Thursday, November 30, 2006

With or Without You

Watching a U2 concert "Live From Italy" with Dean on cable tonight. I was blown away to see that the audience, hundreds of them, instead of holding up bic lighters (like in the "old days") were instead holding up their camera phones, the tiny screen lighted, each one capturing their own particular singular view of the moment. Bizarre. Fascinating.

From ALP #88

This one made me smile . . .

My Father Holds the Door for Yoko Ono

In New York City for a conference
on weed control, leaving the hotel
in a cluster of horticulturalists,
he alone stops, midwestern, crewcut,
narrow blue tie, cufflinks, wingtips,
holds the door for the Asian woman
in a miniskirt and thigh high
white leather boots. She nods
slightly, a sad and beautiful gesture.
Neither smile, as if performing
a timeless ritual, as if anticipating
the loss of a son or a lover.

Years later, Christmas, inexplicably
he dons my mother's auburn wig,
my brother's wire-rimmed glasses,
and strikes a pose clowning
with my second hand acoustic guitar.
He is transformed, a working class hero
and a door whispers shut,
like cherry blossoms falling.

Reprinted from "Folio," Winter, 2004, by permission of the author. Copyright (c) 2004 by Christopher Chambers, who teaches creative writing at Loyola University New Orleans. This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does not accept unsolicited poetry.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Life in a Snowball

Nearly got stuck at work last night, during Seattle's version of a snowstorm. It was a total white out near High Point in West Seattle about 6:30, when I left the clinic. My car had about 5 inches of snow on it, and the roads were slick as snot. When I got to the crest of the hill to head down to the West Seattle Bridge, one of those accordion buses had just slid into the side of the street, and there was a tangle of cars trapped going down. I thought I was going to be stuck there for hours. A quarter tank of gas. Windshield wipers flipping the heavy snowflakes from my windshield. Part of a chocolate chip cookie in my coat pocket (saved from lunch). Thank the goddess for those nice young men from the cement truck who helped me put on my chains. (I always keep them in the trunk . . . not the guys, the chains, silly!). Without them I wouldn't have made it off that hill. Once I got into Seattle proper, the streets were pretty clear, and I felt like a fool driving with the chains on, but what the heck. I think because High Point's elevation is so high (hence the name), it can have very different weather, and more snow, than the rest of the city. There were still a lot of people to the north and south stuck on freeways at 10PM last night. This morning, I hear there is black ice everywhere. What a mess. I think today is "stay home from work day." Don't you?

Monday, November 27, 2006

The Twelve Steps of Poetry

1. We admitted we were powerless over poetry — that our lives had become unmanageable.
2.Came to believe that a Poetry Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.
3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to poetry as we understood it.
4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of our poems.
5. Admitted to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our poetry.
6. Were entirely ready to remove all the shortcomings in our poems.
7. Humbly asked the Poetry Power to help us remove our shortcomings.
8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed with our poems, and became willing to make amends to them all.
9. Wrote new poems for such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
10. Continued to take personal inventory of our poems, and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
11. Sought through stanza, breath, line, and ear to improve our conscious contact with poetry, praying only for knowledge of Poetry’s will for us, and the poems to carry that out.
12. Having had a poetic awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other poets, and to practice these principles in all our poems.



Congressional Leaders Press Bush on Iraq

As U.S. Involvement in Iraq Surpasses the Length of World War II:

"We have misunderstood, misread, misplanned and mismanaged our honorable intentions in Iraq with an arrogant self-delusion reminiscent of Vietnam," said Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska), a combat veteran of that war. "Honorable intentions are not policies and plans."

You GO Chucky-girl!
(Though I disagree that Bush's intentions were ever honorable, in any sense of the word.)


Sunday, November 26, 2006

My mother, holding her first great-grand-child, Genesis, on Thanksgiving. (Ooops, I think she blinked!).


There was about a half an inch of snow/slush on the back deck this morning, when I went out to pick up the Sunday newspaper. I was in my slippers and robe and nearly fell on my ass. It's cold and windy. I'm feeling very hunkered-in down in the basement. With a space heater going and NPR on the radio upstairs. Hawaii is sounding mighty fine right now. Only 3 and half weeks to go until the solstice. I've gotten a lot of writing done this weekend: mostly poem revisons. One of them a long rhyming children's poem, that I imagine being an illustrated book. I have no idea where this poem came from. Or how one even goes about getting such a thing published. But it was really fun to write.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ho Ho Ho!

Dean received this in an email at work today:

"According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, both male and female reindeer grow antlers in the summer each year (the only members of the deer family, Cervidae, to have females do so). Male reindeer drop their antlers at the beginning of winter, usually late November to mid-December. Female reindeer retain their antlers until after they give birth in the spring. Therefore, according to every historical rendition depicting Santa's reindeer, every single one of them, from Rudolph to Blitzen . . . had to be a girl.

We should've known that ONLY WOMEN would be able to drag a fat-assed man in a red velvet suit all around the world in one night and not get lost."

Friday, November 24, 2006

Perhaps the World Ends Here
by Joy Harjo

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what,
we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the
table so it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe
at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what
it means to be human. We make men at it,
we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts
of lovers.

Our dreams drink coffee with us as they put their arms
around our children. They laugh with us at our poor
falling-down selves and as we put ourselves back
together once again at the table.

This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella
in the sun.

Wars have begun and ended at this table. It is a place
to hide in the shadow of terror. A place to celebrate
the terrible victory.

We have given birth on this table, and have prepared
our parents for burial here.

At this table we sing with joy, with sorrow.
We pray of suffering and remorse.
We give thanks.

Perhaps the world will end at the kitchen table,
while we are laughing and crying,
eating of the last sweet bite.


from: Reinventing the Enemy's Language.
Edited by Joy Harjo and Gloria Bird.
New York: Norton, 1997.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Turkey Day


The highlight for me so far: Madonna's "Live in London" concert. Wow.

 Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

We've broken a 53 year-old record for rainiest November on record. And there is still over a week left in the month, with a series of three storms headed our way. There's several feet of new snow in the mountains. The passes may be closed Thanksgiving day. We're going to my sisters in Federal Way, which is just a quick hop down I-5. We are assigned salad, as usual. My family loves Dean's salad dressing that he makes from scratch (a simple vinaigrette, his own recipe). Happy Holidays!


We saw Casino Royale last night. The best parts were hunky Daniel Craig, what eyes, what pecs, what chiseled good looks; the banter between him and Vesper (Eva Green), the love interest; and the divine Judi Dench as "M." Dench is indeed a revelation in the role: powerful, intimidating, yet somehow warm and maternal. I hope to see more of her in a sequel. And did anyone else catch that Bond called her "mum." Is that what "M" stands for? Is there perhaps a hidden plot line that she is his real mother? You know, in a silly, Star Wars-esque, Darth Vader "I am yur father" sort of way?


Off work now until Monday. Hope to get some writing done. I have several projects that are in the works, and not sure if any will eventually come together: the Expedition of the Vaccine poem; a longish poem in sections with definitions and prose passages and clinical instructions (for preparing a dead body for viewing); death row and famous last words; and a series of historical poems about famous "bad physicians" (Mengele, for example); and other tidbits. Maybe I'll even send some poems out to magazines (I have *nothing* out anywhere right now; but it feels kind of liberating, so I may not change that).


The cat did not give birth to puppies, or cogs, or dats. Full story here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Feeling vs Seeing

Thanks to Karl Weyrach of EZAAAP for this. I finding the epigraph especially interesting:

NEAR RUSOMO (Out-Loud Read Time 40 Sec.)
— “A.P. Wire Photo, The New York Times, 12/21/97

People say they have to express their emotions.
I'm sick of that. Photography doesn't teach you
to express your emotions; it teaches you how to see.
— Bernice Abbott

They're downstream now,
beyond the falls,
eight or ten, or more,
out of the turbulence.
The Kagera River churns
onward into Tanzania, leaving
them behind in the backwash.
The smooth stone outcropping
of their native land hovers
over them like a mother seal.
They huddle against her
black flanks the way they leaned
into one another last week
in the Church for safety
in numbers. And now
that the machetes have passed,
the torsos are looking down
into the debris-choked shallows
for their missing heads and limbs.

from "Ripe" author's copyright

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Went out with friends to Dinette on Capitol Hill last night. A wonderful new restaurant, very hip, stylish, but unassuming. One of the specialties of the owner/chef is her toasts: appetizer servings with yummy toppings such as fig and anchovy with serrano ham (amazing); roasted eggplant and goat cheese; chicken pate with red pepper. Almost a meal in themselves. Had a great time chatting over dinner and drinks. L had seen Dr. Paul Farmer (of Mountains Beyond Mountains fame) lecture at UW, and it was fascinating to hear about him, his ideas, and how the students were responding (or not responding) to him. Then we walked down to Pacific Place to see "Borat."

What a odd funny ridiculous sometimes offensive sometimes tedious sometimes laugh-out-loud movie. I have never seen anything quite like it. No group or individual is spared Sacha Cohen's quirky brand of satire. And I nearly died laughing when Borat and his traveling companion got in a naked wrestling fight in their hotel room. OMG. One image in particular is unfortunately seared on my retinas forever. You will just have to see it for yourself.


Hope to see the new Bond movie soon. We tried to go Friday night, but it was all sold out already. Several screens each at all three theaters in our part of town. And we are way too old to stay up for an 11:15 pm showing. Even for Daniel Craig.


Last month, carpenter Michael Cresta broke the record for most points in a single play in tournament Scrabble. He played QUIXOTRY across two triple word scores (and using an existing R on the board) for a total of 365 points. His score of 830 points for the game was also a record. Now, just use it in a sentence.
See the play by play recap of the game here.


Question: Is the new version of blogger worth getting? It looks like you have to sign up for a google account, and perhaps read some important fine print before agreeing (for instance, you can't ever go back to the old version). Have others switched over?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Found some of Mackey's poems online. He uses a very jazz-influenced kind of rhythm, it seems. Even has some poems set to music, or music played along with them, on audio CD's. He also uses a lot of word play, anagrams, etc. Interesting . . .

Song of the Andoumboulou: 50 (sorry the formatting is not right)

-ring of the well-

Fray was the name where we came
to next. Might've been a place,
might not've been a place but
we were there, came to it
than we could see... Come to
so soon, it was a name we stuck
pins in hoping we'd stay. Stray
was all we ended up with. Spar
was another name we heard
went by... Rasp we also heard it
called... Came to it sooner
than we could see but soon enough
saw we were there. Some who'd
come before us called it Bray...

Sound's own principality it was, a
pocket of air flexed mouthlike,
meaning's mime and regret, a squib of
something said, so intent it
seemed. At our backs a blown
bamboo flute, trapic remnant,
Coast reconnoiter come up empty
but for that, a first, forgotten
warble trafficked in again even so,
mango seed's reminder sent to what
end we'd eventually see...

We had
Come thru there before we were
told. Others claiming to be us had
come thru... The ubiquitous two lay
bound in cloth come down from on
hoping it so, twist of their raiment

integument, emollient feel for what
might not have been there. Head in the
clouds he'd have said of himself,
have said elsewhere, his to be above and
below, not know or say, hers to be
alibi, elegy otherwise known...

have said elsernrheren

Above and below, limbo what fabric
intervened. Limbo the bending they moved
in between. Limbo the book of
bent knee... Antiphonal thread
attended by thread. Keening string
by thrum, inwardness, netherness...
strings tied their hair high, limbo
the headrags they wore... The admission
of cloth that it was cover, what
was imminent out of reach, given
went for real, unreal,


"Song of the Andoumboulou: 50" from Splay Anthem by Nathaniel Mackey, copyright © 2006 by Nathaniel Mackey

Friday, November 17, 2006

Call for Poems

I am the guest poetry editor for the Spring/Summer 2007 issue of In Posse Review. The theme for this issue is "Poetry and the Body." This includes the erotic-sensual body, the physical-medical body, the socio-politcal body, the dancing-prancing body and every other kind of body you can construe. Let your imaginations roam.

Please send your best, previously-unpublished poems as Word or RTF attachments, to

Thursday, November 16, 2006

2006 National Book Award Winner, Poetry

Nathaniel Mackey
Splay Anthem
New Directions

"He said that he was especially pleased to receive an award whose first recipient was William Carlos Williams, who was an abiding influence." (From NY Sun)

About the Book (from NBA website)
Part antiphonal rant, part rhythmic whisper, Nathaniel Mackey’s new collection takes the reader to uncharted poetic spaces, forming the next installment of two ongoing serial poems Mackey has been writing for over twenty years: Song of the Andoumboulou and “Mu”.

About the Author
Nathaniel Mackey is a poet, literary critic, fiction writer, and journal editor whose eight books of poetry include Four for Trane, Septet for the End of Time, Outlantish, and Song of the Andoumboulou. His 1985 poetry book, Eroding Witness, was selected for publication in the National Poetry Series. He received a Whiting Writers’ Award in 1993 and was elected to the Board of Chancellors of the Academy of American Poets in 2001. He is also the author of an ongoing prose composition of which three volumes have been published and of two volumes of literary criticism, Paracritical Hings (2005) and Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing (1993). He is editor of the literary magazine Hambone and is a Professor of Literature at the University of California, Santa Cruz.


I also thought Gluck would win.

This book sounds fascinating, though. And now I'll have to read it.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

What about the em dash?

Fun poetry group last night. Poems about beach stones, home remodeling ("there is no poetry in sheetrock"), the history of tulips, a husband's autopsy, anorexia ("Perfection"), and winter pears ("squat and hippy"). Great discussion and camaraderie.

One question that came up was the use of the em dash — . I know some manuals of style say no spaces before and after; while other manuals of style say yes to spaces before and after. Some people seem pretty militant about it, while others say "it depends." A little research this morning reveals there is a lot of variation. But it seems using the spaces may be winning out over time, as computer-based type-setting machines (as opposed to old hand-set print) need to "see" the spaces, or they will think the two words and the em dash in between them are all one word, and will not break the phrase over two lines when it runs over the right margin.

How do you vote on the em dash? Do you care? Spaces before and after? Or not?


Home sick today. A bad cold. I think I'll curl up on the sofa and finish reading the Alvarez novel.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Don't Miss This!

  Posted by Picasa

Rebecca Loudon, the author of Tarantella and Navigate, Amelia Earhart's
Letters Home
, reads from her long awaited new collection of poetry, Radish King.

Monday, November 13, 7 p.m.
Richard Hugo House
1634 11th Ave.
Seattle, WA 98122
206-322-7030 (tel)

This reading is co-sponsored by Richard Hugo House.

November is the Cruelest Month

  Posted by Picasa

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Saving the World?

A little research, and I found this novel, which I am now going to have to read:

  Posted by Picasa

Book review: Saving the World by Julia Alvarez
by Margot Harrison (03/29/06).

"In 1804, a Spanish army surgeon named Francisco Xavier Balmis set sail across the Atlantic on the ship Maria Pita. With him were 22 male orphans, two of whom carried the precious smallpox vaccine in lesions on their arms. The rest of the boys were to form the human chain of carriers needed, in this pre-refrigeration era, to bring the inoculation against a deadly plague to Puerto Rico, Mexico, South America and even the Philippines and China. At a time when the ravages of smallpox were familiar to all, Balmis could easily be forgiven for believing that he was "saving the world."

Balmis' expedition earned him a place in history. But what of the orphan boys who actually carried the vaccine? And what of the lone woman in the expedition, Isabel the orphanage rectoress? How did it feel to be drawn along by the tidal wave of Balmis' intensely altruistic -- and egotistical -- ambition?

That question is the germ of Saving the World, from the best-selling Middlebury author Julia Alvarez. The complex plot of her fifth novel is almost as ambitious as Balmis' expedition, which actually functions for Alvarez as a story within a story. The novel's framing and dominant narrative, set in present day, allows the author to draw parallels between AIDS and smallpox; between Balmis and modern do-gooders whose motives may be mixed. Confronting a world where "Every good [is] threaded through with, at best, dubious goods," Alvarez asks us, "What does it mean not to lose faith with what is grand?"" Read the rest of the review here.
I've been reading about the 1804 Balmis-Salvany Smallpox Expedition, or Expedición de la Vacuna, and am fascinated by this sentence:

"The ship reached Puerto Rico in February 1804 with its cargo of vaccine serum preserved between sealed glass plates; also onboard were 21 children from the orphanage at La Coruña who carried the vaccine through arm-to-arm vaccinations performed sequentially during the ship’s journey . . ."

Who were these children? How were they chosen to do this? What was their life like? I think there may be a poem here.

Friday, November 10, 2006

A friend sent me the following anagrams for the last name of "disgraced" Ted Haggard, that gay massage-loving, meth snorting, homo-hating Christian minister father of five:

Drag Hag
Gag Hard

hehehe . . .

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Tonight at Open Books

Thursday, November 09, 2006 at 07:30 PM

Richard Kenney reads his work in honor of the publication of Long Journey: Contemporary Northwest Poets (Oregon State University Press), edited by David Biespiel. Perhaps Kenny has a new book forthcoming?? I hope so. It's been a long time since The Invention of the Zero, one of my favorite books.

Open Books
2414 N. 45th St. Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 633-0811


PS: and speaking of new books, I must be on near the same time-line as C Dale, as I also have my third and final page proofs to review this weekend. It's really exciting, and a bit daunting to think the book will be out in a few months. But I love how it is turning out. The last poem, "Nightwalk" falls on page 99. Double nine. Love it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Go Blue!

It's been a very heartening election.

Bush says he is "disappointed." Hah.

I find it very suspicious that the Montana senate count suddenly bogged down for "un-known circumstances" late in the evening. Very suspicious.

Virginia will go for a recount, but Webb should prevail.

Still, we may not know the final make-up of the Senate for weeks, or more.

Let me hear you say: "Speaker Pelosi."


And in the lovely state of Washington:

A referendum to limit lap dances to a distance of four feet was voted down (we like our lap dances just the way they are, thank you).

The race for congressional seat 8 -- between a former cop whose claim-to-fame is getting a single-mom school bus driver fired for flipping off George Bush's motorcade (hell, I would have given her a raise), and a former military brat and ex-Microsoft em[ployee named Darcy (couldn't she just have fixed the voting machines?) -- is too close to call.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Remember to Vote!


And read this, from a 2004 article in Slate by Eric McHenry, about the overlooked poetry of George Starbuck, the once-upon-a-time drinking buddy of Plath and Sexton. I am definitely being drawn in to Starbuck's work, and will have to get the collected.

"It's not especially surprising that Starbuck is now so overlooked: Critics today tend to view wit as a poor substitute for humor. Starbuck's major poems are all the things major poems should be—subtle, intelligent, moving—but their distinguishing mark is almost always cleverness, and cleverness is not a quality prized in contemporary poets. There's much more room in the canon, at this point, for the breezy humor of Frank O'Hara and Kenneth Koch than for Starbuck's elaborately plotted pranks and rococo word-castles.

The best way to approach Starbuck's work is to first drink three cups of Starbucks' French Roast. His poems demand the same sort of hyperattentiveness to language that produced them; they're packed with allusion, neologism, wordplay, jumps from elevated to demotic diction, and technical pyrotechnics. In "Desperate Measures," the increasing hysteria of the speaker—a scandal-addled Richard Nixon—registers in the slow unraveling of the end rhyme:

Bad enough with pot fiends rioting in the streets.
But blackmail! Trading on another person's dirty secrets.
It's worse than being a classified-documents-leaker, it's
Diabolicaller it's slimier it's sneakier it's

Blackmail! Oh Momma I just don't care anymore.
They can drag our impetuous ardor in all its sordor
Into the glare of the lawcourts and the even horrider
Glint in the eye of the would-be boudoir toreador
The Suck-of-the-Month subscriber the PlayboyPortfolioreader
The plain-brown-wrapper Scenes-from-the-Life-of-Ann-Corioorderer—

This may seem formally extravagant, but it's nothing compared to Starbuck's "A Tapestry for Bayeux," written in dactylic monometer, with a 156-letter rhymed acrostic threaded through it; or his "Elegy in a Country Church Yard," a panoramic concrete poem more than 5 feet wide; or his "Verses To Exhaust My Stock of Four-Letter Words," which includes "zoöoögenous," "bullllamas," "disagreeee" (the counterpart to "disagreeor"), and, for good measure, "archchurchmen"; or his Space-Saver Sonnets, which compress 14 lines of Shakespearean pentameter into 14 syllables of rhymed paraphrase:

My Mistress' Eyes Are Nothing




This is all great fun, of course, and hard as hell to do. But poetry critics have never embraced the labor theory of value. "

Happy reading . . .

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Chicano Mariposa


Dean and I went to hear Rigoberto read at Elliott Bay tonight. The rain was coming down in sheets, with flood warnings up across the state. Still there was a decent turnout. Rigoberto read three parts from the memoir: a Day of the Dead/Halloween story; a piece about a fateful busride with his father in Mexico, where he had hoped to come out to him; and a recounting of his getting accepted into UC Riverside (the first in his family to go to college) as teenager, and leaving home for good. It was a lovely reading, and Rigoberto is such a pleasant, kind presence. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the book.
 Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 03, 2006

A lovely poem by Susan Rich on Poetry Daily today, for her new book Cures Include Travel. "The Women of Kismayo" tells of women's power, even in parts of the world where they have been oppressed by the culture for centuries. The final image of the breasts, almost like a double-barreled gun, "targeting" each man, is stunning.

The Women of Kismayo

The breasts of Kismayo assembled
along the mid-day market street.

No airbrushed mangoes, no
black lace, no underwire chemise.

No half-cupped pleasures,
no come-hither nods, no Italian

centerfolds. Simply the women
of the town telling their men

to take action, to do something
equally bold. And the husbands

on their way home, expecting
sweet yams and meat,

moaned and covered their eyes,
screamed like spoiled children

dredged abruptly from sleep—
incredulous that their women

could unbutton such beauty
for other clans, who

(in between splayed
hands) watched quite willingly.

Give us your guns, here is our
cutlery, we are the men!

the women sang to them
an articulation without shame.

And now in the late night hour
when men want nothing but rest,

they fold their broken bodies, still
watched by their wives cool breasts

round, full, commanding as colonels—
two taut nipples targeting each man.

Susan Rich
Cures Include Travel
White Pine Press

Thursday, November 02, 2006

A Gift

Dean and I thought we had picked all the pears from our tree by mid-September. We store them in the basement refrigerator, so we can take them out one or two at a time, to ripen on the kitchen counter, and eat them all the coming winter and spring long. But today, a rainy windy November day, we found one fallen on the gravel driveway, one that we must have missed, hidden in the branches, its nylon footie still in place, a little gash in its bottom from where it fell, otherwise intact. We cut it open, divided it into quarters on a plate between us before dinner. It's white flesh so sweet, so buttery, so granular, so perfect. Ah -- to find a ripe pear amid the cold and dark of an evening. And to share it. A gift.


Went to hear Rigo, Rick, and Oliver read at UW tonight. A special presentation by the Ethnic Studies Department. A good reading. The highlights for me: Rigo's three linked sonnets (which he later jokingly referred to as a "tiara" rather than "crown" of sonnets). Rick's "Magnolia," which was a long run-on sentence; and his poem based on a Yoko Ono art video from the 60's (where her clothes are being cut off her body onstage). Oliver's new poems "About the Strawberry" and "Jose the Liar" ("Pants on Fire!" ~grin~) from the stories of Filipino farm workers. Chatted a bit with some UW MFA and Eng Lit students, as well as Jean9 and Jennifer D. Dark and rainy for the ride home. Fall has really fell, eh?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

George Starbuck's "Sweet Ladies"

Great issue of American Poetry Review this month (Nov/Dec 2006). A fascinating essay by David Trinidad, about the brief real-life friendship between Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton. They were both auditing Lowell's poetry workshop, and would go out with George Starbuck afterwards for martinis at the Ritz, and laugh and laugh and carry on about suicide and nervous breakdowns and becoming famous poets. Sexton was about to have her first book published, Starbuck soon to win the Yale. Plath comes off as a bit jealous, always keeping a ledger and holding grudges of her friend's successes. And it is fascinating to see Plath lifting passages from Sexton, and using them in her own writing (several examples are given). But in the end, after Plath's suicide and sky-rocketing fame, it is Sexton who tries to "out-Plath Plath" by writing the 39 poems of The Awful Rowing Towards God in a mere 16 days, before taking her own life, as well. It's a fascinating read: my only question: what ever happened to George Starbuck?

Also in this issue, Mark Doty has a wonderful essay about the writing of his poem "Theory of the Sublime." It's a great look into how his mind works, and how his poems come to be. In the poem he connects two disparate experiences: one, being asked to clap in front of a video camera for a friend's art project; and two, climbing the towers of La Sagrada Familia. He tells of waking up in the night to go write the first drafts of the poem at the computer on the mezzanine level of the Art Nouveau-era gay hotel he is staying at in Barcelona, and it was a secret delight for me to know he must have been staying at Hotel Axel (where Dean and I were last spring) and sitting in the very place, at the same computer and keyboard, where I would write in the night at Axel as well.

There's also an Ira Sadoff essay about Frank O'Hara, and much more, including a long-ass Komunyakaa poem, that I haven't gotten to, yet. Happy reading . . .