Silver Birch Press, a Los Angeles-based publisher of poetry books and anthologies, recently ran a brief author profile on my work as a result of my contribution to their “Great Gatsby Anthology.”
I’ve published a few pieces with Silver Birch Press in the past and the process is so much more enjoyable than it normally is. Melanie, the editor, is friendly and quick to respond. She even offers commentary on many of the submissions, which is sadly far from industry standard.
The piece I contributed to the anthology is called “Oh, Zelda” and lives here.
Thank you for reading.
There is an undocumented age crisis that occurs in the early thirties. Indeed, the onset of this decade might mark the actual “coming of age.” Eighteen is still shrouded by the incredulous, protective shield of childhood, as is any age before twenty nine. But thirty-three is different. It is lucid and stunned and dismayed at the same time.
I held this notion as an inkling until reading the poem below by German poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger, which confirmed it as poetic fact. Mr. Enzensberger, born in 1929, witnessed the Third Reich’s reign and legacy on his nation. So, he knows of dismay. He also knows of changing political views that are held in a personal, perhaps lighter way.
The character in his poem “At Thirty Three” seems extracted from Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook. The professor lover, the Hesse, the men who take no liberties, the batik dresses, the hidden preoccupation with beauty. And, of course the loosely held Trotsky.
Enzensberger’s other work maintains his cynic, impassive view. Jacket2 Magazinepublished a few that can be read here. The Poetry Foundation also has a few available here.
At Thirty Three
It was all so different from what she’d expected
Always those rusting Volkswagens.
At one time she’d almost married a baker.
First he read Hesse, then Handke.
Now often she does crosswords in bed.
With her, men take no liberties.
For years she was a Trotskyist, but in her own way.
She’s never handled a ration card.
When she thinks of Kampuchea she feels quite sick.
Her last lover, the professor, always wanted her to beat him.
Greenish batik dresses, always too wide for her.
Greenflies on her Sparmannia.
Really she wanted to paint, or emigrate.
Her thesis, Class Struggles in Ulm 1500
to 1512 and References to them in Folksong:
Grants, beginnings and a suitcase full of notes.
Sometimes her grandmother sends her money.
Tentative dances in her bathroom, little grimaces,
cucumber juice for hours in front of the mirror.
She says, whatever happens I shan’t starve.
When she weeps she looks like nineteen.
This post originally appeared in Zeteo Journal.
I fear my capacity to guide
Mistake toward fulfillment
At times, I blame:
The flurry of misprint,
of crisis to unscramble;
The renewed promise
of classic self-improvement;
The flat-water buoyancy
of fresh peace.
Other times, I blame:
to words and their construction –
How they unsay as they say –
How they commit to purpose as thought –
How they slay aim through speech –
How they make me prove and reprove this power –
My poem “Said and Done” was published on the home page of the dynamic poetry community “VerseWrights” today. This is always great news as this site publishes carefully curated pieces selected by Carl Sharpe, the community’s creator and organizer.
The poem is printed in full above and, of course, on the “VerseWrights” site.
Polish artist Jerzy Kedziora’s tight-rope sculptures had an active day recently. The sculptures are currently hanging outside of the Museum of Contemporary Art of North Miami’s campus, where I got to see them bounce during a typical tropical mid-summer afternoon Miami shower.
When I wrote this poem, I thought it would be one of those pieces that never gets published. Much too quirky, I thought.
So I was amazed when The East Bay Review accepted it for its summer issue. Thanks, guys!
For Dr. S. Rueda
On the night Chavez died
I needed to feel drunk
So I called my son’s pediatrician
Told him I wanted to be happy
He said I should be happy
I didn’t mention the wine
Maybe he figured and it wasn’t the first time
First I mixed white formula with water
Then drank enough to sway
With the people on TV
Even a teat gets tired
Of being just a teat
The terrible duty is to go to the end.
– Clarice Lispector
The New York Times has a great review out on a new anthology of short stories written by Brazilian Clarice Lispector, one of my favorite writers. The quote above was Lispector’s response when someone compared her to Virginia Woolf, whom she thought a coward for having killed herself.
A friend recently sent me an upbeat, effortless Lawrence Ferlinghetti (b. 1919) poem that I immediately liked. And then immediately didn’t know if I liked.
The poem is from Ferlinghetti’s record-breaking “A Coney Island State of Mind,” which was published in 1955 and sold over a million copies in nine different languages. The poet’s life story is worth reading. He is an orphan, veteran, journalist, world traveller, publisher (he was the first to publish “Howl“), painter, political activist and still-active ninety-something-year-old.
Except for a few poems, Ferlinghetti’s pieces in “Coney” don’t have titles. Instead the poems are numbered, which at first makes them feel like parts that must come together to reveal a larger puzzle. But, they don’t. Each poem speaks with complete independence; some could even fall under today’s soup du jour genre of flash fiction.
The poem below is certainly narrative and draws a full circle. My only problem with it is the introduction of a character named “Molly,” about whom the poem is ultimately about. But, if only Molly didn’t make an appearance. Then the poem could be more fully about fortune’s cookies, and a phrase like that deserves a poem all to its own.
has its cookies to give out
which is a good thing
since its been a long time since
that summer in Brooklyn
when they closed off the street
one hot day
turned on their hoses
and all the kids ran out in it
in the middle of the street
and there were
maybe a couple dozen of us
with the water squirting up
and all over
there was maybe only six of us
running around in our
barefeet and birthday
and I remember Molly but then
the firemen stopped squirting their hoses
all of a sudden and went
started playing pinochle again
just as if nothing
while I remember Molly
looked at me and
because I guess really we were the only ones there
Due to technical constraints, the formatting of the poem cannot be shown here, but it is essential. Please click here to see the piece as Ferlinghetti wanted you to see it. This article is part of my ongoing collaboration with Zeteo Journal.
Photo credit: John O’Hara