Poetry is the truth. But it’s not the WHOLE truth. And it sure as hell ain’t nothing BUT the truth. It’s a half truth and a lot more!

Posted On December 28th, 2010

I’ve been working on a talk I’ll be giving at Yale next month at one of their SECRET SOCIETIES. I’ve taken almost every definition of poetry that I can find and sorted them into categories according to what quality of language they seem to be calling attention to. I’ve come up with several more than the six or seven that I talk about when I teach middle and high school workshops, but the qualities of economy, revelation, and emotional communication are still what many definitions say a poem must possess. My heart thrills a little when I find a great new definition that fits perfectly into a category that I’ve already created. For instance, Leonard Cohen’s observation that “Poetry is just the evidence of life. 
If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash” 
fits perfectly with all the other definitions I have that speak to poetry’s quality of Observing & Celebrating what simply is. Conversely, my spirits droop a little when I come across an old familiar definition that I don’t particularly like—but which everyone knows—and I have to invent a NEW category just to have somewhere to put it. For example, Valery’s famous saying that poems are “never finished, only abandoned.” What do you do with that? Does anyone still AGREE with that? For now, I have it lumped into a category called Alive/Malleable/Never Finished along with another definition I’ve never been a huge fan of, Archibald MacLeish’s theory that “A poem should not mean, but be.”

A poem by C. K. Williams that deals with race in a very understated way

Posted On December 22nd, 2010

 



THE SINGING by C. K. Williams
I was walking home down a hill near our house 
on a balmy afternoon
under the blossoms
Of the pear trees that go flamboyantly mad here 
every spring with
their burgeoning forth

When a young man turned in from a corner singing 
no it was more of
a cadenced shouting
Most of which I couldn’t catch I thought because 
the young man was
black speaking black

It didn’t matter I could tell he was making his 
song up which pleased 
me he was nice-looking
Husky dressed in some style of big pants obviously 
full of himself
hence his lyrical flowing over

We went along in the same direction then he noticed 
me there almost
beside him and “Big”
He shouted-sang “Big” and I thought how droll 
to have my height
incorporated in his song

So I smiled but the face of the young man showed nothing 
he looked
in fact pointedly away
And his song changed “I’m not a nice person”
he chanted “I’m not
I’m not a nice person”

No menace was meant I gathered no particular threat
but he did want
to be certain I knew
That if my smile implied I conceived of anything like concord
between us I should forget it

That’s all nothing else happened his song became 
indecipherable to
me again he arrived
Where he was going a house where a girl in braids 
waited for him on
the porch that was all

No one saw no one heard all the unasked and 
unanswered questions
were left where they were
It occurred to me to sing back “I’m not a nice 
person either” but I
couldn’t come up with a tune

Besides I wouldn’t have meant it nor he have believed 
it both of us
knew just where we were
In the duet we composed the equation we made 
the conventions to
which we were condemned

Sometimes it feels even when no one is there that 
someone something
is watching and listening
Someone to rectify redo remake this time again though 
no one saw nor
heard no one was there

_______________________
I will be honored to host C. K. Williams at the Bowery Poetry Club on 1/26/2011 as part of my Page Meets Stage series. He will be reading with slam veteran Karen Finneyfrock. Write to me at taylor@taylormali.com if you want more information.

 

“Feeling the Draft,” by Bob Hicok, who is reading with John S. Hall in PAGE MEETS STAGE this Wed, 12/15, at the Bowery Poetry Club!

Posted On December 13th, 2010

Feeling The Draft by Bob Hicok
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Feeling the draft

BY BOB HICOK

We were young and it was an accomplishment
to have a body. No one said this. No one
said much beyond “throw me that sky” or
“can the lake sleep over?” The lake could not.
The lake was sent home and I ate too many
beets, went around with beet-blood tongue
worrying about my draft card-burning brother
going to war. Other brothers became holes
at first base at war, then a few holes
Harleying back from war in their always
it seemed green jackets with pockets galore
and flaps for I wondered bullets, I wondered
how to worship these giants. None of them
wanted to talk to me or anyone it seemed
but the river or certain un-helmeted curves
at high speed, I had my body
and flung it over branches and fences
toward my coming sullenness as the gravity
of girls’ hips began and my brother
marched off to march against the war.
I watched different masses of bodies on 
TV

,

people saying no to the jungle with grenades
and people saying no to the grenades with signs
and my father saying no to all of them
with the grinding of his teeth he spoke with.
I’d pedal after the nos up and down a hill
like it was somehow a rosary, somehow my body
was a prayer I could chant by letting it loose
with others like me milling around
the everything below five feet tall
that was ours, the everything below
the adult line of sight that was ours
to hold as long as we could: a year,
a summer. Until the quarterback came back
without . . . well, without. When the next Adonis
stepped up to throw the bomb.

I’m competing in Charlotte in the 7pm bout tonight at Middleton McMillan Gallery against some great poets!

Posted On December 9th, 2010

And one of them, of course, is Omni, from my own venue! Furthermore, we go against each other tomorrow as well! Ah, fate.

Off to the World Poetry Slam in Charlotte! This old dog has some new tricks (and poems!)

Posted On December 9th, 2010

The rest of the world may smirk when the USA holds the Individual World Poetry Slam and everyone except Pilote is American, by the winner of iWPS has gone on to trounce the world at their slams in the past. Two words: Buddy Wakefield.

Anyway, I’m in the taxi on the way to the airport. I’m arriving late, but yesterday was MEM’s birthday, and a man has to have his priorities in order! I don’t know where I’ll be competing tonight or when, but in the days to come, I will be posting updates here.

Bob Hicok & John Hall at Page Meets Stage next Wed. (12/15) at 8 pm! This one’ll be packed! Can’t come? BoweryPoetryLIVE.com will stream.

Posted On December 6th, 2010

For anyone planning on coming to next Wednesday’s pairing of Page Meets Stage with Bob Hicok and John S. Hall at the Bowery Poetry Club, the word on the street is that the attendance will test the limits of the club. Best get there early if you want a chance at a seat. And remember the half-price code words: “Can I get in for half price?” Visit www.PageMeetsStage.com for more information.

Metaphorically yours,

Taylor Mali

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Canada geese taking flight this morning during my walk! Off to school now.

Posted On December 3rd, 2010

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Metaphorically yours,

Taylor

P.S. Sent from the road so forgive odd spellings & apparent curtness.

If it turns out my life is blessed only because I never guessed or realized I died years ago, then I wonder . . .

Posted On December 2nd, 2010

If it turns out my life is blessed

            only because I never guessed

or realized I actually died years ago,

then I wonder when it was I was so spent

or who I took down with me when I went.

Because if it was the near collision

with the black Mercedez I thought I avoided

with expert precision that took me to Hades—

early summer, ragtop down—then three friends

came with me when I collided with the Benz

and died, friends I promised a Sunday drive.

But other times I was alone. Consider,

for instance, the time I stayed home

from school—ill, but not completely

bedridden—and how I decided to kill

some time and see what my father

might have had hidden in his closet just for fun,

thinking dirty pictures but finding a gun.

Or hunting out west and the rifle misfiring.

The time I untangled the electric bird’s nest

of faulty wiring in my grandfather’s basement.

Drunken nights of unprotected sex (Star

once suggested we wrap belts around our necks

before we came: the dangers we face in the name

of seeking some greater joy).

Couldn’t I have died on any of these days?

Or in countless other less considered ways:

driving too fast during a heavy rain? By chance

boarding some ill-fated plane?

Unwitting dead or in some way charmed?

Look how the sunlight strikes my arm

and seems to sing! Each tiny glowing hair

a wing!