Sunday, February 28, 2010

Poetry in Albany

Here's me reading as an open miker at the Third Thursday Poetry Night at Albany's Social Justice Center. The star of the evening was Victoria Rivas, and Dan Wilcox describes her work well:

sad, funny, even angry at times & raise broad issues about poverty & the role of teachers in the education system. She touched on ignorance & lack of manners, teen pregnancy, & the innate creative sense children have in spite of the conditions they are raised in.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

New York Music

All Hopped Up and Ready to Go: Music from the Streets of New York 1927-77 All Hopped Up and Ready to Go: Music from the Streets of New York 1927-77 by Tony Fletcher

The whole range of New York music, lovingly rendered. How could I have been so shortsighted, back in the 50s, not to go to the Palladium to hear the likes of Machito and Tito Puente?

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Saturday, January 30, 2010

Don Jack - III

Since adolescence, amour had perforce been
Jack's fate, if not in every way his plan:
A merry widow led him by the foreskin
to where a chaplain named them wife and man.
Luck smiled on him that time: she soon divorced him,
Took up with Bill O'Reilly, and began
A life of telegenic demagoguery.
And with his second chance, Jack turned to roguery.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Don Jack I and II


She wore a purple satin domino
   --She'd wrapped it round her tightly, like a shawl --
And crimson slippers, anything but common, though
   She scuffed them carelessly -- and that was all.
A breeze let just a glimpse of her abdomen show;
   He cast a sidelong glance. He was in thrall.
Around the capital, a throng in revelry;
Jack stood apart, his mind intent on devilry.


Her father planned to keep her chaste: he'd set
   A labyrinth of snares, locks bolted fast,
Stored crossbows, catapult and trebuchet,
   A crocodile-stocked moat. If any passed,
Defenestration from a parapet,
   Impressment, and two years before the mast.
Jack wove a rope with strands of llama's hair,
Attached a grappling hook: tonight he'd dare.

Just Like Starting Over

I've reconsidered the whole sonnet crown idea. Given that I'm irresistibly drawn toward turning everything into a narrative, a sonnet crown ain't the best form. So I'm going to take each one of these triads and build a narrative on them, using Byronic ottava rima. It's a more narrative form. And with Byron as my model, I'll be able to get away with outrageous rhymes.

               Bob Southey! You're a poet--Poet-laureate,
                 And representative of all the race;
               Although 'tis true that you turn'd out a Tory at
                 Last--yours has lately been a common case;

So here's the list of words that I've been saddled with by Facebook friends...or I thought they were friends. The first canto of "Don Jack" begins in my next post.

Capital, domino, long

Defenestration, Llama, Trebuchet

foreskin, Chaplain, demagogue

lipstick, ambulance, flour

Lexis, Foreclosure, Gout

Higs, cereal, bedspread

Ready, aim, file

Monkey. Pulchritude. Segway.

pterodactyl, wicker, metadata

Leonardesque, flamen, adumbration

 cupid, water, massage

Insects, musk, flag.

Albuminous, Recalcitrant, Plumply

tiddliwinks, tutelage, babble.

Asgaard, flea, traffic

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Crown of sonnets: I

My challenge, on Facebook:  

Mike Snider did this a while back. and it worked for him, so I'm trying it now. And Steve Allen used to it with musical notes. So...anyone...give me three words, and I'll write a poem around them. 

On reflection -- if you can call it that -- I decided to go for a crown of sonnets, using the three-word groupings in order. This one uses domino, capital and long. Next up -- and therefore worked into the hook line for the crown of sonnets: Defenestration, Llama, Trebuchet.

She wore a purple satin domino
She clasped around her tightly like a shawl,
And crimson slippers--anything but common, though
She scuffed them casually--and that was all.

Among a throng of revelers at the capital,
She danced a rivulet of flame -- unique
Even within a crowd turned out for Carneval;
He trailed behind her, costumed as a sheik.

With half a chance, into her tent he'd creep.
Rebuffed, he'd lay a siege -- no need to ask.
He'd marshal all his troops, he'd spread the net,
No wall too long for him, no moat too deep,
An armory well suited for the task,
Crossbow and catapult and trebuchet.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Happy birthday J. J. Johnson

Happy birthday, and some clips from Jazz on the Tube.

Memories of the Iowa Workshop

I wrote this as a response to a wonderful reminiscence of Iowa Workshop days by Lewis Turco, at his Poetics and Ruminations blog. But while there was a comments box, I couldn't find a button to submit the comment, so I've transferred it over here.

His reminiscence included this paragraph:

If these on-campus events are vivid, so are scenes like the one that took place at an M.L.A. convention in Chicago a few years later when, after the annual Iowa get-together, a bunch of the poets from various eras adjourned to my room for an all-night one-upmanship word-game marathon. -- Don was there, and Bob Dana, Steve Parker I think, and several others. Toward morning, Justice, who was lying on the bed -- or, rather, dripping half off it -- whenever a particularly good bon mot was passed, grunted feebly in a gesture of humor appreciated. I believe we kept it up so long largely to see if we could elicit just one more grunt of approval from Don Justice.

My response:

Lew - I was one of the others at that marathon wordplay night in Chicago -- in fact, that was the night we first met. You had left the Workshop before I got there, and I had inherited your title of World's Most Egregious Punster. So when word came that you were on your way up to the suite, there was a hush of expectation, reminiscent of an old Western saloon before the meeting of two legendary gunfighters. As I recall, we did not disappoint.

Don Justice ended up back at the suite, as you recall, but much much earlier in the evening, some of us had been sitting around -- Marvin Bell, Steve Parker, Nick Crome, Tod Perry, among others -- and the conversation came around to Justice. A little sozzled and sentimental, we began talking about how sad it was that poets were not more honored -- here was Donald Justice, one of the great 20th Century poets, in Chicago, and was there any ceremony to honor him? No! He was unsung and un-honored. So we would do something about it. We would arrange a testimonial.
At that moment, the door opened, and there stood Don, resplendent in tuxedo. "Sorry I can't spend the evening with you, gentlemen -- the French Ambassador is taking me to dinner at Maxim's."

Thursday, January 21, 2010

How to Wear Opus 40

Now this is odd, though nice. East Ocean Wearable Arts has a link on its Wearable Arts page to Opus 40. Well, we do have, on the side of the house, the Giant's Necklace.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

New on Examiner

New on Examiner...

RIP Erich Segal and Robert B. Parker
Tuesday, January 19th, 2010
Two skilled and popular novelists died this week. Robert B. Parker was best known for his series of mystery novels about Boston private eye Spenser....

What thought should you give to your title? What you can learn about writing from Tennessee Williams
Saturday, January 16th, 2010
Here's the kind of thought that Tennessee Williams gave to his titles, and their evolution shows the growing intensity that our most poetic of...

Do your research...all of your research
Thursday, January 14th, 2010
Reading a mystery novel by Sara Paretsky in which her heroine, tough Chicago private eye V. I. Warshawsky goes after the killer of her cousin, Chicago...

When you're stuck in the middle of your novel
Tuesday, January 12th, 2010
Ways to jumpstart your imagination when you're stuck in that great slough of the middle of a novel: Do a search and replace -- change the name...

Why it's hard to write a novel
Sunday, January 10th, 2010
You'll constantly hear poets and short story writers saying "You know, in a way, it's really more difficult to write something...

New Year's Resolution #5: Make writing a priority (what you can learn from Dear Abby)
Tuesday, January 5th, 2010
A long long time ago, Dear Abby was fresh and impudent and full of wry common sense, a breath of fresh air in the publishing world, and someone whose...

Review: Adam and Eve, by John Erskine

Adam and Eve: Though He Knew Better Adam and Eve: Though He Knew Better by John Erskine

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Why is Erskine completely forgotten? Actually, there appears to have been a paperback reprint of this one in 2003, but it went out of print right away. Anyway, he's warm, witty, wise, philosophical and readable Adam and Eve, like The Private Life of Helen of Troy, is a novel of ideas, and of a whole lot of talk -- clearly Erskine was influenced by G. B. Shaw, and if he's not on the level of Shaw at his best, he's not far under. As with Shaw, the talk is good.
This came off my grandmother's bookshelf, and fortunately, she seems to have been a fan of Erskine, so there are a few more, and I plan to get to them.
On the evidence of these two, one of Erskine's favorite themes is the ever-popular Men Just Don't Get It, and he handles it deftly.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Played with Bird, part 6: RIP Dick Johnson

From --

Brockton jazz great Dick Johnson dies at 84

Dick Johnson, a nationally known jazz musician and longtime city resident, died Sunday in Boston at the age of 84.

Widely considered a master of the clarinet, Johnson had a long musical career that included leading the acclaimed Artie Shaw Band for more than two decades.

“Dick was a giant, a fabulous, fabulous musician known all over the U.S.,” said Vincent Macrina, longtime Brockton school music director.

Johnson grew up in Brockton and graduated from Brockton High in 1943.

He began his musical career as a member of the U.S. Navy band, and would go on to tour with big bands before returning to live in his home city.

While living in Brockton, he formed several jazz groups and became a staple on the Boston music scene.

Among the luminaries he performed or recorded with over the years were Charlie Parker, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and Dizzy Gillespie, according to his obituary.

In 1983, Johnson was hand-picked by jazz legend Artie Shaw to lead a re-formed version of Shaw’s famous band.

Johnson headed the Artie Shaw Band until 2006, performing at events including the inaugural ball for President George H.W. Bush and the dedication of the National World War II Memorial.

Johnson also paid numerous visits to his alma mater over the years, often stopping in to work with band students, Macrina said.

In 1999, city officials declared May 1 to be “Dick Johnson Day,” and Johnson spent the day meeting students and ultimately performing alongside school band members at Brockton High.

We missed Dick on our "played with Bird" list, and now he's gone. Anyone who gives this much to the music world and to the kids in his community deserves to be remembered.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

I wrote this one with Fred Koller, who asked me for "a Willie Dixon-type blues." So I thought, what about a blues about Willie Dixon? And since Fred had, actually, written with the great blues master, I moved in the direction of that persona -- a young songwriter meeting Willie Dixon.

I am the Blues

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Sunday, January 03, 2010

The Given Day - Dennis Lehane

The Given Day: A Novel The Given Day: A Novel by Dennis Lehane

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Epic. This is the novel I've always wanted to write. Powerful history, blended just right with fiction. Good and evil characters totally believable, as well as the characters in between. Strongly recommended (well, 5 stars would give a hint).

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Friday, January 01, 2010

Happy Birthday Milt Jackson

Jazz on the Tube has a great tribute.

A new poetry sampler

Blogger Joseph Hutchison offers, instead of reviews of new books of poetry, sample poems from books he's read and liked, on his blog The Perpetual Bird.

Chris Lott, on Cosmopoetica, always has interesting commentary on contemporary poetry.

Edward Byrne's One Poet's Notes is still my favorite poetry blog.