Sunday, April 4, 2010

Spring Sunday

Today feels like the first good Sunday of spring, not because we haven't had nice Sundays before but because this feels like the one that is the one that marks the good Sundays to come. Which is a nice feeling.

In the past days, so much has been there to think and wonder about and blogging has been down because the thinking and the wondering has been up. Have been working hard on revising poems, on working on new poems. Have finished, I think the final translations for the Hinojosa selected and now really all that is left is to write the intro, to do some research for notes, etc. Fortunately the college has given me the funds to hire an assistant who has already started and is doing some terrific work. My sense is the whole thing will be done by the end of May at the latest. An amazing thing given how long it's been. But then it occurs to me that in the two years since Poet in New York was published, I've also published a new book of poems, Tourist at a Miracle , and the selected Hinojosa will be ready. That seems like an enormous amount of work, especially since I also feel like I'm a good third of the way towards another book of poems. Of course, I have a tendency to be optimistic about these kinds of things, but when it's a beautiful day and you've spent it walking in the park and sitting on the stoop, spent it thinking and reading and writing, well, optimism will prevail.

I think where I've slowed down a bit has been in my reading. Have been looking at work for school, of course, but the spare time reading not what I'd like. Some more time lately with Joseph Stroud, who continues to make me happy to read, with Delmore Schwartz, who never fails to surprise me, and going back through early Lorca because I realize I want to. It all makes me long for the summer reading when more and more will be possible.

And with Tourist a lot is going on as well. Small Press Distributors named it as a recommended book in March, Rigoberto Gonzalez in the blog for the National Book Critic Circle named it as one of the small press books of note. A mediocre review (this shall go nameless because the reviewer made too many mistakes when she talked about the book, suggesting she hadn't really read it so it kind of negated the whole review even when she said some very nice things).

Will be doing the Moe Greene Discussion Show with Pablo on April 30.

The Hanging Loose Party is May 7.

Will be reading at Watching Booksellers (NJ) May 28, Perch has been changed to June 22, Watchung (again) for a panel on translation July 30. In the Bay area end of September. Miami Book Fair in November. More to come.

Leaving for AWP in Denver this Thursday and reading the day before (Wednesday) with Jan Clausen at Lang at 4. Very much looking forward to that.

All good things.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Spring Break 2010 (4)

One of those days when you think or know that winter really is over. Walking around Brooklyn, something warm and slightly achy in the air, the streets crowded with people, every people, and the sidewalks so full to get by takes patience and patience and everybody knows and nobody minds and folk are smiling, shyly, as they acknowledge that we, yes, are all just strolling (not striding, not hurrying) but strolling along together.

So revisions this early afternoon and they were good and lazy and then a long walk in Prospect Park with Christian McEwen who is in town for a few days and we criss-crossed and zagged, Cannonball pulled and pulling, and Long Meadow was so full it was hard to know where to walk so it was step here step there. And Christian and I just talked about the usual kinds of things, lives and poetry, selves and friends, the different kinds of nostalgia, the different kinds of hope. We talked about the book she's writing on slowness, a possible new book together on walking (hard to believe we did Alphabet of the Trees a decade ago). And it was fun to return home and sit at the table drinking iced tea after having walked and wonder what a book about walking would look like.

Then Christian left and I sort of worked. Revisions again but this time in early evening. Some reading over student work (the short day left until school starts again). Katherine came home from the studio. Jesse played music, wrote. Black beans and veal with lots of secrets for dinner. Then some writing, revision some more. NCAA Basketball on the tube with the sound off a good deal of the time. Another walk with Cannonball. More writing. Now this. And then to Melville and to bed. Not so bad a day at all.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Spring Break 2010 (3)

The days have passed very quickly. Beautiful spring weather, each day a little warmer, each day a little closer to spring and here it will be spring official in a few days. A nice thing to think. Not sure why but this winter seemed to be a strange and hard one. To find myself wearing lighter clothes and not be annoyed at thinking I have to go outside for something is really pleasurable. I mean, just the thought of going outside makes me happy. Soon it will be warm enough for real stoop sitting and that will be something. Something cold to drink, a good book, and I can see many good days ahead.

And these past few days have been good. Most of it has been spent revising poems. I really get caught up in that world. Last night, I found it was three in the morning and I was still going at it, still thinking one line, one word, one image over the other. Should the words be reversed, repeated? How much paring was right and how much spare could lead to too spare? And then the opportunity to put back, to think that the undoing could be redone. The joy here is that nothing is really ever lost. The experience of taking away and putting back makes the put back different. And when it gets taken away (again) it isn't the same removal. These steps revising poetry aren't the same steps repeated but steps further walked.

So with two days left of spring break I'm not going to start counting up (yet) what I feel like I've accomplished but the reading has been good, the translating good, the new poems have potential and the revising is something for which I've found a rhythm.

And I've been listening to some good music over the time, from Miles Davis and Celia Cruz to Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson and Jerry Jeff Walker. Throw in Eddie Palmieri and Falla and you've got a nice coming into spring playlist.

My brackets for the NCAA basketball may have been busted. Won it all last year and may finish out of the money this time around. Went against the grain a few too many times. Not over yet, but I can read. Ah, baseball must be nearing.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Spring Break 2010 (2)

Two long days in a row of writing/revising. Work in particular on Hinojosa and today finished the bulk of the revisions. Monumental. Exhausting. I have about fifteen new poems from the last book (Sangre en la libertad) to work on/revise, and then I think the manuscript will be very close. I still need to do work on the introduction but that is also already forming in my head and I have some notes. Biggest problem with that will be how much to say about a major poet who is relatively unknown even in his own country and barely a blip on the English-speaking world radar.

Finished typing up poems from moleskine of 2009. They sit waiting for revision as well. Between those and the translating, reading Los detectives salvajes by Bolaño, some Melville, some Elizabeth Bishop, I am feeling very literary in the early spring break days.

I also have a lousy head cold. No surprise there, though. I always seem to get some kind of physical something at the start of any vacation.

But tomorrow is supposed to be sunny. Will try tonight catching up on sleep (have been staying up very late and rising very early, havoc on internal clock) and if the weather is right, may actually take a spin on the bike in the park. Imagine that. Maybe the winter is really about to end.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Spring Break 2010 (1)

As I typed the title of title of this post, I kept getting prompted to allow for Spring Break 1, 2, 3 etc. Suddenly I remembered that those were the titles from last year. And here I was using them again because here it is spring break again. Only this time I am not at the VCCA. I am home. And not going away. But will stay home and try to do in Brooklyn what I have done in the past in Virginia. Read, write, translate, think. I'll pay attention to the NCAA basketball, which will be more distracting here because the tv will be readily available but it is also downstairs and my study is upstairs. Maybe I can treat waking in the morning and walking the dog as I would waking and taking the long walk to the studio. Or I can do my summer thing and simply stumble out of bed, make some tea, and get to the study and get to work.

Which a little bit I have done tonight. I admit to some facebook viewing but mostly I spent the night talking with Pablo, a good long one with the major focus, I think, on an appreciation for Borges as a poet, in particular the sonnets. Stephen Kessler had just sent me a copy of the edition he edited for Penguin and it is quite beautiful. Not all the translations work but I don't need those and the nice thing is to have all of the sonnets in the same place. Pablo and I also talked about John Berryman's Dream Songs which I have been reading and really believe to be something special. I had this realization that it is not a poem in three voices but one in four, with the poet there as a kind of spectator of whom you are very subtly conscious--he is almost not there at all but then comes the realization that yes, oh yes, there is someone else.

Pablo was talking about the question of a crisis of representation in his own work. My realization is that he could think about this not as a crisis of but a journey of and from and toward.

Other things came up, one of those great long conversations, mainly about poetry but with enough basketball thrown in to make it worthwhile.

One of those nice things: Tourist at a Miracle was listed as one of Small Press Distributors Recommended Books for March 1-15 (go to Happy.

Spent some listening to Jesse play his new song tonight. It's very good. Worked on a new poem. So sort of like VCCA. Completely like home.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

yesterday long, today short

A long blog yesterday on why no nook, no Kindle. Then a friend of mine said to me today that maybe I would learn to read differently. Maybe. And I can see that happening. And I can hold out for the iPad.

Or maybe I'm just a dinosaur who likes to write by hand and still thinks of his computer as being like a very nice typewriter (oh where is my olivetti lettera, the choice of so many writers?).

Today was a beautiful end of winter hint of spring day. I graded papers. I typed two poems (out of notebooks). I worked on Hinojosa translations (with a pencil). I watched Kentucky beat Florida and started thinking how next Sunday is selection Sunday and then the whole NCAA tournament begins (happiness). And baseball is coming. A wonderful time of year.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

on my nook and kindle decision

So I've spent the last couple of days really trying to think through the whole eBook thing. I know I can get books on my iPod Touch and I know I can download them to my computer but I never thought of these as satisfying alternatives to reading. But both the nook and the Kindle presented themselves as worthwhile. At least to think about. I'm not a technophobe, I'm not a gadget guy. I'm a reader, I'm a writer, and books have always meant a lot so I've been trying to see what was in it for me.

The first thing I noticed when I was reading reviews was how much the focus was on the multiple things the devices all could do. They could hold a lot of books (save paper, easy to carry, great for travel). They could hold a lot of music. They were lightweight, portable, easy (and getting easier to use), especially if you're comfortable with devices, with touch screens, etc. Buying books was easy. Very easy. Easier than going into a bookstore and browsing, easier than ordering on-line and waiting for a mail delivery.

But that presented my first moment of confusion. I discovered that my own books, while available as paper were not available from Barnes & Noble for the nook. That only Poet in New York was available from Amazon for the Kindle. And a lot of other books, in particular books of poetry and from small presses were not available. I did like the fact that there were some unusual titles out there (a number for free) that I might otherwise might not have considered. The complete works of Marti, for example. Rilke's complete poems in German. Not bad, but not priority.

I went to the local Barnes and Noble to do some more looking. I held the nook. Very comfortable. The use of the thing took some getting used to but I could see myself adjusting. Pushing buttons to turn pages, going back through screens to go forward to other screens. In the store, they allowed me to download O'Hara's Selected Poems so I could see how it would all work and it was nice to see that the line formatting was right though it had to be double-spaced to achieve that. Ashbery's poems (downloaded one of his) did not have the double-spacing. Okay, I thought, this isn't so bad. I already own these books so I wasn't going to buy them, but what about other books. Again, back to the dilemma. A quick attempt at browsing showed no Lorca poetry has made it to eBooks for the nook. No Vallejo. These were not exactly random choices--I was thinking about my own interests. So I checked out the total number of poetry titles available: 845. This includes a lot of out of print and public domain stuff. Not great pickings. And hard to shop for, I have to admit, because the nook is not designed for browsing, it is designed for buying. You can browse, but it is easier to do it on the computer or in the store.

Still, all in the realm of the possible for me. Because over time, right? The books will be available, they'll figure out the browsing thing. This is the wave of the future. All that. So I held the nook. I pushed buttons. It was nice. Pushed buttons. Then I realized (duh) no facing pages. Then I realized. No casual flipping. I put the nook down and picked up a book. I flipped, went forwards and backwards, read a line, read a line, read a line, forwards backwards. I held the book.

And that was it. A sudden realization. There are many ways to write, many reasons to write. I am typing on a computer. I am comfortable doing this. I am comfortable with the keyboard, with the screen.

But this is not the way I write when I write poetry, when I write essays, when I translate. I write longhand in a notebook. I write longhand on a pad. I scratch out, erase, put arrows, squiggles, lines. I write a word. I look at it. I write a word next to it. Look at the two together. I think about them.

And reading is the same way. I read e-mails. I read blogs. I read letters. I read newspapers. I read magazines. I read poetry, fiction, essays. And I do read them differently. The flaw in the eBook, or at least the nook (and the same when I've read books on a computer and on my iPod Touch), was that it was fine for reading in a certain way, fine for reading certain things. But for reading the things I most want to read and in the ways I like to read them, it simply doesn't offer the pleasure or the engagement of a printed book. If I were simply using it for a newspaper or a magazine, it makes a kind of sense. If a memo, or instructions, if for quick info, etc. But for reading poetry and fiction, it is now so limited. Browsing is a chore. Poetry doesn't give me a chance to see the facing page text (and forget works in translation). Art books forget as well.

And what do I do when I find an essay in the nook that I want Katherine to look at. What do I do while she reads? I can't read from the nook. She has it. So I either wait to read. Or, yes, I suppose I have to pick up a book.

eBooks allow you to have libraries and they are organized in multiple useful ways. Still you can't really open several books and look at them all together at once. I'm sitting in my study now and I have four books open to different pages. I can put them down, pick them up. They are all physically there. And while this may seem a mess, it's really very practical. It's a kind of aesthetically pleasing and practical clutter. These books are not organized by author, nor by title. I know I sometimes wish my bookshelves were but then what about the pleasure of stumbling on one book while I am looking for another? What about the history of the book, the object, itself? And by this I don't mean any book, I mean my book. In my handwriting, in one on the first page, it reads, Mark Statman, Bogota, 1988. Another book says Mark Statman, New York, 1986. And the handwriting is different. I was different.

And some books are signed to me, notes from the writer, notes from the giver, dated, signed editions. These mean something too. Along with my handwritten notes, my post-it notes. Some have bookmarks from bookstores that no longer exist. Some have bookmarks, handmade, by friends.

By my bedside is a stack of books. Before I go to sleep I may read through three or four. I don't know which ones. I don't know which order. There are about ten from which I can choose and I can look at their spines and wonder. I pick one up, put it down, pick up another, another, go back. There is an art to this. It's idiosyncratic. It's clear. It makes sense to me. My mess. I know where almost everything is. But not everything.

And that's why I don't want a nook or a Kindle right now. They may make things easier, but I lose some of the accidents and mystery that make reading something I love so much.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Another week closer to something

One of those days in which I noticed how quickly the teaching week had gone by--Lorca, Langston Hughes, Jayne Cortez, Ezra Pound, James Weldon Johnson. In one of my poetry workshops today, a student did a workshop of his own translation of Baudelaire which went well though I think it was a bit of a surprise for most of the students. It's a poetry writing workshop and it was a good thing for them to think about the ways translating poetry could test them as poets.

And today in the mail arrived the new Borges Poems of the Night and The Sonnets. They are part of a general series on Penguin edited by Suzanne Jill Levine and the editors for these were Efraían Kristal for Poems of the Night and Stephen Kessler for the Sonnets. They are both beautiful bilingual editions, good crew of translators for both. Worth having in the library.

Check out tomorrow:
Werd Hosted By Beth Cheng
Type: Music/Arts - Listening Party
When: Friday, March 26 from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm PST (2-3 EST).

Tourist at a Miracle will be one of the three books reviewed. Don't know how it will go but I'm hoping well. The others are The Intricated Soul New and Selected Poems Sherod Santois (Norton) and All American Poem Matthew Dickman (Copper Canyon Press).



Monday, March 1, 2010

Something kind of nice

Check out this review of Tourist at a Miracle in the new New Pages.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Nor lost again

A day spent enjoying the slightly warming weather by walking through the slush. Spent looking at the hockey (nice OT gold win for Canada), U.S. gets the silver). Spent grading papers. Spent writing poetry and more Hinojosa work.

The weekend slowly ends.

all was not lost

Worked seriously hard all evening on a new poem and a new Hinojosa translation. Did watch some of the Olympics but was very good at sticking to a plan.

Thanks to the many people who wrote about Tourist on Poetry Daily. Many thanks.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Facebook has me in its thrall and news

Okay. I signed up and now I'm not doing the work I should. But it is fun and I recommend it only if you have way too much time on your hands. Or that you go in with a strategy that lets you get away.

As though I'm any good at that...

The Moe Green interview was a lot of fun:

The Moe Green Poetry Poetry Discussion hosted Rafael F J Alvarado Brett-Candace interviewing Mark Statman 2/26/2010 - The W.W.

Today is the day to catch me at Poetry Daily.

News will be coming sooner re: other readings and the like but until then



Thursday, February 25, 2010

News update for Thursday, February 23

A few things happening with Tourist at a Miracle.

Moe Green Poetry Hour, Friday February 26th, from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM EST. The call in number is 718.508.9717.

On Saturday, February 27, "Tourist" and Tourist at a Miracle will be featured on Poetry Daily. Poetry Daily is a great site and the poets they feature are quite good.

Later events happening: the big Hanging Loose book party for this year's poets will be the first week in May, more later. I'll also be reading at Perch in June. Other readings coming so watch this page. The September California tour is rounding into shape and I'll have more news on that later. Florida later (November).

Last night, a good reading at the Poetry Project with Joanna Fuhrman and John Koethe. Joanna read from Moraine and Pageant, as well as some new poems, and John Koethe mainly read from 95th Street. He closed with the long title poem, which has as a central trope a dinner with John Ashbery, Frank O'Hara, and Kenneth Koch that took place in 1966. It was a weave from the past into the present that was quite elegant and elegaic.



Saturday, February 20, 2010

Baseball calls

A warmer day in February reminds me that, with pitchers and catchers reporting, baseball is not that far behind. Even now the newspapers have stories and the sports radio is more it than Olympics and even Tiger Woods. What are the priorities?

Last night a poetry/jazz program at the New School that had Robert Pinsky reading with drum, piano, bass players from the Jazz program. Pinsky made note that his point was to be part of a quartet and he did just that, the words as one fourth of intelligent and resonating sound. See photo at band of the

Friday, February 19, 2010

Lucille Clifton (1936-2010)

I've always admired Lucille Clifton's poetry. It has a music and a spareness, an observant, thoughtful and buoyant joy and seriousness with the world. The first poem of hers I ever read was "miss rosie" and when I thought of the I standing up, it reminded me not only of seeing those we would like to conveniently overlook, misplace, forget but of the importance of standing up for those who can't.

Her poem "roots" is one I taught in the schools for many years and which, in my own life, I've found worth remembering. I was grateful to be allowed to use it in my book Listener in the Snow. I knew she had been ill, that her health had not been the greatest for a while, but this is a real loss.

call it our craziness even,
call it anything:
it is the light thing in us
that will not let us die...

call it our roots,
it is the light in us
it is the light of us
it is the light, call it
whatever you have to,
call it anything.

-from "roots," Good Woma:n: Poems and a Meoir

Sunday, February 14, 2010

lots of snow and then I got sick and it is Valentine's Day

It was wonderful to see all the snow come down in Brooklyn on Tuesday and into Wednesday. The back got its workout with shoveling and the legs with walking in the snow (Jesse took video and photos, go to band of the to see some of these). Then the week wore on and I wore out and collapsed Thursday night. No fun as I'd hoped to have a nice long weekend for relaxing, reading, and writing. There is a difference between sleeping when sick and sleeping when healthy. The biggest one is that you can read but in the former the words never stay on the page or in your head.

But it meant lots of radio on as well, and going back and forth between NPR news, discussion and music and sports talk on baseball. Pitchers and catchers report this week. Always that pleasure, harbinger of spring.

I think I have managed to do a little reading that counts: some Ezra Pound (for teaching and for pleasure), Huidobro, Stroud, Vargas Llosa and E.B. White. Read Nick Thran's book of poems, Every Inadequate Noise which came out a few years ago, very good. He has a new one coming out next year. Stephen Kessler's The Mental Traveler arrived in the mail and I look forward to reading that. Also now reading Colum McCann's Let the Great World Spin which is good if not a little too happy with itself (can one really observe all that much in a single instant?)

Tourist at a Miracle news: A west coast/Bay Area reading trip for the end of September seems to be coming together (more later on this). At least two confirmed and two very likely dates/places.

I'm being interviewed on the Moe Greene Poetry Hour out in California on February 26, 6:30 EST and 3:30 PST. More info later on this for life listening and podcast downloads.

It is Valentine's Day. Save your money and just remind your loved ones just how much you love them. Words mean most.



Sunday, February 7, 2010

not quite right

Okay. I blew the Super Bowl pick.

It happens. Really. Truly. On occasion. Wait til next year. And so on.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lazy day/Super Bowl Pick

Big news that we missed the snow. Saw that DC did not. The dog was sad. My back was not. Something about shoveling.

Wrote a little. Read the paper. What will Toyota do? The energized Obama? The depressing because paid attention to Sarah Palin?

Super Bowl pick: Indianapolis 38, New Orleans 27

It comes down to this: both teams are matched fairly well. Give the edge to the Colts on defense, even with Freeney's injury. Special teams go to New Orleans. Offense, you could say they are evenly matched but as good as Brees has been this season, Manning runs the two minute drill for the whole game. Forget the Colts' lack of a running game. A pass from Peyton is as good as a hand-off and he has all the targets he needs.




Friday, February 5, 2010

week gone by

A long week gone by and a good one but long which is sometimes how the good ones are.

Teaching is serious now, the introductions done and the work at hand at hand. Reading Whitman and Lorca with Pound on the horizon (and Lorca a constant). With Whitman some interesting conversations that go from his influence into the present as well as his work over his own time. We've been reading Leaves of Grass 1855 and Leaves of Grass in the deathbed 1891/92 editions and thinking about how much the small changes mean and the larger ones as well, the sense of the earlier work in some ways as the poems in process and the last work as the poems as done (which they obviously by that point more than are). A serious joy here is reading Whitman again and again and recognizing just how much pleasure there is in doing just that.

The same is true of Lorca, although until now more time has been spent setting the stage for the rest of the semester, a lot of background, Spanish history, Lorca's life, Lorca's New York. Reading the first Poems of Solitude at Columbia University makes me realize how much a part of me the poems have become. I read the lines and remember how much time I spent working with them, the conversations Pablo and I had in the intense three years we spent on the book. Interesting how much presence it has, the intersection of that with memory.

I'm pushing myself now to finish the Hinojosa selected. I've been feeling good about it, sure and certain of the voice. The final translation draft should be done by the end of February, early March. The introduction should be done as well. Funny to be conscious of, if not exactly able to see, the light at the end of that tunnel.

And working hard on new poems. A good feeling to do that. Going through the most recent moleskine typing even as a newer one is being slowly filled.

Snow coming. The storm is supposed to center more to the south, with DC and Philadelphia taking larger hits. But the coming 2-6 inches could be romp in the snow fun.



Friday, January 29, 2010


Wednesday night at the Tobenski-Algera series opener. Quite good. Dennis sang beautifully, a full program, quite something. Of course I was pleased to hear the NY premiere of echoes, six of my poems which Dennis was originally commissioned to set for the Staunton Music Festival in 2008 and which were performed that August there. Originally they were set for soprano--hearing Dennis' tenor and his real sense for singing poetry was a pleasure. As was seeing some VCCA friends, painters Julie Gold and Ann Polashenski. Jane LeCroy was also there, a poet who spends a lot of time thinking about music and words.

Thursday we went to a benefit for Haiti at the Stephen Wise Synagogue in Manhattan. This was a stirring concert (we stayed for more than two hours, then had to leave, hunger and exhaustion winning out over a desire for more music). I couldn't say who all the performers were but the variety was extreme, a focus on linking Jewish community and culture with Haitian. Formidable and beautiful. Jesse took a lot of video of this. If he posts it, I will update with a link.



Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Whitman (again?)

It's interesting to see that I posted about Whitman the other night--wasn't even thinking about how in one of the courses I'm teaching Whitman is the first poet on the syllabus--first thing we're reading is "Song of Myself" from both the 1855 edition and then the 1891/92 deathbed edition of Leaves of Grass. As always I stand in amazement at the rhythm and movement of the poem, both in terms of the form and the content (this I that is so powerful and is both about description and place and time, and out of place and time, which is the point of the Whitman I, to be both in and out of location of self, other, etc). The juxtapositions (the pimpled prostitute and the president), the use of names (places, plants and trees, tribes, etc), the repetitions of phrase and structures to move the poem along, what a pleasure.

And to see words like pismire and kelson!

In other news: because of the Tobenski/Algera series tomorrow night (, will miss the State of the Union, something I haven't done in years. The president will use the word fight a lot and he will talk about the need to listen and be thoughtful and in all of it I fear will come a further deflation of hope--that he will listen and be thoughtful and in the spirit of compromise (the new nickname for leadership, how thoughtless and passive) that the fight will be to advance an agenda that is not bold and not progressive and, finally, ineffective.

I don't like feeling that after a only a year the president has missed some big opportunities to be bold and decisive and that he has made the good elusive , but this is what I worry about. Still, I refuse to give up on hope. I see the power of it in small ways in my life and if that's what I've got, well it could be worse, even while longing for better and better on a larger scale.



Monday, January 25, 2010

A poetry of place

Had a good talk with Pablo this evening about the ways in which certain poets transcend time and place and become poets of that place. The most obvious one is Whitman, it is the project of his life to write an American poetry (one that easily goes beyond nation borders). Pound is a poet who does this with the Cantos, and Williams does it through the whole of his career. Neruda does it (we had some uncertainty here on how effectively--there is the problem of how Neruda does have a tendency to change a lot, but if one takes the early poems, takes Residencia and Macchu Picchu, etc). Stevens does not--more of a philosophical poet writing of a place that resembles a place. Nor does Eliot because his place is more about the absence of culture or cutural decline than it is about making it or representing it. Mistral gets it in her last book, but too thinly. Snyder wants to, so does MacGrath in Letter to an Imaginary Friend, but there's too much history there. The whole point in the transcendence is that it almost needs to be ahistorical.

This of course led to a digression on poets of love and here it was interesting to come back and see Whitman as a great poet of love as well (Neruda fits in here well, as do so many others). But it's an interesting reminder of how much Whitman means in the whole conversation about poetry from the late 19th century to present. It's hard to imagine, too, the idea of a poet writing today who would be willing to take on a life's project of a single idea (place in time, outside of time, place defined and expanded) the way Whitman does (and to an extent, Williams, Pound and Neruda do).

Nice conversation. Which started with a question I had about Enrique Lihn, who I am reading now and who is a good read but there's something not quite there. He's not as compelling as Paz, but it's a quality I find in Paz too, a need to see beneath the surfaces (here Paz is more rewarding than Lihn). This moved us to Vicente Huidobro whose Altazar I have not read but will soon enough (waiting only for delivery).

A good night to talk about poetry. The semester starts tomorrow and I am getting in the mood.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Friday, January 22, 2010

Even When It isn't It Is

One of those days, cloudy, January cold, but still beautiful because it was.

Jesse spent the morning studying alternate universes (seriously, for physics), Katherine worked on taxes, I worked on lost sleep. But this afternoon, Jesse, Cannonball and I went for a long walk in Prospect Park (see Jesse's stuff on for aesthetic proof). A long meander, lengthened by Cannonball's desire to sniff every pile of leaves, every tree, but worth it. Good quiet thinking, good low-key conversation. Nothing special except for one more day in the world.



Thursday, January 21, 2010

Some good nights

Last night met up with Dennis Tobenski--next Wednesday, January 27 is the first performance this year for the Tobenski-Algera new composer series (see info in an earlier blog post or go to ). They'll be performing echoes which has four poems from Tourist at a Miracle. Dennis will spend the month of March at the VCCA. Lucky guy.

After that, Jesse and I headed over to the Poetry Project for the William Corbett and Jonas Mekas reading. Bill read some wonderful poems, not only his own, but some by Jimmy Schuyler (a kind of memorial for Darragh Park) and ended with a poem by Rolfe Humphries. Jonas Mekas, the godfather of avant-garde film-making read some wonderful and amusing anecdotes about from his life. The last one was a serious and moving one about Allen Ginsberg's last days.

Jesse shot some video, converted it into a short film, Nearing the Edge, which you can see by going to

Pam Laskin's book party at Perch on Tuesday was a good deal of fun. She read from her new short story collection, a collection of poems that came out last year, and the new (though the poems span 30 years) Van Gogh's Ear (Cervena Barva Press). Saw Sarah Porter there who was very excited about her three book young adult deal. Look for more when it comes out.

School starts next week and syllabus writing has been the order of the past few days. Hope to finish that up today and have a few more days to work on some new poems, some Hinojosa (which is almost done in this draft, lacks an into). But more on him later. Still having Tourist at a Miracle



Monday, January 18, 2010

Martin Luther King, Jr

Here is the link for Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech. No commentary, no analysis, just the great man and his words.

Take a moment to enjoy, reflect, and remember.



Sunday, January 17, 2010

News and news

Some updates:

The Tourist at a Miracle reading last Saturday, January 9 at Bowery Poetry Club was a lot of fun. Many thanks to all who attended (too many to mention by name, a very good sign, I think). But much appreciation to Bill Zavatsky and Jane LeCroy, my fellow readers, and Bob Hershon who moderated. A deep note of thanks to Donna Brook for her special surprise introduction.

After years in the making, my website is up! Go to and let me know what you think. Since the website is linked to the blog, it gives me one more reason (compelling, no doubt) to blog more often. Thanks to Jesse Statman for all his work.

Another link: for images-music-words look at In particular Gowanus and Fireworks (Fireworks go to uploads on that page to see).

Upcoming of interest:

Tonight, Sunday at Zinc Bar (82 West 3rd Street) a reading for The Portable Boog Reader 4, 7 PM.

Tuesday, 1/19 at Perch (5th Ave at 5th Street, Brooklyn)--book party for Pamela Laskin's Van Gogh's Ear 7:30

Wednesday 1/20 at St Mark's Poetry Project, William Corbett and Jonas Mekas, 8PM

also The Tobenski-Algera Concert Series: New American Art Song
Wed., Jan. 27, 2010

Dennis Tobenski: echoes, six songs on poetry by Mark Statman (NY premiere)
Jeff Algera: “Twenty” and “Former Soldier”, on poems by Oscar Wilde (world premiere)

Ricky Ian Gordon: “As Planned”, “Adolescent’s Song”, “Proof of Gold”, and “A Contemporary”

Aaron Alon: “All Rights Reserved” (NY premiere)
Tim Kiah: “La Nuit”
George Lam: Fog Argument, two songs on poetry by Mark Doty (NY premiere)
Justin Merritt: “Dissonance” & “May Evening in Central Park”
Keane H. Southard: selections from Three Songs of Dylan Thomas (NY premiere)
Zachary Wadsworth: Three Lullabies (NYC premiere)

The Duplex
(Cabaret Theatre upstairs)
61 Christopher St @ 7th Ave, NYC

$10 with a reservation, $12 at the door
2 drink minimum


also see



Friday, January 1, 2010


Interesting to write those numbers...

Tourist arrived in Brooklyn on Tuesday and Katherine sent it to me overnight here at the VCCA so it arrived yesterday. It looks beautiful, her beautiful painting on the cover. The poems feel right to me. I don't usually have that feeling when I see my writing in print, have more the desire to start revising, to not allow myself the sense of accomplishment that all that hard work could bring.

But I don't feel that way right now. Feel more like the book is what I want. Thank you, Donna Brook. What a marvelous editor you are. Thank you, Hanging Loose, for Tourist at a Miracle.

Happy New Year to all.