February 26, 2009


mm-- sing it bruce. i love new jersey. i do. listen to darkness on the edge of town by bruce springsteen and try to tell me it's not the most genuine thing you've ever heard. the state feels alive to me. it has a voice. lacking in pretense and brimming in all things quintessential when it comes to your most romantic idea of america, jersey is the place 4 me.
come on, tell me you don't want to get some burgers on that grill and hang with my tikki torches. (hi dad!)

it wasn't until i moved to new jersey that i started writing poetry. i'm not sure why, but new jersey definitely unlocked something in me that led to poetry. a lot of poets are from new jersey. it's one of the most poetic states around. allow me to explain. 

walt whitan! uncle walt! you can go visit his grave in camden, if you're into that kind of thing (i'm not.)
william carlos williams from rutherford
allen ginsberg fucked a latin teacher from my high school. no really.
amiri baraka born and raised in newark. nj poet laureate until there was some, uh, unpleasantness. 
w.s. merwin raised in union city, nj. graduated from princeton.
robert pinksy born in long branch, undergrad at rutgers newark
joyce carol oates wrote about the smell of nj. nice. 

there's a lot more i'm just going to leave out, but look into jersey poets. for those of you interested, i highly recommend this anthology: poets of new jersey.

my copy is in the mail!

please enjoy some words on nj:

"new jersey's gift to its poets... is that it's a place of many places, essentially amorphous, freeing us to look at the world." - stephen dunn

Night Driving
by joyce carol oates

South into Jersey on I-95 rain and
windshield wipers and someone you love asleep
in the seat beside you, light on all sides
like teeth winking and that smell like baking
bread gone wrong and you want 
to die it's so beautiful-
you love the enormous trucks floating in spray
and the tall smokestacks rimmed with flame
and this hammering in your head
this magnet drawing what's deepest
in you you can't name
exactly to know it's there.


February 23, 2009

can poetry matter?

that's the title of a book, and an essay by dana gioia. as a poet gioia (pronounced joy! ah!) is only so-so, but this essay actually makes a lot of good points. can poetry matter? ..well, it matters to me. it matters to the other poets in my classes, and the teachers i've had. but that's kind of what he's saying- that poetry is only being read by other poets and this is a problem because poetry IS for everyone. i swear. it's about being human, it's about taking your private language (we all have one or many, come on, don't lie) and fitting it together like a little puzzle that hopefully makes someone else feel something. it's cool! you should try. i would like to see poetry appeal to the general population outside of colleges and MFA programs.  i mean it would be nice to not feel completely embarrassed when someone asks me what my major is (literally my least favorite conversation to have.) i bet a lot of aspiring "professional" artists feel this way. it makes one vulnerable to admit that they care about something that they could fail so easily and miserably at. i remember someone once asking me how i would do an internship for a career in poetry and i said i guess i'd spend a lot of time looking out the window. it's really not easy at the college level to say "i want to be a musician." but still, music is so much more widely appreciated in our culture than poetry. same goes for movies, acting, photography and a bunch of other different visual medias. even novels and short fiction are way way way more popular.

WHY!?!?! for real, everyone is a poet. there is not one person that i know who i haven't heard say or do something poetic at one time or another, and the poetry that i like best is the kind that sneaks up on me when i'm out in the real world (i.e. not my blog.)

check out this poem by jeffrey mcdaniel, my advisor here at school. he has four books: alibi school, the forgiveness parade, the splinter factory, and the endarkenment (such a bangin title.) he rules. get into him. 

Poetry Nation

In the capital square there is a statue of Jack Spicer,
puking his guts out, his last words- my vocabulary
did this to me! - inscribed in the marble base. 

In nightclubs, supermodels stomp their heels
and dream of their small, dark hearts
being enlarged with compassion implants,
as the poetess gets all the attention.

Guys in trendy rock bands mope like damp rats
whenever a poet storms into a room.

Everyone wants to be a poet, even the coroner
scribbling in his note pad at the crime scene:
a drowned man is judged only by his piers.

Carjackers pause in mid-heist to consider the moon. 
Hallmark is burned to a crisp. Bill Knot's sillhouette
appears on every thirteen dollar bill. 

Homeless people stand in line for Pablo Neruda. 
In hospitals, they feed cancer patients Carolyn Forche.
In churches there are giant wooden replicas 
of Emily Dickinson nailed to a cross. 

Instead of NBC and CBS, there is W.S. Merwin,
the Walt Whitman channel, and Sappho at Nite.

The Constitution was written by Tristan Tzara.
All men are created equal under Dada.
The drug czar makes sure everyone gets enough.

Lucille Clifton for president!
Charlie Parker is the national bird.
Howl  is recited before pro football games.
You can pay for groceries with words. 

February 22, 2009

trying to remember what i almost heard

one of the best things about writing is thinking of a line in the middle of the night and getting up to write it down. i always fall back to sleep excited to look at it in the morning, and pretty proud of myself for actually getting up to get a pen.
so last night i did this: i wrote a line in a half-sleep state and about an hour later i flailed my arm in a full-sleep state and i spilled a glass of water all over everything, including my face/pillow. the line got wet and totally fucking blurred. i can't read it. i don't remember what it was, because my memory is a complete wasteland.
this might be a metaphor for something.

February 19, 2009

what ever happened to predictability?

sometimes i think i could have been an astrologer (astrologist? i don't know.) i guess in not knowing the correct word i pretty much gave away the fact that i know nothing about astrology. but i think i have a good sense of rhythm when it comes to, uh, life. maybe.
did you ever hear that silver jews song, "we are real?" get that shit. it's on the american water album. the lead singer/songwriter of the silver jews is david berman. he's a great poet as well, his book is called actual air. i go back and forth on which i like better: his music or his poetry. luckily no law requires me to decide.  anyway, there's a line in that song: "like background singers they all come in threes." amen, david berman, you genius poet, you. it's unspecific in the song, who or what the "they" refers to. a lot of shit does come in threes: deaths, break ups, etc.. good things too sometimes like... births, meals? i don't know. i'm feeling on the pessimistic side of things today and clearly need a hot meal.
i've been thinking about life's rhythm in the context that, as i predicted, 2009 has been a complete, unmitigated shitstorm so far. i won't go into why because a) eh. and b) it's impossible due the fact that it requires too many unfoldings and understandings of the individual that are pretty difficult to access in this whole business of being human on this planet. all i'm saying is that the odd years are usually... well, odd. for me. i've talked to some people who like odd years best, but what's interesting is that they too make the distinction. it makes me wonder if there is some kind of regulation as to what happens to who and when. like people get assigned odds or evens. so if that is the case, does that mean that the universe is actually kind of... fair? that's all i have at the moment. 

please enjoy this poem by david berman:

Of Things Found Where They Are Not Supposed To Be

I am shivering, reading cold northeastern prose
and there is a word for what I do
but I do it anyway,
carefully setting dinner on the table uncooked, 
before setting the table on fire.

The sky hovers overhead holding up dotted lines drawn from
the binoculars to the birds.

A woman whispers into her sugar bowl,
"Slowly, over time, you will be lent to the neighbors."

At the bus terminal, behind the candy machine,
there is a tunnel that comes out in the prison library,

and it's all pinned to a shimmering screen
by the slide projector's cone of lit dust.

Can I safely say that Greece was mainly
water, rock, and ideas?

My statistics show that several thousand years of rain
have done little damage to the planet, 
yet imagine if that amount had fallen indoors.

Imagine this girl, a winsome beauty previously existing
only on a rejected coin design, imagine her driving through the old
seaboard slave states,
with a treasury of college fight songs,
"in the tape deck."

The rose bushes look like Latin homework
on the pond's reflective skin.

Like a "hullo!" up a rainpipe, it bears me homeward,

not asking for a quick peek at the shade inside objects,

but simply admiring the Precambrian skyline of the car keys
that took us away from the colony of motels
scattered like mushrooms about the beltway's exit ramp.

And yet it's so strange that we've come to this,
and to think that someday we'll come back to it
from the opposite direction.

On the streets I look out for people from the future.
They try to play it cool so no one notices, taking taxis,
calling the driver "Mac," in what they mistakenly
believe to be the lingo of the day.

When I see L.A. fireplaces reflected in L.A. wineglasses,
crows wired to the sky like marred pixels,
and "you" with your little tail of vowels,
I start to believe that the inscription above the portal
describes this side, not the exit.

For now just keep smiling and nodding
as if you were in a foreign country,
painfully grasping a pineapple.

February 18, 2009

obama eats the camera

i thought the poem that was read at inauguration was pretty weak. a lot of stock phrases and vague images like "we go about our business," or "someone is trying to make music somewhere." personal taste aside, it didn't offer anything particularly daring or imaginative. flat all around, and not very honest, if you ask me. 
it's a shame because billions of people (probably) watched the inauguration, and i'd say about 97% of them (probably) think poetry has absolutely nothing to do with them. so here was this great opportunity for america to hear a poem and actually feel moved- tie an experience to it. hopefully some did anyway.

my poetry class met for the first time the day after inauguration and we discussed what we would have liked to hear. we all felt it needed to be something more honest, more personal, less glossed over. my teacher threw out an interesting option: "we lived happily during the war" by ilya kaminsky. i wish i could find it to show you guys. just infer what you will from the title, i guess. 
then she gave us the optional assignment of writing our own "inauguration poem." the poem we would have written for the day if we were elizabeth alexander. although i thought this was a cool assignment, i didn't do it, 'cause you know, that's me. but i do think of lines for it sometimes. i urge you all to try. 

arielle greenberg and rachel zucker have put together a blog that will feature a new poem each day for the first 100 days of obama's presidency. i like this documentation by way of poetry. it's important. i also like the idea of funneling the national situation through the eyes and language of one poet each day. so give a look.

February 17, 2009

hm. i have a blog. that was easy. 
i made this because i'm trying to write a poem and it's not happening. here's what i have so far:

i run where no running is allowed.

ok, so, don't steal that line from me because it's my only one. and i'll know.