Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Gateway Poem

As a brooding teen, when I discovered "Grass," the conflict in Vietnam raged, despite pressure and promises to end it, and several classmates and I, leafing through our literature anthology on the fire-escape behind my junior high school, came across the Sandburg poem by sheer happenstance. We smoked and read, speaking with great effluence about the war, "Grass" having opened our minds. Afterward, I searched for other works that would give me that same high, lurking around the library, browsing the stacks for my next poetic thrill. Soon I was buying the stuff by the book-load--Leaves of Grass, Gunther Grass, Norman Dubie and so on. Then I moved to other writers. Anyone who knew me in those days could testify how much I'd gush, my nose ensconced in my Kenneth Koch stash. Still it did not stop. Perhaps if I were mechanically gifted, I'd construct a time machine to travel back to that summer evening when, having already tried so many other poets, I was introduced to Horace.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


What am I reading? Dean Young's Embryoyo. Funny story: I introduced myself to Dean Young about ten years ago at a writers' conference as a big fan--I'm over six feet tall, 200 plus pounds, and he, well, is not. To demonstrate, I waved my arms--big fan, get it?-- and quoted from one of his poems, something about needing a ladder to paint the sky. "That must have been a long time ago," he said, seeming not to recall the lines. He signed copies of Turbulence and Strike Anywhere, my two favorite Young books, and spoke with me briefly. Several months later, I'm reading at home when I discover that I'd mistakenly quoted David Lehman. If that's not funny, at least it's mildly amusing.