Phoned-In #18: Ish Klein
Ish Klein is both a filmmaker and a poet, so it’s no wonder that her second book of poems, Moving Day, seems to be infused with the light and movement of cinema (“Marquee me, the card/ entitled, MOVING DAY,” “I hear your voice beyond the screen.”) The poems in Klein’s latest collection contain a rare mixture of language. In this energetic, topic-hopping collection, Klein is somehow able to blend the formality of literary voices past (from “Be Here Hamlet”: “A puzzle how humans react to the loss of the life of a king,/ these royal feelings die,/ the awe in a way: a depth can die”) with a smattering of colloquialisms from every day life (In “Fairy Tales from the Web,” Klein speaks about the phenomena of online dating, “This is the magic of the machine./ The meeting and love trial and,/ if it works, the love made.”). Moving Day is chock full of exclamation points, which punctuate Klein’s poems (and the collection at large) with a sense of urgency.
Hannah Jansen You seem to have a fascination with discomfort. Moving Day is full of “hard, black-biled” language and “instants uneasy as amputees.” It’s haunting, ghost-filled, and gritty. Why do you think you return to that sense of unease throughout the collection?
Ish Klein I am often very uncomfortable because I still deal with my past in which senseless things have happened to me, and I have made many mistakes and have had misjudgments that bother me. A couple of things I deal with every day are anxiety and paranoia. Anyway I write from my state, but the state is getting better, I think.
HJ You create these structured, Shakespeare-infused poems that are oddly relatable. Can you talk about the distinct sense of formality that you’re somehow able to mix in with everyday speech? It’s such an eclectic and beautiful amalgam of language.
IK Thank you. William Shakespeare is my favorite writer, and I write him into my poems sometimes to have the voice of reason together with my own way of saying things. I try to have the voice of everyone I like in my work especially if they say things well or in an interesting style.
HJ Why did you choose to include the Friedrich Hölderlin epigraph?
IK I included it because I love Hölderlin and also because when I’m done singing I want to go home. The epigraph is from the poem, “Homecoming.”
HJ “The Underground Railroad” is one of my favorite poems in the collection. I love its simplicity and its quiet, desperate tone, “The jewel on the loop is elusive,/ the train on its track./ Are you ever coming back?” And I keep returning to that line, “On the floor/ the carpet is dirt plus glitter;/ they rely on each other.” For me, that line ended up being sort of the essence of the entire collection and the one that stuck with me after I put the book down. Why do you think that is?
IK Well, I think humans shine a sort of light on things. That is what we are good at: reflecting the beauty of the world. Really bright things light up the immediate area but they also can reveal the dinginess that is also in the situation.
Why you might think that is the essence of the entire collection is because I think that is a theme in many of the poems: building oneself out of broken pieces. Or that a person can make sense of things with reflection and move on or over or out of the dust and dark into something else. I suppose this will keep happening until one sees the totality from the center of a cone of light and can therefore see everything in terms of light. I am not at that stage yet.
Listen to the podcast and read the rest of the interview at BOMBlog.
Three poems by Oana Sanziana Marian
Angel of Incidence
by Marta Largo Bridges
Certain voices speak through walls, gurgling streams.
Ice covers paw prints in the gardens of the moon, too far
to touch; its chilled hum may well reach us if we will
be quiet. Here is what stalks up there: a fox
slipping beyond the hillside. Its perfect swiftness leans
into the slope; stillness follows in the grass, like a wind
crawling on its belly. It’s a slow angle of incidence, desire
unwound, released, without violence. It’s love without
direction, shape or rightful owners. There’s a sweet
sharp steam of fox paws on the ice. Desire, requited
or not, is the heart ablaze. It’s the burning that matters.
Without fuel, consuming all and nothing, give up
the future’s ghost to fire. Understand that you are not
the object of desire. You’re the melting ice, the fox, the fire.
Note: Marta Largo Bridges is an obscure European poet that I invented. I translate her from the Esperanto.
Friday night they waited on a plot
that never thickened. At St. Marks and Grand
a mangled bike and ambulance did not
bode well. The rider, baffled but intact,
monopolized the sidewalk. Wind blew
heat around. A temperature with inexact
proportions drew them to the roof because
they needed the exposure. To the elements.
To elevation. Some excitement was
in order. But it didn’t come till dawn.
They slept, half-clothed, next to each other.
Morning opened with a blousy yawn -
relief! - as though, by sleeping, they’d withstood
a great storm. It had come and swept clean through
their lives, then lifted up its skirts and moved
on to another restless neighborhood.
Goodbye, Lee Miller
I woke up in the ruins of the last
new wave I made a proper film
still for the archivist the film still
slapping air somewhere
behind me like a Sybil’s voice
“You missed the boat,” it said.
I huddled mute necessities:
the mother’s face, the neighbor’s goat
for warmth the felt and fat they left
behind though not for me.
I stole and sold what wasn’t mine.
Theft was a lesson learned from
the rescue was my own design.
The girls I knew were bent
or otherwise all talk
about the body and entitlement
the violent isolation of our lips
the armature of brows and hands
land lost or gained the things
we bit our tongues or dust
or one too many shafts of light.
Must I explain my love of boys,
at twilight (winter, youth)
falling deeper into brute
abandon? Children of the patriarchs
they were the future
patriarchs forbidding all ambivalence.
I watched them throwing snowballs.
I turned off the sound.
I wanted to be like that
pound for pound.
I betrayed us they will talk
about the woman who sat nude
in Hitler’s bathtub lacked
sustained ambition traded
on her looks and ran around
the world seeking adventure.
Don’t they know I also found it?
Oana Sanziana Marian is a Romanian born poet, translator, photographer, and filmmaker. She received a Masters in poetry from the Johns Hopkins Writing Seminars. Her short film, Sunset, was selected by international film festivals in the U.S. and Europe. Her poems and translations of Romanian poems have appeared in the Iron Horse Literary Review, Exquisite Corpse, eXchanges Journal of Literary Translation at the University of Iowa, and the Words Without Borders anthology of post-Communist literature The Wall in My Head; she writes for Words Without Borders, was recently a resident at Writers OMI at Ledig House, and her translation of the novel The Lair by the Romanian writer Norman Manea has just been published by Yale University Press. Along with Prudence Peiffer, she runs The Folding Chair, a reading series for local writers in Brooklyn.
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Mixtape #1: Mellow, a bit of psych
Made a Spotify playlist for your earholes:
1. World’s Greatest Dad - Nicole
2. Kourosh Yaghmaie - Gol-e Yakh
3. Wimple Winch - Lollipop Minds
4. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti - Immune To Emotion
5. Personal and The Pizzas - Bored Out Of My Brains
6. Cass McCombs - I Went To The Hospital
7. Midlake - Head Home
8. Scott Walker - Duchess
9. The Kinks - Nothing In This World Can Stop Me Worrin’ Bout That Girl
10. Procol Harum - Repent Walpurgis
11. Kurt Vile - Slow Talkers
12. Scud Mountain Boys - Silo
13. The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Anemone
14. World’s Greatest Dad - Amanda
Phoned-In #17: Sarah Gorham
Perhaps Sarah Gorham’s most important contribution is the literary press she created with her husband: Sarabande Books. Gorham writes that, “Our focus is on poetry and short fiction, genres that in the recent past have received less than generous attention from the mainstream publishing industry.” In an interview with Nin Andrews from Best American Poetry, Gorham speaks about the two-sided nature of Sarabande Books, but her comments speak are especially apt regarding Bad Daughter:
The word sarabande has such an interesting history. A “sex dance” originating in the New World, imported to Spain, where it was banned in 1583 under penalty of death. Later, civilized by the English, German, French. The word suggested the kind of literature we look for: accomplished and elegant on the surface, with a wild underside.
Many of Gorham’s poems (e.g. “Scaffold for a Sonnet” and “Barbecue”) aren’t experimental with form, but what lies beneath is a certain untenable wildness.
If one were to say one thing about Bad Daughter, it wouldn’t be about daughters at all, but the way in which humans interact with their imaginations as well as their memories. For instance, Gorham imagines a well that “seeps rather than contains,” drawing people in with its mystery and foreboding. She ends with a further re-imagining of the “well” with, “Imagine a sunset, lavender and red / as battered morals, the underworld, / eager to drink.” While imagination can lead us to fanciful and foreboding places, it can also lead to incomplete and faulty attempts at memory and perception, as in “Doppleganger,” “Bust of a Young Girl in Winter,” and “Barbecue.” In each of these a daughter is remembered in an almost perverse way—perverse in the sense of so far against the reality of the situation—by those around her. She is consistently the subject—not the creator. In the end, daughters seem to be a lens through which Gorham examines the art of writing (e.g. “Scaffold for a Sonnet”) and memories, the stories which we write ourselves.
Gigi Augsbach “Bust of a Young Girl in the Snow” is a great rumination on the role of memory in our lives. The idea that, “How often resurrection’s / a slight miscalculation / of past, present, and future … A little girl’s eyes / in winter, opened rigid and wide” is jarring and haunting in its evocation of how inexact memories are. In light of that, could you tell me how the oddity of memory plays out in Bad Daughter? Is a “bad daughter” a “bad daughter” or is that simply a function of memory and perception?
Sarah Gorham Here’s a secret: the “bust” is actually male. James Merrill as a little boy, actually, and it’s nailed down to a porch rail on his Water Street balcony in Stonington, CT. Jeffrey and I were poets-in-residence there in 2002. In winter, the bust looks rather horrifying—a boy/girl left in the cold, her face tarnished green and half-covered with snow. Hence the idea of a terrible mistake. Someone abandoned the child. The time machine was on the fritz, and now the child is imprisoned in this awful form. Memory offers a huge array of misperceptions, but none as permanent as this. Somewhere along the line, the child got the impression that she was “bad,” and it stuck.
GA I love when you talk about Sarabande Books’s mission in Best American Poetry to, “distinguish between literature that had to be written, or was written under an inescapable pressure to redeem a life.” I was wondering if you could tell me what drives to you this “pressure to redeem life?”
SG The pressure begins with guilt, or dissatisfaction, or a feeling of imperfection, or great grief, or homesickness, wherever home may be. It’s any kind of urgency that serves as fuel for a real poem. Make it right. Of course, for the poem to communicate, it has to have more than feeling. Language, music, image—all the aesthetics have to be in place too, but I’ve never written anything remotely interesting that didn’t have that pressure to start with.
Listen to the podcast and read the rest of the interview at BOMBlog.
Phoned-In #16: Amy King
Amy King was raised in what she described as a “backwoods” town in Georgia, as well as in Baltimore, until she moved to New York 11 years ago. On her blog and website she describes herself as a “Poet teacher and Activist.” The term is quite fitting since many of her poems are unmistakably political (e.g. “This Opera of Peace”). Many of the poems from I Want to Make You Safe, such as “Follow the Leader” and “The People of Things,” are rewarding upon a second read, while others still remain locked in King’s own imagination. Stanzas like, “We are all snow birds atop / the cherry blossoms of August / Springtime in Washington D.C. / passed too fast, nearly in the flash of Rose / brushing her teeth over the bedpan” make use of those imaginative leaps to make our emotional connection to the poem stronger (“Some Pink in Your Color”). King is also an English and Creative Writing Teacher at SUNY Nassau Community College. She also edits Esque Magazine with Ana Božičević.
Gigi Augsbach When I read your poetry, I feel like they are words sitting on clouds. That’s a feeling I get from its floating-between-the-concrete-and -the-metaphorical, between what is imagined and what is real. It almost feels like you are free-writing your imagination. Do a lot of your compositions begin in free-writing?
Amy King Some of my more popular poems come from a burst of free-writing, mostly because we are born into conventional narrative, conditioned to it, and when I let loose in one go (usually after a glass of wine), the narrator enjoys the brain that isn’t as aware of how she’s constructing and gets to pen things “naturally,” unhindered by the analyst.
Read more of the interview and listen to the podcast at BOMBlog.
Phoned-In adds staff, muscle.
We have two new members to the Phoned-In staff. There are now three of us. That’s enough for a half-court basketball team. Three is also the atomic number of lithium, which is a pretty good Nirvana song.
Gigi Augsbach is a lover of flat whites, explorer of new worlds, and a permissions assistant at BOMB magazine.
Hannah Jansen is a writer and poet living in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Her poetry and prose have appeared in Naugatuck River Review, Albion Review, and others.
World's Greatest Dad on Spotify and iTunes
World’s Greatest Dad, the band behind the Phoned-In’s intro, outro, and musical interludes, now has a proper album which you can buy on iTunes or stream for free on Spotify. Blammo.
Here are some things you can click on.
In the 15th installment of Phoned-In, Dan Boehl reads from his new book Kings of the F**king Sea and talks to Luke Degnan about his collaboration with Jonathan Marshall, censorship, and Spiderman 3.
Jonathan Marshall, Kings Flag, 2010. Cotton, 35×60 inches.
Luke Degnan At the beginning of Kings of the F**king Sea, there is a “cast” page. Can you tell me how that relates to the rest of the book? Specifically, are we meant to think of Jack Spicer or Mark Rothko while reading certain poems?
Dan Boehl I think the “cast” of the book comes from a combination of Mary Jo Bang’s Louis in Love and John Hollander’s Reflections on Espionage: the Question of Cupcake. Bang included a “cast” in Louis in Love, one of the books that most affected me as a young poet. Bang’s cast served to personalize and contextualize the narrative’s characters immediately. I wanted this to happen in my narrative.
In Reflections on Espionage, Hollander, pretending to be a spy who worked in an art museum, typed each of his poems and sent them off to “Lyrebird” as a series of dated correspondence. The poems were populated by Hollander’s contemporaries, poets he gave code names like “Steampump” and “Aspirin.” I liked that though the narrative of Cupcake was imagined, real people populated it. In this case the “cast” adds a layer of meaning.
I don’t necessarily want the reader to believe Jack Spicer is out on the high seas smuggling Chinese people into the United States. But in the life of the narrative trope, I want the reader to consider that he may be out there. That as artists and writers we are all out there adventuring, forging new paths of creation regardless of the morality that those creations purport to expound.
LD Were you thinking of a kind of overarching narrative while writing the book?
DB I think so. Jonathan Marshall and I were having a lot of conversations about narrative in art, storytelling, and heroic journeys. Marshall was working on hisLenny Trilogy, a series of short movies about a man who is questing in a post-apocalyptic landscape. I got excited by the arc of the epic journey, especially how it relates to art’s failure to create meaning in culture and society at large. So, the narrative became my way to create a poetry of action.
When I started writing I was not sure where I was headed with the narrative, but as I kept writing things started to take shape. None of the poems were written in order but they were written with a whole narrative in mind. Also, I was reading Moby Dick at the time and watching my favorite anime, One Piece, which is about pirates.
LD The book includes a section of images from artist Jonathan Marshall. How did this collaboration come about, and what do you think the inclusion of images adds to the book?
DB The way the book came about was that Jonathan Marshall came to me while we were working together at the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin and he asked if I would collaborate with him. I said yes, and he agreed to send me images of things he was making. A bunch of his drawings had nautical themes. I was particularly interested in a painting he made, Attack of Megamouth II (2006), where a giant shark swallows a ship. The poem I wrote for that painting became the center of the book, the seed that grew the rest of the story.
The two of us were asked to be in a group show at a local Austin gallery. For that we made the cast photograph that appears in the back of the book. We also built a wooden canoe, painted it in pink dazzle camouflage, and shot it full of holes with a bunch of guns.
Our collaboration kind of petered out because Jonathan was working on a bunch of gallery shows, his movies, and he moved to go to grad school. I kept writing the book and eventually finished it. I was not sure how the art would fit in, but then when Birds, LLC decided to publish it, the other editors and I agreed that Jonathan should be involved. So Jonathan made an entire body of new work in the span of a couple of months during the fall of 2010. Those are the images that appear in the book.
I think Jonathan’s images help contextualize the story, showing the reader that artifacts of the narrative exist in the world. The images further the mythology while adding another layer of context.
LD In an interview on the Pshares blog you said, “I hang out with mostly visual artists now.” How do you think being so involved in the art world, as opposed to the literary, affects your writing?
DB I think being around visual artists all the time has forced me to build a different kind of artistic vocabulary. Though I am a poet, I express my poetry visually and in terms of scenes that flesh out different emotions. I would like to think that my individual poems express a moment like a drawing or a photograph. Sort of a voice over for a scene that unfolds in front of the reader. I think this is what I mean when I say “a poetry of action.”
LD Instead of Kings of the Fucking Sea, the title is Kings of the F**king Sea. Why did you decide to censor the title?
DB The book is not about shock and transgressive language so I wanted the word dulled a little bit. I knew the title had to be Kings of the Fucking Sea, which is the name of the crew of polleros in the book, but I was apprehensive about it. I joked with Jonathan that we would have to write “F**king” in order for the book to appear in Walmart superstores. Jonathan said, “Oh, those asterisks are like bullet holes.” I liked the idea that the “u” and “c” had been shot out, probably by a rival pirate crew …
I think censoring the title does a few things. First, it is a nod to the Puritanical mores of American society, the societal norms that the Kings claim to disavow. I wanted the asterisks to draw attention to the word “fucking” without actually using the word in a transgressive way. Censoring the word “fucking” draws attention to the fact that the word is a taboo. It also dulls the word so that the title is not simply about the expletive.
Also, the asterisks draw attention to the fact that “fucking” contains “king” creating an internal rhyme in the title.
Read the rest of the interview here.
Dan Boehl is a founding editor of Birds, LLC, an independent poetry publisher, which put out his book Kings of the F**king Sea, and will publish Emily Pettit’s Goat in the Snow and Dan Magers’ Partyknife this winter. His chapbook Les Miseres et les Mal-Heurs de la Guerre is available from Greying Ghost. He writes art reviews in Austin and works for the University of Texas. Kings of the F**king Sea is available now from Birds, LLC.
To listen to the newest episodes of Phoned-In, visit BOMBlog.