September 30, 2004

Jan's Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookie - UL Approved

After having one of these delicious cookies at the in-store restaurant of a Dallas Neiman-Marcus, a lady asked for the recipe. The waitress said that they couldn't give away the recipe, but that it was for sale for only two-fifty. At the end of the month, the woman received a charge on her credit card for $250!


2 cups butter
24 ounces chocolate chips
4 cups flour
2 cups brown sugar
2 teaspoons soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar
18 ounces Hershey Bar (grated)
5 cups blended oatmeal
4 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups chopped walnuts or pecans

Reduce the oatmeal to a fine powder in a blender. Cream the butter and both sugars, most easily done in a food processor. In a large bowl, add the oatmeal and creamed butter/sugars, eggs, vanilla, salt, baking powder, and soda. Mix thoroughly, then add the chocolate chips, grated Hershey Bar, and nuts.

Using a couple of teaspoons of dough each, roll balls of cookie dough and place two inches apart on a cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes at 375 degrees in a preheated oven. This recipe make over 100 cookies, so you may want to half or quarter the ingredients.


Now, the interesting thing about this recipe is that, while the recipe is authentic, the story behind it is an urban legend, and an old one at that. Details at Snopes.

Posted by jbahr at 08:53 AM | Comments (1)

September 29, 2004


Poetry has another deliciously wicked series of critiques in its Antagonisms section this month. Wiman starts off this month's entries by noting that "there is much to learn from such collisions, both in terms of the poet mounting the charge and the one whose work is under attack."

Eavan Boland on Marianne Moore: Boland has no argument with Moore's craft. She objects to being perpetually "kept at a distance", and opines that "irony is the automatic pilot of modernism."

W.S. Di Piero on Philip Larkin: Like Boland, Di Piero has more problems with Larkin's motivation than his execution: "... Larkin's sagging sense of endurable aggrievedness isn't genuine, it's just tame and listless."

Stephen Dobyns on Robert Frost: Like Di Piero and Boland, Dobyns just doesn't like the poet.  He questions Frost's folksy New Hampshire affect (particularly as Frost spent his childhood in San Francisco and his adulthood in Massachusetts), and dislikes his underlying gloom:  "The secret self, paranoia, mockery, animus -- it's hard for me not to feel antagonistic to a poet with such motivation."

William Logan on Gerard Manley Hopkins:  Nobody beats Logan at his own game.  Unlike the prior critics, Logan doesn't even pretend to like Hopkins' work:  " [his] poems taste like ash in my mouth".  Logan says that, individually, he could overlook Hopkins' "religiosity", "stumbling and perverse rhythms", "Victorian curdling of language", "rosaceous diction", and "clatter of exclamations".  "No, it's the compound interest of these flaws together, plus the badly kept secret that Hopkins is often nearly unreadable."

J.D. McClatchy on Rainer Maria Rilke:  At least McClatchy is consistent:  he doesn't like Rilke and he doesn't like his poetry.  To McClatchy, Rilke represents a "a snob who likes to walk barefoot, ... a passive and self-pitying sexual predator."  Rilke's work is filled with "flaccid sentimentality" and is "pretentiously obscure."  He closes by asking:  "Or would it be fairer to wonder if Rilke hasn't become ... the Kahlil Gibran of the intellectual set?"

Kay Ryan on Walt Whitman:  Ryan's piece is by far the funniest of the bunch.  She doesn't read Whitman because she doesn't "need Whitman's big stride, his wide, encompassing arms, his hugs."  Her poets are "a dryish people.  Lonely, and what of it?  They do not gather around the campfire."  She continues:  "When I think of Whitman, I think of bulk.  Page after page of the SAME POEM, rectangle after ripe rectangle of self-delighted self-expression."

Rosanna Warren on H.D.:  If H.D. is among the great Modernist writers, Ms. Warren doesn't believe it.  She finds H.D.'s poetry often "solemn and inert", deplores her "narrow diction", and finds her work an example of the "art of imitation." 

If you can get a copy of this issue, I recommend it.  After plugging your way through Frank Bidart's 36-page poem (the only one in the issue), there is the series of antagonisms, and a section of no-holds-barred critiques of the National Book Award, Pulitzer and National Book Critics awards, and the usual contentious Letters To The Editor.

Posted by jbahr at 08:14 AM | Comments (4)

September 28, 2004

The Open Poetry Marketplace

Patricia Lockwood mentioned today that The Kenyon Review is now accepting submissions via email.  That got me thinking again about this crazy idea I've had for a couple of years now.  The notion reconciles the free-market zeal of the current Administration with the problem of managing litmag submissions :  The Open Poetry Marketplace.

The Open Poetry Marketplace would work in some ways like a stock or commodity exchange.  A poet would register with the usual profile information he/she submits when joining any other secure online site:  name, address, contact phone number, username, password, and so on.  Once registered, the poet could then upload poems to the Open Poetry Database. 

Each poem would be given a unique and never-duplicated PID (Poem Identification number), and could be submitted in any format that could be checked for macro viruses .  The permissible document formats should permit the usual bolding and italics, an adventuresome use of white space, a complete set of non-Latin symbols, and variety of fonts.  Adobe PDF or HTML might be a good choice, or perhaps any document created by Wordpad.  Each document would contain exactly one poem.  An easy-to-use web interface would step the poet through the process of uploading the document.

The poet could review the poems he/she currently has on file, but not edit the text.  The poet could withdraw any poem from consideration and replace it with a new copy that contained edits, however.  The poet could also create a submission packet indicating the poems that were to be included.  Each submission packet would also be given a unique identifier. 

Literary journals would be encouraged to enroll and create a secure profile.  At that point we would have a market of producers (poets) and consumers (litmags).  A poet could designate a poem or packet as Generally Available, or indicate what journals he was interested in submitting to.  Litmags could check those submissions to which they currently had access and process them at a pace consistent with their budget and staffing.  Acceptances and Rejections could be handled with the mouseclick, together with an optional submission response, and even a short accompanying note. 

The Open Poetry Database Manager would be configurable so that a literary journal could create "file drawers" to indicate that a submission was in the "first read" bin.  Additional virtual file drawers could be created for "rush" reads or "only if we get time".  The litmag side of the system could provide useful statistics, such as the last time the poet submitted.  It could be configured to accept only submissions not under consideration by another litmag (the non-simultaneous submission checkbox). 

The Open Poetry Marketplace would include tools for producing print versions of submissions or response letters.  It could produce labels for mass mailings and would be able to do bulk emailing to a large list of poets who had given their permission to be targeted.

So, does this sound expensive?  Current estimates to the top 200 journals is a million poems per year.  However, the actual hosting of the system would be very reasonable.  A modern server and a terabyte of disk space could handle everything for under $4,000 -- and be able to store at least 10 years of submissions.  More expensive would be the Internet backbone connection, but that would probably run less than $1000 a month.  Designing, developing, user-testing and deploying the application would take time and money -- perhaps a fraction of a million dollars, including the expense of travel and communications to achieve consensus among advocates representing the poet's community and those representing the literary journals.  Maintenance and administration might run a low six figures per year.  Is that a lot of money?  Well, no, not if the folks at Poetry, currently endowed in the 8-figure range, wanted to fund a truly revolutionary project.

Would this idea change the organization of literary journals?  Probably not a lot.  Each journal would still need to produce a product, and the same hordes of interns would be needed to review the submissions.  There would be, however, a dramatic increase in the timeliness and professionalism of submissions processing. 

Would this change the quality or character of literary journals?  Probably not.  Journals would still solicit material privately, determine their aesthetic, engage guest editors, and, in general, do what they've been doing for years.

Would such a system benefit poets?  I think it would definitely aid poets in the timely and expensive process of submission.  It would also help ensure that the same work wasn't sent twice to the same litmag, and would better track submission responses. 

Would such a system help create a meritocracy in the Poetry World?  Regrettably, no.  It might level the playing field, however, for outstanding poets who -- for reasons of finances, family commitments or organization skills deficits -- might otherwise be overlooked.

Could the system be abused?  Would it create an avalanche of work that would swamp the literary journal community?  That fear has been the main justification when literary journals refuse to accept e-submissions.  One aspect of the system that might mitigate the problem of over-submission would be placing limits on the number of outstanding submissions.  Also, since each poet must be registered, the number of frivolous submissions would be limited to the participants in the Marketplace.

How could this project be jump-started?  Well, at first, it could be designed and developed as an open-source project (like Linux) with many developers helping in different areas.  There are a surprising number of software developers, web designers, and IT specialists in the poetry community. 

Heck, I'm ready to pitch in.  Anybody else?  Comments?

Posted by jbahr at 12:13 PM | Comments (4)

September 27, 2004

God's Country

My thanks to Mary at QED for this example of where God sits on the matter of the upcoming election.  Note the tracks of recent hurricanes and which counties they passed through.


Posted by jbahr at 12:04 PM | Comments (3)

September 26, 2004

Tony at Here Comes Everybody

I'm indebted to Reb Livingston for reminding me to check in at Here Comes Everybody, where they're featuring Anthony Robinson. Tony was one of the senior staff at a poetry forum where I resided for a while, and I always had a lot of respect for his opinions and talent. That was before I knew this:

It should come as no surprise to those who know me, or read my blog, that I own a lot of cookbooks. Probably over two hundred on my kitchen shelves, and more elsewhere. I buy new cookbooks more frequently these days than books of poetry. I subscribe to Saveur, Gourmet, and Bon Appetit, and have for years. Food is my abiding passion. Poems are great, but you need food to survive. Men die every day for lack of food. I’m not so sure they die from lack of poetry, though the idea intrigues me.

What a guy! I would have about that many cookbooks, as well, if I hadn't lost half of them every time I got divorced (don't ask).

Posted by jbahr at 05:33 PM | Comments (2)

In The Mail This Week

Somewhat light week for mail.  I didn't even get any rejections.

Wired has an interesting article on The Crusade Against Evolution.  The Discovery Institute is pushing a souped-up version of Creationism in the form of Intelligent Design.  DI is backed by the increasingly right-of-center George Gilder, the head cheerleader during the go-go days with his Gilder Report.  DI has taken the smart tack of presenting Intelligent Design as a legitimate alternative to Evolution, and worthy of co-instruction in our nation's high school science classes.  Other interesting stories included:  "Boobs of Steel" which details the latest uplifting breast implants constructed of titanium and polyester;  Orrin Hatch's sponsorship of the Induce Act, which could criminalize any technology that facilitates copyright infringement, from iPods to email applications; new London mini-motels a la Tokyo Tube Motels, wherein you can get a bed, shower, toilet and sink for $9 a night; K. Eric Drexler, the godfather of nanotechnology and how he got aced by Big Science.

PC World has an entire issue dedicated to tricks and tools to improve your computing experience and minimize annoyances.  They even include a checklist to determine if you are annoying, which includes such questions as:  Does your PC announce the arrival of an email message by playing a clip from Joanie Loves Chachi?

Time's cover article is a rehash of what happened to Poor Dan Rather.  There's a good article by Joe Klein entitled Bush's Iraq:  A Powerful Fantasy.  The rest of the magazine succumbs to the same old Angry Red and Blue Voters theory, which I think trivializes the complexity of the nation's concerns.

Jon Stewart's very, very funny America (The Book) came in the mail.  This is a somewhat serious and mainly humorous (in some places hysterically) history of America and primer on its institutions.  There's a question grid that lets you determine what type of government best suits you (Democracy, Totalitarian Regime, Theocracy, Socialist State, Third-World Island Resort, ..., Constitutional Robocracy).  There are assignments, cutouts, and other attributes of a high-school text book.  Every 50 pages or so, Samantha Bee pops in apologetically and asks if she could explain how they do it in Canada.  The Executive and Legislative are neatly skewered, and the section on the Judicial branch includes a list of Landmark Supreme Court Cases (e.g., Godzilla v. Megalon).

I also received the Crab Orchard Review and Alaska Quarterly Review, but haven't had a chance to read through them yet.

Posted by jbahr at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

September 24, 2004

More BAP Rap

Ed Roberson, Ideas Gray Suits Bowler Hats Baal:  Great title.  Pretty inexplicable, though one gets the sense of fin de siecle angst ("but the mind is always filled with so many ideas / gray suits and bowler hats lifting silently the last / century     and this").  I found the poem generally interesting, but very weak at the close ("they think into / empty voices / viciously ancient idol cow / disease of long rotted enemies").  Roberson says he is upset with humankind and its barbaric religious practices.

Carly Sachs, the story: Ms. Sachs explains this 6-part word jumble as an exercise in revisiting a memory ("it was and on was so / felt my saying myself could so / but or he was I in") .  Junie thought this built slowly to create an effective gestalt.  I thought it had an interesting effect on my read, but wasn't ultimately convinced that the word permuting was working.

Jennifer Scappettone, III: I slugged my way through this poem out of respect for Bang and Donnelly, poetry editors of the Boston Review, where this was published.  From the title (III), the poem descends into two more parts labeled ii and i.  The first part (ii) is written as three meandering columns, which appear to be readable either left to right or top to bottom.  The next section (i) is a series of declaratives ("It's the opera in the sky. / It's the cookie I keep for you always / It's the alley of olives on the way home.  The cured") written as single lines.  I wish I had found this more interesting, but others may well.

Frederick Seidel, Love Song: This has to be one of the few poems in iambic tetrameter (AABB) to appear in Fence lately.  There are some seriously funny lines ("You brought me life, glued pollen on / My sunblock, Happy days are gone").  There is odd, but effective repetition here and there, like a villanelle on acid.  All in all, fun to read, but yet another example of a poem that seemed to get into BAP by hitting the editors at the right time in the right mood.

Posted by jbahr at 04:49 PM | Comments (0)

September 23, 2004

Kerry Trailing

Votemaster shows Kerry trailing Bush by electoral votes, 255 to 273. There are so many conditions, caveats and what-ifs involved, however, that it's clear (again) that the only sane conclusion is that this should be a close race (so, go register already!). The possible scenarios outlined by Votemaster are complicated enough for a Clancy novel, or if you wish, the interpretations of Nostradamus provided by World Weekly News:

Seems like a clear, if small, Bush victory, no?

Well, not so clear. Consider Colorado. A small and relatively unknown polling firm, Ciruli, has announced that Bush is ahead in Colorado by an implausible 55% to 39%, a 16% lead. There have been six polls since Aug 16 in Colorado, every single one of them had the race either exactly tied or one of the candidates was ahead by 1%. Even the Republican polling firm Public Opinion Strategies had Bush only 1% ahead as recently as Sept 13. Assuming the folks at Ciruli just made up some numbers, and Bush is ahead by 1%, everything depends on the Colorado referendum to split the electoral vote proportionally to the popular vote.

Fortunately, a poll has just come out on the referendum and currently it looks like it might just pass. If Bush is 1% ahead in Colorado, he would get 5 votes in the electoral college and Kerry would get 4, changing the score to Kerry 269, Bush 269. If West Virginia Bush elector Richie Robb votes for a Republican other than Bush, as he has threatened, then the score becomes Kerry 269, Bush 268. In both cases the election is decided by the new House with each state getting one vote. In all scenarios, the Republicans will control the majority of delegations in the new House, so the House will elect Bush. Depending on who controls the Senate, Cheney or Edwards becomes vice president. Could go either way. If the Democrats hang onto the Louisiana Senate seat, as they have for over 100 years. there is a good chance the Senate will be split 50-50. In that case, Cheney gets to cast the deciding vote.

Can you imagine the liberal firestorm that will ensue if the House or Cheney installs Bush?

Posted by jbahr at 07:20 PM | Comments (0)

Gender Bender

There is a rollicking discussion going on at Ron Silliman's weblog which was prompted by Ron's discussion of the Zukofsky 100 conference, and subsequent comments (both at Ron's blog and elsewhere). The observation was made that the conference participants were principally male, which led to a more general discussion of race/gender/religion and their relevance when discussing literature.

For the past couple of years, I've been giving some thought to the age and gender mix in the Poetry World (not with any of the nostalgia for the dead pale male era usually attributed to, say, Bloom).  My curiosity was first piqued when I began to look at the composition of age and gender among the poets in Best American Poetry.

Avg Min Max Median       Editor
Year Age Age Age Age Male Female Editor Age
1988 49 25 83 45 55 20 Ashbery 61
1989 50 28 78 47 50 25 Hall 61
1990 49 18 74 47 49 26 Graham 40
1991 48 26 83 44 46 29 Strand 57
1992 49 21 81 47 43 32 Simic 53
1993 53 24 92 51 49 26 Gluck 50
1994 46 26 81 44 45 30 Ammons 68
1995 48 27 75 46 42 33 Howard 66
1996 45 19 91 45 37 38 Rich 67
1997 48 27 74 49 53 22 Tate 54
1998 55 31 77 55 56 19 Hollander 69
1999 60 32 88 59 46 29 Bly 73
2000 50 28 90 49 42 33 Dove 48
2001 54 27 90 54 35 40 Hass 60
2002 56 26 94 57 50 25 Creeley 76
2003 55 24 88 57 50 25 Komunyakaa 56
2004 54 20 101 56 53 22 Hejinian 63

My conclusions at the time were that, if BAP represents an approximation over the years of our best poets, then:

  • The median age of our best poets is increasing.
  • The percentage of women in this group is remaining at roughly 25-35%
  • There is no discernable difference between progressive poets (more often selected by progressive editors) and more traditional poets.

I wasn't sure I actually believed that, however.  You have to be pretty inattentive not to notice, for example, the large number of women involved in poetry today.  Here are some random factoids rambling around in my head:  At the Chicago AWP, I did some informal counts in the larger presentations and found that 60% to 70% of the attendees were female.  At least half of the litmag editors I saw in the Book Fair were women, and of the books I had signed by new authors, all but one were women.  Just about half of all the poets in 10 random litmags I've received lately are women (although there were wide variations).  The three articles on book contests that I've read recently were by women.  60% of the active participants on the major poetry internet boards are women. 

On the other hand (by rough count after Googling) 60% of the faculty of MFA programs seem to be men -- and more than 60% of the permanent faculty.  60% of the randomly acquired poetry blogs on this page are by guys.  Of twelve major first-book contests I researched, there have been 20 recent male winners and 18 recent female.

Of course, at this point, you're wondering where I'm going with this.  Well, I'm not going anywhere, actually.  I'm damned happy to see women producing great poetry. 

My favorite poets of the current generation are overwhelmingly female.  The interesting thing is that I think they are my favorites, to some extent, because they are women.  I can get into nothing but trouble by elaborating, but I'll try anyway (please understand that I'm talking about something very subjective, very approximate, and not necessarily generalizable to you).  I think, to some extent, there are issues, treatments and shadings more often associated with a woman's poetry that I connect with.  I take most women's poetry more seriously than most men's ... and when I want to relax with poetry that is less-than-serious, it's usually written by a guy -- Hoagland, Lux, Collins, Kirby, ...).  There's a certain amount of Reader Response going on here, no doubt.  Would I read Mary Jo Bang any differently if she were Marshall Joe Bang?  Maybe.  Can I think of the male analogues of Anne Carson, Louise Glück or Jorie Graham?  No, I can't.    On the other hand, maybe it's all in my head.  I'd like to hear your thoughts.

Posted by jbahr at 04:15 PM | Comments (5)

September 22, 2004

Deborah's 20-Minute Multi-Purpose Garbanzolina

This recipe comes from Deborah Ager, who publishes 32 Poems (edited by John Poch). 

Personally, I love garbanzos, and have been known to whip up a quick batch of hummus for a snack.  This recipe is almost as quick, good for your ailing/pining/poetic body, and inexpensive.

1 brick (or 8 ounce bag) of frozen spinach
1 can of garbanzo beans (usually 16 ounces)
1 medium onion, diced
1 teaspoon of curry powder
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of diced garlic or Big T of garlic powder
A couple of dashes of pepper
3 Big T of olive oil
Brown rice or tortillas

Add the mustard seeds to olive oil that has been heated just to the point of fragrance. When the mustard seeds pop,  quickly add the curry powder, garlic, pepper and onion. Sauté the onion until it is translucent. Add the spinach and beans, and cook while stirring until the mixture is thoroughly and evenly heated.  Deborah advises tasting the mixture and adjusting the spices to your own tastes.

This concoction can be served over brown rice, or spooned into tortillas and topped with your favorite hot sauce.  

Posted by jbahr at 10:28 AM | Comments (1)

Bippity BAP

More short takes:

Jeni Olin, Blue Collar Holiday:  Starts off in media res, then continues with a barrage of likable imagery ("Those dying balloons on Job's Lane sag around like saline breast implants") with a good poetic rhythm and decent musicality.  Some funny parts ("Wrist-slitting stuff") and some outstanding visuals ("And the thin made branches all snow-furred / Like an X ray of infant bronchitis'").  Her explanation of the poem took me completely by surprise, which, perhaps, is as it should be.

Danielle Pafunda, RSVP:  Just plain silly. ("... I won't / put on my pity party dress").  Or very deep.  Nah.  Just plain silly.

Heidi Peppermint, Real Toads:  If you can enter a poem called Real Toads written by a woman named Heidi Peppermint without expectations, you're a better reader than I.  This piece is a syntactic wonderment with perfect compression ("we bridge to word it, ticking off our / trues.  Sly by sly, backs up against").   Almost none of it makes sense, and then it all does, the way a bunch of olive oil and albumen becomes mayonnaise all of a sudden. 

Bob Perelman, Here 2:  The last time I opined that a poem was too long, Mary Jo Bang told me to go stand in the corner.  I'll chance it here, though, because this diverting piece seems to lose energy after the first page.  It may be that it's ultimately a poem-to-be-spoken ("we the media, all other pronouns confiscated, / and there's no way to turn this off, / the mute button's broken, like all the others,"). 

Carl Phillips, Pleasure:  Junie loves Carl Phillips to pieces.  But not this particular piece.  Phillips employs his trademark short lines to force us to consider his thoughts more carefully ("This far in -- / where to say the sea / and mean impossible").  In this poem, there just wasn't enough there there, and Junie thought it lacked an extended metaphor.

Robert Pinsky, Samba: "The Hudson's not a river but an estuary.  Palisades Park / Was a hit, then a jingle, or was it the other way around?"  I guess I don't know why this poem is in the volume.  It sounds like The Boss reminiscing.  Bob should do his earlier stuff, and while he's at it, get another gig on The Simpsons.

Carl Rakosi, In the First Circle of Limbo:  I'm not sure I can quote from this 22-word poem and still qualify for the Fair Use Doctrine.  OK, here goes:  "Liberate me, / Muse, / from this encirclement / of categories."  I think I'm missing Very Important about this piece.  I mean, it was in APR.  Ya know?

Posted by jbahr at 07:33 AM | Comments (1)

Kerry Ahead

Votemaster puts Kerry ahead on electoral votes, 269 to 253. Not three days ago, Kerry was behind 207 to 331. That's what happens when 60 electoral votes switch from one camp to another, something that is probably a statistical accident at this point.

Pennsylvania, Florida, Wisconsin, Colorado, Maryland, Arizona, and Nevada show one candidate or the other with 2% or less of a lead, and Arkansas is a dead heat. That's 98 electoral votes.

There are probably 150 electoral votes whose uncertainty is within the Margin of Error.

I don't see how this race can get much uglier, but it probably will.

Posted by jbahr at 06:27 AM | Comments (0)

September 21, 2004

Random Bits of News

The newly reformed KGB has been using drug-assisted interrogations on journalists who covered the Beslan tragedy. Ashcroft was caught mumbling "now, why didn't I think of that?" The Fed is poised to raise short-term interest rates again. In another year or so, you'll be making .025% on your savings account again. Porter Goss is expected to be confirmed as CIA head. Wait, wasn't Porter Goss the pastor that Matthew McConaughey played in Contact? President Bush will address the UN in a plea for "cooperation". The picture looks like Bush is leaning leftward from Kofi Annan so that the Secret Service can get a clean shot. Kerry did the "Top 10 Tax Code Changes Expected In Bush's 2d Term" on Letterman. They included the elimination of estate tax for families with at least two U.S. presidents. Another stupid hurricane killed a lot of people. You realize, of course, this has gotten much worse since we started naming them. Dyeing your hair has been linked to leukemia. The US government has started shipping weapons-grade plutonium to France. Hey, you have to put it somewhere.

The really big news is that today is the birthday of Claudia Grinnell, an outstanding poet and photographer, and also your basic fox.

Posted by jbahr at 08:37 AM | Comments (1)

Back To BAP

A few more short takes:

Erín Moure, 8 Little Theatres of the Cornices:  Ms. Moure has composed eight short pieces, each a little theatre, to demonstrate its use of hope as fuel.  The poems are constructed with music (without being singsong), repetition (without inducing ennui), a serviceable vocabulary, and a light pastoral touch that works as a foil for various metallic references (wolfram brought riches ... /  ... Some of the lungs' telluric memory).  The last of the sections (Theatre of the Pavement) ends ironically (Nowhere yet has symbolism proven / adequate), with a clever wrap-around of boot imagery that echoes the first piece.

Paul Muldoon, The Last Time I Saw Chris:  I'm beginning to think that Muldoon is an acquired taste.  Junie's only comment was that she, at least, read this all the way through.  Muldoon's irrepressible sense of humor sprouts here and there (to turn the other cheek, for crying out loud, looking back at me as if she saw / that I foresaw).  The imagery seems thrown into the poem, as one might make an omelet out of leftovers.  I can't get over the feeling that I'm reading Ashbery dumbed down for A Prairie Home Companion.  Could be me, of course.

Eileen Mayes, No Rewriting:  C. E. Chaffin used to demonstrate what he called the Chinese Brush Experiment, whereby he would compose a poem without any editing -- as if one were practicing calligraphy.  This poem has that kind of feel, though Ms. Mayes admits to editing it.  Junie made it to line 5:  I agree.  It's a good place to shit.  As I am more scatologically tolerant (by which I mean, I read all of Gabe's A Defense of Poetry), I made it to the end, and it was worth it, because this piece got much better.  By which I mean it had some rocky moments early on: ("I will wake up loving you and when I come home", "how do you spell univercity / it always looks cilly"), but redeems itself somewhat near the end ("I'm 28 / 35 / forty even forty").  In the end, the poem felt like something that was written backward, losing energy as we go back in time, an extended diary entry written on a bus with bad springs, backing slowly into a parking spot.

Alice Notley, State of the Union: The gifted Ms. Notley weaves words and short phrases, each punctuated as complete sentences ("and when she.  so the novel.  glistens in all its propriety.  and then he.") into a prose poem.  At least, I think it's a prose poem.  I found it intriguing, if puzzling.  Notley explains the poem as "something like a poem, with characters, dialogue, singing and invective.  The title character ... is a god:  she is a junky.  [The poem] was written at the time of the 2002 State of the Union address, by the president, who is perceived finally as nothing but a set of genitals."  I suppose that's how he looks from Paris, where Ms. Notley lives.  From here, he looks like a big cowboy hat with eyes cut out in the crown.

Posted by jbahr at 07:20 AM | Comments (0)

Change For Change's Sake

I had a manuscript recently called Recursive Descent, which neatly describes the sense of déjà now I feel when I hop around from one poetry weblog to another.  This activity isn't strictly recursive, nor always descending.  It is more multi-referential, as each of us mentions something we saw at another's blog.   It would be interesting to see a collaborative poem written in this way.  What way exactly, you ask?  I'm not quite sure.  I'll have to get back to you on that. 

The notion reminds me, however, of another idea I had once of writing a poem in which each preceding line changes slightly after having been read.  Perhaps, the first line would read:

The Belgian clock squats, windowed and quick

but the moment your eyes carriage-return to the second line:

An Audi on the tarmac passing pear trees, each blossom bottled.

The first line changes to:

The Belgian stock squats, winnowed and quick

and continues to change, a word or two at a time, each time your eyes consider another line of the poem.  By the end of the poem, most of what you have read has changed.  At any point in reading the poem, its current incarnation should make sense, at least poetic sense. 

This kind of interactiveness would require some sort of biometric webcam which monitored the movement of your eyes (God forbid).  I suppose, in a pinch, one could ask the reader to click on each line as he/she finishes reading it.  I like the possibilities -- slowly morphing an upbeat, narrative poem into something morose and elliptical, perhaps.

If you're like me (and I know I am), your manuscript has undergone something like this metamorphosis:  changing titles, rearranging the poem ordering, replacing whole pieces, twiddling with lines.  In my case, the constant reshuffling is a symptom of despair, as I substitute another form of eclecticism for what First Book Contest Judges truly want:  unity of style. 

Posted by jbahr at 07:12 AM | Comments (0)

September 20, 2004

Gone and Back Again

I've been off on a trip without benefit of laptop these last two days.  I'm home now in Colorado.  This is the the view from my back deck, which reminds me why I keep coming back.  I don't know if this Turneresque view actually contributes much to the poetry, but it certainly manages to insinuate my back deck into a lot of my poems

Posted by jbahr at 08:28 PM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2004

The Joke's On Bush

I couldn't help it. These were were just too funny. The whole batch are over at They cover the last four years:

"President Bush says he has just one question for the American voters, 'Is the rich person you're working for better off now than they were four years ago?'" —Jay Leno

"George W. Bush surrounds himself with smart people the way a hole surrounds itself with a donut." —Dennis Miller

"The president finally explained why he sat in that classroom on 9/11 for 7 minutes after he was told the country was under attack. He said he was 'collecting his thoughts.' What a time to start a new hobby.'" —Bill Maher

"In response to a request by the 9/11 commission the White House agreed to declassify the president's daily intelligence briefing from August 6th titled 'Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.' The commission also wants to see the August 20th briefing, 'No Seriously Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States' and also from August 26th, 'Mr. President, Please Put Down the Game Boy, Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.'" —Tina Fey, Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update"

"President Bush delivered his first State of the Union address, riding high on an 82-percent approval rating, and with Attorney General John Ashcroft dispatching agents to interview the other 18 percent." —Jon Stewart

"As fighting in Iraq intensifies, President Bush delivered his supplemental war budget to Congress. The money will cover 30 days of fighting, then we'll be sent one war every other month until we cancel our subscription." —Craig Kilborn

"President Bush is asking Congress for $80 billion dollars to re-build Iraq. And when you make out that check, remember there are two L's in Halliburton." —David Letterman

"President Bush is going to establish elections there in Iraq. He's going to rebuild the infrastructure. He's going to create jobs. He said if it works there, he'll try it here." —David Letterman

"Rumors have restarted that the Republican ticket will not be Bush-Cheney. But today those rumors were put to rest when Cheney said, 'No, I'm keeping him on the ticket.'" —Jay Leno

"You never see Bush in the Oval Office. He's always playing golf, or he's riding a horse in Texas, or he's playing tennis. You know? I can't tell if he's president or filming a feminine hygiene commercial." —Jay Leno

"Earlier this afternoon, George W. Bush resigned as the governor of Texas. This is historic. It's the first job he's left without going bankrupt. It was a nice ceremony. The state of Texas said while he's president, they'll let him stop by every once in a while and execute someone." —Jay Leno

There's also some very funny Bushified movie posters in the political cartoon section.

Posted by jbahr at 05:32 PM | Comments (0)


Someone once called Poetry the 800-pound gorilla of the poetry world. That's probably not the consensus opinion of young MFAs, however, many of whom prefer less conservative aesthetics. With Parisi out and Wiman in, I've noticed a little more risk-taking lately, and I like the expanded review and essay sections.

The first thing I noticed in this month's volume is a couple of deft ekphrastic poems by Victoria Chang (you go, girl). If you don't know Victoria, you should read her weblog. This woman has the kind of energy normally associated with nuclear fusion.

Séverine in Summer School by Rex Wilder displays a little humor that was sorely lacking under the previous Poetry administration ("Naked for twenty-four of our last thirty-six / Hours together, and I mean museum-quality, sex- / Shop, God-riddling naked .."). The remaining work is pretty much all lyrical narrative, excepting Simone Muench's The OED Defines Red-Hot, with its staccato rendition of multiple definitions ("She's a hot tomato; love- / apple; Marilyn Monroe's / mink stole.").  Derek Walcott checks in with a work of much description and little surprise (once you get a Nobel Prize, you pretty much do what you damned well please).

In the essay and review section, Joseph Epstein runs down the notion of Poet Laureate in his Thank You, No.  In places, he sounded like he was channeling Richard Howard.  There are reviews of new books by Henri Cole, Elizabeth Spires, Alice Fulton, Vijay Seshadri, Carl Phillips, and Olena K. Davis.  What is interesting about these reviews is that they're all by novelists and short-story writers:  Rick Moody, Scott Bradfield, Emily Barton, Ben Marcus, Kate Bernheimer, and Ira Sher (who, I was surprised to learn, is married to Rebecca Wolff, of Fence fame).  These fictioneers must have pretty good ears, because I found myself agreeing with most of the reviews -- at least when they addressed poets whose work I'm familiar with.  A few lines that struck a chord with me:

Bradfield on Cole:  Cole's poems always stop far short of confiding in the reader.  More often than not, they feel like secrets which the poet is keeping to himself.

Barton on Spires: Spires obviously delights in formal structures, but never hews to them;  her tidy stanzas hold together just solidly enough to seem weighty.

Marcus on Fulton:  She has the ability to generate metaphors just short of cryptic on the decoding scale, which flirt captivatingly on the border between lucidity and abstraction.  But too often her linguistic dexterity and stylistic exertions mask what are, finally, banal stories.

Bernheimer on Seshadri:  If you're ... drawn to a certain fullness in poetry -- fullness of language, of character, of feeling -- then you're likely to find Seshadri's work ultimately unsatisfying.

Sher on Phillips:  ... one generally finds oneself a member of a solemn procession. ... one feels Phillips just over one's shoulder, the breathing of a person who is both determined to be troubled, and determined to tell you about it.

Moody on Davis:  ... Davis has apparently given up worrying about the condition of poetry itself, the better to demand that you listen to what she has to say, which is that the love poem is now properly composed of ambivalences and complexities and uncertainties.

Posted by jbahr at 09:19 AM | Comments (2)

September 16, 2004

In The Mail This Week

It was a short mail week, for some reason.  Three rejections, including one from The North American Review chastising me for submitting simultaneously.  Doh.  They figured it out because I sent them a nice note indicating that a submitted poem had been taken by another litmag. OK, cross them off the list.

I got my contributor's copy of POOL, which looks mighty fine.  Poems by Marilyn Chin, Gillian Conoley, Brenda Hillman, Timothy Liu, Louise Mathias, Cole Swensen and GC Waldrep among many other fine poets. 

I also got my subscription copies of the Colorado Review, Poetry, Indiana Review and 3d Bed.  I've only read a little of the back of Poetry, so you'll have to bear with me.  A review there of Bloom's The Best Poems of the English Language starts off with "Harold Bloom doesn't so much publish books as come down from the mountain with them."

Time has a large section dedicated to the porousness of America's Borders, an interview with Kerry ("I've been in worse situations"), and a review of the new Lenny Bruce 6-CD set (did you know he got his start on Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, doing Jimmy Cagney impressions?)

The Atlantic has a long article by James Fallows called "Bush's Lost Year:  How the War on Iraq Undermined the War on Terror."  I don't always agree with Fallows, but he's a fair and accurate journalist.  The Calendar section reminds us that the Missile Defense System debuts on September 30th.  They note that "the system has a 5 for 8 record of knocking down dummy missiles that were flying low and slow" and it's not known whether the system actually works in bad weather. Total cost, to date: $90 billion

A lot of poets complain about the banality of Atlantic's poetry (or Davison's tastes). While the poems in The Atlantic are usually a pretty good yawn, I found Bamboo, by David Solway to be laughably bad. I mean, really, comically, pitifully bad.

Posted by jbahr at 02:47 PM | Comments (4)

September 15, 2004

Jillski's Guiltless Turkeyburgers

Jill is two for two this month with her recipes. For you lo-carb vegans, this isn't quite as guiltless as I advertised.

1 pound ground turkey
2 cup fresh spinach
1/2 white onion, chopped
3 Big T pesto
3 Big T goat cheese
Whole wheat buns

You can make your own pesto with basil and pinenuts, or just buy a jar of it at the supermarket. Snip off most of the stems from a bunch of fresh spinach and wash repeatedly until clean (the French say, 5 times). Sauté the diced onion until it's soft. Now, add the spinach and cook until its excess moisture has evaporated. Mix the onions and spinach into turkey meat, using the same "squishing through your fingers" method employed in The Mother of All Meatloaf.

Separate and pat into 4 burgers. Salt and pepper both sides and place on the grill. While the burgers are cooking, mix the pesto and goat cheese together. Spread this on the turkey burgers when they come off the grill. Add sliced tomatoes and any other desired condiment.

Posted by jbahr at 02:03 PM | Comments (1)

BAP Gemlettes

I called Junie again to sync up on BAP 2004.  In our last discussion, we'd found a half a dozen poems we both liked in the first third of the volume.  Regrettably, our estimation of the rest of the volume was downhill from there.  There were some poems that one or the other of us liked, though.  Here are some short takes:

Aaron Fogel, 337,000, December, 2000:  Wonderful imagery in this 5-part poem of long lines.  There are places where the writing seems clinical, and is then redeemed ("Literature is the infiltration of the mind / By its stops.")  Geese, and their travels, provide a device for wandering geographically and philosophically.  Jam-packed with nice lines ("Clogs approach dogs on the yeast white sand / By which we mean the murder of seals") and, overall, quite haunting.

Carla Harryman, Baby:  This long, segmented poem is apparently from an upcoming book.  Junie and I both admired the writing, but were ultimately a little perplexed by the Over-Arching Metaphor.  It was like some kinds of classical music for me -- pleasant and complex, but ultimately beyond my aesthetic grasp.

Jane Hirshfield, Poe: An Assay(I):  I was pleasantly surprised to find Hirshfield working outside her usual venues (Zen, pastoral, feminist).  This piece has some nice moments as it documents events that took place during Poe's life (London's smoke/smog, serf labor, the Indian holocaust).  The poem contained a few good metaphors ("under the culture's floorboards"), but ultimately seemed more like exercise than art.

Fanny Howe, Catholic:  Fine writing, but perhaps more essay than poem.  Or an MPS, and there's nothing wrong with that.  Statements of pure prose ("Legal thoughts were developed by the Dominicans when they were assigned the job of ...") are followed by flights of poetry ("Lemon-water light of California") in a satisfying melange of thought.  Having lived 17 years in Southern California, I smiled in recognition at many of the images ("The drive from I-5 along Melrose to Sycamore"), but I'm not sure everyone would appreciate the references.

John Koethe, To an Audience:  It's nice to see a little formal verse, and Koethe provides a little relief from the unrelenting post-avant work in this year's volume.  This piece is composed of pairs of IP and I6 lines.  As Koethe points out, the piece is anti-pastoral, somewhat Shakespearean in tone, but without much in the way of metaphor.

Harry Mathew, Lateral Disregard:  Mathews made his BAP showing in 2002 with delightfully silly anti-poem, Butter & Eggs.  This poem, which begins "Shall I compare thee to a summer's bay" is Mathew's response to a conjecture by Koch that "the beauty of poetry doesn't depend upon sound."  The poem is chock-a-block with sound and imagery.

K. Silem Mohammad, Mars Needs Terrorists: Kasey creates an unusual "found" poem, divided into numbered sections, each line of which begins with ":.:.:.:.:", by ordering the results of a Google search on terrorists, teenagers, wet, republican, sex and slave.  Kasey seems quite pleased with what he calls this "nauseous froth".  I smiled trying to figure out whether it took him more guts to publish it, or Hejinian to include it.

More in a few days ...

Posted by jbahr at 09:12 AM | Comments (1)

September 13, 2004

Ars Poetica

I always get a kick out of well-written wry verse, which is probably why I seek out David Kirby, Tony Hoagland, Gabe Gudding, Billy Collins and others for a chuckle now and again.

In the last issue of APR, Richard Cecil had a humorous piece called Ars Poetica that tickled me. It starts off:

Fuck's okay unless you plan to send
your manuscript to ____ at ___ ___ ___,
but the following words must not be used in poems:
iridescent, love, destiny, magnificent,
butterfly, gently, puppy, grandma, sis,
numinous, over-arching, romantic, bliss
and never rhyme one-syllable words exactly.
Never cry in poems, or have sex
except gay sex or female domination.

Cecil goes on to complete his list of don'ts (never write about the death of pets), and then goes on to enumerate the do's:

Hate what every other poet hates.
Predict the end of the world ironically.
Praise Coltrane.

Yeah. Cracked me up, but then I'm easily amused.

Posted by jbahr at 08:33 AM | Comments (2)

September 12, 2004

Quote of the Day

I’m sometimes kind of jealous of my work. It keeps getting all the attention and I’m not. After all, I wrote it.

John Ashbery

Posted by jbahr at 07:00 AM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2004

And Now It's Dark

On this anniversary, I am reminded of Jan Carroll's fine site 11 September 2001, the Response of Poetry.

Posted by jbahr at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2004

Audio Files for OOM

J.P. Dancing Bear has been bringing terrific poets into the KKUP studio for years for his Out Of Our Minds show. His guests have included C.K. Williams, Arthur Sze, Dorriane Laux, Ralph Angel, Bob Hicok, Jane Hirshfield, Joy Harjo, Kim Addonizio, Diane Thiel, Stuart Dischell, Jane Mead, C. Dale Young, Lola Haskins, Mark Yakich and many, many more fine poets.

J.P. and I are collaborating to make tapes of these shows available as streaming media. The initial shows are available via links on Bear's website, and there will be many more available in coming months as permissions are granted by the poets.

Listen in.

Posted by jbahr at 03:41 PM | Comments (1)

Dead Heat

Votemaster has Kerry and Bush tied again in the only thing that matters: electoral votes. The LA Times show Bush with the lead, but with a lot more waffling about the Large Undecided Vote. The Republican-leaning Election Projection puts Bush up electorally by 288 to 250.

These difference are largely attributable to interpretation for polling results from Colorado, Florida and Pennsylvania.

Of course, by the time you get a chance to look at this, it may have changed again. It's pretty volatile right now.

Posted by jbahr at 12:09 PM | Comments (0)

Jillski's CauliPasta

There aren't many vegetarian pasta dishes that I like, other than simple ones (e.g., olive oil and toasted garlic). This recipe of Jill's is quick, easy, inexpensive, and delicious.


1 head cauliflower
8 ounces of smoked gouda or smoked mozzarella cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
2 Big T of butter
A drizzleful of olive oil
A 12-ounce package of whole-wheat penne pasta

Toast the chopped walnuts in a large skillet at low-to-medium heat. They should be just a wee bit brown and giving off a nice nutty fragrance when they're done. Err on the side of underdone if necessary, as the nuts will become bitter if overtoasted.

Separate one head of cauliflower with your hands after cutting off most of the thick stalk. Trim the stalks close to the flowerettes, which should be bite-sized -- say the size of small button mushrooms.

Sauté the flowerettes, on medium heat, in the 2 Big T of butter, in the same large skillet until they are cooked through. If you do it right, the cauliflower will be cooked through when the flowerettes start to brown. Transfer the cauliflower into a bowl that will be big enough to hold them and the pasta.

Cook the pasta according to directions on package. Drain and stir into cauliflower, then add in cheese and nuts, folding the pasta to let the cheese melt a bit and to distribute the good stuff around all the penne.

Drizzle with a little olive oil and serve with crusty bread and salad.

Posted by jbahr at 11:42 AM | Comments (0)

Logan On Everybody

I was cruising through Paul Guest's archives, when I saw this note on William Logan and the rather unbelievable correspondence from Pulitzer Prize-winner Franz Wright. Greg Perry also has recently compared Logan's verse to R.S. Gwynn's (unfavorably).

Logan is a magnificent bastard, whatever else you think about his critique, or for that matter, his poetry. Nobody skewers big-name poets more often than Logan. He must have a metal detector in the door of his office at New Criterion. Here's typical Logan:

Reading Jorie Graham’s poems in Never is like watching a slow-motion nature documentary where an anaconda ever so lazily disarticulates its jaw and inch by inch, millimeter by millimeter, swallows a goat.

In that same issue of NC, he does a righteous number on Charles Wright, Alan Dugan, Cynthia Zarin, Dick Davis, JG, and Geoffery Hill.

Here's a summary of links to Logan's reviews, with some excerpts:

June 95 - On Frost

Dec 96 - On Simic, Ammons, Hass, CK Williams, Brodsky :

This is an ungainly mixture of genius and junk—Ammons would be preening at the Apocalypse, but always noticing, noticing, noticing. He’s a poet whose faults are hard to like and whose virtues hard to respect. His last book, titled Garbage (with a leaden dose of irony), was a splendidly out-at-elbows treatise on all our junk dreams.

Dec 99 - On Olds, Maxwell, Levine, Mamet, Bolton, Justice:

If you want to know what it’s like for Sharon Olds to menstruate, or squeeze her oil-filled pores, or discover her naked father shitting, Blood, Tin, Straw [1] will tell you.

Dec 00 - On Ashbery, Konumyakaa, Schnackenberg, Longley, Hill:

Like most of the poets in Northern Ireland, Michael Longley has received far less attention than Seamus Heaney—a contemporary of Heaney must feel like an insurance adjuster who writes poems and discovers Wallace Stevens works upstairs.

Dec 01 - On Brodsky, Boland, Kumin, Ali, Lasdun, Milosz:

Like many farm poets, Kumin’s full of mawkish notions about the land, a New Age farmer (she invites an “animal psychic” into her horse barn) masquerading as a granite Yankee like Frost. Even when she dresses up her language, the tone goes slightly rancid.

Jun 02 - On Wright, Dugan, Zarin, Davis, Graham, Hill:

Dick Davis was part of a group of proper English formal poets, ardent admirers of Yvor Winters, that made almost no impact on British poetry in the seventies and eighties. Like many New Formalists in America, their verse was a little too careful, a little too ordinary, and a little too dull.

If you're interested in the kind of poetry William Logan writes, there are some here, here, here, and here

Posted by jbahr at 09:39 AM | Comments (1)

BAP 2004 Gems

I called my sweetie Junie last night to get her take on BAP 2004. Junie always provides some sort of magical complement to my poetic myopia – pointing out deep passages, noting clever linebreaks, appreciating long poems. She had me read her Anne Carson’s Autobiography of Red on a long drive to Madison, and O.K. Davis’s Shattered Sonnets on the ferry from Bayfield to the Apostle Islands. Recently, she has opened my eyes to Carl Phillips, Oni Buchanan, and Mark McMorris, which is a pretty good track record.

We have gone briefly through the first third of BAP, comparing notes on the work. Here’s the poems so far that got two thumbs up:

Craig Arnold, Your friend’s arriving on the bus: This is a longish poetic narrative with paragraph-sized stanzas and lots of intra-line white space. It starts out strong and has some nice lines (“because you are your own puppet”, “skin on the flagstone isn’t it cold”, “his hair is full of eagles”). It was maybe 5% too prosey for me, and a little flat in places (“Two garbagemen are working down the street”), and a little too cute in places (“Here is the statue of Queen What’s-her-name"). It’s a good storyline: a guy walks around what sounds like Barcelona, waiting for his lady friend to arrive by bus. I’ve been to Spain about a zillion times, and I have to admit that nothing he wrote rang a bell, but it had that sense of “foreign lands through the eyes of an American.” All in all, solid work.

Mary Jo Bang, The Eye Like a Strange Balloon Mounts Toward Infinity: First, I have to deliver a conflict-of-interest statement. I am a huge Bangophile and spent a week recently at a workshop in which she was the instructor. I also had read a number of her ekphrastic poems in Denver Quarterly recently, which prepared me for this work. This poem transcends the usual ekphrastic poem, like this journeyman effort, in its ability to stand alone, in its role as accompaniment, not interpretation. The poem is replete with MJB’s trademark use of assonance and alliteration (“Animated detail, data from digital”), playfulness (“Saying, We ask only to be compared to the ant- / erior cruciate ligament. So simple. So elegant”), and startlement (“a petstore cacophony, the roof withstanding / its heavy snow load. So, winter. And still,”). Through all of this, MJB manages to insinuate some gentle seriousness (“with the future. Take comfort. / You were going nowhere. You were not alone.”) Dynamite work, but I’m biased.

Oni Buchanan, The Walk: Junie and I had the pleasure of hearing Ms. Buchanan read at Bin Ramke’s CPS reading at AWP (which included, coincidentally MJ Bang, Mark McMorris, and Timothy Liu). Junie was rather taken with Buchanan’s work and convinced me to read more, much to my delight. The Walk reads like it’s written by the love child of Frost and Hillman who reads a lot of Dan Simmons. It is seemingly narrative, but with a storyline that swerves to avoid one malevolency after another. It is melodic (“with bullet holes, carrying a butcher knife.”, “where the red and eyeless millipedes prune their poison sacs,”). What I like best about this poem is how significantly the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. Ominous-ness pervades the work without any sense of heavy-handedness : “hunt in the moist dew dawns. (She had me by a cord around my throat. / She had me in the net-and-pulley treetrap.) ‘Oh, to the least, to me,’” She ends the piece with a somewhat daring and effective use of repetition: “and the long honey locust pods rattled high in the honey locust tree.” Ms. Buchanan is a distinguished pianist, and I’d like to think that her musicality informs this deft work.

Olena Kalytiak Davis, You Art A Scholar, Horatio, Speak To It: Here’s OK again as her wretched self. If you are familiar with her magnificent Sweet Reader, Flanneled and Tulled or have paged through her latest book, you know that OKD can be cruel, ironic, self-deprecating and compelling. As weird as OKD’s work always strikes me at first, it never seems gratuitously strange – more as if I’m listening to a particularly brilliant crazy person mumbling to themselves on a park bench. This poem is mainly couplets, composed of a question followed by an answer. The title, of course, is taken from Shakespeare and borrows Horatio, the patient, learned, trustworthy friend of Hamlet. Of all the poems we picked as exemplary, this is the one that made the cut mainly by its poetic glow, the sense it left, the afterimage on the retina. Well, you just have to read it – excerpting just doesn’t do it justice.

Linh Dinh, 13: I first read this piece in APR and it reads as fresh as it did then. Dinh has a wonderful capacity to write prose that ends up poetry. This poem is a series of paragraphs with conventional prose-poetry non-breaks. 13 fits perfectly in a class of poems that employ the device of juxtaposed imagery. We segue and segue and segue: “Inducing doubt and self-hatred in all those you come into contact with, / you are a cancer and a pig. When a stream of your indulgent reveries is / mixed by an unpleasant, ghastly image, you let out a high C and touch / yourself. “ The protagonist (the second-person You) in this poem is neither admirable nor hopeful of any change. He is drawn in pieces (“Your hair is bouffant in the front, flat in the back”), or if you will, drawn and quartered. In the end, magically, we are sympathetic, at least in part because perhaps, we are the You.

That’s all for today. I’ll be back after another conference with Junie.

Posted by jbahr at 08:44 AM | Comments (0)

September 09, 2004

Lo-Carb Blackberry Cobbler

... as if we cared that it's lo-carb. This is basically to die for, especially if topped with vanilla ice-cream or heavy cream, which technically makes it Lo-Carb, though a zillion calories. This recipe has very few ingredients, takes 10 minutes to make, and 40 minutes to cook.

You will need about 4 cups of blackberries or their variants (Olallieberries, Marion berries, Loganberries, et al.). You can use half blackberries and half raspberries, too, which gives it a little sharper taste. Find an oven-proof bowl or baking dish and toss the berries with a Big T of flour, 3 Big T of brown sugar and (here’s the secret) one teaspoon of grated orange rind. If you don’t have one of those big metal pyramidal graters like your mom had, peel the orange rind off thinly and dice up finely.

Now for the topping: Take 4 Big T of butter and let it come just about to room temperature. That’s a half of a stick usually. Combine a half-cup of flour, 5 Big T of brown sugar, two pinches of cinnamon, a pinch of nutmeg, and a pinch of salt. If you don’t pinch well, substitute an eighth of a teaspoon for a pinch. Cut the butter into this dry mixture with two knives working at cross-purposes, or use your fingers. The mixture will just hold together at some point.

Sprinkle the topping mixture over the now-bowled berries and stick it in an oven at 350 degrees. When the topping is brown and lovely, take out and serve. Keeps for a week and makes a great breakfast substitute for healthy wholegrain cereal -- you’ll just feel less righteous.

Posted by jbahr at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)

The Ghost in the Machine

Jill Dybka’s Poetry Hut Blog has a great section on Poetry News that eventually led me to a Joel On Software, and his article called Not Just Usability. If you don’t have time to read it, or you’re a code-a-phobe, here’s a synopsis: Some software is better when it’s designed with usability in mind, but sometimes it doesn’t matter. Joel provides some interesting examples: eBay, Napster, and content-based websites.

That got me thinking again about the poems and algorithms. To quote from poem familiar to me:

They’re like those mail-order plastic mats with footprints
and arrows that teach you how to samba.

Algorithms are closely related to functions. They compute something in a very broad sense, where the something can be as simple as Pi to 20 places or as complex as computer-generated art. A program is an instantiation of both what and how. It is a set of symbols that are expected to do something.

I had a class in Automata Theory once in which the professor would write short algorithms on the board. It was long enough ago that she probably wrote them in Pascal or C, but that’s like a poem being written in English or Dutch. With each algorithm, she would ask the class: what is this? In one case, it was a program to generate fractals. In another case, it was an algorithm to produce a square root. The final algorithm was a mystery, and nobody could figure out exactly what it was computing. Our prof let us stew a bit and then said: What it computes doesn’t have a name. The actual code you’re looking at is the shortest way I know to describe its function.

This idea took us all by surprise, as we had spent 30 minutes calling out “That’s the sine function”, and “that’s a binary search algorithm.” Sometimes an algorithm simply is what it does.

I’ve often thought that this was a valuable lesson for readers of poetry. Even before I had heard of The Theory, LangPo or Reader-Response, I had a sense that sometimes a poem is its own title. This seems even more true to me when a poem is experimental, elliptical or otherwise difficult. Your critiquers may ask “yes, but what does that mean?” all they want, but there is no more cogent statement than the one you just made in writing the poem in the first place.

You learn in Automata Theory that all reasonable computing devices are equivalent (Turing Machines, modern calculators, iMacs). You also learn that all algorithms are equivalent that produce the same result from the same inputs. What that algorithm is is another matter (apologies to Bill Clinton). It may have a name and it may not, but there still exists a sort of Platonic algorithm, an ur-Algorithm that represents all its brethren. Algorithms can be analyzed, of course (there’s a for-next loop!), as can poems (good use of white space!). The analysis, however, is not the work. To paraphrase the White Knight: “That’s not what the poem is, Alice, that’s what it’s called.”

Two poems can be equivalent in much the same sense. To Joan Houlihan (and I’m sorry to keep picking on Joan, but outspoken poets are a rarity) all the poems in any Fence edition are equivalent – that is to say, they are noise. To Jonathan Mayhew (same apology), all poems by Billy Collins are similarly equivalent – banal renderings of domesticity.

It is de rigueur on poetry blogs to lump Collins, Dunn, and Oliver (for example) together as one set of interchangeable poets. Feel free to add Hirshfield, Pinsky and Hall, if you wish. I’m not convinced and neither are the 60,000 people who bought Hirshfield’s last book (source: Publisher’s Weekly). Among poets of conservative tastes, I've heard Bang, Creeley and Carson lambasted as if they were clones.

It is old news that poems are algorithms where we are the inputs (our past reading, our emotional state, our analytical bent, our desire to root for the home team). We are also the engines of execution, and we are all different. Remembering this fact often elevates me from my curmudgeonly first response to the kind of generosity that Tony Tost recently advised.

Posted by jbahr at 08:02 AM | Comments (0)

September 07, 2004

Keillor On Republicans

Many thanks to Matthew Shindell for pointing out Garrison Keillor's essay. As much as some of you may dislike his Good Poems, this essay shows a little Laphamian wit and ferocity. An excerpt:

The party of Lincoln and Liberty was transmogrified into the party of hairy-backed swamp developers and corporate shills, faith-based economists, fundamentalist bullies with Bibles, Christians of convenience, freelance racists, misanthropic frat boys, shrieking midgets of AM radio, tax cheats, nihilists in golf pants, brownshirts in pinstripes, sweatshop tycoons, hacks, fakirs, aggressive dorks, Lamborghini libertarians, people who believe Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk was filmed in Roswell, New Mexico, little honkers out to diminish the rest of us, Newt’s evil spawn and their Etch-A-Sketch president, a dull and rigid man suspicious of the free flow of information and of secular institutions, whose philosophy is a jumble of badly sutured body parts trying to walk. Republicans: The No.1 reason the rest of the world thinks we’re deaf, dumb and dangerous.

Posted by jbahr at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

Cathy’s Potato Gruyere Soup

This is delicious, and you can make it in 20 minutes, in one pot, if you’re organized. You’ll need a blender or a food processor, though, and you may have to ask the supermarket deli clerk where the Gruyere might be – I always do.

4 peeled, diced potatoes
1 small onion, chopped
2 Big T butter
2 chicken bouillon cubes
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon grated lemon rind (zest)
1 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
Chopped scallions or chives, as garnish

Peel 4 moderate-sized russet potatoes and dice into 2” cubes so that they cook faster. Boil water in a pot big enough for the potatoes, say two quarts or more. When it’s boiling, steal enough water to dissolve the bouillon cubes in a small cup. Place the potato cubes in the boiling water for 5 minutes, then drain them. Rinse and dry the pot, then use it to sauté the chopped onion slowly for 3 minutes in two Big T of butter. Add back the bouillon and cooked diced potatoes, and cook slowly, without burning, until the potatoes are soft. Put the potato-onion mixture in a blender or food processor and puree until it’s smooth. If you have a zester, zest the lemon. If not, take a sharp knife and pare off a paper-thin strip of lemon skin and dice finely. Now transfer it back to the pot and add the milk, pepper, nutmeg, lemon zest and cup of Gruyere cheese. Cook very slowly, stirring constantly, until the cheese melts. Serve immediately. Best garnished with chives (or chopped scallions) and a splash of red wine vinegar, or Spanish vinegar if you have it, or Balsamic vinegar if you’re daring, and/or a couple of dots of Tabasco if you’re adventuresome.

This serves 4 average, or 2 hungry poets. It keeps up to a week in the refrigerator and can be reheated nicely, if you stir it as it heats up.

Posted by jbahr at 07:20 AM | Comments (1)

September 06, 2004

Quote of the Day

It takes seven years to become almost anything.

Mary Jo Bang

Posted by jbahr at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)

Automatic For The People

This week’s Time has an interesting article on the growth of self-service. You’ve probably noticed how many supermarkets have installed self-checkout lanes, and the degree to which we use ATMs in lieu of actual, human tellers. American Business has taken to self-service in a big way. Venues as diverse as Home Depot and Dodger Stadium are busily installing self-service checkout. Self-service kiosks have popped up at movie theaters, fast-food restaurants, and drug stores. All the major airlines have begun providing check-in terminals, as have major hotel/motel chains. Time notes that This Is All About Cost Reduction. UAL saves $3.23 for every passenger who checks themselves in, instead of using an agent.

The Next Big Thing is radio frequency identification or RFID. RFID transponders (or tags) are near-microscopic devices that can transmit information in response to a query by a transmitter. The more common passive tags are themselves powerless, responding to the transmitter by using the energy of the query transmission to reply. RFID tags can be integrated into product packaging, or even embedded beneath the skin. They are the perfect replacement for Universal Product Codes, except for their cost, which is now about 25 cents apiece, but expected to drop to under a penny.

The RFID Consortium includes Wal-Mart, the Defense Department, UniLever, Georgia-Pacific, and dozens of other large organizations. The idea is to coordinate the activities of product companies with those who market/distribute to better track product transit and control inventory. The largest commercial driving force behind RFID is Wal-Mart, which has directed its top 100 suppliers to affix RFID tags to all cases and pallets by January 1st, 2005. It doesn’t take a clairvoyant to figure out what comes next: RFID tags on each individual product in the store. That can’t happen until RFID tag costs drop, but that is just a matter of time.

Imagine a shopping experience where you fill up your cart and then enter an area with a checkout kiosk. The screen enumerates everything in your cart and asks how you want to pay. You swipe your credit/debit card and you’re on your way. Or, perhaps, your credit card has an RFID, too, and you just acknowledge the transaction with a YES.

The Typical Nightmare Scenario of the privacy advocates is that we all end up surrounded by RFID-enabled paraphernalia. We’ve got RFIDs in our Dockers and our Nikes and our Fruits-of-the-Loom. Savvy marketing acquisition sensors in public places sense our ensemble of RFIDs and figure out how to change small billboards to appeal to our demographic ( a la Minority Report). To counter this concern, RFID proponents propose that every sales center would have a “deactivation station” that would permit a shopper to nuke the RFIDs in the products they purchase. Other alternatives include home deactivation kits (or maybe just throwing your underwear in the microwave for a minute).

One aspect of RFID about which I haven’t seen a lot written is the affect on service-sector jobs. Take, for example, Wal-Mart, the largest corporation on earth. It employs 1.2 million people. Once the RFID revolution is in full swing, how many checkers (excuse, me, Sales Associates) will be needed? How many stocking personnel? Is it safe to assume that Wal-Mart will be able to reduce their labor force by half a million people by 2010? Now, multiply that by every major competitor, the Big Box stores, the supermarkets. What are we looking at? Ten million lost jobs?

No doubt, Dick Cheney would tell you that Progress Is Inevitable, but then, Dick loves Wal-Mart. We have already seen two million jobs lost in the past 4 years, many of which were from manufacturing and hi-tech, many of which were replaced by low-paying service jobs. What if we now lose the service jobs, too?

Of course, all those unemployed millions could become poets. Hell, we’re used to poverty.

Posted by jbahr at 09:53 AM | Comments (0)

September 05, 2004

Follow The Money

Stuart Greenhouse has noted, with some alarm, that Judicial Watch has lodged a "formal complaint and request for investigation, determination and final disposition of the awards granted to Lieutenant (junior grade) John Forbes Kerry, U.S. Naval Reserve.” (from their website).

Judicial Watch is a self-described "bipartisan lobby group." Their bipartisan activities in the recent past have included claims that recently self-announced gay Democratic governor James McGreevey hired his aide without qualifications; supported Gennifer Flowers in her suits against the Clintons; sued the government on the behalf of Elian Gonzalez; has petitioned the Kerry campaign to drop references to his Silver Star from his website; claims that Kerry once took in laundered funds from the Chinese government.

Judicial Watch received $550,000 in 1997 from the Carthage Foundation, funded by ultra-right trustfund billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. The total funding by Scaife organizations to Judicial Watch now exceeds $7 million.

This is the same Scaife who gave over $2 million to the American Spectator to dig up dirt on Bill Clinton, who has helped fund the George C. Marshall Institute to disprove "global warming", and who has spent millions on the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institutes.

Posted by jbahr at 07:05 PM | Comments (2)

September 04, 2004

More on BAP

I first picked up a copy of Lehman's Best American Poetry six or seven years ago in a small airport bookstore. The fact that it was the only anthology on the rack led me to believe that this series might have some legs.

BAP now seems to be everywhere, prominently displayed at Borders, mentioned on NPR. Commenting on BAP is now a cottage industry. Jordan Davis has reviewed a BAP at Constant Critic. Joan Houlihan has taken a swat at them. Other articles can be found in BAP Analysis article.

One of the more ingenious treatments of BAP can be found at Octopus, where Jonathan Mayhew lines the poems of BAP 2002 against those of BAP 2003, entry by entry, compares the poems, and keeps score. Jonathan is currently reviewing the poems in BAP 2004 at his weblog, and Tony Tost has penned an interesting response to the analysis.

As for bloggers, neither Kim Addonizio nor K. Silem Mohammad have anything to say about BAP, though their work was selected this year, but it may be old news, as selections were made some months ago. Nor Heidi Lynn Staples (née Peppermint). Hannah Craig seems to have started reviewing.

Every year, BAP is either too banal or too avant garde or too experimental or too mainstream or too out of touch with non-academics or too white or too multicultural. Depending upon who's commenting, of course. What fascinates me about BAP is how it has focused the Great Poetry Debate into one slim volume of 75 poems, providing a target every year as opprobrium or masterpiece. And it started pretty early; this, from a 1992 source:

And what The Best American Poetry really proves is that poetry in the United States today is the ward and client of a vital system of patronage...

I don't think, at this late date, anyone actually believes that BAP contains the 75 best American poems of the year. Some poets get in because they've written well over a number of years (the Special Academy Award effect). Some get in to bolster the position of that year's editor in the Culture Wars. Some poets most certainly get in so that camp followers of the Poetry Scene can find names that they recognize (the Branding effect).

The necessity to include America's Best Poets in BAP is reasonable and wise, in my view (BTW, I have an article on the phenomenon). That's at least one reason why Ashbery and Hall have been in a dozen volumes, with Simic, Collins, Hollander, et al. not far behind. What has always seemed curious to me is almost never are the best (or at least the best-known) poems of these heavyweights included. This may be a corollary to the Special Academy Award Effect, whereby Bogart gets an Oscar for African Queen instead of Casablanca. For a complete tally of BAP "winners" see this.

Competition for inclusion in BAP has gotten rather furious among literary journals -- or, at least, it certainly seems so after chatting up the editors of a dozen litmags at AWP. One expects publications such as Poetry or APR to have a large number of their poems included (though Poetry was conspicuous in their absence this year), but a BAP selection can mean a sizable increase in prestige for a Spoon River Poetry Review or Canary. It can put a lesser-known publication like Sal Mimeo or Kiosk on the map. For a complete list of BAP journal participants, see here.

Posted by jbahr at 10:01 AM | Comments (1)

Submission Resources

A lot of people know about my Submission Resources page, but it can't hurt to Make The Announcement every once in a while.

I maintain a database of almost 300 print literary journals that publish poetry. For each litmag, you can find the current poetry editor, submissions address, website, and submission-related information (reading period, simsums OK?). The database is downloadable in Excel spreadsheet format, which can then be imported into your own database, or used to generate mail-merged submission packets using MS Word. I encourage you to email me if you find any detail to be in error.

Each literary journal is also given a Difficulty Rating, which attempts to consolidate in one number, from 1 to 10, the degree of difficulty in getting accepted by each litmag. This is, admittedly, a difficult (and dangerous?) procedure, and is necessarily approximate and flawed. I welcome any comments on the current ranks and suggestions for improvement in my methodology.

A third section contains a table showing the average submissions response time for each litmag. This table is driven by another database of submissions details that is entered by a moderately large group of active poets, including poets from many different career levels.

The Websites with Information on Poetry Submission contains links to other sources of information on poetry submission. I'm happy to increase this list with any other sites you may suggest.

The databases are missing some new and/or post-avant litmags (e.g., Antennae, Ecopoetics, Fulcrum) , but I will try to correct that this week.

I will also be updating the Difficult Ratings in view of the recent BAP 2004. This may seem to give too much weight to Lehman's creation, but I've had many litmag editors tell me that submissions doubled or tripled after they first appeared in BAP.

Posted by jbahr at 08:43 AM | Comments (1)

In The Mail This Week

National Geographic, Business Week, Smithsonian, Time, AWP Writer's Chronicle, APR.

A couple of months ago, Continental Airlines sent me an offer to convert my frequent-flyer miles into magazine subscriptions. Then, Northwest Airlines sent a similar offer. The result is that I receive a ridiculous number of periodicals.

Time had President Bush on the cover and dedicated half the magazine to articles and interviews, which makes sense in this week of the Republican Convention. The coverage is very balanced.

National Geographic dedicates one-third of the issue to Global Warming, with a lot of spooky photos, graphics and statistics (e.g, over 100 million people live at 3 feet of sea-level or less and the polar caps are melting). There's a long debate about GW over at QED that proves, at least, that some people prefer not to believe in humanity's contribution to the problem.

The AWP Writer's Chronicle seemed a little flat this month (not that it's ever as entertaining as Spin). Tony Hoagland has an article called Sad Anthropologists: Stable, Dialectical and Dialogic Use of Tone that's pretty good, and filled with Hoagland's trademark wit:

Poets are the fruitflies of literature, always conducting genetic experiments on themselves. Fundamentally excitable people, known for their great intensity and short attention spans, poets tend to take any trend to its extreme.

Hoagland characterizes tone as an internal quality of a poem that is constructed from its shifting elements (diction, music, pacing, image, syntax). He identifies three tonal varieties, using Louise Glück, Jack Gilbert, Jason Shindler, Frank O'Hara, and Kenneth Koch poems as examples.

Ann E. Michael explores the use of time in poetry. Richard Goodman searches for le mot juste. There's an interview with Sydney Lea in which he discusses "poecide":

I refer to Derrida-zation of poetry rendered as a deeply encoded, mystifying, and ultimately nihilistic process where you don't really mean what you're saying. If we can no longer believe in the notion that poetry is an act of utterance, but is actually an art of masquerade or charade and reflects nothing other than one's class, race, and gender, I think we're going to kill it.

That puts him squarely in the Houlihan camp, I would think.

American Poetry Review has a lovely photo of Jorie Graham that I just know I've seen somewhere. Ms. Graham may have stopped updating her publicity pix, which is every woman's prerogative, as far as I'm concerned. JG has a book coming out that is substantially narrative, and the 9 poems in this issue appear to be of that ilk, and some/all are probably in the book. The other poets featured include Norman Dubie (9 poems), Rita Dove (5 poems), Dara Wier (3 poems), Doreen Gildroy (2 poems), Richard Cecil (3 poems), David Rivard (10 poems), Cole Swensen (4 poems). One thing I like about APR is the opportunity to see a number of poems from one poet in one place, even when I'm not that jazzed about the actual poetry.

Mark Rudman relates his recent visit to a French Canadian farm and intersperses thoughts about Eliot and his work, with a little Conrad and Graham Greene thrown in. Bob Hicok has a poem on the back page. Am I the only one who finds Bob everywhere? If Virgil Suárez doesn't watch out, he's going to lose this year's Ubiquity Award (BTW, Virgil made it into BAP ... congratulations!).

APR and AWP Writer's Chronicle contain, between the two of them, dozens and dozens of advertisements for writing programs. I note, with what is considerable ignorance on my part about the particulars, that many programs now offer a Ph.D. in Creative Writing. What does that do to the notion that the MFA is a terminal degree? How do noted professors, most with MFAs, participate in a doctoral program? I guess I could just google up some programs and read the details.

Smithsonian has an interesting photo-article on Antarctica that made me immediately laugh again at the hoax that David Hernandez perpetrated. There are also some shots of the beautiful new American Indian Museum that just opened in DC.

Posted by jbahr at 07:03 AM | Comments (0)

September 03, 2004

Coq au Vin I

There are as many recipes for Coq au Vin as there are Frenchmen, or if you wish, Frenchpeople, or, among certain conservatives, mealy-mouth Frogs. This version is one of my favorites.

Peel the papery skin from 12-18 pearl onions (depending upon size) and saute in olive oil, after sprinkling a tablespoon of sugar over them for carmelization, until they are browned and have lost some of their firmness. Do this, if possible, in a large heavy skillet. Scoop out the onions and set aside. Scrape up what Julia always called the "good brown bits" along with the onions using a wooden spatula, if you have one. Core and then slice two large red peppers into 1/4-inch-thick C's, then cut each C in half. Roughly dice a small onion and saute the onion and red pepper until the onions are translucent. Remove when ready (you can mix them with the pearl onions in a large bowl).

For the chicken, you have a number of choices, but make sure that you include some dark meat parts. I like to cleaver up a good chicken (e.g., free-range): first split the chicken down the breast and the cut rest of the bird away from the back. Cut the legs off at the joint, and then separate drumsticks from thighs, again at the joint. Place each leg on a good cutting board and separate off the last half-inch of the leg (the narrow end, where the feet were formerly attached) with a good whack from the cleaver. Whack the breasts into 2 or 3 pieces each, cutting across the grain, as it were. Ditto, the thighs and legs, if they are large.

Take everything that you don't want in your stew (mainly the back and the cut-off feet and the neck, if it came with the bird) and bring to a boil in another deep pan with a quart of water, bay leaf, 6-8 peppercorns, and some herbs (your choice ... I use a combination of thyme, tarragon and tiny bit of rosemary). For more flavor (particularly if you have a generic, supermarket Big Poultry bird), you can add a small onion, some celery, and/or a carrot. Once the stock is boiling, let it simmer for 20-30 minutes uncovered, adding water if necessary.

Roll the chicken parts in flour and saute in the same big skillet you've been using for everything else, turning them occasionally, until they are browned. Rescrape brown bits. When the chicken is golden, add back the vegetables and pour a half-bottle of good red wine over everything. Pour yourself a glass. Different wines will result in different stews, and good wine will produce a better stew. Cabernets, shiraz and chiantis give you a bold stew. The classic recipe would call for a good French burgundy, but it's a more subtle result and the bottle will cost you $30-100, so you may just decide on a nice authoritative Australian or California red. At this point, I like to add a 1/4-cup of kalamata or nicoise olives and a Big T of capers. You may also choose to use some diced bacon to saute with the vegetables instead of olive oil (optional ingredients is why there are a zillion different coq au vin recipes).

Top up the stew with the chicken stock you've made and let it just-more-than-simmer so that it bubbles very slowly, perhaps 30 minutes, though it could be less with small chicken parts. When the chicken is done, remove it and place on a large plate or bowl and keep warm. Take a slotted spoon and remove everything else that isn't liquid, keeping it warm in a bowl. Turn up the heat on the remaining liquid in the skillet and reduce slightly until it is thick-ish.

Stack the chicken parts artfully on a platter and ring with the vegetables. Pour half of the reduced sauce over everything, saving the other half in a gravy boat for use during dinner. I like to ring the whole coq au vin construction with mashed potatoes.

Posted by jbahr at 06:46 AM | Comments (0)

September 01, 2004


It is impossible to cruise the net for more than 45 minutes without encountering Billy Collins in the process of being roughed up in some dark alley of a poetry blog.

Now, as a prelude to this discussion, let me state for the record that I don't suffer from Mayhew's Disorder. In fact, I like to think that I display more symptoms of Groucho's Affliction ("I wouldn't want to be in any club that would admit me"). I rather like all kinds of poetry. As an experiment, I'm going to write down the first 10 memorable poems that I can think of quickly

Mary Jo Bang: Crossed-Over, Fiend-Snitched, X-ed Out
Ted Hughes: Crow Blacker Than Ever
Yusef Komunyakaa: any of his 7 deadly sins
Thomas Lux: The People of the Other Village
Ben Doyle: Radio, Radio
Jorie Graham: To A Friend Going Blind
John Ashbery: Wakefulness
A.E. Stallings: Asphodel
Charles Simic: Night Picnic
James Merrill: The Black Swan

Now, I'm sure that with every extra 10 minutes I gave myself, the list would grow. The thing is that within seconds, I was thinking unbidden of BC's Workshop and Forgetfulness. And if I had another 10 minutes, Japan and Shoveling Snow With Buddha would have popped up. Why is that? Is that a bad thing? Do I need to go to a literary re-education camp?

Posted by jbahr at 05:08 PM | Comments (0)

Poetry in a Bottle

Jonathan Mayhew has stepped up to the plate and done a Robert Parker on BAP 2004.

By which, I mean, rated each poem on a scale that presumably stops at 10. Parker, if you’re not an enophile, is the inventor of Parker’s 100-point scale: the 2000 Chateau Lafite Rothschild rates, for example, 100 and that stuff I bought in a box last night would probably have deserved a 50. This Robert Parker, BTW, doesn’t write mysteries and can’t tell a Hawk from a Spenser.

I’ve often marveled at how poetry book blurbs mirror the world of wine description. Wines in the 96 to 100 range are described thusly:

An extraordinary poem of profound and complex character displaying all the attributes expected of a classic poem of its variety.

OK, I cheated. I swapped “poem” for “wine”, but you see what I mean. And that’s not the half of it. Vintners and wine critics contort themselves to find new ways to characterize an offering. Wines can have power, subtlety, complexity, a long finish. They can be engaging, sophisticated, or banal. They can be redolent of leather, jammy, or give off a whiff of cinnamon.

And it is certainly true that appreciating great wine takes time (and a lot more money than poetry books cost).

I’ve often wondered how I would match up wines with the best works of poets. Brock-Broido’s best piece would be the great Montrachet. Ashbery’s would be a Gaja Nebbiolo: bold, with a hint of whimsy. Ted Hughes’s would be a muscular Penfold Grange Hermitage. Lux’s would be the terrific and affordable Bonny Doone Big House Red. Kinnell’s would be a Silver Oak cabernet.

Something like that.

Posted by jbahr at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)


So, I was reading Zach Braff's weblog on the recommendation of Victoria Chang, partly because he refers to Prufrock there and partly because my ex-wife loves Scrubs.

It's strange so see someone of Braff's rising stature as filmmaker and actor penning his own weblog. It probably telegraphs my naiveté, but are there very many relatively important people who blog? Or do they have ghost-bloggers who dream up witty, self-promoting entries daily?

Maybe there's a business opportunity here.

Posted by jbahr at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

Arts and Sciences I

When I was 19, I was busy computing the final velocity of a boy who accelerates off a perfectly half-spherical, frictionless, hill of snow. Most of my current buddies were reading Rimbaud at that age.

This dislocation continued for decades, from physics to computer science to statistics to information theory to operations research. During most of that time, I read every murder mystery written since Poe picked up a pen. This accounts for my abysmal ignorance in most things Artistic, my unquenchable desire to impose order on the World of Poetry, and my interest in using Science as Metaphor in my recent poems.

Through the kindness of Lucia Cordell Getsi, it appears that I will finally get 3 "science" poems published in Spoon River Poetry Review. They're not really science poems, of course, but they do contain:

1. The formula for the information in a message
2. The rules for Proof by Induction
3. Allusions to prehistory (the KT layer, warm-blooded dinosaurs)
4. A story line built around Russell's Paradox

One of them is called Do The Math, but the rest have sensible titles -- I've found that anything too science-y is the kiss of death for a submission.

My sweetie Junie gave me Goldbarth's wonderful Arts & Sciences: Poems which is an hypnotic mix of scientific fact and metaphysical speculation. Arthur Sze walks this road, too, though his work is more spare and better informed by science. There are many other mathematicians/scientists-turned-poet, of course, and not a few among my friends (Rich and Wemmy), but not many who are yet of the stature of a Goldbarth or a Sze.

So it's always a pleasure to run across another member of the pack (pod? pride?). Victoria Chang has posted a wonderful "Poetry Reading List", inspired by David Baker. It includes a categorization of poets by school and aesthetic, something that is oddly rare, in my experience. I've spent years doing this kind of thing: analyzing BAP, calculating journal response times, comparing writing strategies. I'm pretty sure that it doesn't improve my writing (well, the constant reading can't hurt), but it does makes me feel like I have some sort of handle on what we're trying to do here.

It's not as if we poets aren't asked to be analytical. No, I don't mean next week's exam on the Writings of Vendler, I mean the standard admonition: "please read a few volumes of our journal before submitting". OK, I drove down to The Tattered Cover and I sat there for 3 hours and I read every journal on the rack, then I subscribed to a dozen litmags for a year, then I cruised the online websites. What did I find in common among the poems offered? Is my work the kind of poetry that this journal would like to consider?

Well, that depends upon two things: 1) whether I can figure out the overarching theme/school/microgenre/raison d'être of a journal, and 2) whether I can figure out how I fit in that aesthetic system.

The desire to find the edges is a curious thing, a matter of deduction. Most good poetry is inherently inductive, guiding the reader to a place by the slow accumulation of detail. It is a matter of doing the thing inside out, not outside in. I'm not sure that this is a natural instinct ... at least it isn't with me. Letting the message form organically take a lot of courage. Is it any wonder that poets drink as much as they do?

Posted by jbahr at 06:40 AM | Comments (0)