Tag Archives: Poetry

Three disaster movie poems on Barrelhouse.

Three–count ’em three–poems are up on the website of the illustrious literary juggernaut that is Barrelhouse today. It’s part of their National Poetry Month celebration, in which they are running poems each day that are movies- or TV-inspired.

The poems, “Rescuing Bobby Brady from a Disaster Movie,” “Jack Lemmon Rewinds His Misanthropic Dialogue from a Disaster Movie,” and “Gleaning Dean Martin’s Chivalric Role in a Disaster Movie,” are inspired by, respectively, The Towering Inferno (1974), Airport ’77 (1977), and Airport (1975).

Thanks to all the Barrelhouse crew, especially Sheila Squillante, who’s one of my favorite people to see each year at AWP (as well as, you know, non-AWP times as well).

The poems were written, truth be told, more than 20 years ago when I was in grad school. I brought them into my workshops from time to time, and Sharon Olds and Galway Kinnell had no clue how to even respond to them.

“I have no idea who Dean Martin is,” Sharon Olds said at one point.

Back then, I was all like, “really?” But I think she was just saying that, as if to say, “how would people who have no idea who Dean Martin is respond to this poem?”

Which makes sense.

These three poems are part of a sequence of at least four poems. I worked really hard on these, from what I can recall. I began each poem with the last line of the one preceding it, and used the old William Carlos Williams triadic stanza thing and, what I regarded as my own innovation, staggering the stanzas in cascade fashion so the poems looked like they were falling from the sky. Those were heady times at the writing desk, I said, self-deprecatingly.

(I notice Sheila did what I have to do sometimes publishing poems that work away from the left-side margin: she took a screenshot and published it as a graphic. WordPress and other CMSs can be a cruel mistress sometimes.) (UPDATE: The screenshot formatting was too much of a pain, and it wouldn’t be read by, like, mobile devices and tablets, so after conferring with Sheila, who is a saint, we went with a flush-left margin.)

The poem that comes after this, “Leslie Nielsen Signs Autographs, Comments on His Disaster Movie,” was published in Painted Bride Quarterly a couple years back. (They put the epigraph, The Poseidon Adventure, into the title, which I guess was their editorial prerogative, or perhaps a mistake? I just noticed that.) It’s the last poem in the sequence, and it’s a story I stole from my old friend and now award-winning film director Kevin B. DiNovis.  I think that whole event took place that the B. Dutton store in the Cherry Hill Mall.

When 9/11 happened, you would be accurate in guessing that I took these poems out of submission circulation because duh. In recent years, I’ve turned into my own personal archivist because who else is going to do it, and took another look at some old poems to revise and revisit them. The disaster movie poems didn’t much more work and they still kinda-sorta hold up. It’s nice to see them out into the world.








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“In Search of Desiderata,” new essay on The Poetry Foundation website.


“In Search of ‘Desiderata'” my essay on the Max Ehrmann classic poem, is now up on the Poetry Foundation website. Check it out here.

I did a lot of work for this one: interviews, a trip to Indiana. And a lot of online scouring for all the different iterations of a poem that has made its way through so many corners of popular culture.

Here’s a YouTube list of different readings and settings.

And here’s a Spotify playlist with different musical “Desiderata” set to music. It’s gonna start off funky and smooth, so be ready.

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Just up on Poetry Foundation: “Behind the Sound,” on W. Bliem Kern’s Meditations. Here are some bonus materials.

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Just up on Poetry Foundation’s website is my appreciation of Meditations, W. Bliem Kern’s sound poetry book/cassette collection from 1974, which I have held onto for years as a private inspiration. Read the piece here.

Above: a slide show of images I collected in my research, and a few snapshots from visiting Kern in his Upper West  Side apartment last winter.

I recorded Kern perform a number of poems in his apartment. “Vulcan” is linked in the piece itself, but I have a bunch more. Below is a link to a SoundCloud collection I made with most of the performances.

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Great notice for The Incredible Sestina Anthology in American Book Review!

It’s been a while since I’ve written about The Incredible Sestina Anthology, after those lo those many months last year of touring and panels and launch parties from coast to coast.

So it was nice to get the alert about this thoughtful review in American Book Review by Saara Myrene Raappana. Check it out below–click on it for a bigger image, or go here to read it.

And if you haven’t bought your copy, do it now. I mean it. You really can’t be my friend unless you bought a copy for yourself and for the poet-nerd in your life.

AmericanBookReview 35.3.raappana

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The Amy Lemmon blog tour interview

2014-07-25 15.18.56A few days ago, poet and old friend Amy Lemmon invited me to be part of her week-long blog tour, and, once I understood what it meant, I accepted. I’m in a bit of a fog these days, what with it being summer, the wife and girls on a trip, and a recent binge of Queen + Adam Lambert concerts I’ve taken in over the past weeks. The blog tour means I answer questions about the most fascinating subject in my life, which is me. So here goes. I include Amy’s bio at the end of this post, but I just want to make a special plug for her book ABBA: The Poems, which she co-write with another fabulous poet, Denise Duhamel. Those poems rock in a way only collaboratively written poems about a Swedish pop band can.

On with the interview.

1. What am I currently working on? 

I’ve been tidying up some essays and memoir pieces, some of which will appear in some form in Shader: 99 Notes on Car Washes, Making Out in Church, Grief and Other Unlearnable Subjects, due next year from 99: The Press. It’s my longest book to date–perhaps too long, which means I’ve been going through the manuscript with a laser-like focus that’s maddening and exciting at the same time.

There’s another, much freakier book I’ve been working on, a collection of 1,000 aphorisms, still untitled. I’ll probably end up publishing that myself.

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

That’s a very counter-intuitive question, if you ask me. If anything, I feel as if I am trying to find my traditions, people who are related to me writing-wise. In that sense I am very much under the spell of T.S. Eliot, whose essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” I read when I was 20 years old, shelving books at the Rutgers-Camden library. As far as nonfiction writing is concerned, I am trying to be more like others, or to connect and emulate with writers I love: Joan Didion, Meghan Daum, Sloane Crosley, Chuck Klosterman, Elif Batumen, Gregory Wolfe, James Baldwin, Katie Roiphe, John Jeremiah Sullivan, Sean H. Doyle, Emily Gould, Phillip Lopate, Wayne Koestenbaum, bell hooks, Joyce Maynard, Daphne Merkin, Nick Flynn, Stephen Elliott, Dave Hickey, If I could touch the hem of any of their writing garments, I would be ever so happy. But here’s the thing: I don’t write like any of them. I think I’m more in line–and keep in mind this is all delusional ambition–with writers like Nora Ephron, David Rakoff, David Sedaris, If I bring anything to the table, it has to do with the specifics of my experience and passions. Growing up as a blue collar Catholic in New Jersey informs everything I do and write.

3. How does my writing/creative process work?

I’m not really sure. It might begin on pieces of paper in notebooks or scraps of paper, a blog post or tweet, or grow out of some obsession I have or ideas I can’t get out of my head. One thing is for sure: it’s all about my ass in a chair and my hands on one of my old IBM Model M keyboards.

I don’t write for hours on end–we have two daughters who need attention, attention I want to give–and so it’s more of a structured, scheduled activity. I’m OK with that–without some schedule, I go a little nuts.

More about Amy Lemmon below. Check out her website, Saint Nobody, here.


Amy LemmonAmy Lemmon is the author of two poetry collections—Fine Motor (Sow’s Ear Poetry Review Press, 2008) and Saint Nobody (Red Hen Press, 2009)—and co-author, with Denise Duhamel, of the chapbooks ABBA: The Poems (Coconut Books, 2010) and Enjoy Hot or Iced: Poems in Conversation and a Conversation (Slapering Hol Press, 2011). Her poems and essays have appeared in The Best American Poetry 2013, Rolling Stone, New Letters, Prairie Schooner, Verse, Court Green, The Journal, Marginalia, and many other magazines and anthologies. Awards include a Walter E. Dakin Fellowship, the Elliston Poetry Prize, the Ruskin Art Club Poetry Prize, and scholarships from the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Vermont Studio Center, West Chester Poetry Conference, and Antioch Writers’ Workshop. She is Professor of English at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, adviser to FIT Words: The Club for Writers, and Poetry Editor of the online literary magazine Ducts.org. Amy lives in Astoria, Queens, with her two children.

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