Wednesday, March 24, 2010

old poem after old war

Here's a poem I forgot I wrote. This was in October 2001, and I didn't know what else to say.

I forgot about that website, too.

(Haven't forgotten about the wars, though.)

Friday, March 12, 2010

dumb dog

dumb dog barks the bottle
caps       what are their lives
made of across the street
i wish was a river
mountain’s a one way
split in opposite directions
by 10th        which pulls me
by the back of the pants
south         of snow and
garbage (i hope)     nothing
to park but a park
at oregon ave     i walk myself
around marconi plaza
around a statue of columbus
he’s italian     he’s graffitied
on by his kids here
their squirrels
at my feet
for food gone back up
tree whose long shadow
makes a path i follow
to a bench     for a long
foolish time i thought
i’d succeeded
in failing to follow
in my father’s footsteps
but look there’s nothing
to do but respect that
man til the day i die
while we grow stranger
and stranger
toward one another
i know enough to know
he never knew
where he was
i know the scattered
grown into heart
i can watch it here
in front of me
on broad street which
passes itself up
what wife what good
it says
i keep my walls blank too
every day the page
so i’m something
to say
by just stepping in a room
churchbell in throat
makes me noon
there is nothing
there is nothing
but a weak ‘come back
to me love you are
the realest thing
i ever found in this city
that bore me’
a wash    spat up    sitting
now numbly indignant
if not dead in
the laundromat
holmquest calls to say
he’s back in town
a rope
to catch hold of
we need these
like quarters for pool
at a bar
tonight i’ll call you
when i get outta
this place

hard of hearing

the basic formula, to quote
my friend quoting her friend
quoting a friend, etc:
hurt people hurt people.

               --for Darcy Sebright

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Elective Affinities

A few of my poems, as well as a poetics statement are now part of Elective Affinities: a Cooperative Anthology of Contemporary U.S. Poetry, edited by Carlos Soto Román. The contributors also become editors. The idea is to "chart our own literary map where affinites, differences, and unexpected connections coexist in an ongoing, collective construction." I've followed this anthology - which is a blog website - with interest, and one reason is I'm curious who other poets name as their affinities, as those choices will determine the directions in which the anthology spirals outward.

What does "affinity" mean? After Carlos asked me to send work, including a list of five affinities, I made this long list of influences and then struggled to whittle it down. He let me have 11. I decided that an affinity would be not only a living poet whose work has influenced me deeply, but a poet I've met and conversed with, someone whose ideas about poetry often ring in my head. Of all the writing that's influenced my own, the work of those eleven is most directly in dialogue with mine.

The nature of the anthology foregrounds dialogue, community, even localism as the project expands to various places. Its unpredictability might help it avoid the pitfalls of typical anthologies, which have to draw stricter boundaries and are bound to be criticized for their shortsightedness, exclusivity or editorial judgment. At this point, the only criticism of Elective Affinities I can anticipate would be what Jacob Russell calls "The Lost Gatekeeper Lament" - which is ideologically opposed to "affinities" of artists and is willfully blind to the vibrant literary communities that exist right now (that you can find in Philadelphia, for example). I recommend Russell's recent post about this - he picks apart one such lament from The Chronicle of Higher Education.

My affinities turned out to be mostly Philadelphia-based writers. But perhaps another concern: they were also mostly white men from a similar class background. How bout that. It's interesting to me how the project might illustrate lines of class, race, gender and age in poetry circles. But especially class, since the work of all of those eleven poets addresses on some level class conflict or economic disparity and its social effects, and this topic - which seems to me very politically urgent - is by and large ignored in much of the American media I encounter, including poetry - and that ignorance is destructive. (It also happens that this concern is usually absent from the Gatekeeper Laments.)

In a letter Gil Ott wrote me once (in 2002) he lamented the fact that the United States has become so stratified that it is not only possible but likely that when one travels through this country one does so without leaving one's own social class. Gil's writing has taught me a few things about traveling, inner landscapes and texts included. One is that traveling is not vacationing.

Elective Affinites is ongoing, and I like that, too - and that it's happening in 14 other countries. I'm curious to see where it goes.