Thursday, July 30, 2009

Readings and Holy Tango II

It’s been an active summer poetry-wise for me. Not only am I beating the drum for my new chapbook (and in case you’ve forgotten, it’s called Breathing Out and is available from Finishing Line Press), but I’ve already done three readings in the past month or so, which for me is pretty busy. “Real life” keeps me from getting out to read more often, which would be weekly if I had a chance. As I mentioned before, my poem “Record Store” was published in the new issue of Philadelphia Poets, and I attended both of the book launch parties. The South Philly reading was great, but the one at Robin’s Bookstore in Center City last night was even better. Despite a stormy evening, there was a very good turnout. I was one of a baker’s dozen of featured poets reading, so I only got to read three of my poems, but they got a big, enthusiastic response, and hopefully I sold a couple of books as well. It was an excellent evening of poetry all around. Kudos to editor Rosemary Cappello for putting together both events, and for an awesome journal.
I also read with Kendall Bell for the Burlington County Poets on the 23rd, and that went very well too. Thanks to Sheila McDonald, Adele Bourne and the rest of the BC Poets for inviting us.

Music: Just got the new albums by Moby (Wait for Me) and Son Volt (American Central Dust). Moby’s album is better than anything he’s done since his 1999 classic, Play. Musically it’s not as varied or adventurous, but the man still knows how to write some gorgeous, cinematic themes. Son Volt’s last effort, The Search, was a bit disappointing after their terrific 2006 release Okemah and the Melody of Riot, but this new one is a solid effort, if a bit mellower than the last two albums.

Poem of the Week:
It feels good to say that again. Here is another offering inspired by Francis Heaney’s very funny collection, Holy Tango of Literature. Again, the premise is to take a famous poet’s name and anagram it into a word or phrase that can be a title, then write a poem with that title in the style of that poet. So here’s a poet that everyone knows well:

Dress Us
by Dr. Seuss

“We’re going next week to the Burbletown Ball,”
Said Louie and Zooie McGrundle-O’Grall.
“We need something fancy to catch all their eyes,
So do you have something that’s nice in our size?”
“Oh sure,” said the salesman, a Mr. Galoot,
“Here’s something for you sir, a wonderful suit!
It’s made from the finest Bodinka-cat hide,
with purplish stripes and green lining inside.”
“But the Bodinka-cat’s such a cute little varmint,”
said Louie, “I never would put on this garment.”
“Okay,” said Galoot, “Here’s something for madam,
a red gown spun by the silkworms of Zhaddam.”
“But the silkworms,” said Zooey, “work all day and night,
without any lunch break – I’ve heard of their plight!”
“All right!” huffed Galoot, “I don’t mean to pester,
But look at this rack – it’s all polyester!”
“Oh no, that’s from oil,” Louie said with disgust,
“Non-renewable resource – we must save it – we must!”
“I can’t help you,” Galoot sneered. “You’re both on a mission,
“So now please excuse me – I work on commission!”
So Mr. and Mrs. McGrundle-O’Grall
Finally went to the Burbletown Ball.
They never did really intend be rude,
But they shocked everyone when they came in the nude!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Holy Tango of Literature

I had to share this. The other day I was listening to an audiobook of an American humor collection called Mirth of a Nation, which contained a piece by Francis Heaney consisting of several very funny poetry parodies. Mr. Heaney’s premise is to take the name of a famous poet, anagram his or her name into a word or group of words that could be the title of a poem, then write a poem on that subject in the style of that poet, perhaps parodying one of their more famous poems. Thus, Emily Dickinson becomes “Skinny Domicile”, and T.S. Eliot becomes “Toilets”: “Let us go, then, to the john…” He has collected these poems, and also some short plays by playwrights such as Harold Pinter (“Horrid Planet”), in a book entitled Holy Tango of Literature. (“Holy Tango” is an anagram of “anthology”.) You can find examples from his book here:

I’ve been intrigued by anagrams in poetry lately, having read Paul Pereira’s collection What’s Written on the Body, which contains a section of poems with anagrams. Those inspired me to write a recent poem entitled “Journal Evening (Loving Near June)”. Mr. Heaney now has inspired me to try my hand at “poet anagram” piece. I selected a favorite poet, Robert Hayden, and my favorite poem of his, “Those Winter Sundays”, as the subject of my parody, even though I parodied this same poem just a few months ago. It turns out Mr. Hayden’s name produces one of the most perfect poet anagrams I’ve seen so far:

The Errand Boy
by Robert Hayden

Sundays too the grocery boy came early
in his supermarket clothes, dressed for the cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from bagging at checkout #4, made
my cupboards full. No one ever thanked him.

I’d wake and hear his knocking, yelling,
“Mr. Hayden, are ya home?” he’d call –
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the grocery bill for my house,

Speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven through the cold
and scuffed up his shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know,
about how much I should tip him?

Here's another one - it's not a parody of any particular Billy Collins poem, just his style, which, by the way, I admire greatly. I did lift the apple image from one of his poems, though:

Bly’s Ill, Colin
by Billy Collins

It’s not exactly the kind of anagram I would want.
After all, Robert Hayden got “The Errand Boy”,
and T.S. Eliot got “Toilets”. But my name anagrams
into a minimal rearrangement of letters,
barely disguising the source. It must be all those L’s,
a plethora of alliteration that reduces its flexibility,
though it keeps the tongue busy. Well, it will have to do.
I could write something about my friend Robert Bly
and give him some rare disease, like yaws or pellagra,
or maybe Creutzfeldt-Jakob Syndrome.
I could have famous visitors pay their respects,
and I would be the doorman, running interference:
“Yes, Anjelica, I think he’d like to see you now.”
“Sorry, Colin – I mean General Powell – he’s sleeping.”
But that would be silly. Instead, I should just scrap
the title and the whole concept, and write about the apple
which has been on my bedroom floor for three days,
one lone bite in its side, spinning with the rest of my world
around a fat, indolent sun.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Upcoming Readings

I know I've been criminally underusing this blog, but I can't believe I missed the opportunity to promote two upcoming readings:

Thursday July 23 - reading with Kendall Bell (my Quick and Dirty colleague, also the co-editor of Chantarelle's Notebook and publisher of Maverick Duck Press) for the Burlington County Poets, at Burlington County Library, 5 Pioneer Blvd., Westampton NJ, 7-9 p.m.

Wednesday, July 29- reading (with several other poets) at the Philadelphia Poets Vol. 15 Book Launch, 7:00 p.m., Robin’s Books and Moonstone Art Center, 110A S. 13th Street, Philadelphia.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Extra: The Book is Out!

Just got word that my chapbook, "Breathing Out" is now on the Finishing Line Press website. If you're interested, now is the time to order a copy, as advance sales help me to get to a full first printing. Click the link above, then click the "New and Forthcoming Titles" button and scroll down to my name. You can pay by check or credit card. Thanks for your support!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Summertime, Summertime, Sum-sum-summertime...

Anyone remember that old song? It's been an amazingly temperate, and until recently, wet summer so far, and our highlight to this point has been our trip to the Myrtle Beach area - our first visit. We actually stayed in Surfside Beach, just to the south and not quite as congested, though still quite busy. Our timeshare resort was set back in a wooded area, though, and was very nice with lots of amenities including a pool with a "lazy river". We only actually spent one day on the beach (the ocean was delightfully warm), but we found more than enough to do elsewhere, like amusement and water parks, mini-golf, seafood buffet, and activities onsite at the resort. The best place, though, was Brookgreen Gardens, about 1/2 hour south of MB. It's a huge 9000-acre estate which contains beautiful gardens and a wide array of sculptures, mostly in a neo-classic style, all over the grounds. Anna Huntington, who was a sculptor of some renown herself, owned the estate with husband Archer. There is also a zoo with domesticated and wild animals, including foxes, alligators, otters, eagles and others. The weather was near-perfect that week - hot but dry, and no rain in our area the whole time. We'll be back again.
Road trip tip: We discovered the joys of audiobooks on this trip, which is 10 to 11 hours each way by car. We popped them into our CD player and they really helped pass the time. We listened to Marley and Me on the way down, and Bill Bryson's memoir, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, on the way back.

The other highlight of the trip, especially for our youngest son, was reuniting with his half-brothers whom he hadn't seen for about eight years. They both live in South Carolina, and we had a very nice evening with them over dinner in Georgetown.

Poetry: I finally got word from Finishing Line Press that advance sales of my chapbook, Breathing Out, will begin on their website on July 17, through August 28. If you are interested in buying my book, the best thing for me would be to pre-order it online, as these sales will determine whether it goes to a full first printing. Click here for more information.

I've been rather frustrated because I have missed two of the three summer readings hosted by my group, The Quick and Dirty Poets, the last one on July 10th featuring our friend and former member Rachel Bunting. She did make a surprise visit to our group meeting the night before, though, so it was good to see her again. Our next reading features poet Lynn Levin on August 9. Click the link to the right for more information.

Still not producing as much new poetry as I would like, though I'm still doing the weekly Poetic Asides prompts. One of my recent ones was featured a few days later as's "Poem of the Day". I will include it below.

I've been enjoying Paul Pereira's poetry colleection What's Written on the Body, which includes a section called "Anagrammer", a series of very clever poems that contain a number of anagrams and other wordplay. They inspired me to try one out myself, and I was rather pleased with the results.

Music: Well, the year is half over, and here are my ten favorite albums of 2009 as of today (in alphabetical order:

Animal Colective - Merriweather Post Pavilion
Bell X1 - Blue Lights on the Runway
Death Cab for Cutie - The Open Door EP
Decemberists - Hazards of Love
Iron and Wine - Around the Well
Black Joe Lewis the Honeybears - Tell 'em What Your Name Is!
Melody Gardot - My One and Only Thrill
Neko Case - Middle Cyclone
Various Artists - Dark Was the Night
White Rabbits - It's Frightening

I haven't heard the new albums by Moby and Son Volt in their entirety yet, but when I do, I suspect they could crack my top 10.

Poem of the Month: Someday I'll get back to a poem a week, but for now this will do. This is the poem I wrote in response to the prompt, "Write a poem with a title that begins, 'Nobody's Worth...'".

Nobody’s Worth More than $4.50

It’s that exercise they do every so often,
where they break the human body down
to its composite elements and figure out
how much they’re worth in today’s market.

So nobody is literally worth their weight in gold.
And certainly nobody’s worth ten million a year
no matter what team they play on,
no matter what corporation they head.

And I’m sorry, but nobody is really worth billions,
not a sultan or a founder of some electronics empire.
It’s just stuff, and they’re still just
pathetic bags of chemicals.

To some, life is cheap, and nobody is worth anything.
This is where suffering comes in.
But I say all that’s irrelevant. We are priceless,
no matter which way you take us apart.