Index: Poetry


O blue stewardess…

Her arrow-straight hair will not escape from its bow. Her glasses will never slide down her nose. From now on her base will be Boston. She will tell the passengers tied to their seats how she and our captain are going to be divorced. Her voice has made up its mind.

On Dumbo, a great grey beast, we head north towards Philadelphia, over an ambiguous fog where turtles swim in mud which is neither sky nor sea. The turtles are only four inches long. Their small paws are webbed. Their shells are surprisingly sensitive. We know which way they are going.

Who can tell what an elephant will do? In the hook of Dumbo’s trunk, Captain Wright swings like a broken bell, as if he’s drunk or piloting an invisible bomber running out of fuel. Soon his shoes will drop from his feet, two birds plummet to earth. O blue stewardess with red striped cuffs, we hope you enjoy your fight.

Phyllis Janowitz, Soon The Final Decree

Esquire Magazine, June 1977. Janowitz is a poet, and Professor of English, at Cornell University. Also, yup, the mother of Tama Janowitz, author of 80’s novel / artifact Slaves of New York.

Feedback

two dudes taping box image lo res
the width of the images/photos are not the same –
1st wider than the second / third same as first
promo area here circle has lorum ipsum

Maybe it’s just me but once you’ve gone into get inspired
or get organized how do you get back to the home page
of the microsite, the main “step by step”?

Calendar has lorum ipsum in it.
Also, once there how do you get back?

Curated lists have tons of lorum ipsum

Is create a facebook event just supposed to send you to facebook
it’s not clear what you are “signing up” for…
the site is a guide site – that’s clear.
What is the “sign up” offer exactly?

More “stranded” moments —->
when on “packing” and you click on pre-move shopping list,
how do you get back to the main “step by step”

why is “get packing” the next page after “get settled”
shouldn’t it be “get together”?


written, as is, May 18th, 2012, with a single word removed. Carriage returns added.

The Adventures of Mr & Mrs Jim & Ron

Flipping through a dense stack of auction catalogs I came across this oddity – an unassuming, glossy softcover book with a cheap, haphazardly typeset title, The Adventures of Mr and Mrs Jim and Ron. It’s a 1970 collaboration between poet Ron Padgett and pop expressionist artist Jim Dine.

The poems are just fantastic – prime specimens of a sort I’m a helpless sucker for. They’re short dreamy little narratives, shot through with strange shifts, breaks and fissures amongst the phrases. Odd juxtapositions emerge, only to be smoothed together by easy grammatical connections. It’s like a slow pan across a radio dial tuned to the psychic landscape of America – pocket dramas, aspirations, product instructions, laconic observations, snippets of philosophy, fragment of bracing truths. They evoke, at times, Lydia Davis’ flash fiction, Ann Magnuson and Laurie Anderson’s brainy free associative monologues, Eve Babitz’s LA stories. Silver Jew David Berman’s poems too, here and there. Based on this book, this Padgett cat should be a joy to explore.

Jim Dine’s artwork is ok. I like Dine fine, and some of it’s sharp and smart (like the excerpts above), but the bulk of it is a too doodle-y and dashed off compared to the well turned poems they accompany. Still, the whole book is well worth tracking down.

Bright Young Things, Part I


They did not intend to distinguish between the essence Of wit and wallpaper trellis. What they cared Was how the appointments of the age appeared Under the citron gaslight incandescence.

Virtue was vulgar, sin a floral passion And death a hansom at the door, while they Kept faith with a pomaded sense of history In their fashion.

Behind the domino, those fringed and fanned Exclusive girls, prinked with the peacock’s eye Noted, they believed, the trickle of a century Like a thin umbrella in a black-gloved hand.

Yellow Book, Muriel Spark, c. 1951 (photograph, One More, by Mariczka, Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine)

Swinburne’s Cleopatra

Batshit. Pardon the vernacular, but it’s really the only way to describe Algernon Charles Swinburne’s poem Cleopatra. What ridiculous swoops of melodrama. Overripe to the point of sugary bursting. It begins with a vivid litany of Cleopatra’s superlative qualities. It quickly unravels into a hysterical parade of phantasmagoric noodling – histories crushed under her eyelids, something about molten heaven drier than sand, and culminating in a psychedelic apocalypse. Or something. But of course it’s all a dream, but the dream of a lurid goddess, laughing with a red sweet mouth of wine, with history itself under her sway. Superb stuff, enjoy! (By the way Swinburne’s story is riveting and well, well worth reading.)

HER mouth is fragrant as a vine,
A vine with birds in all its boughs;
Serpent and scarab for a sign
Between the beauty of her brows
And the amorous deep lids divine.

Her great curled hair makes luminous
Her cheeks, her lifted throat and chin.
Shall she not have the hearts of us
To shatter, and the loves therein
To shred between her fingers thus?

Small ruined broken strays of light,
Pearl after pearl she shreds them through
Her long sweet sleepy fingers, white
As any pearl’s heart veined with blue,
And soft as dew on a soft night.

As if the very eyes of love
Shone through her shutting lids, and stole
The slow looks of a snake or dove;
As if her lips absorbed the whole
Of love, her soul the soul thereof.

Lost, all the lordly pearls that were
Wrung from the sea’s heart, from the green
Coasts of the Indian gulf-river;
Lost, all the loves of the world—so keen
Towards this queen for love of her.

You see against her throat the small
Sharp glittering shadows of them shake;
And through her hair the imperial
Curled likeness of the river snake,
Whose bite shall make an end of all.

Through the scales sheathing him like wings,
Through hieroglyphs of gold and gem,
The strong sense of her beauty stings,
Like a keen pulse of love in them,
A running flame through all his rings.

Under those low large lids of hers
She hath the histories of all time;
The fruit of foliage-stricken years;
The old seasons with their heavy chime
That leaves its rhyme in the world’s ears.

She sees the hand of death made bare,
The ravelled riddle of the skies,
The faces faded that were fair,
The mouths made speechless that were wise,
The hollow eyes and dusty hair;

The shape and shadow of mystic things,
Things that fate fashions or forbids;
The staff of time-forgotten Kings
Whose name falls off the Pyramids,
Their coffin-lids and grave-clothings;

Dank dregs, the scum of pool or clod,
God-spawn of lizard-footed clans,
And those dog-headed hulks that trod
Swart necks of the old Egyptians,
Raw draughts of man’s beginning God;

The poised hawk, quivering ere he smote,
With plume-like gems on breast and back;
The asps and water-worms afloat
Between the rush-flowers moist and slack;
The cat’s warm black bright rising throat.

The purple days of drouth expand
Like a scroll opened out again;
The molten heaven drier than sand,
The hot red heaven without rain,
Sheds iron pain on the empty land.

All Egypt aches in the sun’s sight;
The lips of men are harsh for drouth,
The fierce air leaves their cheeks burnt white,
Charred by the bitter blowing south,
Whose dusty mouth is sharp to bite.

All this she dreams of, and her eyes
Are wrought after the sense hereof.
There is no heart in her for sighs;
The face of her is more than love—
A name above the Ptolemies.

Her great grave beauty covers her
As that sleek spoil beneath her feet
Clothed once the anointed soothsayer;
The hallowing is gone forth from it
Now, made unmeet for priests to wear.

She treads on gods and god-like things,
On fate and fear and life and death,
On hate that cleaves and love that clings,
All that is brought forth of man’s breath
And perisheth with what it brings.

She holds her future close, her lips
Hold fast the face of things to be;
Actium, and sound of war that dips
Down the blown valleys of the sea,
Far sails that flee, and storms of ships;

The laughing red sweet mouth of wine
At ending of life’s festival;
That spice of cerecloths, and the fine
White bitter dust funereal
Sprinkled on all things for a sign;

His face, who was and was not he,
In whom, alive, her life abode;
The end, when she gained heart to see
Those ways of death wherein she trod,
Goddess by god, with Antony.

Do Do Barbados

Barbados teams with Darlene Swimwear, circa 1966, to make a level-headed, brass-tacks case for increased tourism to this picturesque island nation. Strange thing is, on closer reading, the text is a little fractured, off kilter –  taking on, nearly, the cadence of verse. So here, in the spirit of summer, for your pleasure, a bit of found doggerel:

DO DO BARBADOS

Darlene does two piece for the show
at Silver Sands Beach.
Beautiful Ban-Lon
with crochet trim and boy leg.

Baby pink,
Lemon,
Turquoise,
Black.

Sizes 8 to 16

Do Do Barbados
Sun ceilinged, sea surrounded.
West Indian place
of happy exile.

Fly BWIA
the airline of the Caribbean

A round of happy smiles
pipes you aboard.
In little less than five friendly hours
you start your island affair
with the idol of the West Indies.

For flight information see your travel agent.

Silver Slivers

david_berman
rauchenberg

Pressed into my hand by a fan, the poetry of David Berman confounded all expectations. Based on the reputation of his band, Silver Jews, I expected something top shelf, but sheesh. Quoting back cover blurbs is lazy, but James Tate gets it exactly – one after another, the poems in Actual Air “freeze life in impossible contortions.” Bingo! And, it’s a visual notion, those “contortions,” which helps explain why all the associations the work evoked for me were visual as well.

Besides fleeting vignettes, a melange of the worn south, bad advertising, and snippets of sci-fi, I kept thinking of a certain strain of pop art – the kind with some heaviness of meaning, of weight, at it’s core. Ruscha’s word paintings kept shimmering into focus, along with flashes of the instillation art of Ed Kienholz and the melancholy noir pop collages of Alexis Smith.

I think the Rauschenberg fan comes the closest to the sensation of reading the poems, though. At rest the phrases feel out of context. As it begins to spin and whirr, the phrases merge and mesh into coherence.  As it spins down again it leaves you having experienced something singular, poignant, and fleeting.

(Robert Rauschenberg, Eco Echo III, assemblage, 1992-1993)

Kay Ryan

magglass

NOTHING VENTURED

Nothing exists as a block
and cannot be parceled up.
So if nothing is ventured
it’s not just talk;
it’s the big wager
Don’t you wonder
how people think
the banks of space
and time don’t matter?
How they’ll drain
the big tanks down to
slime and salamanders
and want thanks?

REPULSIVE THEORY

Little has been made
of the soft, skirting action
of magnets reversed,
while much has been
made of attraction.
But is it not this pillowy
principle of repulsion
that produces the
doily edges of oceans
or the arabesques of thought?
And do these cutout coasts
and incurved rhetorical beaches
not baffle the onslaught
of the sea or objectionable people
and give private life
what small protection it’s got?
Praise then the oiled motions
of avoidance, the pearly
convolutions of all that
slides off or takes a
wide berth; praise every
eddying vacancy of Earth,
all the dimpled depths
of pooling space, the whole
swirl set up by fending-off—
extending far beyond the personal,
I’m convinced—
immense and good
in a cosmological sense:
unpressing us against
each other, lending
the necessary never
to never-ending.

Kay Ryan’s poems are a public service. They burrow into the overlooked and taken-for-granted and uncover something intrinsic and valuable. Her contribution lies in recovering insight trapped in cliches and bromides. Her poems pause to illuminate the darkness just before dawn, linger over the texture of the fabric of life, and note the passing of water under the bridge. In Nothing Ventured she detects the weight and scale of nothing itself, and marvels at how casually we gamble it away. She is also a consummate observer of the whirring gizmos of existence. Indeed, “little has been made of the soft skirting action of magnets reversed.” By the end of Repulsive Theory, the lovingly rendered “pillowy principle of repulsion” is invested with a precise and staggering physical and poetic power, doodling the edges of continents, “unpressing us against each other, lending the necessary never to never-ending.” Now our Poet Laureate, all her books are endlessly rewarding, and while some are rare, Niagara River, Elephant Rocks and Say Uncle are easily found. A great overview can be found here. (Image: Roy Lictenstein, Magnifying Glass, 1963)