Saturday, May 31, 2014

Films and Haiku

Watched Stranger by the Lake at Ty and Di's house last weekend. Good movie directed by Alain Guiraudie. Also enjoyed Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, though I couldn't see why it should win the Oscar, as so many wanted it to. It's just a well-made movie, not that special. Last night, after dinner with Tim, I watched X-Men: Days of Future Past. Bryan Singer directed. Sexy scene with Hugh Jackman buck naked but he seemed strangely beside the point in a plot that really revolved around Raven/Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) and her paramours Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (a very hot Michael Fassbender). Even minor characters such as Beast (Nicholas Hoult) and Major Bill Stryker (Josh Helman) were more interesting.

from Panama
the first hummingbirds
schoolchildren at a waterfall

Friday, May 23, 2014

Bach and Haiku

Heard István Várdai play Bach's Cello Suites 1, 5 and 6 last night at Armory Park Avenue. Impeccable technique and dynamic shading. I thought that he lost the plot in some middle sections of all the suites. Suite 5 was especially moving. The experimental Sarabande--I want to hear it again. The performance took place in the recently refurbished Board of Officers Room. A stunning salon. Wine was served during intermission. The ticket cost only $25. A steal.

damp clothes
in a crowded bus
late spring

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Monday, May 19, 2014

Book Launch and Haiku

John Marcus Powell launched his book Glorious Babe at Suite Bar last Sunday afternoon. Published by Nemo R. Hill's Exot Books, and designed and illustrated by Julio, the book was celebrated with the artistic respect and warm affection that John Marcus has garnered in years of reading poetry around New York City. Hosted by Cordis Heard and John Foy, the launch was the last installment of the Red Harlem Readers series this season. Nemo led off the reading, followed by Thomas Fucaloro, me, and David Yezzi. As Nemo observed, all of us read a little like John Marcus, so powerful was the influence of the man's voice on us. The original came on stage and read for a most entertaining half-hour.


I started posting the first two lines of a haiku on Facebook, and invited other people to complete it. The results were certainly interesting.

a tiny leaf drops
into my cup of tea

Gwee Li Sui provided the humorous "I ask for refund"; Eric Norris the witty "like Basho's little frog"; Zhang Jieqiang the luxurious "no need to look up"; Chia Foong Yin the childlike "Splash! Caterpillar!" My attempt:

a tiny leaf drops
into my cup of tea
and then another

The next day I posted two more lines.

under the dry moss
yesterday's rain

Desmond Kon completed it with the excellent "no lovers back home"; Adam Alex Sage the earthy "still tastes of dirt"; Yong Shu Hoong the meta "acerbic subtext." My attempt:

under the dry moss
yesterday's rain
soaks my sneakers

Today's haiku, quite a grotesque one:

a dropped napkin
dabs at the corner
of a field

Friday, May 16, 2014

Poetry Reading and a Haiku

Dorothy Wang invited, and we attended, a reading by John Tipton, Mary Margaret Sloan, and Michael Autrey at at Berl's Poetry Shop in Dumbo last night. Tipton read from his forthcoming book Paramnesia and his translation of Aeschylus' Seven Against Thebes. The poetry of Sloan, a friend of Dorothy's, was more experimental. Autrey read from his book Our Fear. The rumbling of trains over the Manhattan Bridge made it quite difficult to hear the readers, especially since the men insisted on not using the mic. Before the reading, Dorothy and I had dinner at Almar, an Italian place just a block away from Berl's. We had a lively discussion, as usual, about poetry, politics, and friendships.

divided on race
while sharing a side
of broccoli rabe

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Monday, May 12, 2014

Downtown Fair and a Haiku

The Downtown Fair was better than I had expected. I especially liked the paintings of Sheba Sharrow, and the photographs of Eric Forstmann and Julie Blackmon. Too many boring color field paintings and pop nothings.

a sandpiper
miles from the ocean
or a sparrow?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Second Saturdays #3 and Haiku

Jeremy Tiang hosted the third edition of the Second Saturdays reading series. Joseph Legaspi read as the feature. It was good to hear new and familiar voices reading their work: poetry, the opening of a novel, an academic treatise on the performing arts in Singapore, and the dramatization of a scene from local play. As before, the evening energized me for the work of writing and organizing.

behind the blinds
ruled like foolscap
a crow calls

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

ALSCW Salon and Haiku

Heard Philip Lopate and Patricia Hampl read their essays at an ALSCW salon on Monday. The essays were about many things, and one of the things was about the writing of an essay. In reflecting on writing, both essayists traced their inspiration back to Montaigne. I particularly enjoyed hearing Lopate, whose writing was suffused with irony directed at himself. A modest life modestly lived. The essay will never attain the prestige accorded to the novel and to poetry. It is capable of great beauty and even profundity, but it is not as various as the novel nor as sublime as poetry.

early morning
smell of diesel
in the garden

Monday, May 05, 2014

Deep Gossip and Haiku

I met Henry Abelove at Dorothy Wang's book party, and was introduced to his book of essays called Deep Gossip. The title is taken from Allen Ginsberg's elegy for Frank O' Hara. After describing O'Hara as a "Curator of funny emotions," Ginsberg praises him for his ear "for our deep gossip." The essays are as engrossing as gossip, an apt compliment if we think of gossip as the sharing of information between disempowered people. In these essays, Abelove performs careful and gracious corrections to what has been underestimated, overlooked and sidelined. 

Like many gay men, I have read Freud's letter to the American mother, but had not realized that it was his last riposte to the moralism of American psychoanalysts. In the next essay, the suggestion that other sexual practices besides "intercourse so-called" have been redefined as foreplay in the late eighteenth century is brilliant. Since I am not a fan of marriage, Abelove's reading of Walden in the third essay resonates strongly with me. An anti-novel, Walden delineates pleasures outside of bourgeois society and family. An essay interprets the interpretative community of queer students in Abelove's classroom. Another looks at the beginnings of American Studies through the lens of the work of F.O. Matthiessen, and the subsequent contestation of those queer beginnings.

The last essay of the  collection is especially meaningful to me. It argues that the Gay Liberation Front was influenced in its liberationist rhetoric by its reading of post-World War Two queer writers such as James Baldwin, Elizabeth Bishop, Paul Bowles, Jane Bowles, and Frank O'Hara. These writers, having spent long periods of time abroad, witnessed the decolonization of the world and wrote about it. The college students of the GLF read them avidly. Having grown up in Singapore, a former British colony, I was happy to discover the American link between gay liberation and decolonization. Abelove ends the essay, and the book, with three suggestions, the last of which resonates powerfully with me:

The common view of early gay liberation as an identity politics is mistaken. New York's GLF was not predicated on a commitment to a suppostitiously stable or definite identity. It was rather predicated on a commitment to a worldwide struggle for decolonization and its potential human benefits.

The implications of the statement and immense, and I will be thinking them out in the days to come. 

skipping brightly
a great spangled fritillary
a loose thread

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Friday, May 02, 2014