Sunday, January 15, 2017

Even Now - Hugo Claus (Archipelago Books)

Today's book of poetry:
Even Now.  Hugo Claus.  Selected and Translated from the Dutch by David Colmer.  Archipelago Books.  Brooklyn, New York.  2004/2013.


Today's book of poetry often listens to a random selection of jazz recordings from our own collection when we are in the office and as I sat down to type this Toots Thielemans was playing "Bluesette". Now that I'm a little familiar with Hugo Claus it strikes me as marvelous serendipity.

Today's book of poetry is embarrassed to tell you that until Archipelago Books sent us Even Now by Hugo Claus we had never heard of him.  Hugo Maurice Julien Claus (1929-2008) was Belgian, wrote prose and poetry, he was a celebrated painter, directed films, was a celebrated playwright and a translator.  

I'm quoting from the cover when I tell you that Claus won every Dutch literary award on offer and that in 2002 Hugo Claus won the prestigious Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding for his body of work.

You are reading about Hugo Claus here because Today's book of poetry fell hard for Mr. Claus while reading Even Now.  These startling poems begin with a stunner from his 1948 book Registration, and it just doesn't feel dated.  Claus was so far ahead of the curve that his early poems still feel fresh, vibrant and contemporary.

I

We've known it now for centuries,
that the moon is dangling by a thread
attached to heaven, hell or nothing at all.
That the thick blue paint of night
is drooping down into the streets
to wrap around you like a deep blue robe
this evening when you head for home,
dawdling ne'er-do-wells, theatre and recital-goers,
nighthawks, people who are alive,
and that the night will soon be washed away
like cheap blue ink from years ago
and afterwards the pale, pink skin
of heaven, hell or nothing at all
will shine through and no longer pale,
especially not the pink nothing like a girl's
soft and salty sex,
and afterwards heaven and hell and nothing at all
will dry out, go mouldy and decay,
just as old loves and bad habits,
doses of the clap, faithful pieces of furniture
and bunkers from pre-1914 must die,
with no one's help, in a corner, on a sandstone slab,
like cunning old crabs must die.

...

It is hard to believe how modern the poetry of Hugo Claus feels as it rattles around inside of your head.  David Colmer's translations feel seamless, as though he were simply channeling, and the resulting poems timeless.

Just look at this little masterpiece from 1963's An Eye for an Eye and try not to think of Charles Bukowski.

I      Him

My soul says, Run,
even if it costs you money and love
So says my soul
But I don't move an inch, I can't
Because my soul, the snake, is still mad about that little
black-haired bitch!

...

Claus can be as frank, hardcore and beautiful as Buk, but his range is unlimited.  Claus tackled Shakespeare and wrestled him to the ground, dukes it out with the Sanskrit poem "Chaurapanchasika" and comes out on top with a series of short sharp poems that are as intoxicating as liquor.

This morning's read was a real barn-burner.  We wanted to call in our "all things Dutch" expert Brian "Pistol" Peet to give these poems a whirl but he couldn't get our of his snowed-in lane way.  Nature and the city plow have built an ice dyke just for him.  We settled for the regular staff read and hit it out of the park anyway.  The poems of Hugo Claus as translated by David Colmer roll of the tongue like they were buttered.

Hugo Claus was a busy guy and we here at Today's book of poetry have a new poetry hero to add to our pantheon of Gods.  Make no mistake about Claus, he caught us hook, line and sinker.  Hugo Claus can burn with the best of them.

Envoi

My poems stand around yawning.
I'll never get used to it. They've lived here
long enough.
Enough, I'm kicking them out, I don't want to wait
until their toes get cold.
I want to hear the throb of the sun
or my heart, that treacherous hardening sponge,
unhindered by their clamour and confusion.

My poems aren't a classic fuck,
they're vulgar babble or all too noble bluster.
In winter their lips crack,
in spring they go flat on their back of the first hot day,
they ruin my summer
and in autumn they smell of women.

Enough. For twelve more lines on this page,
I'll keep them under my wing
then give them a kick up the arse.
Go somewhere else to beat your drum and rhyme on the cheap,
somewhere else to tremble in fear of twelve readers
and a critic who's asleep.

Go now, poems, on your light feet
you haven't stamped hard on the old earth,
where the graves grin at the sight of their guests,
one body piled on the other.
Go now and stagger off to her
who I don't know.

...

Today's book of poetry is slack-jawed with awe.  Even Now is a towering book of poetry and a remarkable achievement.  Poems this ready to read don't come along often enough.

Our new job will be to search for whatever other Hugo Claus titles we can find and that is the biggest compliment we know how to give.

  
Image result for hugo claus photo
Hugo Claus
(1929-2002)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
The prose, poetry, and paintings of Hugo Claus (1929-2008) were as influential as they were groundbreaking. His novels include The Sorrow of Belgium, his magnum opus of postwar Europe, as well as Wonder, Desire, The Swordfish, Mild Destruction, Rumors, and The Duck Hunt. His corpus of poetry is immense and stunningly diverse. In addition to receiving every major Dutch-language literary prize, Claus received the 2002 Leipzig Book Award for European Understanding for his body of work.

BLURBS
"Astonishing. There is a richness of feeling, exactness of imagery, tender skepticism of the body and its wants - I found myself thinking of Donne, Sterne, Cendrars, Bukowski and Celine all at once. Colmer's translation is uncanny, feels as if every word is the one the poet intended. Yes, here it is! Hugo Claus a permanent part of poetic landscape, opened at last."
      - Robert Kelly

"Nobody could write so rampantly about the wild veracity of sensual love for women and life than Hugo Claus. To read him is to be shot into verbal ecstasy. Fortunately these translations do justice to much of this."
     - Antjie Krog

"Claus's work has been called a cosmos in its own right... Yet this Promethean artist with his Burgundian exuberance and prolixity... is, like W.B. Yeats, capable of stunning simplicity."
      - The Independent

"Claus rages against the decay of the physical self while desire remains untamed. From the beginning, his poetry has been marked by an uncommon mix of intelligence and passion. He has such light-fingered control that art becomes invisible."
     - J.M. Coetzee

Image result for david colmer photo
David Colmer

ABOUT THE TRANSLATOR
David Colmer is an Australian writer and translator who lives in Amsterdam. He is the author of a novel and a collection of short stories, both published in Dutch translation in the Netherlands, and the translator of more than twenty books: novels, children's literature, and poetry. He is a four-time winner of the David Reid Poetry Translation Prize and won the 2009 Biennial NSW Premier and PEN Translation Prize for his body of work. In 2010 his translation of Gerbrand Bakker’s Boven is het stil (The Twin) won the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award.


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DISCLAIMERS

Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Persistence of Longing - Lynne Knight (Terrapin Books)

Today's book of poetry:
The Persistence of Longing.  Lynne Knight.  Terrapin Books.  West Caldwell, New Jersey.  2016.


Picture


"What if memory and longing were one,"
                                                                                           - Lynne Knight

Lynne Knight is poet brave in some rather spectacular ways in The Persistence of Longing.  Today's book of poetry doesn't like using the word brave to describe poems but Knight is a Jedi-laser-ray-gun poet who cuts through to the emotional truth with eviscerating effect.

It's so easy to read these robust narrative gems that you might overlook the fact that these poems are rock solid.  Knight is building solid ships and then she sends them out onto dangerous seas.

The Snow Couple

I used to wait at the window for lake-effect snow.
First wind, then a thin smattering of flakes

swirling suddenly white while the village
disappeared and my house with it,

the husband drunk and asleep on the couch
or not yet home, missing as he was in dreams

where I killed him without knowing who it was,
waking to panic that I'd done a thing so horrible,

some night wondering if I really had killed,
the dream so real, as the vanishing house

seemed real while I stared into the silent rush
of snow, never thinking I'd be gone, too, then,

until the night the car smashed the maple tree
at the edge of the lawn, metal crumpling, a horn

unstoppable, then through the snow human cries
so pitiful I grabbed my coat and ran

to my husband, banged up a little, bloodied,
but all right, so I led him inside, I made coffee,

I tended his wounds, wondering If I would
ever awake, if I would ever stop feeling this

snow pour from my hands, my mouth,
covering him, the table, the rising floor.

...

Today's book of poetry was reading Knight's poem "Vessel" which ends with this great line, 

"the boat drifting, the birds continuing their indifferent song."

and I couldn't help but think of Auden and his beautiful "Musee des beaux Arts" and how it conveys such wonder, dread, despair and the on-going dilemma that despite our individual dramas and heartbreaks we remain mere specks of things.

The Persistence of Longing is a catalogue of love and the transgressions that ensue in its name. Knight offers both a tender embrace and a healthy dose of fiery scorn.  Knight isn't playing around, she's ready for love or she's ready to kick the crap out of love, whatever needs must.

Strategy

Wild turkeys swarm the neighbor's bank,
pecking at all the new ivy shoots, Bark!
I tell the dog, who stands statue-mute
staring through the fence. Bark! Even my voice
fails to alarm them. Stupid birds, sauntering
down the road like people, waiting until a car
is almost upon them before straying from danger.
They've probably eaten all the impatiens
by the front gate and mangled the azaleas.
Anything bright, they're on it. The neighbor
left his rhododendrons to die because they take
so much water, and we're in a serious drought,
but one rhodie managed a sole blossom.
I dare one of the turkeys to fly up to it.
They peck and saunter, saunter and peck.
The dog loses interest. I check the time.
Eight minutes, and I haven't thought of you.

...

Today's book of poetry has nothing but admiration for these poems because we can see that Knight is fully committed.  If love requires flames then Knight is all about adding gasoline to the blaze.  She'll fight for love or burn down the house around it to bury it if necessary.  These are survivor poems, hand-and-heart-held-to-the-flame-of-love survivor poems.

Knight's poems are both elegant and sad but she is always right on the beat.  You can feel the heart of these poems as they navigate the dark streets of love.

The Unintended Lecture on Desire

Hard labor was good for you, he said,
and by now sweat splotched his shirt,
his face had runnels of sweat, like the four
of us, two couples ripped rotted shingles
from the house, mid-July, humid, windless,

already my arms ached and the sweat stung
my eyes, but it would be good for me, I knew,
not just in the way he said but because I wanted
to rid my body of desire for him, forbidden
desire, since he was my best friend's husband,

so I slid my hammer to get purchase and pulled
until a shingle loosened, again, again, he said
maybe we should stop for a beer but I wanted
to keep going, I wiped my eyes with the bandana
my own husband handed me, and my best friend

said she didn't want a beer, she wanted a long
hot soak, so I saw the two of them making love
in the hot tub, and I wished we were shingling
the house instead of unshingling it, so I could
hammer, hammer, hammer desire away,

and then he said he'd been reading a book
about perspective, it got a little too technical
in parts but was worth the slog because of
the reminder that no one could see what someone
else saw, think about it, ever this, he said,

even the four of us out here in this bloody heat
ripping shingles I should've ripped five years ago,
not one of us can see what the others see.
I'm here, you're there, he said, and that's all
there is to it: we're alone, we're in this alone.

...

Our morning read has become my favourite part of the day.  Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, led the charge this morning.  Lynne Knight's The Persistence of Longing filled up our office, her emotionally charged yet available voice rang out with piercing poignancy, love-jagged dreams and tales of resiliency, even hope.

Lynne Knight has visited the pages of Today's book of poetry before.  Back in September of 2015 we posted a blog about Ito Naga's I Know (Je Sais) that was translated by Knight.  You can check that out here:


Lynne Knight
Lynne Knight

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lynne Knight, a former fellow in poetry at Syracuse University, taught high school English in Upstate New York, then moved to California where she taught part-time at San Francisco Bay Area community colleges and began writing poetry again. She now devotes herself full-time to writing. She is the author of four full-length poetry collections, three of them prize winners, and four chapbooks, three of them also prize winners. Her work has appeared in a number of journals, including Kenyon Review, Poetry, and The Southern Review. Her other awards and honors include publication in Best American Poetry, the Prix de l’Alliance Fran├žaise 2006, a PSA Lucille Medwick Memorial Award, the 2009 Rattle Poetry Prize, and an NEA grant. Please visit her website.

BLURB
​I love these poems, love how they sweep me along, sweep me up into the arms of the kind of longing that seems unsayable, untranslatable, impossible to describe in any language, with any words—the words turning back into breath, as this poet says, as she creates the sense of that longing, itself, in words, in these sometimes-breathless lines, sometimes against the restraint of form, the sweet ache of rhyme, creating that sense of urgency that’s so like desire, itself, and the sense of danger that infuses even the deepest pleasure, especially the deepest pleasure. I’ve never read poems that seem to me more accurate about love and desire and sexual relationships and their almost-inevitable shattering—darkly gorgeous and expertly-crafted poems, with a white-hot lyric intensity and a narrative pull that becomes cumulative, an erotic veering toward doom. And yet, the persistence of longing is the life force, too, refusing to exhaust itself: How could anything in the universe be undying / when everything rushed forward, trailing light?
     - Cecilia Woloch, author of Carpathia


539

DISCLAIMERS

Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.




Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Kiss Of Walt Whitman Still On My Lips - Raymond Luczak (Squares & Rebels)

Today's book of poetry:
The Kiss Of Walt Whitman Still On My Lips. 
Raymond Luczak.  Squares & Rebels.  Minneapolis, Minnesota.  2016.


Today's book of poetry would like to welcome you all back.  Our entire staff has been away on various holidays and adventures but we are all back in our various saddles and excited to see what 2017 is going to bring.

2017 at Today's book of poetry is starting off with a firecracker of a collection that lives up to the promise of the glorious title.  The Kiss Of Walt Whitman Still On My Lips is written in the rarely used nonet form, nine lines and Bob is your uncle.  Luczak has forgone traditional rhyming schemes and instead gives us 82 love songs full of wonder all aimed in the direction of Walt Whitman, American poet/saint and author of Leaves of Grass.

Rayond Luczak is among a chorus of trailblazing LGBTQ and QDA poets who are changing our ways of seeing them and the world.  A lot has changed since old Walt laid down the law.  The timbre of these poems comes in fire engine red and firing on all cylinders.

The Kiss Of Walt Whitman Still On My Lips

Just like how some men like to compare their dicks,
he and I compare our beards. Though eight years older,
his beard is darker, thicker, dense. Amidst his prattle
about his favorite painters (Vermeer and Leonardo),
Corinthian columns, and Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth,
he peers closely at my beard: once a fiery red,
now a cropped ginger mellowing into ashy white.
I await the flame of question in his eyes.
My answer is ready: yes, you can fondle my beard.

...

The Kiss Of Walt Whitman Still On My Lips is part loving elegy, part eulogy, part love letter, part confessional, part sexual fantasy and more, but all of it tender, all of it like a warm and wanted embrace.

Raymond Luczak is an open door, these poems can't wait to welcome you into his conversation.

The Kiss Of Walt Whitman Still On My Lips

Leaves of Grass had initially sprouted out of the mish-
mash of pithy lines scribbled in financial ledgers.
You'd cut and pasted clippings from here and there.
You didn't know what to do with them at first;
only when you returned from a trip to New Orleans,
where you met a man whose name is lost to all but you,
did you at last see: O passion! O sweet love! O America!
The wanton filth you self-published was a pink grenade
detonating in an atomic cloud straight from the future.

...

This morning's read, the first of the new year, was a relaxed affair.  Milo, our head tech, has become a loquacious and dedicated reader so he led the charge.  One of Today's book of poetry's nieces has taken up residency in the Stuart Ross Poetry and Guest Room so she joined in for the mandatory reading.  If you stay under this roof you are forced to read poetry out loud, it is a law. 

You'd never guess to think it but The Kiss Of Walt Whitman Still On My Lips goes extremely well with Pharoah Sanders Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah-Hum-Allah (Jewels of Thought, 1969).  At least it did this morning.

The Kiss Of Walt Whitman Still On My Lips

Please rescue me from the sterility of America.
Everything's been shrink-wrapped and digitized.
I can't touch or feel anything real. Damnpissshitfuck.
It's all up here, not down here or there.
It's all commercials and franchises.
Even death has its own antiseptic soap dispenser.
Advertisers use sex as their biological weapon.
Demographics are a communal sport of saturation.
Christ! Just scrape the ISBN bar code off of my DNA.

...

Today's book of poetry wants to be gender aware and gender sensitive and writers live Raymond Luczak certainly help to broaden our participation in that particular conversation.  But for the purposes of Today's book of poetry this conversation would not be taking place if we didn't like the poems, period.

The Kiss Of Walt Whitman Still On My Lips is a hearty, lusty and loving romp.  Luczak steps across time for love and what could be more romantic than that.

Image result for photo raymond luczak


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
RAYMOND LUCZAK (pronounced with a silent "c") is perhaps best known for his books, films, and plays.

He was raised in Ironwood, a small mining town in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Number seven in a family of nine children, he lost much of his hearing due to double pneumonia at the age of eight months.

After high school graduation, Luczak went on to Gallaudet University, in Washington, D.C., where he earned a B.A. in English, graduating magna cum laude. He learned American Sign Language (ASL) and became involved with the deaf community, and won numerous scholarships in recognition of his writing, including the Ritz-Paris Hemingway Scholarship. He took various writing courses at other schools in the area, which culminated in winning a place in the Jenny McKean Moore Fiction Workshop at the George Washington University.

In 1988, he moved to New York City. In short order, his play Snooty won first place in the New York Deaf Theater’s 1990 Samuel Edwards Deaf Playwrights Competition, and his essay "Notes of a Deaf Gay Writer" won acceptance as a cover story for Christopher Street magazine. Soon after Alyson Publications asked him to edit Eyes of Desire: A Deaf Gay & Lesbian Reader, which, after its appearance in June 1993, eventually won two Lambda Literary Award nominations (Best Lesbian and Gay Anthology, and Best Small Press Book). He hasn't stopped since!

In 2005, he relocated to Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he continues to write, edit, and publish.

BLURBS

“The Kiss of Walt Whitman Still on My Lips is an unabashed celebration of one man’s relationship to Walt Whitman: poet, publisher, lover, impromptu nurse, artistic creation, organism, man in full. Like Whitman himself, Raymond Luczak arrives at an unified vision of love in all of its poetic manifestations: sensual, sexual, and textual, a source of electric vistas and voluptuous possibilities of spiritual renewal. He provides precisely the kind of tender reassurance we cannot find words for some nights, but which we so desperately need.”
     —Eric Thomas Norris, co-author of Nocturnal Omissions


“In The Kiss of Walt Whitman Still on My Lips, Raymond Luczak has awoken entwined in the arms of the American bard. And here is the bed chat and letters from one poet to another, a communion of fleshly living. Luczak has created a work in the tradition of Ginsberg's odyssean dreaming of the lost America of love—a vibrant examination of what Whitman called a ‘richest fluency’ of historical gaiety and modern loving, and a clear transmission of honest affection across the ages.”
    —Dan Vera, author of Speaking Wiri Wiri


Here is the video trailer for Raymond Luczak's The Kiss Of Walt Whitman Still On My Lips.
 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hm_UNgAfddM


squaresandrebels.com 

538

DISCLAIMERS

Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

TODAY'S BOOK OF POETRY - 4th Annual Kitty Lewis Hazel Millar Dennis Tourbin Poetry Prize

Today's book of poetry would like to announce the winner of the

4th Annual
Kitty Lewis 
Hazel Millar 
Dennis Tourbin 
Poetry Prize

Stuart Ross, A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent. A Buckrider Book.  Wolsak and Wynn.  Hamilton, Ontario.  2016.



To see Today's book of poetry blog/review of  
A Sparrow Came Down Resplendent

Image result for stuart ross poet photo
Stuart Ross



⧫⧫

Today's book of poetry would like to thank Christian McPherson and Cameron Anstee for their generous assistance and support.  Today's book of poetry would also like to thank every poet and publisher who sent us books, that's what we live for.

It's been a curious year, our staff has increased in happy size and we would all like to wish you the very best for the holiday season.

Our readership has grown.  Last month we had 20,000 readers.  Today's book of poetry has now posted 536 blogs/reviews.

The winner of the Kitty Lewis Hazel Millar Dennis Tourbin Poetry Prize is invited to have dinner at the home offices of Today's book of poetry.

Past winners of the Prize:
2013 - Nora Gould, I See My Love More Clearly From A Distance (Brick Books)
2014 - Kayla Czaga, For Your Safety Please Hold On (Nightwood Editions)
2015 - Eva H.D., Rotten Perfect Mouth (Mansfield Press)

We will return in January fully rested and full of piss and vinegar.

537

DISCLAIMERS

Poems cited here are assumed to be under copyright by the poet and/or publisher.  They are shown here for publicity and review purposes.  For any other kind of re-use of these poems, please contact the listed publishers for permission.

We here at TBOP are technically deficient and rely on our bashful Milo to fix everything.  We received notice from Google that we were using "cookies"
and that for our readers in Europe there had to be notification of the use of those "cookies.  Please be aware that TBOP may employ the use of some "cookies" (whatever they are) and you should take that into consideration.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes - Cheryl Dumesnil (Pitt Poetry Series/University of Pittsburgh Press)

Today's book of poetry:
Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes.  Cheryl Dumesnil.  Pitt Poetry Series.  University of Pittsburgh Press.  Pittsburgh, PA.  2016.

Showtime at the Ministry of Lost Causes (Pitt Poetry Series) by [Dumesnil, Cheryl]

Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
                                           Lao-Tzu

Cheryl Dumesnil must have all the patience in the world at her fingertips to get to the clear water she shares with us in Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes.  

We are a big fan of good titles for books of poetry and Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes is an absolute classic.  We knew it was going to be almost impossible not to like a book with this title and a juggler without hands on the cover.  We were right.

Dumesnil starts this collection with a quote from our old buddy Lao-Tzu and ends the book at "Lake Dharma" and along the way we see/hear Dumesnil fight the good fight (as John Hoppenthaler suggests), set that good example.  These very human poems remind us all of what we require of love, what it takes out of us.

That I Could Keep You Like This

That you were
           falling, we all knew.


                  How sound travels across
                                a morning lake is how

                  I hear voices calling
                                always -- that's what you

                  need to remember about me.


That you have fallen
is a fact the water

will neither swallow
nor erase.

                    Trust this: You will
                                 not understand me

                    when I stitch sound
                                 in the language of my mind.


The last time you left,
          I carried your glass

to the sink, dunked it
          in soapy water. That your

fingerprints sifted upward
          like lace is what I imagined,

that I could pinch them up
          off the water's surface,

press them to my lips --


                    A distance, by definition,
                                  cannot be closed,

                    not even by sound.


              -- is what I dreamed.

...


Today's book of poetry has been distracted this past week.  A series of heavy snowfalls, the death of a family friend and a big old 750 page What About This - Collected Poems of Frank Stanford  (Copper Canyon Press, 2015) have kept me from due diligence.  I'd purchased the Stanford book several weeks ago and had gone through it lightly but hadn't had a chance to dig in.  Well Frank Stanford is an astonishment and What About This reminded me of how exciting it was to discover a new poet I admire.  

Same thing with Dumesnil.  From now until the end of time I will automatically pick up anything with her brilliant name on it.  Why?  Same reason as Stanford.  Poems about the lives we live that are so full of wonder and new reason that you don't want to finish.

Cheryl Dumesnil's Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes is just the excellent vehicle needed for Today's book of poetry to get back on track and everyone at this morning's read seemed to agree. Dumesnil's San Francisco birds enthralled Kathryn, our Jr. Editor, "Love Song for the Drag Queen at Little Orphan Andy's" did the trick for Milo, our head tech.

At the Reunion of Lost Memories

High School snorts Ritalin in a bathroom stall,
smears lipstick across the back of her hand,

snags her stiletto in her skirt hem, tears it
while slam dancing with the custodian's assistant.

Streamers droop from the ballroom ceiling,
crepe eels lolling in the fan breeze.

Fifth Grade hocks a loogie in the fruit punch
while College works hard to recall names,

anyone's names. Who painted Air Force insignias
on his '64 Mustang? Whose kiss felt like

a dead slug in her mouth? Which sorority
sister got caught poaching care packages

from the dormitory mail room? Nothing
to worry about, Old Age whispers, this is just

how it goes; even the good ones get lost --
the midwife who caught your first baby,

the coworker who let you sleep on her couch
after your divorce.  At the podium, Midlife

taps the microphone, clears her throat -- this was,
after all, her idea: the chicken croquettes,

the all-star band. She wants to explain why
she's called everyone here, but before she can speak,

Etta James saunters onstage, croons, At last...
In a botched confetti drop, ripped-up secrets

flutter down, accumulating on the polyester rug,
like the snow that fell and fell that one spring day,

cloaking all the cars, covering their tracks.

...

Dumesnil is funny when she wants to be but Today's book of poetry was swayed by some deeper force at work.  Dumesnil wants us to see through the veneer of our lives.  Reading Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes was like having a freight train pull into the yard, car after car, solid as a rock, each one as dependable as the last and the next and each filled with its own necessary and perfectly delivered cargo.

Melodrama of the Suburban Kindergartener

You would think I had asked him to swim
          naked across an alligator-spiked swamp,

my son whom I have sent walking across
          a flat acre of asphalt, to his classroom,

alone. though I pressed language
          into his hand: this feels scary, but it's not

dangerous; you are taking one
          for the team, twenty-five yards in,

he looks back at me and melts his face
         into a tragedy mask. This morning

his aunt is losing her breasts to cancer.
          He doesn't know. This morning Cairo

has erupted into chaos. He has
no idea. How many kids ate hunger

for breakfast? In the car, his sick brother
          coughs spit into a cup, while I watch

my blond boy shuffle away from me,
          molasses pace and sobbing. This is where

survival begins: that boy finally crossing
          his threshold, this mom letting him go.

...

Cheryl Dumesnil's ferociously smart poetry is exactly what Today's book of poetry needed on this cold, cold Monday.  Survival songs for the new age.

Oh yes, Cheryl Dumesnil is a lesbian and it is clear a lesbian is the narrator of some of these poems. Today's book of poetry is often confused about how big of an issue this is.  To ignore the obvious might imply some sort of negative implication, and to point it out sometimes implies the same.  Show Time at the Ministry of Lost Causes rattled my cage in the best poetry ways possible, Cheryl Dumesnil meets every criteria we have.

Cheryl Dumesnil

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cheryl Dumesnil's books include the 2008 Agnes Lunch Starrett Poetry Prize winner, In Praise of Falling, the memoir Love Song for Baby X: How I Stayed (Almost) Sane on the Rocky Road to Parenthood, and the anthology Dorothy Parker's Elbow: Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos, co-edited with Kim Addonizio.

BLURBS
“Cheryl Dumesnil transforms the seemingly useless—the discarded, the broken off, what we keep in the kitchen drawer—into proof of our humanity, asserting that it’s to the things of this world, whether they be oil-slicked puddles, cathedrals, tampons or Pink Floyd, that our lives are anchored. These poems are as tactile as that kitchen junk drawer and just as rewarding to rummage through. Each poem begs to be picked up, turned over in the palm.”
     —Dorianne Laux

“Dumesnil’s precise observations, vivid images, deft humor, and brave willingness to invite in the whole of life, makes for a poetry that’s rich and meaningful. This collection gives us the world with its beauty and love and the loss that always hovers close.”
     —Ellen Bass

“Dumesnil navigates the hallways of illness and childbirth with grit and grace. She offers us soaring birds, revolutions and plums. This is a book full of the love of women and sons, drag queens and last calls, and always the gospel of the body, and its constant prayer of falling.”
     —Sean Thomas Dougherty, author of All You Ask for is Longing: Poems 1994-2014
“What the poet knows is this: there are no lost causes. There is loss, of course, but to love enough to take up a cause is to keep faith. Dumesnil’s collection is the good fight in miserable times; it is how we endure knowing that part of us always / stays back, while the rest marches on. This fabulous book is the part marching on.”
     —John Hoppenthaler


Cheryl Dumesnil
at Radar Reading Series
Video courtesy of San Francisco Public Library


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