poetry

Lark on Church Ave

9:12 am, 11-3 at Lark, Church Avenue

The time was 9:11
but I wouldn’t type that
(still) so the lyrical
universe lurched
forward a minute.
No one knows
anything unless
we tell on ourselves.
There were only a few
bagels in the basket.
From yesterday.
I ordered the cinnamon
raisin with butter.
The bagel for people
who don’t know better.
What if nothing ever
happens to me again?
In the extra room,
there’s a toddler music
thing happening,
tambourines and drums
and chanting. A riot
(My Sunshine My Only)
of happiness and a room full
of gleeful emperors.

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Some Quickly Jotted Poems at a Few Brooklyn Coffee Shops

I’m only accepting anti-laurels now. Hardly.

 

Parade Coffee on Caton Ave, 9-30-17

 

A poet                  saying goodbye            to poetry
has to write           a poem                    and then there’s
the paperwork           Tomorrow                  thirty years
from now                when I’m gulping          the air
and the names           the simple things         floating around me
it won’t be            the neglect               reserved
for genius              My poems                  will be the chore
of the super            Parsed                    by the furnace
turned smoke           Is it defiance            To keep on
making them             say No                   Do I fail
because I want          to succeed                I should write
the smallest           Poem I can                Something
too small               to say No to              and revise it
with sharp              knife                     the oblivion
a shiny flake           of your lava              I’ve kept
all these years        a souvenir                in my sock drawer
spat up                 by the fire goddess       from Earth’s seam
syllable edge           shaved by half            and folded in two

submitted in triplicate

stamped Approved with the waxen seal of the Drunk Ambassador of Poetry

-they played the song from Portlandia.

 

 

Uptown Coffee, Seventh Ave, 10-12-17

 

Sweating in fancy clothes
from walking my kid to school
the hot coffee isn’t helping.
Tempted to pat myself dry
with the napkins. Don’t
look I’m repulsive and have
been for at least a decade.
It doesn’t matter. I’m
the only one that has to
endure this body. It looms
over no one. Nobody
has to pretend anything
to keep my feelings from
being hurt. Except for
myself in the mirror
when I shave. Squinting.
Maybe it was better at
the old place where there
wasn’t an outlet and
I felt my face until it
was smooth.

 

 

Steeplechase, Fort Hamilton Parkway 10-15

 

This is the closest
one and I’d write
here more often
but there are small
wooden signs
forbidding laptops
on all the best
tables. The other
notable feature
is that napkins
are distributed
from a roll and
cut to the exact
size you need.
I got a pecan
sticky bun and
had to go back
three times.
I started going
to coffee shops
in college.
Back then, I loved
the shop more than
the brew.
The attraction
was wasting time
with a book
in a place where
my friends might
by chance distract
me from myself.
I thought myself
a writer then
but all I did
was read.
Now I need
the coffee as much
as the shop.

– they played The Old Crow Medicine Show

 

Return to Uptown Coffee, 10-27

 

The chorus of the song
is Guilty as Charged.
Music like a dangly
ear ring, heavy
and shining.
I don’t hear enough
to know what she did.
Claimed love, squandered
love, rebuked love.
It’s just an edgy pop
song. No real cowardice
revealed. Nothing
unsettling, just that
the night is long
and everyone surrenders.

One coffee shop, one bug, and one imaginary kingdom poem

You can peel back the surface of most of my poems and find me sitting at a coffee shop. In the poems, it’s a tiny version of me at a tiny coffee shop with crumb size pastries and a thimble full of coffee. A few of the poems have tiny bars behind them with incredibly small machines that pour draft beer.

Here are links to some new poems at Palaver and Juxtaprose Magazine:

http://palaverjournal.com/current-palaver/

http://www.juxtaprosemagazine.org/two-poems-by-jason-primm/

 

New Poem in Rust + Moth

This poem started when I had a discussion with a friend about poet crushes. He said he had one for a while on Deborah Warren. If you don’t know her work, it’s great. She writes formal poems that don’t strain to fulfill their forms. I really enjoyed her book, Zero Meridian. That discussion made me realize that I had a poet crush on Elizabeth Bishop. The crush has now gone on for decades. I took the address from a book of Bishop letters that I was reading. The contemporary poet that I saw by accident at a friend’s reading shall remain nameless. The more that I have read of her, the more I feel guilty about a few of the lines.

45 King Street

2 New Poems at The Manhattanville Review

I had this thought that I shouldn’t just post the link, that somehow that isn’t enough for a blog post. On the last blog post about a publicaton, I talked too much about how I wrote the poems. I preened a bit. Poets are the worst. The Byronic guy with flowing sleeves and a dashing way with anything that touches his hands (foils, women, forks, corkscrews, wooden tennis racquets) doesn’t exist in this body. The Byronic ego is there though. If I am at a dinner party and someone says that they are a poet, I run. If you are at a dinner party with me and I mention that I’m a poet, don’t run. I’m really a deep and fascinating guy as evidenced by the poems at the link below.

http://mvillemfa.com/journal/the-stop-and-go-livery-cars/

More Primm Poems

Most days nothing much happens as a poet. You go to work and you desperately try to stay awake in conference rooms as HR departments describe the exciting new shrinking benefits and you thank people for emails where they apologize for answering an email a week late with the note that they have sent it on to someone else who might know something about the topic. You eat hotdogs and then the news tells you that those hotdogs are going to kill you faster than you thought they would. You look out the windows and think, man, I should really be writing. But a boat crosses your window-size cut out of the Hudson River and the thought changes to why bother and maybe you muse about how if someone asked you to define poetry, you would have a confident sentence before it petered out into a kind of glum shrug.

But not yesterday.

Yesterday I got my contributor copies for Jelly Bucket 6. A deliciously large journal with a great illustration of a bird on the cover and an eight page color insert.  Paging through it, I especially liked the short story by Lucian Childs titled, Letters from His Wife Regarding the Progress of Her Enlightenment.  Oh, and I’ve got a poem in there, too. Did I mention that? The poem is about a woman I saw dancing in Ruby’s Olde Tyme Bar and Grill on the boardwalk at Coney Island after the Mermaid Day Parade, maybe fifteen years ago. . Here’s a link to the Jelly Bucket website with information on where you can purchase a copy.

http://creativewriting.eku.edu/jelly-bucket

Also, yesterday, the new issue of the After Happy Hour Review went live. I have two poems in this web journal.

Epistle 1: I decided to write letters to people in my past as poems that I would never send them or tell them about. I had high hopes of writing quite a few these. I wrote two. In poem hunting, if an idea or a way of thinking yields two poems, that’s pretty darn good.

Pastry Tong: This poem was conceived when I was under the temporary sway of a book by Ponge. A friend I don’t talk to anymore recommended him to me. This reminds me that I should write that friend a poem letter and not send it to him.

Here’s the wikipedia on Ponge, so you know everything, too:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Francis_Ponge

He wrote poems about objects and he tried very hard to make the poems only about the objects. This is a doomed kind of writing, a bit of cooked science poetry. The personal, the universal, can’t be kept out.  The first drafts just stuck to describing the pastry tongs and the back story of the speaker and the girl in the coffee house was just the faintest of shadows. A hint. Then at some point I just put a full on love poem on top of this abstract discussion of Pastry Tongs. I put it on like one puts  a coat of paint over another older coat of paint. The speaker isn’t me, except for the attitude and the fact that I spend a lot of early mornings in coffee shops.  The girl is equally as unreal. That’s why the poem works. The pastry tongs are real though. Here’s a link to the journal:

http://afterhappyhourreview.com/

I

Some Only Loosely Related Observations about The Levelled Churchyard by Thomas Hardy

The Levelled Churchyard

O passenger, pray list and catch

Our sighs and piteous groans,

Half stifled in this jumbled patch

Of wrenched memorial stones!

We late-lamented, resting here,

Are mixed to human jam,

And each to each exclaims in fear,

“I know not which I am!”

‘The wicked people have annexed

The verses on the good;

A roaring drunkard sports the text

Teetotal Tommy should!

‘Where we are huddled none can trace,

And if our names remain,

They pave some path or porch or place

Where we have never lain!

‘Here’s not a modest maiden elf

But dreads the final trumpet,

Lest half of her should rise herself,

And half some sturdy strumpet!

‘From restorations of Thy fane,

From smoothings of Thy sward,

From zealous Churchman’s pick and plane,

Deliver us O lord! Amen!’

Here’s an early Thomas Hardy poem. The idea of the poem is that a part of a churchyard has been levelled by removing or moving headstones. The poem is not that clear except that some headstones are jumbled, presumably from being forced into a smaller area and some have been moved to out of the way places where there happens to be a little room. Hardy did some work as a church architect, so I imagine that he was part of renovations that did “level” some churchyards. Also, I imagine that he carried this idea for a poem around for a long time before he acted on it.

I’m not a scholar; I’m a poet.  (Dammit, Jim.)  When I read other poets it is with two minds. The first mind reads as anyone else would, for enjoyment, for that little pop, that twang of the heart that a good poem brings. I guess there are still innocent readers out there who just like poetry and don’t read it because they are trying to get a laurel to wear themselves. The second mind is a scavenger. That mind is looking for things to use. So what can a contemporary poet take from this old Hardy poem?

There is a balance in reading as a poet. Read none of your peers and you don’t have the same set of tools available. Read too much of your peers and all you can do is echo. You have nothing to bring then but your own personality which would be fine if you are incredibly charming or if you are halfway through drinking yourself to death. But if you are a boring old stick in the mud, you might have a problem. Read only the classics and you can’t help but become dated, espicially if you don’t read far enough back. I spent a lot of time with the poet’s of the fifties, Bishop and Lowell, for example. It ’s a style that is still valid but whenever I look at a new journal I am jealous of how much more poets are doing with lines, breaking and not breaking them, new shapes/ideas organizing poems, how much obscurity is used, how much more directness is used. How much more frank they can be with the rawness of youth.

I’m still nervous when the lines aren’t identical lengths.

One thing to look for in a much older poem is what we can’t use.

On the form, the ballad stanzas are fine. The rhymes chime reliably enough for the music to pull us along, no clunkers.  Nice touch on the last rhyming pair, putting the amen after the rhyme of “sward” and “Lord.” There is enough rhythmic variation to keep us from falling asleep. It does what good form should, invisibility. We can still use this form if we have a compelling reason to sound like a song. This poem is not necessarily a place that I would go to sharpen my form.

In a vast and probably overly personal generalization, our poems seem to resist message. Seem. A favoring of some moment of emotional clarity or intensity is a message in and of it itself.  This poem has more of a message than we are used to and he leads us to it harder than we are used to being led. Hardy doesn’t believe much in a God that takes an interest in our lifes or of the promise of any kind of afterlife. Some of his other poems make a case that it would almost be better to have an angry god than the indifferent one that he perceives. Might be refreshing now to get a message, especially if it wasn’t political. Maybe something about love or the lack thereof ladeled on thick.

Hardy makes a kind of collective speaker for the dead in the churchyard. That collective speaker is speaking to us collectively. It isn’t addressed to one person going through the churchyard. It seems a note or an inscription left for any passenger in the future. The collective speaker isn’t used that much in contemporary poetry. We strongly prefer the I. I strongly prefer the I. After that, the next fallback is to a omniscient third.

Speaking as a We was always a device but now it feels even more so like some grand rhetorical device.  I was thinking that I couldn’t name a poem that uses this but then the words, “We jazz june,” popped into my head. The things we can’t use are really what we should try to use. Has poetry lost the ability to speak for the whole tribe at once? Probably.  I think we can, as June Jordan does, speak for a smaller group we know intimately. Or we could speak for a ridiculously small and made up group, like the poor souls at this church.

Irony is also something that we generally shy away from. Irony needs the reader to get a message that the speaker in the poem doesn’t get.  I’m referring to dramatic irony here.  So it really has the same problem as message but with a layer of technique added to it. Hardy uses this device to lead us to his message. First, we get the great line about being mixed to human jam. Dark, funny. And you can see immediately how that would be a problem for any speaker. But the first thought after processing the humor and the funny idea of all the jams being mixed up, is what kind of “I” can something mixed to human jam have.

By the time, we get to the rhyme of trumpet and strumpet  and the silliness of good jam ladies worried about being confused with immoral jam ladies, the dark thought comes to us, if it is silly for the dead to worry about, it might be silly for the living too. The identity crisis of the speaker is also that of the poet.

The part of me that used to write papers compells me to mention that the word, levelled, refers to the ground in the churchyard, but it also refers to a levelling morally and socially of the people buried and by extension all the members of the church. It could also be referring to death itself.

Maybe I like this poem because I’ve tried to write a few ghost poems- the ghosts that hang out in my apartment and another that imagined the street by street map of somebody’s personal ghost town.  By the way, I don’t believe in ghosts. I just like the idea of them, hanging out, having opinions about our follies.

Another thing you can do with an old poem is try to imagine how it would be written today. With this poem, I could imagine a wild Dean Young treatment, with a long list of mixed-up fantastical ghosts blaming city hall.  Or a wry Billy Collins treatment from the point of view of the church architect. The fourth stanza is already close to the quiet despair of a Phillip Larkin poem. Wait. Larkin goes too far back. He’s already in the jumbled cemetery.