Category Archives: Poetry

Blogs about poetry

Pilgrimage: The Big Sleep

Woche-11-2010

Today classes start back at Tübingen University after a one-week break after a preparatory German course. To call this course arduous would be a disservice to true labor the world over, however, though I did find the course incredibly helpful.  But now I begin tomorrow in earnest, begin a new semester of university at a new school, new country, in a new language, with a new culture to overcome. A tall order, no?

But today I would like to praise the benefit of my long break, or rather my “big sleep.” I have been in academic hibernation for some time now, though I find my time outside of the classroom just as instructional as my time inside the classroom. I have been, after all, working dilligently on a new novel and many poetic projects. Once I arrived overseas, I began helping to orchestrate poetry events back home in Charleston. I have been anything but idle.

I do enjoy my time off. It allows me to delve face-first into things I would otherwise never experience. I have been able to make tremendous progress writing not one, but two books; I have done a first edit of one book and managed and almost-complete first draft of another. In the meanwhile, I have been building a Twitter/Facebook/blog following in anticipation of the release of The Heathens and Liars of Lickskillet County. Recently I decided to take up drawing, learning how to draw even simple things, which up until now has been beyond me.

I am feeling optimistic. Although a tidal wave of business approaches, I hope to continue writing and working with conviction, with a sense that I will accomplish much in the coming months. At the same time, I wish not to spend all my time with paper and pen in hand. I take advantage of this opportunity to live, to be free in cities I’ve never visited before, to speak with interesting people. These interactions will almost surely translate to new material in short stories and novels to come.

But today is the last day of utter freedom. I have finished writing almost 2,00 words today, though I intend perhaps to write more. Then I will take a bottle of champagne to the park and drink cheap mimosas in the warm tickle of sunlight with friends. I will speak German and look toward the sky. I will finish whatever book I’m currently reading with frantic helplessness as the plot kidnaps my consciousness. I will write, yes, but more importantly I will live. I will wake tomorrow at dawn with a new initiative, a broad, fresh band of obstacles to overcome.

Poem: “Puddle Jumpers”

New poem. Check it out.

Leave thoughts below.

10896901_737799143220_1421265257071549354_n

“Proletariat Love” – Derek Berry

Check out this love poem recorded for National Poetry Month.

 

 

Filmed in front of the glorious Cologne Cathedral. Leave your thoughts below.

 

DSCN0224

National Poetry Month Poem #2: “Jack Bellamy”

#‎NationalPoetryMonth‬ 2/30. This persona piece follows the fictional narrative of an older gay man arrested on charges of sodomy during the 1960s and subjected to electric shock therapy to aid in his conversion.

“According to the American Psychiatric Association, until 1974 homosexuality was a mental illness. Freud had alluded to homosexuality numerous times in his writings, and had concluded that paranoia and homosexuality were inseparable. Other psychiatrists wrote copiously on the subject, and homosexuality was “treated” on a wide basis. There was little or no suggestion within the psychiatric community that homosexuality might be conceptualized as anything other than a mental illness that needed to be treated.” – PHIL HICKEY

 

National Poetry Month Poem #1: “Canines”

Check out my first poem video for National Poetry Month’s 30-for-30 challenge. The poem is called “Canines” and depicts the author’s struggles with body image and self-acceptance through the lens of monstrosity.

Enjoy and share your thoughts below.

10896901_737799143220_1421265257071549354_n

The Autonomy of Public Space and Art Museums

When visiting the Kunst Museum in Stuttgart today, I encountered the art of Joseph Kosuth, an American conceptual artist who came to prominence in the 1960s. Much of his art questions the value and restrictions of art, expressed through neon letterings, physical books, and copy-printed definitions of words such as “meaning” or  “idea.” Today at the museum, I spent an insane amount of time trying to translate the text of six books at wooden desks, each under a clock indicating different times. This piece creates an interesting thematic comment on the effect of time, how the time and space in which a text is read changes the meaning of the text. All of Kosuth’s art installations evoke a similar form of communication, asking the audience to react or comment upon his ideas.

For this reason, I scrawled  a stick figure in pencil on the blank wall of the art museum next to one of Kosuth’s installations. The guard there (a kind older woman) asked me what I was doing. I told her that I was claiming this space as my own or rather inviting the question of ownership. She didn’t stop me, though I’m sure they will wash away the stick man I drew under Kosuth’s neon message.

Visual Space Has Essentially No Owner.

e942ba347b4c37a8ebac69dbe392eac6

This piece struck me for some reason. He questions, within the context of a gallery, the sanctity of the gallery. Where art exhibits express that the viewer should not touch or disturb the art, one must also confront the relationship of viewer and art. One view of art, anyways, insists that art cannot exist without the viewer’s eye, since sight itself evokes an image. Without an eye to perceive the art, the art cannot truly exist. This is, of course, debatable. In the same way, art might mean nothing without people to comment upon the art. What does a painting or installation mean without an audience?

If visual space has no owner and the “art museum” is a space for art, then does not the evocation of this idea invite people to draw on the walls? To perform trumpet in the halls of the art museum? To dance, to become art or make art themselves? To reclaim the spaces we have deemed holy, not only the streets but the museums, the galleries? If art must exist in galleries, then why ask the gate-keepers for permission? Why not thrust your voice into the conversation, for the sake of being heard? Claim not ownership but autonomy, because no one’s really stopping you.

And when an a museum guard taps you on the shoulder to ask what the hell you’re doing, answer, “Art.”

She might smile and comment, “I was wondering when someone would finally try that.”

How Learning a New Language Helps Writers

GERMANWhen we are young, perhaps reading a favorite book, we come across new words. I vividly recall frantically flipping through the dictionary in search of the word “immured” which appears Kenneth Grahame’s classic The Wind in the Willows. For those who have not followed the adventures of Mr. Badger of Mr. Toad, “immured” means “to be imprisoned.” This process of learning new words as children mirrors the process of learning new words in another language, except that one must explain and dissect new words with words one already knows; what makes learning a new language for authors is when one confronts a word that possesses no direct translation.

One of my favorite phrases that exemplify this conundrum: de mal de pays, the name of a Franz Litszt song that translates usually as “homesickness,” though according to a character in Haruki Murakami’s new novel, this phrase really means, “the ungrounded sadness of feels when looking upon a beautiful landscape and remembering home.” In German, one encounters several of these words including Wanderlust, Backpfeifengesicht, and Schadenfreude. For those not in the knows, Backpfeifengesicht means “a face that begs for a fist,” roughly speaking. In addition to expanding one’s lexicon, one learns new ways of speaking. I have noticed, for example, that both in fiction and personal essays, I have absconded with the use of complicated words in favor of words-that-are-hyphenated-that-together-means-one-word, which plays on the German compound word. Almost any complicated word in German can be found out by combining two, three, or more smaller words. When I must describe something that does not have a clear and well-known set of description words (for example, technical jargon or sometimes the language of music,) I opt instead for the insanely-long-compound-phrase.

The true learned skill of adopting a new language, however, is that one must communicate with others in the new language. Because the writer might be in a class, he may likely not enroll with others who speak English; of course English-speakers possess a global privilege to travel almost anywhere and be able to speak English with locals. The English language has infected Europe with better efficiency than the Black Plague. When one does however seek to explain concepts in German, a language through which I can only express the simplest expressions, one must fashion precise speech. When speaking with international students, one learns to explain complicated ideas in simplified terms. This teaches the writer to exorcise the jargon from his writing, composing sentences with clarity and economy.

Naturally, I have not performed correct archeology of this subject, the relative skills that bridge writing in one’s mother tongue and also a new language; here, we have only grazed the top soil. Of course I too have learned only German, and I enjoy the language, unlike Mark Twain. When one begins to explore new languages, one learns new idiosyncrasies. I have heard (only through reading books in translation), that to read a manuscript in its original language is an act not unlike sleeping in your own bed after weeks abroad. If you have ever undertaken the challenge of learning a new language or anything new (be it rocket science or funeral undertaking), what have you learned? How has the new-found knowledge affected your writing tendencies?

Review: “Speech of the Masquerade” by Kendall Driscoll

One of my friends and fellow poet recently published her debut poetry collection. I have enjoyed reading the book and listening to Kendall’s readings. You can purchase the book here.

download (13)Kendall Driscoll’s debut poetry collection Speech of the Masquerade explores both the poet’s coming-of-age and her musings on her generation. Sometimes, she’s optimistic about the out-flowing love of her friends and peers and at other times disparaging at their attempts to craft success from empty honors. Her words glint with an honesty that embraces the beauty, rot, and oddities of the world. Many of the poems read playfully, ditties of joy and curiosity, each word a celebration of life’s strange poignancy, while others speak with a satiric bent on humorous pitfalls of our generation.

Certainly, she achieves to both criticize and praise the twenty-something audience for whom she writes. Call it a “guide to being in college and having no idea what to do with your life” and gift this book to every recent high school graduate you know. While several pieces dedicate contemplation to growing up, the power of writing, the meaning of love, and seasons changing, other poems ring with unique experiences and subtly peculiar musings. The poem focusing on how colleges value your academic achievements but not the content of one’s character pleased me very much—I imagine a resume stockpiled with small life victories to matter to us, not to corporate hegemonies. She also offers a valiant defense of live classical music, the triumph of the piccolo over the auto-tune. She explores the lives of brilliant young musicians and the pressure to conform to perfection.

Whether she’s ribbing on resume-builders, writing mock-eulogies to defunct coffee machines, or challenging others to gather the courage to live honestly, Kendall’s voice reverberates with beauty and truth, which according to some poets, are the same thing.

“Kendrick Had a Dream”

fff

“Martin had a dream. Martin had  a dream. Kendrick had a dream.”- Backseat Freestyles/ good kid, m.A.A.d city

  1. Kendrick Lamar floats above cityscape,

his torso

alight with flaming angel wings.

Flying or falling, he cannot tell. He

wakes in a stupor, his eyes bright as forgotten Heavens.

  1. Kendrick Lamar unzips his pants, and

the Eifel Tower springs from between the zippers.

He proceeds to fuck the world for 72 hours.

  1. Kendrick Lamar stands naked in front of his class.

He is in high school chemistry class, and his Eifel

Tower is now just  a normal phallus. Someone

laughs. Someone shouts, “Bitch, don’t kill my vibe!”

  1. A giant eagle with the face of

School Boy Q chases Kendrick Lamar

through the desert, his legs thin as chopsticks.

As he pushes harder, the Eagle draws closer,

his claws familiar as Compton.

  1. Kendrick Lamar misses a flight to Berlin,

for he lies in a box,

a cedar box buried six feet under the ground, his body

contorting with rage and fear. His head banging

against the top of the box

as he wonders whether he might escape.

He will not escape, not until he wakes

in mid-afternoon, his bed wet

with hangover sweat,

his back still dripping as if he just climbed from a pool full of liquor,

as if only just yesterday

he woke for the first time.

An Open Letter to the Huffington Post Writer Who Visited My City

images (23)

For the writer of this wonderful article: “Perfect Day In Charleston, SC”:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/shoptiques-/perfect-day-in-charleston_b_5883370.html?utm_hp_ref=travel&ir=Travel

This ain’t the first time y’all came here,

your head brimming with expectations of fried opossum

and hillbilly carnival, the specter of the south leaving

such a distinctly sweet taste in your mouth.

But here we ain’t choking on molasses, ain’t passing time

running through fields of corn, listening to country music,

and doing whatever else the fuck you think we do here.

You come to Charleston and smile, congratulate us

on how progressive we’ve become. How our buckteeth

don’t offend you as they snack on sweet taters.

You said something to that effect, didn’t you,

when you praised the southern boutiques built for tourists,

said the south ain’t so bad after all.

You came looking for genteel, so I guessed you miss

the dirt in our teeth, the flames in our eyes, the fight

in our chests, and the holy brains in our skulls.

Cute that you thought a day could do us justice,

that when looking for the beautiful in our city,

you only looked up toward steeples, conjuring

plantation homes in downtown that never existed.

Tell me again how quaint we are, us quiet people,

how we put you to sleep. How you think that condescension

ain’t fighting words.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,723 other followers