Monthly Archives: September 2008

Sept. 30, 2008

Dear friends,

first of all, a proviso: When I said we’d demand that the original guesser ‘fess up as we read these stray beat poets, I should have added that of course others MAY speak up as well (and we’re giving Ms. McCormick a second chance here today). Sometimes the beats are just plain fun, and maybe someone will want to add their penny or 2ยข about something freaky or sweet in these poems.
Anyway, I’ve never been too big on Lawrence Ferlinghetti. But that probably has more to do with the fact that I’ve seen “The Last Waltz” 50 times than anything I’ve read, or not read, by him. I mean, the man does have a PhD from the Sorbonne and wrote a dissertation on the city in Modernist poetry (the kind of thing we now teach entire courses on), so I should probably give him some respeck.
And then I thought, they’re tearing down Coney Island this year, and didn’t he have a book called “Coney Island of the Mind?” Yes, turns out he did. Turns out it was published 50 years ago, and will be fancily re-issued this spring. Neat. This poem is from that one (note that the “el” referrred to is the former 9th Ave. elevated train in Manhattan–they yousta call them the el here too!). Here’s a site where you can hear LF read it aloud:
Although hearing LF read his poems aloud is a little like hearing Willy B. Yeats read his poems aloud. And this from a dude who DOES think poetry should be heard…
Without further ado. -ed.
THE PENNYCANDYSTORE BEHIND THE EL
The pennycandystore beyond the El
is where i first 
                fell in love
                           with unreality
Jellybeans glowed in the semi-gloom
of that september afternoon
A cat upon the counter moved among
                           the licorice sticks
                and tootsie rolls
           and Oh Boy Gum

Outside the leaves were falling as they died

A wind had blown away the sun

A girl ran in
Her hair was rainy
Her breasts were breathless in the little room

Outside the leaves were falling
                     and they cried
                               Too soon! too soon!

-1958
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Sept 22, 2008

OK so here’s the deal: We’re running poems by all the guessed authors from
last week’s game (tip of the cap to D-Go), with the understanding that the
guessers will jump in when a poem by their guess is in play. Not so much to
defend their choice, as to comment a little on the pome, or style, or what
they know about the author. This also means we get to hear from Ms.
McCormick thrice, bwa ha ha ha HAAAH…
So in this case, I really know almost nothing about Charles Bukowksi as a
poet. Weirdly, after never thinking much of him as a writer, I ran into a
used copy of “Women” this summer, and was totally engrossed for 3 days. I
think I understand more about self-loathing than I did as a 25-year-old.
Anyhoo, for a short intro, readers might wanna check out this little
commentary (maybe 5 pages) on his status vis-a-vis other more canonical or
critically esteemed poets of his era:

http://www.newyorker.com/archive/2005/03/14/050314crbo_books

***






SOME PEOPLE



some people never go crazy.
me, sometimes I’ll lie down behind the couch
for 3 or 4 days.
they’ll find me there.
it’s Cherub, they’ll say, and
they pour wine down my throat
rub my chest
sprinkle me with oils.
then, I’ll rise with a roar,
rant, rage –
curse them and the universe
as I send them scattering over the
lawn.
I’ll feel much better,
sit down to toast and eggs,
hum a little tune,
suddenly become as lovable as a
pink
overfed whale.

some people never go crazy.
what truly horrible lives
they must lead.

Monday’s Verse, 9-15-08

Gentle readers,

I haven’t had much time for delving deep into our poems’ constructions in a few weeks; today is no different. Therefore, in an attempt to encourage audience participation, I’m suggesting a guessing game today. I planned on publishing a translation, but that will take a little more work yet. Here’s a piece I found just recently–the voice or style, or both, may seem familiar, so your job is to guess the writer. I’m leaving the title off in case it’d be a clue to anyone. The only clue I’ll give is that poem comes to us more or less from the beat milieu–in this case, the mid-1960’s, I think. Dare you?
-ed.

after crashin the sportscar

into the chandelier

i ran out t the phone booth

made a call t my wife. she wasnt home.

i panicked. i called up my best friend

but the line was busy

then i went t a party but couldnt find a chair

somebody wiped their feet on me

so i decided t leave

i felt awful. my mouth was puckered.

arms were stickin thru my neck

my stomach was stuffed an bloated

dogs licked my face

people stared at me an said

“what’s wrong with you?”

passin two successful friends of mine

i stopped t talk.

they knew i was feelin bad

an gave me some pills

i went home an began writin

a suicide note

it was then that i saw

that crowd comin down

the street

i really have nothing

against

marlon brando

Monday’s Verse 9-8-2008

Dear kids,

I’m dealing with limited resources today since I write to you from a public computer terminal at, kid you not, the Queens County Courthouse. Now I know what some of you are thinking: another drunk & disorderly? And I know what others among you are thinking: aww, he’s SAVING someone from deportation!

Alas no, I’m on jury duty, and my seven-word review is: Even worse than the Pauly Shore movie. Lucky for us Mr. Yusef Komunyakaa is still publishing poetry that appears in online resources. You can scour your archives for info on Mr. Komunyakaa; all I’m going to tell you is that he’s a badass. This computer only gives me 10 minutes of access, so I’m gonna have to leave the nuts-and-bolts analysis to you, gentle reader. But c’mon, it’s in couplets–how hard can it be, right?

-ed.

THE CLAY ARMY

When the roof of the First Emperor of Qin’s tomb
caved in, six thousand life-size terra-cotta soldiers knelt

beneath its crumbling weight in the first pit,
alongside horses & chariots. Centuries before,

when the clay figures stood in perfect formation,
the rebel general Xiang Yu looted this sanctuary

of the dead, sequestering the bronze weapons
honed by these bodyguards of the afterworld

to kill the heirs of the charging drums & bells.
All their bright regimental colors are eaten away.

Their etched mouths are shaped for secret oaths.
Their eyes can see into the old lost seasons,

& their noses are dilated as if smelling lilies
in a valley. Rank is carved into each topknot,

tassel, & strand. The blind can read insignia
grooved into the uniforms. In the second pit,

in its L-shaped chamber, cavalrymen & horses
with pricked ears peer out of the red earth,

unbridled by time. Some warriors are sculpted
in unbroken taijiquan stances. In the third pit,

royal commanders huddle with scrimmages
in broken heads. The statues rise again in flanks

after they are pieced together & bandaged
with strips of wet clay. The last pit is empty,

no more than a cave, furnished with shadows
& imperial dreams from the Forbidden City.

-2008

Monday’s Verse 9-1-08

Welcome back. Many thanks to my able-handed guest editrices this summer.

Ahmed Faraz, a towering figure in Urdu poetry, died this week at the
age of 77. Son of a traditional poet, Faraz was educated in his native
Pakistan and published his first volume while an undergraduate
student. From that moment on, he was heralded as a master in Pakistan
and surrounding countries. He was many times a prize winner, many
times a critic of the status quo in his country (particularly under
the Zia dictatorship, during which he voluntarily exiled himself to
Canada), and has been described as a passionate voice for progress and
an advocate for marginalized communities. He did not soften in his
dotage, returning a 2004 prize from the Pakistani government in 2006
as a protest against Gen. Musharraf’s policies. “My conscience will
not forgive me if I remained a silent spectator of the sad happenings
around us,” he said at the time. “The least I can do is to let the
dictatorship know where it stands in the eyes of the concerned
citizens, whose fundamental rights have been usurped.” His particular
strength was the ghazal, which as we all know, is an Arabic, Persian,
and Urdu lyric form consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain. We
have seen Paul Muldoon fool around with the form in poems like “Little
Black Book,” but this is actually the first time I’ve investigated an
Urdu original (took me a while to find this translation via the old
interweb).

Anyway, enjoy the poem and your shortened week! -ed.

Us Ne Kahaa Sun

Ahad nibhaane ki Khaatir mat aanaa
Ahad nibhaanevaale aksar majabuuri yaa
Mahajuuri ki thakan se lauTaa karate hain
Tum jaao aur dariyaa dariyaa pyaas bujhaao
Jin aaNkhon men Duubo
Jis dil men bhi utaro
Meri talab aavaaz na degi
Lekin jab meri chaahat aur meri Khvaahish ki lau
Itani tez aur itani uuNchi ho jaaye
Jab dil rode
Tab lauT aanaa

-Ahmed Faraz

***

She said: listen

Don’t come back if
you think it is
to fulfill your promise.
People with obligations are
either compelled or
are tired of separations.
Go and fulfill others’ desires
and fall in love with other women.
I will not call you.
But when you burn inside
with the blaze of wanting me,
needing me,
and your heart weeps,
you can then
come back to me.

-tr. Ravi Kopra