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.