Saturday, April 18, 2009

To Abraham Lincoln Issue #4

You're highly entertaining, Abe--hilarious and lyrically dense at times; at others, merely amusing. (Rarer still, flatly ironic.) I like a journal low on production cost but still attractive, with the focus squarely placed on the poetry. I'm a little wary of the similarity of voice inside you, as if the poets solicited wrote their pieces with an aim to please you. I've read other work by Sandra Simonds for example and it sounds a little different from the work of hers featured in here. Is it legitimate to criticize you for Orville Redenbachering? ("Do one thing and do it better than anyone else.") Perhaps not.

Highlights: Mel Nichols' pantoum, "Confessions of a Pioneer Woman"; Jennifer Garcia's "B=R=E=A=T=H+E"; Elizabeth Bachinsky's "Bonus!"; Kendra Grant Malone's "It Meant the World to Me Really"; and of course, PANEL's "The Unknown Flarfist".

"I have a rule about putting Scooby's doo on my tongue
to which I rarely make exceptions." -Mel Nichols

"...Where did all
these fucking trees come from?" - Jennifer Garcia

"Music makes you feel things, and
poop." - Jennifer Garcia

"I saw you behind the cake's largest whitecap." - Sandra Simonds

"...the stars in the arms of the trees." - Sharon Mesmer

"Crap on eagles. Crap on them all." - Bruce Andrews

"Actually the Harpy Eagle is just giving the sloth transport to another part of the rainforest. The sloth just climbed up that limb so the eagle could get to him easier, kinda like hailing for a taxi cab." - Bruce Andrews

Saturday, April 11, 2009

To the Dublin Review, RE: Issue #34

You are worth every single shilling it takes to get you across the ocean and into my garage in Miami. I may even--and I so rarely do this--renew my subscription.

"As I'm leaving the poetry reading a colleague tells me that I have the air of someone always about to leave. Which strikes me as possibly being true. It's maybe the beard. And the pockets stuffed with books and sweets, and pens. And the little suitcase. And the overcoat."
-Ian Sansom, "Diary of 2008"

abibliophobia - "fear of running out of books"

"The Greek word skandalizein comes from a verb that means "to limp." What does a lame person resemble? To someone following a person limping it appears that the person continually collides with his or her own shadow."
-from Rene Girard's "I See Satan Fall Like Lightning", quoted by Sansom

"Ice cream is a good indicator of happiness."

"I have forgotten to cancel the milk."
-Ian Sansom [They still have milk delivered in Northern Ireland - Ed.]

Thursday 21 August: Daughter says, apropos of nothing, 'I have a fagina.' Younger son, inspired by the Olympics, stands on chair with pants and trousers off and says, 'The Willy Olympics!'
-Ian Sansom

"For me, a signal frustration in trying to read Kafka with college students is that it is next to impossible to get them to see that Kafka is funny. Nor to appreciate the way funniness is bound up with the power of his stories. Because, of course, great short stories and great jokes have a lot in common. Both depend on what communications theorists sometimes call exfomation, which is a certain quantity of vital information removed from but evoked by a communication in such a way as to cause a kind of explosion of associative connections within the recipient. This is probably why the effect of both short stories and jokes often feels sudden and percussive, like the venting of a long-stuck valve."
-David Foster Wallace, quoted by Ian Sansom

This poem can name only ten
famous Belgians--Herge, Simenon,
Jacques Brel, Django Reinhardt,
Eddie Merckx, Magritte,
Audrey Hepburn, Kim Clijsters,
Justine Henin, and Adolphe Sax...
-Ian Sansom

"Younger son says, on going to bed, 'I'm having puberty early.' He's 9."
-I.S.

BTW: 3/4 of the way down with "2666". Can see the finish line...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

To Charlie Coté, RE: "Flying for the Window"

I really admire the stance your book takes, Charlie; how it asserts the known in the face of grief, a.k.a. the unknown. In your son's absence, you've examined other things more closely--crabapples, oak trees, birds--and let them be as they are, rather than investing them with more meaning than they're capable of handling. I learned much more about you than about Charlie, Jr., and that's a major component of the sadness of the book--that there was much about your son that was a mystery to you, too, a fact which the poems communicate with heart-aching precision. All of us are mysteries even to the people who love us and know us best, I think, and especially the young, who often seem to possess some kind of wisdom we've forgotten, even while they're in a state of major flux, the people they'll become waiting in the future. The sheer admiration you have for your son's gifts, so completely absent of jealousy or anger, breathes into the poems a voluminous warmth. Some grief poems rage, threatening to take the house with them; others, like yours, crackle in place, last longer.

True to your title, there is a sense of freedom in the poems, a sense of release and openness:

The world above worlds is a prairie
of clouds and sun glare.
Below, the smoldering hearths
shed smoke like irradiated hair.

I admire how unwilling this poem is (there's more of it, to those of you reading who aren't Charlie) to assert an afterlife. The speaker wants to, but cannot. He can only assert the things he sees, hence why heaven in the lines above sounds like a description from an airplane window. He is mortal, specific, subject to time and space, and by pointing out his mortality, he renders his son's mortality much more tangible. And the poem ends not with a question, but with a simple assertion of fact: "I play his red guitar." These are not philosophical musings, theories, conjectures, polemical argumentations, aesthetic stances, experiments--they are records of a man's experience, and if there is questioning, the questioning itself is part of that record, one person flummoxed/awed/disappointed/saddened by life--something he can't possibly hope to weave into a cogent answer, so he does the next best thing, he copies down the few things he can account for.

In other words, these are poems.