Tuesday, March 30, 2010

An Interview About Ogden Nash

Here's a link to a 2005 interview between Ben Wattenberg (Public Broadcasting Service, USA) and Douglas Parker concerning Parker's biography of Ogden Nash, master of humorous light verse, and writer of fiction.

Ogden Nash: The Life and Work of America's Laureate of Light Verse by Douglas M. Parker

The Best of Ogden Nash

Ogden Nash's Zoo

Monday, March 29, 2010

Illinois' Poet Laureate

Kevin Stein is Illinois' Poet Laureate, and he teaches at Bradley University.  Here is a link to his site.

One of his books: Sufficiency of the Actual (Illinois Poetry Series).

a cummings poem

It seems like a good day to post a poem by e.e. cummings, one that appears elsewhere online:

i carry your heart with me 

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Peter Viereck

On another blog, I just posted something about Peter Viereck (1916-2006), poet and historian.

Viereck's books include  New and Selected Poems, 1932-1967   and  Door.

Friday, March 26, 2010

West Virginia's Poet Laureate

West Virginia's Poet Laureate is Irene McKinney. 

Her books include Unthinkable: Selected Poems 1976-2004 and Six O'Clock Mine Report.  She also edited a collection of West Virginian writing, Back Country.

Colorado's Poet Laureate

Mary Crow is Colorado's Poet Laureate, and here is a link to her site.

And here is a link to one of her books:

I Have Tasted the Apple (American Poets Continuum)

Derbyshire's Poet Laureate

Here is a link to the site of Ann Atkinson, Poet Laureate of Derbyshire.

Good Weather Inside


Good Weather Inside

I'm fond of interior fogs, thick mists
in which to disappear when the world
gets especially giddy, unambiguous,
and annoying.  Invisible geese mutter
to themselves. A creek is to be heard
but not seen. The sun ceases to be
a celebrity.  As Auden wrote, "Thank
you, fog."  At other times, the good
weather inside invites.  When muck
and slush of human interaction dispirits,
a walk in the mind's bright meadow beckons.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Thank You, Fog: Last Poems.

Thursday, March 25, 2010



My residences are three--
the present, past, and me.
The past is vast, illusory.
Present's cramped, a tiny pill,
so its contents spill
into past. Still
there's Me, which is a what
that's a where and a who,
not so different from a You.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Hey, Baby

Hiram and His Hey-Baby Poem

"Hey, Baby, here's another Hey-Baby poem,
full of neon bats and radioactive butterflies,
false promises and outlandish proposals,
a Magical Realist's dream-yacht,
Dylan Thomas's unpaid bar bill, too
much cheese and not enough wine. In this
Hey-Baby poem, you get compared.

Yeah, Baby, you get compared to such
extravagant particulars that the poem
claims you'll sweat liquid marble and gargle
with nectar. Undeterred by the overpopulation
of Hey-Baby poems, this one wants to be known
as an elder adolescent and a crusty old
lust-addict both at once. Asleep on a stained

couch, this poem dreams it's Casanova on a Harley,
Byron on a skateboard, Christina Rossetti's
market-analyst, and an Arabian nighthawk riding
a golden pogo-stick. Hey, Baby, my heart's not in
this Hey-Baby poem. It's because I always thought
the genre was horse-shit and the women who fell
for it more to be pitied than played. Hey, Baby,

as you well know, you can do better than this
Hey-Baby poem or any other, so take this anti-
Hey-Baby poem, use it as a coupon, and redeem
it for the platinum version of your crap-detector,
just in case something or someone subtle
slides your way with a Hey-Baby poem in disguise."
Thus spake Hiram to his laptop in a glad cafe.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Bergman, The Knight, and Death

Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal (1957) is one of my favorite films--partly, I think, because of the imagery, but also because Bergman handles the grim allegory in an amusing way. I do acknowledge the film isn't for everyone, however. Here's a link to the scene in which Death first introduces himself, formally, to the Knight (in Swedish, no subtitles).

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Moyers' Favorite Poem Project

The site of the television program, Bill Moyers Journal, has a favorite-poem project going. Lots of interesting choices.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Timeline of Insurance

Only 610 years, approximately, after the concept of insurance arose (at least in a European context), the U.S. Congress seems poised--if that's the word--to get more people health insurance, or at least that's the claim, as it were. Here is a link to a time-line of insurance. Exciting reading.

South Dakota's Poet Laureate

As noted earlier, Larry Woiwode is North Dakota's Poet Laureate. Who is South Dakota's? I'm glad you asked. David Allen Evans, whose books include Bull Rider's Advice: New And Selected Poems (2003).

Anne Spencer

Here is a link to a page about a not-so-well known Harlem Renaissance poet, Anne Spencer.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Films About Poets

One problem with trying to make a dramatic feature film about poets is that most of the drama in a poet's life occurs in his or her head. A second problem, flowing out of the first, is that the film-makers then try to compensate by focusing on sordid details or on cliche aspects of the alleged "poet's life," such as drinking alcohol, being wild, yadda yadda. A third problem is that, probably, no one should try to "dramatize" the writing process. All of that said, here is a list of movies about poets, pretty much in the order they occurred to me, although I do begin with my favorite:

1. Stevie (1978) It presents her life and doesn't try too hard to dramatize poetry and poets.
2. Priest of Love (1981) About D.H. Lawrence. Not bad. Ava Gardner has a role.
3. The Edge of Love (2008) About Dylan Thomas. Falls into some of the traps mentioned above.
4. Dead Poets Society (1989). A favorite of many. More about poetry and teaching than poets. I liked it all right.
5. Panaemondium (2000)About Wordsworth and other British Romantic poets. The scenes that try to portray Wordsworth composing are painful to watch. The stuff about literary politics and Wordsworth's ego is good.
6. Beat (2000). Focuses mainly on Burroughs. It's pretty good.
7. Looking for Langston (1988) Quasi-documentary stressing Hughes's sexuality. A fine film--but it really is only about one aspect of Hughes's life, alas.
8. Total Eclipse (1995) Concerning Rimbaud and Verlaine. Very good. With Dicaprio.
9. Dr. Zhivago (1965). Of course, this movie about a lot besides poetry, but the main character is a poet, after all.
10. Beautiful Dreamers (1990). This is the one among the 10 I haven't seen, but it looks intriguing. It's about Walt Whitman. Not great reviews on IMDB, alas.

Working Theater Collective, Portland

I recently met a member of the Working Theater Collective in Portland, Oregon. Their current production is Peaking, and here is a link to the WTC's blog. I wish I'd had time to attend a performance; maybe this summer....If you live in or near Portland and haven't check them out, please do so.

Simon Armitage

Here is a link to the site of Simon Armitage, a contemporary British poet whom the BBC sent to Afghanistan. His "poem of the day" today is "Ten Pence Story," a rhyming narrative poem spoken, as it were, by a coin.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Theatre of the Absurd



There’s no theatre that’s not
theatre of the absurd because
in every case humans sit
observing humans acting
like humans.... Everybody
in the whole building
has a task, which both is
and is not what brought each
task’s respective human
to the building. The building
is a product of earlier innumerable
tasks. So is the play. All tasks
are ultimately meaningless maybe.
So is the play. The theatre-
building is filled with pretending
humans watching other humans
pretending, and this is reality,
and this is play, and if God
doesn’t exist, then none of it
means anything ultimately,
and if God does exist, then
does the play mean what it purports
to mean? Oh, and one additional absurd
thing is how ordered, dutiful,
polite, and amused we are as
we perform our tasks. We play
the game of As If as if it
weren’t a game, and that is
acting, and that’s absurd,
and that’s another good reason
to go see a play played live.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Stevie Smith

Stevie Smith is one of my favorite 20th century poets. Her work is whimsical but tough, quirky but accessible. She also wrote prose and drew. Glenda Jackson portrayed her memorably in the film, "Stevie," which also featured Trevor Howard, if memory serves. Perhaps Smith's most famous poem is "Not Waving But Drowning." Here is a link to more information about Smith and her work.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Eventual, Uncertain Results: The Teacher's Circumstance

Builders, meat-cutters, plumbers, electricians, surgeons, and so on, usually get to see the results of their labor and expertise relatively quickly.

Teachers are among those who may not see the fruits of their work right away and who, indeed, can never be certain about what effect they have had.

I'm thinking about this because I traveled to Portland to read some poems to some alumni from the college where I have taught for quite a while, and simply to chat with the alums. (I insisted on titling the evening "Just Enough Poems," conscious that poetry in general and my poetry in particular may be an acquired taste.) I'd not had some of them in class; others had taken one or more classes from me.

--An impressive group, and to back up "impressive," one is tempted to name occupations: doctor, wine-maker, pub-owner, drama-teacher, parent, businessperson, etc. But more impressive is the sense one has that these are good and complicated people--thoughtful, well read, responsible, intellectually adventurous.

Many of them still write--as they are fulfilling other responsibilities and pursuing other professions. That is impressive. Also, these sorts of writers--the ones who are not famous (yet), the ones for whom writing is just one piece of the puzzle--may be more crucial to a culture than the writers on whom all the light is shed.

--But back to the original thread: a teacher a) often has to wait decades, not just years, to have some sense of what effect he or she may have had on students and b) still cannot and indeed should not be tempted to take credit. There is rarely any way to prove that one's teaching led to any student's impressiveness. That is as it should be, not just because this circumstance reins in a teacher's pride, but also because the circumstance reminds a teacher that teach8ing is an art and an act of faith.

Nonetheless, the alumni I talked with and read poems to are impressive in the right ways. They are decent, smart, accomplished people. They are nobody's fools. To be nobody's fool is one great potential result of education, in my opinion--and a result the teacher should be reticent to claim credit for.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Powell's Books

A journey to Portland (Oregon) is in my near future, so I will try to make the obligatory pilgrimage to Powell's Books, which famously takes up a city block. Bibliophiles can get figuratively lost in bookstores of any size, but in Powell's one may literally get lost in one of the book-alleys on one of the floors.

Apparently Powell's was founded in 1971: relatively, not that old.

For amusement and edification, I used "poetry" as the keyword in an online Powell's search, and the number of titles that came up was 71,448.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sundance Apple Tree

It's one thing to say you believe in God; that is a statement of faith. It's another to plant a fruit tree; that, too, is a statement of faith (as well as an allusion to Eden), if of a different sort.

My father liked to plant fruit trees--in a disorderly fashion. He just picked spots on his acre of land and planted. Some of the trees were grouped together, but that seemed to be by accident. He had very good luck with apple trees. One became enormous, and then one late autumn a bear broke down many limbs going for the last apples. My father liked bears even more than apple trees, however, so he was cool with it.

He seemed extremely partial to a variety of apple called "the Arkansas black," which was really a deep red (apple). Smallish, but kept well. Nice for pies.

He had less success with the apricot and hazelnut trees. No wonder: his acre lay at 4,000 feet-plus in the Sierra Nevada.

All of this is by way of saying that I planted my second Sundance Apple tree today. I planted one last year. And I planted my first one about five years ago--at a different place; it should be producing heavily now. So it goes. Planters of trees often plant for others. The Sundance is a disease-resistant hybrid, and I get the dwarf variety. It's crisp, a bit tart, and certainly not too sweet.

Fruit trees: statement of faith, labor of love--almost like poetry.

Mr. Otis

Mr. Otis

Mr. Otis feels distant
from his culture,
though he can hear the noise
it manufactures--
loud, louder, loudest.

Mr. Otis prefers truth
to lies, sighs
sometimes but not so as
to draw attention,
which he prefers to pay.

Mr. Otis is a loyal
friend, is clean, is
never low or mean.
Earns a salary, shares
some of it with charity.

Mr. Otis is of a
threatened species. That is,
he is old-fashioned,
patient, reserved,
staid. Dismayed.

Copyright 2010

Friday, March 12, 2010

Interview With Peter Redgrove

Here is a link to an interview with British poet Peter Redgrove (1932-2003) by Lidia Vianu.

Redgrove was a prolific poet whose work Ted Hughes, among others, celebrated. The interview's terrific--enlightening, amusing, terse.

Visual Journals

Here is a link to a fine blog that features a visual journal; the art is terrific.

Snow In March


Snow in March

Snow in March falls in sunshine that's leaked
through cracked clouds. Flakes fall at odd
angles as if they're unprepared or lost. We
look out windows, consider resigning from
high-level positions in the climate. Meanwhile,
we return to our desks, ineffectually angry.
Old storms of resentment saturate our moods.

Still, statistics say some people out there
are falling in love and therefore agreeing
to be charmed by snow late in Spring. We
begrudge them their innocence. Winter
has made us pettier, meaner. This snow
in March is untimely and inept.

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Thursday, March 11, 2010

U.S. Poet Laureate Timeline

Here's a link to a timeline of U.S Poets Laureate, who used to be called Consultants to the Library of Congress. The first one was Joseph Auslander, appointed in 1937. I hadn't expected to see that my former teacher, Karl Shapiro, had preceded Robert Frost in the post.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


This one's out of season.

The fallen leaf has been further
harmed, one point torn off.

A leaf went to a hair-salon
and changed its color. To blond.

Each leaf comes with
an antenna with which
to broadcast deciduous
messages to evergreens.

The curve of a leaf's
edge is an improvement
over art.

A leaf left on the linoleum
of a classroom is like
a love-note never received.

The Vs of a leaf's
skeleton diminish
in size. The last V
belongs to the breeze.

Leaves don't change.
Weather changes, leaving
leaves no choice.

Virginia's Poet Laureate

Claudia Emerson is Virginia's Poet Laureate. Her books of poetry include Pharaoh, Pharaoh, Figure Studies, and Late Wife. Here is a link to more information about Emerson and her work.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Poet Laureate of Kansas

Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg is the Poet Laureate of Kansas now, and here is a link to more information about her and projects on which she's working. I haven't been to Kansas in over 20 years. I think I need to get back there. The last time I was there, I caught some catfish.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Allergic Haiku

Allergic Haiku

mold, pollen, weeds, dust--
sealed buildings full of bad air--
he wheezes; sneezes

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Sunday, March 7, 2010

First Academy Awards

The first motion-picture Academy Awards were handed out in 1929. Emil Jennings won the award for best actor; he was a German. Janet Gaynor won for best actress. A link to more information.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Friday, March 5, 2010

Swedish Band Panda

Here is a link to a youtube video featuring the music of a Swedish band, Panda:

Swedish band

Self-Portrait With Assistance From Creatures


Self-Portrait With Assistance From Creatures

as guileless as a worm
as alarmist as a rooster
as blank as an owl
as relentless as a wolverine
as listless as a toad
as worried as a squirrel
as distracted as a cat
as languorous as a bear
as focused as a fox
as garrulous as a hound
as ordinary as a beetle
as deluded as a moth
as determined as a badger
as morose as a sloth
as patient as an ox
as hurried as a hummingbird
as constant as a swallow
as feckless as a frog
as lost as a mole
as devious as a raccoon
as direct as a bee
as sad as a salamander
as overwhelmed as a trout
as philosophical as mule
as gluttonous as a snake
as wary as a coyote
as common as a fly
as confused as a human

Copyright 2010 Hans Ostrom

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Auden on American Work

An observation by poet W.H. Auden concerning Americans and work:

A tremendous number of people in America work very hard at something that bores them. Even a rich man thinks he has to go down to the office everyday. Not because he likes it but because he can't think of anything else to do.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Best-Selling Books of Poetry, 2009

Here is a link to a list of the top 10 best-selling books of poetry in the U.S. in 2009. It's an interesting mix of books. I have no idea how many copies these books sold.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Nevada's Poet Laureate?

When I bought groceries today, the cashier said to a person ahead of me, "One of our customers keeps winning scratch [lottery] games. He said he's not a compulsive gambler. I told him, 'Neither am I. Do you want to bet on it?'" --Waggish humor as one purchases victuals: a good thing.

But it made me wonder if the State of Nevada has a Poet Laureate. Answer: no. The position is vacant. In case anyone from Nevada happens to be reading this, I'm available. My qualifications are that I'm a poet and that I grew up not far (as the crow flies) from Nevada. One of my favorite towns is Reno. I'd be glad to write poems about Nevada, which put the "Nevada" in Sierra Nevada, or something like that.

Apparently the last Poet Laureate from Nevada served for over a decade but left office in 1976 (?). His name is Norman Kaye. What I found on amazon.com by Mr. Kaye is The Nevada Songbook, published by Vic Vegas Publishing. How great is that publisher's name?

Goodnight, Vic Vegas, wherever you are.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Narrative Poems

In 2004, Story Line Press published Story Hour: Contemporary American Narrative Poems, edited by Sonny Williams. The anthology includes poems by Robert Penn Warren, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, Richard Wilbur, Etheridge Knight, George Keithley, Yusef Komunyakaa, R.S. Gwynn, Rachel Hadas, Kate Daniels, Robert McDowell, Gjertrud Schnackenberg, David Wojahn, Kim Addonizio, David Mason, Mary Jo Salter, Mary Swander, Russell Edson, Beth Joselow, Lawson Inada, George Hitchcock, Philip Levine, Garrett Hongo, and many other poets (325 pages).

Here is a link to more information about the book:

Narrative Poems