Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy by Tao Lin

I didn't want to like Tao Lin's "Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy," but he won me over. At first the poems seemed too casual or random, but I kept laughing at certain lines and didn't want to stop reading. He has a habit of using quotes around phrases in his poems like 'intense eyebrows' or 'you will never do enough for the people you love,' or 'i won the pulizer prize bitch' I didn't see why they were in quotes, but later, I thought some of the things he would put quotes around made funny lines even funnier. Half the poems didn't have titles, so it was hard for me to tell if each page was a new poem, or was continuing the previous page.

There is a ton of repetition in this book, but it is more like recurring characters instead of repeated lines. Half the poems are about Hamsters. Other recurring characters are Richard Yates, Bruce Lee, a specific obese person, a specific ugly fish. There is a series of poems of certain people/animals soliciting or not soliciting his poetry, there are so many of these characters headbutting each other. I thought it was funny that several of Lin's poems end with "I'll be right back."

The weird thing is, if I had to compare him to anyone, I would say his style is slightly like Aase Berg, one of my favorites.

I also have one of his other books "you are a little bit happier than i am" which I can't find, but when I find it, I will probably read it right away.

Here are some of my favorites from the book. I wish I could have found links to some of the poems about hamsters. Some of these links are from Tao Lin's own blog about the book, which includes the first 7 pages of the book, which I think is a great idea. I think giving people a taste of his poetry is a great way to get people to buy his books.

i know at all times that in four hours i will feel completely different

room night (second poem on the page)

eleven-page poem, page two

eleven-page poem, page four

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tristemania by Mary Ruefle

I loved Ruefle's Indeed I Was Pleased With the World and Tristimania was great too, maybe better!

There were a lot poems that used repetition in the collection. Usually I don't like repetitive poems, but I really enjoyed all but one of them. The poem I didn't like was sort of double repetitive: each line was something like: I might____, I might not ___. It was probably the one poem I didn't love in the whole book.

Her images, and the ideas in her poems just strike a chord with me. Even when the topic isn't something I especially care about, I feel like she makes me feel like it is a very dear subject to me. Ruefle is letting me know all the secrets of a thing, I am always surprised when I read her. She is also a great reader: Here are audio/video files of her reading in Berkley in 2002.

There was a cute poem at the end of the book that is titled "A Poem by Mary Ruefle" which was written by Dean Young. Even though I think he was trying to write like her, it was obvious that it was someone just trying to imitate. Ruefle also has a poem in one of Young's books, titled, of course: "A Poem by Dean Young." I will have to track it down.

My favorite poems in the book (It is times like these that I wish I didn't have my rule of only listing 4 of my favorites from the book):

Why I am not a Good Kisser

Female Ruin (Down at the middle of the page, after some photos)

Where Letters Go

The World as I Left It (This is about half way down the page, right before the youtube embedded movie)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

A new format for a poetry magazine

Has anyone heard of It is a literary magazine that sends short poems (less than 140 characters) via text message twice a week. It's fun getting poetry text messages! Even though the format is constraining, I like the unusual poems that can happen when poets put restrictions on their work.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Vera Pavlova

On Sunday, Kris and I went to a poetry reading. On the way to poetry readings, Kris usually asks about the poet we're going to see and I tell him what I know about them and their work. This time, Kris asked about the poet, and I knew almost nothing. "Why are we going if we don't know anything about the poet or her poetry?" I try to do research before I go to readings, but sometimes I just go because if there is poetry somewhere, then that's where I want to be.

I'm so glad we went! Pavlova was great. She is Russian, and so is her poetry. Her husband, Steven Seymour translated her work for her book, and also for the reading. At the reading, Pavlova recited her poem, and then Steven read it in English. It was charming and they worked really well together. I loved hearing the work in the native Russian in the poet's voice. In addition to liking the reading style, I also really liked the poems. Here are a couple of them that were published in the New Yorker. I purchased her book and will be posting about it in the future.

There were a lot of Russian speakers in the audience, and I was thinking how rare it must be for them to hear poems in Russian, since they live in the United States.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

What Work Is by Philip Levine

Everyone knows the title poem in this collection. It's a great poem. I decided to read this after hearing this poem read by Levine on Poetry Magazine's website. It reminded me that I should read some more of his poems.

It is hard to write a review of someone as prominent and well-liked as Levine, especially when it is the old work that made them famous, and especially when you think that he's great too. We pretty much all agree: he's wonderful. He sculpted Contemporary American Poetry.

The only things I can say otherwise is I should have read this book when I was feeling a little less tired/run down. It made me feel more beat-down by the world. I also kind of missed having some stanza breaks in the poems. Levine hardly has any, which I think suits the poems' tiring subject matter. The book was exhausting.

My favorite poems in the book:

What Work Is (of course!)

M. Degas Teaches Art And Science At Durfee Intermediate School

My Grave (Try to ignore the person's notes. I couldn't find it elsewhere online. Sorry!)

Facts (at the end of their blog post)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Won't stop raining

All the rivers and lakes around here are brimming, creeping close to overflowing. When I first saw all of them a year ago, I could picture clearly how they would all spill over and flood.

It was a creepy coincidence that my most common dream right before I moved to Massachusetts was driving off bridges into lakes, or roads flooding with water that I had to drive through.

Mice Live Among Us

On the drive home from seeing Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, a mouse hopped out from under the car hood and ran around on the bottom of our windshield, then jumped back under the hood. It happened twice while we were driving. When we stopped and checked, we couldn't find the mouse.

It didn't feel as strange as it normally would because we just saw a movie with a couple of talking mice.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Given by Arielle Greenberg

I felt like reading this book was hard work, and I had to stay very focused. The book had a lot of poems that I didn't understand at first, then read them over and over until I liked them. There were a few I could never figure out. I think this is one of those books that will have something for me every time I visit it. I liked Greenberg's connections, and images. I liked the way almost all of her poems looked on the page.

I liked Greenberg's use of blanks (as in, fill in the blanks) in some of her poems. It was fun to fill in the blanks myself. She also used very long dashes at times, in a similar way. I really didn't like how she used a scissor icon over and over in one of her poems. I felt like it was just a gimmick and didn't really add to the poem.

My favorite poems in this book: (I couldn't find any of these online! I found a lot of Greenberg's poems online, but not from this book)

Sea Legs
Foot and Mouth
The Apple-Headed Doll
The Alexander Technique

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Vacationland by Ander Monson

There is a lot of repetition in Vacationland, but I don't mind, overall. There are three poems titled Vacationland, one in each section of the book. The subjects of the poems and certain lines and concepts are repeated in different poems too. Monson's favorite subjects seem to be snow, scantron tests, axes, trucks, blood, streetlamps, ash.

There are so many elegies in this book. Most are serious for dead friends, and the others are for more general subjects, like luggage, or are love poems disguised as elegies, like "Elegy for the End of Weather."

I love Monson's titles, although it sometimes feels like they don't exactly match the poems. One type of poem he does that I dislike is a poem with bullets down the left edge of the page. Those don't work for me (I think there are only 2 of them in the book).

In poetry, I am used to snow being delicate, but Monson shows us the roughness of living someplace that is cold all the time. I like seeing this side of snow, especially since this is only my second winter here in Massachusetts, and it feels like snow will be on the ground forever.

Monson has some unusual linebreaks, and images. I like them. He is a lot of fun to read. I like seeing elegies done a different way.

My favorites from the book:
Outline Towards and Antidote: III
What is Less Than Fire is Less Than X

Still Life With Half of Walter Mitty

Here are some sites with more of his poems:
Web Del Sol has links to his poems at the bottom.
Konundrum Literary Review published three poems from Vacationland.