Monthly Archives: March 2015

Monday’s Verse 3/30/2015

Dear readers,

on a 5-minute car trip for work last week I heard "Here and Now" host Robin Young mention Alissa Quart’s (sails qua art) new book, Monetized, just published 2 weeks ago. Quart (b. 1972) is a mainstream journalist who writes about society and the economy, and her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Nation, Newsweek, and others. She has also published several nonfiction books, and teaches part-time at the Columbia Journalism School. I wasn’t crazy about this poem but it gives us a lot of fun wordplay. Perhaps readers can convince me it’s great? -ed.

WOMANIZED

Late marriage and late Modernism:
both anomic luxuries.

A post-natal mind
cleaves less decoratively
than those nursing double Ds.

Rub eucalyptus bottom balm
on a torn private sphere.

Suddenly trapped in a cloistered woman’s
novel. Titled All About My Stuff.

How the material got physical.

It’s not about not real just less fake.
Like babies, their mothers may
only see small pieces. Close-ups.
An exquisite corpse. Meaning:
the figure won’t cohere. Only
toes, hands. No body
we understand.

Baby says, “Circles go
on top of each other.”

All work is women’s work.

That’s bottom line balm.

A baby drinks Baby’s Only.
A cow or a goat made it. You’ll love it!

We want another drink
with some proof.
We are not unified,
not stacking toys.
How the material gets physical.
How we forget how to know.

-2015

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Monday’s Verse 3/23/2015

Dear readers,

Have we ever read a piece by Maya Angelou (1928-2014) before? If we have, it’s been a long time. Angelou was born in St. Louis and lived a most varied and incredible life. Among the fun facts in her biography, she was the first black woman to operate a streetcar in San Francisco. She never went to college, but she acted, danced, and sang, and joined the Harlem Writers Group in the late 1950s. Maybe the poem below stems from memories of those earlier days… God knows it’s hard to get out of bed on these late March mornings when there is still bitter, sub-freezing wind biting at the curtains.

This is a great little poem with a couple image/simile flourishes that hit me sort of like those imagist poems from the early-mid 20th century.

In other great American city news, Chicago-area readers may want to know that March and April will bring a whole bunch of August Wilson events to town, including a performance of his play "Two Trains Running," and a day dedicated to his poetry. See more news/events at the Poetry Foundation’s website! -ed.

AWAKING IN NEW YORK

Curtains forcing their will
against the wind,
children sleep,
exchanging dreams with
seraphim. The city
drags itself awake on
subway straps; and
I, an alarm, awake as a
rumor of war,
lie stretching into dawn,
unasked and unheeded.

-1983

Monday’s Verse 3/16/2015

Dear readers,

We don’t often run original poetry on this forum; when we do, we try to find competent professionals. So an exception for today, our poet’s name is an anagram for "battle-hammer wit." I found this among the recently-added blog backlog poems, and was delighted to find that I didn’t remember writing it, and don’t completely hate it. Since it is very seasonally appropriate, I thought we’d have another go. I can only assume that I was minorly depressed in 2002 when this was first published. Or maybe I was just having a bad day. What is the poet saying here? I think he’s saying that there a lot of good reasons for calling in sick. -ed.

MIGHT AS WELL STAY HOME

A car accident.
A lost glove.
Uneven cement.
A whiff of
Porta-John on the way
to work. Late winter
colds, people who say
pointless things, a dinner
spoiled by cream
that’s turned.
Or a sudden stream
of abuse unearned.
Celine Dion’s singing.
A collar with too much starch.
A friend’s brutal backstabbing.
Beware the Ides of March.

Monday’s Verse 3/9/2015

Dear readers,

one of the joys of living in and around Pittsburgh is getting to see August Wilson productions with blessed frequency. Wilson (1945-2005) was born in Pittsburgh’s Hill District, and made of the life he found there a stunning body of art that spans the African American experience in the 20th century. He later moved to Minneapolis and Seattle where he produced the 10 plays that comprise his Pittsburgh cycle. Many of them were also first produced in conjunction with the Yale drama school. Wilson was almost completely self-taught, much of the teaching coming in Oakland’s (the PGH neighborhood, not the northern California town) Carnegie Library. On its first floor hangs a small, unobtrusive, framed facsimile of the honorary high school diploma the library gave him once he hit the big time.

"What I learned and How I Learned It," his final dramatic work, is a one-man autobiographical show. The actor Judy and I saw was really terrific, and there was a lot of humor in the piece. I was surprised, but then, not really surprised, to learn that when Wilson struck out as a writer, at about 20 years old, he considered himself a poet. He followed this course for years, reading and reading, and woodshedding, producing poems that, as far as I know, never really found an audience. I have to believe it paid off–his plays contain more music and rhythm than just about anything on the English-speaking stage since the Elizabethans. I did find a cool lyric poem on some random dot-net website, and it’ll be our reading for today. Enjoy! -ed.

THE DAY WINDS UP THE OPPOSITE

Hearing her disembodied voice wash over me,
A cascade of coin and blessing,
With the delicious sounds of her waking

I thought today might be a day of blazing sun
With her hair a forest of red birds announcing themselves with song & surety

That each whisper of wind moved to mute song
& singing make a world of silence.

And then I remembered the warning
Issued by my old, tired, bedazzled heart:

The space between a man’s hand
& a woman’s hair
are filled with many passages
of tremor and trust.

Monday’s Verse 3.2.2015

Dear readers,

I have some exciting news. My poetry-technology consultants, Arwen, Theresa, and Katie, have been busy over the past week helping me to drag Monday’s Verse, kicking and screaming, over to somewhere approaching the 21st Century. The blog that Arwen has maintained for several years, mv37.wordpress.com, has been backfilled to include most editions going back to around 2001. There are some gaps that we will still have to fill. We may also have to do some tagging so that all poems are arranged by author and title, and searchable by author. We’ve also created a twitter feed where, each Monday, the poem’s title, and author, and a link to the blog will be tweeted.

Today I’m suggesting you do 3 things:

1. Check out the blog at:

https://mv37.wordpress.com/

2. Create a wordpress account at:

https://learn.wordpress.com/get-started/

The account will allow you to follow the blog and post comments there.

3. Follow us on Twitter! @MondaysVerse

One thing we’re still looking at is whether we’ll export the mailing list to some kind of mass e-mail service, so that the weekly postings, which will still be a part of MV, no longer come from my personal e-mail account. More on that, and other blog updates, in the near future. Meantime, big thanks to our poetry-technology consultants (and a HUGE high-5 to Arwen for originating the blog and updating it for going on 7 years), as well as to volunteer Mark Kats and gadfly Steve Bailey.

And now on to the poetry. Philip Levine’s (1928-2015) work has been featured in our pages many times, and deservedly so. I regret to report today his recent death. In his professional life he was strongly identified with Detroit and with his own blue-collar roots. Before college, he worked with his brother and neighbors on a Ford factory line, reading poetry at night. He discovered a gulf between the 2 worlds, a gulf he found unnecessary. When he found that the voices of his coworkers were not present in the poetry he read at night, “I took this foolish vow that I would speak for them, and that’s what my life would be. And sure enough I’ve gone and done it. Or tried, anyway.”

Here’s to foolish vows. Here’s to trying. -ed.

AN EXTRAORDINARY MORNING

Two young men—you just might call them boys—
waiting for the Woodward streetcar to get
them downtown. Yes, they’re tired, they’re also
dirty, and happy. Happy because they’ve
finished a short work week and if they’re not rich
they’re as close to rich as they’ll ever be
in this town. Are they truly brothers?
You could ask the husky one, the one
in the black jacket he fills to bursting;
he seems friendly enough, snapping
his fingers while he shakes his ass and sings
“Sweet Lorraine,” or if you’re put off
by his mocking tone ask the one leaning
against the locked door of Ruby’s Rib Shack,
the one whose eyelids flutter in time
with nothing. Tell him it’s crucial to know
if in truth this is brotherly love. He won’t
get angry, he’s too tired for anger,
too relieved to be here, he won’t even laugh
though he’ll find you silly. It’s Thursday,
maybe a holy day somewhere else, maybe
the Sabbath, but these two, neither devout
nor cynical, have no idea how to worship
except by doing what they’re doing,
singing a song about a woman they love
merely for her name, breathing in and out
the used and soiled air they wouldn’t know
how to live without, and by filling
the twin bodies they’ve disguised as filth.

-2009