They say my lip gloss is cool, my lip gloss be poppin’.
Tumbling from the legendary independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon.
“There are so many books, and there are so many good books.
And there are so many good books in particular during National Poetry Month, which we are energetically celebrating here at Powell’s.
And then, even among those good books, there are the really good books. In that vein, and in case you haven’t already been introduced, please allow me to raise the shining vision of the Portland-based small press Tavern Books. I have to be blunt: I’m utterly smitten. It’s been a long time since I’ve run across a list of books that is as diverse as the voices that Tavern celebrates and in which each and every book is, on its very face, a work of art and a labor of love.
Thus far, most of Tavern’s books are chapbooks, what many people think of as pamphlets. One may hesitate at the price, but I’m here to vouch for the quality of each gorgeous and collectible book and the work it contains.
Take, for example, Archeology by Native American poet Adrian C. Louis. Louis has long been one of my favorite poets, his rage and eloquence going a long way toward illustrating for me the reality of living a life of extreme poverty and oppression, a life in which hope just doesn’t seem to be on the horizon.
There’s a phenomenon in literature in which the greatest and truest writing serves to “flesh out” the concrete facts and statistics that otherwise give only the black and white framework of an individual’s life or the life of a people. In Louis’s work, this is very true. His poetry, like Leslie Marmon Silko’s fiction, gives us the meat and gristle of the day-to-day on the reservation. Nothing is spared; nothing is sacred.
Within all of the righteous pain and anger, though, there is still beauty, and even prophetic vision, as this poem amply demonstrates:
Summer stops slipping it
to fall & pale winter is born.
New snow slows all chaos
so I dump last night’s chili
(not the best batch ever)
in the driveway for crows.
Soon they’ll explode darkly
upon this white, little town.
I’m simply a faceless idiot
in a nation of faceless idiots.
I drink powdered espresso &
watch an old neighbor lady
mutter past my house, her
porky English bulldog sports
orange knit booties & when I
smile, the spirit scab thickens
atop this zombie chest where
my heart once loyally lingered.
ROUND THREE RECAP
No one would say that Round Three of Poetry Madness was easy. Yeats showed the invisible scars of battle when he surveyed the damage done in his quest for Round Four and cried out: “I sing what was lost and dread what was won.”
Showing none of Yeats’s turmoil, the indefatigable Emily Dickinson pushed a damp lock of hair behind her ear and — without even glancing at Sylvia Plath, who lay weeping in the corner — strode briskly into her spot in the Elite Eight, calling out to her trembling new opponent:
In the Living, Mary Oliver proved that she would fight A Thousand Mornings if it meant making it to the Championship round, thrashing Anne Carson in the process. Rita Dove bested Li-Young Lee, ensuring that, at least tonight, Lee would be Eating Alone.
On our home turf, Roethke informed fellow Pacific Northwest poet Mary Szybist that “death of the self in a long, tearless night” would be the only thing stopping him from facing off against Tess Gallagher in the next bout. Baudelaire voiced his desire to “always be drunk” once the bracket ended, but not before securing his place ahead of Anna Akhmatova. And Rilke… poor Rilke. After losing out to Neruda, he turned to the jeering crowds that filled the aisles of Powells.com and whispered to himself “Perhaps everything terrible is in its deepest being something helpless that wants help from us.”
Who will be left standing in the Final Four? Only your votes can save these poets (and us) from descending any deeper into Poetry Madness.
From the Rare Book Room…
Anne Rice’s personal library included this book of poems by John Keats. Inside, she annotated the book with notes about her own writing and characters; the poem “Hither, hither, love—” is marked by her as “a poem for Mary Anne to whisper in the dark.” More: http://powells.us/12CtSE9
Oliver vs. Laux… ahhh! As if Rilke vs. Neruda wasn’t hard enough on my heart…. Powell’s you are killing me here.
(Go here for your own bracket)
update: WAIT. Are we voting in terms of whose writing wins, or WHO would actually win in a physical challenge between poets? Because if it’s the latter I might have to rethink a few things.
Fill in your own bracket or vote with the rest of the Powells.com community here: http://powells.us/10Rq66T