Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Poetry Month Reading List Rundown Part III

Okay, as quick as I can with these last few… to get on to other things…

32. Factory of Tears – Valzhyna Mort, trans. Elizabeth Wright (Copper Canyon, 2008)

History and image key, and self-making, resilience. From the opening poem:

even our mothers have no idea how we were born
how we parted their legs and crawled out into the world
the way you crawl from the ruins after a bombing
we couldn’t tell which of us was a girl or a boy
we gorged on dirt thinking it was bread
and our future

33. Another Water: The River Thames, for Example – Roni Horn (Scalo, 2000)

Roni Horn took pictures of the Thames. And wrote about it. Large images spanned two pages with text / footnotes running along the bottom. Some footnotes repeat, collage.

82 Water is a spiritual presence (In the company of water I feel in me the presence of things that exceed me.)

323 We should recognize that contemporary water is mostly a parody of waters past.

34. The Lost Art of Reading: Why Books Matter in a Distracted Time – David L. Ulin (Sasquatch Books, 2010)

A meditation on how the internet has eroded our powers of concentration; some talk of what good has replaced that, but it’s mostly nostalgic for reading as a young gun.

Real reading “demands space, because by drawing us back from the primacy of the instant it restores time to us in a more fundamental way.” (80)

Which reminds me of the article I read about how internet usage actually devolves our brain from the ability to shut out external stimuli and focus on a task at hand and returns us to hunters and foragers and hunted constantly taking in information in order to fight or fly. This is a really rough summary of what’s actually said.

I agreed with pretty much everything Ulin said, but/so nothing was earth-shattering here.

35. Heavy Jars – Anselm Hollo (Toothpaste Press, 1977)

bad sunday

longing, anger, rage

feeling both desperate and boring

brilliant sunshiney day

i don’t want it

i want deranged jottings!

how to stop envying
the beloved
the beloved’s life

flat on back
cursing the gods

silly head music:
big cat claws
striking, pow, pow, pow

screech, dying mice

general misery
on Saigon of the soul

yes, let’s have
that, too 


36. Little Mysteries – Ken Mikolowski (Toothpaste Press, 1979)

mystery #5

on the third day
no one is killed
as you begin
to relax
you hear the terrace door


The above, more subtle than the rest, was my favorite of Mikolowski’s. The chapbook is illustrated by his wife. Interesting images, tres 70s.

37. Cadaver, Speak – Marianne Boruch (Copper Canyon, 2014)

This isn’t actually any kind of review, but: the first section of this book spookily recounts memories I’ve had and forgotten. It’s not déjà vu or deja lit, but real. Her rattling doorknob in Italy of someone trying to get into her hotel room in the middle of the night; this happened to my grandmother and I in Paris. And the first poem’s walk through the night aisles of an airplane brings back exact thoughts I had the first time I rode the train overnight: “The fact is I walked through an underworld, that aisle— / I was up, had to—and saw in the dim / not-yet-dawn the arms / and legs of Shiloh and Gettysburg flung / every which way.”

38. It – Inger Christensen, trans. Susanna Nied (New Directions, 2006)

What’s written is always something else
And what’s described is something else again
Between them lies the undescribed
which as soon as it’s described
opens up new undescribed areas (50)

39. One With Others – C.D. Wright (Copper Canyon, 2011)

I’ve had this book for some time, but had yet to get around to reading it. It felt odd not to read the copy I have. Collage of songs, newspaper articles, interviews, and memory/memoir elements re: violent incidents that take place during a summer of Civil Rights Movement. Sweet Willie Wine, V, Arkansas. Through repetition and juxtaposition the momentum of the book (and narrative) builds.

40. Romey’s Order – Atsuro Riley (University of Chicago Press, 2010)

Backwoodsy childhood with heavy sound / rhyme and assonance and a lot of made up compound words. Wow, apparently Poetry loved him; 21 of the poems published there. I liked it and it made a lot of talk happen in my head (and for that I’d return), but to some degree I found the compounds overkill / self-conscious. From one page (7): jungle-strangled, supper-singed, bruise-tingeing, Y-crotch, medicine-smelling, sweet-gum, belly-worry, elbow-curve, hunker-turn, in-warped, porch-door, kick-scarred, rust-cry and -rasp, Tailspin-wind, jamb-slap, after-slap, cinder-crush and –temper, funnel-blur, red-gold, apron-yellow, rickracked, stove-coil, blade-flash, magma-brimming, ladle-splash, bramble-berry, bunker-shelss, once-bedded, beanvine-roots, moonvines, dew-shining. Wow. That was more even than I head-thought there would-be.

41. Meditations in an Emergency – Frank O’Hara (Grove Press, 1957; reissue 1996)

A perennial favorite I had not visited in several years.


The eager note on my door said “Call me,   
call when you get in!” so I quickly threw   
a few tangerines into my overnight bag,   
straightened my eyelids and shoulders, and

headed straight for the door. It was autumn   
by the time I got around the corner, oh all
unwilling to be either pertinent or bemused, but   
the leaves were brighter than grass on the sidewalk!

Funny, I thought, that the lights are on this late   
and the hall door open; still up at this hour, a   
champion jai-alai player like himself? Oh fie!   
for shame! What a host, so zealous! And he was

there in the hall, flat on a sheet of blood that
ran down the stairs. I did appreciate it. There are few   
hosts who so thoroughly prepare to greet a guest   
only casually invited, and that several months ago.

42. Torn Awake – Forrest Gander (New Directions, 2001)

What I like about Science & Steepleflower I like about this, which is, I think, it’s follow-up: how main threads are taken up wholly in sections, how sections are their own one poem composed of many. In this there is much about the relationship with the son. Also love letters, love’s letters.

“A past that never stops / changing its expression.  I am alive, / he wrote, and cannot bear / to be unworthy of my life.  Came to the end / of words and waited.  Then things restore silence / speaking of themselves.  Lizards / lick shadow under the dry fountain.  Lidless gaze. / The butt and very dustmark of my utmost journey. / Pain as utterance / withheld.” (p 77, from “Carried Across”)

43. Pool [5 choruses]Endi Bogue Hartigan (Omnidawn, 2014)

mathematical formulation, 9/11 figures heavily, many different forms, fantastic opening poem:

We cannot help ourselves
but believe. Look what people do.
We cannot help ourselves to
believe. Look what people do

and believe. I can't believe it
said the plum trees shivering

and then the blossoms showed
up scattered, side blown,
not just down. We cannot help
ourselves to everything

said the people unbelieving,
shaking heads. How can we believe now, look?

Atrocities blossom also, look.

The trees said help yourselves

to blossoms: democratic trees,
dreaming lessons. We believe
in teaching belief said the trees.

We cannot help ourselves with
blossoms, to blossoms of belief.

White blossoms fell on our hair
a weight barely there, so we 

left them till they blew.

44. The Book of Repulsive Women: 8 Rhythms and 5 Drawings – Djuna Barnes (from 1915; Sun & Moon facsimile, 1994)

A weird, rare used bookstore find (Michael’s in Bellingham).

45. The South is Only a Home – Daniela Olzewska (Small Monster Press, 2011)

Is a beautiful object: farm house dual green and light green sunrays burst forth from on the cover, woodcuts throughout, on quality paper. A lot of yr and + (for and) +/or’s. The effect of this, joined with the short lines and everything lower case is a casual and quick speech, a closefriendly matter-of-factness. Sonically dense, existing to slow and make brighter the pieces of narrative contained in each poem. 

46. Stag’s Leap – Sharon Olds (Knopf, 2012)

I think what I like best about this book is that I don’t have to fully engage the part of my brain that seeks narrative. Because all of this book is speaking to and of the same narrative: the husband leaving after 30 years. Then I can focus fully on the sounds, on the line breaks, on the images presented. The stutter of this one, "The Worst Thing." I have never, I don’t think, read a poem that has sobbing in it such.


One side of the highway, the waterless hills.

The other, in the distance, the tidal wastes,

estuaries, bay, throat

of the ocean. I had not put it into

words, yet—the worst thing,

but I thought that I could say it, if I said it

word by word. My friend was driving,

sea-level, coastal hills, valley,

foothills, mountains—the slope, for both,

of our earliest years. I had been saying

that it hardly mattered to me now, the pain,

what I minded was—say there was

a god—of love—and I’d given—I had meant

to give—my life—to it—and I

had failed, well I could just suffer for that—

but what, if I,

had harmed, love? I howled this out,

and on my glasses the salt water pooled, almost

sweet to me, then, because it was named,

the worst thing—and once it was named,

I knew there was no god of love, there were only

people. And my friend reached over,

to where my fists clutched each other,

and the back of his hand rubbed them, a second,

with clumsiness, with the courtesy

of no eros, the homemade kindness.

47. I Want to Make You Safe – Amy King (Litmus Press, 2011)

 48. The Not Forever – Keith Waldrop (Omnidawn, 2013)

49. The Annotated Waste Land with Eliot’s Contemporary Prose – T.S. Eliot (edited, with annotations and introduction, by Lawrence Rainey) (Yale University Press, 2006)

Most interesting things I’m learning from T.S. Eliot: Little Tich and his boots like skis (I watched a video: Clément-Maurice's film of Little Tich at thePhono-Cinéma-Théâtre performing his Big-Boot Dance in 1900); an early working title for The Waste Land was He Do the Police in Different Voices; Richard Adlington’s (the former Mr. H.D. – together only a few years, but married for 25 (1913-1938)) relationship with Eliot disintegrated due to jealousy and ended when Adlington published Stepping Heavenward in 1931, which parodied Eliot’s relationship with Viv.

Eliot says “all first-rate poetry is occupied with morality” 

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