Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Five Bits of Gratitude, Wednesday, November 27

Gratitude, according to an article I read yesterday, serves as an antidepressant. Write 5 statements of gratitude every night and give life's beauty a chance to outshout moods. It's not a full remedy, duh, but it sure is a help, an appeasement (I'll take it), and also an acknowledgement of what's at hand, often overlooked. Today's 5, shared.

  • I am grateful for scaffolding. When it's rainy and windy I'm protected, at least one block at a time, by the overhang. So are other pedestrians (hence, and this may be a stretch, there's an increase in community - not only are we in this together, we're under it).
  • I am grateful for my job - enormously unbelievably genuinely deliriously verging on maddeningly so. Work, a paycheck, benefits, the dailiness - yes & yowza.
  • I am grateful for friends who hang in with me, no matter what.
  • I am grateful for fear though I can't come up with a reason why. It alerts me to my psyche? It's real? I get through it?
  • I am grateful when the rain stops enough I can go outside without a coat (the visual: Sarah racing out of the office during lunch) to pick up a sandwich. 
  • Bonus round: Yay for sandwiches.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Wanda Coleman, There and Still Here

One of America's most alive, most caring, and most righteously enraged poets, Wanda Coleman, has passed on. She served as Los Angeles' poetic spirit for years and years. Her passion will be missed. Her poems remain as its testament. 

American Sonnets: 91
the gates of mercy slammed on the right foot.
they would not permit return and bent
a wing. there was no choice but
to learn to boogaloo. those horrid days
were not without their pleasure, learning
to swear and wearing mock leather so tight
eyes bulged, a stolen puff or two
behind crack-broken backs and tickled palms
in hallways dark, flirtations during choir practice
as the body organized itself against the will
(a mystic gone ballistic, not home but blood
on the range) as one descended on this effed-up
breeding hole of greeds—to suffer chronic seeings

was’t hunger or holiness spurred the sighting?
Wanda Coleman, 1946-2013. From Mercurochrome (Black Sparrow Press/Godine) @ 2001.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Amy Lowell Takes on the Moon, and Tenderly So, in "Interlude"


When I have baked white cakes
And grated green almonds to spread on them;
When I have picked the green crowns from the strawberries
And piled them, cone-pointed, in a blue and yellow platter;
When I have smoothed the seam of the linen I have been working;
What then?
To-morrow it will be the same:
Cakes and strawberries,
And needles in and out of cloth
If the sun is beautiful on bricks and pewter,
How much more beautiful is the moon,
Slanting down the gauffered branches of a plum-tree;
The moon
Wavering across a bed of tulips;
The moon,
Upon your face.
You shine, Beloved,
You and the moon.
But which is the reflection?
The clock is striking eleven.
I think, when we have shut and barred the door,
The night will be dark

by Amy Lowell (I don't know which collection (if any) this is from; found it on the archive, Modern American Poetry (

Otherstream Anthology, Shadows of the Future, a free e-book! (soon on our lover's back)

I am thrilled to have my poems "The Quiet Softness," "Today No One Is Your Friend," "The Philadelphia Art Museum," and "Look Now" appear in the new anthology of the Otherstream writing group, Shadows of the Future, edited by Marc Vincenz and published by Jeffrey Side of The Argotist Online.

The anthology is free and online, both of which are exciting to report.  Soon we'll be able to download directly to our palm, our forearm, our lover's back, but for now, an e-book is sufficient innovation.

You are welcome to disseminate, share, and most of all, read!

Other poets include Larissa Shmailo, Susan Lewis, mIEKAL aND, Camille Bacos, Jack Foley, David Chirot (whose artwork is on the cover), Jukka Pekka-Kurvinen, Carol Novack, Jeffrey Side, Mark Vincenz, Dan Raphael, Howie Good, Keith Higgenbotham, Jake Berry, Mary-Marcia Casole . . . and more.

Publication was September, 2013.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Assembling my Poetry Collection So Each Poem's Comfortable with its Neighbors: take 3 with more to come

Less than a year ago I thought it was done. I thought I had a 2nd poetry manuscript and with great though occasionally nagging conviction I submitted it. The "nagging" in nagging conviction is hard to fathom –  it has depths, some of which are reasonable while others are meaningless.

And thus the great art of discernment, one-half the price of being an artist. So okay.  More new poems got written or completed since last year’s book, some quite strong.  I decided to reassemble the manuscript, to add in poems and attempt the ruthless discard. And re-ORDER the poems.

Determining the order of poems in a manuscript is not an act of discernment (which is an art), though remains a bit of a mystery, and there is no perfection. The amount of attention a poet pays to her manuscript adds to its strength, mystique, believability, readability, desirability, saleability, poetry, and poem-companionability. The more attention paid to the sequencing or ordering of the poems, the more comfortable each poem is with its place in the collection. The more respect each poem has for its neighbors.

Poems like poets have egos. They like to be read, heard, appreciated. Yes, there are shy poets who don't like to read their work aloud but I haven't met one who didn't want her/his work read on the page. Poems exist. Existence demands some level of attention. Even  rocks in the desert sense fulfillment when a lizard scurryies to rest in their shadow.

Like a knight I believed in the rightness of my kills, my deletions.  More important than believing I was right, was knowing by way of the internal nag that a poem didn't belong in the book because it couldn't stand up to the others.  It made me sad, but also proud of the others, so strong and noble.
After I made a few changes to the doc., I printed it out and put it in a federal express cardboard-like envelope I kept in my bag.  Since I am working a 40-hour job I didn't have lots of time to take a look, but I peeked some ,took it out for perusal once or twice.  I choose and I reordered a bit.  I demystified various of my false beliefs that in books to come some of my themes might take precedence and so I should hold onto poems for that future time. Truth is, I don't know what's to come. I do know that holding a poem because of what MIGHT happen doesn't make sense.  It's like holding back in fiction, not letting a character take action when the character wants to.

Then I just googled how to order a poetry manuscript (in different iterations).  I read different perspectives about creating sections in the book, headings, or just going arbitrary--throwing the pages in the air (well, that's what I suggested I’d do, on Facebook).  Last week, at his reading, I asked George Guida how important was the order of poems.

"Very," he said. I believed him. I also believed him when he added, "at least to the poet."

Another week, more thinking, ordering (or not), adding, deleting. The weekend came. I made piles of the poems. I think I'll hold back on the content of the piles (except for one, which was, no go).  Finished, I felt the moment. Looked at the poems in their golden groupings. I decided that as a reader of my manuscript, a reader who is easily bored, I would appreciate a little surprise.

And so I organized the poems variously, placing a poem from one pile, one grouping, next to a poem from another pile, a different grouping. I realized that my themes can carry from grouping to grouping. Yes, I considered each poem as I ordered. I looked at what I had, page by page. Left my apartment for my Tai Chi lesson in the East Village, a manicure, a to-go meal. Then I sat with the stack and reordered the Word document. Which took several hours and involved, inevitably, more deliberation.

Somewhere along the line, last night when I was being social or in dreams, I remembered two poems I hadn't included. Added them in. Edited one.  (Oh, all along the way, poems--definitely not all but some, especially the unpublished poems--get a little editing, PRN as the docs say.)

So now I have a poetry manuscript. I will print it out, consider. And I will be mailing hard copy and emailing the document to a friend for a "if you see something say something" edit. It's not over. But all of us, Sarah Sarai and her x# of poems (oh be surprised later) are coalescing, like clouds of joy.

image from Manuscripts in the Kandilli Observatory (astronomy, mathematics and geography of the Arab world), courtesy of Turkish Airlines

Monday, November 4, 2013

But To Discover Same ("The only way two people can make it work") A POEM

Worse and more embarrassing mistakes have been made. I've heard, for instance, that Ashbery included the same poem in two collections. Gasp? Not really. It's impossible to keep up with all our poem titles--which change organically and otherwise.  In my case, I realized last week I'd submitted "But To Discover Same" to several journals, when, in fact, the poem is in my online, pdf chapbook, I Feel Good (Beard of Bees, 2013). So I had to withdraw it.

The most splendid news is I loved writing this poem. A few years ago I'd was in communication with a one-time, or not, junky whose level of abstention from booze or heroin was unclear. He wrote, read, thought.

So that's the "skin pop of retribution." As for Buffalo Springfield, didn't you, don't you love them? And imagine yourself, in a not entirely related retrospection, on a crowded bus with jovial folk carrying chickens in wire cages. But not all the folk are jovial. And how do we make anything work, anything, let alone, it.

But To Discover Same

The only way two people can
make it work (advise close
consideration of  “work”
“make” “it” and seven other
napkin holders) is

to inhabit a fearful present
in its summation of
so times kicking
screaming (being how) thusly
one ends up an ivory
engraved and pouchy corpus

by which it is meant
not only to have now but
now be all and each
skin pop of retribution

and restart natural impulse aborted
when Babar & co.
were stole by lesser than gods

to neither pretend

Buffalo Springfield is
on the turntable nor
that even are “make” “it”
or “work” feasible

and so to arrive at the depot
after sitting in
a car chicken-shit
packed (also feathers, old babies
venomous grandparents)

to expect no one to know
you are a soft kiss on
the sky at dawn but

to discover, same.
Sarah Sarai, from I Feel Good (Beard of Bees, 2013).