Sunday, January 24, 2016

Poetry Monday: PoemTalk does Allen R Grossman’s My Radiant Eye

I’ve said this before and will no doubt say it again, but Jacket2’s PoemTalk is my favourite podcast.  I  try to listen to every show, not just to discover a new poet, but to listen to the way in which poetry - even poetry that seems cryptic and confusing at first, can be explored, unpicked, and opened out towards its full beauty.  In this issue the team, consisting of Kathryn Hellerstein, Peter Cole, Ariel Resnikoff, and of course, Al Filreis, who drives the discussion, looks at Allen R Grossman’s poem “My Radiant Eye”.  The discussion is informative, including ancillary but relevant information (the “inter text”) to both the poem itself, and to Grossman and the book that contains it, Descartes’ Loneliness, as well as an analysis of many aspects of the poem - its resonances, its “way of seeing”, the meta-poetic elements of the piece, the  and the revelations.  I think it was Cole who said:  [This is] “a poem of retrospection...a eulogy for the lone poet.  The theatre of the absurd within the drama of the poem  is what redeems the impossible situation the he finds himself in.”

You can listen to the episode of PoemTalk here:

The full text of My Radiant Eye can be found at Google Books.  Here’s a taste:

Or is it on account of my radiant eye
I have lived so long--I never slept

in the study hall, or called anyone
by an improper name. I never urinated in

a desolate synagogue.  I never ate or drink
in a desolate synagogue or picked my teeth.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Poetry Monday: Imperfect Echoes by Carolyn Howard-Johnson

For Poetry Monday this week I’m going to give a shout-out to my writing buddy Carolyn Howard-Johnson, who has a relatively new poetry book out called Imperfect Echoes: Writing Truth and Justice with Capital Letters, lie and oppression with Small. The book includes a few reprints from our Celebration Series collaborations, and is beautifully illustrated with images by Richard Conway Jackson, who is currently in prison in California.  All proceeds from the book are being donated to Amnesty International.  The book was inspired by Czeslaw Milosz' The Captive Mind and includes a range of poems focused around the utterly relevant topics of Peace, Tolerance, Hope, Truth, Justice, and Acceptance (note the capital letters).  Carolyn’s poems, as always, manage the delicate balance between easy accessibility, and deep complexity as they explore big concepts through everyday events.  Here’s a sample from the last poem in the book "Interpreting Fairy Tales"

From That to This,
the connection.
How what I didn’t know
and how the knowing 
changes things. Riotous 
orchids, baa baa black sheep,
ugly ducklings. Here, a single
troll waits under a bridge.

His name is Time.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Poetry Monday: Eileen Myles' School of Fish

I’ve been participating in an Eileen Myles poetry discussion group (kind of an offshoot from the marvellous ModPo course which I, um, might have mentioned a few times) in which we read and discuss one poem every few days (sometimes every day).  I’ve enjoyed every poem we’ve discussed, and if you haven’t heard of Eileen Myles, who has suddenly become something of a poetic superstar, I have to recommend her to you.  So far my favourite is the title poem from Myles’ School of Fish (Black Sparrow Books, 1997), a poem which was recently featured in the series Transparent, in which Cherry Jones plays a character loosely based on Myles. There’s something so liquid and rich about this poem - the way it explores homelessness in such a personal and even subtle way, while also going deep into notions of the self and belonging (without leaving out her dog).  Here’s the last part of it:

the deeper and deeper we go and the harder
it is to turn the key and eventually we
go and it is very very dark
we just get used to the light
but the blues and the greys and the feelings
of lostness, it's like home, it's like family.

The entire poem can be found here:
or you can listen to Myles’ own rather intimate reading here:

(and yes I know it’s Tuesday, but it might still be Monday where you are...or when you get here)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Poetry Monday: PoemTalk95: Robert Fitterman’s Sprawl

It has taken me a while to catch up on PoemTalk - one of my favourite podcasts.  There hasn’t been a single episode that I haven’t enjoyed - I really liked the previous episode 94, which explored two poems from CA Conrad’s ‘(Soma)tic Midge’.  But since we’re already in January, I thought I’d share the latest episode, which is an exploration of five sections from Robert Fitterman’s book Sprawl published by Make Now Press in 2010.  All of the pieces explored are actually available in the Penn Sound archives so if you go to the PoemTalk link here: you can listen to the episode (which also contains Fitterman’s readings) or listen to the individual poems read aloud.  These poems aren’t what you’d call lovely.  They’re kind of mock-consumerist, full of sound-bites, and familiar enough to be uncomfortable for the listener.  They’re full of vernacular voices, opinions, commentary at the shopping mall, on social media, or private conversations.  Fitterman’s reading, which is funny, sound almost like a comedy skit by Steve Wright.  Rodrigo Toscano likens Fitterman’s mall to Dante’s rings of hell, and if you’ve recently been shopping in a mall, you might agree (I might have made that comparison myself last time I was at Westfield).  PoemTalk’s very intelligent group featuring Al Filreis (as always), Michelle Taransky, Rodrigo Tuscan, and Laynie Browne suggest other possibilities in the work: the mapping of consumer culture as an archeology condensed to existentialist profundity.  Is that going too far?  I’m not sure, but I enjoyed their exploration very much, and as always, this podcast continues to teach me new ways to approach difficult or heavily conceptual poetry with an open mind and a multitude of possibilities.  Check it out and let me know what you think.