Monthly Archives: May 2016

Monday’s Verse 5/23/2016

Dear readers,

Here’s some timely formal verse comin’ at ya from Kevin Young (b. 1970), a younger poet whose work, engaging with contemporary art, music, and films, has been well-received. He also writes criticism and nonfiction. He is a professor at Emory.

I liked this one like I like Paul Muldoon’s "Sleeve Notes." I went back to "Sleeve Notes" this morning just to make sure that no Prince albums appeared there, then I remembered back to this momento mori in a recent New Yorker, and voila, it’s a double-sonnet, satisfying my goal of running some rhyme-and-meter pieces for a while. And it rhymes beautifully, although you’d never notice that on a first read. -ed.

When You Were Mine

Nothing passed us by. Baby,

you’re much too fast. In 1990

we had us an early 80s party—

nostalgic already,

I dug out my best

OPs & two polos, fluorescent,

worn simultaneously—

collar up, pretend preppy.

When Blondie came on—

Rapture, be pure

things got really going & then

the dancing got shut down

by some square.

What was sleep even for?

Housequake

What was sleep even for?

The year before, a freshman, I threw

a Prince party, re-screwed

the lights red & blue—

the room all purple, people

dancing everywhere—clicked

PLAY on the cassette till

we slow-sweated to "Erotic

City" or "Do Me Baby." I’m going down

to Alphabet Street. Did anyone

sleep alone that night? "I Feel

For You." Shut up already, damn

cabbage patch, reverse running man—

get some life wherever you can.

-2016

I dug out my best

OPs & two polos, fluorescent,

worn simultaneously—

collar up, pretend preppy.

When Blondie came on—

Rapture, be pure

things really got going & then

the dancing got shut down

by some square.

What was sleep even for?

Housequake

What was sleep even for?

The year before, a freshman, I threw

a Prince party, re-screwed

the lights red & blue—

the room all purple, people

dancing everywhere—clicked

PLAY on the cassette till

we slow-sweated to “Erotic

City” or “Do Me Baby.” I’m going down

to Alphabet Street. Did anyone

sleep alone that night? “I Feel

For You.” Shut up already, damn

cabbage patch, reverse running man—

get some life wherever you can.

-2016

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Monday’s Verse 5-17-2016

Readers,

I came in search of formal poems; I sort of found something else. I mean, the poem below is formal, all right — a pair of quatrains, don’t get much more clear and set than that — but it’s so short and lapidary… hits you like a Dickinson piece, or cummings. Both of whom were fierce formalists in their own right, I suppose.

Well, I thought I’d run a few more meter-and-rhyme poems in the coming weeks, but we might as well start way back in the 14th century, when Lal Ded ("ladled," ahem, thank you) was forced into marriage at age 12, became a devotee of Shiva, renounced her worldly possessions, and wandered naked, reciting proverbs and poems. This one comes to us in a translation by one of our favorite 2015 poets, Jane Hirshfield. -ed.

[I was passionate]

I was passionate,

filled with longing,

I searched

far and wide.

But the day

that the Truthful One

found me,

I was at home.

Monday’s Verse 5/9/2016

Dear readers,

I have this incredible weakness for free verse, whereas I know many readers also take great pleasure in meter and rhyme. Well, here’s a compromise for us, guaranteed to please no one. It’s a poem with intricate, bustling form, yet very few end rhymes! I don’t think it has a meter per se, but I’m feeling a lot of anapests when I read sections of it aloud (in my head). And there’s a maddening recurrence of words like 8, city, pear, think… Ah, it’s a sestina! I had to look it up. That’ll tell you how long it’s been since we read a sestina, a french troubador form named for "6" — 6 stanzas of 6 lines each, plus an "envoi" — that worked its way into Dante’s Italian, and, later, into Elizabeth Bishop’s English.

As Stephen Fry says, it’s a recycling of elusive patterns that cannot quite be held in the mind all at once. For the words have to be repeated in certain lines at certain points, and then all assembled much more tightly in the final, abbreviated stanza. I like Fry’s description. Sestinas tend to be more suggestive than conclusive… you read them, and read them again, and think… What is going on here? They’re like a little murder mystery.

Here’s a fresh one from Stav Poleg, which sounds very much like an anagrammatic pseudonym, but apparently is not. -ed.

THE CITY

Summer solstice (first scene). A girl with a knife cuts a pearin half. Think “Venus Rising from the Sea” goes cityand smoke. At the bar, a man dreams a glass of champagnelike an unbalanced thought. Think “Streetcar” goes “Gatsby,” the scenewith the boat. She lights a cigarette as if it’s made of thin glass,he’s telling a story as if it’s a city uncut. Cut.

A nightmare. The girl shouts in a black-and-white dream. Cut.There’s a gallery. Think MOMA but rough. She looks at a pearmade of bronze, in a nest of cast iron and glass.The gallery turns into a field of white roses, a white city,is it still June? Think Fellini’s dancing scenein “8½.” One hand’s filling a glass with champagne

the other offering the glass. Champagne?The girl dances and dances. Think Matisse, “The Cut-Outs.” Cut.Close-ups: Scissors. A dancer. Another dream scene.Think “Last Year at Marienbad,” the moon like a pear—the shape of a question. The actors arrive at an improvised city,think musical setting, the sky made of turquoise-stained glass.

London. A waitress with eyes like stained glass.Think Soho stilettos, fake mascara, cheap champagne.The phone rings with a “Moon River” cover. Think New York Cityat the end of the line. Can you hear me? We’ve met at the—. Cutto a mirror. Think Manet’s “A Bar at the Folies-Bergère.” Cerulean pearmade of a girl and a corset too tight. But next, it’s the girl with the scene-

stealing smile. Ready? It’s “The Perfect Summer” deleted scene:a lake, pink lemonade, a girl’s wearing soft tan. Think “The GlassMenagerie,” anything but. Sunglasses like a Venetian mask, a spiral pear-and-amaretto tart, she drinks too much champagnethen hides and throws up. Think “Manhattan,” the outtakes. Cut.Rome. A girl opens an envelope with the tip of a knife. Think “La Città

e la Casa,” pages revealing city by city as if every cityis cut into rivers and sliced into streets down to the seeds of each scene.The phone rings. Don’t hang up. She hangs up. Cut.Later, she watches how sand travels like rain inside hourglassbulbs as if it’s a low-budget film. Sound effects: rain, champagneflute drops from a hand. Somewhere a girl wears a ring like a pear

on a knife, like the deepest of cuts. Somewhere a cityis closed and is endless, is the shape of an 8, a pear mise-en-scènewhere a glass stem is held like a spine and a promise. Champagne?
-2016

Monday’s Verse 5/2/2016

Dear readers,

Many thanks to our able founding member Sara for her thoughtful, celebratory entry last week. I think she’s got the makings, somewhere inside her, of a good, politically-charged ghazal with -ian word endings, what do you think? Too pedestrian?

It’s not the first day of spring, and it’s no longer national poetry month, but here’s a poem written by Erika Sanchez (i.e., snack hazer) in honor of both. She’s a younger poet, whose first book of poems will be coming out next year. She has been the recipient of a Ruth Lilly fellowship, and appears to be a Chicago native. She also writes nonfiction, and has been published in popular press like Rolling Stone, Salon, and Cosmo.

If you have ever been a runner, you may appreciate her short, breathing rhythm in this piece, as well as her sense that the body "is its own crumbling country." I ran (oh yeah, it’s most definitely intended) across this poem on the ESPN website, of all places. Enjoy! -ed.

A WOMAN RUNS ON THE FIRST DAY OF SPRING

When I am a stranger to my own
ruin, twilight reminds me
to give alms to my best sins.
March: the city is purging
in the humility of worms, salt
washing from the grasses.
When I breathe in, I say thank you.
When I breathe out, I say gone,
I say garden, I say guns.
Three crows devour the dead
rat. Look at all that booty,
the man mutters and blows
me kisses. The sky is worthless
and my bulbous ass is always
a dinner bell. I run farther,
I run with a feather inside

my ear, I run from a bird
with a broken neck and follow
the sound of thawing snow.
Aren’t we all boundless
though? The way a dream
secretes the morning after,
the way moths feed on the eyes
of fawn. Two and not two–
vines that strangle trees never
say they’re sorry. I reach
the lake with this grateful
ache in my throat. If I say
my body is its own crumbling
country, if I say I am always
my own home–then
what does that make me?

-2016