Thursday, May 1, 2008

Sad Tonic Press

I've been writing this one poem very slowly. It's not long, so I don't have a lot to show for it, but hopefully it will turn into something. I think it will be the 3rd in a series of shorter, slightly more visually fragmented poems (no long lines) that I want to expand on. Hopefully, though, the combinations of images and quiet statements waterfall down the poem in a way that'll soak you real good. The only way I can describe them: Kid Sized White Undershirt Poems.


Little known facts:
1) When I was in 6th grade I laminated a bunch of autumn leaves to keep the season, and I hung them from my ceiling. Only a handful of red-headed leaves. When I was home this winter, they were still there. 14 years later.

2)When I was a kid, and even through high school, I used to love writing with sharp pencils. I hated pens. Now I think pencils are messy/too smeary. (Give me my precious pen.)

3) Sometimes I forget that my dog is dead.

4) Toast is underrated.


I've been reading Moongarden by Anthony McCann. You should read it too.

McCann has something to say, so I think you should listen. The poems I respond to the most are not the ones with large, thick stanzas because these seem a little too preciously weird, too "look at the little story in the little world I have created." In the poems that are visualy more airier, the bizarre imagery and slow movements of the city crawl towards you like sea anemone, or like a body pulling itself out of a lake, to your porch, where you sit, about to open a book you no longer want to read because of the living body now in fron of you. And the body is carying a candle that is already lit. Like the first one in the collection, Moongarden (November):

Moongarden (November)

On the eve of the wedding
the witch arrived in the city

the great lawn

into dark
and silent pleasure

In the public forest

a man
entered the body

of a stranger

When it happened
his eyes were closed

his right hand blooms

in cold November

night cars

are converted
into light

In the distance:

recorded sounds
of ventilation

and the sea

There is no damage
to the liquid

while you sleep

the earth leaks
cold traffic

on the street

And the city?
what did the city do?

It made happiness
and codes

in the windows underground

I left my voice
inside your body

when I drowned.


Damn. come on: " In the distance: // recorded sounds / of ventilation / and the sea / There is no damage / to the liquid // while you sleep"

I am stealing this from H_NGM_N's website:

Anthony McCann
EP Poetry

Frankly I was a little uncomfortable writing a poetics statement (it does feel a little like applying for a job or begging you all to like my poems, or both) and it took me a long time to hit on something I felt both energized about writing and that seemed appropriate to the topic. Finally something reminded me, I can’t remember what, of one of my more powerful childhood memories—one I realized I associate very much with my having become a poet. The memory is from one Good Friday in the mid 70’s,when I was an earnestly and maybe a bit weirdly Catholic child.* It was a soggy and blustery March afternoon and I had run out into the yard after hearing an announcer during the radio broadcast of Handel’s Messiah say that Jesus Christ had just entered his agony. I was staring at the greenish-gray, low-hung sky and I remember thinking or feeling or sensing with a total terrorized certainty and clarity that right then at that very moment Christ was writhing on the cross. Right then it was happening, just in a different sector in time, and this meant that right then at that moment everything that had ever happened was happening. That thought drastically uncorked the world in its glorious terror, its absolute shining enormous simultaneity. For a minute or two anyway.

All the power of this moment, this memory, for me is contained not in my thoughts at the time but in the scene—the yard as I remember it: a single, bare and silver tree, the yellow grass, and in the green seams in the undersurface of the low-bellied sky. But remember is not really the right word for a memory so often recollected. I recall it, I re-make it, every time I “remember.” Each remembered version of this “memory” is somewhat different. I can change a detail, I can change the color of the grass. I can drop the bare tree and insert the bearded catalpa and it’s still somehow the same “memory.” Some not small details are, for whatever reason, uncrucial. For instance, I remember that it was very windy that day, but in order to recall the scene and the intensity of the sensation I oddly don’t need to include the wind at all, despite how much it doubtlessly contributed to the original experience. What I do need to have is some kind of tree, preferably one that’s a little sickly, or gnarled or just plain bare. It should be in the middle foreground and a little to the left. I also need the grass, the yard stretching away towards the back shed. And, most of all, I need that heavy sky. It can be green; it can be slate gray; it can be plump cotton brushed with ash as long as it is low, and absolute, and heavy. This is the basic grammar or, I suppose, geometry of that moment. This grammar or these shapes, these charged abstractions, feel strongly related to both the presences many of my poems try to invoke and to the language and imagery used to invoke them.

I’ve noticed that certain poems I write (there are a few example in the selection of poems here) often begin or begin to take shape through writing and re-writing and further abstracting or otherwise warping descriptions of the physical world, often of the sky, as if I were trying to rebuild that same childhood scene of hierophany over and over. I usually begin this kind of poem with a mental apprehension or mind held image of a particular space and of the larger brooding world assembling beyond it. This sensation or image is brought on by a phrase or a word, often itself an attempt to invoke or name something I have seen. The more substance the image culled from the world acquires as it resists and redirects the further descriptive assaults I’m making on it with language, the more the poem itself acquires its own substance and energy. It seems (and I feel tentative here since I am no philosopher of mind) that this resistance to description twists the language and the poem into unexpected shapes and dispatches it in unexpected directions and in doing so also gives the poem its energy or tone. To say that this is how I write all my poems or most of my poems or most of most of my poems probably wouldn’t be true. But it does seem to me to be how many of my poems begin. I also believe most of my more realized poems have in common a world charged with seething presence that is related to my first overwhelming encounter with being, presence and eternity. More than a few of these poems, often to my later surprise, rediscover, transformed in a new light and tone, some of the bare structure--the grammar, as well as the content, of that initial experience: the tree, the grassy stubble, the sky, and holy terror.

—Anthony McCann


DON'T FORGET TO GO TO SOMMER BROWNING'S READING THIS FRIDAY. Ok? Ok? If you are in the state of New York, you should come to this reading. Also reading with Jordan Davis and Patrick Morrisey (sp?).


So, I have sent one copy of Saltgrass out to a fine patron who didn't receive their pre-paid order. Also included was a Mix Tape. Any other people who didn't receive their Saltgrass? Any other people who want a mix? My email is now in my "profile" on this thing.


And really, if you miss this, something is wrong: Anne Carson reads in NYC in Monday with Graham Foust.

Join us this Monday (May 5) when we are having the incomparable Anne Carson, author (most recently, of Decreation) and translator (most recently, Grief Lessons: Four Plays by Euripides), the wonderful Graham Foust, author of three book of poems (most recently, of Necessary Stranger), and an exciting young poet Misty Harper, author of Guarding The Violins (winner of 2005 PSA chapbook award). We are going to have the whole bar available for the reading, but we suggest you come early to find a seat.

Monday May 5, 7:30 PM

Anne Carson
Graham Foust
Misty Harper

11th Street Bar,
510 E. 11th Street (Between Avenues A & B)

Closest subway stops are the L at 1st Ave.;
other close stops include the L at 3rd Ave. and the 4/5/6/N/R/Q/W at Union Square.
Detailed directions can be found here:

Hopefully I will see you there.



Kate said...

i keep getting in trouble for editing in pen. pencil is for losers.

Kate said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
boris i. said...

So excited for the Carson/Foust reading.

Julia Cohen said...

me too, me too!

jose said...

BiC mechanical pencil, .5mm leaded, paired with a tan (never pink) gummy eraser. and the lead had to be scribbled to the right angle for proper serifs. didn't you hussies ever have second thoughts?

Matt said...

Have you read McCann's Father of Noise? There's a poem in that one called "American Experience" that seems to have been heavily influenced by that childhood memory he talks about.

Julia Cohen said...

No, this is the only book I've read of his, in addition to poems in journals. The Agriculture Reader has good stuff of his in the first issue. This journal is turning out great stuff, by the way, to anyone looking for journals to read or submit to:

Maximum Etc said...

yes, agriculture! thanks for the plug, JC. people should feel encouraged to harass us. we love friends. And, unofficially so far, AgRe will be involved in bringing McCann to the listening public some time in late June. i'm sure once i fill JC in on details she'll tell the rest of you. but no details exist yet, so eh.

JC- if you call me on monday i'll come to Carson/Foust reading. i'm likely to be jetlagged beyond sin, but that just means Sparks to chase the whiskey....right?

Julia Cohen said...

right. I'll see your jetlagged self there.

I think I have two poems in the next Agriculture Reader, I'm very excited.