I don’t have much time to write today because I’m meeting my aunt. Instead, I bring you a poem by Philip Larkin, whom I discovered on my friend Wes’s Facebook page yesterday. The poem I chose to post is for the insomniacs I know; the picture above is of Ellen Jong’s husband’s cock.
I think I only like love poetry.
(All photographs in this post by Bruce Jackson.)
I interviewed an artist yesterday, and he gave me a little book of poetry by Matthew Dickman. I read it last night in an Irish bar while the bartender, a man from Zambia, tried to start up a conversation with me.
Dickman was the subject of a 2009 profile in the New Yorker along with his twin brother Michael, also a poet, which apparently caused ire in the poetry community stemming from those jealous of their swift rise to fame.
I haven’t read Michael’s poetry, but Matthew’s makes me believe in love, the power of language, the rightness of pursuing a career in writing.
All of the poems in the book I read last night are amazing (find out for yourself by buying the book from "fivehundredplaces," the printing press run by the artist). But the one I want to share here is about two brothers — one in a mental institution, the other outside. I don’t know specifically if the poems are autobiographical (although I assume they are), but I do know that the work reminded me of my relationship to my sister, who herself wages an Armada in her head, one that’s wild and scary and sick with living.
It’s national poetry month, and in celebration, I decided to post a work by my friend Anhvu, whose first book is coming out July 9. Mark your calendars, bitches. Shit’s gonna be dope.
Anhvu and I, upon meeting, clicked almost immediately. We share a lot of common interests for instance, he’s Catholic, he loves Kimmy K, and he thinks Drake is a poet, just like me. He’s probably the one person on earth that truly appreciates my best story, which involves Kanye West. It goes as follows:
I stumbled upon Tracy K. Smith this weekend, in my Internet wanderings. (That previous sentence=barf.) She’s a relatively young female poet (she just turned 40) who won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for her collection, "Life on Mars," which she wrote in the wake of her father’s death. He was a scientist who worked on the Hubble Space Telescope’s development; she is a beautiful woman whose work, from the very little I’ve read, deals largely with questions of God, the universe, and human existence.
The topics themselves seem rote, at least on the surface; what sets her apart is that she frequently explores them by speaking to an unidentified “you.” It makes them feel secretive, romantic. Like the two of you are old lovers, and you’re sitting at a table, reminiscing.
I once worked for a photographer, who now is something of an uncle to me. He taught me how to travel as I do now—in the second week that I worked for him, he flew me to meet him and his crew in the jungles of Belize. I carried with me nothing but a tripod—which, when wrapped, looked like a grenade launcher—a few rolls of film, and his favorite kind of chocolate.
(A picture I took of the Zocalo in Mexico City on the opening night of one of his shows.)
Accustomed mostly to traveling to safe places, I brought with me some pretty dresses, and some cork wedges. I expected to be somewhere warm and tropical, and thus resort-like. When I disembarked from the plane, I was greeted by a man in a pick-up truck, who drove me two hours out into the depths of the jungle. There, I was deposited in a crude camp for a week. During the day, in the heat, I watched the crew film and photograph animals in muddy waters and insect-ridden forests, listless from the humidity, panicked at the emptiness of each hour. At night, I slept in an open air hut, with nothing but a mosquito net to protect me from the wild. If I lay still, the sheets roiled from all of the bugs in the bed. If I turned on the light to try to get rid of them, a jaundiced French camera assistant named Bertrand watched me from his own hut, ten feet away. In the morning, I woke up, and my sheets were speckled from blood from bites, and the bites were not from the Frenchman.
It’s been a while since I last read a poem that really something struck me, in that deep, stomach churning, “I’ve lost something too” kind of way.
I don’t know why, but Jen McClanaghan’s poem, “My Lie,” which appeared in the New Yorker some weeks ago, really moved me. I first read it on the subway, surrounded by idiots, some weeks ago.
I want to try to class this blog up, in anticipation of a piece I have coming out this weekend (which will drive traffic that will spike my analytics, and them promptly disappear, leaving me writhing on the floor, broken and alone). So I decided to do one of my abysmally unpopular “Poet of the Week” posts, which generally are pretty dull and cultured and won’t get me into any kind of trouble.
To begin, I did a little browsing on my favorite poetry sites—Paper Cuts and Harriet the Blog. On the former, I found a piece about apocalypse poetry published in honor of 9/11, and on the latter, when I typed in “apocalypse,” I came upon a news item about a new book of poems by Ethan Coen, the infamous director of films like “Pride & Prejudice” and “The Notebook.” Just kidding, fuckers, he directed (with his brother Joel) bloodbaths like “No Country For Old Men.” But could you imagine if he re-did “The Notebook” outlaw style, starring Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin? I can’t either, so I guess the idea is not that funny.
Anyway, Ethan Coen has apparently published two books of poetry—the first being I’m too lazy to look up the name, and the second being “The Day The World Ends.” The latter was released on the day after the apocalypse was supposed to happen in May, which is a witty “fuck you” to those of you who thought you were going to win the God lottery on judgement day!