Monthly Archives: November 2010

Nov. 30, 2010: NEW YORK POEM (Terrance Hayes)

Well, it was bound to happen. Sooner or later some guy I used to play basketball with was gonna get a poem published in the New Yorker. The funny thing about Terrance Hayes is that not only was he a hard-working poet during his days at Pitt, he also mopped up the floor with all his opponents in basketball. He’s a good 6-8 inches taller than me, and he could shoot. The only person I know brave enough to guard him regularly was MV member Steve Bailey, and I think even Steve would admit the dude was a force.

So I see this poem, and I think, that’s great. Terrance was probably the only poet I’ve seen open a reading with a “cover” of another poet (it happened to be a Allan Ginsburg poem that had also appeared, posthumously, in the New Yorker), and now he’s “made it.” Certainly this is the best news he’s received in November. Ah, no. Turns out his 4th collection just won the National Book Award. So there’s that.

Knowing what we know, can you see how Paul Muldoon, poetry editor of the NYer, might like this piece? It’s fancy and rhyme-y, but with an intimacy of feeling and vocabulary that bear out the poet’s anagram, “Chat nearer. Yes.”

NEW YORK POEM

In New York from a rooftop in Chinatown
one can see the sci-fi bridges and aisles
of buildings where there are more miles
of shortcuts and alternative takes than
there are Miles Davis alternative takes.
There is a white girl who looks hi-
jacked with feeling in her glittering jacket
and her boots that look made of dinosaur
skin and R is saying to her I love you
again and again. On a Chinatown rooftop
in New York anything can happen.
Someone says “abattoir” is such a pretty word
for “slaughterhouse.” Someone says
mermaids are just fish ladies. I am so
fucking vain I cannot believe anyone
is threatened by me. In New York
not everyone is forgiven. Dear New York,
dear girl with a bar code tattooed
on the side of your face, and everyone
writing poems about and inside and outside
the subways, dear people underground
in New York, on the sci-fi bridges and aisles
of New York, on the rooftops of Chinatown
where Miles Davis is pumping in,
and someone is telling me about contranyms,
how “cleave” and “cleave” are the same word
looking in opposite directions. I now know
“bolt” is to lock and “bolt” is to run away.
That’s how I think of New York. Someone
jonesing for Grace Jones at the party,
and someone jonesing for grace.

-2010

Nov. 15, 2010: LONDON (William Blake)

Guys,

let’s just call a spade a spade, William Blake (1757-1827) was friggin crazy. I mean, we all knew he was crazy the first time we saw one of his woodcuts or paintings. Deep in our hearts we knew. But did you know he literally heard voices in his head? Starting from the age of 5 he had bizarre visions of godheads, prophets, and angels, who would argue with, and within, him about Renaissance art and his own conceptions of this world and the next. This must account in part for the manichean nature of so much of his writing, which was not published (aside from self-publishing) or taken seriously during his lifetime. Now he’s known chiefly for the Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience (notice the strict dichotomy). One place to start with this piece might be for someone to explain the arcane vocabulary to me. Charter’d? Bans? Help. -ed.

London

I wander thro’ each charter’d street,
Near where the charter’d Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every Man,
In every Infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear.

How the Chimney-sweeper’s cry
Every blackning Church appalls,
And the hapless Soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood down Palace walls.

But most thro’ midnight streets I hear
How the youthful Harlot’s curse
Blasts the new-born Infant’s tear,
And blights with plagues the Marriage hearse.

Nov. 8, 2010: LIGHT VERSE (Vijay Seshadri)

All,

Yesterday the New York Times week in review section ran 6 poems for
daylight savings time, so I took my extra hour and read all of them.
But this one was the only one that was really ABOUT daylight savings
time. Once again, I know nothing about this author, so I await your
enlightenment. -ed.

LIGHT VERSE

It’s just five, but it’s light like six.
It’s lighter than we think.
Mind and day are out of sync.
The dog is restless.
The dog’s owner is sleeping and dreaming of Elvis.
The treetops should be dark purple,
but they’re pink.

Here and now. Here and now.
The sun shakes off an hour.
The sun assumes its pre-calendrical power.
(It is, though, only what we make it seem.)
Now in the dog-owner’s dream,
the dog replaces Elvis and grows bigger
than that big tower

in Singapore, and keeps on growing until
he arrives at a size
with which only the planets can empathize.
He sprints down the ecliptic’s plane,
chased by his owner Jane
(that’s not really her name), who yells at him
to come back and synchronize.

-Vijay Seshadri

Nov. 1, 2010: A BLESSING (Ken Hada)

Dear readers,

anyone know anything about Ken Hada? I’ll be frank: just too damn lazy
to look it up this morning. However, as the weather gets colder (not
much colder here in the dirty south) and the days get shorter, I
present an appropriate poem by this guy, which I read last week. It’s
good for people who like fishing. I’m not sure about the “turn” in
this poem, which brings with it our good friend the pathetic fallacy,
but otherwise I like it. Best line: a good tiredness claims us.” -ed.

A BLESSING

After three days of hard fishing
we lean against the truck
untying boots, removing waders.

We change in silence still feeling
the rhythm of cold water lapping
thankful for that last shoal of rainbows
to sooth the disappointment
of missing a trophy brown.

We’ll take with us the communion
of rod and line and bead-head nymphs
sore shoulders and wrinkled feet.

A good tiredness claims us
from slipping over rocks, pushing rapids –
sunup to sundown – sneaking
toward a target, eyes squinting
casting into winter wind.

We case the rods, load our bags
and start to think about dinner.
None of us wants to leave.
None wants to say goodbye.

Winter shadows touch the river cane.
The cold is coming. We look up
into a cobalt sky, and there,
as if an emissary on assignment,
a Bald Eagle floats overhead
close enough to bless us
then swiftly banks sunward
and is gone.

-2010