Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Poem One



His youth of
two-and-a-half American bathrooms, one sibling, so no
doubts about what was whose,
he doesn't quite get this

supermarket promotion's free engraving of your name
on the handle with purchase
of toothbrush. His must be the first: Despite the engraver's shadow
hard over the sharp-eyed apprentice's shoulder,

their machine wiped to a precisely white incisor's
approximation of sterility,
they have to start over four times
on fresh brushes. Swinging door interruptions. The street's

black-eyed clatter,
a bandage-for-a-sari beggar's dropped
cup as she restrains her leashed monkey's
foaming lunge at their shared mirage's boar-and-lobster-

bloated parliament. Like his
just-that-morning falling hard as though pushed, that
milk powder scam
so fusty even its

perpetrators can't believe it still works.
He blames those tiny on the hot,
jagged sidewalk bare feet of the young girls.
A flanking flirtation, flame-smart

framing their pitch with a pinky's
dab of ash around each eye, the essence
of hunger's raw daintiness.
His real anger is at that, he bets,

disgusting percentage the shopkeeper kept
when, soon as he turned the corner, they returned to be sold again
that tin of milk powder he'd purchased for their "little sister."
Close to ten dollars.

A price that even his shopaholic aunt in New Brunswick pronounces
via email so outrageous for India it should've
shocked him instantly to running.
He toys with having them engrave

settles on his parents' schnauzer's name, Dudley.
Sometimes his mother
brushes Dudley's teeth;

that was a toothbrush
it made sense to label.

So that's the opening poem in a manuscript I've been working on called, tentatively, India Possible.

As you know I'm seeking comments. A few questions to give you some idea what I'd like: Is it confusinderivativeay? Is it derivitive? Is there a part of the poem that lost you? Like, you were truckin' along and then derailed. Are there any blatant cliches or grammatical boo-boos? Does it WORK??

Really, anything would be helpful.

Anonymity--set thy tongue free! Thanks.

Giving it away for free

So I did a little leap-bloggin' and found this link to a blog that seems to be the very book in question in, perhaps, it's entirety. In little. Daily. Bite-sized. Chunks. Cooool.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

I mean, hurled...

I guess I'll have to pick up a copy of My Life , draw my own conclusions (and if I don't like it I can trade it in for that Paul Lynde bio). I feel kind of silly not having heard of such an apparently major book. Maybe this is my karma for my shocked indignation when a woman I dated very unhappily for a very short period (I knew it wasn't going well when I would, quite literally, vomit every time I saw her) told me she'd never heard of Allen Ginsberg. And she was in the MFA program for poetry. And her excuse didn't help: "He's just a drug culture person."

On the other hand, it's not that surprising I haven't read any Lyn Hejinian. I'm woefully isolated from any sort of poetry world. My favorite bookstore, god bless it, has a woeful poetry selection, and I don't subscribe to any journals, and I don't know any local poets. Pitiful. Add to that fact that I'm a slow reader who has to read every poem twice through...very s-l-o-w-l-y, and you've got a guy whose not going to be as up to date as he should be. But I love tha verse. Deep in my heart, I love it. And I'm so excited to have people recommending books and poets and talking about craft and the state of the art. So I hope people who are up to date, people who have a million poetry links on their blogs and who are constantly reading good chapbooks, won't discount me. 'Cause I'm writing every day, and reading (slooowly) (right now, RK, I'm loving that Bill Knott), and trying to expand my poetrymind. And it helps that although I limit myself to one CD a week, and have declared a six month moratorium on fiction purchases, I allow myself to buy all the poetry I want.

Tomorrow I'll post my first poem.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Slick Says

So Slick tells me that Lyn Hejinian's book My Life outsells Bukowski, Jewel, and Billy Collins. Here's what he told me when I said I'd never heard of the book:

I'm surprised you haven't heard of "My Life" before. It's the book most often used to represent so-called "Language" poetry in conventional programs, circles. And it's often the book mainstream poets talk about as the one "good" book of Language poetry. And, it also defies the claims of mainstream poets and critics that "experimental" or Language or post-language poetry (or whatever you want to call poetry that doesn't fit the poetic conventions of the mainstream poetry world) is marginal (or academic) and should therefore be ignored--as of a few years ago, it had outsold all the big names in mainstream poetry. In it she explores the language of self-revelation, autobiography, the domestic. It's not my personal favorite. In fact, I find it a bit boring. I have this feeling, in fact, that, because the experimental poetry scene is so active, and active OUTSIDE the academy, that the biggest names in experimental poetry, publishing in small presses, probably sell fairly well. Of course, just like Black Flag, Husker Du, the Minutemen, etc., for every underground band that earned or made a national reputation, there were hundreds that fadedinto obscurity. Anyhow, I'm just rambling now. I see potential for the blog, but you need to get lots of people involved. For years, there's been a Poetics listserv hosted at Buffalo that served as, I don't know, a national bulletin board and discussion forum for experimental poetry. This certainly has helped unify and publicize non-mainstream poetry and probably helped grow its audience over the last couple decades. Despite the huge number of outlets for mainstr eam poetry--magazines, journals, prizes, etc., there doesn't seem to be a central clearinghouse for discussion or information. In fact, all the established journals are established enough to limit discussion, except in the terms they set, even as they try to maintain territory, readership. If you get enough people involved in the blog, (and I'm not thinking hundreds, I'm thinking ten or twenty), you might get some discussion going, some promotion for yourself and others. (By the way, all the above musing about mainstream poetry outlets is just me thinking as I type--though I suspect I might be, I don't know if any of it is correct.) Anyhow, I'm all for it. Definitely try to get your old MFA-mates involved, and what about your Arizona mentors? slick

I replied: I'm intrigued by this My Life book. Here's what it says on Amazon: "Upon its first Sun & Moon publication in 1987, the book began (and continues to be) taught in hundreds of college and university courses." Which might be the reason it outsold (if it did indeed outsell) Billy Collins, Charles Bukowski, and Jewel. Who are not sanctioned by the academy, I can assure you. Books by independent presses do not sell well. Because you can't buy them without going way out of your way. I've tried to buy several books of poetry at the local bookstores and from Albiris and Powells and couldn't. They are simply not distributed. Unless a poet gets major press (Billy Collins) or is a rock star (David Berman) then I don't see how they sell anything. Unless they're a fluke beat or someone like Hetijian whom the academy requires thousands of kids to buy for their classes.

I've already broken my promise of short posts.

A survey: Had you heard of "My Life?"
Have you bought any poetry in the last year? What was it and how did you find out about it? I get a lot of my music news from the internet--is there any source you like for poetry news?
Remember: I'm all for anonymous posts if you'd rather.


My apologies to those of you who tried to leave a comment. I've finagled the settings so you don't have to register anymore. Thanks.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

My Pet Blog


So I finally picked up a copy of The Believer. Probably because it came with a free CD of the Mountain Goats covering "Pet Politics" by Silver Jews, but whatever. It wasn't till I got it home that I noticed it had an interview with John Roderick, local rock star. In it he said something that really struck a chord with me:

"A huge indie-rock hit is a record that sells fifty thousand copies, which is about the size of the Nation of Islam. Even if you're making records that really connect with an audience, it's still a very, very small audience of people."

Right before that, he'd pointed out out the population of the USA is 300,000,000.

So, I thought, if all those bands I love, all the Built to Spills and Yo La Tengos and Guided by Voiceses, all those people who are famous beyond belief in my universe (I mean, I'm walking around with their names on my chest...) aren't really that famous, aren't really making a major mark.

Then I went cold: What about poetry?

I knew the answer. No poet is selling 50,000 copies. Except maybe Jewel. Even Jimmy Stewart didn't sell that many copies of book, I'm guessing. No way. I doubt Billy Collins or Bukowski comes near that figure. But maybe they do, but that's not my point. My point is lots of brilliant poets are not being read. I mean, one of the greatest poets in this country is Beckian Fritz Goldberg, my mentor at ASU. But even I, a huge fan, had no idea her new book was out until Killough told me about it. And he'd had no idea till Laura Johnson told him about it. It won a major prize for Chrissakes. She's the real deal, a true genius. And I have to hear about it by chance. And then I can't buy a freakin' copy. Bailey Coy Books can't get it for me (just like they can't get any small press poetry book I try to get them to order). And and don't have it. So I have to go through Amazon. Whom I have bragged about not doing business with for years since they thoroughly screwed up an order in the most thoughtless manner possible. Ugh.

So this Roderick quote woke me up. Here I am, waiting for my poems to be published by an "established" press with "respectable" credentials so my parents will be proud, and I will know that I'm not a fraud. That I haven't been wasting my time. Because that will be hardbound proof that you can touch that I'm a good poet: A book that won't sell more than 200 copies if I'm lucky. Because you can't buy it anywhere! And even if you could: I'm not Billy Corrigan...

Don't get me wrong. I'm still trying to get a book published. That's been my ultimate goal since I was a kid. But I'm not going to wait till that day before people read my poems. I want 'em read now dammit. And I want feedback. Honest feedback.

So this blog is going to be my own Nation of... My own chance to connect with a "very, very small audience of people." It'll cover all the usual things blogs cover, but once or twice a week I'd like to put up a poem and have people post comments. Anonymously. Poets are famous paranoids that think people are just too damn nice to say the truth. So I want people to say what they really think. Preferably constructive comments. So I can improve, you know?

This will be my longest entry ever. I swear. Thanks.