December 2, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Finally hit number forty. I don’t see myself making it all the way to number fifty-two, though. Nope. Don’t see it. Which is more than a little disappointing. Certainly, there’s no one to blame but myself. I can make some excuses about work and stress, but, really, it just illustrates the point of how we have let ourselves get away from the critical business of expanding our mind and world and improving ourselves and making a better place by reading.
Puhak won the Anthony Hecht Award, which was judged this year by my beloved Charles Simic. Both poets read at the Folger earlier this month and it was very good. Simic is always great and I very much liked Guinevere in Baltimore – though I liked it better in print than I did in her readings from it. Her readings sounded more repetitive than they come across on the page; this is a book that is meant to be read, rather than listened to.
The conceit is re-imagining the story of Lancelot’s affair with Guinevere, queen of the Britons and wife of his best friend, King Arthur, as something modern, with Arthur as a bumbling CEO, Lancelot as an aging playboy, and Guinevere as a woman of forty – old enough to be very conscious of age and loss and the terrible, silly sadness of her love affair.
As the title suggests, this is Guinevere’s story, with Lancelot a close second and Arthur barely appearing, at least as a speaker.
I’m writing this without the book by my side, so I can’t properly do any excerpts for you, but I do want to credit Puhak for her amazing use of enjambment.
The whole mixing the mythic and mundane is pretty, well, mundane these days. It’s been done. Been there, done that. So making it new (tip of the hat to Pound) isn’t easy, but is critical.
She does a great job of creating these mid sentence enjambments, where the line above resonates with the old mythology and language of myth and ancient times, but then when it continues in the next line, after the enjambment, the sentence suddenly becomes something quite contemporary and sadly sordid. You’ll have to trust me. It’s really good.
November 14, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Why yes! Yes, I am going to see the fiftieth anniversary special, Day of the Doctor in 3D at Georgetown on Monday, November 25th. Why do you ask?
And for all those who don’t know me and haven’t figured it out yet… we are talking about Doctor Who here.
November 6, 2013 § Leave a Comment
But I still made it to the poetry reading at the Folger Shakespeare Library last Monday. But I’m not going to write as much or as well, thoroughly or coherently as normal. Suck it up, readers (or, more realistically, ‘reader,’ because, let’s face, a irregularly updated blog about poetry doesn’t get many readers, so to my one reader, I just said, ‘suck it,’ so maybe now I have no readers at all).
Plumly read with C.K. Williams. Plumly is local and a former Maryland poet laureate, but I’d read a lot more about Williams (though I’d never read either’s poetry).
When I slipped over to a bookstore to check out their work and pre-buy a book to be signed, I expected to walk away with something by Williams, but found that Plumly is much more to my taste. On the page, to be honest, I wasn’t very interested in what I saw of Williams’ poetry. Plumly was more my type.
At the reading itself, Williams was enjoyable. He has a fast and enjoyable reading style. His work reads quickly on the page.
Plumly is a slower poet. He reads his poetry more slowly and his poems read more slowly on the page. I think that’s one of the reasons I preferred his work.
I will say this, Plumly is very good, very talented, but maybe not very distinguishing, by which I mean, his poems do not strongly distinguish themselves from other, similarly style poets. If you’re looking for a comparison, I’d say he most reminds me of the the late, great Adrienne Rich.
November 4, 2013 § Leave a Comment
There should be a punctuation mark for irony. Actually, there is. Or rather, there are several. But I don’t think my word processing program is familiar with them, so I never use them. But you can see how such a thing could be useful, especially in electronic communications, like email and text messages.
Everybody, and I mean everybody, or least, everybody who was anybody to having pretensions of intellectualism and were also under age twenty-five, none of which is intended as a knock on the book, had this book back in the early nineties. And probably before that, too, but frankly, I wouldn’t have known if they did. I mean, sure, I probably saw some of the shelves and was intrigued, with a cover like an oversized science fiction novel, but I really couldn’t have made any reasonable generalizations at the time.
I had no idea that Fanny Howe and Susan Howe were sisters. I love Fanny Howe and am always frustrated at how difficult it is to find her work. On the shelves where I had hoped to find Fanny was, instead, a poetry collection by Susan, instead. But knowing they are sisters doesn’t make it any less frustrating that the only bookstore in DC that seems to stock Fanny’s poetry is Bridestreet Books, which makes sense, seeing as they have, hands down, the best poetry selection… well, anywhere I’ve seen. And that includes the estimable Skylight Books in Los Angeles and even the serpentine stacks of the Strand in New York.
November 1, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Mallarme and the book. (P.S. – I love Mallarme. I got very offended when, listening to a performance of Debussy’s score for Mallarme’s L’apre midi d’un faun, one of the musicians, a guitarist, the piece having been arranged for guitar and flute, said no one cared about the poem anymore. Then, we saw an exhibit of materials from the Ballet Russe at the National Gallery of Art. Of course, one of their famous pieces, staying none other than Ninjinsky, was that same Debussy piece. So Mallarme is awesome. Read his poetry.)
October 17, 2013 § Leave a Comment
This shutdown sucks.
Especially if you live in the DMV (that’s the District of Columbia/Maryland/Virginia).
A pre-teen friend of the family was staying with us for a couple of days. We were going to go hiking in a national park one of the days and even though the park was technically closed… well, there are work arounds. But it was raining too much, so I can’t blame the shutdown on that.
But what do you do with a child that age when you’re looking for things to do? If you live in DC, you take them to a museum. They’re fun, free, and awesome.
Here’s a piece from Hyperallergic called Taking Stock of the Shutdown’s Continued Impact on the Arts that you should check out.
September 13, 2013 § Leave a Comment
August 30, 2013 § 2 Comments
He was just seventy-four. He was due to read at the Folger Shakespeare Library in the spring and I was very much looking forward to it.
Not so long ago, I had some book money burning a hole in my pocket and I had some thoughts about what I might buy, but when I saw Heaney’s Field Work, that was what I knew I had to get. And when I lived in Atlanta, Chapter 11 books sold me a beautiful copy of his translation of Beowulf.
He wore the mantle of Yeats well. I’m not saying he was Yeats’ equal, because… who is? But as a mythologizer, elegist, and obliquely political poet, he carried on some of Yeats’ mission.
Anyway. This is just sad. Really sad.
August 12, 2013 § Leave a Comment
The top 100 best selling poetry books of the 2010s, in terms of SPD (small press distribution) sales and I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read a single one of them (which isn’t to say I haven’t bought any poetry in the last few years).