Archive for October, 2009

Jack Gilbert – Failing and Flying

Posted in Poems by others on October 21, 2009 by paulscotaugust

Failing and Flying

Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.
It’s the same when love comes to an end,
or the marriage fails and people say
they knew it was a mistake, that everybody
said it would never work. That she was
old enough to know better. But anything
worth doing is worth doing badly.
Like being there by that summer ocean
on the other side of the island while
love was fading out of her, the stars
burning so extravagantly those nights that
anyone could tell you they would never last.
Every morning she was asleep in my bed
like a visitation, the gentleness in her
like antelope standing in the dawn mist.
Each afternoon I watched her coming back
through the hot stony field after swimming,
the sea light behind her and the huge sky
on the other side of that. Listened to her
while we ate lunch. How can they say
the marriage failed? Like the people who
came back from Provence (when it was Provence)
and said it was pretty but the food was greasy.
I believe Icarus was not failing as he fell,
but just coming to the end of his triumph.

Jack Gilbert

From Jack Gilbert was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1925. He was educated in Pittsburgh and San Francisco, where he later participated in Jack Spicer’s famous “Poetry as Magic” Workshop at San Francisco State College in 1957.

Soon after publishing his first book, Views of Jeopardy, in 1962, Gilbert received a Guggenheim Fellowship and subsequently moved abroad, living in England, Denmark, and Greece. During that time, he also toured fifteen countries as a lecturer on American Literature for the U.S. State Department. Nearly twenty years after completing Views of Jeopardy, he published his second book, Monolithos. The collection takes its title from Greek, meaning “single stone,” and refers to the landscape where he lived on the island of Santorini.

About Gilbert’s work, the poet James Dickey said, “He takes himself away to a place more inward than is safe to go; from that awful silence and tightening, he returns to us poems of savage compassion.”

Gilbert is also the author of Transgressions: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books 2006), Refusing Heaven (2005), winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award, and The Great Fires: Poems 1982-1992 (1996). His poetry has been featured in The American Poetry Review, The Quarterly, Poetry, Ironwood, The Kenyon Review, The New Yorker, and other journals. He has been awarded a Lannan Literary Award for Poetry and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. Monolithos won the Stanley Kunitz Prize and the American Poetry Review Prize, and Views of Jeopardy won the Yale Younger Poets Series. Both books were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize.

Gilbert was the 1999-2000 Grace Hazard Conkling writer-in-residence at Smith College and a visiting professor and writer-in-residence at the University of Tennessee in 2004. He currently resides in western Massachusetts.


Josh Bell – Sleeping with Julia Roberts

Posted in Poems by others on October 6, 2009 by paulscotaugust

One day a few years back I walked into my local indy bookstore, and Josh Bell’s first book No Planets Strike was on the employee suggestion shelf with a very pursuasive shelf-talker saying this book was an absolute must-read. So I went with it, and bought it, and they were quite correct. The book is full of funny, scary, dizzying, moving poems that jump around with broken hearts, pop culture references, a mysterious character named Ramona who appears throughout, and 8 poems with the words Zombie Sunday in the title. Even the “Note on the Type” page is really a long, hilarious prose poem. I had the opportunity to see Josh Bell read from this book soon after, and it was one of the best readings I’ve ever seen. I post the following poem for many reasons, the best being that he signed my book Stay Away From Julia: That’s My Heat.

Sleeping with Julia Roberts

She smelled like plastic fruit and Pablo
Neruda was her favorite poet. Her thoughts,
stoked with speed and Nietzsche
and wired by Paramount, brought out
the secret patterns of the bedroom
wallpaper: shuddering valences of time,
blue daisies, a frozen horse against which
I spread my legs, and read myself

my rights. She was crazy about pasta salad.
She never called me Ace, she never lied.
It sounded like bourgeois when she sneezed
and each time she came into a room
where I already was, she’d click her tongue
and snap, you’re not supposed to be
in this picture, boy
, but it was me who bought
the custom-made dental pick she wore

around her neck on a silver chain,
it was me who tilted back that giant head
and worked the plaque until she screamed.
I engraved messages for archaeologists
below the gum-line. I flossed up the hot,
chalky remains of a battleship lost against
the icy floes of her crenellated teeth.
Once it was her birthday. She swallowed
the room, the room slipped into her mouth

backwards, like a car reeled into a garage,
and I realized, then, that love had evolved,
and no longer should I be concerned
with God, who tossed his dice across
her stomach, who bet her museum quality
bones against his own, then timed
her record quarter mile, and when we
felt her hit his holy bloodstream like
a B-grade nightingale, it was the death

of man. On bad nights I’d find her, adding
freakish columns of numbers on the bathroom tile,
shivering, barefoot, shit-faced on mescal,
her moon in Virgo, her father’s rusty, six-hole
leather punch a souvenir bulge in the front
pocket of her unzipped purple jeans. Alice,
I’d say (she made me call her Alice),
Alice, come back to bed, the worst
is over now. Your pink mitten lung is a perfect

fit tonight, and I can already feel
your prescription-dry tongue popping
like a match down my spine. This always
worked. Her scars turned into wine. I prayed
our babies would have her beautiful,
beautiful round head, the flotsam eyes,
her webbed tongue coiled in each drawbridge
mouth, and on each tongue her god-awful name.
I was in love with her when she was played
by time. No one else can say the same.

Josh Bell

Joshua Bell’s first book is No Planets Strike, Zoo Press/University of Nebraska Press, 2005. He received his M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where he was a Teaching-Writing Fellow and Paul Engle Postgraduate Fellow. He was the Diane Middlebrook Fellow at the University of Wisconsin’s Creative Writing Institute, 2003-04, and in the Summer of 2006 was a Walter Dakin Fellow at the Sewanee Writer’s Conference. His poems have appeared in such magazines as 9th Letter, Boston Review, Hotel Amerika, Indiana Review, Triquarterly, Verse, and Volt. His poems have been reprinted in such recent anthologies as Legitimate Dangers: American Poets of the New Century (Sarabande) and Imaginary Poets: 22 Master Poets Create 22 Master Poets (Tupelo Press). New poems are forthcoming in the anthologies The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror (St. Martin’s) and Third Rail: Rock and Roll Poetry (MTV Books).