Wednesday, April 30, 2008

From today's Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day:

Shampoo & Sponge Bath
by J. W. Marshall


It takes a small face
to see itself
in the handmirror offered

when staff says
it's time to wash that greasy hair.
Says it'll help.

Like a tuber on the pillow
or the shadow of a spade
is how

I remember looking. Water slopped
on my gown and skin and sheets.
When they laid my head back

into the metal basin
I died and happily that time.


There was a terrifyingly large sky
that first day they rolled me
out for air.

And clouds like balled-up cobwebs.
What if the chair got caught

in a crack or on a rock—I watched for that.
There's one the orderly said
meaning a cloud

that looks like you.
There was weakness in each of them.
There was a fraying wind. A mess

he said like you
before your bath.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Prose is like TV and poetry is like radio."
--Simon Armitage, Times Educational Supplement, 2002
As quoted in Quote Poet Unquote, an anthology edited by Dennis O'Driscoll, new from Copper Canyon, that is a delightful collection of thousands of contemporary quotes about poetry, from American, British, and Irish writers.


And speaking of radio, you can hear a discussion of wordplay and poetry, and hear me reading "Anagrammer" (again) and "The Devil's Dictionary of Medical Terms," on KUOW's Sound Focus here. I hope you will find it engaging.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

The Medical Venus, Village Books

Had a fun time reading at Village Books with Rick Barot. We had a bit of a theme going: ekphrastic poems, love & death. We went out afterwards with a group of people to have dinner at The Wild Onion (?). Great food! I especially like the Baked Oysters Three Ways. Yummy! But the funnest part was seeing Oliver and Merideth, and getting to hold their new baby! Lucas is just adorable. A full head of hair. And huge for a 3 week old!

It looks gorgeous out now. I need to get outside . . .


An ekphrastic poem, for you (I tried this one out at the reading last night):

The Medical Venus
— La Specola, Florence, Italy, c. 1775

~poem deleted~

Friday, April 25, 2008

Tim Kelly gave a great reading at Open Books. I just love his meticulous, original, layered descriptions of the body. Truly amazing.


I read tonight with Rick Barot at Village Books in Bellingham. If you are in town: come on down!


Time: Friday, April 25, 2008 7:00 p.m.
Location: Village Books

In the five years since his first, prize-winning collection The Darker Fall, Rick Barot’s work has both deepened and expanded. His remarkable second book, Want, is concerned with the way seeing creates desire, and desire creates the world, and somehow, destroys it too. Rick Barot was born in the Philippines and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. His first book, The Darker Fall, was the winner of the Kathryn A. Morton Prize in Poetry and was published by Sarabande Books in 2002. His poems and essays have appeared in numerous publications and anthologies, including The New Republic, Poetry, and The Virginia Quarterly Review, Asian American Poetry: The Next Generation, and Legitimate Dangers. In 2001 he received a poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Tacoma, Washington, and teaches both in the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College and at Pacific Lutheran University.

"Rick Barot’s exquisite and subtle sensibility, like Keats’s, is led in equal measure by a tough intellect and an open heart. He follows his own prescription to “Tell each story cold,” and with a magician’s verve and aplomb, he makes language perform its most convincing tricks by pulling the handkerchief from what is otherwise “an empty fist,” by finding the “white nouns of the moon.” Barot’s Want is dexterous and thrilling, and his capacious and generous vision shows us how the eye survives "to correct the heart." —Michael Collier

Peter Pereira’s newest collection, What's Written on the Body, explores love, humor, word play, religion, and domestic gay life, often drawing from his experience as a community clinic doctor in Seattle. These wide-ranging poems examine the ways experience is imprinted on the body—in beauty marks, blemishes, tattoos, scars, tics, tremors, and memories. His poems have been featured on National Public Radio's The Writer's Almanac, and appeared in Poetry, Prairie Schooner, and 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Everyday. His other books include: The Lost Twin and Saying the World, Winner of the Hayden Carruth Award. He is a family physician in Seattle, and was a founding editor of Floating Bridge Press.

“Peter Pereira knows like no other American poet except perhaps Williams how the body may break but the soul soldiers on. His poems are made of the stuff we’re made of: gristle and bone, song and silence, doubt and love. They issue forth from the depths of a powerful heartfelt humanity that widens to include us, indeed to require us to belong.” —Nance Van Winckel


from Word a Day:

spall (spal) verb tr., intr.

To break into small pieces; to splinter.


A chip or splinter, especially of stone.

[Of unknown origin.]

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Timothy Kelly is reading tonight at Open Books in Seattle. I love the title of the new collection, it's perfect for poems from a Physical Therapist. And I hear Tim has some stories to tell of his own extremities of late. Be there!

April 24, 2008 07:30 PM (from Open Books)
Tim Kelly joins us this evening to read from his new collection of poetry, The Extremities ($15.95 Oberlin). He has been a practicing physical therapist for twenty-some years, and his awareness of the body’s expression of injury and health underpins much of his work. Within a poem he spans the distance between the structural information the body can provide -- “the hip’s capsule’s tested / by passively pistoning,” -- and the body’s ability to express itself -- “extended fully, palm out, in / the universal sign for stop.” The descriptions are precise -- “a cool drop spirals down / the upturned horn of my ear, / drowns the drum in a calm, / cupped lake” -- heartfelt and, at times, comic: “What great thing was / my life anyway, but some operatic farce of / loud alarms, late charges, and locustlike teens…?” Tim Kelly is hosting a reception at a nearby restaurant following his reading.

(from Poetry Foundation) "In his third book of poetry, Timothy Kelly details the precise mechanics of human anatomy with exact, yet lyrical language. Images of the body—ligaments, arteries, joints, bones—wind their way through luminous memories, shedding new light on the human experience. Thoughtful and imaginative, expansive yet meticulous, Kelly’s poems are a truly original examination of what it means to occupy the body and inhabit the world."

“The Extremities rescues from the drab columns of textbooks the clinical language of tendons and bones, unlocking an enormous previously unguessed range of metaphor and reference… This is a wonderful book, something truly new.”

—Christopher Howell

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A Fierce Wind is Wearing Me Down

From the latest issue of Utne Reader, a fascinating little essay by Ryan Christman about being bipolar.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"That is why Frank O'Hara, who included everything in his poetry, is so valuable to my generation, and why his short, stylish manifesto "Personism" seems to obliterate the ponderous theorizing by every other New Critical, poststructural or Language poet of the past century. He understood that poetry is a pleasure like a lot of other pleasures, and our pleasures are highly subjective: . . ."
Had a great time reading in Shoreline last night. There was a pretty good turnout considering the weather forecast for snow and ice. The student competition poems were terrific: one about a fishbowl in a doctors office that was very Elizabeth Bishop-esque; another that riffed off of Seuss' Hop on Pop in a very hip-hop kind of way. The adult competition poems were very nice as well: I loved the one about Miss America, and the one about the Optometrist, how he keeps asking you to read him the same story (the eye chart). Very clever.

Anne Marie Hong read some kick-ass sonnets in the voice of Medea. I read some from Saying the World (opened with "The Birth of Flowers") and from What's Written on the Body. Sam Green (the new state poet laureate) ended the night with a reading from his new book The Grace of Necessity, which is really a wonderful and moving book. He also read a poem by Ed Harkness, about a guy in a truck who gets stuck in the mountains in a snowstorm and dies, and the writing he does in a notebook the weeks he is alone, slowly freezing to death and going mad, that was pretty incredible. From his book Saying the Necessary. Hmmmm: Necessary/Necessity: I guess it was a theme?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Dean and I were introduced to Royalty last night. What fun! As it says on the box: "Rummy meets Scrabble." I think it may be the beginning of a new addiction. Thank you E & C!


Deciding that poetry made him miserable and earned no money, he abandoned it for fiction. Net gain, zero. “In 15 years I published two short stories and no novels,” he says. “I failed miserably. Fiction made me unhappier than poetry!”


Tonight I am reading in Shoreline, which is where I grew up and went to grade school and high school. I am expecting a blast from past, especially driving through the old neighborhood.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Jorie Explains

Sounds like she sees the alternating long and short lines of Sea Change as a "new music," a mix of Whitman and Williams (from an interview with Diedre Wengen):

Graham: Well, the alternation of the very long and very short lines, spread over cascading sentences, with a sense that the music moves out for a long moment, then drops, then recovers and "hovers" again, then drops again (accelerating) is a new music for me, and, just from a technical point of view, one of the reasons I found my way to the book. "A new music is a new mind" says William Carlos Williams—and this was a sudden new music which took me to new places in my emotions and thoughts. And Williams, the second great poet of our "democratic" experiment, the formulator of the notion that there are "no ideas but in things", is definitely behind the short lines. But our first great poet of the American Democratic experiment is the visionary master of the overly-long line, Walt Whitman, who says, "do I contradict myself? Very well then, I contradict myself. I contain multitudes." So, letting the sentences move along this grid of very long and very short lines—feeling both of those prior "socially aware" poets in my ear—I also was able to enact a sense of a "tipping point"-the feeling of falling forward, or "down" in the hyper-short lines at the same time as one feels suspended, as long as possible, in the "here and now" of the long line—so that the pull of the "future" is constrained by the desire to stay in the "now," which is itself broken again, as a spell is, by the presence of the oncoming future. This also involves a tipping back and forth between hope and the brink of its opposite.
Seattle Weather Forecast:

Saturday, April 19th, 2008: Rain and snow showers. Highs in the upper 40s and lows in the upper 30s.

Snow showers? In mid-April? Now I know April is supposed to be the cruelest month. But this is really just too much. When will it end!? Arrrrgh.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

I thought this poem was pretty cool. I'll have to check out the book.

Belarusian I

by Valzhyna Mort
translated by Franz Wright and Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright

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
a gymnast on a thin thread of the horizon
was performing there
at the highest pitch

we grew up in a country where
first your door is stroked with chalk
then at dark a chariot arrives
and no one sees you anymore
but riding in those cars were neither
armed men nor
a wanderer with a scythe
this is how love loved to visit us
and snatch us veiled

completely free only in public toilets
where for a little change nobody cared what we were doing
we fought the summer heat the winter snow
when we discovered we ourselves were the language
and our tongues were removed we started talking with our eyes
when our eyes were poked out we talked with our hands
when our hands were cut off we conversed with our toes
when we were shot in the legs we nodded our heads for yes
and shook our heads for no and when they ate our heads alive
we crawled back into the bellies of our sleeping mothers
as if into bomb shelters
to be born again

and there on the horizon the gymnast of our future
was leaping through the fiery hoop
of the sun

from Factory of Tears, published by Copper Canyon Press.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Looks like Spring lasted one day here. Sheeesh.


I am reading Jorie Graham's new book, Sea Change. The poem "Embodies" totally blew me away. But I am having trouble connecting with much of the writing here. I applaud Graham for trying to take on such an important topic: climate change, war, our perilous relation to nature, the planet. But the layout of the poems on the page, though very original, seems kind of gimmicky to me, and not really much in service to the poems, or the theme, or the mode of thought she is attempting. I'm not quite getting it. Can anybody 'splainit to me?


Friday, April 11, 2008

Hot Damn!

Rick Barot gave a great reading from his new book last night. And he also read some new poems; one of them, "Exegesis in War Time" blew my socks off. A close reading of a single sentence of Hemingway, made into two page contemplation of the current Iraq war. Amazing stuff.


Only about one more hour of call. I can hardly wait! It's been a long week.


Had a great time at the Human Face of Medicine class at UW this morning. It is always so fun to read some poems for the students, and to be part of the discussion about the readings from the A Life in Medicine textbook. Alice Jone's poem "The Cadaver" seemed to stimulate the widest discussion.


It is damn near 70 degrees today in Seattle. It is ABOUT TIME!! I thought Spring would never really get here.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Call has been quiet. A mother-baby combo with an uncommon blood type incompatibility, and some jaundice, that was kind of interesting. A poor old Samoan man dying at home on hospice, and needing some MS. Not too much else for the weekend so far.

I was able to read some in Denise Levertov's N&S Essays, and Robert Wrigley's Lives of the Animals, and the Collected Robert Creeley, and watch some of the women's final four. What great games! Go Stanford: I usually hate them when they are playing UW, but here in the final four I am totally rooting for them. And then Tennessee-LSU. OMG! What a close game. If LSU could have made a few more free throws, let alone a lay-in, they could have won. Candace Parker was playing with a "dislocated shoulder" (it was probably just an AC separation) and so Tennessee was very vulnerable. Pat Summit just kept shoving Parker's shoulder back in place (hehehehe) and barking at her to get back out there and score!, but to no avail. Still, poor LSU could not take advantage, and they lost in the final four for the fifth year in a row. Jeez.

I can hardly wait for Tuesday night, Standford-Tennesee, Candace W. against Candace P.

Yay for Tony Hoagland!

Risk-taking poet awarded $50,000 Jackson Prize by NYC-based group
Posted by The Associated Press on Friday

A poetry professor at the University of Houston has been chosen as the second annual winner of the Jackson Poetry Prize, an award for writers of great talent, but less fame.

Tony Hoagland's win was announced Thursday by Poets & Writers Inc., a New York City-based nonprofit group for creative writers.

The three-judge panel that awarded Hoagland the $50,000 prize called him a risk-taker.

'He risks wild laughter in poems that are totally heartfelt, poems you want to read out loud to anyone who needs to know the score and even more so to those who think they know the score,' wrote the judges, who included the poets Philip Levine, Robert Pinsky and Ellen Bryant Voigt.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

On call this week. Friday 5pm to Friday 5pm. Quiet so far (knock on wood).


March reading (in no particular order). Perhaps you will find a book you have not heard of before here, or be reminded of one you were meaning to read sometime.

The Collected Poems 1956-1998, Zbigniew Herbert* I especially admire the Mr. Cogito poems.

Narrative Medicine, Rita Charon* She is brilliant. I love the story about a patient dying of cancer recognizing Charon's last name as the same as the ferryman in Hades.

Fir to Fire, Mark Doty. I like the "Theory of . . . " poems in the new section.

The Color of Light, Marilyn Chandler McEntyre. An entire book of ekphrastic poems based on Van Gogh paintings. Gorgeous.

Secret Weapon, Eugen Jebeleanu. A new translation of the Romanian dissident poet.

West of Yesterday, East of Summer, New and Selected Poems (1973-1993), Paul Monet.* I found a mint condition hard-cover of this at the used bookstore. The poems hold up well to time.

The Splintered Face, Tsunami poems, Indran Amithanayagam. Poems from a survivor of the Sri Lankan tsunami.

Fata Morgana, Reginald Shepherd. Wonderful.

A Little Travel Story, David Oliveira. New poems from the Fresno poet. Many arising from his time in Cambodia.

The Earth in the Attic, Fady Joudah. The new Yale winner. Lyric-surreal poems from a Palestinian-American poet doctor "without borders."

Also skimmed to various levels the latest issues of Poetry, Fine Madness, The Sun, Sunset, Smithsonian, The Nation, National Geographic, and Utne Reader, and numerous online mags.


And this weekend is the book release party for good friend Rosanne Olson's new book This Is Who I Am. I can hardly wait!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

There is a great article in today's PI about local writer Ellie Matthews, who won the 1998 Pillsbury Bake off ($1 million prize) for her Salsa Cous Cous Chicken recipe, and her new memoir about the whole experience (which included appearances on Oprah and Rosie). It sounds fabulous.