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Zachary Pace

Tinsel Tinsel
for M.C.

A fool for love, an inner refugee,
sees a peacock strutting in the birdhouse
high on a branch and fanning
the broadest, most articulated fan tail
the fool for love has ever seen.
“Come fly with me!” the fool calls to the peacock,
but the bright bird keeps strutting up and down
above the fool for love there on the ground.

A blackbird comes and settles on his shoulder.
His pecks are rough caresses as he asks him,
“Why do you keep staring at that tree?”
“Peacock!” the fool for love cries, but the blackbird
caws back, “Fool! Since when do peacocks fly?
Look around the birdhouse: see us towhees,
wrens and jays and blackbirds
flittering and swooping—
what we always do for free.”

All the fool can do is stare.
His neck is permanently out of whack;
he doesn’t care.
But one fine day in slanted light
he glances up as usual and spies
not his darling bird of paradise
but a hank of Christmas tinsel
trailing in the birdhouse breeze . . .

Even so he often murmurs,
“Peacock!” in his haunted dreams.
Ask me why, the reason’s simple:
he’s a fool for love, blackbirds
are blackbirds, peacocks peacocks,
tinsel tinsel.

_______________________________________________
Jonathan Galassi is a poet, translator, and editor. A newly revised edition of his translation of Eugenio Montale’s Collected Poems 1926-1954 has just been published.

Who to Tell

Who to tell no one cares when no one cares
No one takes the time to care for a monster

I care for monsters
But only because I am one

I go in the dark house
With the ghosts
And the ghosts take my coat off
The junkies

The other man sits slumped in the chair
Is he dead yet?
I do not know

I know that no one cares about anything
I do know that the dressing room
Is drab and grey

And my pink patterned dress
Looks ridiculous against something so truthful

Wildness is not sadness
The wilderness is not sad
It is naked

I am not
If only because
Decomposition is
Not nudity

Who to tell this?
Who do I tell when no one cares

I did not expect them to
I did not expect them to care
I am not mad

I’m not mad any longer
People eat tomatoes
People eat bread

I am a monster
I eat life

But only because I am losing mine
Into a horrible void
That for you is only an idea

I once felt better about things
I once felt better about things
When the blankness was just an idea
Like the way you still think of it

Still I don’t think love is an idea
I don’t think compassion is an idea
I don’t think babies are born out of loneliness
I don’t think the sea is cold

I only think it is cool
Cool cool sea
Blue-green mystery
Mysterious fish

If only I had been born
A fish
Instead of a monster

If only the water were my only home
I would swim so quietly
I would not say hello to you
I would no longer be sad

I would still be me though
And I would not let you catch me
For your dinner

And when you wanted to eat me for your dinner
I would disappear


________________________________________________________
Dorothea Lasky is the author of AWE, Black Life, and the forthcoming Thunderbird, all from Wave Books. She is also the author of several chapbooks, including Poetry is Not a Project (Ugly Duckling Presse, 2010). She currently lives in NYC and can be found online here.

PHOTO CREDIT: Lawrence Schwartzwald

River 2

They thought themselves too much
Acquainted with their seasonal
Removal from the wet industry,
Or rather placed beside it,
Two picnickers blessed by them
And losing the thought carefully
Like a scientist in the river sent
To be their blind guest
As the center keeps forming
Only to the situation
That knows it and to no other
Abstraction suggesting, “Things have gotten
Too soon.” All things should be
Sent back—except the hawks—
Without us to the city.


__________________________________________
Paul Legault is the author of The Madeleine Poems (Omnidawn, 2010), The Other Poems (Fence, 2011) and The Emily Dickinson Reader (McSweeney’s, forthcoming). He is co-editor of the translation journal, Telephone, and he works at the Academy of American Poets.

PHOTO CREDIT: Lawrence Schwartzwald

A

On my entire obscene face
there is something I’m trying
to achieve. It is colorless. It
is self-published. It is inner

fatigue. It is so superfluous!
It is part of an addiction I hate
and depend on. It naturally
enters into conversations.

It will induce a kind of slow
intuition. It will be sloppy
and corrugated. It will smell
pleasant. It will be animals

playing on a farm. It will be
completely alone. It will not
be so bad. It will be missing
out. It will have a vague sense

of relief. It will be committing
without action. It will be floating
on the surface of everything.
It will be an amorphous tedium.

It will be sleep. It will be a party.
It will be a good lunch and supper.
It will be a whole day and night.
It will be an indefinite field full of

universal life. It will be a giant lack
of noise. It will look like the cult
of humanity. It will look like it is
“only a manuscript” in a Johnny-

come-lately style. It will be hunched
over an illustration. It won’t tell.
It, strictly speaking, won’t exist,
full like a thing full of feeling.

___________________________________________
Simone Kearney’s poems can be found in Ragazine (forthcoming), Bridge Journal (forthcoming), Post Road Magazine, Elimae, Maggy, Sal Mimeo and Supermachine. She was a recipient of the Amy Awards from Poets & Writers Magazine in the fall of 2010. She works as a lecturer at Rutgers and Pace University, and writes for the Thierry-Goldberg Projects gallery in the Lower East Side. She is also a visual artist, and lives in Brooklyn.

Pissing

What part of life is in the weirdness
spreading illimitably around
what fits? At face level, as he
stood there, glaucous light was caught
in the clear plastic shower curtain.
This light came from the sun
by an obscure but direct path
through the airshaft. Look at it!
The body of the slender man slouched
forward like a bow. And his hand
pinched his cock over the trouser notch.
He hadn’t turned the light on, because, of course, he knew
where the gleam-smudge of the commode cupped its shadowed pool.
What a limp arrow and what an idle, slouching cupid!
Whom does he hope to transpierce? He touched
the plummeting fireflies of urine with his gaze and with thought.
Would he ever choose to pass this moment
if this were heaven where every action flows
in simple purposefulness from desire? However absurd and embarrassing,
he thought of love. All right…I did. The cloudy light
got into the curtain so slyly
it looked inherent, and it made the acid drippings
of penis gleam. A pelting or dropping of mad flies
against the flimsy shanty of purpose. Plains, weird vistas
ran from every wall of that shanty of thought,
and the crazed plastic over the windows crepitated.

What part of life retires into the ghostly regions around
each thing we think and do? I loved him, no doubt of it,
but something couldn’t be resolved. I’ll never forget
the way, when teased, I reddened and blew up:
“Shut up! Leave me alone! How can you be so cruel?
You’re playing with me. Are you? Playing with me?”
But I felt a sort of strength like, in olden days,
entrails strung on a line to cure. Weird, weird, the silence between us
ran out like plains. And his expression was as fathomable
as plastic alit. Would it now
be worth anything merely to pretend
to see his cloudy face in the blur of light
the plastic shower curtain caught?

What part of life have they hit on when they say
the rules of understanding sparsen and break off at the edges?
That the weirdness of the light might as well be his
ghost, because it may be too awful to speak of
if not called that? This is too much. I came to “do my duty”
and found “Shanty,” “Cupid,” penis. In the kitchen
I left stolid life behind. I left water on the stove top.
No boyfriend, teasing or otherwise, rattles the kettle,
though I hear its tinseled, pre-boil popping.
Mere crepitation? Or the sound from across vast plains of a love spell being cast
in a hail of mad, glinting darts?

Damn. Now I don’t want more coffee. That was a false start.
How scary that your actions will only approximate your desires!
It means your whole life history could be more shallow than you meant: coffee
when you also feel like something else, you’re not sure what.
In heaven it’s not that way. There, everything is wanted,
known and done in a bold stroke. No weird plains isolate
purpose. He will not be there. Nor love. All right and I?

____________________________________________________________
David McConnell is the author of the novels The Silver Hearted (2010) and The Firebrat (2003). His short fiction and journalism have appeared widely in magazines and anthologies. He lives in New York City.

keats

From the letters of John Keats:

“I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of Imagination—What the imagination seizes as Beauty must be truth—whether it existed before or not—for I have the same Idea of all our Passions as of Love they are all in their sublime, creative of essential Beauty.”

“I scarcely remember counting upon any Happiness—I look not for it if it be not in the present hour—nothing startles me beyond the Moment.”

“The faint conceptions I have of Poems to come brings the blood frequently into my forehead.”

“Man should not dispute or assert but whisper results to his neighbor, and thus by every germ of Spirit sucking the Sap from mould ethereal every human might become great. and Humanity instead of being a wide heath of Fuse and Briars with here and there a remote Oak or Pine, would become a grand democracy of Forest Trees.”

“… what quality went to form a Man of Achievement especially in Literature and which Shakespeare possessed so enormously—I mean Negative Capability, that is when man is capable of being in uncertainties, Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason—”

“I have an idea that a Man might pass a very pleasant life in this manner—let him on any certain day read a certain Page of full Poesy or distilled Prose and let him wander with it, and must upon it, and dream upon it—until it becomes stale—but when will it do so? Never—”

“I think Poetry should surprise by a fine excess and not by Singularity—it should strike the reader as a working of his own highest thoughts . . . but it is easier to think what Poetry should be than to write it—”

“Ethereal things may at least be thus real, divided under three heads—Things real—things semireal—and no things—Things real—such as existences of Sun Moon and Stars and passages of Shakespeare—Things semireal such as Love, the Clouds &c which require a greeting of the Spirit to make them wholly exist—and Nothings which are made Great and dignified by an ardent pursuit.”

HOMOSEXUALITY
by Frank O’Hara

So we are taking off our masks, are we, and keeping
our mouths shut? as if we’d been pierced by a glance!

The song of an old cow is not more full of judgement
than the vapors which escape one’s soul when one is sick;

so I pull the shadows around me like a puff
and crinkle my eyes as if at the most exquisite moment

of a very long opera, and then we are off!
without reproach and without hope that our delicate feet

will touch the earth again, let alone “very soon.”
It is the law of my own voice I shall investigate.

I start like ice, my finger to my ear, my ear
to my heart, that proud cur at the garbage can

in the rain. It’s wonderful to admire oneself
with complete candor; tallying up the merits of each

of the latrines. 14th Street is drunken and credulous,
53rd tries to tremble but is too at rest. The good

love a park and the inept a railway station,
and there are the divine ones who drag themselves up

and down the lengthening shadow of an Abyssinian head
in the dust, trailing their long elegant heels of hot air

crying to confuse the brave “It’s a summer day,
and I want to be wanted more than anything else in the world.”

Eros, by H.D.

I.

Where is he taking us
now that he has turned back?

Where will this take us,
this fever,
spreading into light?

Nothing we have ever felt,
nothing we have dreamt,
or conjured in the night
or fashioned in loneliness,
can equal this.

Where is he taking us,
Eros,
now that he has turned back?

II.

Keep love and he wings
with his bow,
up, mocking us,
keep love and he taunts us
and escapes.

Keep love and he sways apart
in another world,
outdistancing us.

Keep love and he mocks,
ah, bitter and sweet,
your sweetness is more cruel
that your hurt.

Honey and salt,
fire burst from the rocks
to meet fire
spilt from Hesperus.

Fire darted aloft and met fire,
and in that moment
love entered us.

IV.

Could Eros be kept,
he was prisoned love since
and sick with imprisonment,
could Eros be kept,
others would have taken him
and crushed out his life.

Could Eros be kept,
we had sinned against the great god,
we too might have prisoned him outright.

Could Eros be kept,
nay, thank him and the bright goddess
that he left us.

V.

Ah love is bitter and sweet,
but which is more sweet,
the bitterness or the sweetness,
non has spoken it.

Love is bitter,
but can salt taint sea-flowers,
grief, happiness?

Is it bitter to give back
love to your love if he wish it
for a new favourite,
who can say,
or is it sweet?

Is it sweet to possess utterly,
or is it bitter,
bitter as ash?

VI.

I had thought myself frail,
a petal
with light equal
on leaf and under-leaf.

I had thought myself frail;
a lamp,
shell, ivory or crust of pearl,
about to fall shattered,
with flame spent.

I cried:

“I must perish,
I am deserted in this darkness,
an outcast, desperate,”
such fire rent me with Hesperus,

Then the day broke.

VII.

What need of a lamp
when day lightens us,
what need to bind love
when love stands
with such radiant wings over us?

What need—
yet to sing love,
love must first shatter us.

To honor the first day of National Poetry Month, I want to share this poem by Bill Wadsworth — the progenitor of NPM, launched in 1996. Bill is an extraordinary writer, advocate and teacher of poetry — I’m profoundly grateful for the work he’s done and continues to do.

For more information about Bill, visit http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/1650 and for more information about NPM: http://www.poets.org/page.php/prmID/41

Read “The River Twice” as three poems: the indented lines first, the italicized lines second, and together for an astonishing whole. This first appeared in Purchase College’s The Submission magazine, Spring 2008, edited by Natalie Eilbert.

Late again.

I’m at work, greedily eating the seeds of the last pomegranate in Manhattan (so far as I’ve checked below 14th St) and I bid a wistful farewell to pomegranate season. And naturally, I’m thinking about Persephone (who paid dearly for my lunch) and all this leads me here:

Pomegranate
Louise Glück

First he gave me
his heart. It was
red fruit containing
many seeds, the skin
leathery, unlikely.
I preferred
to starve, bearing
out my training.
Then he said Behold
how the world looks, minding
your mother. I
peered under his arm:
What had she done
with color & odor?
Whereupon he said Now there
is a woman who loves
with a vengeance, adding
Consider she is in her element:
the trees turning to her, whole
villages going under
although in hell
the bushes are still
burning with pomegranates.
At which
he cut one open & began
to suck. When he looked up at last
it was to say My dear
you are your own
woman, finally, but examine
this grief your mother
parades over our heads
remembering
that she is one to whom
these depths were not offered.

Congrats to Rae Armatrout, whose book VERSED won the 2010 NBCC Award. Here’s her poem “Guess”:

1

The jacaranda, for instance, is beautiful
but not serious.

That much
I can guess.

And that the view
is softened by curtains.

That the present moment
is an exception,

is the queen bee
a hive serves,

or else an orphan.

2

So the jacaranda
is foreign and extravagant.

It gestures in the distance.

Between there and here
you ask

what game
we should play next week.

So we’ll be alive
next week,

continuing
what you may or may not

mean to be
an impossible flirtation

…and props to the brilliant and charming finalist Doug Powell, whose Wednesday night reading of “corydon & alexis” and “corydon & alexis redux” made me weep:

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/archive/poem.html?id=178536

Forgot to post yesterday. To compensate, I am typing a poem “by heart”—you may know it already, by Ms Jorie Graham…

THE WAY THINGS WORK

is by admitting
or opening away.
This is the simplest form
of current: Blue
moving through blue;
blue through purple;
the objects of desire
opening upon themselves
without us;
the objects of faith.
The way things work
is by solution,
resistence lessened or
increased and taken
advantage of.
The way things work
is that we finally believe
they are there,
common and able
to illustrate themselves.
Wheel, kinetic flow,
rising and falling water,
ingots, levers and keys,
I believe in you,
cylinder lock, pully,
lifting tackle and
crane lift your small head—
I believe in you—
your head is the horizon to
my hand. I believe
forever in the hooks.
The way things work
is that eventually
something catches.

When I’m blocked, blank, speechless, I fill the silence by internalizing a poem. I pick one that I know has something to teach me—some diction or rhythm that, once ingrained, might knock me free. I don’t think “memorization” is an accurate term for this practice. I prefer to call it learning by heart. It has little to do with rote remembering, and much to do with the commitment to know, invoke, embody the poem.

I borrowed the idea from Kim Rosen, whose book SAVED BY A POEM illustrates the difference between using the mind and using the heart in relation to reading and learning poetry—how poetry affects us on both cellular and spiritual levels.

“The healing did not come through writing poems or even through reading them. It came when I discovered that taking a poem I loved deeply into my life and speaking it aloud caused a profound integration of every aspect of me—physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. I felt a wholeness I had never before experienced. I felt like I was flying. I was speaking the truth, and the truth was setting me free…

As you read poems, listen to them, and speak them aloud, try meeting them as you would a piece of music. Allow your rational, linear brain to relax. Dare to not understand, to lose your grip on making sense of the words. Let the images, like musical notes, pour over you. The French philosopher Gaston Bachelard writes that poetry “comes before thought . . . [R]ather than being a phenomenology of the mind, [poetry] is a phenomenology of the soul.”

Tonight at the National Arts Club, Vera Pavlova (http://cli.gs/ma8q1) spoke her poems in Russian and her husband/translator Steven Seymour read in English. Steven mentioned that Vera knows all of her more-than one-thousand poems by heart—and she delivers them sweetly, as though saying the names of her oldest and dearest friends, without faltering. Poem 24 from IF THERE IS SOMETHING TO DESIRE:

Why do I recite my poems by heart?
Because I write them by heart,
because I know that kind of spleen
by heart. But I lie to the pen,
not daring to describe how I ambled
along the distant ramparts of love,
barefoot, wearing a birthday suit:
the placental slime and blood.

This month marks the 47th anniversary of Sylvia Plath’s passing, and my admiration grows more intense by the day—she is my touchstone, my first and last, my desert-island poet. I marvel at what she would’ve written had she lived longer, as each poem grows richer in chronological order.

Below: excerpts from an interview with Peter Orr, recorded in 1962, wherein Plath is wonderfully lucid and charming; candidly speaking about a poet’s life and work, the inextricability of the two. We’re extremely lucky to have access to this recording (and other brilliant videopoems!) here:

I think my poems come immediately out of the sensuous and emotional experiences I have—but I must say I cannot sympathize with these cries from the heart that are informed by nothing except a needle or a knife, or whatever it is. I believe that one should be able to control and manipulate experiences, even the most terrifying—like madness, being tortured, this sort of experience—and one should be able to manipulate these experiences with an informed and an intelligent mind. I think that personal experience is very important, but certainly it shouldn’t be a kind of shut-box and mirror-looking, narcissistic experience. I believe it should be relevant, and relevant to the larger things…

I feel that this development of recording poems, of speaking poems at readings, of having records of poets, I think this is a wonderful thing. I’m very excited by it. In a sense, there’s a return, isn’t there, to the old role of the poet, which was to speak to a group of people, to come across.

Now that I have attained, shall I say, a respectable age, and have had experiences, I feel much more interested in prose, in the novel. I feel that in a novel, for example, you can get in toothbrushes and all the paraphernalia that one finds in daily life, and I find this more difficult in poetry. Poetry, I feel, is a tyrannical discipline, you’ve got to go so far, so fast, in such a small space that you’ve just got to burn away all the peripherals.

As a poet, one lives a bit on air.

I find myself absolutely fulfilled when I have written a poem, when I’m writing one. Having written one, then you fall away very rapidly from having been a poet to becoming a sort of poet in rest, which isn’t the same thing at all. But I think the actual experience of writing a poem is a magnificent one.

Sylvia Plath and the Worry Bird — by Justin Fitzpatrick

further listening

Poppies in October : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mlNP81tKdkQ
Medusa : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S63laZCOGQA
Amnesiac : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yfiSF8abeCM
Ariel : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BJbX5o2gqhM

I want to begin praising If There is Something to Desire by Vera Pavlova, translated by Steven Seymour (her husband, her muse! how romantic, how intrinsic!) released last month from Knopf, her first collection published in English. These one hundred poems go so far so terrifically fast (almost all under ten lines) that Pavlova seems to intentionally strive to increase poetry’s audience and relevance—this is, after all, Love in the Time of Tweets and Text Messages—with brevity and bravura; meditations for our culture’s dwindling (and, mostly, already shallow) attention spans. This Valentine’s day, send an entire poem to your dearest—take number 14 for example: the lengthy course of a relationship in eighty characters:

No love? Let us make it!
Done. Next? Let us make
care, tenderness, courage,
jealousy, glut, lies.


Now I want to follow Simone’s lead and leave you with a letter, from James Schuyler to Frank O’Hara, found in a charming pocket-sized edition from Turtle Point Press edited by William Corbett. Schuyler writes O’Hara with advice on what poems to include in the manuscript of Meditations in an Emergency, and in the process gives him the kind of generous encouragement we all need from time to time.

New York, New York

1956

Puss-in-boots,

The old crank would like to see “in,” 3 Penny, Now I am quietly waiting, and There I could Never be a Boy.

Can you really leave out Debussy, which I love?

And there’s Les Etiquettes Jaunes, The Starts are tighter (with or without its last stanza, if its last stanza bothers you), and I like Morning very much.

Personally, I like My hearts a-flutter better than the one called Spleen.

And we don’t want to be unfair to “He can rest.” Do we now? Of course we don’t.

Well, give my love to the sky children. We’ll have good times talking about all this.

But mercy, don’t think the straight bolts you shoot from your crystal bow are tipped with marshmallow! They’re unbending yew fletched with eagle feather. (That means, don’t be silly and mistake sincerity and inspiration for sentimentality and goopiness.)

Je t’adore, fils du Baltimore, mon oriol, oiseaux sauvage!
Jimmy

PS I fainted twice and then ascended into the sky (just to the left of the UN Building) when I got to the lines in “There I could never” about “as if I were Endymion. . .”