|Although The Craven just received a DD, it was the featured deviation here for so long, it's time to air out the blankets, and change the sheets. Enjoy McDonald's, my ode to Allen Ginsberg, and a phonic-sonic parody of his epic poem America. If you haven't read America, do it! Do it now! (Read the Author Notes for links-a-plenty)|
Ember Bedhow crushed a fire can still burn bottled upEmber Bed by ~sandzen
in that red box of an ember
how much heat is released not into skin
and where does it go
you invite others to our bed of embers
and they are heated it’s not cruel it’s life
they seek to prolong amazed
we keep it burning so low
we keep the fire fireless we kick around embers
like we would endless stars blinking the
earth breathing out names for nameless constellations aglow
we children of a light epoch
blindly seeking immortality of
forms so a yin may never devour yang
and young we may remain and never know
1. A Book of Luminous Things (Czeslaw Milosz)
2. Tao Te Ching (x3) (Ursula K. LeGuin, Thomas Cleary, Oxford Press)
3. Hired Hands (John B. Lee)
4. Howl: And Other Poems (Allen Ginsberg)
5. Plath (Sylvia Plath)
6. Eunoia (Christian Bok)
7. Circle Game (Margaret Atwood)
8. Haunted Hills and Hanging Valleys (Peter Trower)
9. Thirty-Seven Small Songs and Thirteen Silences (Jan Zwicky)
10. The Top 500 Poems (David Harmon)
11. Leaves of Grass (Walt Whitman)
12. An Empty Room (Leopold Staff)
13. Interstellar (Allan Briesmaster)
14. The Laurel Poetry Series: Poe (Edgar Allen Poe)
15. Cocktails at the Mausoleum (Susan Musgrave)
16. Moon In the Pines (Basho, and Various)
17. Love Haiku (Various, ed. J. P. Seaton)
18. Gardening At the Gates of Hell (Bernadette Rule)
19. Photographic Evidence (Ronnie R. Brown)
20. Break, Blow, Burn (Camille Paglia)
21. The Poetry of Zen (Various, ed. Sam Hamill and J. P. Seaton)
22. Camber (Don McKay)
23. Question and Answer (Alison Pick)
24. Cry Uncle: Surviving Incest (Nancy Hobson)
25. Unsettled (Zach Wells)
26. Once: Poems (Alice Walker)
27. The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy (Tim Burton)
28. Poems For the Nation (Various, ed. Allen Ginsberg)
29. Haiku (Various, ed. J. P. Seaton)
30. Songs For Relinquishing the Earth (Jan Zwicky)
31. Repose (Adam Getty)
32. Signs of the Times (Bud Osborn)
33. When Rivers Speak (James Deahl)
34. Reconciliation (Adam Getty)
35. Touch the Dead (Mary Ann Mulhern)
36. Weight of Flames (Bernadette Rule)
37. The Shambhala Anthology of Chinese Poetry (Various, ed. J. P. Seaton)
38. Heartland (James Deahl)
39. Carpe Diem: Canadian Anthology of Haiku Poems (Various)
40. Happy Haiku (Traditional, ed. Samuel Addiss)
41. All Our Wonder Unavenged (Don Domanski)
42. Indian English Poetry Since the 1950s (Various)
43. The Dream World (Allison Pick)
44. The Narrow Road To Oku (Matsuo Basho)
45. The New Measures (A. F. Moritz)
46. Poems (Hermann Hesse)
47. Poems of the Inuit (Various Traditional, ed. John Robert Colombo)
48. The Selected Poems of William Carlos Williams (William Carlos Williams)
49. Timely Rain (Chogyam Trungpa)
50. The Less Deceived (Philip Larkin)
Poetry, to my mind, is pretty unique, as an art. All arts are at least somewhat regional. Most farmers in France will never grow an appreciation of the women bush poets of early Australia, for instance. And while that may sound obvious, the same could be said for most other arts, pre-Hugh Hefner (who, believe it or not, played a big role in the cross-germination of many cultural art forms, through Playboy). For instance, you'd have to really work to know who Akira Kurosawa was, before the advent of movie rental houses, and even then, there might only be Seven Samurai (not my favourite of his by far). And while it may seem like all that's been done away with thanks to the local library and the internet (provided you live in a country that values those things), it still requires work to, for instance, develop an independent navigational sense to better appreciate J-Pop or Cinema Obscura or modern Russian surrealist literature. We're getting better all the time at building bridges and connecting the dots in the first world, but poetry may end up a kind of dead form, in a sense, unless something changes.
Canada, it's been reported, has more poets per capita than any developed nation, and Hamilton, Ontario, my hometown, is supposed to have more poets per capita than any city in Canada, so, I'd like to call it the poetry capital of the world, but it's sad to think that the culture of Hamilton, the quality of its poets (let alone their names), and its handful of annual literary festivals, will go largely unnoticed even by the dubious elites of the poetry community, itself shrouded in darkness.
Let's face it. People aren't in to poetry right now.
I don't care how many barely passable slam poems get shared over YouTube, that stuff is generally barely memorable or even good (despite what listening to the crowd's reactions would suggest), and while this may sound curmudgeonly, slam poems are basically just monologues with a bit of flair.
I've often wondered if the popularity of music lyrics would draw the more literate listeners to seek out beautiful words that sing without music, but I don't see that happening.
The biggest problem of all may be that most teachers will never develop an appreciation of poetry written after the nineteenth century, and will cement in the minds of youths that to write poems means to write in an outmoded dialect, or that poetry is, as I've said, dead. It had its hay day in the 1800s, after literacy became popular enough for the masses to appreciate the art of the written word, but before more easily accessed (and enjoyed) forms like television, music, and film came to dominate the scene.
So we come back to the notion that the problem is a regional one. Well, the same could be said of sculpture, of paintings, of installation art, right? Right! But the last I checked, no one's paying the ten greatest living poets (and who are they again?) hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars for each object of art they produce.
I feel like I've known, loved, and read with some of the greatest poets to have ever lived, and I think it's really sad that the world at large will never know their names, or their work.
But I think there's a solution.
The top book on this list is Czeslaw Milosz's favourite 400 pages worth of poems he's ever encountered, or translated. Certain other picks of mine are like this, but A Book of Luminous Things is way more personal than Harmon's Top 500 Poems (which is a great read, but simply a compilation of the 500 most printed poems in the world, which limits it to white males who lived before 1900 for the most part), and is way more open-genred than any of the J. P. Seaton/Samuel Addiss Haiku/Zen compilations.
A Book of Luminous Things is a bit like getting David Bowie to make you a mixtape, or getting Tarantino to throw a film festival. It's the best of the best by one of the best. And like Bowie and QT, Milosz isn't restricted to any one kind of poem or poet from any one part of the world. In fact, there's definitely an emphasis on including everything from traditional Eskimo poems to the spiritual work of Hafiz to the elegant simplicity of anonymous zen. And what's best is most of the poetry is both short and modern.
This is the kind of book we need more of. This is how poetry can sing again. This is how the regional can escape its straight jacket. Oh, I hope I live to see that day...