Wednesday, January 24, 2018

to write and not to be a writer

John Ashbery loved Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus. In an interview Ashbery quotes a scene where Orpheus is being questioned by “three sinister judges … [O]ne of them says, ‘What do you do,’ and [Orpheus] says, ‘I am a poet,’ and the judge says, ‘What does that mean?’ to which Orpheus replies, ‘It’s to write and not to be a writer.’”

That’s more or less what I think about myself. I remember my dad once sent me a how-to book on writing magazine articles and, oh, the disappointment I felt upon looking at the gift. Dad did not understand me! I can’t seem to write to order. I’m not completely unable, of course. I did make it through school, producing essays and papers when required. I love to write! I love to write poems, that is. It is not the same thing somehow. 

source: Collected French Translations: Poetry by John Ashbery
edited by Rosanne Wasserman and Eugene Richie
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, New York

Monday, January 22, 2018

Titles Read in 2017


Gilliamesque by Terry Gilliam

Holding Company by Major Jackson

Poems of the Hundred Names by Henry H. Hart

Hung: a meditation on the measure of black men in America by Scott Poulson-Bryant

Yang Wan-li by J. D. Schmidt

At the Bottom of the River by Jamaica Kincaid

Great Balls of Fire by Ron Padgett

Poetry East #88/89 Autumn 2016 [contains one of my poems]

On Beards by Ely Shipley

This Man’s Army: a war in 50-odd sonnets by John Allan Wyeth; intro by Dana Gioia

The New Teen Titans #26, 27, Drug special, 28 - 34, and annual #2

The Adventures of Mr & Mrs Jim and Ron by Ron Padgett and Jim Dine

Invincible: ultimate collection, v. 10 by Kirkman and Ottley


The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ & Amal by E. K. Weaver [read online]

ABBA Unplugged by Karl French

Po Chu-I: selected poems translated by Burton Watson

Fodor’s Belize 2016

Merry Men #1 comic by Robert Rodi, Jackie Lewis

Brave Disguises by Gray Jacobik

Oh Joy Sex Toy vol. 1 by Erika Moen

Mayfly issue 62 Winter 2017

Toujours L’Amour by Ron Padgett

Set the Boy Free by Johnny Marr

Mining the Oort by Frederik Pohl

Oh Joy Sex Toy, v. 2 by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan

Snow on the Water: the Red Moon anthology of English Language haiku 1998 edited by Jim Kacian

Pelvis with Distance by Jessica Jacobs

The Big Something by Ron Padgett

Oh Joy Sex Toy, v. 3 by Erika Moen and Matthew Nolan


The New Teen Titans, #35 - 37, Batman and the Outsiders, #5, NTT #38 - 44, annual #3

Tulsa Kid by Ron Padgett

Time Cat by Lloyd Alexander

Who Rules the World? by Noam Chomsky

A Glimpse of Red: the Red Moon anthology of English Language haiku 2000 edited by Jim Kacian

Controlled Decay by Gabriela Jauregui

Planetary: all over the world by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday

Best American Poetry 2010 guest editor, Amy Gerstler

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Pegging the Wind: the Red Moon anthology of English Language haiku 2002 edited by Jim Kacian

Dear Friends: American photographs of men together, 1840 - 1918 by David Deitcher

Planetary, vol. 2: The Fourth Man by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday

Goldilocks and the Water Bears by Louisa Preston

Planetary, vol. 3: Leaving the 20th Century by Warren Ellis and John Cassaday


Poems of the Masters: China’s classic anthology edited by Red Pine

The Horses: new & selected poems by Richard Silberg

Wasting Time on the Internet by Kenneth Goldsmith

A New Resonance 2: emerging voices in English Language haiku edited by Jim Kacian and Dee Evetts

The Straight Line: writings on poets and poetry by Ron Padgett

Fairyland: a memoir of my father by Alysia Abbott

Kitaro by Shigeru Mizuki

Tales of the New Teen Titans, #45 - 59 (1984 - 85)

Planetary, vol. 4: Spacetime Archaeology by Ellis and Cassaday

Chapter and Verse by Bernard Sumner

Best American Poetry 2011 guest editor, Kevin Young

No Time for Dancing by Adam Hammer

Elizabeth Bishop: a miracle for breakfast by Megan Marshall

Triangles in the Afternoon by Ron Padgett

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

Blood Work: selected prose by Ron Padgett


What Is Obscenity? by Rokudenashiko

Red Indian Road West: Native American poetry from California edited by Kurt Schweigman and Lucille Lang Day

The Spoken Word Revolution edited by Mark Eleveld

The United States of Paranoia: a conspiracy theory by Jesse Walker

Are We Smart Enough to Know How Smart Animals Are? by Frans de Waal

The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander

You Never Know by Ron Padgett

Bachelor Girl #1 a mini comic by Amy Martin

Families and Survivors by Alice Adams

The New Teen Titans (1984) #1 - 11, annual #1, #12 - 15

Love Is Love: a comic book anthology to benefit the survivors of the Orland Pulse shooting 

Capacity #8 a mini comic by Theo Ellsworth

How to Be Perfect (2007) by Ron Padgett

The Black Cauldron by Lloyd Alexander


Step Across the Line: uncollected nonfiction, 1992 - 2002 by Salman Rushdie

When We Rise by Cleve Jones

Many Times, But Then by Ann Lauterbach

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie


The New Titans #50 - 54 by Marv Wolfman and George Perez

Alone and Not Alone by Ron Padgett

The Castle of Llyr by Lloyd Alexander

Unseen City by Nathanael Johnson

How Long by Ron Padgett

Bukowski in a Sun Dress: confessions from a writing life by Kim Addonizio

Poetry Nov 2015, vol. 207 no. 2

Hey Fella Would You Mind Holding This Piano a Moment by William J. Harris

Thin Soils by Sim Warkov

Reaching by Sim Warkov

Grandchildren by Sim Warkov

Taran Wanderer by Lloyd Alexander

Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

In My Own Dark Way by William J. Harris

The Collected Poems of Jean Toomer edited by Robert B. Jones and Margery Toomer Latimer

This Side of Time by Ko Un

My Brother’s Husband, vol. 1 by Gengoroh Tagame


Collected Poems by Ron Padgett

Jack Holmes and His Friend by Edmund Field

The High King by Lloyd Alexander

The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben

Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit

Mayfly issue 63, Summer 2017


Edgar Allan Poe and the Juke-box: uncollected poems, drafts, and fragments by Elizabeth Bishop

Other Minds: the octopus, the sea, the deep origins of consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith

The Spoken World Revolution Redux edited by Mark Eleveld

Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki

Night Sky with Exit Wounds by Ocean Vuong

Listen, Liberal by Thomas Frank

Hip-Hop and Rap: Complete Lyrics for 175 Songs [read to page 100]

Askew #20, 2017


Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling

Crisis on Infinite Earths, #1 - 12, by Marv Wolfman and George Perez

The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting by Anne Trubek

The Poetry of Ishikawa Takuboka by H. H. Honda

Poems to Eat by Takuboku

Finn Family Moomintroll by Tove Jansson

I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong

Complete Poems by Blaise Cendrars, translated by Ron Padgett

Punk USA: the rise and fall of Lookout! Records by Kevin Prested

Not My Small Diary #19: Unexplained Events edited by Delaine Dorry Green

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Bound for Canaan: the underground railroad and the war for the soul of America by Fergus M. Bordevich


The Stranger in the Woods: the extraordinary story of the last true hermit by Michael Finkel

Sad Toys by Takuboku Ishikaway, translated by Sanford Goldstein and Seishi Shinada

A Semblance of Adulthood a mini comic by Erika Sjule

Night Hag a mini comic by Rayne Klar

The Vision, vol. 1 by Tom King

The Vision, vol. 2 by Tom King

Poetry March 2017, vol. 209 nol. 6

Be Your Own Backing Band comics by Liz Prince

Paradise, Indiana by Bruce Snider

Slipstream #37 Bergatti & Farallo, editors

MIXD AZN QUEERS June 2017, a zine edited by Jess Wu-O

I’m a bad person and so are you mini comic by Geoff Vasile

Copperhead by Rachel Richardson

Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison

Haight Ashbury Literary Journal, vol. 32 no. 1 2015

“Do You Have a Band?”: poetry and punk rock in New York City by Daniel Kane


Chronicles, volume one by Bob Dylan

Hundred-Year Wave by Rachel Richardson 

Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson

Ghosts of the Tsunami by Richard Lloyd Parry

Perv: the sexual deviant in all of us by Jesse Bening

Big Bucks: the explosion of the art market in the 21st century by Georgina Adam

Moominland Midwinter by Tove Jansson

Poetry April 2017, vol. 210 no. 1

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Best Poems of 2017

Ernest J. Berry …… haiku “impressive name”
Blaise Cendrars …… The Formosa: Life
Bernard Eibond …… haiku “frog pond”
Carolyn Hall …… haiku “enough blossoms”
Yvonne Hardenbrook …… haiku “solstice afternoon”
Duriel E. Harris …… Self Portrait at the Millennium
Paul Hoover …… God’s Promises
Gary Hotham …… haiku “fog”
Takuboku Ishikawa …… “That story of an affair”
Byron Jackson …… haiku “everywhere”
Major Jackson …… Narcissus
Ling Ju Jung …… Night Reverie
James Longenbach …… Snow
Nikola Nilic …… haiku “moonlight”
Linda Noel …… Time Frame
H. F. Noyes …… haiku “subway posters”
W. F. Owen …… haiku “in the park”
Ron Padgett …… Album
Ron Padgett …… Alone and Not Alone
Ron Padgett …… The Ems Dispatch
Ron Padgett …… Nunc
Ron Padgett …… Postcards
Ron Padgett …… Tom and Jerry Graduate from High School
Carl Patrick …… haiku “fireflies”
Po Chu-I …… Aboard a Boat, Reading Yuan Ninth’s Poems
Po Chu-I …… Night on the West River
Jeffrey Rabkin …… haiku “after coming in”
Rachel Richardson …… The Horses
David Rollins …… haiku “this long journey”
John Sheirer …… haiku “talking in her sleep”
Doug Sherman …… haiku “long meeting”
Sun Yun Feng …… Riding at Daybreak
Anna Tambour …… haiku “preoccupied”
Rick Tarquinio …… haiku “winter night”
Wang An Shih …… The Plum Tree
Wang Chih-Huan …… Climbing White Stork Tower
Wei Ying-Wu …… Chuchou’s West Stream


If this is your first visit to Dare I Read, welcome. If you’ve been here a few times you already know about my “Best Poems” lists. Today’s list consists of the poems I read in 2017 and decided I could not leave behind. As I read I keep handy a stack of placemarks. If I read a poem I want to read again, I pop in a placemark. I revisit the poem until it wears out for me, or until I decide I have to keep it. In the latter case I hand copy the poem into a looseleaf notebook.

The haiku comes primarily from anthologies published by Red Moon Press. I worked my way through what I could find in libraries. 

I’ve enjoyed Ron Padgett’s poems as I’ve encountered them here and there. This year I took on his books in chronological order. I was surprised to find that the copies held by the Berkeley Public Library were often checked out. There were even holds queues. For poetry! People waiting in line for poetry! It wasn’t until we caught up with Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson on DVD that I clued in on what was driving the popularity. The movie’s poet protagonist writes poems that are written by Ron Padgett. So there were some new interviews with Padgett based on his contributions to the film, which I also read. Ron Padgett’s Collected Poems also is freshly out. It’s big and thick. I got to it after I read the slim volumes, so I would only have to heft it to read poems I otherwise couldn’t find. In one of the interviews Padgett says when he met Adam Driver, the Paterson actor, Driver told Padgett he’d read the big Collected all the way through. Padgett seems to have been tempted to respond, “You didn’t have to do that.”

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Cherronesus, Metropotamia, Pelisipia, and more!

In Bound for Canaan, his book on the underground railroad, Fergus Bordewich describes a plan worked on by Thomas Jefferson in 1784, while Jefferson was a member of the Continental Congress. The arrangement would have restricted the extent of slavery in the growing nation:

[N]ewly opened lands between the Appalachians and the Mississippi … were destined to fill with settlers. [Jefferson’s plan] would have prohibited slavery in all the western territories … south as well as north. Had [the] plan been adopted slavery would never have been extended to the present states of Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, or presumably to those west of the Mississippi. Congress failed to approve the plan by a single vote.

That’s one of those points in history you can point to and say, but for one vote things would have been different. 

Besides the dispensation concerning slavery, Thomas Jefferson’s report on the Western Territory also included suggested borders for new states and names for those states. Some of the names are little different from what came to be. Some are rather different. Here they are:


source: Bound for Canaan: the underground railroad and the war for the soul of America by Fergus M. Bordewich

Monday, November 27, 2017

beggar woman, wandering pilgrim, insane literary colored man, and more!

Gerrit Smith was a wealthy white abolitionist in 19th century New York state. He had a “Grecian mansion” and “owned at least 750,000 acres.” Smith was generous, too. Besides handing out donations to individuals and organizations with a special interest in funding anti-slavery work, Smith explored ways to deed over thousands of acres to former slaves in the hope they might become self-sufficient farmers.

He sounds like a pretty great guy. Smith kept a diary and in it recorded a little bit about each of the many travelers he welcomed to his big house. I love the excerpts that appear in Fergus Bordewich’s Bound for Canaan, a book on the underground railroad. I have to share:

Mrs. Crampton, a beggar woman, spent last night with us. Charles Johnson, a fugitive slave from Hagerstown, took tea at our house last evening and breakfasted with us this morning.

Mr. William Corning, a wandering pilgrim, as he styles himself, dines with us. He is peddling his own printed productions.

Poor Graham, the insane literary colored man, has been with us a day or two.

Elder Cook and William Haines of Oneida depot arrive this evening. Mr. H. is a ‘medium,’ and speaks in unknown tongues.

Dr. Winmer of Washington City, with five deaf mutes and blind child take supper and spend the evening with us.

We find Brother Swift and his wife and daughter at our house, where they will remain until they get lodgings. There come this evening an old black man, a young one and his wife and infant. They say they are fugitives from North Carolina.

A man from ____ brings his mother, six children and her half sister, all fugitives from Virginian.

An Indian and a fugitive slave spent last night with us. The Indian has gone on, but Tommy McElligott (very drunk) has come to fill his place.

source: Bound for Canaan: the underground railroad and the war for the soul of America by Fergus M. Bordewich

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Notes toward an autobiography by others

In her book The Argonauts Maggie Nelson says:

My writing is riddled with … tics of uncertainty. I have no excuse or solution, save to allow myself the tremblings, then go back in later and slash them out. In this way I edit myself into a boldness that is neither native nor foreign to me.

I was surprised once when someone told me after a poetry reading, “You speak with such authority.” Like Maggie Nelson I grew up including “tics of uncertainty” in my writing. It reflected my thinking, didn’t it? Who really knows. Knows! Being certain of something should make you suspicious. Be open to other possibilities and, at least occasionally, what seems impossible.

I remember as a kid there was a period I added the word “no” to anything sarcastic, i.e., “That’s the most beautiful dirt clod I’ve ever seen — no!” I don’t know how I picked it up, and I don’t remember anybody bringing my use of it to my attention, but at some point it hit my ear wrong. Why was I so frequently contradicting myself? It took conscious work to purge the “no”. 

When I noticed I was constantly using phrases like “I think” and “it seems to me” in my writing and that other writers weren’t I wondered where the difference was. Were the others writing what they thought? Yes. You are reading them to find out what they think, I said to myself. They don’t have to write “I think” because it is understood that what they are writing is what they think. This made sense to me. So whenever “I think” appeared redundant — “I think ice cream is too cold!” — I would cut it out. “Ice cream is too cold!” is not a universal opinion thus I must not be speaking for everyone. I must be speaking for myself!

Leaving out “tics of uncertainty” creates an illusion of certainty. Or, as Maggie Nelson says, evokes “a boldness that is neither native nor foreign to [the speaker].” You get used to figuring out whether the person speaking is speaking from a place of authority, a place of personal experience, a place of knowledge, by following their argument a bit. Does it hold together? Does it make sense? Does it match your experience? They may be more wrong than right but still be worth attending to. 

Nelson goes on to say she opens a lot of her letters or emails with “Sorry,” as in “Sorry for the delay. Sorry for the confusion. Sorry for whatever.” She adds, “I’ve had to train myself to wipe the sorry off.”

I’ve done that too. Who really cares that I’m sorry when I haven’t written a blog post in months? You’re writing one now, Glenn. What is it you’re putting fingers to keyboard to say? Other than that you are sorry, of course. Other than that you are terribly sorry and you feel bad about neglecting the blog and doing other things which are not important either.

source: The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson