Tuesday, April 12, 2011


The other day I went to a reading, where one of the two featured poets did not vary his tone at all. In his half hour reading, he gave the same weight to nearly every word, the same pause, the same pitch. Every so often a word would jump out at me - vampires - - factory - - pastries -- and then I'd sink back into the effort of merely trying to make coherent what I was listening to. It was very disappointing. It made me feel good about my self-conscious effort to read well, to record myself before giving a reading. I don't much like to give readings, but as long as I'm giving one, I care about the audience, and our communication.

Speaking of communication, some kind journal has nominated me for the Best New Poets 2011 anthology. I was notified of the nomination, but not of the nominator, so it's all very sweetly mysterious. Thank you, mystery journal! (If you haven't been nominated, you can still enter the open competition for a small reading fee.)

My poetfriend John Sherer recently sent me a poem he liked by Zbigniew Herbert, which you can find here. John and I share the habit of occasionally handwriting or typing up poems of others, just to get a sense of their motion. A few years ago, I was fascinated with a poem by Raymond Carver called Locking Yourself Out, Then Trying To Get Back In, and typed it up many times. Here it is, in full :

Locking Yourself Out, Then Trying to Get Back In

by Raymond Carver

You simply go out and shut the door

without thinking. And when you look back

at what you've done

it's too late. If this sounds

like the story of a life, okay.

It was raining. The neighbors who had

a key were away. I tried and tried

the lower windows. Stared

inside at the sofa, plants, the table

and chairs, the stereo set-up.

My coffee cup and ashtrays waited for me

on the glass-topped table, and my heart

went out to them. I said, Hello, friends,

or something like that. After all,

this wasn't so bad.

Worse things had happened. This

was even a little funny. I found the ladder.

Took that and leaned it against the house.

Then climbed in the rain to the deck,

swung myself over the railing

and tried the door. Which was locked,

of course. But I looked in just the same

at my desk, some papers, and my chair.

This was the window on the other side

of the desk where I'd raise my eyes

and stare out when I sat at that desk.

This is not like downstairs, I thought.

This is something else.

And it was something to look in like that, unseen,

from the deck. To be there, inside, and not be there.

I don't even think I can talk about it.

I brought my face close to the glass

and imagined myself inside,

sitting at the desk. Looking up

from my work now and again.

Thinking about some other place

and some other time.

The people I had loved then.

I stood there for a minute in the rain.

Considering myself to be the luckiest of men.

Even though a wave of grief passed through me.

Even though I felt violently ashamed

of the injury I'd done back then.

I bashed that beautiful window.

And stepped back in.

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