Week In Review 10/14/13-10/18/13

Monthly Special: Elegy. Guest-Edited by Corey Zeller

This Week In Poems:

The Division of Forestry by Connor Holmes
Cool Valley by Marcus Slease
Druids by Marcus Slease
King of Diamonds by Caroline Cabrera
King of Clubs (A Ghazal for Early Adulthood) by Caroline Cabrera

Lit News from Around the Web:

National Book Award finalists have been announced. Congratulations to all the finalists!
Dinty Moore on the value of the MA in Creative Writing.
P&W take a look at the pdf chapbook, featuring the efforts of presses like Publishing Genius and H_NGM_N!

Week In Review 10/7/13-10/11/13

After a long hiatus, The Bakery returns with a new look and a wonderful feature that contains some of the most compelling voices in poetry. I’ve decided to tweak the format a little bit. Instead of a new poem every day, The Bakery will feature a new poem every Monday through Friday. The weekends will feature a recap of the work that appeared that week. If you have not already, take a moment to enjoy these poems. A new poem will be featured on Monday. Enjoy your weekend!

Monthly Special: Elegy. Guest-Edited by Corey Zeller

My Dispersing Sorry by Leora Fridman
Bedew by Leora Fridman
The Face of Budget Cuts Was Broader by Leora Fridman
Conspiracy of Woes by Susan Milchman
Neruda’s Bones by Jeanann Verlee

Lit News from around the Web:

Alice Munro Wins Nobel Prize!
Rebecca Wolff talks about a post-NYC creative life.
Travis Nichols talks with Ron Padgett over at the Huffington Post.

The Benedikt Suitcase

by John Gallaher

I didn’t understand the precise anxiety of editing a book until I received in the mail from Laura Boss Michael Benedikt’s papers. I’m supposed to be able to put out of my head that all his books are currently out of print and that he died several years ago and that the papers I now have in my possession are the only copies of his unpublished work. I’m supposed to be able to just sift through and make the best book I can.

Problem one: Michael Benedikt couldn’t leave well enough alone. He was an obsessive reviser, even of his published work, enough so, that I decided early on that there are no definitive versions of many of his poems. The poems never collected into book form are especially difficult to work with.

Benedikt, as most of these poems were written before the advent of computers, annotated in small, blurry pencil, numerous asides, notes, and alternate possibilities on his drafts. Usually these drafts were dated, so there is that, but often, as happens in drafts, he would go back to an earlier version later and incorporate parts of it, or he would write notes to himself along the lines of “is this necessary?”

Because I’m working with the papers of a dead man, I can’t ask, I can only go back to the work. What I’ve tried to do is to both find what I think is the core of each poem and to compromise with his obsessive revising.

One of these compromises was his use of “&” for “and.” In his early work, he rarely used the “&,” but by the mid 80s, he settled on it as a house style. Later, when he went back to early work, he tended to switch the “and” to “&,” so I’ve followed this practice throughout the book. That was a fairly easy compromise to make. More difficult were the many content changes he made to his poems over time.

From looking at his drafts and notes, it quickly became obvious that Benedikt’s obsessiveness in regards to his practice was part of his sensibility. His changes are almost never toward concision, but nearly universally toward “more.” His attempt to see the world, to get as much of it as he could into his work, became a project of adding more and more asides, detours, and ways of turning an idea.

Here’s an example, “The Pills,” as first published in Night Cries (1976)

THE PILLS

Midnight; its hidden significance; all over the city a million of the sleeping pills people are supposed to take one hour before bedtime are starting to dissolve in five hundred thousand stomachs. Now, at last, absolutely without sentimentality, we are truly part of a world of brothers beneath the skin

*

He tossed and turned so that when he tried to catch up on lost sleep in the late afternoon, just before dinnertime, his wife used to secretly affix a salad bowl to his backbone, as he lay there. Russian dressing was his specialty.

*

We use the phrase “going to sleep” because sleep really is a place to go to; we spend all day arriving there, driving hard down the highways of staying awake, under the underpasses and across the shortcuts; and we have to travel far, speeding through all of time at the rate of 16 hours per day.

*

Looking for cool places on a pillow on a summer night – No Columbus ever set out on a more difficult mission, or a more perilous one, we have come to recognize; consider our fate, for example, lying here completely upsidedown, having fallen out of bed, with our feet in the air.

Several years after publishing Night Cries, Benedikt revisited it this poem, lengthening the sections. Somehow in my notes I’ve lost track of where the revision comes from. It was among his papers in the suitcase. In the end, I made a compromise between the two versions. Here it is as it will be appearing in the selected poems, with a revised and expanded opening section:

THE PILLS

Midnight—An alternative way of looking at it: All around the globe, whenever & wherever the clock strikes midnight, billions & billions of the prescription & non-prescription sleeping pills which restless, stressed-out people worldwide take about an hour before bedtime, are starting to dissolve in billions & billions of stomachs. Now at last, without resorting to any of our usual, overblown social rhetoric—& in fact, without any kind of sentimentality whatsoever—we well-intentioned people around the globe can truly claim that we belong to a world of “Brothers & Sisters Beneath The Skin.”

*

He tossed & turned so that when he tried to catch up on lost sleep in the late afternoon, just before dinnertime, his wife used to secretly affix a salad bowl to his backbone, as he lay there. Russian dressing was his specialty.

*

We use the phrase “Going To Sleep” because sleep really is a place to go to; we spend all day arriving there, driving hard down the highways of staying awake, under the underpasses & across the shortcuts; & we have to travel far, too, speeding through our lives at the rate of 16 hours per day.

*

Looking for cool places on a pillow on a summer night – No Columbus ever set out on a more difficult mission, or a more perilous one, we have come to recognize; consider our fate, for example, lying here completely upsidedown, having fallen out of bed, with our feet in the air.


This is just one example. There are very few others from the published poems (Laura Boss and I talked about this, that we should, as much as we can, defer to the published versions). Most of the decisions of this sort I’ve had to make are regarding his unpublished poems, which constitute nearly half of the final selected poems. One day I hope Benedikt’s archives (really, it’s just the suitcase so far, but there are many hints about other poems that as far as I can tell at this time, are lost.) will find a permanent secure home.




To read more of Michael Benedikt’s work, visit here to see the feature guest-edited by John Gallaher.

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Trina Gaynon
Trina Gaynon

I feel as if I stumbled across a treasure trove while following up on a call for submissions. The first…

Book Review: The Other World by Lucy Biederman

by Sandra Marchetti

The Other World, Lucy Biederman, Dancing Girl Press, 2012.

Lucy Biederman’s The Other World is crammed with voices. It’s an overstuffed suitcase. It’s a wide-open field with some very noisy zephyrs. The Other World is a chapbook comprised of two long poems written in, what Octavio Paz would call, “another time that is now” and written about a world we barely know and also know too well. The central narrative is intensely archetypal: a woman loves a cowboy and the cowboy leaves her. Both characters are lonely in the end, but only the cowboy chooses his loneliness.

The people we meet, the desperate woman, the lonesome cowboy, and some contemporary Americans feeling quite indifferent, who “just keep drinking,” are the characters of this bloated, waterlogged “other world.” The other world is so familiar— the circles of suburbia, “outlying loops of house & mall” cycling around us—but it is completely elsewhere as well. It’s open and steeped in tumbleweed, dust, and isolation. By the end of this chapbook, cowboys morph into truck drivers, their horses the semis, and mythic Texas becomes suburban northern Virginia.

In the beginning, the past is not the past, to paraphrase Faulkner. A telephone booth exists, even if it’s not being used:

What could rectify the lack
Of telephone booths you ever
Pulled over for
To call me back?

The book is a dream and the just waking. As dreams seem to explore what is real, Biederman does as well. The real, if we can find it, is set against memory or stereotype (and these two most certainly blur together). Sometimes stereotypes seems so emotionally real, such as when the speaker, at the end of the first poem, “The Other World” says,

…My apron hanging low
Dragging through the sleet & rain—
O at the bottom of my entire self—
Flung loose like a string of beads—
Fucking, pinned against the wall—
Going down the road feeling bad—

“I have been her kind,” Anne Sexton (and many readers) would sing out. An echo comes through to express that we aren’t as powerful as we think we are, that the world isn’t enough. This is evidenced when the speaker says of the cowboy, “…you are not going out, not for any of the not / Nearly enough you’ve ever found out there, not for the world.” This beautiful language play is also a hallmark of Biederman’s work.

As in Shakespeare, the lushness of this chapbook does not necessarily stem from the narrative arc(s) it repurposes. The story is one we’ve heard before, although it’s set on its ear, but the language is what flashes. We hear a bit of Louise Glück in the second stanza of the first piece, “The Other World”:

If this was the other world
He says on the phone
In the wavy space around him
It thickens

Readers will also detect a bit of John Ashbery later in the same piece, “Gray swaths / Swipe weakly into high white.” This comes right alongside the tones of pop-country music:

He loves to see the towns a-passin’ by
He sees the towns a-passin’ by
The towns are a-passin’ by

We can even envision Dali’s landscapes in lines like, “Dust storm. The sun is small as the head of a nail,” and listen to Sexton again echoing, “I have done my hitch” in the parts that reflect a woman who’s been left in the dust (literally). However, it’s Biederman who conducts the chorus until these voices, in unison, reach the golden tone that marks our entrance into The Other World.

The author calls on the fragments of beauty to light this world up again: “Tonight—that grass, a mountain, o lit smack / Of sky. I think I want to hear it sing” is so reminiscent of Ashbery’s “To Redouté” in his arresting lyrical ending: “It grieves for what it gives: / Tears that streak the dusty firmament.” Like Ashbery, Biederman shows off her skill for overthrowing linguistic expectations and then, in the same breath, flashes the purest of lyric ability—the type of language that forces a reader rigid with awe. In essence, there is hot life to be found, and we must find it, the speaker says. This is evident in lines like, “…He does as he pleases, / Watches the nation’s drag races rage / Wild behind the marquees,” from the second poem in the collection, “The Other Side.”

The poetics of the book are an extension of these voices, which in turn become the sounds of The Other World. These sounds are so neatly braided throughout the collection and superbly express the super-reality of the landscape. Refrains such as “I’d love to love a cowboy,” “Bartender, what time is it?” and “Sending the silence away” mark tracks in the landscape and show us how far we’ve come, or maybe just how fast we’ve raced back to our beginnings. The refrains offer up “ghost rhymes,” matching up pages later with other lines in the long poems. “I heard it sing” is rhymed with “the real tin thing,” and “just keep drinking” over a 10 page span.

Even though the physical environment has changed by the end of Biederman’s book, the missing pieces of the speaker herself haven’t magically filled in. In the beginning she says, “I crawl on top of him & say goodbye all night long” and in the end, she’s still parting with the cowboy, or with the dream:

Buses splash through the disordered morning like ships in songs. Throat,
Eye & knucklebone, split ends to
Nose, we point at all the whatever we don’t behold.
Blue, here is a shell for you.
Regret that this or anything will ever be
Over & done, you know? At my ear it plays a
Whoosh industrial, a rush of lack.
Nothing’s singing. You say you’re a devil, but you won’t even clap.

The profound sense of disappointment, echoed in Sexton’s lines from “The Truth the Dead Know” sampled above, lives through the last page. The speaker says of the cowboy at the beginning of “The Other World,” “O at the bottom of his entire self, / a jumble of jagged lines,” and at the end of the poem says of herself, “O at the bottom of my entire self— / Flung loose like a string of beads—…” In language, these characters appear bottomless. Due to the fact that they are archetypes, Beiderman has the luxury of making them so. Through Biederman’s sonic mastery and inventive retelling of the story, we, as readers, can easily find our place in it, and in The Other World’s all-too human, yet beautifully rendered, loneliness.




Sandra Marchetti currently teaches writing and literature at Elmhurst College outside of her native Chicago. She completed her MFA in Poetry at George Mason University in 2010. Sandra was named the winner of the Midwest Writing Center’s 2011 Mississippi Valley Chapbook Contest for her volume, The Canopy. She was also a finalist in Gulf Coast’s 2011 Poetry Prize and Phoebe’s 2009 Greg Grummer Poetry Contest. Sandy’s poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in Ohio State’s The Journal, Phoebe, Spiral Orb, CURA, and Gargoyle, among others. She is an assistant poetry editor at Fifth Wednesday Journal and publishes poetry reviews for PIF Magazine. You can also find her at sandrapoetry.net.



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Sandy
Sandy

Hey all, you can also purchase the book here: http://dulcetshop.ecrater.com/p/16193095/the-other-world-lucy-biederman Trust me, it's worth…
Laura Close
Laura Close

Awesome review. Looks like something I should definitely add to my reading list!

THIS AND THAT: The Classroom

by Dale Davis

In the early eighties Benny was a sixth grade student in a New York State Literary Center program on Ancient Greece that integrated ancient Greek literature in
English translation, as the inspiration for student writing, with the school’s Social Studies curriculum on Ancient Greece. It was a two-month residency with sixth grades in two schools. I invited poet, Greek translator, and Harvard professor, Robert Fitzgerald to work with me for two days. We were reading his translation of The Odyssey.

The day Robert Fitzgerald arrived, a student in the first class asked him how he became interested in Greek. He replied it was when his sixth grade teacher wrote two Greek words on the blackboard. The Greek words in English meant “horse river” or “river horse,” the English equivalent of hippopotamus. He wrote the words on the blackboard.

Benny copied the words on a piece of paper. The teacher said, “Benny is taking down what is on the board in Greek. He doesn’t know Greek.” Robert Fitzgerald replied, “No one told him that.” He concluded the class by reading aloud from The Odyssey, Book One, in Greek.

Greek

Following his two days in the schools a New York Times reporter asked him what the difference was between a sixth grade classroom and Harvard. “None,” he replied. “A classroom is a classroom.”

In early nineties a fourth grader asked me, “How do you spell dealer, like in drug dealer?” The girl sat at a table on the left in the back of the room. I asked her why she wanted to know. “There is no place I like to go,” she said. “There are drug dealers outside the apartment and inside my mother hits me.” She had a round scar on her forehead. Later the teacher told me her mother had burned her with a cigarette lighter.

She was tiny, fragile, and such delicate features. She was labeled “learning disabled.” “I am in fourth grade, in a special place in fourth grade,” she wrote. D E A L E R.

As an artist educator, Teaching Artist, and Executive Director of an arts education organization I work in classrooms. I teach. I have worked with all levels of students from second grade to graduate school. I have reported cases of child abuse, gleaned from writing handed in to me. A student, a thirteen year old, wrote she learned she was H.I.V. positive when she found out she was pregnant. For a while I placed a drawing given to me by a young man whose father was arrested for murder on my refrigerator. I worked with his brother, also.

In the nineties I had an eight year old tell me, “My life is too sad to write about.” She did not write; she sat and watched me. On the last day I was in her classroom, I wrote, “My life is to sad to write about” on the top of her paper. I suggested I would write a line and she would write a line. She wrote, “This never happened before and I do not want to tell nobody.” After several more lines from each of us, she wrote, “My father did something really bad.” She was in the room when her father murdered someone.

I think about the classrooms I have been in. I think about what I will do in the classroom with the incarcerated youth I am working with this week. Whose writing will I use to motivate and inspire these young men? What are their writing and their language arts skills telling me they need?

I have never talked down to a student. What is a classroom but honesty and curiosity, a place of learning, an apprenticeship for living in a very real world.

I learn from the young people with whom I work. What I learn expands my reading list, what I listen to, and my assignments. It renews and revitalizes my commitment to the classroom. This is the age where the internet, schoolhouse shootings, Facebook, Twitter, unemployment, single mothers, absent fathers, mental illness, drugs, alcohol, violence, twenty-four hours news, bullying are part of our culture. Education is the news. I am interested in how young people interact with the complex of information that is our lives today.

I have found reading and writing are dynamic experiences when they augment and sustain communication among students and teachers. Reading and writing contribute to a classroom community.

A question. There are no right or wrong answers. This is not a test. Questions integrating the students’ experiences and interests offer the challenge and flexibility to embed the basic skills of literacy in contemporary and meaningful societal problems. This offers us who work in classrooms the opportunity to become students of our students, to reflect on what is important to our students, what our students are listening to, seeing, thinking, and learning outside of the classroom.

When there is so much emphasis on testing today where is there space for the imagination, for original thought? How does this speak to how we value a young person as an active, critical participant in our world? How do we validate young people’s perceptions of the world?

My best education for teaching has consisted of being in schools, coming to know and respect all children, responding to what I observe.

Toni Morrison once stated she wrote Sula and The Bluest Eye because they were books she wanted to read. No one had written them, so she wrote them. In the late eighties the New York State Literary Center began to publish the books I wanted to read. No one had published them, so the New York State Literary published them. Beginning in 2000 we produced CD’s. I have now edited and published six hundred books of the writing of young people and produced thirty-two CD’s.

I first tried video by renting a camcorder and taking it with me to the Clash of The Titans concert at Darien Lake. I arrived at the concert two hours early, turned on the camcorder and began to interview anyone who would talk to me in the parking lot. The parking lot was a sea of Anthrax, Megadeth, and Slayer t-shirts. The mood was festive; everyone wanted to talk about his favorite band.

The lens of the camcorder surprised me. I didn’t need a book to tell me when to zoom, when to pan. It was as if everything I had ever watched was with me. People wanted to know if I was with a TV. station. Several young men commented on my age. I asked them about education. I told them I was planning to use the footage with teachers. I asked questions about school, about what they thought was important, about what they thought was important for a teacher to know. I kept the camcorder running, and I listened. What stayed with me from all of the responses from the mostly white, young male audience was the way they perceived themselves to be stereotyped dumb-kid, not worth much by the school establishment, by what they thought the heavy metal t-shirt, long hair look said. One group of young men spoke with me for over half an hour. When we finished I thanked them and asked why they were willing to give me so much time. “Maybe we can make it better for a little metal head coming up.”

In 1992, following a pilot project at an alternative high school, the New York State Literary Center established The Communication Project, a reconception of what is taught to youth with severe learning, behavioral, social, and emotional needs. In the mid-nineties, The Communication Project expanded to residential placement and juvenile detention sites, day treatment programs, and long-term suspension programs. My research continues and continues to encompass how literature, writing, history, and communication are taught to a population referred to as high risk or beyond risk.

I am a writer writing who is also an educator; the roles have been blurred until they are now indistinguishable. My work with students reflects my own reading. My bookshelves continuously expand. In the early nineties I choose a hip-hop aesthetic: a willingness to confront social issues and humor. I recycle what I read, see, listen to, selecting and combining poetry, non-fiction, and fiction. I mix styles, critics, poets, novelists, musicians. I take apart work eclectically to create new work. In short my method is like the DJ who chooses to speak by sampling.





Dale Davis established The Sigma Foundation, a limited edition, private press with Dr. James Sibley Watson, Jr., avant-garde filmmaker and publisher and editor of The Dial magazine, the leading modernist journal of arts and letters. The Sigma Foundation published the work of Margaret Anderson, Mina Loy, and Djuna Barnes. The Sigma Foundation’s books are in many permanent collections, including The Collection of American Literature, Beinecke Library at Yale University and The Collection of American Women at Smith College. 1979, she co-founded The New York State Literary Center with the late A. Poulin, Jr. where she continues as Executive Director. Writers, editors, and artists who have worked with Dale Davis as integral parts of NYSLC’s programs included Homero Aridjis, William Bronk, Kenneth Burke, Robert Creeley, Malcolm Cowley, Robert Fitzgerald, Kamilah Forbes, Jonathan Galassi, Hugh Kenner, Ted Kooser, James Laughlin, Ruth Maleczech, Emir Rodriguez Monegal, Octavio Paz, William Stafford, Carrie Mae Weems, and Eliot Weinberger.

Dale Davis lectured and has conducted teacher education programs in Juneau Alaska, Honolulu, Hawaii, Portland, Oregon, the Mississippi Delta, and throughout the country. As a recognized expert on Youth Culture, she served as a consultant to The Children’s Dignity Project, ABC Network and was selected to participate in Harvard University’s Institute on The Arts and Civic Dialogue, established by playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith. Her work with young people in the juvenile justice system was the subject of a Fox News Documentary.

As an advocate for Teaching Artists, Davis was one of the founders of the Association of Teaching Artists in 1998. In 2006 she became the Association of Teaching Artists’ first Executive Director. She has presented on Teaching Artists and The Association of Teaching Artists throughout the country. In 2011, Davis conveyed the first national gathering of Teaching Artists, the Teaching Artists Forum, at the Center for Arts Education in New York City.

Dale Davis’ own writing has appeared in publications from The Iowa Review to Op-Ed page of The New York Times. Recent publications include chapters in Unseen Cinema and Classics In The Classroom. She is presently working on a book on the high risk adolescents with whom she works. The working title is One Kid.