Saturday, November 2, 2019

New Poems in FRiGG


I’m genuinely thrilled--thrilled, I tell you--to have six new poems in the latest issue of FRiGG.  Not only does the magazine have good poems & stories, but it’s also quite visually pleasing.   Many thanks to the fine folks at FRiGG.

Click here to read the poems.

For more poems, click here, here, here, & here.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

When FAIR Isn’t Fair


In “Russia Accusations a Distraction From Gabbard’s Actual Troubling Ties,” (FAIR, Oct. 24, 2019),  Ari Paul claims Gabbard’s alleged pro-Hindutva views are a greater concern than Clinton and MSM’s fabricated Russian accusations—given these charges, as Paul himself admits, are unsubstantiated, it stands to reason that nearly everything would be a greater concern—yet he never specifies what he or his various handpicked, handwringing sources believe Gabbard, in light of her dubious RSS ties, would do if elected president.  Nor does Paul cite much in the way of rebuttal to the accusations, employing instead a heavy-handed, one-sided argument against Gabbard and the nebulous doom that she represents.  As a result, the allegations come across as little more than fear-mongering, as if Paul is manipulating current paranoia about foreign interference in American politics to exploit religious bigotry. 
Not only has the US never had a non-Christian president, but even among Christian sects, there’s a clear bias.  Many worried in the sixties that Kennedy’s Catholicism would make him a puppet of the pope, or more recently, commentators such as Lawrence O’Donnell at MSNBC voiced trepidation about Mitt Romney being a Mormon. Similarly, Bernie Sanders, on those few occasions in which he’s mentioned, is often portrayed negatively by much of the media, which could be construed as anti-Semitism. Since Paul never addresses how Gabbard’s views on India compare to other presidential candidates—or other US politicians, for that matter—it seems it’s mostly because Gabbard is a Hindu that her relationship with India is an issue. 
It’s extremely disappointing that FAIR would take part in what certainly appears to be a smear aimed at an anti-establishment candidate, an all-too common MSM ploy, as FAIR itself suggests.  Upon reading Paul's piece, one wonders if he is equally troubled by Joe Biden’s links to neo-Nazis in Ukraine.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Another Fistful of Book Reviews

The Age of Huts, Ron Silliman.  Experiments with language & form are good, generally speaking, but here's the exception that poops on the rule.  Silliman's poetic experiments are far too long, repetitive, & disjointed to approach what I'd term successful.  This is not to say that one can't glean anything from Silliman.  For instance, one learns that a 300+ page book comprised of mostly page-sprawling text, including the 100+ pages of "Ketjak," is not exactly the kind of thing that's exactly kind to the reader.  The lesson one may take from this is to respect the reader.  A valuable lesson.

The Modern Fable, Nishiwaki Junzaburō, trans. Hiroaki Sato.  Some call The Modern Fable Nishiwaki's best book, but having not read his other collections, I can't speak to that, but I can say I enjoyed these poems.  The influence of the surrealist movement on Nishiwaki becomes evident from the onset.  An example:

         The Winter Day

         What day was it when they made this garden?
         There aren't many
         who walk this road
         but in this valley where giant elms
         twist their branches into the sky
         I pick the seeds of wild roses
         for your gourd.
         Liquor may be exhausted but dreams spurt on endlessly.
         Dangling a string of empty cups from my forefinger
         brows raised and like a breeze
         I go with a man to the blue sea
         On a day like this the biologist
         wearing the pear-colored tie
         tells heartless stories
         of sea anemones and wild grapes.
         In the moonlight that Neptune casts
         in weather like this, quite unseen
         another pod of gonzui
         splits solemnly.
         Thus imagining gaudy matters
         smoking my hackberry pipe
         I ran toward the Meguro station to see the winter festival.
         Near the station at a house called Scipio
         an old woman was playing the flute
         carousing.
         From behind me a boy pulled at my mantle dyed purplish indigo
         with grass green lining.
        "Mackerel pike and chestnuts are out of season but would you
         please honor us by dropping in
         my master says.
         Mr. Socrates is there too."
         This is the beginning of
         Plato's Republic.

Modigliani, Doris Krystof.  I'm somewhat a Modigliani fan, mainly because some of my old drawings remind me of Modigliani, but not very many &, if I'm honest, not very much.

Selected Poems, Paul Eluard, trans. Gilbert Bowen.  "From one war to another I grew old" Eluard writes in "Like Many Others."  Sadly, I know that feeling.

Lionel Asbo, Martin Amis.  Given the novel's frequent use of British slang & idioms--ASBO itself is an acronym for antisocial behaviour order--I'm reminded that on the 50th anniversary of Mary Poppins, Dick Van Dyke apologized to Londoners for his corny cockney accent in the film.  Now that the precedent is set, it seems to me only fitting that Tom Hanks do the same for folks in Mississippi for his horrendous Southern accent in the remake of The Ladykillers.  Moreover, the Coen Brothers owe everyone an enormous apology for ever rolling out such a shitwagon of a flick.  As for the book, which is totally unrelated to any film that I know of, it has its moments, I guess.

The Baron in the Trees, Italo Calvino, trans. Ann Goldstein. A fanciful tale that perhaps peters out a bit by the end, it nevertheless, speaking of movies, seems like a great text for Terry Gilliam to adapt to film.

Threading the Maze, trans. Robert Epp.  A good selection of free verse from seven 20th century Japanese poets: Mushakôji Saneatsu, Hagiwara Sakutarô, Horiguchi Daigaku, Tsuboi Shigeji, Maruyama Kaoru, Kinoshita Yûji, & Sekiné Hiroshi.   With forty to fifty pages devoted to each poet---& well over a hundred poems for each--it's like having seven books of selected poems bound in a single volume.  Mushakôji is my least favorite--too simplistic & preachy--but I like Tsuboi, Kinoshita & Sekiné quite a bit.

The Morning of the Poem, James Schuyler.  I've read this book a gazillion times--er, gazillion & one--so you can extrapolate my opinion from that.

For All These Wretched, Beautiful, & Insignificant Things So Uselessly & Carelessly Destroyed . . ., Hosho McCreesh.  I share many of McCreesh's concerns & like his use of ampersands, but I wish he'd place more trust in imagery rather than feeling the need to editorialize.  For example, in "It Is Paris . . . " the opening poem--full title too long to fool with here--when the speaker walking along the Seine in the rain sees an empty can of dog food floating under a bridge, it's superfluous to explain:

            Suddenly the day went cold,
            went painfully, typically
            unromantic.

McCreesh also relies too heavily upon abstract generalizations, as when in "A World of Monster-Spores . . . ," a poem rife with problems, he writes:

           Sure, maybe we ask too much of life.
           Maybe kindness doesn't end up mattering.
           Maybe it's all too terrifying to admit.
           Maybe it just seems easier than the truth--

Personally, I cringe whenever a poet uses "we" to speak presumptuously for all humanity, but I doubt that I'm alone in expecting--especially in a poem that begins with Hitler as a young man--the poet to make clear what is meant by "kindness" & "truth" as well as the ever enigmatic "it all."

Such faults aside, there's a certain playfulness, including the Brautigan-esque long titles, that is to recommend.  When McCreesh focuses on observable phenomena, as in "The Last March of the Human Animal . . . ," it can make for enjoyable poetry.

Das Kapital, Vol. 1, Karl Marx.  I've been reading this book for years & frankly I'm embarrassed at how long it's taken me.  It's true many of the equations Marx cites early on are above my head, but not the accounts of the extreme ways in which workers were/are exploited & the all too familiar perverted logic that businesses use to deflect from their immoral & inhumane policies.  For instance, one businessman defends the low wages paid to children, who worked 10 to 12 hour shifts in mines, workhouses, & factories, by saying that if children received better wages, even more parents would send their children to work.  Nor does the lack of ample action, if not the complete lack thereof, taken by governments elude me, as when British legislators stepped in to decide just how much sawdust bread sold to workers could contain & still legally be considered bread.  Everyone should read this book.  If you start now, maybe you'll finish before neoliberalism kills us all.

The State and Revolution, Vladimir Lenin.  In this insightful little book, Lenin elucidates the writings of Marx & Engels in such a way to distinguish them from anarchists & social democrats.  At times, as when he speaks out against opportunists, it almost seems he's answering many of today's pundits who caution against progressive politics.  For Lenin, even today's so-called progressives would be labeled bourgeois reformers who fail to see the necessity of destroying the machine itself.  Reforms, the argument goes, are only temporary.  They can & will be undone at the discretion of the ruling class.  Lenin seems to be prophetic, for this is what one sees taking place in the world today as neoliberalism--striking down many of the reforms enacted during the early to mid 20th century--spreads war, repression, & austerity globally.

Paroles, Jacques Prévert, trans. Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  Lyrical & surreal, this may be my favorite book this year.  So good I read it twice & I'm reading it a third time now, which makes typing quite difficult for %$#*'s sake.

Roman Poems, Pier Paolo Pasolini, trans. Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  Since Ferlinghetti translated (& published through City Lights) both Pasolini's Roman Poems & Prévert's Paroles, it seems natural to compare the two.  In general, while Prévert bombards readers with images, Pasolini's poems are filled with abstractions not anchored to anything concrete.  He tells readers to think & feel this or that way in lieu of imagery.  This seems particularly surprising since Pasolini, probably best known as a filmmaker, surely understands the impact imagery can have.  Yet when Pasolini employs images in his poems, they often come across as more symbolic than literal, which tends to diffuse rather than imbue meaning.  To put it another way, while Prévert shares assorted snapshots of a warped world, Pasolini links us to Google Maps for directions.  I share Pasolini's concern for poverty & inequality, but his poetics disappoint. 

The Elephant's Journey, José Saramago, trans. Margaret Jull Costa. The self-aware narrator's voice lends this retelling of an apparently true story a certain fanciful & humorous sense.  Think Larger Than Life retold in the 16th century but no Bill Murray, who wasn't yet born.  Enjoyable & definitely worth reading, yet much as in the Calvino novel previously mentioned, the story kind of peters out.

The Scarlet Plague, Jack London.  If you can imagine a dystopian future--ironically, our past--in which the few survivors of a devastating plague inexplicably refer to each other by their professions & give their offspring offensive names, it might be preferable to this underwhelming story.  To be fair, reading this during my interminable wait at the DMV, which is a dystopia lifted from one of Dante's rings of hell in & of itself, may have colored my opinion.

Cathay, Ezra Pound.  This book of loose translations or perhaps interpretations, generally based not upon the original texts but on the notes of Ernest Fenollosa, includes "The River-Merchant's Wife: a Letter."  Of particular interest to me was Pound's snippy note at the end in which he says:
 
             There are also other poems, notably the "Five colour Screen," in which Professor 
             Fenollosa was, as an art critic, especially interested, and Rihaku's sort of Ars Poetica, 
             which might be given with diffidence to an audience of good will. But if I give them, 
             with the necessary breaks for explanation, and a tedium of notes, it is quite certain 
             that the personal hatred in which I am held by many, and the invidia which is directed 
             against me because I have dared openly to declare my belief in certain young artists, 
             will be brought to bear first on the flaws of such translation, and will then be merged 
             into depreciation of the whole book of translations. Therefore I give only these 
             unquestionable poems.

The Tormented Mirror, Russell Edson.  I've not read Edson in many years.  Not true--I just finished reading him.  Likewise, I say I'm burning logs in the fire even though they cease being logs when they burn, & from their ashes, summer comes, peeling the paint from the house down to its very boards, yet I refer to it as yellow.  Funny, it was actually blue.  As for The Tormented Mirror, I face it every day.  I like The Childhood of the Equestrian better, if I remember correctly, but memory's a flimsy whim on which to pin faith.  Yet it's hard to ignore the passage of time, the changes, the vastness.


Want more?  Click here.

Friday, August 2, 2019

SPANK the CARP

I'm happy to have my poem "Cypripedium" in the latest issue of SPANK the CARP.

Not only do I believe revision is the key to good writing, but I enjoy the process.  "Cypripedium" came about as the result of combining poems, a method I frequently use when stuck.  I have a vault of discarded poems in varying degrees of completeness that I dive into if I run dry.  Revisiting these poems or snippets is like bumping into different people I used to know at different times in my life & catching up.  When I combine poems, I play the matchmaker who introduces those with similarities who may, in turn, have a go. Sometimes that's all that comes of it, & there's nothing wrong with that: every poem we write is necessary on our journey.  Of course, one hopes that the upshot of the experiment isn't some unnatural assemblage of parts, but rather that the union results in the successful marriage of ideas & feelings.

If you like the poem, please consider voting for it.  I'm not out to win a competition, but it feels good to know people enjoy my poems.

Many thanks to all!

Georgia O'Keeffe, An Orchid (1941)


For other recent poems, click here, herehere, & here.  

Sunday, July 28, 2019

To Whom It May Concern

Socialism is the abolition of private property--that is, property requiring a labor force to produce  profit for its private ownership--not whatever bullshit you're saying.

            --Karl Marx, Das Kapital For Ya!

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Bunch of Junk about Chrome


Remember when the world sparkled?  How
the gods shone with polish in bygone days,
their glistening munificence shellacking
their golden, self-damned heavens, layers

of enamel glossing over the nimbus
haloing you?  How light afoot you gamboled
through the iridescent drifts
of that kaleidoscopic fall?  How brilliantly

you played the glockenspiel & winked
at the scherzando& phooey!  How
would you ever take a shine to me? 
The me reflected everywhere,

from the Studebakers buff chrome bumpers
to the once popular stovepipe hats,
back then fashioned from silver & tin.
Against the glint of history, you stand apart,

your face inside the coin jar ever
beaming, ever radiant to this day,
untarnished by the change waxing over you
in a glimmering, shimmering heap.

                             --Matt Morris



From Nearing Narcoma, selected by Joy Harjo as winner
of the Main Street Rag Poetry Book Award

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Mid Spring SPA

I have new poems online:

"Addendum to Wordsworth," a sonnet, appears in the new issue (#23) of Neologism Poetry Journal.

"Commercialism," a villanelle, is in the latest issue (#33) of The Fear of MonkeysWhile there, I hope you'll also read "Bridge to Future Out"  in the previous issue (#32).

Many thanks to all.

Utagawa Hiroshige, Cherry Blossoms, Tama River Embankment

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Asshats Applaud Assange's Arrest; MSM Maintain Misinformation Mission

I hope those praising Assange’s arrest—that includes MSNBC, CNN, NYT & WP—are wearing their MAGA hats proudly.  As if to show how few principles they actually have, these erstwhile partisan hacks, the sham of Russiagate still upon their hands, have joined team Trump in the persecution of a journalist whom they view as hostile to their politics.  While they continue to misrepresent the truth, if not outright lie, about Assange’s case--as is their wont on issues of the state--it’s important to remember these are the same sources that got nearly all the facts wrong in the Russiagate debacle.  You'd think audiences would be wary of MSM manipulations by now, but it seems some people don’t want the truth. They’d rather believe in unsubstantiated cloak & dagger plots than accept that their own government is as corrupt & inhumane as any in the world.  For some, it’s more palatable to gobble up the idea that Assange's publication of leaked DNC emails cost Clinton the election--& probably sainthood, too--than to choke down the bitter pill that she's a corrupt warmonger who’s slightly less likable than kidney stones, or worse, Trump.  Sorry, America, but it’s like my great-great-great-uncle Jake used to say, you can’t spell “suck ass”  without USA.  In fact, with the exception of a couple of letters, “suck ass” is wholly a product of USA.  Now there's American exceptionalism for you.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

More Examples of Irony

Over the past couple years, Facebook & other social media sites have been censoring--they call it filtering--the news, banning many alternative news sources from their feeds.  The rationale behind this censoring--er, filtering--stems from the notion that the mainstream sources publish reliable, vetted articles, but the non-mainstream sources are purveyors of fake news.  No evidence of such allegations were ever shown, but many of these so-called "fake news" sites, it should be noted, frequently present views that don't coincide with the official Washington report.

During this time, such mainstream sources as the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, & MSNBC have run a bevy of stories, despite the lack of substantive evidence, about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, while many of the so-called "fake news" sites have expressed much skepticism, given the selfsame lack of evidence for such claims.

Funny thing, the "fake news" sites had the story right, while the mainstream corporate media deliberately reported blatant hokum--the same way it continues to spew ridiculous lies about Venezuela, among others, to trump up US policy.   I'd bet you that some would venture to call that sort of thing propaganda.

Facebook, however, in light of the above revelations, has not removed its filters, but instead has doubled down, asking for further governmental oversight in regards to what they should & shouldn't allow on the site. Why not eliminate news censorship--er, filtering--altogether?  Propagating stories from sources proven to have published false & misleading stories while censoring--er, filtering--those that have proven to have got the story right is not merely illogical, but--given many people get their news via Facebook & other social media feeds--dangerously akin to brainwashing.


Monday, March 25, 2019

Poem for Spring


No Cherry Blossom Viewing This Spring

You won’t view cherry blossoms in the accepted way.
Saying you’re going to look at cherry blossoms
is only an excuse for hatching more plots.
What do you imagine the cherry blossom is?
It’s the pride of Japan, that’s what—the symbol of our Yamato esprit.
I’ll allow your viewing only if you compliantly
enjoy the cherry blossoms and recapture that spirit.
Unless you do, you don’t go.—Nothing doing, you absolutely don’t go.
What are you saying?  I’m tyrannical?
If that’s what you think, then take a look at these flowers.
Aren’t you aware of the glittering cherry blossoms that bloom
on my epaulets, on my patrolman’s cap?

             -Tsuboi Shigeji (trans. Robert Epp)


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Democracy Is Such a Phony Word


Let me get this straight:  the US recognizes the self-proclaimed president, Juan Guaidó--a man who never ran for office--as the legitimate leader of Venezuela & dubs the rightfully elected president, Nicolás Maduro, a dictator. By what definition is that democracy? Observers, including Jimmy Carter, have repeatedly described Venezuela’s election system as one of the best in the world.  Those who fume over alleged Russian interference in US elections—which, even if true, are paltry by comparison--yet support Trump’s position in regard to Venezuela show their arrogance & hypocrisy. Also hypocritical are those calling US meddling in Venezuela "humanitarian relief" when the US sanctions against Venezuela were intended all along to cripple the economy & essentially starve Venezuela into submission to US dictates.  It is all eerily reminiscent of US machinations in Chile during the 1970s that ultimately lead to the assassination of its elected president, Salvador Allende, & placed Augusto Pinochet in power, as documented in Patricio Guzmán's brilliant three-part series The Battle of Chile.  Click to watch Part 1Part 2 and Part 3.  (Please note that the video for Part 3 doesn't have English subtitles, so I can only attest to the quality of Parts 1 & 2.)


Monday, February 4, 2019

Another SPA

I'm delighted to have 4 poems in Home Planet News #6.  Many thanks to the editors.

By the by, in case you missed them, you'll find links to other recent publications here, here, here, & here.


Autoportrait

Friday, February 1, 2019

A Fistful More of Book Reviews

Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, James Agee.  Agee strikes a semi-journalistic pose to depict the lives of three sharecropping families in the 1930s.  He admits taking poetic license in his descriptions, which range from objective observations of his surroundings, through lyrically meditative soliloquies on the plight of the poor, to digressive passages about movies & literature.  It's worth noting that all three families that form these case-studies are white. Agee attempts to overcome this lack of diversity by speaking for African-Americans as a self-proclaimed liberal.  I wish Walter Evans's photos were dispersed throughout the book instead of compiled at the front.  Regardless of these & other complaints, such as Agee's sometimes sexist views, it remains worth reading.

12 Million Black Voices, Richard Wright.  Wright speaks in generalities, as if the 12 million titular voices were one common voice, to present a portrait of America from a Black perspective.  On the upside, this strategy allows Wright to present a quick overview of African-American culture, but on the downside, it doesn't allow for an examination of the individual outside of group identity.  All in all, though, it's a good read.  Photos are intermingled with the text throughout the book, so thumbs up to that, too.

Still I Rise, Roland Owen Laird, Jr., with Tanesha Nash Laird; Elihu Bey, illustrator.  I'd highly recommend this book (a surprisingly detailed overview of African-American history given that it's rendered in cartoons) to anyone who likes to learn stuff without having to do a lot of research, e.g., me.   Laird released an update of the book in 2009 following Obama's election, but the version I read was published in 1997.  Regardless of the version you read, you'll enjoy learning about some of what's inexplicably left out of American history texts.

Anthology of Modern Japaneses Poetry, Edith Marcombe Shiffert & Yuki Sawa, trans.  As the title suggests, the majority of this anthology presents an overview of early to mid-20th century Japanese poetry.  Most is free verse, though a portion is dedicated to tanka & haiku. With translations of nearly fifty poets, Shiffert & Sawa provide a good introduction to the modernist era in Japan.

One Hundred Poems from the Japanese, Kenneth Rexroth.  Since I enjoy Rexroth's Chinese translations, I thought I'd give this collection a read.  What's especially nice is that Rexroth presents the poems (primarily tanka & tanka chains) in both original Japanese characters & romaji alongside his translations.

Will You Please Be Quiet Please? Raymond Carver.  I've been on a bit of a Carver kick lately, so why wouldn't I read maybe my favorite of his books?  Love these stories.  I remember the first time I read "Nobody Said Anything" over thirty years ago, I nearly laughed my ass off.  I still laugh today, but my ass is way too big to laugh off.

Swann's Way, Marcel Proust.  Despite the accolades this series regularly receives among literati, I've got to say it's a pretty disappointing prequel to Carlito's Way. 

The Smuggler's Handbook, Albert Goldbarth.  When I was younger, Goldbarth was one of the big poets--I have several of his full-length collections--but he's kind of disappeared these days.  Well, I don't see him at any rate .  What made Goldbarth's reputation in part was his ability to tackle--wish I could say the same for [insert name of the losing Super Bowl team for joke] defenders--diverse topics in creative, funny, intelligent ways, though he tends to run a tad on the wordy side.  Let's say "expansive" to be kind.  All together nowexpansive.  Fortunately, for those who've never read Goldbarth, this chapbook serves as a good introduction, a sort of Goldbarth Lite:  good poems, less wordy.  In particular, I like "Mnemonic Devices," "The Numinous," "The Smuggled," "In Delicate Times, We Delicately Choose for Connotation," & "Walking into Winter."

Imagist Poetry: An Anthology, Bill Blaisdell, ed.  Many good poems here, though I wish it featured more selections from lesser-known poets rather than dedicating most of the pages to the usual suspects.

Guide to Kulchur, Ezra Pound.  Pound writes in an off-the-cuff manner about a number of topics, literary, political, & otherwise.  His glib remarks are at times quite humorous, as when he claims Plato's call to ban poets from the Republic referred only to bad poets. Yet at other times, Pound is very disturbing, as when he writes glowingly about Mussolini.  I'm hopeful that reading Kulchur will enable me to better understand Pound's Cantos, which I've been reading, it seems, as long as Neil Young's been chopping down a palm tree, which is, at last count, 87 years.

Office Work, Jackie Clark.  21 very short prose poems (each a paragraph or less) purportedly written over a period of--well, I'd guess 21 days--almost as if journal entries of an office worker.  Fun read.

The Selected Levis, Larry Levis.  There's little Levis doesn't do well.  He's lyrical, literary, humane, touching, real, surreal, funny, sad, absurd, smart, meditative, & philosophical, yet extraordinarily accessible, for every abstraction is tied not to merely an image, but an extensive array of imagery.  This may very well be my favorite book that I've read this past year.

Angle of Ascent: New & Selected Poems, Robert Hayden.  Reminded during a discussion of Terrance Hayes' s "For Robert Hayden" of the controversy surrounding Hayden, I decided to revisit this collection purchased in my university days.  I'd almost forgotten what a great poet Hayden is.   Included are the much anthologized "Those Winter Sundays" & "Night, Death, Mississippi," for instance, but not, disappointingly, "The Ballad of Nat Turner."  It's a good collection--I've had it on my shelves since an undergraduate--but for a few dollars more you can buy his Collected Poems, which is what I'd recommend.

Forest of Eyes: Selected Poems of Tada Chimako, Tada Chimako, trans. Jeffrey Angles.   This collection, translated & compiled after the death of Tada Chimako (or Chimako Tada, as is often the English designation), shows the range of Tada's poetry, composed in both traditional Japanese forms as well as free verse & prose poems.  I especially like the surrealistic quality--or is it magical realism--of such poems as "From a Woman of a Distant Land" & "Chewing on a Eucalyptus Leaf."

A Moral Lesson, Paul Etraud, trans. Lisa Lubasch.  Fun-sized book of poems you can carry in your shirt pocket & still have room for your phone.  Hey, is it available as an ebook?  Fuck if I know.  If it is, buy it & read it.  If not, do the same.

The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Michael Ondaatje. The English Patient guy presents an interesting mix of prose & poetry about (&, at times, supposedly by) the infamous outlaw, if that's what he was (the messiness of range wars makes classification difficult).  Warning: Prepare for "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" lodging in your loft (hopefully not the god-awful Guns n' Roses cover) for days on end if you read this book.

Phaedra, Jean Racine, trans. Richard Wilbur.  There's little I like better than Wilbur's translations. Well, actually, it's a rather long list of things I enjoy more, if I'm honest, but I am genuinely quite fond of his work as a translator.  His rendition of Phaedra proves no exception.

The Beard/VKTMS, Michael McClure.  Just because the ACLU defended The Beard against charges of pornography doesn't mean that it's great art, no more than standing up against similar charges transforms Larry Flynt into a fucking Picasso.  The Beard is a disturbingly stupid, needlessly repetitive "play" that dresses--or perhaps, more aptly, undresses--juvenile sexual fantasies as edgy artistic expression that, among other offenses, seems to justify rape.  After reading The Beard, everything else in the world--even the worst kind of psychopathic, sociopathic, & just downright pathetic tripe--is automatically elevated to a higher level of appreciation by comparison.  Thus, VKTMS is a better play, despite its artistic overreach & allegorical pretentiousness, than the aforementioned stain on humanity, though I hardly recommend it either.

Of Indigo & Saffron: New & Selected Poems, Michael McClure.  If you could gouge out your eyes like some ancient, incestuous king to disregard the ridiculous, mostly irrelevant imagery & blindly dig through the layers of self-righteous, sanctimonious excrement with McClure's disjointed, discarded shovel of logic,  you'd find buried beneath lie the bones of fairly common, if not indeed trite, poetic sentiments.  Even his constantly avowed belief in the oneness of all life reads like a print version of a political pundit repeating the selfsame phrases over & over (in ALL CAPS) as if volume wins the day.  For all this, his ubiquitous love of nature grants him the rare insight to observe that birds eat, fly, & poop.  Nevertheless, McClure's good for a few giggles.  At least that's what Kerouac said.

Fruits Basket, Vol 1, Natsuki Takaya.  OK, I'm probably not the target demographic of this manga series about teens & the Chinese zodiac, but I like the anime series, & as it turns out, the manga's enjoyable too, so you caught me red-handed & red-faced indulging in one of my guilty pleasures.

Earthling, James Longenbach.  In general, I like Longenbach's work, but I found this particular book a bit on the airy side.  If it were a souffle-- or perhaps meringue--where fluffiness is desired, I'd gobble these poems up like Mark Strand.  (This statement serves dual purposes: 1) These poems are Strand-ish in tone; 2)  Hunger is a recurring theme.)  I don't wish to be overly critical. Earthling's accessible, approachable, & many other complimentary terms, I'm sure, & yet it's unfulfilling.

Greatest Hits, C.B. Follett.  Aptly titled, for there are some great poems here: "How Straight is Straight, How Long the Inch (Consider)," "Lost and Found," & "Arms," to name a few.


Click here for another fistful.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

S(elf) P(romotional) A(nnoucement)


I'm happy to have a poem ("Still Life Without Grapes") in the 2018 issue of Poetry South.  Copies are available here.

It's also good to have a poem ("Bridge to Future Out") in the latest issue of The Fear of Monkeys.

Many thanks to everyone at both magazines.

In a Brown Study