I suppose I should also note, for the first time I think, that my main blog on Tumblr is here. At this point if I could just combine them, I would, but basically everything except my own writing goes over there.
Well, I see that I’ve just cracked 1,000 followers, yet hadn’t posted a poem in a hell of a long time. That last piece was inspired somewhat by Peter Whigham’s extremely, extremely unusual mid-60s translations of Catullus. If you can get your hands on his take, I recommend it, although I guess I still like Peter Green’s bilingual edition better.
Anyway, I’d like to express how surprised and pleased I am that apparently over a thousand people care to see my writing, even if many of you are porn/real-estate bots. Regardless, I hope you continue to like what I see, even as I descend back into the scholastic murk of academia in a few months.
Hey man whats your inspiration? Cause your writting is amazing man!
My biggest direct influences for poetry in particular were Taije Silverman and Nzadi Keita. Jon Volkmer was an enormous influence in showing me the kind of general stubborn, contrary mindset a writer needs. Larry Levis, G.M. Hopkins, and Anne Carson were important early influences as well. Later on, I guess Frank O’Hara, George Oppen, Gerald Stern.
I try to read a lot, and I try to read very widely. I go on a lot of walks. Silence is important, but so is collaboration and community. It helps to be angry about something important, but also easily amused. Thanks for the compliment— this was surprisingly difficult to answer,
Well, I think this is the end of my Socrates/Nixon poems. I had sort of hoped they would sort of grow thematically closer and that by the end of the sequence they’d be friends of a sort, but nope. I guess I can call it a failed experiment. Fun to write, hopefully fun to read, but now really what I set out to write (although in any case I do feel like I’ve come out of it understanding both figures better, and had an excuse to read some really interesting stuff about both, so all’s well I guess)
While revising I considered splitting this into two poems. The themes of age lusting after youth and the thread about Lycon/Muskie seemed too disparate, but I liked the manic, helter skelter energy of the two parts playing off each other, so I kept it as one. It came out of reading Xenophon for the first time, a very exciting and disorienting experience for anybody who has only read Plato before. The title and the quote in the second to last stanza are also from Xenophon. Of course nobody seems to think that the Lycon in Xenophon and the Lycon that would later accuse Socrates were the same guy, but it seemed likely enough for a poem.
The line about Ibogaine refers to a spurious rumor about Muskie’s alleged painkiller addiction originating in Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail ‘72. The facetious slur was taken seriously by other journalists and wound up damaging Muskie’s reputation.
I tried to be a little Frederick Seidel/John Skelton with the rhyme scheme, so a certain amount of of obnoxious brashness is built into the form. But if it got on your nerves, sorry. Sorry. Sorry.
Ha ha ha, but seriously. Your poems are lovely and sometimes I wish I could grab a beer or a sandwich with you and pick your brain and talk about classics and poetry and all this shit. Forgive me, I'm Valium-ed.
Thanks! Let me know if you’re ever passing through Philadelphia and I’ll take you up on that beer.
I am devastated because you wrote about the "little bears" before me, though it serves me right for making outlines for poems and never writing them.
Well, to be fair I’m unsure how much that poem is actually “about” them. I actually waffled over the title for a while, because I did really want to write something about the arktoi, and while they’re definitely an influence and kind of a pervasive suggestion in this, I also sort of worried that I was “wasting” the title on what is, ultimately, kind an elliptical and peripheral element of the thing. Couldn’t think of anything better in the end, though, and I suppose in any case Tumblr is easy to edit.
Little Bears, arktoi, they were called. Dedicated to the virgin huntress goddess Artemis, they wore animal skins and headdresses, and on occasion saffron-yellow dresses. Vase fragments from the site show naked maidens running away from pursuing bears- a rite the girls themselves possibly endured with real wild beasts.
-‘The Hemlock Cup,’ Bettany Hughes
The girl in the Kelly green tunic speed dating each president
Of the United States shows up drunk. Washington can’t even
Deal. She specializes in hedge funds. Her lips shaped like a submerged
Animal, patient and deadly. John Quincy Adams promises her
15,000 head of cattle and a summer home in Rotterdam.
Gerald Ford signs two copies of his inaugural address.
He drops the mic and backs away, smirking. Kennedy
Slips beneath the table and kisses each knee-cap twice.
Neither Roosevelt expresses interest. Pierce, aroused and arousing.
Grant sobs into her outstretched hand, his cheeks tough
As a used leather sofa and hot to the touch.
Bush fils barely touches his jalapeno poppers.
He leaves a damp spot on the seat.
Three thousand dead kings shuffle from the forest
For a chance to touch Madison’s feet. He makes his excuses.
She bums Schlitz after Schlitz from a delirious Truman.
Coolidge melts noiseless into the night.
Her planets, she says, match up with Garfield’s
With astonishing grace so she writes down her number
On the crepe paper flesh of his hand. The wound still runs.
Gulls descending on every surface of every surface of Manhattan.
Train tracks clogged with the run-off of senators.
She feels something like love pop like a lightbulb and replace itself
Walking towards the A-line under scarlet banners for the new god-king.
Something drowned in a broad and shallow pool of Grand Marnier.
Good things are happening somewhere out in the veldt, she thinks,
Patriotic and horny robots constructing plans in the national vaults.
Trees felled over Broadway. Brick Lane Curry House closed down
Because of weeping sores.
Socrates rattles his cup against the floor,
He tries to get his thoughts on paper. Poem, will you love me when I’m dead?
Will the prison guards read you and feel like shit about all of this?
Arktoi moving through the outskirts in flight, soft soles
Of their feet pricked up by nettles and discarded fangs.
Young as fingernails, transparent as rough clouds of calcium.
Girl unlocking apartment door with the ancient tailbone.
Notes to "Landscape With a Man Pursued By a Snake"
-This was inspired by the titular painting, which currently hangs in the Musee de Beaux-Arts in Montreal. You might be familiar with its more famous cousin, Landscape with a Man Killed by a Snake, which is about ten years older, also by Poussin.
-The lack of stanza breaks and general approach to linebreaks and syntax loosely inspired by Dean Young, whose recent Fall Higher (2011) I recently read. I hope I managed to capture a little bit of the jittery tension of his work.
-Just to put my own mind at ease, I want to point out that I do know how to spell et cetera. There’s a pun involved, but it’s bad and embarrassing enough that you can just google it if you’re that interested.
-For anybody interested in process or whatever, I’ll note that this is about as rough a draft as anything anybody but me would see. Kind of an experiment in pacing and tempo. See the Dean Young comment. I guess.
15. New and Selected Prank Phone Calls of Unassignated Household Spirits
I’m sure this is going to format like ass but let’s give it a shot. P.S. The second last bit is one of several references to Fritz Lang’s “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse’ in this series of poems. However, I feel like this one is a bit too obtuse and vague so I thought I’d point it out explicitly.
Do you have any Tricky Dick in a can?
W H Y I
O U G
I want to place an order for
Ten thousand pizzas with bird legs
And blood to be delivered to
The following address:
The shack outside of Athens where
Philosophers with gouty knees
Replace the AC every month
To quit its hissing:
As spoken by the god
Over phone lines: sure
Of course it will be delivered
[the nation stoned and curled around
the presidential wire-tap
they laughed at all his coughs and ‘ums’
and when he railed about the Jews
they cast his face in plasticine
to don on certain holy days
he burst out from the curtain to
shout ‘sock it to me’ at the crowd
Hello, is a Mr. Rates there? First name, ‘Suck?’
Here but he
Comes Not When Called
Is your nose running?
To the extent that it precludes
Any normal work or form
Of social life.
To the extent that I crouch
Weeping in a studio apartment
Surrounded by mason jars full
Of blue-green snot,
Pale as ocean foam
And thick, thick.
At the time of this writing
In fact I have opened my wrists
In a tub of warm water
(after the fashion of Seneca)
to silence 30 years of regular
Why don’t you go and catch it.
This is Fidel Castro speaking.
The phone-call tracked beyond the grave!
An astonishing full-length spine tingler!
Is this the number of Mister President Chavez?
As much a voice as a tone refracted over miles,
Over several significant oceans.
I saw his face in the paper from prison.
I saw fields revealing themselves under tree-cover.
Hey I'm an aspiring poet, do you have any tips on writing at all?
1.) Read as much poetry as you can by as many different people as you can. Read stuff written in whatever your native language is, read stuff in translation, if you can speak more than one language try translating stuff yourself. If you have a little spending money in your budget, try to buy a book or two of newly published poetry a month. Find poets you really, really like and figure out what you like about them. Try to find out what works for them that could work for you, and what works for them that would never be right for you. Read bad poems if you find them and figure out how they could be better. Read stuff that isn’t poetry— good novels, philosophy, history. Business with ideas in it. I like to keep up with a few science journals for this reason.
2.) Write when you don’t feel like writing. I’ve found that when I only write when I feel like I have a really good idea, I end up with a huge ugly pile of bloated, “important idea” poems that all kind of blend together. If you force yourself to write, you’ll nudge yourself out of your comfort zone.
3.) Find writers who are better than you and cling to them like a leech. You learn a lot more from being the worst writer in the room than from being the best. If you’re in college this should be pretty easy to do. If you’re not, poke around your community, there is usually some kind of writing scene going on even in small towns. In terms of tumblr, a few poets that consistently shame me into writing better poems are metempsych and lavosxii. If you find a workshop you can join, do so. Even rude or misguided criticism is usually helpful if you approach it right.
We're doing a group read! (Or rather, trying to do one.) The list of book nominations is pretty lengthy and needs to be further reduced. And because you wield literary influence on Tumblr, I was hoping you could review it and send me your top 5 choices.
Here is the long list: http://fernandofrench.com/post/6232204419/the-long-list
And the original post: http://fernandofrench.com/post/6039967297/one-book-one-tumblr
Sorry I missed the boat on this. It looks like I hadn’t set this account up to notify me when I received a message. I just wanted to note that this is a great idea and the current short-list is a really strong selection of books!
I went on a little vacation, and then I spent some hours lying on the ground in agony. I hope you guys didn’t forget about poem. I hope you aren’t all sitting there like ‘what the heck is this. Poem??’
Blest on all-night public access television
Blest by the holy ghosts of indigestion, dissolving in a glass of water
Blest by the speechful women on the roadside, the women
Borne down by boom-mics and press kits, the women
Marching off to Thesmophoria with piglets in dripping sacks.
O Presidential, daughter pawned off on the sons of war-chiefs,
O Presidential, dug out of the scalding sand in 1820, armless,
O Presidential, temple key jammed into the back, right between
The shoulder-blades, and how he blubbered with the wool-selling
Girls at the death of Adonis, god damn that hits the spot.
And how the helicopter tore him away from the roof of the palace
Like the fingers of a god, summer-hot, and ready to fuck.
[And how she explains the eternal return in her little page uniform,
Patronized on the street outside the downtown Chipotle, just trying
To kick back after work or
Whatever, her long days rolled up tight under Leni Reifenstahl’s tongue,
Like a pill, her days rubbing Musil and Holderlin’s thighs under the table—]
[As if something was wrong. As if her eyes were somehow unfocused. Well—]
Pat took it harder than anyone. They say she turned to liquor.
She cracked open the oven and stuck a fork into the hecautumnal flesh,