Recently I read a sad statistic. The average print-on-demand book (the typical publishing model for poets who do not self-publish and who do not have the name recognition of the big boppers) sells only 35-40 copies. Why? Because that number happens to match the average number of friends and family members in the POD poet's … Continue reading Try Non-GMO, Organic, Locavore Poetry!
The new book is a preemie. Expected in December, arrived in November. And it's a Sherpa! Most unusually, a lost one. I figured, if I ever hired a sherpa to see me to the summit, that's exactly what would happen. Nowhere to go but up, and we still get lost. A few people have asked, … Continue reading It’s a Sherpa!
When it comes to reading poetry, I admit to a few quirky habits. Let's start with reading a collection. I'll use as an example Ross Gay's Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, a book I picked up because it had won some awards (the Gratitude Awards or something). First, the ritual I go through before I read … Continue reading Poets: Damn Quirky Readers
What will you have for lunch? The filling and beautifully-messy pastrami and rye? The "who-am-I-kidding?" rabbit-food special of salad and soup? The send-me-back-to-the-60s special of three martinis? For Frank O'Hara, I'm seeing on my reread of Lunch Poems, it's a deceiving mix of prepared nonchalance with a dash of oxymoronic condiment. Seemingly off-the-cuff, many of … Continue reading The Poetry of Prepared Nonchalance
One of the great things about being a feral poet--one that wouldn't know M, F, or A if he fell over them--is discovering poets that everyone else in the poetry world (hint: it's precious small) has known forever. This week I met Frank O'Hara for the first time via his seminal work, Lunch Poems. When … Continue reading “I Am Naked as a Table Cloth”
Poetry, often something we uphold for its beauty and its dalliances with love and nature, sometimes has a reputation to downhold as well. In poetry, Tony Hoagland tells us, meanness can work. That's right, vinegar instead of honey for your readers. As any misbehaving child will tell you, negative attention can be as good as … Continue reading Mean Poems
In their book, The Poet's Companion, Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux share a worksheet Jane Hirshfield created for a Napa Valley Writers' Conference she taught. Can you imagine? Being surrounded by both the poet Jane Hirshfield and hundreds of wineries? Sounds inspiring to me (and rated 90-plus by the Poetry Advocate), but I have yet to … Continue reading Jane Hirshfield’s Handout on Revision
Negative. It sounds so...negative, doesn't it? And yet, in the "up is down and down is up" world of poetry, negative can prove a high compliment. Ask John Keats, the wunderkind of poetry. In a December 1817 letter to his brothers, he wrote: ...and at once it struck me what quality went to form a … Continue reading The Upside of Negative
One theme touched on in Matthew Zapruder's Why Poetry is "associative movement," a term he rather dislikes as being too "clinical sounding," but uses anyway because its meaning is so vast that it's hard to label and shelf as something else. What can it mean? Lots of things, but for my purposes, I'll call it … Continue reading Joyfully Ambushed
In Chapter 4 of his thought-invoking book, Why Poetry, Matthew Zapruder quotes a Russian literary scholar, essayist, novelist, and memoirist no one's heard of: Viktor Shklovsky. Viktor's eureka moment? He claimed that the language of artistic texts is no different than the language of texts used to convey information. Asterisk. Make that BIG asterisk. In … Continue reading Make It Strange