Monthly Archives: January 2012

Jan 30, 2012 This is Just to Say (and spoof)

Dear readers,
Are you ready to laugh??? Good. I notice we’ve done a couple re-runs lately, and I apologize for that, but I’ll mount 3 defenses: 1: New readers. 2: Greatest hits. 3: Like y’all even read these things anyway.
Not only have we printed William Carlos Williams’ “This Is Just to Say” (1923) before, we have read the spoof by Kenneth Koch as well, and I’m reprinting both of them (I’d guess a good handful of you can recite Williams’ original verbatim, even unintentionally). Koch said, apropos of other modernist giants, that Eliot and his ilk were like the dictators of modern literature, and that there was no way to joke around or wink at what writers were creating. One had to be terrible severe and serious about irony, for example. This certainly accounts for the simultaneous homage and snarkiness of his version. Let’s take a llok:
This Is Just to Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold


Variations on a Theme by William Carlos Williams

I chopped down the house that you had been saving to live in next summer.
I am sorry, but it was morning, and I had nothing to do
and its wooden beams were so inviting.

We laughed at the hollyhocks together
and then I sprayed them with lye.
Forgive me. I simply do not know what I am doing.

I gave away the money that you had been saving to live on for the next ten years.
The man who asked for it was shabby
and the firm March wind on the porch was so juicy and cold.

Last evening we went dancing and I broke your leg.
Forgive me. I was clumsy and
I wanted you here in the wards, where I am the doctor!

While looking for these this morning I also found a couple hilarious examples from blogs, which I will share. I propose that we do our own smart-aleck versions and share them on this forum.

This is just to say
I saw your
passive aggressive note
on the break room microwave.
In spite, I reheated my spaghetti
without covering it.
The tomato sauce spattered like
angry constellations and it tasted
so much better.


This is just to say

I sleep with the dogwhenever you go away, in direct contravention of house rules.
Forgive me, but he is warmer than nuclear fired central heating
And does not snore nearly as loud as you.


I left their line splits as written, but let’s be honest–they coulda done better. I know we can do better. Enjoy! -ed.

Jan 23, 2012 The Poetry Reading Last Night…

It looks long but it’ll read right through briskly, because of Paul Durcan’s pure entertainment value. The funny thing about this poem is that Durcan is known for his “electrifying live performances,” but here he takes a jaundiced view of the entire enterprise: the readings, the exchange, the titles, the apprenticeship, the seriousness with which we take the whole thing, celebrity, and, finally, self-loathing plain and simple. I love this poem and I have a feeling we’ve featured it before: although a quick search of our archives suggests it was some time ago.
Paul Durcan, b. 1944, has published more than 20 books of verse. He’s instantly recognizable, yet shares with the other smart-ass Paul, Muldoon, a penchant (at times) for ornate diction. There’s something almost mock-epic in his tone here, and the ultimate zinger never fails to inspire me. -ed.
The main thing – the first and last thing – to say
About the poetry reading last night in the Royal Hibernian Hotel
Is that the Royal Hibernian Hotel does not exist;
It was demolished last year to make way for an office block.
If, therefore, anyone was to ask me what a poetry reading is,
I should have the utmost difficulty in enlightening them,
All the more so after having attended last night’s poetry reading
In the Royal Hibernian Hotel which does not exist.
A poetry reading appears to be a type of esoteric social ritual
Peculiar to the cities of Europe and North America.
What happens is that for one reason or another,
Connected usually with moods in adolescence
To do with Family and School and Sexuality,
A chap – or a dame – begins to writing things
Which he – she — calls ‘Poetry’
And over the years – especially between the ages of fourteen and sixty-four –
What with one kind of wangling or another,
He – she – publishes seventeen or nineteen volumes
Entitled Stones or Bricks or Pebbles or Gravel;
Or History Notes or Digs or French Class.

He – she – is hellbent on boring the pants off people
And that’s where the poetry-reading trick comes in.
The best poets are the poets who can bore you the most,
Such as the fellow last night who was so adept at boring us
That for the entire hour that he stood there mumbling and whining
My mind was altogether elsewhere with the reindeer
In Auden’s Cemetery for the Silently and Very Fast.
A poetry reading is a ritual in communal schizophrenia
In which the minds of the audience are altogether elsewhere
While their bodies are kept sitting upright or in position.
Afterwards it is the custom to clap as feebly as you can –
A subtle exercise appropriate to the overall scheme.
To clap feebly – or to feebly clap – is as tricky as it sounds.
It is the custom then to invite the poet to autograph the slim volume
And while the queue forms like the queue outside a confessional,
The poet cringing archly on an upright chair,
You say to your neighbour ‘A fine reading, wasn’t it?’
To which he must riposte
‘Indeed – nice to see you lying through your teeth.’
The fully clothed audience departs, leaving the poet
Who bored the pants off them
Laughing all the way to the toilet
Of a hotel that does not exist,
Thence to the carpark that does exist
Where he has left his Peugeot with the broken exhaust pipe.
‘Night-night’ – he mews to the automatic carpark attendant
Who replies with one bright, emphatic, onomatopoeic

Jan 16, 2012 Hi-Ku

Dear readers,
This edition concludes our 8-week exploration of formal verse, and commences our inquiry into the smartasses of modern poetry. I remember an old poetry professor telling us, in about November, that we’d “reached the smartass section of the syllabus,” meaning the final weeks’ reading was primarily Paul Muldoon and Paul Durcan–both of whom are likely to make repeat appearances in this forum muy pronto. But this week we feature the experimental verse of an little-known non-professional poet from Indianapolis. Brian Bigelow was born in 1972, and by non-professional, I only mean he’s never been paid to write or teach poetry. In his real life, he’s a heart surgeon. But note the way he sticks faithfully to the traditional Japanese form here, while simultaneously blowing it up, in a poem titled “Hi-ku.” Enjoy. -ed.
Hi hi hi hi hi
hi hi hi hi hi hi hi
hi hi hi hi hi

Jan 9, 2012 Hush

Dear readers,
Thank you for enjoying my absence. Welcome to 2012. To usher in the new year, a little bit of beauty from mainstay Michael O’Brien, from his 2007 book Sleeping and Waking. It needs no introduction by pedantic amateurs. Evan Dando fans may enjoy this, pun intended.-ed.
black cat darting
into roadside grass,
a passing
car’s shadow
tiny spider in the
teaspoon, no, the
huge chandelier
reflected there