Posts Tagged ‘poetry’
June 16, 2016 | by Daisy Friedman
Daisy Friedman’s “Dentist Poem” appeared in our Winter 1997–98 issue. She is a writer and teacher in New York.
I love candy, anything really chewy and so full of sugar it stings like a Sugar Daddy. No matter how much I twist and pull, the long caramel tongue lasts me the full Sunday matinee at Radio City Music Hall, but just in case, I’ve also stored in my pea coat pocket a quarter pound of Swedish Fish. When the magician is pulling a rabbit out of his hat, I bite the head off one of my yellow fish. Tomorrow I have an appointment with Dr. Shapiro, my dentist. When I get home tonight, I will find my dental floss, which is stored somewhere under the bathroom sink. I’ll pull the white waxed cord all up and down and in between my teeth. I will brush before and after dinner. Dr. Shapiro knows I like candy and if my checkup isn’t good, even if I have cavities, he will still give me a lollipop. The only time Dr. Shapiro didn’t give me a lollipop was the time I bit him. He hurt me so I bit his finger. That was many appointments ago. I hope he’s forgiven me. Read More »
June 15, 2016 | by Monica Youn
I wrote “Goldacre”—my “Twinkie” poem—in the wake of the brouhaha surrounding last year’s Best American Poetry anthology, when the white writer Michael Derrick Hudson published a poem under the name Yi-Fen Chou, sparking a media frenzy. As one of the few #ActualAsianPoets to have had a poem (“March of the Hanged Men,” first published in The Paris Review) included in the anthology, I was unwillingly sucked into the whole mess. But after my initial queasiness subsided, the controversy stirred up a familiar set of questions for me. Read More »
June 10, 2016 | by The Paris Review
In place of our usual staff picks this week, we’ve asked five contributors from our new Summer issue to write about what they’re reading.
It’s coming. The Mister Softee Jingle will clang down on you like a recurring nightmare, then distort itself around the bend like a lost memory of something crucial you’ll die trying to reclaim. This is summer—and I can think of no better way to get yourself in the mood than by reading Ritual and Bit, Robert Ostrom’s latest collection of poems, which is steeped in nostalgia and foreboding. The cinematic, otherworldly play of images—“bit[s] of dream you almost had hold of”— will leave you achey, haunted, indiscriminately homesick. It’s like sleepaway camp all over again. Or, if we’re doing similes, then Ostrom’s poetry is like an exfoliating scrub for souls. Your tender self is stripped of its winterized, anesthetized hull, and everything is suddenly more dicey and exquisite. Or (final simile), in Ostrom’s words, “it will be like watching a church service through a keyhole”—stolen, mystifying glimpses of a choreographed sequence that feels timeless and charged. Here is the religion you (I) wanted, all stained glass and incense smoke, spooky-sublime chanting and devil-may-care suspension of disbelief; no Sunday sermons or starched shirts: “Cattywompus, pray for us.” —Danielle Blau (“I Am the Perennial Head of This One-person Subcutaneous Wrecking Crew”)
I’m reading Elif Batuman’s The Possessed and Liana Finck’s A Bintel Brief. Though both books do many other things, each lovingly renders a past love. For Batuman it is her ex-fiancé, Eric, “with his gentle blinking Chinese eyes, as philosophical and good-humored as Snoopy,” highly alert and strategic but always sounding a bit dreamy, like a navy reserve intelligence officer with a delusive fever, which he sometimes is. For Finck it is Abraham Cahan, editor and advice columnist for the Jewish Daily Forward. Cahan’s disembodied head, in Finck’s drawings, is either a peach or a heart. He is never quite real enough to be mistaken for a father or a boyfriend, always a bit incorporeal or out of human scale or dressed a century out of style. Eric trails Batuman to Samarkand, and Cahan trails Finck around her aimless roomy freelance days. I like feeling the lasting affection for such ghosts. —Rafil Kroll-Zaidi (“Lifeguards”)Read More »
June 9, 2016 | by Dana Gioia
June 7, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Our editor Lorin Stein talks to Frederick Seidel about his poems, his persona, and the kind of seedy back-alley porn shops you just can’t find in London anymore: “I think it’s too bad, but unsurprising, that this myth of the beautifully outfitted, elegant, elegantly sinister, Baudelaire sort of fellow striding and sliding down the streets of New York has become a way of not talking about the poems. Some reviewers over the years have liked that figure, liked summoning him up. He doesn’t exist, and isn’t really in the poems. Baudelaire is a hero of mine. Baudelaire and how he did it is of great interest. But this persona does get in the way, I think … Personally, I enjoy someone saying to me: I very much enjoyed that poem, I was moved by that poem, that poem really surprised me. I like the simplicity of statements of that sort. I understand they do not a review make, however large their meaning may be, or however much they may contain.”
- Because even hell must have a sound track, there is music playing at Penn Station, and someone is responsible for managing the playlist. Bizarrely enough, that unenviable task falls to three women in a windowless office in Austin, Texas: “Amy Frishkey, one of the programmers, understands the otherness of picking the music that people hear between the train-boarding announcements … The puny-sounding speakers at Penn Station play a stream of classical pieces along with ‘easy instrumentals’ that sound like dentist-office arrangements, mostly contemporary piano and guitar solos—and, one afternoon last month as the evening rush was approaching, a Sinatra hit that seemed to have been arranged for French horn. The result is a Beethoven quartet one minute, something vaguely New Age the next … ‘It’s almost as if you’re trying to D.J. the world’s largest wedding reception,’ Danny Turner, Ms. Frishkey’s boss, said. But it is a reception without a bride or groom, and the 650,000 people who pass through Penn Station every day do not dance to the music.”
- In 1947, a small magazine asked Ralph Ellison if he’d want to do a photo essay on Harlem’s Lafargue Psychiatric Clinic, which had made a name for itself by standing against segregation. Ellison and the photographer Gordon Parks took the assignment, but the magazine soon folded—and so their work is only now coming to light. Vinson Cunningham writes: “In a conceptual note, outlining what he called the project’s ‘pictorial problem,’ Ellison wrote that Parks’s prints ‘must present scenes that are at once both document and symbol; both reality and (for the reader) psychologically disturbing “image.” ’ Parks’s ingenious solution to this ‘problem’—which, essentially, is a re-articulation of what we mean by photographic art—can be seen in an image of a shadow-shrouded man walking in an alley. Before him sit huge, indiscriminate mounds of rubble. Lines of white laundry hang far above his head, between tenement fire escapes. Light travels from the upper corner of the composition, softly through the drying clothes, then slantingly toward the camera’s eye, making the man little more than a silhouette while—somewhat paradoxically—throwing every detail of a nearby wall into sharp, sculpted relief.”
- Today is Prince’s birthday—the Minnesota governor has declared it Prince Day, and I’m wearing my Purple Rain T-shirt. “The Morning Papers,” a collection at Media Diversified, invites writers of color and Prince devotees to reflect on his legacy. Tanuja Desai Hidier, who was many moons ago an intern at the Review, remembers him in the poem “Zindagi bhar nahin bhoolegi woh Purple barsaat ki raat”: “Pulsing purple Om. / Love symbol. Id. / Strumming us home: / A compass. The Kid.” And in “Camille Ain’t Dead, Honey,” Gemma Weekes mulls on his death: “We remembered all his talk about the Spooky Electric. Some of us thought The Kid was irresponsible and that the Spooky Electric was a train he’d jumped on in the middle of the night, taking him off to some traitorous adventure elsewhere. He’d not read section 3, passage 33 of the Town Rules that stipulated he choose a successor before quitting city limits … A growing percentage theorized that The Spooky Electric was a It wanted his light. It wanted to stop his light from spreading, so The Kid was kidnapped, or scrubbed free of glitter and buried under a thousand layers of darkness.”
- In which Diana Hamilton embarks on a journey to define “fictional poetry”: “I realized I had never been writing about ‘postconceptual poetry’ at all, but about something I started to call ‘Fictional Poetry’—i.e., poetry that uses the style, plot, characterization, or forms of fiction … Key to this sense of the ‘fictional’ is a quality of aboutness that prevents overemphasis on form—and on the repetition of the forms that often characterizes the appearance of schools—and especially resists the belief that the shape a poem takes, rather than its ‘topic,’ is always the source of its politics / interestingness / literariness / purpose. Instead, the books I want to write about don’t mind being about things … A lot of contemporary poetry does not deal very directly with its ‘content’; or rather, it seems contentless. Most things that pass for poems today are list poems without knowing it: by trying to focus on the lyrical image’s mediation of reference, they become mere collections of images that pride themselves on their irrelevance.”
June 6, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
In the clip above, our founding editor George Plimpton recalls hearing Muhammad Ali give a lecture to thousands of Harvard graduates, and the poem that emerged from it:
He gave this wonderful speech … It was moving, it was funny at the same time, and there was a great roar of appreciation at the end of it. And then, someone shouted out, Give us a poem! Now the shortest poem in the English language, according to Bartlett’s Quotations, is called “On the Antiquity of Microbes.” And the poem is “Adam / Had ’em.” It’s pretty short. But Muhammad Ali’s poem was, “Me? / Whee!!” Two words. I wrote Bartlett’s Quotations and I said, Look here, that’s shorter than “Adam / Had ’em.” You wanna put it in? It stands for something more than the poem itself: Me, whee. What a fighter he was, and what a man.