Monthly Archives: July 2018

Monday’s Verse 7/23/2018

All,

forgive the 24-hour delay. In the UK, the Poetry Society (perhaps akin to our Poetry Foundation?) runs an annual Foyle Young Poets contest, for writers age 11-17. Only a week left until the entry deadline, which probably applies to no one on this distribution list. Obviously, what I’d like to see one day is the the winner of the Foyle Prize go on in the next year to be the youngest competitor in season ___ of the Great British Bake-Off.

You can look at some of their feature projects for young writers yourself. The announcement gave me a chance to look briefly through the 2017 winners, and the 2nd poem of the e-book was a winner for me. Travel by train, mourning loss, checking yourself on mourning, physical books, and Blake? Yes please, give me more and more. Nice lyric here with lots of good similes. Enjoy. -ed.

TRACKS TAKE 2

My book of Blake slid unnoticed into the tracks.
As the train skidded in, I climbed in, unaware.
Later, as my fingers rooted for it, too sick of watching
The landscape blur stickily by, I noted my loss.
I pressed my forehead against the lukewarm pane, and thought.
Thought of the pages slicked back with wind, welcoming
The train rushing in, and the spine
Cracking like a bolt of elastic from the wheel-chopped sheets.
Pages fluttering like the wings of fat, clumsy pigeons–
Maybe strangers will pick up scattered shreds of Experience, and
Revel in reconstructed Innocence.

Irina Petra Husti-Radulet
2017

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Monday’s Verse 7/16/2018

Dear readers,

It’s not a poem, there’s not much in the way of introduction, it’s coming just on the cusp of Tuesday, and it’s yet another – ho hum – repeat offender. But everyone on this list knows and loves Terrance Hayes (b. 1971). If you find the first 3 paragraphs of this proem intriguing, you can pick up the trail at The Poetry Foundation, where Hayes’s own line drawings accompany the text. It’s a personal, lyrical, expertly-guided of a city I never knew. Have a good week. -ed.

from TO FLOAT IN THE SPACE BETWEEN

line 38: i am me

Later I dreamed I was on a night plane somewhere between the stars and Indianapolis. It was a crow’s sky: ominous, black, sparkling. The man across the aisle, he sounded African, talked to a drowsy white woman about something that frequently featured the words “Obama” and “Oh, Mamma.” It was none of my business. When I looked down from the plane window, I saw cemetery shapes. The African said to the drowsy woman, “It is not often an African marries an American white woman, but when it happens our offspring rule the free world.” I heard him say “cost of living,” and “Yeah,” and “Thank you, Lord” when our plane touched ground.

I visited Indianapolis once in my waking life. Nearly fifteen years after Etheridge Knight’s death, I’d arrived with a satchel of books and questions, invited by Knight’s sister, Eunice, to read my poems at the Etheridge Knight Festival. When I spoke with her about her brother for a few hours in a downtown hotel, she let me record our conversation. She wore a blue headscarf and shared her cigarettes with me. I’d already decided a biography needed to be written and that I would not be the one to write it. My aim was to gather stories his future biographer could use.

I know I should not admit I was dreaming. Vision being what it is in a dream, from a distance I thought the driver awaiting me near baggage claim was none other than three-time NCAA championship coach Bobby Knight. Nearer, I saw he was actually James Whitcomb Riley, the nineteenth-century poet. Age of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, William Cullen Bryant, James Russell Lowell: something sumptuous in a three-word name. Old James Whitcomb Riley struggled a bit dragging my book-heavy bags to the trunk of a sedan longer and blacker than a hearse.

Monday’s Verse 7/9/2018

Dear readers,

William Matthews was born in Cincinnati in 1942, got an MFA in writing, and taught many places, including City College of New York. He was a National Book Critics Circle Award winner, an NEA Fellow, and a Lilly prize winner. Shortly before his relatively young death in 1997, he said in an interview, "I would like to say that one of the primary reasons for being alive is to experience the pleasure of being alive. I would like to write as if it were a given to rise and look out the window on a particularly beautiful light on a summer morning, or on one of those winter mornings when snow has fallen and made the whole of New York City quiet, or you name your favorite such sight." You can probably think about just that, and realize he achieved it, in reading this week’s poem.

When I read it last week, it sounded so familiar. I had to comb through the ol’ MV memory banks to see if we had read it here before, but it appears not. I may have read it before on my own, or it may have just touched on so many of my personal affinities that it rang true. I love July, love cats, love cities, love public transportation, love creative cursing, love feeling strange, and love — who doesn’t — a good simile. And I hope you love this poem to start your week! -ed.

MORNINGSIDE HEIGHTS, JULY

Haze. Three student violists boarding

a bus. A clatter of jackhammers.

Granular light. A film of sweat for primer

and the heat for a coat of paint.

A man and a woman on a bench:

she tells him he must be psychic,

for how else could he sense, even before she knew,

that she’d need to call it off? A bicyclist

fumes by with a coach’s whistle clamped

hard between his teeth, shrilling like a teakettle

on the boil. I never meant, she says.

But I thought, he replies. Two cabs almost

collide; someone yells fuck in Farsi.

I’m sorry, she says. The comforts

of loneliness fall in like a bad platoon.

The sky blurs—there’s a storm coming

up or down. A lank cat slinks liquidly

around a corner. How familiar

it feels to feel strange, hollower

than a bassoon. A rill of chill air

in the leaves. A car alarm. Hail.

Monday’s Verse 7/2/2018

Remember that poem by Antwon Rose?

Remember that poem by Mark Doty? No? I’ll reprint it here. "I believe it is part of the work/ of poetry to try on at least/ the moment and skin of another,// for this hour I respectfully decline." -ed.

IN TWO SECONDS

Tamir Rice, 2002-2014

the boy’s face

climbed back down the twelve-year tunnel

of its becoming, a charcoal sunflower

swallowing itself. Who has eyes to see,

or ears to hear? If you could see

what happens fastest, unmaking

the human irreplaceable, a star

falling into complete gravitational

darkness from all points of itself, all this:

the held loved body into which entered

milk and music, honeying the cells of him:

who sang to him, stroked the nap

of the scalp, kissed the flesh-knot

after the cord completed its work

of fueling into him the long history

of those whose suffering

was made more bearable

by the as-yet-unknown of him,

playing alone in some unthinkable

future city, a Cleveland,

whatever that might be.

Two seconds. To elapse:

the arc of joy in the conception bed,

the labor of hands repeated until

the hands no longer required attention,

so that as the woman folded

her hopes for him sank into the fabric

of his shirts and underpants. Down

they go, swirling down into the maw

of a greater dark. Treasure box,

comic books, pocket knife, bell from a lost cat’s collar,

why even begin to enumerate them

when behind every tributary

poured into him comes rushing backward

all he hasn’t been yet. Everything

that boy could have thought or made,

sung or theorized, built on the quavering

but continuous structure

that had preceded him sank into

an absence in the shape of a boy

playing with a plastic gun in a city park

in Ohio, in the middle of the afternoon.

When I say two seconds, I don’t mean the time

it took him to die. I mean the lapse between

the instant the cruiser braked to a halt

on the grass, between that moment

and the one in which the officer fired his weapon.

The two seconds taken to assess the situation.

I believe it is part of the work

of poetry to try on at least

the moment and skin of another,

for this hour I respectfully decline.

I refuse it. May that officer

be visited every night of his life

by an enormity collapsing in front of him

into an incomprehensible bloom,

and the voice that howls out of it.

If this is no poem then…

But that voice – erased boy,

beloved of time, who did nothing

to no one and became

nothing because of it – I know that voice

is one of the things we call poetry.

It isn’t only to his killer he’s speaking.

-2015