Showing posts from September, 2010

No Prize for You

Dear Mr. Koh Jee Leong,

Thank you for your submission to the Singapore Literature Prize (SLP) 2010.

After careful review and consideration by the judges, we regret to inform you that your submission (Equal to the Earth) has not been shortlisted for the prize.

We would like to thank you for your support and wish you all the best in your writing career.

Jade Yong
National Book Development Council of Singapore

"The Quick and the Dead" and "Let Me Be Like Glass"

Two women whom I always enjoy hearing at NYC readings have recently published chapbooks. Elizabeth Harrington's The Quick and the Dead (Grayson Books) is a suite of poems about an intestine transplant that saved her life. Let Me Be Like Glass(Exot Books), by Adriana Scopino, takes the poet's very young children as its primary preoccupation. The subjects of both books are liable to receive mawkish treatment. What fascinates me is not how both poets avoid this pitfall, but how they skirt round its edge, and maintain a hair-raising balance.

They do so principally through their economy of words. Most of the poems are shortish. The longer poems, significantly, are less successful than the short ones. Within the chosen limits, the words feel essential. These poets are not loquacious. They speak because they have to, at least that is the impression the poems give. But they sound different in their few words, Harrington authoritative, wry and sexy, Scopino, hesitant, marveling and pray…

Finding as Opposed to Making It Up

DUMBO held a three-day arts festival over the last weekend. GH and I caught the last day of it, on Sunday. In two open studios, sponsored by Triangle Arts, the artists painted the human figure with thick strokes but thin vision. In another studio, above the winning Galapagos Art Space, pop culture was given the tired old spin. There was a painting of a billboard advertising a beach vacation. In an open coffin lined with red satin, two silent boom boxes. The art we saw looked like the fag end of once-vital artistic styles.

The photographic shows were more interesting. The winners of a competition whose name I cannot remember showed a real eye for an interesting subject, and the technique for rendering it. One black rectangle was slashed by a white arm stretched out from the right edge of the photo. Another photo showed a black boy, on the cusp of adolescence, looking pensive in his baseball cap, one hand holding the controls of a video game in his room. My favorite juxtaposes young men …

Perfect Sense and Food Pantries

Alyssa and Hila invited me to read for the Perfect Sense reading last Wednesday. I read four poems from Equal to the Earth, then read three sections from "Seven Studies for a Self Portrait." I didn't read the new poems very well. They did not cohere in the air. The Frida Kahlo piece sounded better at Son of a Pony two weeks ago.

Lynn Melnick and Brett Fletcher Lauer read after me. They read poorly, and so it was hard to grasp what they were saying. Melnick's poems sounded too much like the run-of-the-mill loose-limbed, image-happy American lyric. Lauer's poems aimed for profundity, but went on for too long to little purpose. Miranda Field, who was born and raised in London, gave a fine reading. WTC put it well, the poet trusted her words and so gave them their heft and lift. They were poems about motherhood, with sharp images and deft turns of phrase. The poems did not give a big pay-off at their conclusion, as EN agreed, but the journey was interesting.


Did no…

Pictures of a Life

A full weekend, not just action but emotion. Bob's book launch on Friday. John Stahle's memorial service on Saturday. Matthew Hittinger and Philip Clark put together a fine roster of eulogists at the LGBT center in the afternoon. John's freshman advisor at Fordham University, with whom John remained friends for 42 years, was eloquent about John's appetite for culture and gossip. OV described John's excitement over the birth of Ganymede, the gay men's art and literary journal he edited before his death. Philip read his essay on John's eye for art.

EN spoke of his last evening with John. In his description of their first meeting, he mentioned that John did not look like his photograph. John did not put his own photograph on any of his websites or Facebook page. He might have thought that he did not look attractive. He might also have thought that the gay men he courted--artists and audience--want a pretty face. The stage at the memorial service was fronted by…

Bob Hart's book launch

It was a wonderful evening that, as Nemo put it, focused on the right thing, the work itself. Bob's book Lightly in the Good of Day collects poems written over the course of a decade. They are about family and friends--real and imaginary--nature, art and the trying conditions of existence. The turnout at Cornelia Street Cafe was strong. There was only standing room when the open-mic began. Valerie Mendelson, the painter of the landscape that appears on the book cover, came with her husband, JF.

For the feature, the readers, Jane Ormerod, Adriana Scorpino, R. Nemo Hill, and Thomas Fucaloro, chose poems from the book that matched perfectly their very different reading styles. Jane read "In That Petal Flesh," Adriana read "Going Inside--Especially To Feel," Nemo read "Man, Can They," "Inside Your Expensive Watch"and "After Such Fall", and Thomas read "Take This Rose." The No Chance Ensemble, consisting of vocalists Bruce and…

Elizabeth Harrington's "The Quick and the Dead"

Betsy's new book, winner of the 2010 Grayson Books Chapbook Competition, is about how she was saved by an intestine donation from a 13-year-old boy from Minnesota. After hearing her read from the book at Cornelia Street Cafe last Friday, the audience responded with full-hearted applause. A number gave her a standing ovation. EN put it well, the reading was full of life and full of poetry.

Inspired Word Reading on Aug 26

His Name Is Love

My poem "I Am My Names" appears in Zócalo Public Square, with an expressive black-and-white photo by Paolo Aquino. The poetry editor Colette Labouff asked me to submit after getting my name from Jonathan Farmer. With this pub, and the later appearance of "A Lover's Recourse" in At Length, only one out of the seven sequences in my next book remains unpublished. I guess a book should give something unavailable elsewhere, besides bringing together in an organized whole an entire conception.


Watched Puccini's Turandot last Saturday night. The seats in Lincoln Center Plaza were almost all gone an hour before the screening. Found a place in the third row, where the view was not bad at all. Simple story stretched out to operatic length. Princess Turandot requires her suitors to answer her three riddles or be beheaded. The young prince Calàf answers the riddles but gives her a chance by asking her to find out his name. She tortures his slave girl Liù to get his n…

Two more weeks to Bob Hart's book launch

It is nearly here, the conclusion (of a sort) to the process of editing and publishing Bob's book Lightly in the Good of Day. The book will be launched on September 17 Friday, 6 PM, at Cornelia Street Cafe, during the Son of the Pony open-mic.

Kathi Georges and I have agreed on a format for the reading. Jane Ormerod, Adriana Scorpino, R. Nemo Hill and Thomas Fucaloro will read first, as the last four readers of the open-mic. Then Bruce Weber and his band The No Chance Ensemble will open Bob Hart's feature with their rendition of two of his poems. Bob will be the final reader, as he must be of his own work. It should be a good reading.

Giacomo Puccini's "La bohème"

Last night, GH and I watched the bohemians live it up in their garret, in the opera loosely based on Scènes de la vie de bohème by Henri Murger. I thought the plot was a little wonky in the middle, and then learned from Wikipedia that Puccini decided not to put to music a missing scene by the librettists.

Rodolfo the poet fell in love with Mimi the seamstress, but she died in the end of sickness. Rodolfo's comrade Marcello, a painter, was in love with Musetta, a singer, but she wanted independence and wealth, both of which Marcello could not give her. She turned out to possess a heart of gold when she helped the dying Mimi return to Rodolfo's garret, and bought the dying woman the hand muffs she had always wanted. The plot was even more sentimental than what one would expect of opera. It lacked the philosophical sweetness of Der Rosenkavalier and the psychological complexity of Les contes d'Hoffman.

I don't have the program with me, and I cannot remember the names of t…

Three Women in One

KM joined me last night for Jacques Offenbach's Les Contes D'Hoffman, and both of us enjoyed the tales of Hoffman very much. The poet compared Stella, the singer he was unhappily in love with, to three past loves: an innocent, an artist and a prostitute, and told the tavern guests the stories of these loves.

The innocent turned out to be a mechanical doll named Olympia. Putting on a pair of magic glasses, sold to him by the villain Coppelius, Hoffman fell in love with her. He was horrified to learn the truth when the glasses broke. Kathleen Kim who sang as Olympia was virtuosic in her aria. It took some art to sing all technique, completely artlessly. Alan Held, who sang as Coppelius, also sang as the other three villains.

In the second story, Hoffman was in love with the singer Antonia who, unknown to herself, had too weak a heart to sing. But the evil Dr. Miracle persuaded her that her dead singer-mother would have her sing. She fell for the trick, and sang to her death. As …

Landscape with Cannibals

Eric's poem for me has been published by Q Review, a queer journal based around Columbia College in Chicago. Congrats, Eric!


"Planetary system" is a good description of the set, and the world, of the Met's screening of John Adams's Doctor Atomic last night. Designed by Julian Crouch, the Los Alamos lab on stage was a peculiarly isolated and isolating landscape. In the background, cloths were draped over structures to appear like sharp mountains, over which the bomb, a hideous wired sphere, hung. Everyone constrained to his own compartment, the scientists and staff of the lab stood in the upright grid of a huge box. The marital bed was a scene of disunion. The Native Americans who stood in the top row of the grid in Act II was a constant reminder of a lost world.

It was brave to try to fit scientific and bureaucratic language into the operatic idiom. Much of the libretto came from declassified government documents and communications. The singing at these times s…