Monthly Archives: September 2017

Monday’s Verse 9/25/2017

Dear readers,

almost no intro for this short Aram Saroyan (b. 1943) poem… feeling bad for my tardiness, but wanting to continue the string of consistent posting that we’ve got going. Aram Saroyan’s dad, William, is probably the most famous Armenian-American writer, and one we’ve read before on MV. I had no idea his son was a writer, too, until searching for micro-poems for today’s abbreviated edition. Enjoy! -ed.

FACTS

Tell me anything
I knew it

What a coincidence
it always is

I recognized you
the minute I saw you

-1964

Monday’s Verse 9/18/2017

Dear readers,

forgive the 24-hr delay; I was recovering from my emotional hangover after a great Saturday night of poetry & jazz, 2 of my favorite middle-aged man things. City of Asylum on Pittsburgh’s north side hosts exiled writers each year, and also puts on a pretty damned impressive calendar of events at their new performance space. Including, throughout September, collaborations among musicians and poets.

On Saturday, Oliver Lake and his Jump-up Band performed some kind of jazz-funk-reggae fusion — not exactly my thing, but it’s always fun to hear someone slapping the bass, and guitarist Jerome Harris was phenomenal. The featured poets were Kimiko Hahn and Mark Doty. Doty we’ve read several times before; he’s the author of one of my top 5 all-time poems, "Mercy on Broadway." I mentioned that to him when he signed my book, and he said he still feels very close to that poem, which was published in 1997. Good god, that’s 20 years. And he mentioned the line in the poem, "I’m forty-one years old…" saying that it sure didn’t feel like that much time had passed. We don’t get to be star struck that often, and it was a real thrill just to shake his hand.

But I’m not running Hahn or Doty today — joining them onstage for a couple poems was Pitt MFA student Ariana Brown, who describes herself as an Afromexicana poet from San Antonio, TX. She’s been published before and is a national slam champ, but I can’t help but think it was a thrill for her, too, to share the stage with some acknowledged masters of her art. The poems she performed were pretty long; here’s a shorter one I found online. This doesn’t have a date but appears to be from this year or last. Anyone who loves their favorite sneakers will probably connect with this. Have a great week! -ed.

NYLON, BLACK, ’72

i don’t know why

every mexican in my hood

wears nike cortez’s;

why the breakers

in my crew polished em

daily, as if a little spit

could salvage our childhoods;

why we all know

cortez’s are best

for cwalking, gang shit,

sick moves thrust

upon an opponent’s pride –

why we thought

by wearing the name

of our conqueror, we might somehow

become him

Monday’s Verse 9/11/2017

Dear readers,

few weeks ago I ran the new Terrance Hayes ("Yes, chat nearer," b. 1971) poem from Poetry magazine; then I’m hunting around the magazine and keep seeing poems of the same title from the same issue… whaaa? It’s a sonnet series, all the the same individual title. Since I am writing from a remote, secure location, without time for real research or explanation, here’s installation 2 of the series, enjoy. -ed.

AMERICAN SONNET FOR MY PAST AND FUTURE ASSASSIN

Probably twilight makes blackness dangerous

Darkness. Probably all my encounters

Are existential jambalaya. Which is to say,

A nigga can survive. Something happened

In Sanford, something happened in Ferguson

And Brooklyn & Charleston, something happened

In Chicago & Cleveland & Baltimore & happens

Almost everywhere in this country every day.

Probably someone is prey in all of our encounters.

You won’t admit it. The names alive are like the names

In graves. Probably twilight makes blackness

Darkness. And a gate. Probably the dark blue skin

Of a black man matches the dark blue skin

Of his son the way one twilight matches another.

-2017

Monday’s Verse 9/4/2017

Dear readers,

We’re coming up on our 20th anniversary, and today’s entry feels like a full circle moment. The first official MV mailing came from a bc.edu account, typed out in a computer lab in the basement of O’Neill Library, and I remember that it was John Ashbery’s (1927-2017) "Paradoxes and Oxymorons." I’d just discovered the poem itself, either in a class anthology, or because some classmate really liked Ashbery and told me I should read some. At the time, he was a spry young master poet of 70 years (and I myself a sterling lad); over the weekend he died, aged 90. From the beginning, critics found him slipping into a distinctly American chorus of poets including Whitman, Dickinson, and Stevens; at the same time everyone acknowledges his as a distinct, even eccentric, voice. Ashbery could switch registers and positions within a book, and within a single poem… his poems sometimes look "hard," but at the same time, his is a playful, friendly voice. That’s nowhere on display more than in this poem, which we’ve probably read 4-5 times over the years. It’s one I have to keep coming back to.

One of my favorite Ashbery quotes (I hope it’s him?!) is that a poem’s meaning is in the time it takes to unroll. It think about that all the time — the experience of being "with" the poem is so much richer than the intellectual process of trying to figure out what the poem "means." I’m glad his poems set themselves down by me, for a little while. -ed.

PARADOXES AND OXYMORONS

This poem is concerned with language on a very plain level.

Look at it talking to you. You look out a window

Or pretend to fidget. You have it but you don’t have it.

You miss it, it misses you. You miss each other.

The poem is sad because it wants to be yours, and cannot.

What’s a plain level? It is that and other things,

Bringing a system of them into play. Play?

Well, actually, yes, but I consider play to be

A deeper outside thing, a dreamed role-pattern,

As in the division of grace these long August days

Without proof. Open-ended. And before you know

It gets lost in the steam and chatter of typewriters.

It has been played once more. I think you exist only

To tease me into doing it, on your level, and then you aren’t there

Or have adopted a different attitude. And the poem

Has set me softly down beside you. The poem is you.

-1980