Thursday, January 31, 2013

Ten Questions with Robert Polito

Robert Polito

Last week the Poetry Foundation introduced Robert Polito as its new President. In a Q & A conducted with the Foundation, Polito dicusses his fascination with pop culture, crime noir, Bob Dylan, the state of poetry today and an interesting obsession.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The King of Jazz or I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say

Buddy Bolden: The King of Jazz and his band circa 1905.

Did you hear that?

Much like the crazy rhythms that would go on to become John Coltrane, Charlie Parker and Miles Davis it took an outsized character to get some musicians together and play like they were possessed by something greater than music in the dying days of the 19th century in New Orleans, Louisiana.

That character was a native son to the Crescent City and Charles Joseph "Buddy" Bolden was a man possessed. When the New Orleans cornet player formed his first band in 1895, Bolden was the first to blend blues and brass and a livelier beat that begat ragtime, that begat jazz.

Buddy Bolden invented jazz.

Monday, January 28, 2013

First Lines Second Thoughts — Notes from Underground

Dostoyevsky (2002) by Manuel Sandoval.

First Lines Second Thoughts is a look at the first lines of well known literary works.
On second thought, do these opening words stand alone as poetry? On the anniversary of Fyodor Dostoevsky's death — January 28, 1881 — we revisit his existentialist Notes from Underground. Published in 1864.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Magazine Street

Mardi Gras beads on Magazine Street.

Mardi Gras beads
Adorn the gates and trees
Along Magazine Street

Standing on the precipice
High above the Crescent City
Soaking in the southern soul

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Poetry Foundation Appoints Robert Polito New President

Poet, Professor Will Lead Organization Dedicated to Strengthening Poetry’s Role in American Culture.

CHICAGO—The board of the Poetry Foundation has voted unanimously to appoint Robert Polito the next president of the organization. He will begin his tenure on July 8, 2013. Until that time, inaugural president John Barr, who announced his retirement early in 2012, will continue as president and will aid in the transition.

A highly respected poet, critic, and biographer, Polito has served since 1992 as director of Creative Writing at The New School, where he founded the MFA Program in Creative Writing and (with Len and Louise Riggio) the Riggio Honors Program: Writing and Democracy.

Born in Boston in 1951, he earned a doctorate in English and American language and literature from Harvard University.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

New Orleans

photo © Mark Butkus 2013
You can never go home again unless New Orleans is home.

If your American dream is painted on a canvas
Neatly folded in the corner of Andy Warhol’s mind
New Orleans is a hurricane beating down your coast

If you close your eyes
And feel the easy ride
Of the St. Charles Street Car
Where a solo tuba
Blows the scent of magnolia
Down narrow streets
and everyone plays possum with the heat
and no one’s too big or too small
to paint their tongue with a snowball

Monday, January 21, 2013

One Today: The Inauguration Poem

One of the highlights of President Barack Obama's second inauguration on January 21, 2013 was the inclusion of a poem. One Today by Richard Blanco was only the fifth time in United States history that a poem was read as part of the inauguration process. Much has been made of the fact that Blanco is the first Latino, the first openly gay person and the youngest poet to read at an inauguration.

Preceding Blanco for this honor were Robert Frost orating for President John F. Kennedy in 1961, Maya Angelou and Miller Williams reciting at President Bill Clinton's first and second inauguration respectively, and Elizabeth Alexander from President Obama's 2009 inauguration.

Described as Whitmanesque, Blanco's poem is a stirring trip across America.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Frenchmen

photo © Mark Butkus 2015
Evangeline on Frenchmen Street New Orleans.

It was at the Maison
where they came to life
Amid the crush
of Saturday night

Smelling of beer
and some other smoke
they kicked the week away

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Down the Bayou

The Louisiana Bayou.

The cypress swamp around me wraps its spell,
With hushing sounds in moss-hung branches there,
Like congregations rustling down to prayer,
While Solitude, like some unsounded bell,

Friday, January 11, 2013

Thank You For Your Service

An Ode to Bob the Dog.

He was curled up beneath her seat
But then arrived with unwanted feet

He lunged out and made them scatter
She thanked him with a hotdog platter

He was homeless and unafraid
With loads of nicks and scars inlaid

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A Road North

The sun is shining
for the first time
since last year
and it's the tenth day
of this year.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

First Lines Second Thoughts — Changing Places

First Lines Second Thoughts is a look at the first lines of well known literary works.
On second thought, do these opening words stand alone as poetry? On New Year's Day we revisit Changing Places. Written by David Lodge. Published in 1975.