It’s the last day of National Poetry Month: BOO! So, today I have selected Mark Doty’s “A Green Crab’s Shell.” I had the great fortune of hearing Mark read this epic poem more than once; most recently at Omega Institute in their lake theater. Unforgettable!
Robert Vaughan reads Mark Doty’s “A Green Crab’s Shell” – YouTube
Some days are busier than others. Yesterday was one of those days. I had an interview with Stephanie Lecci that aired on WUWM’s “Lake Effect,” Milwaukee’s (NPR) program:
Lake Effect: Vaughn Finds Drama In the Moments In Between
On their website, they wrote some great background about Microtones, my new chapbook, and other various writing influences. I hope you enjoy the interview, and here is where Microtones lives if you are interested:
The Lost Bookshelf Homepage
Then, last night, we hosted our first Middle Coast Poets reading at the venerable RiverWest Public House. I want to thank my generous and talented co-host, Paul Scot August and the amazing poets who read: Nikki Wallschlaeger, Matt Specht, Sharon Foley, Dawn Tefft, Paul Scot August, Ed Makowski, Andrea Potos, and David Tomaloff. And what a great audience we had! Makes me super excited for our next reading in July!
We were all asked to bring one of our favorite poems by another poet. And so, here is a photo of me reading “Poem,” by James Tate:
I grew up in a family with three sisters. Like Chekov, I often joke. Not the playwright himself, but his play, The Three Sisters. But I also feel and claim, in all seriousness, I am lucky.
And I was. I think my parents wanted all of us, planned or no plans. And how this shaped me, having only sisters, as a boy, as a person, well, endless ways. The obvious- I’m still quickly through shared bathrooms, sensitive to a fault, a gentleman in social gestures.
Of course, there are the subtle factors, too. Who knows how different I might be had I a brother?
But, still, three sisters they were, and three sisters they are. And so, today I read “Flash,” by Maureen Seaton. And this is for you: Mikel, Cheryl and Heidi. My sisters: mi familia. I love you, always.
Robert Vaughan reads “Flash” by Maureen Seaton – YouTube
Furious cooking: poems” by Maureen Seaton
This won the Iowa Poetry Prize in 1995.
Back in the day, and by day I mean decades ago, and by decades I mean eighties, I played a video game or two. Or hundreds. Where did all those endless quarters go? I wouldn’t say I was an addict, and by addict I mean alcohol, or drugs. But, I was a frequent visitor to an establishment called Barber’s, a bar in which I would frequently play video games. On rare occasions, even sneaking in there during a skipped class, or an early weekend morning, say it was my version of church. This was back in the day when even some laundromats had video games like Ms. Pacman or Frogger. Asteroids. Donkey Kong.
Well, if you played, then you know what this generation of kids is up to. They get it honestly, and so did B. J. Best, who translates all of those hours behind the controls in this amazing volume called But Our Princess Is In Another Castle, scintillating prose poems. Today, for National Poetry Month, I read “Double Dragon:”
Robert Vaughan reads “Double Dragon” by B.J. Best – YouTube
This is a must read! I highly recommend this book, and I just finished it yesterday, for the second time. When was the last time you lost yourself in another world, a game, a different kingdom?
I knew there would possibly be a day or two this April, in which it would be difficult to read a poem-a-day to honor National Poetry Month. So, when this occurred, I had to find a poem that I have carried for years, one so special that I almost didn’t have the heart to share it.
What her writing and her prolific journals, novels and poetic prose have meant to me I yearn one day to figure out. In the meantime, I read the forward to her masterpiece, House of Incest (which, in the first printing was self-published. How she, in 1932, was WAY ahead of her time!) If you have not read this, do so now:
Robert Vaughan reads Anais Nin’s prologue from House of Incest – YouTube
Is there a book or a poem, or a passage from something that you carry through every move, through every transition? Do you love something in writing so much that you can’t find the words to describe how?
Happy Birthday, dear old Dad! You’d have been 88 years young today. One of the many things I learned from my Dad was his love and reverence for nature, the great outdoors, parks, mountains, hiking, and seasons. Changing weather patterns. Birds and animals in their own habitats.
Today, I read a poem called “The Sun Never Says,” from Hafiz. This Persian poet’s birth name was Shams-ud-din Muhammad Hafiz (c. 1320-1389) and this poem is included in his book The Gift:
Robert Vaughan reads “The Sun Never Says” by Hafiz – YouTube
Did you ever do something for someone else where it was simply that? Where it was truly a gift? Where you didn’t feel you were “owed” something in return?
Today is, or is it not? It is Wednesday, and that makes it a hump day! But, instead I continue on the April path of National Poetry Month. Today I want to focus on abstraction in relation to writing. When I am working with kids, I often recall a writing exercise that we had in first grade. Mrs. Starr gave us one of those thinking out of the box assignments. There were five questions. An example of one or two might be:
How deep is the sky?
When is the ocean blue?
I recall that need emerged to “get it right.” We all have this tendency, it’s reflexive, built- in, hard-wired in our DNA. But what if you take “right” out of the equation? What if there is no “getting at” anything? Maybe the “answer” might be whatever pops into your head?
There are endless times that I read a new piece of mine in my writer’s roundtable, and the consistent feedback is “I’m not sure I get it!” It’s become a barometer for me of being on the “right track,” in some cases. I like to play in a realm of the unexplored, of the risk-taking, of the abstraction: the what is, might not be.
Today I read a poem by Gertrude Stein called “Cezanne.” I am hugely indebted to Stein, whose work I came across in college. Her experimental literary forays inspire me to leap into the unknown, trust my intuition, brave to be different:
Robert Vaughan reads Gertrude Stein’s “Cezanne” – YouTube
Family visits, spring storms pass overnight. The daylight increases, and buds appear. As does poetry, everywhere it seems.
Last night, my co-host of the Middle Coast Poetry reading series, Paul Scot August and I met to envision our first event, on Monday, April 29th, at Riverwest Public House. Please come play with a great group of poets and writers, 7-9 p.m. Our line-up of talent is set:
Poets will include Ed Makowski, Brittany Cavallaro, David Tomaloff, Andrea Potos, Dawn Tefft, Matt Specht, Nikki Wallschlaeger, Kari Freitag, and Sharon Foley. Paul Scot August and I will also read, and co-host.
Riverwest Public House Cooperative | Building community one drink at a time.
Today for National Poetry Month, I read Tom Healy’s “Quiet Hands.” I saw this in BOMB magazine’s Spring 2013 issue #123:
Robert Vaughan reads “Quiet Hands” by Tom Healy – YouTube
Tom’s book, published by Four Way Books is called What the Right Hand Knows:
Hi friends… Happy Earth Day!
In 1991, I moved to New Hampshire and had a phase of my life I often refer to as my “Thoreau Days.” I lived close to the land, explored the White Mountains, planted a huge herb garden, and studied herbs voraciously- their medicinal properties, their usage in different cultures, their spiritual qualities. And I read voraciously, too, living in the woods, among the pristine lakes like Squam and Winnipesaukee.
One of the books that came into my life was A Journal of Solitude by May Sarton, which I devoured, and her splendid poetic prose lead me to her poetry.
Today I read “First Snow” by May Sarton:
Robert Vaughan reads May Sarton’s “First Snow” – YouTube
When was the last time you planted a garden? Have you ever moved spontaneously, without many plans? Do you know the spiritual properties of any herb?
Some days I just miss New York way too much.
So today I read Alan Dugan’s ‘Closing Time at the Second Avenue Deli:’
Robert Vaughan reads ‘Closing Time at the Second Avenue Deli’ by Alan Dugan – YouTube
For you, Andrea and David! xoxo
Families: can’t live with them, can’t live without them!
Okay, that’s a cliche, and the truth lies someplace in between those two. Notice how I say “truth lies?” Quite an oxymoron indeed. One thing I notice with family, is how specific memories are, how one sibling’s perspective on a singular childhood event might be completely different than another. Also, how certain phases of one’s life might bridge you closer to a family member, or further apart. And then, how we handle family “obligations.” Is there guilt? Remorse? Births, graduations, ceremonies, divorces, retirements, deaths. How do we handle these often delicate transitions among family members?
One poem of mine that has garnered a lot of attention since the publication of Microtones, is “Legacy,” which is not biographical in any direct sense, but its theme is family. You can read it here:
The Lost Bookshelf Homepage
The poet I share today is Sharon Olds. She’s a veteran poet, stunning at the self-reveal, and focus on personal relationships, family matters. Her poem “I Go Back to May 1937″ is a heart-wrenching visit back to her parent’s roots:
Robert Vaughan reads “I Go Back to May 1937″ from Sharon Olds – YouTube
How did your parents meet? How did you meet your partner/spouse/lover? Can you experience or see it from the other person’s point-of-view?