Friday, September 28, 2007

Unhappy Mets Fans Here in New York

Click for News Click for full story Back Page

The New York Post's back page is ruthlessly honest, and startlingly accurate, as New Yorkers brace for an historic collapse unparalleled in baseball history. You almost get the feeling that New Yorkers want the Mets to fail, figuring that their team will live in infamy if they don't make the playoffs. The Daily News, usually a little lighter with their punches than the Post, ran this as their front page:

Bookpeeping on the R Train

Ah, the return of bookpeeping ... the following are a few titles observed on the R train over the last few days:





Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Best American Poetry 2007 Reading at the New School

On Thursday evening, September 20, 2007, I completed my annual pilgrimage, a celebratory reading of the 2007 edition of the Best American Poetry series (hereinafter referred to affectionately as BAP).

In its 20th year, the BAP series is a fixture in the American Poetry scene. It is surely one of the better selling (if not the best-selling) poetry anthology series and, as a result, it is a lightning rod for criticism, both positive and negative. From the halls of academia (read Harold Bloom's introduction to the Best of the BAP here), to the blogosphere (this poet has seemingly never met a BAP he liked), the series always draws a crowd.

Politics and poetics aside, I love the series. I don't love every poem and I occasionally think, like probably every poet in America, that my best poems are better than some of the BAP inclusions. But these collections are snapshots, a potpourri of the best in the opinion of the editors. There has never been an awards ceremony, a top ten list, or a "best of..." collection in which everyone agreed with the selections.

My appreciation of the series is compounded by the compulsion I have for collecting it, and enhancing it with poets' signatures. The more the merrier. I started in 1997 with a volume signed by 4 poets. I now have 23 volumes (yes, a couple of duplicates) signed by approximately 160 different writers.

Yet, despite the line of books, like pretty maids all in a row, the core element is the reading itself, a celebration of the talent and diversity of the year's volume.

A little disclosure: at the end of the event, during the signing, when I had series editor David Lehman sign the new edition. I mentioned my e-mail to him earlier in the day and he remembered me. And I mentioned how I had the whole run of the series. He looked at me and said "Oh, yes, I think I read your blog."

My heart raced. "From last year's reading?" I offered. "Yes," he said, "someone sent me the link." In last year's post (here), I spoke affectionately about the series. I also blogged it in 2005 Somewhere (I can't find it) I posted a photo of my ever-lengthening row of BAPs. I told him that I'll be bogging the event this year as well. He seemed pleased. "I don't normally read blogs," he said, and I understand why, some people are not so nice, to put it mildly. Mr. Lehman, however, was inclined favorably to BillyBlog.

Keep in mind, dear readers, that I generally am positive about things in BillyBlog, and I am rarely critical. I am of the school of "better to say nothing, than say anything bad". If this report seems gushy and warm and fuzzy, it is because I am a fan of the series, and not because I am worried that Mr. Lehman might be reading this.

The reading started a little late (5 minutes) and I was perched in my favorite seat (C-1) in Tischman auditorium, at the New School.

David Lehman spoke first, and talked briefly about the series and made a surprise announcement that elicited an audible gasp! from the audience. Well, it wasn't really a surprise announcement, just fresh news. The New York Times had reported that day that Alice Quinn, poetry editor for The New Yorker for 2 decades, had stepped down and was being replaced by BAP '05 editor Paul Muldoon. Lehman than spoke a little about this year's anthology and announced that the reading format would be a little different this year.

He stated that first, seven local New York contributors would read, in alphabetical order. Aside from Matthea Harvey and Elaine Equi, they were all in their first BAPs. Then, Lehman continued, the three poets who had traveled the furthest (and are, by far, the most established as writers), would read for 20 minutes each. This trio was the guest editor Heather McHugh, Alan Shapiro and former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.

The reading began with Kazim Ali (pictured, left) reading The Art of Breathing.

He was followed by MacGregor Card, reading Duties of an English Foreign Secretary: "Moon, refrigerate the weeping child / and guard his frozen brook."

Next was Sharon Dolin (pictured, right) reading Tea Lay.

She was followed by Elaine Equi (pictured, left), reading Etudes.

Next came Thomas Fink (right), performing Yinglish Strophes IX (viewable on page 25 in this online publication).

Then, Matthea Harvey (left) reading From The Future of Terror/Terror of the Future Series. ("From the gable of the window, we shot / at what was left: gargoyles and garden gnomes.")

And last of the seven, Meghan O'Rourke, reading Peep Show. BillyBlog is proud to offer some video this year!

Read Peep Show and several other poems here.

After O'Rourke, David Lehman returned to the stage and spoke briefly about the "big three" poets remaining. McHugh started things off with a funny introduction and then, based on Lehman's insistance, read No Sex for Priests, which she had scribbled on the back of a manila folder, lacking any of her own material in her possession.


The horse in harness suffers;

he's not feeling up to snuff.

The feeler's sensate but the cook

pronounces lobsters tough.

The chain's too short: The dog's at pains

to reach a sheaf of shade. One half a squirrel's whirling there

upon the interstate. That rough around

the monkey's eye is cancer. Only God's

impervious—he's deaf and blind. But he's

not dumb: to answer for it all, his spokesmen

aren't allowed to come.

She followed this with a brief discusion about the enjoyment involved in editing the anthology. Then she read several selections from other poets in the anthology:

Christian Bok: Vowels
Matthew Byrne: Let Me Count the Ways
Robert Creeley: Valentine for You
Charles Harper Webb: Big
Marya Rosenberg: If I Tell You You're Beautiful, Will You Report Me?: A West Point Haiku Series

McHugh finished with her recitation of Richard Wilbur's From Opposites and More Opposites (video below).

Next up was Alan Shapiro who, despite being in his sixth volume of the BAP, I had never heard read before. He announced that he would be reading from a forthcoming volume called Old War, which I would link here, but I can't find any references to it, per se.

Shapiro was excellent, a treat to hear for the first time. I regret only that I captured one of his more serious poems (on video below), as opposed to one of the more humorous pieces that he read.

He started with Eggrolls, a poem that contained a line that he had struggled for "30 years to get ... into a poem" and finally managed to do so.

Here's a bit more about the poem from an online journal called Blackbird:

I overheard a remark in a Chinese restaurant many years ago...I had overheard somebody say this line...thirty years ago, and I always wanted to get it into a poem and couldn't figure out to do it for years and years, and in fact, it had been in different poems that weren't very good. Then I finally found a place for it. I think that's all you need to know. It's called "Eggrolls," and it's about a couple overhearing another couple having a little marital spat.

["Eggrolls" by Alan Shapiro, from Tantalus in Love, published 2005 by Houghton Mifflin.]

Listen: hear him read Eggrolls here (mp3), from a reading at George Mason University on September 15, 2005.

Next he read "Old War," explained further in another excerpt from Blackbird:

In the early seventies, I went to Dublin when I graduated college, and my trip there...coincided with the last terrorist bomb to go off in Dublin, and it's unclear even today whether it was the IRA, or the British who were setting up the IRA, who set off the bomb, but it went off near the Trinity library...and the windows shattered...the poem is inspired by that memory which was occasioned by our justifiable preoccupation with terrorism today, and, again, in a way, it's a poem about what is the place of poetry, a kind of safety and beauty and projection of a kind of civilized mental posture that poetry both, that is the soul of poetry. What place does it have in a world of dirty bombs and dirty politicians?

Another serious poem followed, called Night: "Night of the empty city/My brother eight years dead..."

He followed this with poem After (video below)

This was followed by Country Western Singer, a very funny poem that was his contribution to this year's BAP.

Next was Misjudged Fly Ball, from BAP '06 and now, Shapiro informed us, renamed Outfielder.

He ended with a poem called Open Mic Night in Heaven.

The last poet of the evening was Robert Pinsky. He began by reading Poem of Disconnected Parts. The poem originally appeared in the February 2006 issue of Poetry, and is the first poem in his new book Gulf Music, due out next month (see Amazon link at the end of this post to order).

He followed with The Forgetting, viewable in the clip below.

He followed with both of his poems from BAP '07: Stupid Meditation on Peace and Louie Louie. Next was Immature Song (buried with some other poems here).

Next was a short poem called XYZ:

The cross the fork the zigzag—a few straight lines
For pain, quandary and evasion, the last of signs.

And he finished with From the Last Canto of Paradiso, which is the last poem in his new book.

Normally I give a run down of my scramble for autographs in my BAP anthologies, but it has taken me several days to compose this, so I will summarize. Of all the readers, I was able to get signatures from 10 of the 11 poets. Meghan O'Rourke eluded me. Well, not really. She just left when I was busy with everyone else. I obtained 10 signatures in the BAP '07, amd 15 additional signatures in 12 other anthologies (all BAP's, except for the Pinsky-edited The Handbook of Heartbreak, a fabulous little book. Shapiro signed 7 books, Pinsky 5, McHugh 3. I had one paperback anthology with me (Poetry Daily) which I avoided altogether, and a paperback of a John Ashbery volume, just in case he had shown up.

Everyone was courteous and friendly. Pinsky asked me if I was a dealer or a collector. I truthfully confessed my mania for anthologies. The conversation with David Lehman (mentioned at the beginning of the post) was the high point for me. Very few other anecdotes to relate.

Additional BAP '07 chatter on the web:

Whimsyland tells you "All About BAP"

Moondoggy's Pad reviews it here. And links a review in the Seattle Times.

Some titles mentioned here....

Tattoosday Update

Just in case you headed over here to see Tattoosday, it has its own home now here.

A few new posts since last week!

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Gratuitious Soccer Dad Post, Yet Again

Shayna had a stellar outing today in soccer!

Head over to BillyBlog2 here to see both of her goals in a 2-1 victory!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Fishbone on the Rocks Off Boat Cruise, redux

Last May, we attended a Fishbone concert, detailed here.

Yesterday, Fishbone sent this news my way:

AT&T blue room Music presents: Fishbone from NYC

05/03/2007 - Rocks Off Boat Cruise - NYC
Fishbone’s interview and performance clips are now up on the blue room site.

Click here.

Under the "What's New" tab on bottom left of page or just search "fishbone"...
* Interview: Songs Off The Album (1/5)
* Interview: Still Stuck In Your Throat (2/5)
* Performance: 'Faceplant Scorpion Backpinch' (3/5)
* Performance: 'Everyday Sunshine' (4/5)
* Performance: 'Ugly' (5/5)

The performance pieces give you a real idea of the intimacy of the show. Pay particular attention to the performance of "Everyday Sunshine". At about the 4:40 mark, lead singer Angelo Moore climbs up onto the railing and sings the chorus and then sticks the microphone in the faces of two devoted fans, who can be heard singing along. That would be me and the Mrs.

This hosting of the show clips allows me to forgive AT&T for the whole Pearl Jam Lollapalooza censorship debacle.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Garden in Transit

Visitors to New York City this Fall may notice a little extra color on the city streets. Behold some pictures from yesterday out my office window:

What's up with our cabs? The answer:

Garden in Transit is a public art project that will be displayed on New York City’s yellow taxicabs in the Fall of 2007. This privately-funded project will celebrate the 100th anniversary of New York's first traditional metered taxicab as part of TAXI '07, an initiative led by the Taxi and Limousine Commission and the Design Trust for Public Space.

As part of this groundbreaking motivational art, education, and creative therapy project, over 23,000 children and adults from schools, hospitals, and community programs across NYC have painted vibrant flowers on adhesive weatherproof panels that, with YOUR help, will be applied to the hoods, trunks and/or roofs of thousands of taxis this fall.

More info on their site here.

I love this city!

Poetry in Motion Celebrates 15 Years

Saw this poster in the subway yesterday:

As readers of BillyBlog are surely aware, I am a big fan of the Poetry in Motion program on the subway. Just google "BillyBlog Poetry in Motion" and you'll get links to numerous posts, including my April 2007 posts which involved me hosting a poster a day for National Poetry Month.

Well, the first event is tonight. Wednesdays, however, are the worst nights for me, as pertaining to my schedule, for readings. I encourage folks to attend and let me know how it went.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Gratuitious Update

I added a photo to the soccer post here.

Top 25 Albums #18

It was way back in April when I last blogged about one of my favorite albums, so I am long overdue.

Here's #18:

Yes, it's Pink Floyd's The Wall.

From the grandiose opening of "In the Flesh?" and the first vocal snarl:

"So ya'
thought ya'
might like to
go to the show?

To feel the warm thrill of confusion,
that space cadet glow...."

and the droning plane crashing into the next track of "The Thin Ice".

There's really nothing like this record. Call it grandiose. Call it overwrought. Call it what you want. But I listen to this and feel like I'm 15 again.

I say 15 despite the fact that the album came out when I was 12. However, I was belatedly celebrating the last throes of the disco insurgency, and then a two and a half year consumption by Beatlemania. In 1982, the film version of The Wall was released, and I saw it later, I'm guessing in the Spring of 1983, perhaps even 1984. I mean, like, it was rated R, and all that.

I'm sure I was seduced by "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II" and the chorus of schoolchildren chanting "We don't need no education...". Who could not be a teenager and resist the battle cry "HEY! TEACHERS!! Leave those kids alone!!!"?

Of course I was not a product of the British educational system. And I surely didn't get the entire movie when I first plunked down $3.00 at the Physical Science Auditorium up at UH-Manoa to see the film vision of a mammoth double-disc sonic extravaganza.

So I am writing this with a lot of hindsight.

In August 1983, I was in Israel, on a six-week tour called The Leadership Training Course, and our last night in Haifa, we were dragged to a concert. Of course we grumbled. It was an Israeli band performing a free concert in one of the parks, dedicated to all the eighteen-year-olds entering the military. And as one would imagine, they totally rocked. So much so that I blew some scarce shekels on their cassette. The band was called Benzene and all their songs were in Hebrew. It was catchy pop-rock and the crowd loved it. However, the defining moment arrived at the end of the show when they performed a spot-on cover of "Another Brick in the Wall, Part II." I remember telling one of my friends later that it might as well have been Pink Floyd playing, it sounded that good.

Therefore, the memory of that event prompts me to conclude that I had a greater than basic familiarity with The Wall by August 1983. Perhaps I had the album by then, but surely I would have repeatedly heard the song and others from the album on Honolulu's sole rock station, 98 Rock.

Where was I? Oh yeah, 1983 was a pivotal year for me. A turning point for so many reasons, with not enough time or blogspots to explain it all. So, let's just say that's when I first heard the album, first saw the movie, first realized that an LP could transcend so many complicated emotions and moods.

Aside from its success as a "concept" album, there are some remarkably great individual tracks speckled across all four sides of the record (as they said in the old days). "Comfortably Numb" - #314 on "Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time," and often cited as having one of the greatest guitar solos of all time, "Hey You" was the B-side. Although not as commercial, "Young Lust," "Goodbye Blue Sky," "Run Like Hell" and "Mother," are all memorable standout tracks as well.

Read Kurt Loder's review of The Wall for Rolling Stone here.

Listen: "Hey You" (Live) (mp3)

Listen: "Comfortably Numb" (Live) (mp3)

Well, I realized that this is not as complete as it could be. Oh well. If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding! How can you have any pudding if you don't eat your meat?!

No Comment

Just where do I start?

Back Issues: Stairway to Heaven

In my random grabbing of unread, neglected back issues of The New Yorker, I skimmed through the October 23, 2006 issue.

For the sake of Mets fans this year, let's hope the team from Flushing can work out its current tailspin and start playing good ball again.

This issue was rather uneventful, with the exception of the story "Stairway to Heaven" by Aleksandar Hemon. Read the story here.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Another New Yorker Dispatched

Polished off segments of another back issue, the August 20, 2007, incarnation.

A moderately funny humor piece by Paul Simms here.

Adam Gopnik offers a review/appreciation/critical look of my favorite science fiction writer Philip K. Dick here. Reading it reminded me that Dick is not on my top 20 books list, but is probably in the 20-30 range.

A poem by Charles Simic:

Driving Home

Minister of our coming doom, preaching

On the car radio, how right

Your Hell and damnation sound to me

As I travel these small, bleak roads

Thinking of the mailman’s son

The Army sent back in a sealed coffin.

His house is around the next turn.

A forlorn mutt sits in the yard

Waiting for someone to come home.

I can see the TV is on in the living room,

Canned laughter in the empty house

Like the sound of beer cans tied to a hearse.

And a good story by T Cooper called "Swimming" here.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

First Gratuitious Soccer Dad Post of the Fall '07 Season

My youngest spawn, Shayna, has been an anchor on her team's 3-1 start this year. But it was today, in her fourth game, when she scored her first goal of the season in a 6-0 drubbing of the Grey team.

Here's the's at the tail end of a 1 minute twenty-second clip, so fast forward or be patient (or both) as you see her bend it like Cohen.

Here's a cool action shot:

That's Shayna, as goal keeper in the blue jersey. She has just cleared the ball from goal. Check out the ball, that orange and silver spheroid in the upper right corner. Girl got some serious air.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Eddie Vedder, "Hard Sun" video

I'm a little slow on this one, but this is a great song/video from Eddie Vedder for the song "Hard Sun" from the soon-to-be-released film "Into the Wild". Mr. Vedder has done the music and produced original songs for the Sean Penn film (he directed and adapted the screenplay). I smell an Oscar nomination.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Back Issues: The New Yorker and Frankfurters, Roominghouses, Meteorites and Vanishing

In my plodding through back issues of The New Yorker, I dispatched the July 9, 2007 issue.

There were several items that stood out.

First, a nice piece by Nobel Laureate Orhan Pamuk about the origins of street food in Istanbul:

“We’d gaze through the glass at the dark-red sauce that had been simmering all day and select one of the frankfurters wallowing in it like happy water buffalo in the mud…” For the writer, eating American street food was a major break with Islamic tradition and a step towards the “solitary individualism that modernity so often involves.”
Also, "This Old House," another great reflection of personal history by David Sedaris. The full piece is linked to the title (whereas the Pamuk link is only to an abstract.

Then, "On Impact" (abstract linked) by Ian Frazier on what happened when something fell from the sky and broke through the roof of Srinivasan Nageswaran's house in Freehold, New Jersey. I discovered a blog called New Yorker Comment that quoted Frazier and his opening salvo:

Tell me you don't love the guy who could write three opening sentences like these:

"People get excited when strange objects fall from the sky. We seek portents and meaning, we venerate the object, and we horripilate at the uncanny scent of our beginnings, or end. Even wised up by science as we are, we tend to freak."

("Horripilate"—I looked it up—means "to cause one's hair to stand on end and get goosebumps," as in "I horripilate at the sight of blood," or "Hitchcock movies horripilate me.")
If you can't read the article in full, perhaps you should bookmark the aforementioned blog that is subtitled "One of the five blogs you loiter with in purgatory."

And finally, I really enjoyed the Stuart Dybek story, "If I Vanished," viewable here. One of the more interesting fiction pieces I had read in a while.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Ariel's Home Along the Belt Parkway

Last week I was riding along the bike path that runs between the Belt parkway and the Verrazano Narrows.

At the vantage point from which I took the above photo, this sign hung from the railing separating the path from water's edge:

At first, I thought it was some sort of "Welcome Home" message for someone, but upon further investigation (i.e. stopping and looking over the railing), I saw this:

and King Triton out on the rocks:

and Sebastian the Crab:

and of course, the Little Mermaid herself, Ariel:

You can also see other rocks are painted with Ursula, the Sea-Witch, and the fish named Flounder:

Well, someone certainly took a lot of time and effort to create such an interesting little spectacle. I believe these pictures were from low tide. It will be interesting to see what everything looks like when the tide comes in. Perhaps a follow-up post is necessary.

The Loneliest Lamp Post in Bay Ridge, Part VI

I haven't visited the LLPiBR in a week, so I may have very well missed some post posts. But everyone wants to know:

Any guesses?

This photo was taken late Wednesday night.

Previous entries in the Lamp Post Saga:

The Loneliest Lamp Post in Bay Ridge, Part V
The Loneliest Lamp Post in Bay Ridge, Part IV
The Loneliest Lamp Post in Bay Ridge, Part III
The Loneliest Lamp Post in Bay Ridge, Continued
The Loneliest Lamp Post in Bay Ridge

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Poetry Wednesday: Happy Birthday, Michael Ondaatje

It is Michael Ondaatje's birthday today. Although most widely known as the novelist who wrote The English Patient, Ondaatje is also an accomplished poet. So, for Poetry Wednesday, I thought I'd share one of his poems.

This one is so evocative, it transcends sight and sound, and evokes the other senses:

The Cinnamon Peeler

If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
And leave the yellow bark dust
On your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
You could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbour to you hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler's wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
--your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers...

When we swam once
I touched you in the water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
you climbed the bank and said

this is how you touch other women
the grass cutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter.
And you searched your arms
for the missing perfume

and knew

what good is it
to be the lime burner's daughter
left with no trace
as if not spoken to in the act of love
as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar.

You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
Peeler's wife. Smell me.

An interview with Ondaatje here in Salon.

Another one here at Powell's.

Whatever You Do, Don't Leave This in a Subway Station Where a Blogger Can Find It !

I'm guessing this is instructions for a lottery of some sort, or some numbers-running scheme. It's not particularly interesting except for that last parenthetical plea: "(After u tear this OFF, tear this letter UP)".

Found at the DeKalb subway station, Brooklyn, 9/11/07