Minneapolis Convention Center | April 10, 2015

Episode 118: A Reading by LSU Press Poets

(Kelly Cherry, Alice Friman, David Kirby, Anya Silver) LSU Press has been at the forefront of university-press publishing for seventy-nine years. This reading showcases four poets reading from the most recent of their LSU books - four poets whose exciting work not only celebrates the many successful years of this press but also affirms its commitment to publishing the finest of poetry. The poets will also read from the work of our missing panelist, the late Claudia Emerson, to whom the readings will be dedicated.

Published Date: March 9, 2016


Speaker 1 (00:00:04):

Welcome to the A W P podcast series. This event was recorded at the 2015 A W P conference in Minneapolis. The recording features Kelly Cherry, Alice Freeman, David Kirby, and Anya Silver. You will now hear Alice Freeman provide introductions.

Speaker 2 (00:00:33):

This panel is an unabashed celebration, a toast to L S U press and its 80 year history and to all the fine poets, it has published each book, a beauty, carefully crafted and lovingly produced. Of the four Pulitzer prizes, the press has garnered, three of them are for poetry, Henry Taylor's The Flying Change, Liesel Muellers Alive together and of course Claudia Emerson's late wife L S U has been a champion for poets. I only wish I had a bigger day stretching out both directions, all the way to include all of them. Unfortunately, as you can see, there are only four of us here, four of us, and an empty chair.

Speaker 2 (00:01:40):

The empty chair belongs to our missing colleague, Claudia Emerson, who was to be here. She died on December the fourth mere four months ago. However, it seems that our panel cannot let go so easily not of her nor of her art because she belongs here with us. We dedicate this reading to her and her work. Since she isn't here to be introduced. Perhaps what Artie Smith said will serve visceral and vernacular. Her poems unfold with a quiet fury and generous compassion. Even her most personal verse explores the wellsprings of sorrow and joy in all of us. My only consolation over her loss is that she left many new poems in which her voice is vibrant and her spirit shining.

Speaker 2 (00:02:56):

Our panel is made up of poets who have brought out an L S U book this past year. Each of us will include a Claudia Emerson poem in their reading. As I said before, this panel is a celebration of L S U Press of the Life and work of Claudia Emerson of brand new books and of all of us and you who struggle with language to make meaning. I'm going to introduce the works here and then I'm going to sit down and let a rip. Our first reader is Anya Silver, this gorgeous one over here, Anya Silver, has published two books with L Ss U, the 93rd name of God, 2010, and I watched You Disappear 2014, which was named a finalist for the Julie Suck Award, one of the top 10 books of poetry for 2014 by the Christian century and one of the top 12 by image. Her third manuscript from Nothing will be published by L SS U in 2016. Anya Silva is professor of English at Mercer University in Macon, Georgia.

Speaker 2 (00:04:28):

Kelly Cherry as published 23 full length books, nine chap books, two translations of classical drama forthcoming. This spring are 12 women in a country called America, a collection of stories and a chap book of poetry titled Physics for Poets. Her most recent L S U book is The Life and Death of Poems published in 2013. Alice Fryman sixth full length collection is the view from Saturn from L S U Press. Her previous collection is Lum L Ss U, for which she won the 2012 Georgia Author of the Year Award in poetry. She's a recipient of a 2012 Push God prize is included in the best American poetry 2009 and has been published in 14 countries. Fryman lives in Milledgeville, Georgia where she is poetry and residence at Georgia College. Her podcast series Ask Alice is sponsored by the Georgia College M F A program and you can see it on YouTube, but I warn you, if you just type in Ask Alice, you'll get a sex answering show. So you have to say, Alice Fryman poet, ask Alice. And then although you know that might not be a bad idea, David Kirby's collection The House on Boulevard Street new and selected poems was a finalist for the National Book Award in 2007. Kirby is the author of Little Richard, the Birth of Rock and Roll, which the Times' literary supplement of London called A Hymn of Praise to the Emancipatory Power of Nonsense. His forthcoming LS U collection is Get Up please for more information. See www david kirby.com or just ask him

Speaker 3 (00:06:42):

Good afternoon. Thank you so much for being here. This is really an honor and a pleasure. I'm going to begin with a poem by Claudia Emerson and I had just met her over Facebook a couple months before she passed, and this is a poem of hers that I really like. It's from a new anthology called Poetry and Medicine. The x-rays, by the time they saw what they were looking at, it was already risen into the bones of her chest. They could show you then the lungs were white with it. They said it was like salt and water that hard to see as separate and would be that hard to remove like moonlight, dissolved and fog in the dense web of vessels. You say now you kept them longer than you should have those shadow photographs of the closed room of her body while you wandered around inside yourself as though inside another room she had abandoned to her absence to barren light and air, the one indistinguishable from the other.

Speaker 3 (00:07:57):

I'm going to begin with the poem that I always in my readings with. This is from my first book and a can I'm sure you all know is a hymn of praise. And the most famous one is probably St. Francis Canticle of the Sun. Mine has a more domestic object of affection can of the washing machine be praised, my Lord for the washing machine who swingle flailed the soiled and stained for he ministers to the splott, the blotch. The spattered cuff be praised, my Lord, for your spirit that comes upon him for his jump and whirl and jug, jug, jug. My infant son slept on his shaking back. The meek love him and to cling to his sides. For the flange which shakes the floorboards sends the cap beneath the bed be praised, my Lord for the agitator through whose pivot and plunge into tub, many of the most smudged are cleaned, be praised, my Lord for the delicate cycle in which lace and wool can Eddie edi. Blessed is the soapy breath that sweetens each room of my house, praise and bless the Lord whose will is done by these god's servants ringer pulley drum.

Speaker 3 (00:09:33):

This poem is a gazal. It's a series of couplets and each couplet includes the phrase, the name of God. And it's really not a narrative, it's just a series of images. The name of God, like a baker, swaddling the juice and heft of apples and pastry. I want my mouth to cradle, the delicious name of God kissing the Torah. I breathe the dust that has laying on the name of God. Imagine ink on my drawn breath. I will dream myself into the body of a bee. I will enter the honeycomb and sip the scent of blackberry in the golden name of God. I will open the windows of my house so the name of God can write itself on my walls with pigment of breeze and a pollen with stylus tipped in light. If my heart were an amber room, I would inscribe the name of God over its doorways and once a year I would flame it down to spicy smoke and oil. When I was a girl, I drank from the chalice and felt the wine's heat travel down my bones, each pressed grapes drop a lit with the secret name of God and later full of grief, I let a woman press hard against my spine and felt life rushing again through my body, releasing the clenched up name of God. I want the name of God to frost over my sight, to loop the tides to my ears. How can I be frightened with those vowels in my lungs flaring like paper lanterns.

Speaker 3 (00:11:31):

Now one thing I have in common with Claudia is that I also have breast cancer and it took a while to write about. This is one of the first poems I wrote about that experience. It might help to know that this also references a miscarriage as well as a diagnosis of breast cancer to my body. Open yourself to me. You have suffered great losses. Hands have breached your thresholds. You have delivered the dead and the living you have bled your glands. Linings fat have been raked and exhumed, body poisoned, cut burned. Too tired to rise. You've risen how easily I used to slip from my wet bathing suits leaving slick skins on the bathroom floor. Even now O body, I will not believe the evidence the stitched flesh and puckered flap our time together is short. Do not leave me

Speaker 3 (00:12:46):

Well. After five years of remission, I was diagnosed as stage four, which means that my cancer is incurable. And when somebody becomes stage four, it's a very isolating experience because you're not only isolated from the world of the healthy, but you're also isolated from others in the cancer community who are not stage four because they don't want to be you, you're what they don't want to be. So it's a kind of double isolation. But within that small country, one can make very, very close and deep friendships. And I'd like to dedicate this poem to Claudia and to my friend Coray who just died last week. This is an allegory stage four. Suddenly gloved hands empty the rooms of my house and I'm told to take only what I can carry. Faces turn away from me. I'm taboo now. The boat I'm set inside is crowded with others like myself.

Speaker 3 (00:13:50):

They come from their own cities cautiously. We take each other's hands and to trade stories. We learn of the lucky few who are able to return, who cross back over and in time. Their shame comes to be known as victory. We use words that once embarrassed us, courage, prayer, miracle and always we long for our old homes. We draw scarves over our faces when we weep singing the songs of our ancestors. In this exile, no pillar of dust and fire guides us. Our passports have been stamped. Our wrists and collarbone have been marked. Even when the old promises begin to fail away, when we see less clearly the gardens of our former lands still we are together friends and we know what our beloveds do not yet know. We can see through each other to the lapping silence beyond the Milky Way.

Speaker 3 (00:15:02):

I like to write poems at fairytales because they have such depth and they're applicable to so many different situations and they're my first love. So when I was trying to write about cancer in a non-personal way, I turned to fairytales and this one is based on a Grimm's fairytale called The Three Little Men in the Woods. And what's important to remember about fairytales? There's know what fairytales is that early on preen enlightenment, sometimes two characters would do the exact same thing and one would be punished and one would be rewarded and there was no rhyme or reason. And it wasn't until the enlightenment when the grs after which the grims rewrote the fairytales that they rewarded good and punished evil. But before then there was not such a clear distinction and this poem goes back to that earlier kind of fairytale. It's called strawberries and snow belief comes easily to the ill miracles fall from their lips like gems are worn like secret amulets, A woman I'm told brushed her steps of snow and found the very thing she craved strawberries fresh as early summer dimpled sweet and red beneath the rhyme, pink climbed back to her ailing cheeks the way new blood makes the body sing.

Speaker 3 (00:16:20):

And yet no one talks of her sister who also searched, found nothing there. She swept and swept until she fell. I've been so good. She wept. The wind remorseless over earth that wouldn't bear the body. Singing is an illusion to the blood transfusion because when one has a blood transfusion it makes your skin pinker in a sort of vampiric way. Alright, well this doesn't need an intro. It's just about the glorious experience of leaving a hospital after you've been imprisoned in one for a while and that feeling of freedom leaving the hospital as the doors glide shut behind me, the world flares back into being. I exist again, recover myself, sunlight, undimmed by dark pains, the heat on my arms, the earth's breath, the wind tongues me to my feet like a dough licking her newborn fawn at my back days measured by vital signs my mouth opened an arm extended the nighttime cries of a man withered child sized by cancer and the bells of emptied IVs tolling through hallways before me life, mysterious, ordinary, holding off pain with its muscular wings as I stepped to the curb and orange moth dives into the basket of roses that lately stood on my sick room table and the petals yield to its persistent nudge, opening manifold and a golden.

Speaker 3 (00:18:17):

And I'll just read one more.

Speaker 3 (00:18:20):

This is a short poem. It's called Russian Russian bells and in my poems, but God, sometimes God's a he, God's a she. Sometimes God doesn't have a pronoun in this one. God is a she and there's nothing else you really need to know about it. Russian bells. I'd like to scale the cord in the vibrating dark the way as a child I clung to a nodded rope and kicked myself back from a tree into the arc and a blur of summer air. That's the prayer I want to open my mouth and ring with my mother's voice, my heart like a shattered peony, musky pedal after pedal unpeeling peeling. Thank you.

Speaker 4 (00:19:20):

My pick from Claudia's poems is Animal funerals 1964. It's about the deaths of all those pets that we loved and lost and it's kind of sad and charming at the same time. If it's in it ends in a Claudia way with a very dark adult Last line.

Speaker 4 (00:19:46):

That summer we did not simply walk through the valley of the shadow of death. We set up camp there orchestrating funerals for the anonymous found dead, A drowned mole. Its small, naked palm, still pink, a crushed box turtle, green snake, even a lonely lowly toad. The last and most elaborate of the burials was for a common J identifiable but light and dry its eyes vacant orbits. We built a delicate lich gate of Willow France, supple green laced through with chains of silk clover. Straggling congregation. We recited what we could of the psalm about green pastures as we lowered the shoebox and its wilted Paul of dandelions into the shallow grave. One of us had dug with a serving spoon that afternoon just before September in school when we would again become children and blind to all but the blackboard talking lessons the back of someone's head and what was for a while longer the rarer human death there in the heat shimmered trees in the matted grasses where we stood even in the slant of humid shade we heard wing beat, slither buzz and bird song, A green racket rising to fall as though in a joyous dirge that was real and not part of our many necessary rehearsals.

Speaker 4 (00:21:44):

A wonderful poet. The first poem in the life and death of poetry is called witch is a verb. Much of this book is about language, although it extends the definition of language to quite an extent. We fell out of eternity into time, which is a verb. Life was rushing past us and we began to rush too. Everything was a blur in the confusion. Some things got mixed up with others. A loaf of bread drove a bus, a longleaf pine swam in the pond. We grew so dizzy. Light sparked beneath our closed eyelids. Like rescue flares we laid down on the red grass and clung to the world as it whirled. Wind whistled past our ears. Tears flew from our eyes. Field notes death underfoot. Wherever you walk overhead at hand, the bird flat on its back, the shrew, its face sharp as a pencil and the bee silent upon the sil. The spider whose web goes on, snagging flies for dinner even after she's been bagged and eaten. A shrew is so small it is amazing that it lives it all with a tail. As long as a tirade fiction, it has a plot or fashionably not characters live and die, mostly the ones we love. The setting is where the characters live and die. A modern executive does not often live or die in rural Mississippi

Speaker 4 (00:24:02):

In a novel dialogue need not be so concise as in a short story and may continue for hundreds of pages which we will turn if what is said is interesting enough is Ms, your short and squat, does my dime wear a hat? Would maze enjoy a lady finger? There may be symbols too. That lady finger means something at last. The theme reveals itself, taking it all off under the hot lights, the cool gaze, the critical view. Two more.

Speaker 4 (00:24:50):

This is called Welsh song. I spent a week with a couple of girls and the father of one of them on Bard, the island which is off the coast of Wales and it was a very interesting experience. Rain blew against the window pane, the kestrel shadow quartered the air. A rooster crowed the drain pipe banged against stone. The child brushed her hair and sang a song. The gas fire burned. The gas lamp glowed. The rain fell faster, blue became black and the window, the wind pulled the sea up to the pastor. The child brushed her hair and sang songs. The lost pigeon sheltered alone in the chapel rafters the red glass on the sill gleamed in gaslight, a winged darkness crossed the dark night and the drain pipe banged against stone. That was fun to write because there are no people in it.

Speaker 4 (00:26:10):

It seemed like fun thing to do. This one has people in it and it's called Welsh table talk and we all know that Welsh is an incomprehensible language to most of us. Well, they weren't actually speaking in Welsh the little girls, but it was just as strange because just at the drop of a hat, suddenly they would be one girl would be dying and the other girl would be taking her tea or they would both be sitting under the rain with an umbrella finding out what it's like to be homeless. At one point they were playing the nun movie with Whoopi. What's her name? Their imaginations were just endless. They were 11 and 12. So I'm going to try to read this and try to do their voices a little bit. There is a dragon in the garden. The first one says, Papa says the second seated cheerfully on the rescued church pew Bronwyn has put her cold mittens to my leg.

Speaker 4 (00:27:17):

The dragon in the garden is quite a nice dragon, says papa. The second one says nasty Bronwyn has put her cold mitten to my ears. The first one says the dragon is eating all the mulberries and the roses as well. Papapa shakes his bald head and says, I never cared for roses myself. The second one, squeals. Bronwyn, stop it. The first one says The dragon is eating the garden and there won't be any garden left. Papa likes Marmite and margarine on his toast and 17 cups of tea a day. The first one says how sad it is that our garden is gone. The second asked Bronwyn to come out and play. Thank you.

Speaker 2 (00:28:20):

My Claudia poem. It's called Artifact and I've just always loved this poem. She's talking to her new husband who has lost his first wife foot for three years. You lived in your house just as it was before she died. Your wedding portrait on the mantle. Her clothes hanging in the closet, her hair still in the brush. You have told me you gave it all away then sold the house kept only the confirmation cross. She wore her name in cursive, chased on the gold underside your ring in the same box. Those photographs you still avoid and the quilt you spread on your borrowed bed. Small things, months after we met you told me she had made it after we had slept already beneath its loft and thinning raveled pattern as though beneath her shadow moving with us, that dark, that soft the river. I stood in my grandmother's kitchen watching my mother roll her mother's hair. She wanted a permanent, the hair, a white mist, nothing more the rollers pink. Her scalp pink too, but different. I was 12. I thought no one could be so old and trembly and pink. I thought a lot when I was 12. I thought nobody thought the way I thought to be so old and still want what could be left for her to want her face across hatch of lines, the head, the hands, the terrible shaking

Speaker 2 (00:30:39):

Little ghost if you could speak, you whose eyes, look at me now, tell me my charge. You are 62 years gone. Surely nothing but splinters left. What do you order me to write other than what I know that nothing is as cruel or sweeter than the shortness of our days. That flesh clings refusing to be destroyed even as it is that yes, there were three of us and after to celebrate your curls, we had tea in the yellow cups and the best Russian coffee cake in the world. Your favorite with eddie's of walnuts and cinnamon roiling through dark like a river. This is called how it is late October and the piddles drift begins in earnest and all that whispered in the pockets of summer's, green uniform is shaken out and dumped. My mimosa knew for wasn't that death fingering the leaves all summer, yet the tree plumped its pods spending all July squeezing them out, going about its business. As did the slash pod pine and lob lolly spraying pollen coating windows, cars filling every idle slit with sperm and what does life mean but itself? Ask the sea. You'll get a wet slap backhanded across your mouth. Ask the tiger, I dare you

Speaker 2 (00:32:36):

And your life with its of suffering. What does it mean? But what it is and mine balancing checkbooks and whoing up a mess of vittles as my son used to say, my son, the funny one, the always hungry for supper and the happy ending. I was never able to give him one. Who am I to write the user's manual for a life except to say, look at trees, dug in and defiant. Be like the river. Stick out your tongue. Why not? What's to lose when? What's to lose is everything. I took care of my mother for the last six years of her life, which was the most difficult thing I did. I'm sure there are plenty of you out there who can relate to that. And after she died, my sweet young thing, that's who I call my husband, who's much younger than I am. So he's my sweet young thing. We've been married for 20 years and he's still my sweet young thing. What can I tell you? Anyway, we went to Europe and we ended up going to one concentration camp after another. We didn't know we were going to do that, but we did and we went to Birkenau. Birkenau is one of the places where it does not say work cell set you free. You didn't go there to work. You went there and you went in the gas chamber quick

Speaker 2 (00:34:20):

Outside of one of the crematoriums. They were running 24 hours and there's a little a of birch trees, which was a waiting room to go in where they would wait naked. Birkenau means place of birches. They love their trees. So this is called the waiting room to speak of. Crucial in a life of the merely interesting to have a yen for it. A calling you might say is to be perpetually involved in the act of naming. And yet when I went to the one place where crucial happened, not once, but over and over again, I gagged on my own silence. There is ash at Birkenau under your every step. It hisses in the long, uncut grasses growing out of its mouths. Nothing but this sibilance is left. This ocean of wind tortured tongues. The air not big enough to hold it. Nevermind. 60 years of museums and memorials, vigils and eternal lights. Nevermind that everything to be said has been said. I needed to translate the singed grass demanded it. Birkenau means place of birches, the grove in the meadow next to which crematorium four was built and fired up to run 24 hours a day. So busy gassing and burning. They'd be a backup waiting to go in. Imagine the humiliations of the flesh fumbling to cover up in that waiting room of white trees, those totems of eyes. Imagine your mother, her sparse patch, the unopened pink purse that is your daughter. Then now with the wind up and the whipping grasses wild at your knees before the dogs come. Hurry, right? The choke of terror.

Speaker 2 (00:37:02):

We had to lighten it up a little bit. Yeah, this is an old poem, a little love poem, snow. Let us speak of love and weather subtracting nothing. Let us put your mother and mine away for a while. Your dying. Father, my dead one. Let us watch from our bedroom window how a slow falling snow crowns all nakedness. And Herman, do not look at me yet your face is flushed. Your eyes too love soaked too blue outside is white on black and still the sky deaf with stillness. Don't let it frighten you. Hush this time enough of that content for now to watch the maples fill with snow. How they spread themselves each naked limb making itself accessible. Don't you think accessible is the sexiest word in the English language?

Speaker 5 (00:38:24):


Speaker 2 (00:38:25):

Think about it. Ask Alan,

Speaker 5 (00:38:26):

She'll tell you.

Speaker 2 (00:38:31):

And two more poems. This one is for a friend of mine. I won't tell you who he is because you know him. He had a love affair and everybody found out and everybody was miserable and so that he swore that he would behave himself. So I wrote this, it's called Behind the door Letter left in a pocket strange earring in a glove compartment, such simple things and the world and implodes wife rattling around a house that used to be home child staring at her plate, picking through her peas. The lover lost without love's current that had like a river carried him so long, the sweet rush he'd lived in tent in the woods, motels and how many towns and of course the unnamed the deer, some somewhere sitting by a phone daring it to ring. Do not think I am a stranger to this story.

Speaker 2 (00:39:40):

The promises, the required apologies. The ritual bearing of the jugular. Oh friend be warned, the heart may not stay in storage long riding an iron track, obedient as a shooting gallery duck. A heart wants to be used, fed, nourished on nuzzle and whim practicing the skills it's learned of, whisper and cunning. It needs to believe that on any ordinary night before the pitiful throbbing stops and the body, that new amazing toy is laid out and displayed like a plastic floral arrangement. A rocket will slip in low under the radar, roaring and flashing lights, the star's own emissary and why? But to test the line of do not cross the line of unprofitable for the heart is not mollified by notions of safety nor aptt to thrive on a diet of crackers and milk. It wants what? It wants what's behind the door? Knowing full well the key swings on a rope hanging from one's own neck. That's the place isn't it? Such sweet skin there in the next hollow where she'd lay her mouth cupping the pulse as if to drink and hold inside her all that ecstasy, that mad hammering before it dies away.

Speaker 2 (00:41:27):

When you get to be as old as me, you have a history. That's time for, okay, one more. This one is to my son, my oldest son who came to visit me and we were sitting in the living room and suddenly he was looking at me and not at me, but through me. And I looked back and it was very uncomfortable and could not pull our eyes away. So this is called Vin Callum and Vin means a connection. Do not look at me again. Like that between us is too stripped down to the bare wire of what we were. The look umbilical the cord I thought discarded in some hospital bin 50 years ago, come November. How strange to find it once more between us still beating and so palpable we could cross over and enter into each other again. Seeing our old selves through new first eyes plucked from a drum roll of Autumns, that one was ours.

Speaker 2 (00:42:38):

Autumn of my 23rd year autumn of your final fattening, taking up all the room worrying the thinning walls, the rope that seeds from me to you and back again our two-way street and you little fish hanging on past your lease in a time of narrowing dark, which you can't possibly remember but do. And it comes to me that look must be what love is, which is why we'll not speak of it nor hunted down in each other's eyes. Again for your too worldly to admit. Without wincing what happened, happened. And I too conscious of my failed attempts to fire into language. What's beyond words could not bear it, which leaves me holding the bag once more of foolish thoughts. I know, I know the universe has neither edge nor center nor crown, but I want to think that past Andromeda and out beyond a million swirling discs of unnamed stars, that cord we knew that ghost of an I-beam floating between us arcs in space lit up like the George Washington bridge pulsing with traffic even after both stanchions are gone. Thank you very much.

Speaker 6 (00:44:20):

Thank you everybody for coming out today. The other poets have given flesh to Claudia Emerson's project, which was an extraordinary act of love. When she married Kent Ippolito, he had already lost a wife to cancer and she wrote about not him, but about her. And this poem was called Day Book, which involves the finding of the final record that she kept of her days. She found something that's primitive really in aesthetic terms, but it's the sort of thing that lies at the, it was a record sort of thing that lies at the heart of poetry. This is the season of her dying and you have kept it. I find underneath the stairs in a box filled with photographs, her daybook of that last year, the calendar or narrative she did not intend to write in the grid of days. I see her habit had been to record in pencil what might be erased, moved, saving the indelible black for what could not change your birthday, hers, your anniversary.

Speaker 6 (00:45:33):

And in that same decisive hand, the disease began to eclipse this order, but she erased nothing. And now from beneath the days the hospital claimed her first latent words emerge faint, but certain as images of ribs cradling milky lungs, the flesh forgotten as water, you can see through to the bottom. Before I launch into my own stuff, I just want to mention and thank MK Aaron, Jessica, Leslie, all those L S U people who left behind jambalaya and salt peon and came up here to eat the fabled Minnesota hot dish. I see a couple. Would you all those people? Aaron, are you here? Yes, there you are. And mk, am I missing anybody? There's Leslie, yeah. And thank you all. Thank you.

Speaker 6 (00:46:29):

Thank you for keeping us in business and bringing our poems and others to everyone else. I'm going to read a couple of poem from the biscuit joint, which is my L s U book from before. One thing I love about the L s U people is that they let me indulge in something that not every editor is very happy about. I use everything in the type box. I use all the di criticals and accents and dinging bats and I wrote a poem called iHeart Hot Moms. And I used the heart of course. So when it appeared in a magazine, the editor said, can you say I love hot moms or maybe just put heart in brackets because I can't do that. And said, look, if I can do that, you can do that. So just figure it out. And of course they did this poem's called iHeart Hot Mom.

Speaker 6 (00:47:20):

So please see that icon in your mind as I repeat it. The guy with the iHeart hot moms t-shirt makes his way down the airplane aisle. And I think who doesn't hot moms even heart themselves or we wouldn't see so many of them in groups of five or six at your finer restaurants laughing and getting drunk while back home. Their kids text and bully each other and wait for their hot moms to return and help them with their assignments and their husbands stare at computer screens, at stock prices or hot mom porn sites or sports scores. Therefore, what profit if hit a young man to declare his affection for these inestimable women, these fleshy beauties whose maiden years are behind them yet whose lives as Crohn's are ahead of them by a multiple of say two. Why? It's like saying you like babies or kitty cats or that giving the choice you'd rather eat ice cream than hog vomit mixed with mud.

Speaker 6 (00:48:17):

How slender the line between our thoughts so virginal, so uncomplicated and the world into which those thoughts step so ungainly now. So cumber and bung some at the symphony. Once I strolled about during the interval and returned to find a young gentleman in the row behind ours with his elbows on the back of my seat and he was saying something to Barbara I couldn't hear, and she said something to him and the people around us roared with laughter. What was that about? I said, and Barbara says, the young man asked her if she'd like to go out sometime. And she says, no thank you. I'm married. And he says, too bad, I like older women. And she says, you need to work on your lines. And that's what sets off our neighbors, all of whom are a lot closer to our ages than his young men. Young men, let the hot moms of your imagination descend us from paradise to flirt with and caress you. Let them lift their shirts over their heads and toy with your belt and in that way light you from within guiding you to better choices in say casual, wear a tailored shirt open at the throat, cuffs turned back twice. Or in the type of remark that doesn't end conversations but begins them like, I'm glad they're playing work by contemporary composers, aren't you? Or how did Beethoven do it? He couldn't hear a thing.

Speaker 6 (00:49:48):

Some people I see old friends in the audience won't be named because you're probably thinking they're a lot younger than they look, but they can tell you as I do that there's a lot of advantages to getting on as you get all these discounts. So I'm going to read you point from the biscuit joint senior coffee, medium coffee, I say, and I think, hold on, I've had too much over it. I say, no, make it a small, wait a sec. And the counter guy says, you want to senior your coffee? And I say no. Yeah, my first senior coffee, first senior, anything really Only 89 cents. Not bad either or not great, but as good as the coffee I was going to get anyway and a lot cheaper at home, I show Barbara the little cup. Hey look, senior coffee, big mistake after that, it's how about a senior coffee or I'm making coffee.

Speaker 6 (00:50:45):

You want regular coffee or senior coffee? And soon everything's senior. Do you have your senior cell phone with you? Bring home a senior newspaper. Will you, those sneakers look a little worn. Why don't you get some new sneakers, senior sneakers, when I'm saying I'm bored, she says, why don't you write one of those senior poems you're so fucking famous for all poetry is senior of course, at a party, a professor in one of the practical disciplines questions the value of teaching young people to be poets. And I think the ancients assigned three muses to poetry Calliope to epic poetry ado, to love poetry and uur to song and EGI poetry. How many muses did you say you have in design leadership systems?

Speaker 6 (00:51:33):

I wonder if there's a guy out there named RA poetry. He'd be at a table in a plaza somewhere with his wife and daughter, seniora and Sida poetry. He'd be drinking coffee and writing poems and everybody would be looking over his shoulder. What's he writing? Wait, wrong question. A better one is, how is he writing? Since style is so much more important than subject matter, Henry James says, A woman living in a quiet country village as only to be a damsel upon whom nothing is lost. To write about soldiers and garrison life. Truer words, Henry truer words. Nobody's more senior than Henry James.

Speaker 6 (00:52:10):

Some onlookers are guessing that senior poetry is writing in the manner of Baroque lyric poet Louis de Gora, though others say no, he can't be. Gores contemporaries called him the Spanish homer, but also the invention of pestilential poetry not for Go the poem in which language works in the background while the story gets told, no, sir, his is the language that steps into the footlights and windmills its arms, which is why his fans and detractors, which pronounced him the greatest of poets as well as a pretentious fool and maybes poetry is not a poet at all anymore than a man named Senior Smith Shoes, horses for a living or one named Sinor Miller owns a mill. Maybe the wife's the poet or his daughter, maybe she's Henry James' Damsel upon whom nothing is lost. They're so proud of her. I am too. I love her as much as though she were my daughter, which means I want her to have a life like mine. One lived not for poetry, but through poetry, everything, a car starting bird song, the gurgling of a coffee pot. The were of a fan, the whispers of lovers, the silly noises. Babies make the wisdom of the books. The Mighty Dead have written all of that steps easily into poetry and makes itself at home there. Poetry and coffee. Now there's a combination for you though. If the poetry's strong enough, you'll need nothing more than a lifetime in which to read and write the stuff I think. And then I think famous me,

Speaker 6 (00:53:47):

Another of my L S U books was called Talking about Movies with Jesus and has a lot of poems about meeting our savior. And then I wrote one about having a conversation on the beach with the antichrist and poems like that. And then I went on to other concerns and I began to miss my old friends from the other side. So I wrote a poem about a conversation I had with the devil that takes place in the Atlanta Airport and he looks just like everybody else, but then that's what would you expect? The French philosopher Simone Vey says that hell isn't a bunch of firing and brimstone. It's repetition, it's monotony. It's the same thing over and over and over again. So you can tell when the poem is starting to end because well, the poem starts over again. I meet the devil in another way, Legion for we are many.

Speaker 6 (00:54:39):

I'm doing a couple of yoga stretches in a quiet corner of the Atlanta Airport because my flight's delayed though having said Atlanta airport, I realize I don't have to say my flight's delayed when suddenly a guy I hadn't noticed before says you can't do that here. And I say, oh, come on, my back's killing me. And he says, I'm just going on with you. Go ahead. And he's in jeans, but he's sporting a nice shirt and wiring glasses and has a good haircut and looks fairly smart and looks as though he's got some shit with him as people in Louisiana say of people who have some shit with him. So I put out my hand and I say, my name's David, but they call me the curb and he says, my name's the devil, but they call me the devil. I say, it's no such thing as the devil.

Speaker 6 (00:55:20):

And he says, Bo Laer says, my best trick is to persuade you I don't exist. And I say, you don't believe in Bo Laer? And he says, actually, he's one of the few Frenchmen I do like. I saw one of those dudes eating a banana with a knife and fork once wanted to kill him. And I say, for real? And he says, I'm just jealous. The French are okay. Great wine in a beautiful city. You know what poet I really like though, Keats? And he starts reciting the last part of Beldam Soir Sea, where the speaker wakes on a cold hillside surrounded by kings and princes and warriors who've had the blood sucked out of them by a beautiful vampire. And as he's reciting, his voice gets lower and lower until he's almost whispering at the end, which is when he says boo and throws up his hands and jumps at me when I start back, he says, sorry, I tried that a few too many times with a girl I used to date.

Speaker 6 (00:56:08):

You're single. I say, that's what hell is, brother staring at the wallpaper, smoking cigarettes, watching network television. It makes you want to fuck things up. What about all the devils and pitchforks and MOUs, Bosch special effect type stuff? And he says, no hell's just boring. And there's nothing I can say to that except what about heaven? And now he's more forthcoming, he says, and I think maybe it's okay to get a little personal. So I say, what about heaven, arch Fi? And he seems to like this and he says, it's different for different folks. Take the Jewish heaven. Jews don't really believe in an afterlife, so their heaven's more like a waiting lounge, not one full of gum wads and dirty diapers like this one, but a crown club say with snacks and free wifi. And I said, what about God? He says, what about God?

Speaker 6 (00:56:58):

And I says, God for real? And he says, is God for real? And I said, don't you be making fun of me, prince of this world. And he says, for the longest time they thought I had hypoglycemia. Turns out it's Tourettes. But as Dr. James Eckman of the Yale University Medical School says, some people with Tourette syndrome since things in the bodily movements of others that the rest of us screen out some signal or vibration, some sensory cue. It's almost like they can see what's going to happen before it happens. Now there's a quality that comes in handy in my profession. And I say, and that would be, and he says, I don't know that I could put a name to it. Read your Bible. Things happen. But they happen slowly. Forget that 6,000 years shit. And one of the lamb had opened the seventh seal.

Speaker 6 (00:57:44):

There was silence in heaven, the space of half an hour. And I say, that's good stuff there, adversary. And he says, that's showbiz baby. Make 'em wait, weep, make 'em wa, make 'em wait. And I say, speaking of which, I've been here most of the day and I'm starting to run out of gas. And he says, hang in there bud. My best trick might be to persuade you that you don't exist and use some birth control for God's sake. You people keep breeding at this rate 900 years. There'll be a hundred men, women and children for every square yard of earth. Televangelists call that a tribulation. I call it an audience. And I said, now you mentioned God there. And he says, sure, I like different things. Women's basketball, animal videos. I love the stones. Whatever happened to the stones. And I say, I don't know about that power of darkness.

Speaker 6 (00:58:35):

And he says, aren't you the guy who says Art is the deliberate transformed by the accidental? Well, I'm the accident. Oh, and I like Sweet Home, Alabama. It's a better song than southern man, or at least it's the one that comes closer to charming magic casements opening on the foam of perilous seas and fairy lands for Lauren. And I say, you want to get a coffee? And he says, what do I need coffee for? I'm the devil motherfucker. And it starts to get his stuff together. And I say, wait, you never did answer me about God. And he says, well, I believe in God, I just don't see what's so great about him. And I said, well, what about witches? Why are they always so poor? And he says, maybe they're lousy witches. It's too bad they're already ugly. Don't get me wrong. Sex is good stuff, but it can distract you.

Speaker 6 (00:59:23):

Nobody ever got distracted by homework or lawn care, which is why I don't hang around study halls or feed stores. Give me a bar parking lot anytime or a cold hillside. And for a second he looks as though he is going to jump at me again. But then he says, look, I have to go. And I say, I got it. You're a producer like legendary Bill Graham, only more dely. And he says, let's just say I'm an organizer. Ever seen a courtyard filled with people waving torches and pitchforks I have. And I said, well, what are you working on now? And he says, you'll see, just keep reading the paper. The Congo's pretty hot. New York's always good for a stopover and like that. He's gone so fast. I wonder if he'd ever been here in the first place. So I sit for a while and I flipped through some magazines and think about going over to concourse A and getting a decent meal at Pascals. And the next thing I know I'm back doing my yoga, which is when I see a woman I hadn't noticed before, and she's looking at me as though she doesn't like what I'm doing. And I'm thinking New York haven't been there for a while. Now the woman's looking at me as though she's about to say something and I say, oh, come on.

Speaker 6 (01:00:36):

The national dish of Minnesota I just mentioned a little while ago, which is the hot dish, one word. And they're selling them actually in these little places around here. The place where you go to get your coffee, they have sandwiches and salads and there's, there was a hot dish, which I saw when I was shopping for lunch. And I looked at the ingredients is tater tots, ground beef and a couple of other things. And at the end of the ingredients and a touch of celery. So not too much, not too much celery. And actually, if you go by booth, 1728, a couple of months ago, the editors of Mid-American Review asked several of us to contribute our regional versions of the Minnesota hot dishes. You can go by and you can get these handy recipe cards and just cook for a year. He's won cabin fever, chicken and bean casserole, vegan artists, paella, mk, I contributed baked shrimp jambalaya.

Speaker 6 (01:01:49):

So it's good. Booth 1728. Thank you all again. I'm going to read one more poem. It's going to be the last poem in my new book. Get Up Please. Which is going to appear about a year from now, from L S U, and it's called nersc, which is spelled G N u umlaut, R S Z K. You know how when you go someplace, people always find a way to tell you, you went to the wrong place or you did the wrong thing? What'd you do? Well, oh, we went to the Grand Canyon. Oh, did you go to Walnut Canyon? No. Yeah. So I wanted to write appointment. So I needed to think of a place that I hadn't been to and I thought Poland. So this is a poem about a city in Poland called Nerk. And not having been there, I had trouble fleshing out the details, but I won't lie to you, you'll probably recognize a lot of the language because it's lifted from some of your better Polish tourism websites.

Speaker 6 (01:02:56):

So I wrote the appointment and patted myself on the back and edited it and sent it out. And I thought, oh my God. And I went back and made sure there's no place called gunners and there isn't. So I think I'm safe. When people ask where were you? And you say, Poland, they always say, did you go to Nerk? And you say, actually, I went everywhere but nerk. And they say, oh, you should have gone to Nerk. The food there is terrific. It's free, and it's served by beautiful naked people and they give you money when you leave and you think, why didn't we go to ERs? No, we just went to Mal Bork where we saw the castle of the Ttt order, the largest castle in the world as well as the largest brick building in Europe. And then we strolled through Warsaw's old town with its alleys and squares and cozy cafes.

Speaker 6 (01:03:52):

We admired the wealth of artwork sculptures and silverware and crackhouse KY museum. And in the countryside, we were grateful for the pleasant landscapes, plentiful wildlife, and unique birdwatching opportunities, but we never made it to goers. Where candy canes grow in trees and the canals are filled with lemonade, where roasted pigs wander about with knives in their backs to make carving easy cooked fish fall from the sky. Grilled ducklings fly directly into your mouth. The temperature is always 78 degrees. The streets are paved with pastry. There are no clocks. If you say you went to Germany or Italy or France, people always want to know, did you go to Schnitzel Kite or Benzo or Wazo or Mayer? And you just say, no, no. I never met to those places either.

Speaker 6 (01:04:50):

But I was with the one person I wanted to be with most someone who loves movies and parties and books as much as I do. And even though it was a short trip, we made love three times. Or was it four? Maybe it wasn't any at all. If we'd gone to nersc, we would've had wall socket, sex, the kind that shatters the bed, blows out the windows, breaks the pipes, the bathroom, and floods the room below. Still we had a good time or did we? What is love? Anyway, in 1982, a dentist named Barney Clark became the first human recipient of an artificial heart. The night before the operation, the doctors asked his wife if she had any questions and she said, yes, when you replace his heart, will he still love me? And the doctor said, yes, of course he will. Of course, of course. Maybe we'll go to Nerk next year or the year after that. Maybe as the afternoon softens and turns to evening, the people of Nerk will look out their windows and wish they were us. Thank you all.

Speaker 2 (01:06:19):

Thank you very much for coming and make sure that you stop at the L s u table and they will welcome you with open arms.

Speaker 7 (01:06:36):

Thank you for tuning into the A W P podcast series. For other podcasts. Please visit our website@www.awpwriter.org.


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