One more prose poem

5-69-Hart-Crane-at-the-Brooklyn-Bridge_150dpiThis one is from Mark Ford’s Selected Poems​ published by Coffee House Press (2014). Mark said this is the only prose poem he’s ever written.  If, like me, you’re a fan of Hart Crane, it’s especially delicious. It’s in the form of a letter to a fictitious literary magazine. If you know nothing about Hart Crane, here is his most famous poem, To Brooklyn Bridge. A tortured gay man, who lived in a time when that was unacceptable, he allegedly committed suicide at 33 by jumping off a ship returning to New York from Mexico.

The Death of Hart Crane

Sir / Madam,

I was intrigued by the letter from a reader in your last issue that recounted his meeting, in a bar in Greenwich Village in the mid-sixties, a woman who claimed to have been a passenger on the Orizaba on the voyage the boat made from Vera Cruz to New York in April of 1932, a voyage that the poet Hart Crane never completed. According to her Crane was murdered and thrown overboard by sailors after a night of such rough sex that they became afraid (surely wrongly) that he might have them arrested when the boat docked in Manhattan. This reminded me of a night in the early seventies on which I too happened to be drinking in a bar in Greenwich Village. I got talking to an elderly man called Harold occupying an adjacent booth, and when the conversation touched on poetry he explained, somewhat shyly, that he had himself published two collections a long time ago, one called White Buildings in 1926, and the other, The Bridge, in 1930. I asked if he’d written much since. ‘Oh plenty,’ he replied, ‘and a lot of it much better than my early effusions.’ I expressed an interest in seeing this work, and he invited me back to his apartment on MacDougal Street. Here the evening turns somewhat hazy. I could hear the galloping strains of Ravel’s Boléro turned up loud as Harold fumbled for his keys. Clearly some sort of party was in progress. At that moment the door was opened from within by another man in his seventies, who exclaimed happily, ‘Hart! – and friend! Come in!’ The room was full of men in their seventies, all, or so it seemed, called either Hart or Harold. The apartment’s walls were covered with Aztec artefacts, and its floors with Mexican carpets. It dawned on me then that Hart Crane had not only somehow survived his supposed death by water, but that his vision of an America of the likeminded was being fulfilled that very night, as it was perhaps every night, in this apartment on MacDougal Street. At the same instant I realized that it was I, an absurd doubting Thomas brought face to face with a miracle, who deserved to be devoured by sharks.

Yours faithfully,

Name and address withheld

by Mark Ford





Interrobang & octothorpe

Perhaps typography doesn’t interest you, but my associations with letter press printers, those odd creatures who print by taking the individual letters and putting them together into rows of type, running ink over them and creating art, has led me to enjoy and respect typographic oddities. Which brings me to the interrobang. You can find the detailed history of this mark–the only new punctuation mark of the 20th century–in a book called Shady Characters. You can get a taste of it here.

images-5 images-4 images-3 newsweek-interrobangintbang1

Designed to express both  incredulity and overwhelming confusion of the modern age, the interrobang is both an exclamation and a question mark. Here are a few samples:

Continue reading “Interrobang & octothorpe”

Transformation Monday

Optimized-falkirk_interior_oneI went to a poetry reading at the lovely Falkirk House, sponsored by the Marin Poetry Center. It was a reading entitled Poetry and Spirituality, featuring my friend and fellow Squaw attendee, Christina Hutchins, and a woman I hadn’t known before, Kim Rosen. Kim recited an Easter Poem that caught my imagination. Here it is:

In Impossible Darkness

Do you know how
the caterpillar

Do you remember
what happens
inside a cocoon?

You liquefy. Continue reading “Transformation Monday”

The Prose Poem

It’s hard to define exactly how a prose poem differs from prose. But for me, a short piece that has an edge, that stays with you, that feels more powerful than the usual snippet of prose, is a prose poem. Here are two of my favorites (I’ve already posted “A Story About the Body,” another fav):

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Another Monday

Somehow, I never posted this…so here it is, another Monday, and time for a poem.

transtomerI lost Monday this week, traveling. It’s odd the way you step into a sealed tube, pass hours suspended above the continent, then emerge on the other side.

In the bookstore in the new SF airport terminal, they had (surprisingly) the wonderful bookof Tomas Tranströmer’s Selected Poems, edited and introduced by Robert Hass. I couldn’t resist buying a copy. Here’s a selection:

Slow Music

The building is closed. The sun crowds in through the windowpanes
and warms up the surfaces of desks
that are strong enough to take the load of human fate.

Continue reading “Another Monday”