BREACH BIRTH Is Here!

My chapbook Breach Birth is now available from Propaganda Press. For the price of a venti soy caramel macchiato, you can get fifty-two pages of poetry that fit in your pocket. The next time someone confronts you on the street and calls you a dung-smeared Philistine who doesn’t support the arts, you can whip out your copy of Breach Birth and say, “Ha! Arts support! In your face! Eat it! Eat it! Eat all of it!” And then you can buy another copy of Breach Birth to replace the eaten one.

OK, that was stupid. But have you ever been so excited by something that your brain turns off, that all you can say is, “Huggabah. Huggabah. Hugga-bah-bah-bah-bah…” That’s kinda how I’m feeling. I’ve published a bunch of individual poems, but this is my first published collection. It has a pun for a title. It has a front cover featuring a piece of art called “Unknown Journey.” It has twenty-five poems, including a long one at the end. I hope people want to buy it, either through the publisher or through me. What more can I say? I’m excited.

World Poetry Day

Yesterday, “The United Nations…celebrated World Poetry Day, highlighting the role of bards in bearing eternal witness to the great transformations of the world and humanity’s aesthetic yearnings.” I like being called a bard.

In honor of World Poetry Day, everything that came out of everyone’s mouth around the world Monday was poetry. As of today, has every verbal utterance gone back to being prose? I have to admit, I wasn’t paying attention. I just talked and talked and saw where it got me.

Sex Is the Mother of Death

They say Sex is the Mother of Death: El Sexo es la Madre de la Muerte y otros poemas is a book by David Price. They say he wrote the poems in both English and Spanish. (I don’t fully understand why, but I say okay.) They say he was inspired by haiku and “Japanese Nobel Peace Prize-winner” Yasunari Kawabata. (Actually, Kawabata won the Nobel Prize in Literature, in 1968.)

I looked up David Price. I found his blog, which includes some poems from his new book. I especially like the first one, “The Book of Laws.” I don’t know Spanish, so I can’t speak for the quality of his Spanish-language pieces. But if he’s able to preserve the artful yet accessible tone of his English poems, along with his sometimes interesting use of enjambment, then he’s probably in good shape.

So there you have it. One more book to read, or at least buy. Maybe buy it, leave it prominently displayed in your living room, and when your next date remarks on the title, move closer and croon, “Yes, but love is the favorite child of life.” Then try to harvest some smooches with the mechanical combine of your twitchy little lips.

I don’t know. It could be worth a try.

March 21

March 21 is World Poetry Day. March 21 is the fifth anniversary of the first Twitter message. A coincidence?

The New York Times thinks so, but it finds it an interesting one nonetheless. Twittering poetry used to be a joke, and many still ascribe it only to practitioners like Charlie Sheen. But many others are taking their twaiku seriously or otherwise trying to use the format to achieve noble artistic ends.

Here are four Twitter poems by big names.

Edith Sitwell: Electric-Eel Celebrity

West End Extra offers an interesting review of what looks to be an even more interesting book on eccentric English poet, critic, and provocateur Edith Sitwell, Richard Greene’s Edith Sitwell: Avant-Garde Poet, English Genius. Reviewer Gerald Isaaman criticizes Greene for not quite inserting himself inside Sitwell’s skin, but I think even an outside view of this strange, complex, somewhat notorious woman could be pretty rewarding.

Rachel Cooke, in a review for The Observer, also finds fault with Greene for not discussing Sitwell’s noteworthy appearance, a significant aspect of her fame: her striking features, sartorial outrageousness, and fondness for massive accessories. But Cooke admits that his work will probably be found “definitive,” as she asks the Powers That Be at BBC4 to transform the life of Sitwell the Spectacular into a program.

Watching and Trying to Emulate the Pros: “Spectator Sport”

I wrote “Spectator Sport” on the third floor of the main library at the University of California-Irvine, on April 8, 2009, waiting for my wife to get off work a few buildings away. The deluge of poems that had gushed out of me in early March had stopped entirely after St. Patrick’s Day, then picked back up to a trickle on April 5. But the crazy manic energy was gone. I really had to work at getting things on the page.

It was mostly a time for reflection, for reading more than writing. I realized I didn’t know who almost anyone was in the field of poetry. I didn’t even know where to start. I had never even heard of Billy Collins. I signed up to receive a Poem-a-Day as emails from the Academy of American Poets. I started looking through the archives of Poetry Daily. I picked through my boxes of graduate-school texts to uncover the sixth edition of Contemporary American Poetry. That day in the library, I think I read my first Tony Hoagland and Louise Glück, their collections found on the right and left sides of a particular aisle. But I honestly don’t remember. I pinballed all over the place.

“Spectator Sport” discusses my evolution from epic television-watcher to scattered yet obsessed poetry consumer and budding producer. I read the professionals as though they were athletes or performers, exemplars, verbal rodeo stars-cum-blacksmiths, each poet “a rope tangler who can / wrangle tropes to fit his or her will, torquing / ordinary concepts into wrought ornamental vines.” And like a kid watching Cristiano Ronaldo dribble past an opponent to score for Real Madrid, I would occasionally stop watching and try to maneuver the ball myself.

Although I had over 150 poems to choose from by this point, something about this newcomer stuck with me, so I sent it out to a few places. On August 5, “Spectator Sport” was accepted by Canadian online magazine The Writer’s Block, appearing in Number 3 (August 2009). If you’d like to check it out, go to The Writer’s Block home page and download the issue; it’s free! Alternately, wait a few weeks for Breach Birth to come out on Propaganda Press. “Spectator Sport” will be the twentieth poem in my chapbook.

Thoughts on Books, Abstractions, Actions, and Tragedy

I have a handful of rags.

As related by Elizabeth Gramm for Boston Review, Turkish poet Edip Cansever insists that “a poem, however abstract its virtues, cannot stand outside of the concrete fact of poetry.” Language transforms nothing into something.

I feel that I would enjoy reading Cansever’s collection Dirty August, the first English-language translation of the poet.

There is the abstraction. There is the word, which brings the idea into the concrete realm of sound and paper. And then there is the deed.

Daphne Abeel writes for The Armenian Mirror-Spectator about Leonardo P. Alishan, a poet haunted by personal tragedies in his own life and the Armenian genocide that his grandmother survived. His abstractions in Dead Man’s Shadow are informed by actions rather than philosophical positions.

I’m not as interested in reading Alishan’s book, because it would make me feel bad or even guilty. And then I feel guilty for not wanting to feel guilty, for not wanting to confront the actual pain of an actual person due to actual events. On the other hand, the Turkish poet’s book might let me feel bad, alienated, foreign, irremediably mediated at a safe remove.

And I wonder what the young Turks I know think about the 1915 genocide, but I don’t want to ask them. I don’t want my language to transform a casual relationship into palpable awkwardness, into something actual and uncomfortable.

Brazilian Millionaire Poetry Blogger

Forbes reports that Maria Bethania, a popular Brazilian singer and the sister of Caetano Veloso, just signed a deal for R$1.3 million to operate a poetry blog.

I’d like to squawk, “But nobody in the the United States has asked me to do the same, ha ha ha…may you absent investors all choke on peanuts,” but really, would I be up for it? Do I still have the chops to analyze poetry, given my status as an idiot not-especially-savant, knowing that people might pick apart each analysis rigorously as I picked apart each poem? Hmm.

Yes. I could do it. So please, rich people looking for a tax shelter, get in touch with me.