Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Few Things I Learned...

at (or from) the AWP Conference last week:

  • Forest Hamer is a brilliant poet with a day job that can teach you a thing or two about your own psychosis if you listen long enough.

  • Jericho Brown's book Please, soon to be released from New Issues Press, might just change the way we think about the standards for great poetry, especially if he's in front of us reading the poems aloud.

  • Tupelo Press publishes some fantastic boks and you will spend an hour (and all your money) at their table in the bookfair if you are not careful.

  • Inside joke: Truth or dare is as much about the mafia as it isn't, at three o'clock in the morning, with a bowl of steaming chili, in a cute apartment in Harlem.

Here's a poem by one of my teachers, the beloved Ed Ochester, who was there, and who taught me to laugh and cry in equal measure whenever necessary:

What the Frost Casts Up

A crown of handmade nails, as though
there were a house here once, burned,
where we've gardened for fifteen years;
the ceramic top of an ancient fuse;
this spring the tiny head of a plastic doll--
not much compared to what they find
in England, where every now and then
a coin of the Roman emperors, Severus
or Constantius, works its way up, but
something, as though nothing we've
ever touched wants to stay in the earth,
the patient artifacts waiting, having been lost
or cast away, as though they couldn't bear
the parting, or because they are the only
messengers from lives that were important once,
waiting for the power of the frost
to move them to the mercy of our hands.