Tuesday, January 31, 2012

From ‘Appointment with Sophie Calle’ by Paula Green (a taster)

Young Girl’s Dream When I was seven I believed in God when I was eleven I
believed in the difficult ease of words when I was fifteen I believed I would
always paint when I was twenty-one I painted myself half dressed by my
bedroom mirror in a range of browns a few years later I shut my eyes on my
brushes I opened them years later when I saw Van Gogh’s Starry Night and
so I fell in love again

The Break-up You hear all kinds of stories about love discoveries that lead to
love break-ups but I have never reached my hand in a coat pocket nor under
a car seat to find a bundle of letters nor a strange receipt I cannot open my
own break-ups and share the details these were grey areas is this over where
does that part end where does this part begin if I dig hard enough I might 
find grey pain although the last exit was a sharp and sudden jolt as I left with
only my car keys then a few days later S bumped into me in a record store
and followed me around the shop with his own way of ending ‘I will follow
you to the end of the earth and kill you’ I was out of his life

The Erection You have the habit of catching me out with your confessions
I have never written about sex in my poetry invented or otherwise I have
erected all kinds of walls around these things I withhold in other words my 
autobiography is always selective

The Rival Thérèse Lloyd has started a trend last night I dreamt a James
Brown dream James Brown the poet not the singer a few weeks ago I 
heard Chris Knox talking on the radio to Kim Hill about his stage antics
with a razor blade and so in my dream James Brown decided to step out of
character and do some stage tricks too before he started doing his poems he
ate excrement and drank Coca-Cola when he had finished he kissed the air
with his fingers he then went into a great performance of a long poem that
he knew by heart he kept looking at me in the audience as if to say I know
you are behind this so watch it I blushed and blamed Julia Morison for using
excrement in her paintings when I woke in the dark I realised I had to have
composed the poem coming out of his mouth but I couldn’t remember any
of the words Wystan Curnow was tucked in the dark at the back of a room
with a lectern light he was giving a lecture on the futility of confessions this
became the dream of the poem I have never received


                                            Editor, Helen Rickerby

One of the cool things about the Tuesday Poem, and having your turn at being the editor of tis hub blog especially, is having the opportunity to share your favourite poems with other people. ‘Appointment with Sophie Calle’ is one of my favourite poems, and I would love to have shared the whole thing with you, but it’s a very long poem. So I’ve just chosen four little pieces, which are poems in themselves, to act as a taster. I hope you’ll go and seek it out and read the whole thing. You’ll find it in Making Lists for Frances Hodgkins, which was published by Auckland University Press in 2007.

It's a wonderful book, but this poem (or poem sequence - with long poems divided into sections like this, there is always that dilemma of whether it's a poem or a sequence, or both) is a stand out for me, and one I've returned to over and over. The Sophie Calle of the title is a French conceptual artist - I hadn't heard of her before reading this poem, but her artwork is worth reading about. She is someone who weaves lives - her own and other people's - into art. One project involved getting her mother to hire a private investigator to follow Calle around and take photographs of her. He didn't know she knew he was following her, and she led him around places that meant something to her. The aim was an attempt 'to provide photographic evidence of my own existence'.

In Making Lists for Frances Hodgkins Green was doing something analogous I think - weaving bits of her own life into art. She says of this book 'as I lay in bed for months recovering from an illness I decided to write an autobiography in the light of art'. In this and other poems in the book she is responding the work of other artists - painters and writers. Each piece in 'Appointment with Sophie Calle' takes the title of an artwork by Calle as its beginning and jumping-off point for a little nugget of story, which I am assuming to be autobiographical, but who can be sure. The little stories are charming, quirky, serious and funny by turns - sometimes all at once.

I chose these four pieces because they were some of my favourites, because I think they show a bit of the range of the whole, and because I think they express one of the themes of the poem, and the collection: the tension in self revelation, especially for this poet. As she says in 'The Erection': 'I have erected all kinds of walls around these things I withhold in other words my autobiography is always selective'.

One of the most striking things about this poem is the lack of punctuation - and the fact that its still perfectly comprehensible. Without the usual restraints of commas and fullstops, the words tumble out, flow out, gush out. Wonderful!

Paula Green is the author of five collections of  poetry, most recently Slip Stream (AUP 2010). She's also published a number of children's books, and co-wrote 99 Ways into New Zealand Poetry (Random House, 2010) with Harry Ricketts. She has recently edited a book of New Zealand love poetry, Dear Heart, which will be published in April. There's an interesting interview with her online here: http://lumiere.net.nz/reader/arts.php/item/1615, and you can view her reading some poems from Making Lists for Francis Hodgkins, including 'The Rival', here on the New Zealand Electronic Poetry Centre website: http://www.nzepc.auckland.ac.nz/features/green/index.asp.

And I hope some of the other Tuesday Poems in the right sidebar will catch your fancy - do click on some.

Helen Rickerby is a poet from Wellington, where she works a day job as web editor. In what's left of her time she also publishes books as Seraph Press and is co-managing editor of JAAM magazine. She's published two collections of poetry and a handbound chapbook Heading North. She blogs at http://wingedink.blogspot.com/.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Two Poems by Dorianne Laux

Eventually the future shows up everywhere:
burly summers and unslept nights in deep
lines and dark splotches, thinning skin.
Here’s the corner store grown to a condo,
the bike reduced to one spinning wheel,
the ghost of a dog that used to be, her trail
no longer trodden, just a dip in the weeds.
The clear water we drank as thirsty children
still runs through our veins. Stars we saw then
we still see now, only fewer, dimmer, less often.
The old tunes play and continue to move us
in spite of our learning, the wraith of romance,
lost innocence, literature, the death of the poets.
We continue to speak, if only in whispers,
to something inside us that longs to be named.
We name it the past and drag it behind us,
bag like a lung filled with shadow and song,
dreams of running, the keys to lost names.
I wanted to be Cher, tall
as a glass of iced tea,
her bony shoulders draped
with a curtain of dark hair
that plunged straight down,
the cut tips brushing
her non-existent butt.
I wanted to wear a lantern
for a hat, a cabbage, a piñata
and walk in thigh high boots
with six inch heels that buttoned
up the back. I wanted her
rouged cheek bones and her
throaty panache, her voice
of gravel and clover, the hokum
of her clothes: black fishnet
and pink pom-poms, frilled
halter tops, fringed bells
and her thin strip of waist
with the bullet hole navel.
Cher standing with her skinny arm
slung around Sonny’s thick neck,
posing in front of the Eiffel Tower,
The Leaning Tower of Pisa,
The Great Wall of China,
The Crumbling Pyramids, smiling
for the camera with her crooked
teeth, hit-and-miss beauty, the sun
bouncing off the bump on her nose.
Give me back the old Cher,
the gangly, imperfect girl
before the shaving knife
took her, before they shoved
pillows in her tits, injected
the lumpy gel into her lips.
Take me back to the woman
I wanted to be, stalwart
and silly, smart as her lion
tamer’s whip, my body a torch
stretched the length of the polished
piano, legs bent at the knee, hair
cascading down over Sonny’s blunt
fingers as he pummeled the keys,
singing in a sloppy alto
the oldest, saddest songs.
                                                                                        Editor: Eileen Moeller
Dorianne Laux’s poems bring a gravitas and solidity to the ordinary aspects of American life, transforming and making them numinous, instructive, cause for celebration. Her work is brutally honest, and yet full of a compassion that can transform the difficult aspects of our daily lives, make them seem more beautiful, funny, lyrical, deeply human, clearly meaningful. 
I love that she writes about Cher and Mick Jagger, about waitressing in the 60’s, about old boyfriends, about being a strong woman growing up in the 60's, about surviving in the millennium, working through the existential issues that plague us all. Laux is a poet beloved to many of us in the U.S., and one of our most generous, most effective teachers. 
Dorianne Laux
Her most recent collections are The Book of Men and Facts about the Moon. A finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, and winner of the Oregon Book Award and The Roanoke-Chowan Award for Poetry, Laux is also author of Awake, What We Carry, and Smoke from BOA Editions. She teaches poetry in the MFA Program at North Carolina State University and is founding faculty at Pacific University’s Low Residency MFA Program.
This week's editor, Eileen Moeller, lives in Philadelphia, PA. Her poetry blog, titled, And So I Sing: Poems and Iconography is at http://eileenmoeller.blogspot.com
Check out the other Tuesday Poems in the sidebar

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Haiku by Kobayashi Issa translated and read by Robert Hass

                                                  Editor Mary McCallum

Kobayashi Issa June 15, 1763 - November 19, 1827

Love them! A deliciously irreverent way to kick off 2012 - and they feel so fresh and contemporary, and yet the poet died over 180 years ago.

According to Wikipedia, Kobayashi Issa wrote over 20,000 haiku - compared with the more famous Basho's 2,000 - and of those he wrote 54 haiku on the snail, 15 on the toad, nearly 200 on frogs, about 230 on the firefly, more than 150 on the mosquito, 90 on flies, over 100 on fleas and nearly 90 on the cicada, making a total of about one thousand verses on such creatures alone.

Robert Hass is himself a celebrated American poet. I carry this poem of his in my wallet.

Haiku: 'the perfect poetic form for our time'? Check out the video below and then try the other Tuesday poems in the sidebar posted by our 30 poets, written by themselves or by poets they admire. We're here every Tuesday. Happy New Year.

This week's editor Mary McCallum is a poet and novelist who lives in Wellington, New Zealand. She is the curator of Tuesday Poem with Claire Beynon (Dunedin). Mary also teaches creative writing, reviews books and works in a bookshop. She is currently working on poems for a Fringe Festival exhibition Translucent Landscapes and blogs at O Audacious Book.