Beautiful Bowen

paperwings
Mood: Pleased
Drinking: Diet DP

I don’t fall in love with other poets very often. My list of favorites is a very short one.

But Kristy Bowen has made it into the top 5.

I read her Ghost Road Press book, The Fever Almanac, a few months ago, and I dragged the reading of it out, on and on, just snippets a day, to make it last longer.

I’m doing the same thing now with Feign, and I have to share it with you, because this poem just makes me happy.

And this week we could all use a little happiness, no? Black predictions on the left and on the right, sky falling in and Wall Street crumbling and whatnot.

I could use a little extra beauty mixed in with all the truth. A heavy-handed dose of sugar and paper wings.

So here we have some beautiful Bowen. It just might do the trick:

HOW TO READ THIS POEM

I suggest a system. A lifeboat. Or at the very least a bathtub.

I suggest you sit down.

I suggest the bird at your shoulder be ruby-throated with a milky eye.
That it say inappropriate things at inappropriate times.

I suggest bringing something ruined. Or broken. Or drunk.

I suggest you take the south road. Slip beneath the piano and
out the trap door. Sneak up on it from behind.

I suggest you take a snack. An umbrella. A dictionary.

I suggest you start slowly.

I suggest you read the red skirt as a metaphor for sex. The fistful of poppies
languishing in their vase.

I suggest everything is a metaphor for sex. Even the bird.

I suggest you mind the foil, toiling in the background. It’s all very
Shakespearean. Even her red hair, Shakespearean.

I suggest you take the setting into consideration. Or here, where the
narrative slips off its track.

I suggest you look askance when the woman opens her arms and lowers
them.

I suggest you be kind. But distracted.

-Lo, in need of many, many more lovely things.

In the Leaving

zurichstation
Mood: Exhausted
Drinking: Water

I’m in the mood today for this lovely thing:

it is in the leaving
by Nicole Blackman
(from Blood Sugar)

it is in the leaving that the agony begins
— hope and skin stretched too far

time enough for words
borrowed and weighty

eyes that glisten in the knowing of what comes
always comes
after

airports
train stations
bus stops
take us apart

but we keep knitting together
strangely inevitably
even we don’t question it anymore

it is not in the reuniting that we are together

no kind of kiss binds us
each greeting
each meeting
is new is full of searching
of notsureifitwillbethesame

it is not in the continuing

not in the birthdays anniversaries new years
(although they’re very grand)
nor in the letters calls poems

the miss you’s are careless because they are common

it is not in the waiting

the day-counting
the trip-planning
the bag-packing
no kind of agony that shreds days makes us together
(calendars are cruel)

it is in the leaving

in the last look
last touch
last kiss
one more
will i ever see you again
rip
that makes me sure
that makes him sure
that this is a great love

it is in the leaving

Lo, taking her leave.

Daybreak

starfishes
Mood: Crabtastic
Drinking: Water

A lovely poem today from Galway Kinnell:

Daybreak
On the tidal mud, just before sunset,
dozens of starfishes
were creeping. It was
as though the mud were a sky
and enormous, imperfect stars
moved across it as slowly
as the actual stars across heaven.
All at once they stopped,
and, as if they had simply
increased their receptivity
to gravity, they sank down
into the mud, faded down
into it and lay still, and by the time
pink of sunset broke across them
they were as invisible
as the true stars at daybreak.

-Lo, fading down.

Borrowed Horses

fantasia1Mood: Tasty
Drinking: Canned

Someone in a poetry group I belong to recently shared a poem by Cecilia Woloch.

I’ve never ready any of Cecilia’s work before, but this one is very lovely, and reminds me a lot of my own memories of bareback rides through woods with my sister.

So I thought I’d borrow it and share it here, because it’s exactly the kind of poem that should be out there in the world, garnering all kinds of accolades and adoration…

(A technical note: A “pantoum” is a form of poetry similar to the villanelle. You can find the definition here, if you’re interested.)

Bareback Pantoum
by Cecilia Woloch

One night, bareback and young, we rode through the woods
and the woods were on fire —
two borrowed horses, two local boys
whose waists we clung to, my sister and I

and the woods were on fire —
the pounding of hooves and the smell of smoke and the sharp sweat of boys
whose waists we clung to, my sister and I,
as we rode toward flame with the sky in our mouths —

the pounding of hooves and the smell of smoke and the sharp sweat of boys
and the heart saying: mine
as we rode toward flame with the sky in our mouths —

the trees turning gold, then crimson, white

and the heart saying: mine
of the wild, bright world;
the trees turning gold, then crimson, white
as they burned in the darkness, and we were girls

of the wild, bright world
of the woods near our house — we could turn, see the lights
as they burned in the darkness, and we were girls
so we rode just to ride

through the woods near our house — we could turn, see the lights
and the horses would carry us, carry us home
so we rode just to ride,
my sister and I, just to be close to that danger, desire

and the horses would carry us, carry us home
— two borrowed horses, two local boys,
my sister and I — just to be close to that danger, desire —
one night, bareback and young, we rode through the woods

-Lo, who can feel the hoofbeats pounding beneath the lines.

Featured

sacredgrounds1
Mood: Typical
Drinking: Usual

All my fellow San Franciscans (and Bay Area people, too) can consider themselves cordially invited to the poetry reading at the Sacred Grounds Cafe next Wednesday, September 5th.

The mic opens to all who come with poetry in hand at 7:30. I’m the featured reader on the 5th, so I’ll be taking the floor between 8 and 8:30. I’ll be reading from the new book, the old book, and perhaps a few hot and fresh lines, as well.

It’s a small space with good food, so get there early, get yourself some eats, and pay your respects to the open mic crowd.

See you there!

-Lo, who will not be playing, singing, reciting, or involved in any way with Free Bird.

An Appointment with the Muse

mcwc_afterMood: Pensive
Drinking: Vitamin Water

A few days of writing exercises will do wonders for your word bank.

I’ve just returned from a writing conference and my notebook (and my poor squishy brain) are brimming with half-finished but promising starts and a fine numbered list of new ideas. (One of which is a poem about LeeLoo and her crispy tongue.)

I was surprised to find that I was one of the youngest writing conference attendees (except for a ragtag band of local high school overachievers). I confess I thought I’d be mingling with a few less bluehairs and a few more writers of my own age bracket.

But GenX was nowhere to be found. And the retired folks were very nice. So it wasn’t a big deal. Just kind of weird.

My instructors were both new to me — Albert Garcia (whose latest book, Skunk Talk, is reviewed here) and Maya Khosla.

Although both of their books are published by Bear Star Press, I found both their teaching styles and their poetry to be quite different from each other.

Maya is a biologist who has lived all over the world, and her writing very much reflects her work (as in my favorite poem of hers, “Lake Trout in a Gill Net” — you can find it in her book Keel Bone).

Albert is a university administrator (and former professor), whose beautiful, spare writing details his love of ordinary things, places, moments, people. (I really love his poem “August Morning,” which is reprinted in this review).

I collected a lot of great ideas and encouragment from both poets, and if I follow through on all the writing threads I started at this conference (which I intend to), my pen and I will stay very busy for the rest of the year, at least.

And now for the re-entry into the neverending rush of everyday living… back to work, to business, to jury duty (insert annoyed face), to reality.

-Lo, who wonders when her own hair will turn blue.

The Writing Muscle

muscles
Mood: Procrastinating
Drinking: Tooth-rottingly sweet tea

Soon and very soon, I’m off to a conference for poets and writers.

I’m not sure what to expect. Writers often tend to be quite competitive, myself included. You always want to be the best in the room. Trouble is, “The Best” is so very subjective.

I tend to think that poets like Nicole Blackman are far better than your average stuffed poet laureate. But that’s me.

I went to a poetry reading the other night and watched a woman in green bob her head emphatically up and down like some sort of epileptic chicken at nearly everything the featured reader said. Clearly, she thought his overwrought, pedantic, self-important stanzas were the cat’s meow.

I, on the other hand, thought he was in rather desperate need of an editor. And an enema. (Rawr!)

So you see, different strokes…

Perhaps I’ll meet fellow writers who are lovely and kind, fellow poets who turn fine phrases without rancor. (I know they exist — I met one named Gary just the other night.)

But really, I’ll just be happy to exercise my own writing muscles, to learn new things about words and craft and self. There’s always room to learn and grow. No matter who you think you are.

And as added impetus for the wordy weekend ahead, a friend sent me this poem in an email titled, “Why I love and worship Auden.” It’s an amazing piece of work, not only for its beauty but also for its resounding truth…

Musee des Beaux Arts
by W.H. Auden
(1940)
About suffering they were never wrong,
the Old Masters; how well, they understood
its human position; how it takes place
while someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
for the miraculous birth, there always must be
children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
on a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
that even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
but for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
as it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

-Lo, once more into the breach.

At the Open Mic

tube
Mood: Cranky
Drinking: Nothing helpful

Dear Fellow Poet-Person,

I hate the way you read poetry.

I’ve tried, really, I have, to be patient, to hear things from your point of view, to get in your zone, to say something nice. It’s not going to happen.

I unreservedly detest, I violently dislike, I utterly despise the way you read poetry.

You sound like a Valley Girl in the young Nicolas Cage era (pre-hair transplant and porcelain veneers), leaving ends of phrases just dangling in mid-air. Like, you know? You draw out the ends of words with fish hooks and wrecking cables. The words don’t want to go there! Please don’t make them.

I don’t want to hear about the pluuuuuuuuuuuuuuums your lover eats or those leeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewd zucchinis. A purple plum? Ok. A lewd zucchini? I’ll take it.

But all those extra vowels just underline your mediocrity. Your schtick gets in the way of your words. I can’t hear what you’re really saying.

It doesn’t have to be like this. If you ever took a moment to listen to yourself, to actually hear what you sound like, without all the artifice, you might be surprised. You might like it.

But please, stop borrowing this overdone, overly dramatic Poetry Voice. Stop copying a device that got old before its time. (Just because it worked for them doesn’t mean it works for you!) Stop lazing around in a pool of your own supposed genius. Just stop.

You don’t need a gimmick. You just need your own voice.

I went to the Open Mic for my 3 minutes of amplification, true. I don’t mind the applause. But I was hoping to find someone else there. Someone original. Someone inspirational. Someone electrifying.

Instead I found 2 poor facsimiles of the Beatnik generation, 3 self-indulgent slackers, and 6 rhymers with no reason.

So I dragged myself home deflated and disgruntled. I’ve stewed over it for a few days, and have come up with nothing better than this sad rant.

I love you, San Francisco, but I miss The Green Mill more than ever. I miss the irreverence. I miss the feminist hiss. I miss the complete lack of politically correct concern.

Where’s the Marc Smith (So What!) of San Francisco? Where’s the discriminating audience?

Where are the good words hiding?

-Lo, who certainly doesn’t claim to be the best, but knows a thing or two about not being the worst.

Miserable and Inadequate

Mood: tingly, and not in the good way
Drinking: Diet V. Coke. (i’m not an addict, i swear)

Ran across an old interview this a.m. with poet Justin Chin. (Justin writes amazing things like this: “Cats and dogs see spirits that humans do not. When I walk through my apartment with my cat, we see different things. I see a mess that needs cleaning up, a stove, a scratching post, a dehydrated plant. My cat sees powerless demons lounging around with nothing to do…”)

Anyway, in this interview, Justin answers a question about his reading habits by saying, “I like books that instill jealousy and feelings of insecurity and worthlessness in me and my art… I also love Alice Munro. She makes it looks so effortless. She can write soft, slow, pretty stories with such underlying turbulence. Crafty and subversive ? God, I love her work, but it always makes me feel so miserable and inadequate afterwards.”

I cannot tell you how comforting it was to read that. Comforting in the sense of “Ah, you too? So I am not the only one, then.”

I have often thought that the so-called artists who strut about with puffy banty chests, thinking to themselves, “God, I am so fucking awesome and talented and did I mention AWESOME!” — I’ve often thought that those guys are the ones who actually suck. While the people who actually have a spark of talent are the ones groveling about in dark corners, hog-tied by the growing fear that they actually DO suck, that they are never going to get it right, and yet they pick up a pen and write, anyway, in spite of the fear, because of the fear. Those are the ones I like to read.

And those are the ones that send me whimpering into dark corners, all miserable and inadequate. All my favorite writers do that to me. It’s this delicious coupling of amazement and abasement. The thrill of discovering gorgeous lines of words all strung together just so and perfectly balanced and the simultaneous falling feeling in your gut while all your demons crowd into an impromptu moshpit on your shoulders, pushing and shoving and screaming, “You will never, ever, ever write anything even three-tenths as good as that, you pitiful hack!”

All I know is the day that I really suck will be the day I listen to those demons and put down my pen.

-Lo, who by the way, would like to say that the chick on the Overstock.com commercials is just too fucking creepy. “Sometimes it’s all about the office. Oh! Oh! Oooooooh!”
Yick.