Friday, November 30, 2007

Jean Cocteau (1889-1963) was a poet, novelist, dramatist, designer, boxing manager, and filmmaker. Although he has been criticized for having his hand in too many artistic pies, I’ve always liked this particular poem.


Preamble (A Rough Draft For An Ars Poetica)

Let’s get our dreams unstuck

The grain of rye
free from the prattle of grass
et loin de arbres orateurs




It will sprout

But forget about
the rustic festivities

For the explosive word
falls harmlessly
eternal through
the compact generations

and except for you


its sweet-scented dynamite

I discard eloquence
the empty sail
and the swollen sail
which cause the ship
to lose her course

My ink nicks
and there

and there

and there


deep poetry

The mirror-paneled wardrobe
washing down ice-floes
the little Eskimo girl

in a heap
of moist Africans
her nose was
against the window-pane
of dreary Christmases

A white bear
adorned with chromatic moire

dries himself in the midnight sun


The huge luxury item

Slowly founders
all its lights aglow

and so
sinks the evening-dress ball
into the thousand mirrors
of the palace hotel

And now
it is I

the thin Columbus of phenomena
in the front
of a mirror-paneled wardrobe
full of linen
and locking with a key

The obstinate miner
of the void
his fertile mine

the potential in the rough
glitters there
mingling with its white rock

princess of the mad sleep
listen to my horn
and my pack of hounds

I deliver you
from the forest
where we came upon the spell

Here we are
by the pen
one with the other
on the page

Isles sobs of Ariadne

dragging along
Aridnes seals

for I betray you my fair stanzas
run and awaken

I plan no architecture

like you Beethoven

like you
numberless old man

born everywhere

I elaborate
in the prairies of inner

and the work of the mission
and the poem of the work
and the stanza of the poem
and the group of the stanza
and the words of the group
and the letters of the word
and the least
loop of the letters

it’s your foot
of attentive satin
that I place in position
tightrope walker
sucked up by the void

to the left to the right
the god gives a shake
and I walk
towards the other side
with infinite precaution

What would win your vote for World's Worst Book Title? Let's not indulge in any Pooh bashing though.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Upcoming Poetry @ Myopic Books

Sunday, December 16 - Michael Cross, Anne Boyer, & K. Silem Mohammad

Sunday, January 27 - Joel Craig & Philip Jenks

Sunday, March 9 - A Night of Translation ... Mark Tardi, Daniel Borzutzky & Jen Scappetone

Sunday, April 20 - Kathleen Rooney & Elisa Gabbert

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Americans are reading less, but studies show most will still invest seven minutes of their time.

I hope you'll check the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday (Nov. 27th). I wrote a piece for the Tempo section about the Chicago holiday season. It just happens to be seven minutes long.

Monday, November 19, 2007

It's interesting to hear Ubu Web's audio recording of Le Pont Mirabeau. Apollinaire may have had the most interesting personal life of any modern poet. It's remarkable that this was recorded in 1913. Here's the lyric as sung by the contemporary Irish, folk-rock band the Pogues.

Pont Mirabeau

Below the Pont Mirabeau
Slow flows the Seine
And all our loves together
Must I recall again
Joy would always follow
After pain

Let night fall, let the hours go by
The days pass on and here stand I

Hands holding hands
Let us stand face to face
While underneath the bridge
Of our arms entwined slow race
Eternal gazes flowing
At wave's pace

Let night fall, let the hours go by
The days pass on and here stand I

Love runs away
Like running water flows
Love flows away
But oh how slow life goes
How violent is hope
Love only knows

Let night fall, let the hours go by
The days pass on and here stand I

The days flow ever on
The weeks pass by in vain
Time never will return
Nor our loves burn again
Below the Pont Mirabeau
Slow flows the Seine

Let night fall, let the hours go by
The days pass on and here stand I.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Why not help me finish this poem? I got to the last word and couldn't think of anything that fits. If you send me something that works, I'll use it and send the co-authored final out for publication. Act now.


Plea to the Grasses of North America

Let me lie down upon you
grasses of North America
caress your shallow root systems
grow dormant in
extreme conditions
and given to intermittent watering
during prolonged drought conditions
spread moderately.
Let me lie down upon you
grasses of North America
we won’t require
supplemental irrigation
we will tolerate one another’s
shadier areas.
Let our love be tough as bahia
grasses of North America
blue as Kentucky
and tolerate traffic like Bermuda,
but perhaps our stems are
decumbent (creeping) and slender
and produce long but require
very intense management.
Regardless we will
be most resistant to
grubs, armyworms,
chinch bugs, mole crickets,
and sod webworms.
Most certainly we will resist
sod webworms and mole crickets.
Let me lie down upon you
and drift off to sleep forever,
grasses of North America,
unless you would rather
that I observe you from
atop my _________*.

* Transvaal Yorkshire Terrier, John Deere 9410 Combine, dromedary, Austin Healey, spire

Thursday, November 15, 2007

There were some discussions going on last night at North Park University about the work of Whitman and Dickinson and whether their work represents two antithetical poles in American literature. I was glad to see that twentysomethings in poetry classes still talk about such things. I've tended to side with Dickinson, if such a competition exists (it doesn't). She was best able to write the condensed type of poetry I tend to gravitate toward. Whitman could have easily been a novelist. Leaves of Grass encapsulates America in its rhapsodic long lines, but Dickinson mapped some inner places that make her work more mysterious and interesting.


FOR each ecstatic instant
We must an anguish pay
In keen and quivering ratio
To the ecstasy.

For each beloved hour
Sharp pittances of years,
Bitter contested farthings
And coffers heaped with tears.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Upcoming readings

I'll be reading my poetry at the following locations in the near future. There will be no gesticulating. I'll leave that to Anne Waldman. I love Anne Waldman.

Nov 28—Lewis University, Romeoville, IL, 2pm

Jan 3—Kate the Great's bookstore, 5550 N. Broadway, Chicago, 7pm

May 1, 2008—Observable Reading Series (with Ken Rumble and Matt Freeman), 7260 Southwest Avenue, St. Louis, MO, 8pm

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

This Sunday @ Myopic Books

Myopic Books in Chicago — Sundays at 7:00 / 1564 N. Milwaukee Avenue,
2nd Floor

Sunday November 11 – Yuriy Tarnawsky

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
On Yuriy Tarnawsky's work:

Yuriy Tarnawsky is a bilingual Ukrainian-American writer, and the author of 19 collections of poetry, seven plays, nine books of fiction, a biography, and numerous articles and translations. Yuriy Tarnawsky's LIKE BLOOD IN WATER is a fascinating account of the creative and destructive arts. Taking inspiration from music and the visual arts, Tarnawsky crafts a dense work of allusive prose and simple storytelling. The author interweaves reality with dreams and fragmentary thoughts, diffusing the elements of lives that are anything but mundane.

What reviewers have said about LIKE BLOOD IN WATER:

"LIKE BLOOD IN WATER is an incredibly complex, beautiful, and frustrating work. It is less about story than craft, a fact that I found alternately exciting and confounding. Like each of the mini novels, 'Screaming' is broken into a series of interrelated sections, sometimes using poetry or even scripted dialogue. Piecing the sections together, choosing what to show and what to keep hidden, is what Tarnawsky does so well; by writing only the minimum, we as readers are forced to help him create the story, weaving it together and filling in the blanks. One need only read a small section of 'Screaming,' though, to recognize Tarnawsky's enormous talent as a writer, and to understand that no basic plot synopsis could do his writing justice."

—Andrea Chmielewski, Bookslut, June 2007