Showing posts with label word for word poetry blogs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label word for word poetry blogs. Show all posts

Monday, June 15, 2015

Word for Word Poetry Editions with Four Way Books (Week of June 15th)

We have a collection of very talented guest bloggers to cover the Word for Word Poetry series this summer. They capture a first-hand account of the poetry readings, as well as help to interpret the work of our visiting poets who present at the Bryant Park Reading Room sponsored by HSBC

Laura Villareal for Word for Word Poetry, June 16, 2015
Featuring Four Way Books 

On June 16th, after an afternoon of heavy rain, the sun came out just in time for an evening of evocative readings by poets from Four Way Books. The lambency of the setting sun against the buildings surrounding Bryant Park provided an idyllic backdrop for the readings.

Andrea Cohen
First to read, Andrea Cohen, whose resonant lyrics set the tone for the evening by evoking an immediate and sustained hum of appreciation from the crowd. Cohen, an author of four books and recipient of multiple awards including the PEN Discovery Award, read from her most recently published book Furs Not Mine that came out this April. Cohen read thirteen poems, one called “Clasp” in which she says, “because the desire to hold/ fast what we hold/ dear is as old as sanity. / Great griefs are antidotes/ for lesser sorrows.” The final two lines present a paradox that exemplifies the erudite incisiveness of Cohen’s work.  

Elizabeth Gray
Following Cohen, Elizabeth T. Gray, Jr. read seven exciting poems from her book Series| India. In her reading, Gray gave the audience a taste of the journey spanning from New York to India that is woven in her book. Series| India is composed of a complex sequence of poems that commingles shifting and juxtaposed perspectives, which Gray demonstrated in her reading by providing poems from the point-of-views of two characters. The plot points she revealed were tantalizing enough for several audience members to remark that they needed to know what else happened in the book. Her poems not only gripped the audience through their fascinating narrative, but also had a gorgeous sonic appeal. For example, “The Jeweled Deer” contained skillfully attentive lyrics, such as: “in a forest of strange trees, a clearing, where he and I / would gather delicate renunciations” and “shook its slender antlers of ivory, beckoned, and shyly, / dappled in diamond and topaz, disappeared.” Gray’s work is filled with these spectacular images and sounds.

Gregory Pardlo
Pulitzer Prize winning poet Gregory Pardlo, whose two young daughters were among the crowd for the evening, read from his award-winning book Digest which probes a range of topics, most notably fatherhood. During the reading, Pardlo jokingly mentioned that he couldn’t read “the grocery store” poem  (“Problema 3”), because one of his daughters didn’t like it since it has to do with his other daughter. One of his daughters giggled and the other frowned at his remark before Pardlo read “Problema 2” and “Problema 4;” both poems that deal with fatherhood from different perspectives. In “Problema 4,” the speaker asks his father for a tattoo. His father says “no” to which the speaker says, “How can I beautify what I do not possess and call it anything but graffiti?” The line is seemingly simple but creates a stunning visual image that delves into the philosophical. Pardlo’s work investigates the everyday finding a reservoir of questions and ideas that reverberate yet to be explored intuitively and logically.
  
Daniel Wolff closed the evening with three poems from his book The Names of BirdsChronogram appropriately describes Wolff’s poetry as: “Seldom exceeding a page, airy offerings suggest fleeting glimpses through binoculars.” Acknowledging the opaque, fleeting quality of his work, Wolff read two of his poems, “Common Crow” and “Bufflehead,” twice to allow the audience a second chance to absorb their depth and to reflect on the larger questions posed in his work. In full “Common Crow” reads as:
 “I could name this Worship, this
call from somewhere in the top of the elm.

Could point to the obvious strain of the caller:
head lowered, tail rising, gross throat stretched.

Could declare that prayer was as common and coarse
as need. And what would that make me?”

Terrance Hayes described the process of poetry as: “Poems are not read, they are reread. Reread the poem, then read between the lines, then look at it, then watch it, then peek at it: handle it like an object. Contemplate its shadows, angles and dimensions.” This is how Wolff’s poetry must be approached.
  
The evening showcased the transformative quality of words and way language can reach people viscerally and intellectually when brought together by skillful writers. Special thanks to Paul Romero for curating the Word for Word Poetry series.  

LauraVillareal is currently pursuing an MFA at Rutgers University—Newark, where she also teaches Composition. Her work has appeared in Persona Literary Magazine and is forthcoming in Dos Gatos Press’ 2016 Texas Calendar.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Word for Word Winter Poetry with Knopf

With Word for Word Poetry extended into the winter months, we have added a collection of guest blogs, as we report for the summer series. They capture a first-hand account of the poetry readings, as well as help to interpret the work of the talented poets who present in the Bryant Park Reading Room sponsored by HSBC

Phillip F. Clark for Word for Word Winter Poetry, March 17, 2015
Featuring the poets of Knopf
As a native New Yorker and daily commuter on the No. 1 line every day, I had noticed a beautiful small poem called “Heaven” posted as part of the Poetry In Motion series. It is a disarmingly simple, yet mesmerizing work by the poet Patrick Phillips. In full, it reads:
It will be the past
and we’ll live there together.
Not as it was to live
but as it is remembered.
It will be the past.
We’ll all go back together.
Everyone we ever loved,
and lost, and must remember.
It will be the past.
And it will last forever.
I had never met Patrick Phillips before, but had heard his name mentioned enthusiastically in more than a few conversations with poet friends. When I was asked by Paul Romero to blog for The Bryant Park Reading Room’s “Word By Word” poetry reading series on last month, I was thrilled to finally be able to hear and meet Patrick and two other acclaimed poets whose works I have read and loved for a long time: Sharon Olds, and Edward Hirsch — a veritable heaven of poets. And as it turned out heaven was a perfect idea and symbol for the evening’s extraordinary readings by all three: the works read that evening, though often about loss and absence – a father, a son, a mother; a husband, and poet colleagues recently lost – the readings were proof that the elemental inspiration for poets is life and living it to the full in the face of loss. Which is what poetry provides us: that bridge on which to cross adversity and meaninglessness over to a sure ground of hope and renewal. All three poets led us once again over that bridge with their words.
There is nothing that compares to the camaraderie of poets when they gather – or the poetry lovers and readers who gather with them. A particular good humor, avuncular and generous seems to pervade poetry gatherings everywhere – large or small – and on this evening it was palpable. Held at the Kinokuniya Bookstore and sponsored by Knopf Books (which publishes all three), a crowd had gathered enthusiastically to hear them. All three of the poets happily greeted each other, jocular and warm. One couldn’t help but be glad to be next to their vibrations. For me, having these three poets in the room together was especially exciting, as I’d been reading their work in the past week and was still filled with so much of their voices.
Paul Romero welcomed the audience to the evening. As the director of the Word for Word Poetry events at the Bryant Park Poetry Reading Series, Paul has garnered a faithful and large following. In the spring and summer, there is nothing more wonderful than sitting under those tall billowing trees in Bryant Park and listening to poets read with each other to us. It is one of the truly magnetic ways to spend a couple of hours after work, and if you haven’t participated, check out the link below for more information on the program.



Edward Hirsch
Edward Hirsch, the first reader of the evening, is one of our great poetic voices. Generous in encouragement to poets and students, and welcoming to friends and colleagues, he is an example of the poet as mentor and teacher. His awards are many, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Prix de Rome, among many others. I came to his work through his book, Special Orders, in which the  poem “Branch Library” so appealed to me as a librarian at the time of my finding it. The poem seemed so open and vibrant with memory and life – two subjects that Hirsch is extraordinary. But I was that boy – I felt that someone knew me, in that poem:I wish I could find that skinny, long-beaked boy
who perched in the branches of the old branch library //
I’d give anything to find that birdy boy again
bursting out into the dusty blue afternoon
with his satchel of scrawls and scribbles,
radiating heat, singing with joy.
Thanking his colleagues and welcoming them and the audience to the evening, Hirsh read a series of poems from The Living Fire: New and Selected Works, as well as some new pieces, and from Gabriel, his newest work which is an elegy poem for his son, whose death at a young age indelibly led Hirsch to examine his grief, and in the end, to celebrate and actualize his son’s life. And he does so, in that book, with such intimacy and candor, that one indeed is led to think of the line from Donne, “Death be not proud,”. Many of Hirsch’s poems confront faith and disbelief, and the evening’s reading included poems from The Living Fire in which these things are explored inimitably. But Hirsch is the poet of the observed life – as the best poets are – and his ability to reconcile what we desire and what we have. In “Self-Portrait, he brings himself up against the dualities of a life’s choices, and the vagaries of marriage and divorce:
I lived between my heart and my head,
like a married couple who can’t get along.
I lived between my left arm, which is swift
and sinister, and my right, which is righteous.
I lived between a laugh and a scowl,
and voted against myself, a two-party system.
In “A Partial History of My Stupidity”, he confronts the way we live in a world in seeming comfort, while somewhere else in the world, horrors abound. How does one connect the daily falsehood of safety to the daily reality of war:
I felt that I was living the wrong life,
spiritually speaking,
while halfway around the world
thousands of people were being slaughtered,
some of them by my countrymen. / /
Forgive me faith, for never having any.
I did not believe in God,
who eluded me.
I had recently read the article “Finding The Words,” a review and essay on Gabriel, in the New Yorker, and having re-read sections of Gabriel before the evening, I was still unprepared for the visceral hit in the gut that this poem gives me. It is at once something so transparent and yet completely filled with stark and clear vision. As Hirsch read it, I again understood why this poet has held us in thrall in so many ways, but particularly with this human and loving lament:
The funeral director opened the coffin
And there he was alone
From the waist up
I peered down into his face
And for a moment I was taken aback
Because it was not Gabriel
It was just some poor kid
Whose face looked like a room
That had been vacated
And in a call to life through grief, the poem continues:
Poor Sisyphus grief
I am not ready for your heaviness
Cemented to my body
Look closely and you will see
Almost everyone carrying bags
Of cement on their shoulders
That’s why it takes courage
To get out of bed in the morning
And climb into the day


Sharon Olds
Sharon Olds, the second reader, was first brought to my attention in what still remains a seminal work of hers as I tried to find a way to poetry: The Dead and the Living is a book that encounters every aspect of family, love, heartbreak, and mortality. Its compact yet dense poems tackle its subjects with  unswerving attention and absolute acceptance. Olds is also one of the poets who has made a commitment to writing poems about the politics of war and race and the aftermaths of those subjects. She has never shied away from the difficult idea, or the most desperate sadness. Her poem “The Death of Marilyn Monroe” still raises the hair on my neck with its surgical yet blatantly beautiful depiction of the iconic star’s mortuary ceremony and the men who it changed forever. Her volume, Stag’s Leap, won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize. It is a raw and ironic look at the dissolution of a marriage, and yet always as the mark of her work, there is the urge to go on from the past to grow, towards life.Also welcoming with a vivacity her colleague poets, Olds set a palpable joy starting to clock in the room. The evening found her in no less than what I find to be her usual state: warmth and embrace. She has a wonderful sense of the serendipitous and the evening’s first moment of wit and humor was due to her stopping mid-speech at one point as she looked and noticed a man going slowly up the escalator to the second floor in the bookstore, “Oh, look, yes, there he goes, up to Heaven,” to the smiles of all of us as we turned to look.
Among her readings was one of my favorite of her poems, “Wonder As Wander”, in her mother is remembered. It has always had the quality of a psalm to me, with its touches of faith and the unseen as a woman wanders the rooms of her heart and mind; it begins:
As dusk, on those evenings she does not go out,
my mother potters around her house.
Her daily helpers are gone, there is no one
there, no one to tell what to do,
she wanders, sometimes talks to herself,
fondly scolding, sometimes she suddenly
throws out her arms and screams—high notes
like bodies touched by a downward wire,
she journeys, she quests, she marco-polos through
the gilded gleamy loot-rooms, who is she.
That poem alone I could take with me to the ubiquitous desert island if asked to pare my life down to one. Bringing us back to grimmer realities, her reading of “What Are Stress Marks and How Are They Used”, put a face on young black lives lost to violence—a most recent violence that we in the room knew too well.
And perhaps with a nod to another idea of heaven and its camaraderies, Olds paid tribute to two great poets who had recently left us: Galway Kinnell, and Philip Levine. For Galway, who she remembered so wonderfully in her telling, she read “An Allergy – An Ode for Galway”, in which the strength of a great friendship was evident. Reading from Philip Levine’s “They Feed They Lion,” she again riveted the room: It’s powerful ending:
From my five arms and all my hands,
From all my white sins forgiven, they feed,
From my car passing under the stars,
They Lion, from my children inherit,
From the oak turned to a wall, they Lion,
From they sack and they belly opened
And all that was hidden burning on the oil-stained earth
They feed they Lion and he comes.
Tribute to brother poets indeed, and poetry’s great line of continuity.

Patrick Phillips
And as the evening welcomed the last reader, Patrick Phillips, I and I think all of us in the room were struck by his ebullience and his lanky, handsome good nature. The youngest of the poets, and one who has written two acclaimed previous collections, Phillips is the voice that continues so much of what Hirsch and Olds present in the best of their work: an eye for the human and fragile, and the ability to verbalize and transfigure acts of our simple endeavors, our grief, our loves; the particular way we have of coming to these things as a reconnaissance of sorts, to be examined, reflected upon and paid forward. His newest collection, Elegy For A Broken Machine, is a stunning work that centers on his father’s illness and death. The opposite but compliment to Hirsch’s Gabriel, its poems fittingly brought full circle the phrase, “The son is father to the man.” These poems articulate the corporal body as well as the corporeal soul:
“Elegy Outside the ICU”:
They came into
the cold white room
and shaved his chest
then made a little
purple line of dashes
down his sternum,
which the surgeon,
when she came in,
cut along, as students
took turns cranking
a tiny metal jig
that splits the ribs / /. . .
so that by almost every definition,
my father died
there on the table
and came back in the body
of his father,
or his mother at the end, / /. . .
With an acumen for hope, Phillips’ poems in this volume allow ghosts to sit at the table and in the bedroom with the present. And it is the machine, which we all are, that he celebrates; if broken, it is never absent of love. To listen to this man recite was to have heard all three voices in concert—and that was a thrilling and wonderful component of the readings: the connection that poets share, and the fact that each feed one another through a long line. For me indeed, a heaven of poets. If you do not know the Bryant Park Poetry Word For Word Reading Series, do look at their schedule for upcoming events, at the link below.
My sincere thanks to Paul Romero, and each of the poets, and Knopf publishers for an extraordinary evening of readings.
For further information:
Bryant Park Poetry Word For Word Reading Series:
http://bryantpark.org/plan-your-visit/wordforword.html
Phillip F. Clark


PHILIP F. CLARK'S poems have been published in Assaracus Journal, and in the anthology, Between: New Gay Poetry; his work was also recently published in Lyrelyre, The Good Men Project, and Poetry in Performance. His is completing his MFA in Creative Writing/Poetry at Ciy College, New York. His poetry reviews and interviews have been published in Lambda Literary Review, and The Conversant. His poetry blog is The Poet's Grin, at https://philipfclark.wordpress.com




Monday, May 11, 2015

Word for Word Poetry Editions with Dos Madres Press (Week of May 11th)

We have a collection of very talented guest bloggers to cover the Word for Word Poetry series this summer. They capture a first-hand account of the poetry readings, as well as help to interpret the work of our visiting poets who present at the Bryant Park Reading Room sponsored by HSBC

Don Yorty for Word for Word Poetry, May 12, 2015
Featuring Dos Madres Press

On May 12th I attended the first outdoor reading for the Bryant Park Word For Word Series featuring four poets published by Dos Madres Press. I got to the park early and lounged on the lawn for an hour watching people come and go, locals reading newspapers, some lingering after work for a rendezvous or chat, families hanging out, and tourists too wandering in from Times Square. The setting sun, reflected from glassy skyscrapers along Sixth Avenue, gave the park an extra added glow. During the winter months, the poetry readings had been held at the Kinokuniya Bookstore, which was quiet, and the readings there focused and intimate. Bryant Park was full of noise and action, the beeping horns of rush hour and police sirens. How would the poets handle reading out in the open? The sound system ensured they be heard above all the commotion?

Michael Heller
The Bryant Park Reading Room is on the north side of the park under a grove of trees near the statue of William E. Dodge, the great 19th Century defender of Native Americans. Here, an hour before the reading, chairs were set up in rows, and by seven o’clock were filled by a waiting audience. Forty-Second Street had quieted down, but when Michael Heller, the first and oldest of the readers, got up to read, gusts of wind blew the pages of his poems. “Be still,” Michael commanded the wind. “Be still, O Book,” he commanded the pages. The wind did die down and Michael began with a poem appropriate for beginning.




7 PRAISES     


Be drunk.
Be the body
drunk.  Drunk.

Move to become;
be
ruffled.

Wind become.
Be as
brought here.

Be loosed.
Be kept.
Be loosed. Lost.

Wind you are;
know it.
Be light.

Find light.
Be found
as in it.

Be,
as being is.
Be born.

Michael read from his recently published collected poems, This Constellation Has A Name. Buriani Beach was erotic, and another, Okay, Everybody, Let’s Do the Mondrian Stomp, was sculptural and surprising, and Heteroglossia on Fifty Third played with language and insanity: A bag lady shouts "I am entitled!"  I also/ am entitled to my thoughts at least, yet all day,/ dream or nightmare do my talk, undo my walk,/ so I let talk pitch self into doze or dream and chat:/ man, woman, testicle, dessert. The language falls,/ a chunk of disembodied sound through space. When a man, who wasn’t too far off, began to shout, Michael paid no mind and spoke clearly into the microphone, the time and place his own. His following poem about death and the end of the world is very much alive.

ESCHATON

I don’t know where spirit is,
outside or in, do I see it or not? 

Time turned the elegies
to wicker-work and ripped-up phonebooks.  

All that worded air 
unable to support so much as a feather.

*

If there’s hope for a visitation,
only the ghosts of non-belonging will attend.

And now death is slipping back
into the category of surprise.
 
I sit up at night and pant, fear
half-rhyming prayer--  

self beshrouding itself
against formlessness.

In-breath; out-breath. 

Aria of the rib-cage equalling apse.

Skull, the old relic box. 

Rick Mullin
The next poet was Rick Mullin. His most recent book is Sonnets from the Voyage of the Beagle. He’s been widely published in magazines, a diversity, but his poems share a well-wrought quality, the music of meter. Dressed in black from head to toe and adorned with a striking gray beard, Rick’s first poems were for the Muse. ”I owe it all to her,” he told us. Amity is a Muse we rarely see.

Amity After the Fire  

My muse returned from war. Her swollen stumps
were wrapped in rags and paper as she pumped
her arms and pushed her yellow skateboard down
the sidewalk. Amity is back in town
and living in my basement now. I hear
her castors on the floor at night—I’m near
exhaustion, with my inspiration stuck
for benefits despite her service. Luck

would have it, sleep is not among her needs.
There’s constant feeding, though, and when she bleeds—
it happens intermittently—my heart
contracts and ices up. I have to start
compression on the remnant of her thigh.
She gently strokes my hair, and then a sigh
I never heard in all her teasing days
accompanies an unfamiliar gaze

from eyes that used to tell me something strange.
They’ve lost their mystery. As I arrange
a knee-high desk for Amity, prepare
myself to take dictation, I’m aware
she’s crossed a line. I used to chase her form,
those perfect thighs. Her arms and hair would storm
into my life and leave me nights of sweet
fulfillment or frustration. God, her feet,

those perpetrators of a marathon
of disappearing acts, are gone. The Rubicon
is in her rearview now. I couldn’t touch
her then, yet here I dress her wounds. So much
has changed since Amity embedded with
the wind, “Before the Fire!” her shibboleth.
It echoes in my soul—the soul that longed
to lie with Amity, the soul so wronged

and yet rewarded. Now, I want to sleep.
But I’m on call. Her needs are dire, and deep
into the night my ministrations plait
a prelude to the work that she claims fate
prefigures. “Canto I…,” her voice, without
its old élan, surprises through a bout
of smoker’s cough, behind a cloud of blood,
an engine in the wind before the flood.                                 

[Shit Creek Review]

Rick read Aubades, morning poems, one called Alba wandering through Paris, jet-lagged and waiting for the hotel to open, nowhere to go but the Tuileries, fresh with vandalism: Someone is conking the Tuileries Putti,/ Some malcontent whispering, “Off with their heads!”/ A miscreant murmuring Cosi fan Tutte/ to stubby-necked angles undone in their beds. You can see and feel the rhythm. One poem written in Sapphics, the meter of Sappho, ancient music in the present was full of lyric longing.

Still Life with Rose in a Crystal Vase

"But all this must be suffered by those who profess
the stern order of chivalry" ~Cervantes

Feeling all the butterfly years, the seven
rays of windowed solitude in Manhattan
settle on your shoulders about the kitchen,
wouldn’t you call me?

Surely I’m the confidant you’d remember.
One whose shattered letters and hidden poems
light the detailed minutes of furtive meetings.
Haven’t I told you

how your West Side garret by day disguises
earthly flesh in shadows that hold no value
set against the elegant moon that waxes
into the morning?

How I see you lingering at the table,
face and hands composed in a Goya etching?
How my heart inclines in a thorny tangle,
bleeding in doorways?

No. This heart shall never unwind its rose of
fifteen years, its labyrinth of devotion,
hands that fold and lips that maintain their rigor,
always this yearning.

Nor could I dismantle the love that anchors
worlds within the chrysalis of my armor,
thunder in the beautiful code of silence
cut from the garden.

Seeing how a dream will unfold like petals,
might we say our time is a mist that rises?
Might the truth arrive in a masque of madness
carrying flowers?

[Lavender Review]

Daniel Shapiro

Daniel Shapiro, who was next, was one of the catalysts for this reading, and I could see he was very happy to be there. His most recent books are The Red Handkerchief and Other Poems and Child with a Swan’s Wing, a beautiful title. His first poem, about a bird that isn’t there, awakens the senses with one short line right after the other full of changing images.







This Bird

has never been seen,
its skeleton
never found.
Frail as a pinkie,
iridescent
under ferns,
it leaves no trail,
nest or eggshell,
its wing brushed against
dawn. But
sketches in caves
depict its tale
among dripping
minerals—
a group of stick-figures
huddled beneath
its wings, wings raised
to the circle
of a sun. Missing
link between
orchid and swallowtail,
between
bluebird and moth,
this is
the one
that got away,
bloomed in the dark
and sang.

Daniel’s poems, observations that sometimes looked inward and sometimes outward, regard the self as well as the street. From time to time passersby would stop forgetting their destinations and listen for a minute. In one poem, Disguise, the poet looking at himself in a mirror thinks of disguising himself with a mustache resembling Clark Gable who looked like his father: He was a man who scribbled/ faces on his eggs/ before releasing the yolks,/ in the bowl the floating globes/ like twin suns. In another poem, a bald lady named Phyllis also looks in a mirror with comfortable recognition.

Phyllis is Bald

Phyllis is bald.
She has alopecia.
She polishes her scalp
with a towel,
wears turbans in winter.
She first noticed it
when her eyebrows disappeared
and tried
every kind of cream,
every vitamin, special brushes,
French wigs
to make her look like
Catherine Deneuve
instead of
a Krishna or a mannequin,
endured the whispers
of neighbors,
her embarrassed daughter
(imagine, a bald mother!). 
But one day,
winding a ring-curl around her finger,
she slipped the wig off,
tossed it away,
she tossed them all away,
one by one. She sent
the afro to her hairdresser,
the silver flip to her daughter.
Boxes tumbled from
the closet
until she found it,
the right one,
the strawberry blonde for her son.
He was a dancer in a drag club,
the wig
full and red as her face
the first time he told her
(lips drawn as if to state it again).
She let it slide
between her fingers,
let it fall
to its own silky form,             
finally looked in the mirror
unashamed (she spoke his name).
Instead of
the thing that was missing,
instead of old age,
instead of rage,
she saw a pink, fleshy egg
smiling back at her,
mysterious and bold.

Anne Whitehouse
The last poet to read was Anne Whitehouse in a sleeveless red dress. She began by reading poems that weren’t published yet before opening her new book, Refrain. It was dusk. The floodlights came on casting tulip shadows against the marble pedestal of William E. Dodge, but there was nothing withering about the poet who began with a poem called E that was full of noise. The following poems were quieter, full of memory, childhood, mindful moments we forget to remember again, the past in the present. Forgetting and remembering in her poem, Delete, Delete, the metaphor was e-mails: My brain has reached capacity/ and is starting to shrink./ I try to delete more than I add/ to the heavy baggage of self. Deleting may partly define our times, but there was no deleting or forgetting the smoke and the fog in the following poem, a favorite of mine.

Smoke and Fog

On one side of the road
was ice and fog,
on the other, smoke and fire.

We were driving by the river
while the fire burned above us
a quarter-mile away.

Cool on the driver’s side,
and on the passenger’s,
the closed window glass
was hot to the touch.

Suffocating smoke
billowed into the air,
suffusing the atmosphere
like waterless blood.

The river was clogged
with floes of ice
melting in a sudden thaw.

Drawn out of the snowmelt,
a hazy fog hung low
over the water.

Above our heads,
above the roof of the car,
the smoke from the fire
met the fog off the ice.

The road took us
straight up the middle,
as if that were a choice
we were free to make.

Speaking truths she couldn’t unsay, Anne read a poem about transcendence and wonder; it was poignant and reminiscent, universal and individual, and appropriate to end with.

Life’s Continuous Chain

The music of wind in trees
and rain across wet grass
binds me to earth and its abundance—
every vine, leaf and flower vibrant
along this path where I have gone in trouble
for the wind to ease my sorrow,
or in despair until it seems
the red sunset is my own blood
dissolving into the night.

The swamp is a reflecting pool
stained dark by leaf droppings,
where light falls in silvery shafts,
and the shadows are emerald green,
like longings from childhood
that begin and end in mystery.

Below dark, glossy leaves,
under a tangle of vines,
a dappled pattern catches my eye—
a wild sow lies nested
at the base of a magnolia,
breathing deeply, absorbed in rest.
At a little distance is her litter,
a mass of shifting bodies,
birth-damp still upon them.
One piglet, pied black,
with a white band around its middle,
wriggles out from under the others
and wobbles to the sow’s side.
It gives a delighted whimper,
and the rest of the litter
ambles over to discover
the miracle of the hairy breasts.

A silent pulsing, steady and vital,
by dark, shining waters,
under rustling leaves.

Of course, this blonde poet in a red dress, did attract people who stopped—and not only men—to listen, but all of the poets had commanded attention, and when the reading was over, they went off together for a late evening of wine, olives, entrees and conversations, well-deserved because all had contended with the elements. The chairs were taken up, the sound system was taken down, the statue of William E. Dodge dissolved into the early evening’s dark, while people continued to come and go making their way through Bryant Park, the lights of Forty-Second Street not far off.

Don Yorty 

Don Yorty was born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania in 1949. He has a BA in Latin and Greek from the City University of New York. A poet and garden activist, he has two published collections of poetry, A Few Swimmers Appear and Poet Laundromat, and was included in Out of This World: An Anthology of the Poetry of the St. Mark's Poetry Project1966-1991 (Crown). His novel, What Night Forgets, was published by Herodias Press. And his poems have been recently published in LiVE MAG! and the Literati Quarterly. He lives in New York City and also keeps up a blog at donyorty.com

Monday, April 20, 2015

Word for Word Winter Poetry with Marsh Hawk Press

With Word for Word Poetry extended into the winter months, we have added a collection of guest blogs, as we report for the summer series. They capture a first-hand account of the poetry readings, as well as help to interpret the work of the talented poets who present in the Bryant Park Reading Room sponsored by HSBC.

Don Yorty for Word for Word Poetry, April 21, 2015

Featuring the poets of Marsh Hawk Press

During the winter months, the Bryant Park Reading Series takes place inside the Kinokuniya Bookstore at 1073 Avenue of the Americas. It’s a great bookstore, by the way; check it out. The last indoor reading, on April 21, presented four poets. I noticed that two of them were older (in their fifties) and two were younger (one poet in her twenties, and the other in his early thirties). “Would the age differences make a difference in the tone and sound of the poems?” I wondered as I waited for the reading to begin.  
Jon Curley
Jon Curley, a red-haired thirty-one year old, was the first to read. As he was introduced by host, Paul Romero, I could see he was full of energy and anticipation, anxious to get up and read; and when he finally did break free from his seat, he gave us a rapidly clear reading from his new book, Hybrid Moments. “These poems,” he said, ”tend to swerve and zig zag pretty much in concert with how people now walk absentmindedly on their electronic gizmos.” And not only do his poems do that, but they are full of word play and word games, imagery with a lot of rhyme, and near rhyme in the lines as well as at the ends of them, fast as the Whiz Bang! poems he reads, “the thing that sounds itself outside itself.” I got the feeling sometimes that older poets like e.e. cummings and even Ogden Nash were lurking behind a word or two too, a territory tentative with both discovery and disaster, pitfalls of repetition that one might fall in; so far his poems constantly change and sparkle like that infinitesimal part of second that constitutes the blink of an eye, seeing the same thing but always new. I was glad to hear Jon say that Ovid was his “home boy” because Ovid is a homeboy of mine too. In the engaging poems that follow dedicated to Ovid, you can feel what Jon strives for. 
2)
Ovid’s aphids offer stamens statements,
symbiotic simpatico, draining each other
mutually, enclosures in the nurturing noose of nature’s
sense. Fertile the futility that under pain
of command requires duality to drift into
infinite forms of fructified frissons, bestrewn
with clamorous visions of delay-decay,
defiance of gravity, the viridian livening
of cellular encirclements, blended conventions,
the fusing and cross-hatching of process
and decline. Metamorphoses is observable
as the lush witness of contact highs between
the higher and lower animals, imaginary gardens
grown devoid of secret meaning, glorious
in their vegetal babble.

3)
“Taking myself out of the picture”—
The verdict on this premise.
Curious ph(r)ase, a quick-fix cop-out
maybe or sin—
cere protective measure, perhaps
an artificial obsolescence or tact
shedding of skin, all those
protective layers taken off
and out as you move out
of frame. Anxious waiting
and wondering, a sovereign
grin game as you make your
way to the door. Is it unlocked?

“Taking myself out of the poem”—
A clinical extraction which involves
bloodletting you do not get to see
arranged in discrete droplets all across
the page. Actually, each of these
words surround the dried
invisible traces and mourn accordingly.
This attribution of human agency,
this inscription of a script and spirit
self might seem preposterous
but I assure you it is true.
I took the key and let myself out:
The lock was the world with a hell in it.
Burt Kimmelman, gray beard and shaggy head of hair, distinguished in a blue sports coat, 
Burt Kimmelman
was next to read. Although he’s had eight books of poems published, he began by reading unpublished new ones. “I want to try out some new things,” he told us: “They’re really new. I have no idea if they work. You have no idea till you read them.” This made sense to me. The published book is done. What matters is what’s to come. The poems he read took us to museums, New York streets, and Europe too, then he read from his new book, Gradually The World; New and Selected Poems. As he read, I thought, “Burt is an everyman whose steady voice and vision let us see what he sees and feels, the aura of a common day.” Here’s a poem like art itself abstracting into short lines:

5.2.87  Waiting For Diane At The Klee Show / Museum Of Modern Art

If in the space
there are 2

lines, let one be
the wild happiness

the edge

measures.  And if
there are faces,

we are
their round eyes,

or the hat   the foot

the finger   all the lighted
extremities

there. if
in the warm

light we must be

them, then we must
be

them. Let
the o

in oh you

mean we are
here

beyond
any form.

For Burt, despite holocaust and horrors, there is beauty too, art, and last but not least the mystery of love, even among the birds.

Arctic Terns

            White clouds like kerchiefs at parting
            Are waved by the wandering wind,
            And the heart of the wind
            Aches at the silence of love.
-  Pablo Neruda

Arctic terns touch down from the sky
every few years, leaving their life
of flight to raise their young and then,
in the waning light, lift off the
firm earth of Greenland to make their

way south – roving high above the
ocean, not too close to land but
looping east to trace the coast of
Africa or west along the
shores of South America, then

finally crossing the open
sea to the farthest reach of ice –
for a second season of days.
In large flocks they eye the water
for food, and once a male has fed

his future mate her fill of fish –
in a rite beyond gravity –
they join for their entire lives.
Yet flying must be an act of
solitude, an unfed longing.

Stephen Paul Miller
Next was Stephen Paul Miller, a poet I’ve known since I came to New York in the late 70's when the East Village was really hopping. Over the years Stephen has gotten a PhD in English, teaches at Saint John’s University, was a Fulbright scholar who has had both poetry and academic work published, and his plays have been performed at La Mama, P. S. 122, and Saint Mark’s Church to name a few. When Stephen gets up to read, the first thing one sees is his disarming smile, and the audience gets comfortable. From time to time he will leave the poem and chat directly with the audience, an impromptu aside, laughing at his own joke or gossiping about poets he’s known like Taylor Mead, David Shapiro or John Ashbery, engaging the audience in an intimate conversation they might have sitting in his living room drinking a glass of wine. Stephen says, “I finger paint with language.” Any Lie You Tell Will Be the Truth is his new book. As he read, I transcribed a poem by ear without line breaks, but you get the feel of it as a poem, the vernacular formally written. The poem I wrote down is called Theater: “I’d like to keep the concept of the world up there like a volley because that is how theater works. You keep something in the air until time itself hangs there. That is why the most innovative playwrights of the last century plus: Ibsen, Strindberg, myself, Jarry, Becket, Brecht, and so forth have been poets because conventional wisdom’s wrong, theater like this poem has more to do with stillness than moving from one place to another. It looks at the menu, orders this here demitasse and says, “Bring me a cup of coffee too.”

Here are two poems complete with line breaks.

The Bible’s Chewy Center

I’m actually writing poems that mean something
                             (unlike ones that do)
            pinch yourself
don’t tell

Sing Like Stephen Miller

Meaning Paul
    is the larynx,
                possibly.
     Every night
Before I go to bed I

     twist it. The night air
Clears my throats. Then
   even the birds sing
Like Stephen Miller.

Not just the idea of birds
                            either.
Did you count every bird
     who sang just like
me? A bird chewing

Tobacco. A bird telling
     a Canterbury Tale.
A bird writing a love letter.
A myopic, cussing bird.
I am the loneliest bird

Singing like Stephen Miller.
These birds
       are the creation
               of language
                        but
             one day
        Stephen Miller
Will be a real bird. 

Christina Olivares 
Before she read, Christina Olivares, the youngest of the readers who has earned her MFA at CUNY Brooklyn and BA at Amherst, told Stephen Paul Miller that he was the funniest man she had ever met. The audience joined in with a laugh as the older poet and the younger poet connected. She had the pleasure of reading from her first published book, No Map of the Earth Includes Stars, which won the 2014 Marsh Hawk Press Book Prize. A map might not hold stars, but this poet’s book certainly does. “Enjoy it as it comes to you,” she told us reading from a series of poems about her paranoid schizophrenic father, built from things he had said, plus her own thoughts, and excerpts from medical studies, a prayer to a Cuban deity, rhythmic heritage and continuity, at turns nightmarish and divine, the world of a schizophrenic who often feels that he is God. Here are some of the words my ear caught as I wrote them down: “Viciously blessed.” “Tongued water tangling into a dividing mind. These angels a drowned chorus straining to be heard by you.” “You are a brimmed vase filled with light, a brimmed light of veins and snow, the skin you are begins to sing.” “God casual as morning coffee.”


And here is a poem from her new book, remarkably beautiful, even sensual, about a subject that might repulse some, the menstrual cycle (and that’s what poetry is all about).

Sunday Morning: Ars Poetica
Outside the Latin grocery, two crates full
of mangoes in the shape of plump commas, the size
of children’s palms. Yellow-hued,
brown-freckled, here and there streaks of green,
an uncommon flush of rose. Deep within my own
tendons some other fruit swells and aches, 
heavy as an unsung song—tonight it’ll burst,
yield a clotted dark honey, a thin
red rain on my shorts. Curled beside me, you’ll
press both hands on the razored skin
below my belly where a child could be.
I’ve started to love the body’s thunderstorm,
drug it less. Limit what I feel and I’ll quickly forget
limitlessness, our shared need to be
generous or close. I choose six,
three in each hand. My cycle begins to set
teeth on the inside of my abdomen. I remember
standing on the beach in Cuba once with a girl,
peeling their small ripe skins back with our mouths,
sucking the pulp then the threads from
each other’s tongues, clear down to the pit,
then throwing the pits and skins into the bright
sea & diving in afterwards. There must be groves
of mango trees down there, she said. Imagine
the warm salted dark, silvered by fish nibbling their new
treasure—first unaccustomed, then expert,
their tiny fins seeking, while mangoes
float on firm stems, a cloud of planets. That day I’d fled
from language, swimming like a fool
till each limb went slack—I floated, I was just an eyelash

on the turning waves, curious about drowning—
can we say the beauty that comes into us after we go,
before we leave our lives? Everything said, finally, nothing wasted, like
a finished bloom bedded into and becoming soil, a loosening blood rinsing
me clean. It’s just a dollar for all six: heft of liquid sweet.
two for me, two for you, & two for the ones who like small things.

As the poetry reading ended, I remembered my question. Does the age of a poet make any difference in the poem? Of course it does, but I also think that poets by definition are souls who have been blessed and cursed with seeing; nothing human shocks them, and that makes the young old and the old young, and like their words kind of eternal. Was the young Whitman, for example, so much different from the old one?
Don Yorty


Don Yorty was born in Lebanon, Pennsylvania in 1949. He has a BA in Latin and Greek from the City University of New York. A poet and garden activist, he has two published collections of poetry, A Few Swimmers Appear and Poet Laundromat, and was included in Out of This World: An Anthology of the Poetry of the St. Mark's Poetry Project, 1966-1991 (Crown). His novel, What Night Forgets, was published by Herodias Press. And his poems have been recently published in LiVE MAG! and the Literati Quarterly. He lives in New York City and also keeps up a blog at donyorty.com