that's because you have to actually sit down and participate, unlike a song that can creep its way into your awareness. i like poetry, and reading in general, really, because you have to be so present. and at the end, you look at this thing that you were so absorbed in and it's just ink on a page, not like a movie or a play or something else that pulls you in through an (awesome, but) much more elaborate structure.

here's some of the poems that i remember my first encounter with...

- the nails by w.s. merwin -- once at a reading someone requested that merwin read this poem, and he refused, saying that it was too painful to read aloud. don't read this poem if you're going through a break up. i'm jus' sayin'.
- keeping things whole by mark strand -- a teacher showed me this poem when i was taking a poetry class one summer in high school. it changed my idea of what a poem was. 
- directions to the brothel (click around, you'll find it... someone made a video that scared me when i watched it with the lights off.) by michael dumanis -- michael is the teacher who showed me keeping things whole
- 13th dream song by john berryman -- i can't believe i haven't done a berryman post on this blog yet. just wait. it's coming. 
- author's prayer by ilya kaminsky -- this link is sweet because you can hear him reading it. ilya is deaf and has a russian accent. he can be sort of hard to understand, so when he read at sarah lawrence he passed out copies of his book so that people could follow along with him. he reads like a rabbi and when everyone follows along it felt like a religious experience. 

uhhh i guess that's enough for now. you guys should read those poems. 
oh, also, i'm reading here (school) today (tuesday) at 8 pm, in slonim house. it's a 6x6 featuring 6 slc students and 6 students from columbia university, all reading for 6 minutes each. cute, right?

March 22, 2009

black shoe, in which i have lived like a foot

sylvia plath's son committed suicide this month. you can get quite a full story here. what feels odd for me, as the article reflects, is that this man's life seems overshadowed by his parents, more specifically the barrage of suicides that surrounded them. i think plath's career was overshadowed by her death. what i mean is that her death became more famous than her poems.
one of many things that i find strange about this article is the way that the author quotes the poetry of plath and hughes when talking about their son. that just seems so weird to quote poetry in an article as though it were some kind of personal statement or as if it pertains to anything concrete.

i resisted plath for a long time because i really just thought of her as a narcissistically depressed, one-note type poet. i became more interested in her when i heard two of her poems read theatrically this year at sarah lawrence. the first was "daddy" which may be her most famous poem. i  don't know what this poem does for me on the page, but when read aloud, by a guy no less, it was some freaky, freaky shit.
"lady lazarus" is the other. i have to say i enjoy this poem much more for the reason that it actually scares the bejeezus out of me. it's incredibly haunting. i love when a speaker can be totally vulnerable and remain on the offensive in a poem-- it's like the speaker doesn't compromise- sticks with a confident tone. 
the key line in "lady lazarus," the one that highlights intent and tone is "do i terrify?--" the dashes, as though there is some lingering silence after the question. as a reader, this is the first line where i feel the anxiety in this poem, and what i love about it, is that when it's asked, my internal response is not an automatic yes, but suddenly i am receiving the poem differently, understanding the speaker's tone differently. plath is a little more subtle than i initially gave her credit for. 

while on the subject of dead poets, read this poem by hayden carruth.


Both of us had been close 
to Joel, and at Joel's death
my friend had gone to the wake
and the memorial service
and more recently he had 
visited Joel's grave, there
at the back of the grassy
cemetery among the trees,
"a quiet, gentle place," he said,
"befitting Joel." And I said,
"What's the point of going
to look at graves?" I went 
into one of my celebrated
tirades. "People go to look
at the grave of Keats or Hart
Crane, they go traveling just to
do it. What a waste of time. 
What do they find there? Hell,
I wouldn't go look at the grave of
Shakespeare if it was just
down the street. I wouldn't 
look at-" And then I stopped. I
was about to say the grave of God
until I realized I'm looking at it
all the time....

March 17, 2009

when can i go to the supermarket and buy what i need with my good looks?

i'm so psyched that when poets die hot people get picked to play them in the biopic.

allen ginsberg, as i mentioned in my jersey post, was born in newark and raised in paterson, nj. 
i never got that down with ginsberg, or any of the beat poets really. kind of boring, self-referential, eh. or maybe their whole attitude is so over-expressed at this point that it's impossible for me to appreciate it. i liked other things by them. on the road, burroughs' naked lunch (would have made a great video game, trust.) my favorite poem by ginsberg is "america". it's a good example of the merging of his playfulness in a supermarket in california, and the darkness of howl.

god, ginsberg, you're so jersey. i mean just look at the last lines of howl:

in my dreams you walk dripping from a sea-
journey on the highway across america in tears
to the door of my cottage in the western night.

it's like a goddamn springsteen lyric!!

March 8, 2009

following up

some afterthoughts i've been having about that paul celan poem...
why does the last line, "it is time," have to be there? i don't like it. "it is time it were time" is not much stronger. i question the necessity of these two lines. they're too heavy handed for me, and don't do anything interesting. they're flat and feel like add ons and they're lame. get that shit outta here. 
the part of the poem i'm really digging is the line "we sleep like wine in the conches." that's beautiful. this image is completely invented; something i've never seen before or thought of, and yet when i read that line it's totally there. i can see the stillness, heaviness, thickness of the sleep. it's a perfect example of something abstract grounded in a concrete image. it works so well. it's especially nice because of the line that follows it: "like the sea in the moon's blood ray." i'm a really big fan of the double-simile when it's done right, and in this case i really think it is. the sea picks up on the conch, and the moon's blood ray picks up on the color of the wine. but, even though these two images "match" in a way, they are images of different things. in the second one, i see the sea still at night in the light of the moon. sometimes the moon is red? right? doesn't that happen? i'm not sure, but even if not, there's still something matchy-matchy about the sea under a blood ray and a pool of wine inside a conch shell. it's working. 

March 6, 2009

you my quiet, my open one, and-

tonight i bought the complete poems of paul celan (born paul antschel, apparently- thanks wikipedia.) most of my teachers have been recommending him to me for a while, so i'm here. he lead a pretty interesting life. paul celan (i'm so jealous of the name celan) was born in romania to a german speaking jewish family. both celan's parents were killed in concentration camps during world war II, which provides a good deal of subject matter for his poems.

"there is nothing on earth that can keep a poet from writing, not even the fact that he's jewish and german is the language of his poems." -paul celan

the book i bought has the german on the right side of the page and the english translation on the left. i wish i spoke german so badly. i want to understand how he's using the language. it's been suggested that some of the poems show a deep frustration and dismantling of german. i wish i could observe this better. imagine a poet who hates his own language, and yet is confined to it as a means to express himself. not that he only spoke one language. he also got down with russian, romanian, french and yiddish, but german was his first language- and thus the language of his poetry.

here is a poem by him. it's not my favorite, but it was my gateway poem in realizing that i liked him. so i think you guys might like it too. it's also a little lighter than some of his other stuff, which is pretty dark. enjoy.


Autumn eats its leaf out of my hands: we are friends.
From the nuts we shell time and we teach it to walk:
then time returns to the shell.

In the mirror it's Sunday,
in dream there is room for sleeping,
our mouths speak the truth.

My eye moves down to the sex of my loved one:
we look at each other,
we exchange dark words,
we love each other like poppy and recollection,
we sleep like wine in the conches,
like the sea in the moon's blood ray.

We stand by the window embracing, and people look up from the street:
it is time they knew!
It is time the stone made an effort to flower,
time unrest had a beating heart.
It is time it were time.

It is time.