Tuesday, October 22, 2013

To Anna Akhmatova

Today you seemed to me
a Black Angel in snow,
and I can't keep this secret to myself:
God's seal is on you.
So strange a seal
that you seem supposed to stand
in a church, in a niche.
May it be that love not of this earth
and love of this earth will mix,
may it be that storm-blood
will not run into your cheeks,
and magnificent marble will set off
all the deceptions of these rags,
all the nakedness of your softest flesh,
but not your blushing cheeks.

—Osip Mandelstam

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Goodreads Choice 2012

Thrilled to be nominated for the Goodreads Choice Award for 2012. The list of nominees is incredible, and I feel lucky to be among them. Click on the Goodreads Choice button to vote for your favorite. It's a great year for books, and they are all deserving of your attention. Gracias!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Letters in the Mail

I've been catching up on written correspondence, sending cards, letters, packages. Such a wonderful way to stay in touch. Electronic communication never feels quite the same. It has no fingerprints. No stray bit of cottonwood or ash that blew into the envelope accidentally.

This coming Monday, 4 June 2012 at 6:30 pm, I'll be part of The Rumpus celebration of the letter at The Verdi Club (2424 Mariposa Street), 6:30pm. Performers include Lorelei Lee, Ariana Reines, MariNaomi, Nato Green, David Berkeley and The Rumpus Ensemble Players. The host is Stephen Elliott.

Here's an excerpt from my "Dear Reader" letter:

"...and the nice wholesome boy who might have been bleeding to death right at that moment--who knows?--was waiting for you all that time, in his pajamas."

Come to the Verdi Club to hear the rest!

American Goths

My friend Harry Leeds sent me this photo of him with shovel in hand, gardening with his uncle in Vermont. It's a great time of year to be out of doors, working in the dirt. Since I live on the 4th floor of an apartment building, my gardening is restricted to a few potted plants. But while I was in Iowa, I ventured out into the countryside with novelist Andrew Sean Greer. We didn't do any hoeing to speak of, but we did stop at the house Grant Wood used as a centerpiece for his painting American Gothic, and we made our own homage to this paragon of American regionalism.

Not surprisingly, I first knew this classic painting through one of its parody versions: the tableau at the end of the opening credits for "Green Acres," starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. Most people, it seems, encounter Wood's iconic imagery initially through a wry reinterpretation of it. There are American Gothic-esque photos, cartoons, paintings, and film clips that pair up Miss Piggy & Kermit, Mickey Mouse & Minnie, Bill & Hilary Clinton, Michelle & Barack Obama, Barbie & Ken, Beavis & Butthead and a host of others. In fact, the folks at the American Gothic house in Wapello County, Iowa, have outfits for you to slip into, and they'll even take your photo. As if that weren't enough country hospitality for you, you can buy home-baked pie from the woman who lives inside.

Friday, May 27, 2011

We Heart Dean Young

Dean Young Benefit Event, Thursday, 23 June, 7 p.m.

A celebration of the work and life of poet Dean Young.

Maud Fife Room, Wheeler Hall, University of California, Berkeley

Free Admission. Donations Welcome and Encouraged.

Readers Robert Hass, W.S. DiPiero, Michael Wiegers, Brenda Hillman, Octavio Solis, David Breskin, Dora Malech, Troy Jollimore, Joe DiPrisco and D. A. Powell. Hosted by Zyzzyva managing editor Oscar Villalon.

Signed copies of Dean Young books, as well as specially commissioned broadsides of his poems, will be available. A reception featuring wine and snacks will follow the readings.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


Anti-, the online brainchild of Stephen D. Schroeder, A. J. Patrick Liszkiewicz, Kristin Sumner, Brent Goodman, Aaron Anstett, Jill Alexander Essbaum, Suzanne Frischkorn, Hannah Craig & A. D. Thomas, is a magazine that publishes work which is contrarian, working to break the conventions of traditional poetry. I'm perhaps too orthodox on my own to be thought of as "non-traditional." But, when I work in collaboration with Ryan Courtwright, the notion of what's acceptable on the page doesn't even apply. Together, we make a third voice, and we give more permission to that voice than we would perhaps give ourselves. At least as far as what we'd be overheard saying in public. Click here to read our "Blow by Blow" and "That Would Be in the Butt Bob." A new age demands a new set of principles. While we're waiting for those to happen, we're writing whatever the hell we like.


Monday, August 16, 2010


Found this old Polaroid shot from 1979. My hair is down in my eyes and I've got a polyester scarf hanging from my neck. What could be worse? Maybe the background.

Used to be I'd find such a photo and I'd cringe. But eh....so what if I looked like a refugee from Yugoslavia. Like looking at a wall that's been scorched by fire, you think, "well, I survived that, too."

So I'm older and messier in some ways. But not nearly the kind of mess that I was back then.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Giving It Away

Dunstan Thompson: On the Life and Work of a Lost American Master, Kevin Prufer & D.A. Powell, eds.

The 15th of June marks the official publication date of Pleiades Press' inaugural volume in the Unsung Masters Series. Dunstan Thompson: on the life & work of a lost American master, showcases the brilliant, witty, sensual work of a poet who debuted brightly then virtually disappeared. Thompson's early, bold sexuality and his subsequent recommitment to Catholicism are both explored through the lens of Thompson's eloquent lyrics.

If you'd like a chance at getting a free copy, visit the Goodreads Giveaway at:


Here's a little snatch of Thompson as a preview:

Tarquin, Dunstan Thompson

The red-haired robber in the ravished bed
is doomsday driven, and averts his head.
Turning to spurn the spoiled subjected body,
That, lately lying altar for his ardor,
Uncandled, scandalizes him, afraid he
Has lost his lifetime in a momen't murder:
His is the sinner who is saint instead,
This dark night makes him wish that he were dead.

What daring could not do, the drinks have done:
The limbo lad communicated one
Last sacrament, and, fast as falling, heaven
No longer held a stranger to emotion,
Who, like a star, unsexed, unshamed, unshriven,
Was hurled, a lost world, whirling past damnation:
Circled by chaos but by eros spun,
The devil burned much brighter than the sun.

This bellboy beauty, this flamingo groom,
Who left his nickname soul too little room
For blood on blades of grass, must now turn over,
Feel for the fatal flower, the hothouse sterile
Rose, raised in no god's praise, and, like death, never
Again enjoyed, must make his madness moral:
Washed by the inland waters of the womb,
The salt sheet is his shroud, the bed his tomb.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Announcing Lo-Ball's Premiere Issue!

No Frills. That's the Lo-Ball motto. Actually, the Lo-Ball motto is Our Reputation Rests in Your Mouth. But that's kind of the same...

T.J. DiFrancesco and I are happy to announce that the first issue of Lo-Ball is out, and available at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City, plus other select locations. Or you can buy it on the world wide web at Lo-Ball. The cost per issue is $4.99. That's right. Cheaper than most of the high-brow print journals, but with twice the quality.

Contributors for issue one: Alex Lemon, John Casteen, Camille T. Dungy, Ryan Call, Erin Belieu, Paisley Rekdal, Ely Shipley, Kristin Hatch, Benjamin Paloff, David Trinidad, Katie Ford, Rachel Zucker, Ryan Courtwright, John Beer, Stephen Elliot, J. Peter Moore, CJ Evans, Luke Sykora, Kristen Tracy, Peter Covino, Ash Bowen, Rachel Loden, Derek Mong, Randall Mann, Timothy O'Keefe and Ilya Kaminsky's translation of a poem by Alexander Blok.

Stop by our table at AWP. Actually, we don't have our own table. We're mooching space from Parthenon West. We're plenty proud of the fact that we're as cheap as we are. Every dime we get goes directly into printing. And stuff. So if our website looks extremely low-budget: it is.

We're producing a very limited run of each issue, so if you want to be guaranteed a copy of issue 2, pony up and subscribe. Issue 1 is nearly gone, so act fast. Free Preview:

Ryan Courtwright

Nutbush City Limits

And there you are in the middle of shirtless

water tossing you back and forth on its pecs;

bobbing in a canary raft that's split up the side and

you're rescuscitating it through the nipple—another

modest disaster on the street or in the market

eyes launch you like boys hopping a freight train to anywhere without

the wet hay, anywhere without viscious small town gossip; dawn

and I'm a-sweat at the thought of tracing the tracks down your spine,

reaming around your thighs, careening through your shoulder blades,

steaming across your abdomen—clunky bodysleep, we are habit;

there is no squirmy patch and the first time is religiously free,

listen for the switch in the night

and come away with me, you can work the broken toothed brake and
I'll cover myself with soot,    shoveling coal.    building speed.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Much Better Than O.K. Corral

Don't y'all just love Eduardo Corral? He's consistently one of the best lyric poets writing, and I feel like I'm always discovering him anew.

In the latest New England Review, he has a beautiful poem entitled "Watermark." I was tempted to post it here, but then I thought it would be better for all of us, instead, if I just urged you to buy a copy of the journal, which you can do by clicking the link above. You'll also get some fantastic poems by Natasha Trethaway, Martha Rhodes and a baker's half dozen others. Plus, fiction, non-fiction, translations. You'd spend the same amount of money on a Nicholas Cage movie and you'd feel like dirt. This way you can feel like you chose PBS over Fox.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Dos Panchos

Spent the afternoon with a group of Stegner Fellows from Stanford, as evidenced by this candid shot which Brittany Perham snapped at the Año Nuevo State Park's Visitors Center, and which was emailed to me by Peter Kline.

On our way to see the elephant seals give birth to their young and to vie for each other's affections, Matthew Siegel and I were sporting nifty plasticware, courtesy of Dina Hardy, our documentary filmmaker, (whose "Survival of the Fittest" is getting all kinds of play on YouTube.) Keetje Kuipers, in the upper right-hand corner, was much more stylishly outfitted. Her equally lovely book, Beautiful in the Mouth, came out just that day from BOA Editions. So there was much cause for celebration.

The weather was horrible. Wind, rain, hailstones. So I guess it was unsurprising that our docent was a bit less talkative than is often the case. He did, however, frequently point out the large number of recently weaned pups, which in sealbiz are called "weaners." We saw a hell of a lot of weaners.

Odd segue: congratulations to Greg Wrenn, who just found out he's been chosen as one of Stanford's Wallace Stegner Fellows! This time next year, we're hoping to take him with us to see a new generation of elephant seals. Weaners and all...

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Up on the Rumpus

If you click over to TheRumpus.net (and why wouldn't you? It's the sexiest magazine on the internet), you can read my short review (well, not a review, really. an "appreciation") of Rachel Loden's latest collection of poems, Dick of the Dead.

T. J. DiFrancesco, Jr. interviews Loden, and there's also a new Rachel Loden poem. Three tastes of Loden for the price of internet service.

What, you're waiting for an invitation? Check it out...