Monday, February 27, 2006

So, the reading was an intimate and successful event. There was a late location change, and it was frickin’ freezing outside, so the crowd was not huge, but we had a great time. Tom read new poems—certainly new to me, who hasn’t heard him read in two years since we were MFA classmates. I tried some new poems too, and B read a couple of her newer ones. Then fun drinking after.

Spent today’s train travel time reading GREEN SQUALL, the forthcoming collection by this year’s Yale Younger Poets winner Jay Hopler. This is Gluck’s last selection. I’ve really enjoyed her tenure as judge—she’s picked work with qualities I enjoy in her work: a merciless inward gaze, tight, despirate langauge, and a struggle to relate to the experienced world. Hopler’s book certainly displays all of these qualities in abundance. There are a couple of clunkers, as there should be in any good first book. But the really good ones are really good, and really strange. Here’s a little teaser:

A sigh. The first long satisfied sigh of summer.
Satisfied—that can’t be right; summer’s never

Satisfied, never quite.

A strange kind of metaphysical probing goes on—the speaker is confronted with a stunning natural world he can’t quite bring himself to deserve. So the poems are very self-depricating, very ironic, and yet the portrayals of nature are ecstatic and very moving. I think people are going to like the book. Though of course, some people will find it overly self-indulgent and solopsistic, but I love that; I just want more.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

So, if you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know that B, our friend Tom, and I are giving a reading this evening, as follows:

Thomas Hummell, Brenda Shaughnessy, Craig Morgan Teicher
Sunday 2/26 7:30 PM
The Fall Cafe
Smith Street near the corner of Union
Carroll Gardens
Take F or G trains to Carroll Street
Exit at the back of the train (if coming from manhattan)
take a left out the exit, walk half a block, cross street and there you are.

But, as that’s all I’ve bothered to write about lately, I’d like to get beyond that and write about something else. I’m writing a couple of feature articles for PW’s national poetry month coverage. The first is a piece about (guess what?) poetry and the internet. I’m covering blogs, web journals, and the poetry publishing industry’s (industry?) response to the above. Of course, my audience is mostly people who know nothing about the online poetry scene, so those of you who are familiar with the blogosphere should not be surprised by a lack of surprises. Though I’ve done some good little interviews with folks who’ve had some very interesting things to so, so those will make it in there.

The second piece is a profile of Kay Ryan, a poet whose work I admire tremendously—it’s a kind of bedrock poetry—it’s got all the force that poetry has to offer, but it’s closer to the elements, made of earth, fire, water, tone. I’m going to be meeting her next weekend when I go to California for a wedding. Here’s a poem from her second of five books:


No rime-grizzled mountain climber,
puzzled by where the put his fingers next,
knows the least thing about
how narrow work gets
that depends only on pleasure.
When it gets late or he gets depressed,
he can hang in a nylon sack,
his whole weight waiting
for the light to come back.
Bur for people who ascend
only by pleasure
there are no holding straps.
The must keep to the
hairline crack all the time
or fall all the way back.

The book from which the above poem comes, Flamingo Watching, is, I think, out of print (though I was able to get it no problem from Amazon). It came out in the early nineties. The one before it was in the eighties. And there was some kind of very small press first collecion which I have not been able to get a hold of. Grove has published her last three books, which are the ones I’m most familiar with.

She is an absolute master of compression and extended metaphor. The vehicle and tenor alternate taking the emphasis, so that the poem is part fable, part impartment of wisdom. There’s really nothing else quite like it being done, except perhaps James Richardson’s aphorisms, and they really have something different in mind. She’s been publishing for about twenty years, and she keeps getting better with each book. The early books have a more religious focus (though only in as much as they take the opportunity to debunk biblical metaphor), while the more recent ones go to the source of figurative language: invention out of necessity. Here is the title poem from her newest book, which came out last fall. I think it’s incredible—mysterious, slippery, and incredible:


As though
the river were
a floor, we position
our table and chairs
upon it, eat, and
have conversation.
As it moves along,
we notice—as
calmly as though
dining room paintings
were being replaced—
the changing scenes
along the shore. We
do know, we do
know this is the
Niagara River, but
it is hard to remember
what that means.

What I mean by invention out of necessity is that, here, the goal is to convey the inner moral of this story: it’s easy to place oneself in the path of great danger and to ignore what is about to happen. But to get there, to make sure we are as surprised at the end as these characters are, Ryan choses and utterly strange and illogical narrative: a story of people eating dinner atop a moving river. We are as disoriented by their situation as they are by its consequence. Ultimately, the poem has a great deal to do with us, who, in each of our own ways, are heading toward a waterfall. She has that incredible way of slipping into our heads like that and implicating us without our really knowing it. Her reputation has been growing and growing in recent years, and no wonder.

So, hope to see you at the reading tonight, and perhaps for drinks after.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Final Reading Details

Brenda Shaughnessy, Craig Morgan Teicher, Thomas Hummell

Sunday 2/26 7:30 PM

The Fall Cafe
Smith Street near the corner of Union
Carroll Gardens
Take F or G trains to Carroll Street
Exit at the back of the train (if coming from manhattan)
take a left out the exit, walk half a block, cross street and there you are.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Brenda and my reading changes location

Our reading (with Thomas Hummell) will now be at THE FALL CAFE in Carroll Gardens instead of the Cloister Cafe (due to heat deficiency, among other things). The time will either be 4 or 7:30. I'll get back to you about that.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

B, Me, T reading

B, me, and friend Thomas Hummell will be reading next sunday, the 26, @4 as part of the excellent Burning Chair reading series. It'd be great to see you there.

Brenda Shaughnessy, Craig Morgan Teicher, Thomas Hummell
Sun. 2/26/06

The Cloister Café
238 East 9th Street
Between 2nd & 3rd Avenues
East Village, NYC


Just saw a great KGB fiction reading: Patrick Ryan (SEND ME, 2005) and Tom Bissell (GOD LIVES IN ST. PETERSBURG, 2004). I'm a huge fan of Bissell's journalism and stories, and Ryan was really good too. You should have been there.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Bloggin’ and rockin’ on a Saturday eve. I have an hour and a half to kill before going out into the miserable weather.

Been writing PW reviews all week. Sometimes it gets hard to work with books, try to write things, have books be my major hobby, and still love books. I get to feeling alternately overloaded and overnourished. Trying to shift some attention to my other hobby, music, but I must say obsession with books is a hard habit to kick.

Do other people feel a bit unhealthily yoked to their book/writing obsession at times? Of course, for me, a large part of why I read and write is for the job and companionship words bring me. But I know a large part of it too has to do with deep self-doubt, with the sense that if I’m not making/reading/ingesting something important, my identity feels like it’s unraveling and I don’t know who I am. That’s not how it is all the time, but I certainly get into a mode—and it can last for days—where books are everywhere, swooping down at me like cartoon bats.

But I’ve got the Fugazi documentary INSTRUMENT from Netflix. That should take about an hour and a half, right?