Boulder, CO. "Is the soul a real organ? Will you look that up?" P asked me this, just now. We are hanging out at Jeff's apartment he is inhabiting during SWP, which started this week. I want to write in this space through the summer as I prepare for comps and read the 90 books. I'll have many questions to add to this first one about soulstuff.
The Ruth Stone Foundation and Monk Books have gotten together to bring out a yearly anthology called The Ruth Stone House Reader. They choose four poets and publish about 25 pages of their poetry. They also host a reading and launch party in NYC, as well as grant each of the writers a residency in Vermont. Bianca Stone and Ben Pease are the astonishing masterminds and masterhearts behind this bounty of good in the world. I am ever grateful to be one of these four, along with the sisters: Jennifer Tamayo, Cathy Linh Che, and Rachel Eliza Griffiths. What wonders!
This poem was recently published in LINEBREAK with a beautiful recording by Kara Candito. I also feel lucky that Jeffrey Pethybridge helped me design this broadside of the poem, using Mahmoud Darwish's dialogue from the movie Notre Musique (2004) by Jean-Luc Godard. Darwish's words are formed into one of Jeff's tahzib patterns. What you see here is a rough draft.
In January, the new online literary place called Real Pants asked Christopher DeWeese to assemble a series of tributes to the much beloved poet Tomaz Salamun who passed away in late December of 2014. Here is a link to this collection: Stars Will Fall on Your Head . Contained here among poems and heartfelt memories, is a recording of an extraordinary reading Tomaz gave at Umass.
I'd like to repost my contribution to this tribute below:
Paradise means an enclosed garden
“We have a collection of Zoos / we keep them in an animal called memory” Martin Corless-Smith
Tomaž Šalamun was my professor at the Michener Center for Writers during the spring semester of 2011. He was invited to teach a literature course on contemporary European poetry. That semester, I also took a class with Mary Ruefle who was leading a workshop at UT. Tomaž and Mary formed a Friday night ritual of eating together at the Italian restaurant Vespaio on South Congress.
Tomaž’s class had a show-&-tell structure. He’d mailed to Texas a large box of books from his own library, out of which he would make for us photocopies of poem upon poem from all over Europe. A small forest of photocopies each week! He would begin each round of offerings, and we’d circle the table, each presenting the work of a poet, or movement. Beautiful forest. We talked about translation, war, censorship, exile, languages, painting, prison, and how no culture exists without poetry.
About one’s life as a reader, he said: It is food. You have to read what feeds you, no matter how unpopular the author or how obscure.
We would pronounce his name at least four different ways, and he’d reassure that each was correct.
My son, who has a diagnosis of autism, was six at the time when Tomaž and Mary were in Austin. Conversation was difficult for him, though he had a large vocabulary. We’d play a rhyming game where I’d say a word and he’d echo back another. Street. Feet.
One night we were having a small dinner party, and I told him that Caleb and Daisy were coming, and Tomaž and Mary were coming.
He rhymed Daisy to hazy, Mary to hairy. He said Tomaž was mirage. “Caleb” stumped him. I suggested May love. He eventually settled upon hayloft.
Tomaž apologized the first day of class claiming he’d never taught a literature course before. He would often remark that his English was poor. When my husband Jeff raised his glass to a future in which Tomaž wins the Nobel Prize, Tomaž said: no never, my work is too strange for them.
In class he encouraged us to share our own work. His responses were often not verbal, but made of expressive noises. In describing Claire’s poem, he stood up making the onomatopoeia for gigantic, spread out his limbs as though he were straddling two towers, and began taking steps like a walker on stilts, except these were building-sized stilts that made crushing sounds.
The night of Tomaž and Mary’s reading at UT was the night of cosmic news. Before the reading began, Mary gave the announcement that Dean’s heart had arrived. He would go into surgery at 10pm.
Tomaž read first, leaving a wake in which Mary quietly stepped into, and rather than saying Thank you for your stunning work, or What an honor to be here with you, she inclined her body in a long, formal bow to him.
After many glasses of champagne at the reception, we all went out on the lawn, a huge circle of writers, and we held hands, and Tomaž lead us in chanting Dean Dean Dean. A ring-around-the-rosie procession chanting doctors doctors doctors. Then nurses nurses nurses.
In my bestiary, Tomaž is the tree that grows peacocks from its branches.
He told me in my kitchen, Carolina, your son, there is nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with him, he’s fine.
About the afterlife, Shamala said: Tomaž has a beautiful soul––I am not worried for his afterlife.
About the afterlife, Jeff said: He’s made heaven sweeter and weirder.
About the afterlife, Dean said: Let his flaming head be forever telling us to be artists.
I was at the DU library when I noticed I'd missed a call on my phone, which had 1% battery life left and no charger to help it. I could see the call was from DC and that someone had left a message. I opened my voice mail to listen, then heard the following: Hi, this is Rebecca calling from the National Endowment for the Arts, this message is for Caroli––
And then my phone powered down. And then I FREAKED OUT.
The afternoon ended with celebratory, happy-hour beers at Steuben's.
Here is a link to a list of the fellowship recipients. I raise my glass (or beer can) to you all!
Thank you, NEA. And thank you, Jeff.
Issue 5 of Better: Culure & Lit is alive and it is singing with the winners from our first contest, as well as contributions from Mary Jo Bang, Donna Stonecipher, John Estes, Kerri Webster, and other exciting writers. Natalie Eilbert's poems are not to be missed! Check it out!
I participated in NPM Daily, a tumblr featuring micro-essays on poetry/poetics curated by Sarah Blake. One poet or editor per day during the month of April. Many good friends and folks I admire are found here: Dan Chelotti, Kathleen Ossip, Jamaal May, Juliana Spahr, Jeffrey Pethybridge! Have a look.
Here is a link to recent poems in the new journal Waxwing.
This is their second issue featuring poetry by: Dana Levin, Evie Shockley, Bruce Bond, Lisa Russ Spaar, Norman Dubie, Diana Marie Delgado, and Matthew Olzmann. They publish fiction and translation, too, the latter being not as common in journals. Check them out!
If a poet looks through a microscope or a telescope, she always sees the same thing.
The newest issue of American Poet is here, which is the magazine the Academy of American Poets publishes. Mary Jo Bang introduces my work in their Emerging Poets series, and I am tickled pink about it. There are two other poets spotlighted: Saeed Jones (introduced by David St. John) and Danez Smith (introduced by Patricia Smith). Their work is super interesting. It's a beautiful magazine, though it's only available with a membership to the Academy of American Poets. I'm thrilled to see that in the "Poems from 10 New Books" section, poets dear to me are included: Lucie Brock-Broido, Roger Reeves, and Mary Ruefle.
Thank you, Mary Jo Bang for being so supportive.
A husband puts an afghan over the dead goat’s
torso, combs the knots out of her beard.
The goat smells chalk, wonders when the riders
will come in their wool pakols red from walnuts, spurs
chirring like castanets. The buzkashi whips
will grow damp in their mouths, their rope belts
slowly twisting in place. She knows
not to be devoured is a perfect sentiment
because she has thoughts to gather, faces to grow,
hunger this morning and no throat, only
the song in her teeth that goes on
indefinitely as he saws off each hoof, just
above the ankle, her knees bent for praying.
Her head is axed. Her collar
falls to the ground, its circle unbroken. She looks to see
how deep is the pool of blood is a river
of no one becoming her. With salt in her heart
she’ll stay good for days. He’s been to her like her father
he killed. He’s been to her like the father he killed.
He turns her face to the window: mountains
oddly still in the milk broth of oblivion. Intercourse:
the sun drove a man in the ground like a stake.
Source: Poetry (October 2013).
As the moon is an alien rock / one who has attended history intact // is only an ornament.
Fanny Howe (Lines out to Silence)
The poet/editor/heroine Ash Smith has put together a beautiful anthology called Z”L, a benefit chapbook for poets CJ Martin and Julia Drescher (click on the name and the link will take you to Michael Cross's Tumblr for Compline, you'll find information on its production and how to order it). Many terrific poets have contributed work to this chapbook. It's a modest 5 bucks. The money will help poet CJ Martin's mother, Betsy Martin who lost her husband, mother, home, belongings in a Texas hurricane. Please, please help a brother out.