Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The social review

And here's that follow-up. Only 2 years later.

Here's a selection of comments...

"densely packed internal 'chimes'"

"short, punchy and wonderful poems/pieces/paragraphs"

"Amazing!"

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Man Runs into a Woman Who Runs into a Review

A Man Runs into a Woman is the first book of poems by Sarah Barnett and the first publication off the shelf of Hue and Cry Press. I have known both Sarah and Chloe (editor-in-chief at Hue and Cry) for a few years and was thrilled to hear some of the poems I've been reading in early draft form were to make themselves into the wider world.

Chloe used PledgeMe, a New Zealand crowd-sourcing website, to raise the funds for this book. It broke the PledgeMe record for reaching its target. 

Usually I write reviews on this blog or at Scoop Books, but seeing as this book was delivered into the world with the aid of social collaboration I thought I would try and kick off some kind of social-review. So please, if you have read this book or you are about to, add a review on goodreads.com. You can give it a star rating and even better, a few quick thoughts. 

I’m intending a follow-up post with some of the pithier comments collected together. So add your comments, the pithier the better.

For A Man Runs into a Woman on Goodreads go here

Other links:

Friday, September 14, 2012

Hot hot hot: Say So by Dora Malech

Dora Malech's latest book, Say So was bought on auto-buy. Ever since I heard her read at The Wellington City Gallery in 2007 I was permanently sold. Hinemoana reckoned it was because she was pretty. And she was hot, I admit it, but so was her poetry, like nothing else I'd heard.

And 'hot' is a good word for her work I think. The poems are like little language boilers, the words bounce off each other, they steam up and bubble over. Sometimes it feels like she is playing word association games, tumbling around randomly and then somehow, and I don't really know how, she pulls it all together into something profound. This is not easy to do, but she does it over and over again, sometimes more successfully, but always with a skill and intelligence that is infectious. If one of her poems seem like a boiled surface at first, after a few more reads and a narrative or at least a common subject starts to rise up and show itself. They are brilliant.

Her work hasn't changed too much is style or voice from her earlier work. The concerns are the same and the result is the same. Say So seems like a small progression, in that way visual artists (and Dora is also a visual artist) progress their work, in incremental steps. I guess the idea being nobody gets it if you do that thing once, but if you do it a hundred times, you inch your way toward the artistic horizon.

With this book I am beginning to see the brains as well as the beauty.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: The Doors and Retromania


A couple of reviews I wrote that didn't make it on to the pages of Scoop Books.


The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years
Greil Marcus
Faber and Faber 2011
...there's a lift in Jim Morrison's voice for the first two times he reaches for the word fire...always he communicates that as an idea that word is new to him...You've heard the word in the song, but you haven't begun to follow the fire as far as it goes – that's the feeling.
As teenager in the 1990s I can testify to the enduring relevance of The Doors. Even if now I hardly give them a second thought, for a few mean years of my own they were everything to me – moody, complicated (so I thought) and subversive. Looking back now it must have been the release of the Oliver Stone film a few years before that brought them to the cultural attention of pimply teens like myself, but at the time it seemed like every generation must have been into The Doors, that was how awesome and eternal they were.

The Doors, according to Greil Marcus, were both a myth and, at the same time, the real deal. They were as stunning in success as they were in failure and much of this happened in the same song, in the same line sung at different performances. Marcus covers different gigs he attended and recordings he has since pored over – different versions of the same song played entirely differently each time. In precise detail he goes through every high-hat clasp, every swirling organ/guitar duel and every incantation of the Jim Morrison lyric. Marcus is a master of describing sound and band dynamics so that a song reads like a tight three act play. There is drama and intelligence in the songs and in the writing.

Chapters cover performances of many of The Doors well known hits. There is a long extended chapter on the 'So-called Sixties' as he describes it, detailing the myth-building of The Doors brand as representative of the myth-building of the sixties as a whole. The book starts and ends with chapters on the song 'Light My Fire'. At times the territory he covers is as rambling as a Doors live performance, but he always makes interesting points along the way and the journey is worth it, if even just to get to the next performance.
Already in 1968 The Doors were performing not freedom but its disappearance. This is what is terrifying: the notion that the Sixties was no grand, simple, romantic time to sell others as a nice place to visit, but a place, even as it is created, people know they can never really inhabit, and never escape.
'The Doors: A Lifetime of Listening to Five Mean Years' has enough intelligence and cultural relevance to appeal to anyone who is into music and good writing about music. And Doors fans will find plenty of new insights and detail on the songs, band and times to keep them happy. Just don't expect any sensationalist expos√©, this book is by and for the music, refreshingly stripped of the myths that often surround the Doors.



Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to its own Past
Simon Reynolds
Faber and Faber 2011

In Paul Reynolds categorisation of the past my Doors would be an antiquity, their value would be as a historical reference. Retro as he defines it concerns artefacts from living memory. The Doors are older than my lifetime, Thriller by Michael Jackson isn't, and if I was to get a t-shirt of Michael Jackson stroking a tiger I would be succumbing to 'retromania', a phenomena sweeping the world according to Reynolds.

He goes to great lengths to pinpoint the exact date when we became obsessed with our own past. He puts up various years by pulling out references from music, fashion, architecture and art. He decides ultimately that the decades following an output of pure originality is followed by a down period where we rehash past glories unable to move forward. With music he argues the 1970s and 2000s are two decades where this has happened.

This book weighs in at a fairly substantial 400 pages and over the course of the journey we go into almost every facet of British and American music for the last 50 years. He often uses example after example to make his point, which mostly consist of interesting facts, stories and comparisons between obscure and not so obscure artists. Sometimes this gets a bit much and I found many of the essays rehashing similar ideas, but through a different lens. He is nothing if not thorough, but for me it felt like the ideas were loaded down by too many anecdotes.

Anyone interested in pop-culture theory and particularly music, will get a lot out of this. And those who find themselves trawling through second-hand shops looking for that big find, might be interested in the cultural context in which they operate.

This is certainly an interesting and thoroughly researched work on originality and creative reuse. And like all books that choose to talk about one band over another it will spark both negative and positive agreement.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

White Space and Noise: A Review by Pip Adam


Pip Adam is a fantastic writer whose stories are often like wild, driving poems. Geoff Cochrane is a writer whose poems are often like stories miniaturised and then thrown inside a glass bottle. I can't think of anyone better than Pip Adam to review a brand new Geoff Cochrane book.

Geoff is reading on Friday as part of National Poetry day (12.30 at Unity Books Wellington).


Review of THE BENGAL ENGINE’S MANGO AFTERGLOW
By Pip Adam

I’m writing to Lynn Jenner, she’s in Christchurch. ‘I’ve got the new Geoff Cochrane,' I write. 'I love it,’ I write. And then I add, ‘But I would.’

Over the years, Cochrane’s work has been a joy to me, a solace, a proof that art can be made in New Zealand which shows us ourselves in new ways. I’ve taken permission from it to search for beauty in the places I stand and walk and fall in. It may be my temperament, I'm often on a swing from sanguine to melancholic, or my experience, I arrived in Hanmer Springs wearing winter boots on a hot February afternoon. The highest opinion I have of myself likes to think I love Cochrane’s work because it’s so crafted, so pinprick sharpened that I recognise something in it that singles me out as a ‘good reader’. But, really, it comes down to this: his work makes a noise which resonates with a noise inside me made from the things I believe about the act of writing and the act of reading. We have a special kind of light in New Zealand and I also think we have a special kind of dark. In the world I run, Geoff Cochrane goes to Frankfurt and everyone gathered stops in awe of what can be made from our here and now through the lens of our particular light and dark.

Cochrane’s work is at its best in collection. I find myself restless during the time between books, when poems are drip fed at readings or in literary journals. It’s like getting a taste that won’t be satisfied until the book comes out. The Bengal Engine’s Mango Afterglow is a beautifully balanced work. There’s a rhythm to the structure of the book which you can see even by flicking through it. The small untitled pieces hiccup amongst the longer works and the blocks of prose. Lines, asterisks, rows of o’s – the typographical decisions point to a larger language, an orchestra rather than a quartet. Damien Wilkins hits the nail on the head in his back cover quote which identifies ‘those books of poetry that seem fuller than fiction’. There is something that ties The Bengal Engine’s Mango Afterglow together in a way which seems to transcend conventional narrative but creates a cohesive hole. I always think of The Worm in the Tequila as the diabetes collection and I think maybe this is the ‘not giving up smoking’ collection. Of course this reduces the work in a ridiculous way but there is something very special going on with the structure and concerns of this book and it seems to have something to do storytelling – with how we order and make sense. It’s a work held together by fine filaments of image and sound and humour rather than cause and effect. The Bengal Engine’s Mango Afterglow will sit on poetry shelves, and it’s right that it should, it is form extreme, but at night, I suspect, it will grow limbs and beat up some of the more comfortable collections.

Luckily, Cochrane publishes often and one of the prizes of publishing often is a currency which plays with time and space in productive ways. In The Bengal Engine’s Mango Afterglow, the Telecom XT network breaks down, the Arab Spring tightens, Charlie Sheen asserts his right to drink, and into this immediacy collapses the past and the future and alternative states. There are spacecraft and stories of World War 2.The inclusion of Reading Kundera in Christchurch, a poem 'completed early in 2010, before the ruinous quakes’ has the strange effect of lifting the curtain on a haunting parallel Christchurch where things have been allowed to go on. The ‘rescript, reshoot’ played out in the beautiful Mirrory Sunglasses is tantalising like gossip and a playful act of re-remembering. This layering of the possible, the hoped for, the dreaded over the tangible, pervasive noise of contemporary life builds a tension or perhaps a contingency which seems to put everything up for debate.

One of the aspects of the collection I enjoyed was its concern with economics. The series of Pinksheets which are scattered throughout the collection resonate with the rattle of economic downfall. Under a title stolen from the stock market Cochrane explores sounds and images which at first appear to be from outside the world of high finance. The Pinksheets talk about writing ‘When I want to read a poem, I write one’ and smoking ‘I’ll always line up with the smokers. / I’ll always line up with the smokers, / but I’ll also always smoke.’ and Hemineurin ‘Half an anuerin molecule [Hemi- + (a)neurin]. / Found to prevent convulsions in epileptic rats. / Used to sedate alcoholics withdrawing from alcohol. / No longer manufactured, alas.’ In their economic incarnation pink sheets are written daily and Cochrane’s work as diary-like snatches but their title also made me think about how everything is tied to money, how much of our literature is written by the rich and that this seems inescapable because everything is tied to money.

It’s hard and unhelpful I think to pick out poems and lines because I really believe this book has to be read and re-read as a whole. Many of the works and perhaps the work itself turn on a dime, single words chosen, certain rhythms taken change everything. It occurs to me what an intense pleasure it would be to read Cochrane's body of work from beginning to The Bengal Engine's Mango Afterglow like some massive fantasy series. I feel sure the books would have new excitements and joy if taken as a whole. The Bengal Engine’s Mango Afterglow is a perfect combination of craft and experience, flight and trudge, noise and white space.


Monday, July 2, 2012

The Search - Review of Douglas Lilburn's Two Essays


A Search for Tradition & A Search for Truth
Douglas Lilburn
The Lilburn Residence Trust in association with VUP, 2011

For the first time Douglas Lilburn's legendary talks on music, art and internship have been published in one volume.
Individually, they are interesting enough – the nationalistic post-war pride and new-found identity coming through in his 1946 talk and then the questing and individuality in a 1967 revisit, the re-interpretation of his earlier beliefs.
But it is side by side that these essays really sparkle. As Lilburn points out, he started out learning church-organ music at a conservative New Zealand music school and by the end of his career was creating avant garde electronic compositions. It is not either of these two things on their own that made Lilburn a great artist, although he produced beautiful compositions all through his career, it is the extraordinary transition between them and the constant re-framing of his creative life that made him truly great.
The introductions to each talk, by J. M. Thomson, first written in the mid 1980s, provide a useful insight and background to Lilburn. The Rita Angus sketches and paintings, some published for the first time, are a lovely reminder of Lilburn's company and influence among visual artists and poets, both of which he references heavily in his talks.
I'm not sure I identify with everything Lilburn says, but that's not surprising considering he developed his ideas several generations earlier in a New Zealand I would hardly recognise. But I do identify with the journey, the way he changed and embraced change. And always with one foot firmly rooted in tradition, wherever that may be.
Lilburn reminds me that as an audience member or reader I often forget that art is a process and not a product. And that is who this book is for – anyone interested in the history and, by association, future of culture, music and art in New Zealand.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Sisters Brothers
Patrick de Witt
Published 2011
Granta

From the opening chapter, this story of two hired guns on a road trip to California smells slightly funky. You can tell right away this isn't a Zane Gray western or another version of The Horse Whisperer. The characters they meet are all a little odd, or even completely bonkers – the leery old voodoo woman, a weeping man, the prospector who drinks mud, a small boy who is abused and then abandoned by his family and a mysterious clairvoyant girl who poisons dogs. De Witt throws in these seeds of the bizarre into the gritty dirt and mud of the old frontier.
The plot is a classic road trip set-up and for most of the novel the two brothers, Eli and Charlie, spend their time getting themselves into, and narrowly escaping from, various kinds of trouble. Quick to pull their guns, they kill almost without thinking and the action is brutal and vivid, although always filtered through a lens of stylised prose and comedy. Like, after callously leaving a wet, naked boy and his demented horse to their doom, Eli thinks to himself, 'Here is another miserable mental image I will have to catalog and make room for.'
The writing here is beautiful and always slightly off-kilter. The characters use educated language, no 'dang it', or 'get my gun Pa' type stuff here. Charlie calls over to Eli at one point, 'there is something in the air, a fortuitous energy'. It reminded me of a good Coen brother's film, the hilarious dialogue, stylised violence and pilfering of historical elements.
I've seen responses to this book that question the lack of landscape or historical detail, but this is a novel about character and at it's heart, a stylish black comedy. A lengthy description of Sierra Nevadas just wouldn't fit here and the history is a backdrop. Eli and Charlie don't fit the romantic notions of cowboys on the range. They are cold, hard killers, who live in their own tiny and deluded universes. I'm not saying this novel isn't rich in sensory detail, it is. At times you can almost taste the dirt, sweat and blood of a time and place that was truly wild.
Eventually they arrive in San Francisco at the height of the gold-rush. The city is overrun with  obsessed and possessed people, going slowly crazy with gold-fever. Eli and Charlie with their skewed moral values fit in nicely and the mission takes an unexpected turn. It is at this point that the story really comes alive and it seems less like a bunch of random events on a road trip and becomes something complex with causes and effects. This is needed at this point as some of the scenes seem unrelated and not particularly pulling the story forward in the early stages.
The fraternal relationship between Eli and Charlie is always shifting and changing and sits at the core of the novel. As Eli moves through the story he starts to fall out of his little universe and sees Charlie and himself from a new perspective. He begins to question their choices and occupation, not so much with a conscience, but with a desire for things to just be different. This aspect seemed spot on and is what the made the novel real and compelling for me.
This is one of the most entertaining reads I've had for awhile and I would completely recommend it to anyone who likes their novels a little bit strange, a little bit stylised and touched with dark comedy. I'm sure this novel will go down well with the younger age-bracket. The Sisters Brothers reminds me of Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre. Like Pierre, De Witt seems able to show America through the lens of an 'outsider' and then extract something fresh and inventive from those well-worn wagon trails.

Friday, June 15, 2012

I Got His Blood on Me and Teju Cole


I'm reading my friend, Lawrence Patchett's, debut book of short stories at the moment, I Got His Blood on Me. It was brilliant, obviously, and I am biased, but having known Lorry for quite a while and been to many group workshops where he has read my poems and provided feedback on others' work, I think I've only actually read a handful of his stories. Most of which were unfinished and in an early draft, so I am partially fresh on these I think.

And that was proven in the very first story which carries the title of the book. I read an early draft of this story and at that stage it was only about a third of its current length and had some 'time-travel' paradox type issues from my point of view. But wow, how much richer, more complex and more balanced it is now. I am so impressed with his ability to rework something. And that is one thing I know about Lorry, he is the hardest working writer I know. His stories are long  and complex and I know from talking to him he wrestles with them, with the characters, the plot, the structure.  It's not easy for him to write a story, which may sound like a revelation, but it's not. Most of writers I know struggle horribly with their writing, a story or poem can be a bit like a pit bull terrier at times, it locks its jaws on to you and won't let go. You can pull it by its back legs, put a hose in its mouth, but in the end you just have to hang in there, persevere with it. And what happens in the end is the reader gets a perfectly formed work like 'I Got His Blood on Me', the reader oblivious to all the work that has gone on behind the scenes.

I went and saw Teju Cole at Unity books a couple of days ago. He was incredibly smart and interesting and I want to read Open City very much. He also has a beard and bald head. I like that. One interesting thing he said about his book is that he is interested in the narrative of small moments, of individual sentences and then the narrative of the grand idea behind the book. It's the bits in between, commonly known as plot, that he is not so interested in. Fair enough point of view I think and an interesting way to write a novel, more poem-like or short-story like perhaps, but interesting all sameBut part of me thinks, why can't we have all three, why can't we have the sentence, the  plot and the theme? If you can nail all those at once, that is a truly great work of art I think.

I Got His Blood on Me attempts to do just that. The plot is clear, simple, right there on the page. The motives are explained, the characters are tangible, you don't have to scratch your head reading between the lines, there's no ambiguity (at least not from the author anyway). On a simple story level, they are a pleasure to read. But then you dig down, burrow below and there is that other stuff, the crafted moments and descriptions, and of course the smattering of grand ideas - the appropriation of history, biography and the life of the 'other'. And there's no cheesy, easy endings either, this is a work of literature, you have to think to get the full value out of it. But if you just want a good old 'romp' - these stories will provide that in spades.

I will be reading more I Got His Blood on Me soon and will get back on that.

Note: I also liked Teju's comment that he wants to 'use the least complex words to describe the most complex ideas'. That one's still sitting with me.

Lorry has his own website now. See the 'links' section.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Poetry and ebooks - what're you lookin' at?

Warning: this post gets a bit technical and nerdy at times, but had to go there. It seems the tech nerds that design all this stuff don't understand what a poem is. I don't know if any of them will read this post, but poets/publishers won't solve this problem alone the designers of HTML and CSS will, let's remind them that not all text is prose.

So anyway, I recently had a poem published in an ebook for the first time. Exciting, but also a bit scary. 4th Floor is a great journal, with a fantastic editor and brilliant contributors. So I was thrilled to have a poem in the anthology. Thanks to 4th Floor and Whitireia!


4th Floor ebook 

All was great until I downloaded the ebook and opened it in an ebook reader called Magic Scroll. I haven't tested on other ebook readers, but from what I understand they all should have fairly well established rendering of the ePub format.

So anyway I read through Hinemoana's nice editorial and went to the first poem, 'Dear Grandmother' by Renée. And lo and behold, it was mushed up horribly! The very first line didn't fit on the page, it was broken arbitrarily.

The line:
Husbands are a necessary part of the design
became:
Husbands are a necessary part of the  
design
And let's be clear for those people (web developers?) who don't write poetry, this effectively ruins the poem. A line break in poetry is everything. It is in many cases what makes it a poem, gives it it's value. It is used for rhythm, as a pause, a beat, it can change the meaning of the words (people tend to read one line as a complete syntactical unit). It is even used to create a visually appetising image on the page, which is all part of the pleasure of reading poetry. I tend to spend just as much time if not more time editing line breaks as I do the actual words themselves. Okay so that rant is over, but what do we do about it?


So I thought oh maybe this is an ebook publishing problem, like they forgot to turn on the 'poetry option' or something, and being an IT nerd in my other life, thought I'd do a bit of research and maybe help with the next one.

And for the non-technical poets out there, an ebook is basically just a webpage. It uses HTML and CSS like a normal webpage to display text using tags and styles.



I searched and I searched and it seems there is surprisingly little discourse on this out there (if anyone knows where people are discussing this then please let me know).

I found many posts where some web developer provides examples of how to style a poem in HTML/CSS. Most of these were horrible, involving centring the poem and using prose syntax to try and fudge the shape of the poem. This doesn't solve any of the issues I've found with ebooks on small devices.

But then I came across this issue raised by Dr Olaf Hoffman to the W3C (who are responsible for improving this stuff). He is basically putting forward the case to add poetry elements to HTML. It  is very illuminating as to why this hasn't happened yet when you read the responses to his suggestion. Developers seem to view poetry as a sub-set of prose, like say legal documents or shopping lists. And the argument never gets past that as far as I can gather. He is doing his best to explain the elements of poetry and how they differ from prose, but still, judging by there comments they don't seem to get it.

The 'issue' remains unresolved as far as I can tell.

Again for the developers that might read this, prose and poetry are about the same as Chinese and English. In a simplistic way I like to think about it as...

Poetry = Is primarily about rhythm and words to create meaning
Prose = Is primarily about words and sentences to create meaning

Left Brain                Right Brain
Prose?                      Poetry?


...of course this is all fluid and there are hybrids of both of these. Obviously there is overlap. And there are historical reasons for the two approaches and why one now dominates the other. I would suggest reading Dr Hoffman's post if you want to go into that more. But suffice to say, they are two parts of something greater, our language.

So what started out as looking for a guide on 'how to e-publish poetry' turned into an issue at the core of the world wide web itself! Jeez.

I still can't believe poetry has been completely forgotten about?

Okay, so I know poetry is a pretty underutilised form of writing these days, so it is (kind of) understandable that it got missed, but still, most people know about it don't they? Know what poetry is don't they? Apparently not.



So what happens now?

Well first of all the web seems to deal with the issue fairly well. There are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of places (millions?) where poetry is published on the web and thoroughly successfully too.

But the web is different to an ebook. An ebook is also about accessibility and a book-like experience on a mobile device. So whether you have a tiny phone or a massive monitor you can read the same book easily. A great idea, but like I said, at the moment poetry on that little phone (and even on the big screen) looks rubbish.

I see two things happening. One, we all get behind Dr Hoffman (not sure how to do that exactly?) and push for poetry in HTML. Which I think makes sense, but there is probably a whole bunch of people who need to be convinced.

Or two, we don't do that and continue on. Either someone will make a 'workaround' for ebook readers to render poetry properly or poetry as we know it will disappear. Which is interesting I think. I'm not much into preservation, poetry does and will change with the times and with technology. That is how prose came about after all.

But you know there are poems NOW that need to go on to ebooks, not to mention that last several thousand years of poems that would do well in a digital format.

So please web developers, don't forget about us again. And if we can help move this along. Would love to, seriously.

ADDENDUM: Some interesting articles on ebook poetry problems

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/article/240586
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/14/poetry-and-ebooks-will-po_n_645677.html
http://ageofsand.com/2010/10/can-we-trust-poetry-ebooks-the-case-of-allen-ginsbergs-collected-poems/






Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Bird North (the original)


Apparently you can't be original. If you try to be original, you won't be. It will be forced, fake, cringe-worthy. For a while there, people concluded that there is no such thing as originality and everything is a copy of something else, so don't hide it, embrace the copy, the fake, make that the point of the thing.


I think originality is not about form, or style, or saying something new. It is about being honest, it's about finding the truth. And I don't mean the facts, I'm not much for the purity of fact, I mean the emotional truth. That thing where you don't hide from what has to be said, even if it is ugly or shallow or silly or stupid. I'm a bit bored of being told nothing is new, because I read writing all the time that is new and fresh and makes me feel like I'm back at high-school again, baffled and out-of-my-depth.


There is plenty of ugly, silly, shallow and stupid men in Breton Dukes' collection of short stories and I loved them all. They made me cringe and gasp and think it's all just wrong. These stories are so wrong, why is there a sex scene in almost every one? Why don't these guys grow up and treat women better? How can they do such stupid things? But then that's the point, part of the reason it's so wrong is because it's so right. Some of these stories aren't easy to read and they might make you cringe. The trick is to ask yourself why.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pick 'n' Mix

This is my entry for the 'Mix and Mash' competition which aims to encourage use of online content. Seems like a good idea to me. I think I would call this more of a Pick 'n' Mix, but I quite like the act of rearranging other people's poetry fabric. My Mum is into quilting and she makes the most amazing things out of old scraps of material she finds. She made one for my brother that has multi-coloured piano keys made from old clothes he wore as a child.

Words in this poem come from Hinemoana Baker, Lynn Jenner, Airini Beautrais and Bernadette Hall. See Mix and Mash website for their original poems. This poem also borrowed some words from an American called Yusef Komunyakaa who recently won the Wallace Stevens award (past winners are pretty much a who's who of all the poets I love). His poem, 'The Day I saw Barack Obama Reading Derek Walcott's Collected Poems', also borrows heavily, I believe, from Derek Walcott himself. The circle is complete.


The Garden of O

we hear each others’ dogs
crisscrossing the border

moving from reverie
to reverie. a concrete fence

of flamboyant pumpkin vines,
sweet, intoxicating,

blood-orange
bloom. we are ants if you like,

a yellow backdrop
to the sag of powerlines,

an open mouth,
a crow clutching the hand’s

bright corrugations
of being and nonbeing.

as one watered
by the wind

and the sound of mountains,
clouds of double consciousness.

we never hear
the dense blue shadow

of each others’ voices.


Friday, July 1, 2011

Forgetercise


This is a writing exercise modified by an exercise from Ann Lauterbach. Thanks Ann.

Forget everything you know about poetry or poets or language (I can do this pretty quickly, quite often I walk into the photocopy room at work and spend 5 mins looking around for the coffee machine, it's next door to the photocopy room). Now try to remember an experience you had of reading or hearing language that fascinated and/or baffled you. Now write about the place or time where that happened, don't worry too much about the words themselves, concentrate on the scene. Make that into a poem somehow. At this point you can unforget everything you know and make an awesome poem out of it.
 
/* Google analytics */