Kristy Bowen on James Franco
Joanna Penn Cooper & J. Hope Stein on Cyndi Lauper
There’s a lady here who stomps down the hallway like a mofo. My God, she’s a loud walker. And not a large person. And when she talks, she over-enunciates words, like “col-oss-al” and “ped-i-gree.” She’s lodged there in my brain. I came here to learn to breathe and write poems that have the formal quality of a river and all I hear is “col-oss-al, col-oss-al.” I’m doomed. At dinner, I sit always by the window— always with a view of the river, so I can take in its circadian rhythm. So that I can link its rhythm to mine. The river doesn’t especially welcome this, but it isn’t unwelcome either. At night by the bonfire, I try the same thing, I impersonate the flame. And the others come huddle around me, sit on a log bench and talk about the job market. I don’t say anything: I just act like a flame and do my best to seem like I am burning as the radio plays. After about 20 minutes of this, the song “She Bop” by Cyndi Lauper comes on the radio and I’m suddenly glad for Lauper, glad for this human company that moves with the play of flame. And finally I say something: “You know, Lauper never asked for anyone’s permission. She didn’t wait for a response on a job application. My god, she dyed her hair flame-red and put on the greatest party dress of all time. She didn’t ask anyone’s permission for any of it.” The others look up, still huddled around me with sticks, ready to roast marshmallows.
Noah Falck on Bill Murray
CELEBRITY DREAM POEM
At dusk, dogs spring loose
with freight train adrenalin.
They disappear down an alley
where my brothers huddle beneath
a cold rain, their faces the unlit chandeliers
of a 5-star hotel. They wait until
all of Chicago dies in the golf course of
my eyes, in the golf course of my heart.
Leah Umansky on Don Draper
Don Dreams and I Dream
So, Don dreamt he was an angel. It’s sweet. I’ve dreamt about motherhood. [So what?] Now, it feels all downtrodden. I wish I knew the crested. I wish I knew what made the light twitch; what brings the light to the moon so I can carry it inside, and know there is glory in the in-between. That there is something here to be sought or sought-after. Something to be stared -down-beautiful.I dreamt I was an angel. When a man walks into a room, he brings his whole life with him. I bring golden cornhusks, green apples and dung.
I want to dream an idea that is birthed through a carnival’s sawdust floor. I want to dream you and let you ride into the night –all shaky-hinges and crated -screams—I want you to ferris to me. Oblige to gravity. I want your fall to be planned.
[Do you even want that kind of attention ?]
[I want the aftermath. That germinating. ]
[I won’t let go of this.]
[I won’t let you.]
Sasha Fletcher on the Presidents
Once upon a time there was a man named Franklin Pierce
and he had a really great haircut. One day
he was elected president of the Unites States
and then promptly lost his oldest son, his wife, his Vice-President,
the rest of his children, his nomination for re-election
and his lunch money. After that he buried himself
inside a bottle of gin while vultures
fed on the remains of everything he ever lost,
as was the custom of the time. It is said that William Howard Taft
dined on vultures using his keen legal mind
and custom silverware while an enormous bathtub
was constructed around him. People would come
from miles around and he’d give them his teeth
and this is how souvenirs got invented. One day
a man named Franklin Delano Roosevelt woke up
to find several birds in his chest that soon
ate their way down to his legs where they live to this day.
He spent most of his life keeping a blanket over those legs
because birds like to sleep when it’s dark. He’d tell them stories
about how William Howard Taft ate vultures
and how a man named Andrew Jackson ate bald eagles
which lived in hickory trees and that is why
they called him Old Hickory and also why
depending on what you have heard
there are no more bald eagles.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt hoped
these stories would scare the birds into going away
but the thing about birds is that they don’t speak English
or respond well to threats. When I tell you this
I will be smiling, because your life is a shining example
of all the things I have never done, and if I could
I would replace everyone’s face with yours so that every day
my heart would just break wide open and my head would catch on fire
and I could, for that moment, be surrounded by your love
right before my head explodes in a miraculous tribute
to this great nation, and we wake up in the morning
and do it all over again, but different, and better,
with a car crash, a shipwreck, a few rigged elections,
and a truly spectacular excuse for a dinner party,
with the sort of twist ending that just sends you staggering out
cold and wild, into the night
just waiting for destiny
to manifest itself all over your broken, anxious face.
Monica McClure on Lindsay Lohan
Lilo SpottingHow it must have hurt to hear your frenemies giggling in the background when you were spotted as a fire crotch Cocaine was at the scene when you were spotted with trashy parents You probably do get dehydrated when you’re spotted asking Al Gore to help clean up your image When you told Oprah you weren’t a party girl you were spotted falling head first into a car Cocaine was at the scene when your dad spelled your name L-I-N-D-S-A-Y in a press release Your hairless vagina was spotted as a baby rat when you were spotted stealing a woman’s fur coat at 1Oak At Dragonfly you were spotted when you were spotted leaving Teddy’s with Steve-O When Samantha Ronson changed the locks on her door you were spotted violating your parole Get revenge on your frenemies turned all out enemies! Spot them in court with profane messages painted on their fingernails A hollow person was spotted wearing an ankle bracelet But it wasn’t you $500k in jewels was spotted missing from an Elle photoshoot when a curb in Beverly Hills was being struck Cocaine was at the scene when Michael was reading How To Be A Man For Dummies at your suggestion Frenemies were driving with suspended licenses when the sun came up at Promises Spotted leaving Leonardo Di Caprio’s house you discovered you had another life somewhere else But the case was dismissed a month later when you were spotted owing money
Amy Lawless on Mariah Carey
The Speed of Sound
dolphins have been granted
and yet mariah carey’s
web site is still just
a vehicle for
to see what her body
has been up to lately
dolphins have consciousness
and we know that dolphins obviously mostly only talk
using their complex language
about doing it
in new, creative ways
positions we as humans have not yet imagined
dolphins have been acknowledged
by the government of India
it’s really just so some
government can regulate their awesome sex lives
& how humans must play nice
i came across an amazing piece of prose
last week that discusses how
entities always try to control
the basest acts of humans
(the government obviously)
but it’s about religion too
humanity’s crassest and basest desires
these entities keep us from fucking on the sidewalks
keep fleabag hotels in business
and prevent people from pulling each other’s necks back
to sniff the sex off each other’s ears
or slurping down his heart when we’re in bed
or then from tearing each other’s heads off with our bare hands
… moments after holding hands
desire is held
in a large and growing vase
the vase might be your government
religion is your clothing
and then there are
the quieter rules
that control who you have sex with
or what you wear
who you associate with
who you’re supposed to desire
there are books that tell you what to want
and who your desires should resemble
the years during which to find them, want them, and how
well, what if you’re still dolphin shaped
what’s to be done
who does the shunning
we like to believe there is
a right and a wrong and a that-which-ekes-by-as-barely-acceptable
“Who controls humans?” I googled
and I got a list of web sites about population control
and some country that offers voluntary sterilization
and great, there’s a black hole in the ocean to worry about too
we don’t know shit about the ocean
not the tiniest little turd about the ocean
it’s almost freeing to know this
we won’t be sucked toward the maelstrom
no matter how broke we are
we must fight recklessly
but by listening to mariah carey
it’s so easy to be sucked down
into the maelstrom
two dolphins swim into a café
dolphin 1: ‘sup
dolphin 2: (tucks chin to chest, coy)
dolphin 1: wanna ___________?
fall into the maelstrom
of two dolphins in conversation
one wearing a beret, obviously
in oceans that one can’t control
The maelstrom can be anything
a brick wall with painted ivy
keeping you alive
with the hope
that there is something that keeps you living
like that sickly girl
who let that painted ivy keep her fighting through the night
because she thought it was real
she reached for it
sometimes during yoga
they say reach for both walls
as if that were possible
i try with my arms
i come closer than I did today
(which I spent spooning my laptop)
i wonder if mariah carey
wonders if she might speak to the dolphins
and because she believes it, maybe she can
i have never been much of a mariah carey fan
her belief in love
it exits her body
in a physical form
that has an impact
and my belief in love is lazy, pessimistic, and american
and despite the haters
mariah believes she can touch both walls and
& in its naiveté
is touching both walls with her mindhands
Two dolphins swim into a bar
dolphin 1: did you hear that?
dolphin 2: yeah, sounded like another human giving a monologue about love
dolphin 1: yeah, but more than that. it was like she was singing to me.
the only way
to do anything
is to touch
Lauren Gordon on Britney Spears
Your Fear Is a Charcoal Briquette of Psyche
but also an upturned duck in manky water, spit curled bottom bobbing three seconds longer than it should, its flat bill devoid of breath. Your fear is your daughter’s lost shoe, now on the other side of the river, touched by a thoughtful or annoyed hand that moved it from the foot path to the lamp post in an un-ironic way. Your fear made you hustle past a limp man in yellow Nikes sinking to the concrete like a prostrate angel only to spark a cigarette, his umbrella at his side under devilish sun, like portent. Your fear is keen and musical. Your fear sounds like a song by Britney Spears; all hips and sweat, was photographed barefoot at a gas station. Once your fear was a two piece and the body in it, blustering along the lip of a swimming pool, toes clenched tellingly. Admittedly, your fear still is. Occasionally your fear is a skeleton army, how their bones knit together after being struck with a mace of your own making because this means you are never alone under your skin. Your fear is a hallway with three closed doors and that is all you want to say about that. Your fear has you straining to thunder, the thump of that child’s legs against her crib mattress overhead because your fear sounds like the static drone of a window unit taking its last heave. Even statues can suffer, and your fear recognizes its own reflection in stoicism, granite, and bird shit. Your fear looks a lot like Peter Pan, green tights and fringe; his own fear a dark plasma stain unraveling and dancing alone, held by thread. A long time ago your fear was a tooth wiggling against your tongue, an archaic itch deep in your gum, the iron gush on the floor mat of your throat; now your fear is just a pencil, a white sheaf, pulp.
Rena Mosteirin on Kurt Cobain
Listening to Tori Amos cover “Smells Like Teen Spirit” under the covers, on my Discman, crying and slightly stoned, I knew I wanted to do what Tori was doing. That was high school and everything felt so authentic and meaningful and I wanted to be able to take something meaningful apart and give it new meaning. (Even when I had to chew the words.) Nirvana colonized my dreams and then Tori Amos broke down those scary repetitions, panting and playing piano and exposing just so how heartbreaking the whole thing was. Oh high school…Taking song lyrics and re-arranging them as pantoums—a form I am obsessed with, as evidenced by their frequent occurrences on my poetry blog—feels like I am “covering” these songs. For this project I took each song from Nevermind and re-worked it into pantoum form. Re-writing them this way helped me develop a different relationship with the work. Here’s an example:
(“Drain You”)One baby to another says I’m lucky to have met you I don’t care what you think unless it is about me It is now my duty to completely drain you I travel through a tube and end up in your infection I don’t care what you think unless it is about me Chew your meat for you/ Pass it back and forth I travel through a tube and end up in your infection In a passionate kiss/ From my mouth to yours Chew your meat for you/ Pass it back and forth With eyes so dilated I’ve become your pupil In a passionate kiss/ From my mouth to yours You’ve taught me everything about a poison apple With eyes so dilated I’ve become your pupil The water is so yellow You’ve taught me everything about a poison apple I’m a healthy student/ Indebted and so grateful The water is so yellow Vacuum out the fluids/ Sloppy lips to lips I’m a healthy student/ Indebted and so grateful You’re my vitamins/ I like you One baby to another says I’m lucky to have met you It is now my duty to completely drain you
Joanna Penn Cooper on Various Celebrities
Charlotte Rampling Is My Life Force
Or Neil Young. Neil Young is actually my life force. Marianne Faithfull is my id. Or Marianne Faithfull is my celebrity guardian angel. Think of her on your shoulder, talking to you in that voice all day. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is my other celebrity guardian angel. Sissy Spacek in Coal Miner’s Daughter is my ego. Allen Ginsberg is my superego. My superego, Allen Ginsberg, tells me to take things more seriously and also to lighten up. So I pray every day at an altar to that woman from Dancing with the Stars. The blonde one. And why not? “If you have prayed at an altar to that woman from Dancing with the Stars, you have done it for me.” That’s in the Bible.
Brandon Brown on Amanda Bynes
I’m reading this whole Amanda Bynes
debacle as a philosopher facing a crisis
of reception. Nose-jobbed Socrates
who also reaped marketplace hate,
and we make her drink hemlock too.
When Amanda Bynes calls everybody ugly,
she doesn’t mean they have asymmetrical faces.
She’s having a vision of the soul she yearns
to name. Our culture rejoices in her
crisis precisely to avoid hearkening to what
stakes she raises in that river of tweets.
Schadenfreude is so sinister.
The word makes me think of Steve Jobs
toasting aged Dom to Foxconn suicides,
watching security footage with his little
boner. Amanda’s concern is beauty
and she is willing to sing it
though she extricates herself from future
film roles like a gangrenous tooth.
Count me out of this inverted envy
regime happy by her auto-demolition.
I’m trying to stay pretty. Prettier than that.
I did see a skateboarder eat shit on
Telegraph and smiled after. Vestigial
adolescent jealousy reappearing as smug
superiority. It was so thoughtlessly
ugly. No crown but one covered in earth.
No glitter without a slave to shave
long swaths of sparkling base. It’s so
ugly. Listen to Amanda Bynes.
She is trying to help us.
Maria Teutsch on John Coltrane
Sex with Coltrane
Are the children opening mouths like hungry saxophones
Clamoring for bread from my bread music?
This exhale of ours bellows in and out
And does not look like a wind instrument
Must be a fool’s hat collecting coins
Never earned by my frail mouth, not like Coltrane.
We never slept in the same bed
Coltrane and I: in the same bed I’d fumble.
Yet you wind inside of me and I become your instrument
Now the breasts on my lips
Soft like the rolls I’d bake
When I finally clamored myself to you
Earning that key no door will unlock
I wake to find you steamed against me, Coltrane.
Gili Malinsky on Christoph Waltz
A Glorious Bastard
Fateful Sunday in June
Under full-figured moon
Powered up my computer
‘Twas to iTunes I tuned
To a film about Basterds
About murder and gore…
Soon my heart was defeated!
SS Hans won the war!
With his “Pas si mauvais”
And his strudel au lait
His Ital masquerade
Charming medals and gray
What the fuck, Christoph Waltz?
I said somewhat loud
Sitting cross-armed in bed
Mouth agape, furrowed brows
How could your beautiful face so perplex me?!
Never a solid attraction so vexed me.
Cuz wanting an SS man
Reader, it’s true
Was deeply confusing
For this little Jew
J. Hope Stein on Poets & Podcasting
To me, just sitting around for hours talking about movies is the great luxury of my life. There’s nothing more fun to me than going to the movies then talking about the movie for hours into the night until it’s all talked out and just hangs in the air. Shit-Talking with Joe & Cheryl is a podcast in which the two most delightful people you could ever encounter talk about movies. In each episode, we join poets Joe Hall & Cheryl Quimba who have just seen a somewhat buzzed-about movie together –The Great Gatsby, Before Midnight, One Direction: this is Us (3D), Zero Dark Thirty…. & There’s an immediacy to it -sometimes the podcast starts in the car on the way back from the theater, sometimes it’s in their kitchen and Joe will stop to point out that one ant is carrying another ant across their apartment floor, sometimes Cheryl will let on that they had a fight before the film… or just when Joe seems like he just wants to say that One Direction sucks, Cheryl will pull him back in by appealing to their greater shared nature of exploration. Joe & Cheryl never talk about the film amongst themselves (like 2 jurors) until the podcast officially starts, so there’s a live tension that is created by these two beings and this film- they each have an individual relationship to the film they just witnessed and then there is the relationship they have with each other– and that is played out until there is nothing left to say. Joe & Cheryl approach each film like an understanding friend – with an openness to accept choices they don’t agree with. And in that willingness, what they are really doing is accepting a society going through some awkward phases. This is my favorite poetry podcast. And one of my favorite podcasts in general. There’s no institution or hipster scene behind this podcast – these are just two humans trying to be open to the world in which they find themselves living.