Not Catching Up


I am trying and not completely succeeding in catching up on my periodicals. The more timely ones like Foreign Affairs and The New Yorker are first and Poetry gets relegated because its news doesn’t get old.

But if you find this one somewhere, it has a great poem by Aracelis Girmay (another Floridian, by the way).

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‘Late Fame’ By Arthur Schnitzler


Many years ago, while still in college, I read Schnitzler’s Road to the Open. I was inspired by some reading about fin-de-siecle Vienna and a reference to Freud calling him his ‘doppleganger’ (intellectually, not physically, I gather).

For most of the book, I read it as a sort of building satire, wending its way to an uncomfortably cringeworthy comic moment.

And then it didn’t. Continue reading

Poetry East


I just finished reading the latest copy of Poetry East, one of my favorite poetry magazines.

One could criticize it by saying that it publishes too little work by new and emerging poets and too many by dead poets (like, Shelley levels of dead). But when you read it… well, it’s hard to criticize such a well put together publication with so much great poetry and beautiful (if not original) artwork.

This one (actually from Autumn 2017) features Carvaggio paired with passages from the Gospels (do you consider that poetry?). Ovid and Bernini. Facing pages with the Italian and English translations of Petrarch. Selections from American writers who visited Rome. English writers (the earlier mentioned Shelley, for example).

And yes, some new poetry. As part of three short poems collectively entitled Storyflowers, Suzanne Rhodenbaugh included this small gem, called Iris:

Once I was all lips and tongue.
Now I am a fist.

Can’t wait until the next issue.

#Instapoets


I have picked up copies of books by Rupi Kaur and Lang Leav and leafed through them. Like the alliteration of ‘Lang Leave and leafed,’ I am not convinced by their quality. Actually, I’m pretty convinced of their quality and don’t think they have much. I have seen, in magazine articles, screen shots of work by other ‘instapoets’ and it has made me think that the genre as a whole is pretty lacking.

I also don’t have much affection for slam poetry. If we are ranking these things, slam poetry ranks orders of magnitude above instapoetry in my estimation.

Me? I learn and comprehend best through interaction with the written word. I like to read, is what I’m saying. More than that, reading is how I engage in dialogue with the world around me.

So neither forms are really aimed at folks like me.

And I really don’t know what to say nor what to add to the current kerfuffle over instapoets and, to a lesser extent (mostly because of this article, which singled out a particular, recently published in book form, slam poet), slam poets. It’s not the first kerfuffle and it won’t be the last. Or, more likely, it’s all the same kerfuffle, which has been going on for a couple of years, at least.

But my two cents. It’s not good poetry. I haven’t read deeply into the genre, but I feel like I’m on pretty solid ground. Both in terms of my critical evaluation of what I have read and as regards the follow up question as to whether I’ve read enough to form a valid opinion.

But… I’m glad poetry is selling. I didn’t think the poetry collection by the singer, Jewel, was very good either (though, of course, I listened to her first  album constantly in the mid-nineties and nursed a mild crush on her in my early twenties). But I believe that having read one poem, people may read another. Having bought one book, they may buy another.

Also, though we may feel resentful that someone has achieved success with what we believe to be pretty shoddy work, most of these folks are in their twenties and I think we must forgive people their awful youthful poetry, even if it does get published, sell in the millions, and make them rich. And we should try not to be too bitter about it.

Death By Sex Machine


I am too lazy to go into too much detail, save to say the poems are better than the titillating title. And power through the first quarter of the chapbook, which was so disappointing that I almost put it down without finishing it, because the rest is three quarters awesome (still a few stinkers, but the ratio is good).

It’s also worthwhile because in a post Trump, post Weinstein environment, her interrogations of the desiring gaze targeting women in various positions of psychic weakness feels more than usually relevant.