Friends like these

Dude: "Friends like these, huh Gary?"
Gary: "That's right, Dude."

A few shout-outs to some friends out there who're throwing rocks and rolling strikes.

First, check out this poem by my friend and University of Tennessee colleague, Charlotte Pence, "Essay on Collective Paranoia" published at Kenyon Review Online. On her blog, Charlotte describes the poem this way:
The poem talks about the American tendency toward hyper-fear—and the excessive attempts to counteract any harm be it on a political scale down to a small scale such as knowing exactly what to eat to prevent cancer, exactly how to prune one’s hedges to thwart thieves, etc. And the footnotes almost serve as a paranoid voice commenting on the poem.
Congrats to Charlotte on the publication and on her forthcoming anthology on songs and poetry.

Next, check out this new poem by Stephanie Kartalopoulos, "Widow," published in the new issue of Waccamaw. Steph's work is showing up all over the place, so make sure you watch for it.

Become their Facebook fan.
Next, if you don't already know the website Whale Sound, I urge your to check it out. The project is run by Nic Sebastian and seeks previously web-published poems submitted by the poets and/or journals in which the poems first appeared. Nic then interprets the poem through a reading which is posted with audio at Whale Sound and made available to the public through the website or through an iTunes podcast. A fantastic project.

Yesterday, I opened Whale Sound and--what a wonderful surprise!--found a poem by a colleague from the old days back in Oregon's MFA Program: Brian Simoneau. And a helluva poem it is. You can click here to listen to Nic Sebastian's reading, and you can also click here to read Brian's poem.

Click the cover to go inside the issue
And, finally, here's a poem I've been meaning to put up on the blog for some time. For several months, really. It's by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum and appears in the Spring 2010 issue of Southern Indiana Review. I also have a poem in the issue and after I received my contributor's copy I encountered Andrew's poem and was immediately struck hard by poem's diction and sound, it's narrative and lyric energy. Solid, solid work. Andrew also runs the site Poem of the Week, so be sure you click that link. Lots of good poetry there. An excellent resource.


Drunk, we wound our way up the wind-bent
stilts that rose from the old Marathon Building,
abandoned in the days long after our father’s
fathers milled cotton and women bobbed
their hair— each step skyward reporting
in the hollow iron we ascended. From there
the world swayed with the wind and our tinny echo,
our legs hung out over the lip of the city, scissor-
kicking at the night. From there we could cradle
that city in our palms: the big rigs and V-6s
swinging by on the s-curves of I-40, a pair
of spotlights probing figure-eights in the clouds
over downtown, the projects playing their music
of rebuilt Chevy Novas and catcalls and bass.
When I return home, I pass that water tower.
During the day, it stands. Yielding. Nothing.
At night though, I’ve seen kids climb
that long cold corridor to the celestial, the red
glow of cherries passed back and forth
like a pair of taillights winding their way west
down a late mountain road— pulsing, breaking,
another sharp turn on that half-moon landing—
those above having risen with such ease
above the rooftops and steeples, the switchbacks
of the Cumberland no longer obscured
by hackberries and fog, the dim illuminations
of billboards no longer hovering overhead
like messages from the future. More than once
I’ve thought of returning to that high vantage
point, stood at its base and planned my climb—
daylight not yet flickered out like a bulb, the stars
waiting to tend their signal fires. But I always
turn away and return the way I’ve come.
I already know how darkness folds over us,
the fear that comes with hard wind unbroken
by rain. I already know that city, pressed
like an ember in the amber of its own light
and so certain of its being.

Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum
from Southern Indiana Review, Spring 2010

Andrew also conducted an interview with Robert Wrigley for the Spring 2010 issue of The Missouri Review. There's a snippet posted at the journal's website, and if you can track down a hard copy of the issue, do. The interview is worth the effort.

As an additional teaser, here's one of my favorite exchanges:

Beautiful Country continues your tradition of mining the natural world for its glory in poems like "County," "Hail Storm in the Mountains" and "Letting Go." But the book also ventures into new territory in pieces like "Exxon" and the title poem that look at the current political, social and economic status of the United States and its people. You've always been a conscientious, politically aware poet, but the poems we've seen before about Vietnam or social/economic imbalances in America typically allude to these issues rather than address them directly—I'm thinking of older poems like "CO," "Peace," "The Overcoat" and "Economics." What's changed?

I'm older, I guess. I've written a lot more. I've experimented and tried to push myself in new directions without abandoning what I've learned. There are poems I simply could not write at twenty-five or thirty-five or probably even fifty. I didn't have the right tools. I was too worried about making mistakes. Last week, in a graduate techniques class, I taught C. K. Williams, and one of the students pronounced, with a kind of awe in her voice, that Williams quite simply had to have "a lot of balls" to write about the things he wrote about, and that's absolutely true. Sometimes it seems to me the lack of nerve is the deadliest affliction a poet can suffer, whether it's dismissing narrative or fretting about the hegemony of power over language or simply finding something so central to the art as a love poem inherently sappy. That's only the case if you don't have the nerve to do it well, to give it all the skill and sweat it deserves, to find the best words and the best order, insofar as you are capable. In a way, nothing's changed except my perspective and, I hope, my abilities. But I have also come to believe that there isn't anything that can't be said, challenged, observed or corrected by a poem. (emphasis added - JJR)