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THE WAY THINGS WORK

When you drive south through Big Sur, you must stop and see the elephant seals at Piedras Blancas. There were huge males on the beach on Tuesday, maybe 15 feet long, with doe-like black eyes and crumpled snouts that look like a baby bird has perched on their faces.

(Disclaimer: Ok, yes. This is a post about pens. But bear with me—I actually do have an idea here.)

[Link: Poetry Podcast]

We recent poets have two great tools at our disposal: freedom of poetic license, and freedom of publishing. Generally, we can say whatever we want, and get a significant number of people to hear what we have to say. The question is whether this freedom has led to better poetry or degeneration. Perhaps that’s not the best way to put it. The question should be, even if somebody is doing something amazing and new in poetry, would we even see it? Will we travel all this way to find that we really did need the gatekeepers of poetry??

Above is painter Sean McElroy's "So Just Be It." I have known Sean a long time, and I admire both his art and intellect. I was reminded of his work yesterday as I settled down with Ben Lerner's new book of poems, Mean Free Path (Copper Canyon Press, 2010)—a book I've been excited to read since, well, Lerner's last book of poems.

Slava Mogutin is an artist whose work has emerged from a confluence of cultures and histories. He works across different media—including photography, video, poetry, and performance—conjuring volatile erotic phenomena from these diverse orders of representation. By age twenty, Mogutin had achieved notoriety in post-Soviet Russia, breaching its criminal code on several counts in the course of his radical investment in writing and publishing queer literature. This early literary ingenuity established his reputation as a sexual dissident, culminating in his well-publicized exile and the subsequent granting of political asylum in the United States in 1995.

In 1977, Bill Berkson and Bernadette Mayer began a kind of interview correspondence where with they exchanged questions and answers on a variety of topics.

[Poem of the Week: 2/26/10]

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.

I have nothing to say today, or nothing specific, only miscellany, no fashion thing has occurred to me. Here you have an image of Ferula scorodosma, the plant whose dried sap is used to make asafoetida, a rather pungent spice.

[Interview: 2/25/2010]

PROFESSOR: Mary Ann, would you mind reading your poem aloud so that we can hear it in your own voice?

MARY ANN: Absolutely. Ahem.

Who's the black private dick
That's a sex machine to all the chicks?
SHAFT!
Ya damn right!