Sunday, February 21, 2010

Resurrection: Poetry Flash

Good news! The Flash is back, and it’s full, as always, with news, interviews (a good one with Chris Abani, whose novel Graceland still burns in the part of my brain holding impressions of Nigeria), poems, and reviews, including some kind words from Richard Silberg for Plato’s Bad Horse by Bear Star poet and associate editor Deborah Woodard. Here is a selection from “Kore" to entice readers still unfamiliar with her work.


Mother, they’ve strung up the head of the scapegoat
and I want him to open his eyes.
I’ll crawl past the bloodshot filaments, the tears
subsiding where his pain has not yet reached.
In this corner, a yellow barn cat,
fur licked flat about her teats; above, a wasps’ nest
no one has disturbed, the hay scent
and children’s voices hurtling down a ray of light.
Soon, I’ll be the mirror clouded by his panting.
I’ll be a bright penny destined for the locomotive,
and afterwards, the one who picks it up.
The mob gathers, siphoning green oil into their lanterns,
and I walk aimlessly with him
into the old city of the brain with its slant avenues.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The long and the short

Here we are at the midpoint between winter solstice and spring equinox with Punxsutawney Phil predicting more snow and rain, which is fine with all of us drought-conscious Californians even if we’d prefer to be outdoors readying our gardens for spring planting. It’s good reading weather.

For some reason, partly to do with a desire to cultivate a longer attention span, I’m into longer books so far this year, following 2666 with Infinite Jest. The latter seems weirdly appropriate in view of the recent SCOTUS ruling. Now that corporations can pour as much money as they like into political races, maybe it’s only a matter of time before the years are named, as in Jest, for sponsors. Somehow, “The Year of Depend Adult Undergarments” doesn’t seem like much of a stretch. I rather like picturing Alito and Scalia in diapers—Thomas, too.

But, speaking of long works, the latest Poetry has a marvelous essay by Durs Gr├╝nbein that makes a case for the time-saving aspects of poetry. “A few clusters of words express what the lavish epic draws out over hundreds of pages. Or to put it another way: couldn’t it be that poems, as long as they are alert and open to impressions, are novels by other means—and therefore do sterling service to readers short of time and hungry for intensity? What they offer are lessons in accelerated consciousness, machete slashes through a tangled world.”

Monday, February 1, 2010

And the winner is ...

… Robert Hill Long of Eugene, Oregon, whose manuscript wowed my stalwart readers and me with four long sonnet sequences—that’s it; no loose change in this book—that exhibit such narrative brio we often forgot we were reading sonnets. Long is the author of three previous poetry books: The Power to Die (Cleveland State University Poetry Center), The Work of the Bow (ditto), and The Effigies (Plinth Books). His new book, The Kilim Dreaming, will be out this fall. Here’s a stand-alone poem from the second section, “The Book of Joel.”

Parable of Shadows

What turns cities gray are ghosts: that’s where they answer
monotonous inquiries about the future
in monotones of ash, exhaust, and verdigris.
The residue they leave is like a sustained kiss—

on this portico that sheltered one’s live embrace;
on that marble sill where another leaned her face
into her arms and listened to the song of sirens
and taxis, and weighed the summer she held the reins

of a milk-paint horse, and no one called her in at dark.
The city ghosts touch gray is a moon-luminous ark,
they’re its true passengers. The living are ballast,
perishables with no sure date stamped as their last.

Something stilled in them wants the facades to keep graying.
What the dead do with their colors, they’re not saying.