September 4, 2012 | by Alice Bolin
The draw of the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s classic breakup song “Maps” is that it is as plainly sad as possible. “Wait,” the band’s lead singer, Karen O, sings over and over, “they don’t love you like I love you.” But “Maps” is also enigmatic: beyond its abject chorus, the lyrics are cryptic, with verses that are brief and opaque—“Packed up / Don’t Stray / Oh say, say, say / Oh say, say, say.” Karen O repeats maps, plaintive and without context, stretching the word’s aaa over four bars.
According to fan mythology, “Maps” is an acronym for “my Angus please stay,” referencing Liars lead singer Angus Andrew, whom Karen O has said the song is about. There may be other ways to read the song’s title, though. “Maps” evokes the physical and metaphorical distance that is felt from a lover who is leaving. It is a kind of emotional cartography, mapping two people’s painful journeys away from one another. This will serve as our foundation: maps aren’t impersonal, objective. They aren’t.
August 29, 2012 | by Brian Gittis
A few months ago, the first poetry reading I ever attended in New York came back to haunt me, almost literally. I was folding laundry on a Sunday night, listening to iTunes on shuffle, when a ghostly, familiar voice issued out of my speakers, interrupting the music. Soft, deeply resonant, and a little like Boris Karloff—or more precisely, Bobby “Boris” Pickett’s impersonation of Boris Karloff on “The Monster Mash”:
This time capsule–like announcement introduced a series of poems recorded by Menashe in some hermetic sound booth for the CD New and Selected Poems, released by Rattapallax Press in 2000. And listening to them gave me the most wonderfully uncomfortable feeling I’ve had since—well the last time I’d heard Samuel Menashe read. Which was more than five years ago. Read More »
Samuel Menashe here. On June 19, in the year two thousand and one. In the city of New York, where I was born on September 16, in the year nineteen hundred and twenty-five. I am reading a selection of my poems from a book called The Niche Narrows.”
May 22, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
Thanks to Tongue Journal and the Poetry Foundation for bringing us this fantastic bit of annotation! In November 1924, Ernest Hemingway published “The Lady Poets with Foot Notes” in Der Querschnitt. It's a satirical poem full of lit-world in-jokes and allusions to female poets of the day, and Hemingway scholar Michael Reynolds has IDs them. The poetesses are:
1. Edna St. Vincent Millay
2. Aline Kilmer
3. Sara Teasdale
4. Zoe Akins
5. Lola Ridge
6. Amy Lowell
The Poetry Foundation has more to say about all of them!
May 14, 2012 | by Alice Bolin
It is an indisputable fact that the memory of poet Richard Hugo haunts Missoula, Montana. This notion might first strike us as innocuous, obvious, falling within the simple domain of legacy. Thirty years after his death, he leaves equal endowments in Missoula, as the most important “Montana poet” and as a teacher of poetry: he was one of the first directors of the University of Montana’s renowned creative writing program and the author of a classic handbook on creative writing, The Triggering Town, that is filled with excellent, weird, and practical advice.
Further related to the activity of haunting: Hugo’s poems famously concern places. He is known primarily as a regional poet, and many of his most famous poems are named for Montana towns or landmarks, like “Degrees of Gray in Philipsburg,” “The Milltown Union Bar,” and “The Lady in Kicking Horse Reservoir.” One can use his book of collected poems, Making Certain It Goes On, as a guidebook to Montana’s bleakest and loveliest destinations; titles of his poems will lead you to Garnet ghost town, St. Ignatius, Turtle Lake, Wisdom, and Fort Benton, finally winding back to what was once Hugo’s actual address in Missoula, 2433 Agnes Street. When Hugo wrote a poem about a place, he made the place a part of himself, and now that he’s gone, a part of him remains in those places.
May 8, 2012 | by Edward Moran and Phillip Witte
A great stag came out of the woods,
Broad-antlered, approaching slowly on the moonlit field,
And looked about him like a king and re-entered the dark.
The seismic shifts in American culture since 1960 have made footing precarious indeed for those broad-antlered poets who wrote in a hieratic and philosophic diction. Eschewing the more vernacular excursions of the Beats or the confessional poets of the 1970s, Plutzik published three full collections of poems, the last, Horatio, an eighty-nine-page dramatic poem in which Hamlet’s friend grapples with the charge to “report me and my cause aright.”
April 23, 2012 | by Bonnie Nadzam
A few months ago, I received an e-mail from a bright young writer who’s having some success: “You can keep a secret,” she wrote. “Right?” And my heart sank. Earlier that day, discussing a gift for her brother, I’d asked my eight-year-old niece, “Can you keep a secret?” She put her hands on her hips and sagely reminded me, “I don’t keep secrets. Secrets are lies.” In her family, “secret” is distinguished from “private.” My sister has taught her children that secrets hurt. Privacy protects.
That very same evening, a woman who knowingly passed on an STD to a partner without disclosing it (privately defending her action with my spouse and me because, she says, the STD is so common), publicly “liked” on Facebook a page called “The Respect and Dignity Campaign,” whereby all likers will “treat everyone with respect and dignity.” The following morning, two poems about secrecy, lies, and public and private matters crossed my desk. My attention was roused.