Check out 3rd place winner/NJ state champ Natasha Vargas and her reading of “Ecology” by Jack Collom
out her window
a black cloud
at the shingled pyramid
floating above her
her father climbed
and tried to yank
the roof down
her uncle attempted
to use reason
could it defy
before she pictured
in her arms
lifting the roof
until she put the child
on her breast
and the roof grew
but she missed
its blue mission
the clouds that pillowed
and elevated them
she blew out
her baby’s candle
and as the pyramid
she knew it was
her own breath
the possibility of air
From The Laundress Catches Her Breath
By Paola Corso
Baron Wormser, Greensboro Literary Festival (Greensboro, VT)
Tuesday, August 19th at 7 pm
More info at baronwormser.com
Celia Bland and Shira Dentz, The Golden Notebook (Woodstock, NY)
Saturday, August 23rd at 2pm
More info at The Golden Notebook
Jack Ridl, The Red Dock (Saugatuck, MI.)
Tuesday, August 12th at 5pm
More info visit ridl.com
Baron Wormser, Belfast Free Library, Belfast, ME
A reading and talk about poetry and novel writing
Tuesday, August 12th at 7pm
More info at Belfast Free Library
Jack Ridl, Lake Michigan Shore
Wednesday, August 13th from 6-9pm
Karen Chase, The Stanmeyer Gallery ( 2 Main Street, West Stockbridge, MA.)
Thursday, August 14 at 7:30pm
Reading to celebrate Upstreet Magazine’s 10th anniversary
More info at karenchase.com
Joseph O. Legaspi, Audre Lorde Project (147 W. 24th St., 3rd floor, NYC)
Wednesday, August 14th at 7:00pm
Reading with Ocean Vuong, Paul Tran, Jackie Wang and Franny Choi celebrating “Nepantla,” a journal dedicated to queer writers of color
More info at Lambda Literary
Roadmaster truck creaking up from its netherworld,
swaying past the fizzing lights of a diner,
then sliding like a boxy snake into the unremembered night—
Window glimpse of optimists on a couch,
bending forward in eager profile to toast Fortune
with a pair of giant paper cups—
Oh, sometimes I fear I’ve lost the will to imagine
this comedy, this ugly beauty, this moving-picture world.
On and on it runs, trundling out the bumpkin tale of our species
yet wanting nothing from me: neither eye nor heart,
nor sneer, nor timid idle word. I bide my time in this car
like a beetle trapped on a floating weed, biting my nails,
squinting into the disembodied glare of your lanterns,
but you, you, you are a million dream-years away—
You, closing your India-print curtains against the dark;
you, shifting your haunches, humming your tune.
When I remember to hate myself,
I hate myself for not loving you enough—
You, who never lay a thought upon me.
From Same Old Story
By Dawn Potter
Mark the clouds as they settle in,
as they fall asleep over the city.
Mark that the city’s hum
does not rouse them
and note that the gray escaping light
is bent by prisms made from their dreams.
Poll the passersby about those dreams.
A young woman says choreography,
clouds dreaming arabesques.
A man says academia, dreams
that decipher the glyphs of water,
and the oddest person you ask
because everything dreams of snakes.
That answer stands you still,
unearths you, separates you
from any cherished sense of progress.
You feel a clinging vine of horror
grow and wrap around your legs,
the very snake of it.
But be larky, challenge those snakes.
Gad about the streets with pens
smoking like six guns.
The world picks up speed
with poets out on the streets.
A poet can make the world spin so fast
that the shallow and the trite
will fly right off of it.
for Ellen B.
From Spooky Action at a Distance
By Howard Levy
Jack Ridl, Ox-Bow Art School of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (Saugatuck, Michigan)
July 25, 10am-5pm
Jack will be teaching a workshop: What Can I Do with the Personal Besides Be Personal
Karen Chase’s lastest collection, Polio Boulevard, was reviewed by Library Journal
Read the full review at Brevity
Howard Levy, The Frost Place (Franconia, NH)
Monday, July 14th at 7pm
Howard will be reading from his latest collection, Spooky Action at a Distance
For more info visit The Frost Place
This book, The Bar of the Flattened Heart, is like a perfectly spiced wine with its mix of sorrow, magic, heartache, bitterness, and a dash of humor thrown in to lighten the experience. I don’t think there’s a poem in it that I don’t like, but I particularly admire the opening poem and the poem, “Making Up a New Bed.”
In “Making Up a New Bed,” I love the lines: “At the end of the evening,/ we are, each of us, the heroes/ of our own adventures,/revising the stories to make a happy ending.” I wanted to start the interview with that poem.
Making Up a New Bed
I went back to pick up the last
of the books shoved in a closet.
Emptied of old clothes and arguments
the place seemed different.
I avoided passing the bedroom
with its thousands of stories,
an entire Arabian Nights
I could not bear someone else hearing.
By the telephone I found a note
she’d left herself on an envelope:
Only a rat would run out on you
when you need him.
It wasn’t how I’d tell the story.
Now, clumsily, I will begin to take back my
name, and she hers, not quite sure
whom they mean. No one will telephone,
and begin with “it’s me.”
At the end of the evening,
we are, each of us, the heroes
of our own adventures,
revising the stories to make a happy ending.
With material this thin, who
but a rat would take on such work?
I so admire your subtle wit—it’s almost like an observational wit at times. In the poem “Silences” for example, you write: “He wondered if she really wanted to kiss him; it could have/ been just habit, that perfunctory kiss grownups practiced,/ nothing more than hello.” Do you use humor consciously in your poems? Or is it just in your nature—a way of seeing the world?
I don’t use humor, or maybe I should say, I don’t try to use it. But if it shows up, I don’t cut it out, either. It’s probably just engrained in me. I like your term “observational wit.”
Certainly, it keeps off anger or hurt, the humor, even if it’s not always intended to. Sometimes I’m not even aware that lines in the poems are funny until someone points this out. Then, of course, I’m inclined to go with them.
I also love the poem, “Taking on the Past,” for its wit and honesty. In the poem, a telephone rings, and you keep writing, philosophizing, and not answering, only to end with: “Oh, go ahead, see what the phone wants.”
I remember overhearing someone saying that telephone calls are almost always about the past, though they pretend to be about the future. That seemed an interesting statement, so I just stretched it out a bit.
Could you tell me a little bit about your life as a poet? Your sources of inspiration? Other interests and occupations?
I used to say I’d grown up in the theaters and orchestra pits of Boston, which is only partly true. I did not teach in a college writing program. I worked in a nursery school and as an editor, in that way I had the space I needed to develop myself as a writer. It took a long time. For the last sixteen years I worked as a house carpenter, which was lovely– no committees, no papers to grade, etc.
Could you talk a little bit about the evolution of The Bar of the Flattened Heart?
I don’t know if it evolved. I tend to write poems over a long period of time without any sense of how they will fit together, trusting that whatever interests me is connected just by being in my mind. Then, I get someone like Baron Wormser to see what kind of organization it will take on. I seem unable to do that by myself.
What is the biggest challenge for you as a poet?
Not to get pretentious, but that’s what every writer has to face. How to keep Making It New, as Ezra Pound warned us. How not to get bland. I always have poets like the late Jack Wiler in the back of my mind, pushing me to make it more nasty, if you will.
Who are your primary literary influences?
I always hoped it would be James Merrill, when I was his student in Madison, but that would have killed me, he was so elegant and sophisticated. so I turned helplessly to John Berryman and people like that as models. Later on, Bill Matthews, certainly, and Alicia Ostriker, as well as non-poets–Krazy Kat, Damon Runyon, those sorts. I love the way they speak.
Are you working on a new manuscript yet? And if so, does it have a theme?
I’m kind of just fiddling around, as usual, hoping something will come my way.
People often ask me the question, “What inspired you to become a poet?” I have never had a good answer to the question, so I thought I’d ask you.
One year, I took a poetry course at Iowa State University, not Iowa City where I grew up, in order to write better term papers. I fell in love with poetry instead. Ted Kooser was in some of my classes. He grew up in my hometown, a couple of years ahead of me. I had to promise myself not to quit until age 30, when I started to be serious about it and the rest is history.
I’d love to close with a poem from The Bar of the Flattened Heart.
The Way of My Education
Hat in the air’s one way to say it,
or, thinking like dancing.
The man with the hat in the Magritte
has no head. It floats above him,
above what he knows of the world.
Here inside the window
flowers shift and shimmer like sounds.
How long is a year
or a 45-foot anaconda? One could measure
but not know. Or is it
to understand without measuring?
The second time you see the painting,
it’s still amusing, but like a concept. There. Now
who wants a story? Thank you.
Every time my parents asked me
to do something with my mind,
I responded with my hands.
I’m sorry the world shrinks.
I can walk upon the surface
of a piece of paper, leaving
sparks that look like stars and more stars.
It is not “monkey business” when you think
of the experiment where the two men
measured the speed of light
using a surface the size of a ping-pong table.
May pearls come before spring swine,
er, I mean the sunshine. Oh let’s all go down
to the Homer Spit
and spit in the cold, geometric water.