Dear Poets—

Wikipedia Poem, No. 870

saskatchewan, i have—by a mile—the heat of whirlwind
this whirlwind of what i know… after-time

gotta study and get on with all the whirlwind heat
this whirlwind of preparing for the heat of the best poems

published in saskatchewan o well and study video games
i have—by a meteor mile—the heat of this to do list: quit my hand

i briefly felt like a wonderful person
i really should be studying and felt wonderful

now that will hold my hand and
live in reputable american journals

i really fucked my to-do: quit my poet
i am a very secretly a fearful person

i am very more tame
when i stopped drinking i published

you know… no time gotta study it
i really should study for the heavy escape

no time gotta study for the best poet
i am very secretly fucked

my illusion felt wonderful
i really fucked me: quit my poet

i really should study for law school
i’m so scared — salty poet

i don’t want to step out of this
whirlwind of preparing and feel wonderful

now that i know i need to escape myself —
this radical being — in smoke

“The Biggest Bomb” David Ignatow

Y’all should get real intimate with this gem. It’s from “Claims for Poetry,” a dope book of essays edited by Donald Hall from 1982.

This short essay from 1955 is by a poet I had never heard of, David Ignatow. I googled him and discovered he was the kind of poet who found some success, but always had to maintain a day job: butcher, book binder, hospital admitting clerk, vegetable market night clerk, and paper salesman.”

He was also “editor of American Poetry Review, Analytic, Beloit Poetry Journal, and Chelsea Magazine, and … poetry editor of The Nation.”

Anyway, biographical minutiae aside, this “impressionistic essay” is at times monastic — “I deal with words, I give myself the pleasure of being free with my feelings, my thoughts. I allow them to fall into any shape or color they desire in words.” — and at other times animalistic: “The freedom I write about is for cockroaches, ants, mice, and lice.”

Continue reading

Jorie Graham

Wikipedia Poem, No. 495


“Shall I move the flowers again? / Shall I put them further to the left / into the light? / Will that fix it, will that arrange the / thing?” Jorie Graham

        the astreaccask, this ... binterty 
    a sky, it, wit, 
tatight, thers, the hers 
arrand i pled 

        the astracask, this ... binary 
    a sky, it, wit, 
airtight, heir, the hers 
arrand i plead 

“What Does It Mean?” by Czeslaw Milosz

It does not know it glitters
It does not know it flies
It does not know it is this not that.

And, more and more often, agape,
With my Gauloise dying out,
Over a glass of red wine,
I muse on the meaning of being this not that.

Just as long ago, when I was twenty,
But then there was a hope I would be everything,
Perhaps even a butterfly or a thrush, by magic.
Now I see dusty district roads
And a town where the postmaster gets drunk every day
Melancholy with remaining identical to himself.

If only the stars contained me.
If only everything kept happening in such a way
That the so-called world opposed the so-called flesh.
Were I at least not contradictory. Alas.

Source:  Miłosz, Czesław. New and Collected Poems 1931-2001. New York: Ecco, 2001. Print. Page 164. 

§, by Ben Lerner

Now to defend a bit of structure: beeline, skyline, dateline, saline—
now to torch your effluent shanty
so the small rain down can rain. I’m so Eastern that my Ph.D.
has edible tubers, my heart a hibachi oiled with rapeseed. I’m so Western that my Ph.D.

can bang and bank all ball game, brining the crowd to its feet
and the critics to their knees. Politically speaking, I’m kind of an animal.
I feed the ducks duck meat in duck sauce when I walk to clown school in my clown shoes.
The Germans call me Ludwig, bearer of estrus, the northern kingdom’s
professional apologist. The Germans call me Benji, the radical browser,
alcoholic groundskeeper of the Providence Little League. All readers of poetry

are Germans, are virgins. All readers of poetry sicken me. You, with your Soviet Ph.D.
and Afghan tiepin. You with your penis stuck in a bottle. And yes, of course, I sicken me,
with my endless and obvious examples
of the profound cultural mediocrity of the American bourgeoisie.

from Ben Lerner’s The Lichtenberg Figures

“To Giovanni da Pistoia When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel, 1509”

I have already grown a goiter in this drudgery—
As water does to cats in Lombardy,
Or in whatever other region it may be—
Which forces my belly to hang under my chin.
I feel my beard skyward, and memory
On top of my coffer,and my chest like a harpy’s;
And on my face all the while the brush
With its dripping makes a rich pavement.

My loins have entered my paunch,
And I turn my arse into a croup for a counterweight,
And I take steps vainly without my eyes.
My bark stretches out in front,
And from wrinkling in back, is all knotted,
And I strain like a Syrian bow.

Thus fallacious and strange
Rises the judgment which my mind carries;
For one shoots badly through a crooked blowpipe.

My dead painting
Defend now, Giovanni, and my honor,
For I am not in a good place, nor am I a painter.

— Michelangelo Buonarroti (1509)
Translation by Luciano Rebay


“I am often asked why I write, and I don’t know really—I just want to.”
John Ashbery in The Paris Review

One Long Fucking Question for Michael Robbins

What I’ve learned about long walks of course
Was taught by the whiskers of a reservation man
Lashing a horse
Sterile tracts of pale kentucky blue grey shale

Don’t take them
Or take them seldom by mail
Stretching out like a dying dog
The pickets and Queen Anne

For a loss
They can’t
Be beat

The beat
Across the lawn
The lawn along the limb
Where does nightfall end
And daybreak crown its gin?

untitled, 092920121223

it’s not enough to be
clever; each little sound byte
performance padded; deeper philosophies
cold, carrying scaly sustenance; what is
a poem
if not a poem; a hard
tea-thin blade dimpling the pink
precious flesh of yr mother’s throat

oh to bring her back; oh
to save her;

a poem —

you have to explain

something about sliding the thin cardboard lid off
remember very specifically there must be a comma
between thin, cardboard … my body’s heat printed onto
into the otherwise cold floor, the shoebox shaped like a shadow
but somehow subtly connected to the idea of a shadow
the shadow representing something hidden-aggressive
the next line emerges, rhymes mask with dagger
suggests things are not what they seem for reason
white door, gilded knob creaks opens stage right,
i don’t notice — too involved, self-involved — i must have noticed
eyes close, nose inhales deeply, points of the lips twist up
the excitement of being caught, the rush of causation

you have to explain what you find
you have to explain what you find
you have to explain what you find
you have to explain what you find