1. Education

Your Summertime Poetry Reading List, Part II

Dateline: 6/15/99

Skyscrapers, Taxis, and Tampons (Fly By Night Press)

Editor Amy “uzi” Ouzoonian is one of seven young women poets who comprise this totally wonderful anthology -- all but one center their poems on the page; is this a formal move, musical as hiphop hips? Dot Antoniades: fast and tough, “my hymen ain’t a jello cheesecake stain / left on your atlas during snacktime.” Miriam Stanley: satire on the hoof, “It’s been two haircuts since they first met, / Three periods since they kissed, / And one more toothbrush in each bathroom.” Kyrce Swenson: smart sex, “every time / I open my legs / sex comes to bed.” Meaghan Williams: nonrepeating rhythm driver, “I want no membership / to no mothership.” Amy Ouzoonian: 100 degrees of Fahrenheit immediacy, “you’re putting too much emphasis on this poem / and not enough on my hands.” Aileen Reyes: headline dynamic, “HEINOUSLY UGLY WOMAN / WITH NO REAL SENSE / OF HUMOR / SEEKS SIMILAR MALE 25-36 FOR / BORING LONG SILENCES.” Staceyann Chin: cut-throat beauty, “this poem going shout out loud / bout periods and pads and tampons / and blood--.”

Overtime: Selected Poems by Philip Whalen (Penguin)

If you are looking for a high dive into the deliriously temperate raging idyllic waters of the mind, this is the spot. Whalen, Buddhist monk, Beat buddy (“the most formally radical of the Beats,” states Leslie Scalapino in her intellectually edgy intro, bravo!), here steps into himself as a poem that wakes up and dreams. Poems from 38 years lovingly arranged with help from Michael Rothenberg, Whalen’s pun title plays on these extra years (AIDS for years, blind, seeing Ginsberg and Burroughs pass) and the scope of this modest, magnificent collection. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll say “Hear hear!” (“I want to be a world, not just another / American tinky poetty-boo”) and wonder where the formal and the political and the spiritual radical meet -- why, in Whalen's body poetic, of course. Take this Williams’ take, please:
          Alleyway

That darling baby!
All wrapped up asleep
In his fuzzy blue bunting
An extra blanket carefully pinned
Around him asleep on the ground
Between two boxes of rubbish
Beside the overflowing garbage cans
All alone. Throwed away.

Onyx Spoken Word: A Celebration of the L.A. Scene (Projector Press -- email for ordering information or send $15 + $2.50 shipping/handling to Projector Press, P.O. Box 291073, Los Angeles, CA 90029)

Edited by Milo Martin, Nathan Green, Ben Porter Lewis. Late 90s Los Feliz Sunday reading series that rocked the scene, lamentably gone will never go, in a moment surged from coffee buzz to complete aural dining experience, poetry of all fleshes and spins, huge amorphous tarpit carpet. This book complete with action fotos will never forget! Wanna snap a shot of po’ juice that now scatters and rebirths, Hydra heads on the loose? Carmen Vega, Kennon B. Raines, Jeffrey McDonald, Angelo Moore, S.A. Griffin, Roni from Bakstreet, William McClain -- can’t go to Onyx, but you can come to this grenade anthology, catch poetry shrapnel.

Polemics -- Anselm Hollo, Anne Waldman, Jack Collom (Autonomedia -- order from Small Press Distribution)

Three big guns from Naropa line up a crash course in the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. With takes that cover the water and sky and landfronts of the art, this book gives Reader free reign to create own Utopia. Anselm Hollo is one of our most under-recognized master poets and translators. His “Fool’s Paradise” continues his offhand long sequences of short poems: funny tender, and always moving along gently at the speed of light: “I want to thank my mother / my family / my lawyers // & here they come // congaing through my pillow // just like ‘god’.” Waldman’s rich “Kali Yuga Poetics” and “Millennium Sutra” snap poetry, essay, memoir (on Burroughs), screed and song. At this point, Anne is unstoppable and her selection is a great race, mind and heart tag-team. Collom’s “This Morning’s Revolution” goes more places than I’ve ever seen his work move before: a list sestina, haiku and senryu, variable-footed rap, crazy “mice” vis-po, jokes (why i was late for work: just drivin’ thru the suburbs sippin’ beer, Boss, / dreamin’ about you”), concrete poetry vid-po, found poetry. This is a Best Pick for the Nightstand Selection.

Neo-California by David Henderson (North Atlantic Books)

David Henderson is back, bad and beautiful, with twenty years’ worth of work in this stirring volume. The author of the “best rock’n’roll biography ever written” (Rolling Stone), his ‘Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky: The Life of Jimi Hendrix, and the defining book of Black poetry in the 60s (De Mayor of Harlem), voyages into the bicoastal realm of US 90s, transplanting Nueva York onto the Western Coast, zipping a universe into a continent in poems like “Black Art at the Oakland Skills Center” (Bay), “California 13” (LA), “Long Aid K-7 (The New Ark/Home Spirit)” (Jersey/Baraka), and “from 1988 -- Miguel Pinero” (NYC/Nuyorican), touching bases with his extended families. The book crosses time space, is the most valuable history book I know of, and the two final poems, “Evergreen (A Chant for the Tropical Rain Forest)” and “Eternity (to Yemaya, from the heart),” are the most singular jazz poems of the decade.

Volatile (Hanging Loose Press), Mosquito and Ant (Norton), both by Kimiko Hahn

By publishing two books in three months, one with a leading but decidedly small press and the other with mighty Norton, Kimiko Hahn has laid down a new law: she has brought together both high and low, academic and non-, to prove once and for all that the role of poetry, the role of the poet, has changed on this American continent. In Volatile, Hahn weaves politics and family, concluding with a filmtext (“Mine, a crazy quilt of men from West Virginia”) and two zuihitsu. In Mosquito and Ant, marriage unravels in a nu shu form, an antiquated genre based on a Chinese epistolary motif. It is an agonizing, painful, wonderful book. These near simultaneous publications are an unmatched achievement and a landmark for poetry in the 21st century.

--Bob Holman


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