Wednesday, August 27, 2014

(Almost) Awesome-

You know how sometimes you write something
and you’re sure that it’s just fucking awesome?
You’re sitting there and all at once
the words just poop out of your fingers
and stain the pages with your brilliance?
When that happens to me
after I’ve finished I sit back,
satisfied and satiated,
and I want to puff a cigarette
like Bogie when he gets done fucking Bacall
for the first time.

And I am drunk with the glory of it
and I want to take my brilliant piece
and share it
and email it
and Facebook it
and blog it
and go down to the street
and accost some innocent passerby
with it.

But some inner voice deep down,
the same voice that could have spared
me that wicked hangover after
last saturday night’s party,
that one little inner shred of common sense
that hasn’t been mercilessly bludgeoned to death
by my brilliance,
that little voice says, “wait”,
and just this once, I listen.

And so I plant the poem away in my desk,
like a sunflower seed in a
paper cup filled with peat moss,
like the perfect Christmas gift,
October-wrapped and hidden
on the top shelf
of the back hallway closet,
and I sneak a peek every once in a while
all afternoon, just to reassure myself
that my brilliance isn’t going anywhere.

And then I get up the next morning,
and I make myself make coffee,
and check my email,
and put the dried dishes in the drainer away,
and feed the cat,
and then,
I collect my poem
from its safe place,
and I look at it
in the fresh day,
and I read it over,
and I think,

“What the fuck?!?!?!?”

you know how sometimes
it’s like that?

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


What’s in a name?
You would think naming poems would be simple. Not for me.
When I was in high school I thought it was clever
to name my poems like the painter,
James McNeill Whistler, named his paintings-
His “Nocturne in Blue & Gold” led to my
“Symphony in White for Adjectives”,
and “An Arrangement in Adverbs #14”.
I did that until a girl I liked commented,
“That’s stupid”.
I couldn’t disagree.
So I took “Nocturne #37 in Metaphorical Greys”,
tore it up,
and avoided poetry altogether for the next decade.

And yet, I never quite learn.
When I started writing again, my poem
about a panhandler who gets
flattened by a bus on 12th Street was titled 
“Incident at 44th and 6th”.
You probably don’t need a map, the intersection
of 44th and 6th is nowhere near 12th in any city
(math majors got that right away).

There’s my poem about swing dancing under the stars
which concludes with the stanza,
“Then come and sit awhile with me,
under the black-boned maple tree,
under the proud black canopy, of January sky.
Come sit and watch,
as stars fly by,
that velvet January sky,
a swarm of winter fireflies,
not yet entombed in some glass jar”.
I titled this poem about January skies,
“With You and Duke Ellington at Christmas”.

-it took me eight years
to notice that there was a problem.

And yet, I love naming my poems.
Well, some of my poems-
I’ve got a drawer full of great titles for
poems I haven’t actually written yet.

“Reading Charles Bukowski at a
 New Britain Rock Cats Minor League Baseball Game”.
I may not have a poem to go with it-
But damn, I like the title.

I’ve got titles attached to partial-poems; semi-poems...
about-to-be-started-someday poems-
“Who Pissed on the Lilacs?” will be my homage to Walt Whitrman,
if I ever get around to writing it.
“Bad Marmalade, and Other Journeys to the Dark Side of the Fridge”,
may eventually be finished, but I never get more than a stanza in
before I have to break for a snack.

“The Raven Revisited: A Caustic Letter to the Audubon Society”,
actually got a funding grant from PETA,
but they pulled the money when they found out
that on line 37 I described the Raven as
“Nothing more than a fuzzy-balled birdshit factory”.

But sometimes I learn-
there are certain words and phrases to avoid in titles
if you’re going to post your poem on the internet.
For instance- You may have lots of cats,
but don’t name your poem about them
“Pussies Galore”.
A project with an animal rights group taught me
that when posting a poem online
about the evils of pit-fighting roosters,
it’s probably best to avoid the phrase “Cock-Fight”.
Unless, you know, you’re looking for interesting experiences.
 - I’m not judging.

It might seem my attempts at poem-naming
are all destined for disappointment,
But I read recently that “Disappointment “
is just a mis-spelling of “Opportunity”.
(I’m not sure how they make that work,
the words don’t look the same, but never mind).
So in an effort to boost my website stats
right now I’m working on a new poem
that takes advantage of all the lessons I’ve learned.
It’s titled “Pussies Galore at the Cock Fight”.
Oh please! It’s a poem about my cats.
Really- it’s a poem about my cats.
Ok... it’s not about my cats.

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Questions, Answers-

Trotted this completely revised and re-wired piece out at the Open Mic before last night's Poetry Slam at NoHo Poetry-


People are always asking me
(well, all right, once last year somebody asked me) -
What’s the difference between Traditional  Poetry,
Spoken Word Narrative Poetry, and Slam Poetry?
The answer I gave to that question
was certainly influenced by how many beers I’d had,
and the fact that I, a Spoken Word Poet,
had just been dumped by a Slam Poet.
Here’s what I said-

A Traditional Poem features clever allusions
and carefully-wrought phrases about things
that are never what they seem to be.
You may be introduced to horses
banging copper pipes with clouds
fashioned from the heartbreak of their hopes
as they puff on cigars wrapped
with the shreds of our sorrow.
At first none of this may make any sense to you,
-but if you wait, you’ll find the horses
had a damned good reason for all that banging...
-or, at the very least, they were provoked.

A Spoken Word Narrative poem eschews allusion
and avoids complicated metaphor
in favor of a more straightforward presentation-
in a Spoken Word poem, for instance,
horses will never eschew allusions,
or illusions,
and they certainly don’t smoke anything.

A Slam Poem walks out on stage
and kicks you in the nuts.
Wicked hard.
And you’ll like it.
As you may by now have gathered,
a Traditional Poem about a horse
is not really about a horse-
the horse stands in as a metaphor
for freedom, or loyalty, or endless toil,
and you, the reader, are asked to figure it out,
or simply to think to yourself-
Wow, that’s a multi-talented horse.

A Spoken Word Narrative poem about the horse
will actually be about the horse,
and the poet’s relationship to the horse,
though the horse may, eventually,
be seen to stand as a deeper metaphor
for some other facet of life,
which the poet will explain to you.

In a Slam Poem about a horse,
the horse walks out on stage,
and kicks its rider in the nuts.
Wicked hard.
A Traditional Poem appeals to your Intellect.
It asks you to unlock its secrets one by one,
to unravel the metaphor thread by thread,
to come to the same place in the end as the poet,
or perhaps not, horses being what they are,
as sillabub cup dancers spin
on clouds banks of furrowed dreams
in the graveyard speaking only to me.
That last sentence, by the way, illustrates
why I don’t often venture to write Traditional Poetry.

A Spoken Word Narrative Poem appeals to your emotions,
-it communicates with the audience on a more
prosaic level. It can be every bit as lyrical as a Traditional poem,
but if it talks about sillabub cups
it usually really means a tiny silver cup to drink
fortified spiced wine out of.

A Slam Poem will buy you a drink
before it kicks you in the nuts.
Wicked hard.
And you’ll like it.