Tag Archives: Kenneth Salzmann

New poetry podcasts now online

It amounts to something of an unplanned theme, but music–in one form or another–seems to unite this recent collection of poetry podcasts. Readings of my poems “When Summer Gathered,” “At Paul’s Mall,” “Jitterbug Waltz,” and “What But the Music” are now available  right here.


(You can find LANE CHANGE, the book in which these poems appear, as either a paperback or an eBook on Amazon.)


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Talking poetry . . .

Recently, I was reminded of an interview I did a couple of years ago for Sketchbook, an international journal. The interview was conducted by Sketchbook Contributing Editor Helen Bar-Lev (a wonderful poet as well).

Here’s that discussion from 2012.


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Small round words

“I am about to stop writing about my dead . . .”

Of course, that hasn’t happened. More than ten years after writing this poem, I have had more than enough reason to continue writing about “my dead,” both the long-gone who nevertheless remain powerful presences in my life, and the more recently departed, a number accelerating as I age. This poem had its beginnings in the hospice room of a longtime friend. . .

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It’s not your grandparents’ grandparenting book!

It's not your grandparents' grandparenting book!

Thanks to all of you who have made CHILD OF MY CHILD: POEMS AND STORIES FOR GRANDPARENTS an Amazon bestseller again this season!

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December 21, 2012 · 5:28 am

Reading between the lines

“I love old books. They tell you stories about their use. You can see where the fingerprints touched the pages as they held the book open. You can see how long they lingered on each page by the finger stains.”

–Jack Bowman

It was only a cheap, dogeared paperback on the clearance rack of a used book store in upstate New York, a mystery novel I had never heard of by a writer I didn’t know.

So, how could I resist?

For me, hours “squandered” in musty, old bookstores amid often unorganized stacks and shelves full of unimagined treasures and inexplicable junk alike are always hours well-spent. Not only have I discovered in that way any number of wonderful books that otherwise never would have landed in my hands (or my consciousness), but I’ve picked up more of what one friend used to call “literary junk food” than I probably should admit.

Especially the mysteries, my escapist books of choice.

And, sometimes, the mystery only deepens. That was the case with one book I picked up somewhere along the line, only to find several family photos tucked in the pages, hinting at untold stories.

And that was the case with that cheap, dogeared paperback I mentioned above. Besides the intended story, it turned out, some reader before me had scribbled some margin notes that raised questions of their own.

I don’t have a solution for that mystery, of course. But it did prompt me to write this poem:

Marginal Lives

 For all we know, or can suspect,

these love lines aren’t worth the paper

they were printed on a dozen years ago—

when “Robert” underlined certain scenes

for “the sexiest trooper in New York”

and underscored their anticipated significance

in neatly inked notes drawn in the now-musty

margins of this paperback detective novel

we come across on the bargain rack

at the secondhand bookstore on Hamilton Street.

“All books this shelf twenty-five cents,”

the sign advises, neglecting to say

there are mysteries between these covers

that the author never contemplated

and we will never solve.

“Marginal Lives” appeared in Memoir (and) Vol. 3, No. 1, 2010

Copyright 2010, 2013 by Kenneth Salzmann

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Keys to good writing?

After the late, acclaimed poet W.D. Snodgrass read in a literary series I ran in the late-1980s, he and I went out for dinner, and we talked about a lot of things that night.

snodgrassbeardHow many Pulitzer Prize-winning poets does one small swath of rural New York State need (Hayden Carruth lived nearby and the two shopped in the same little stores)?

At what points do the performance of music and the performance of poetry meet? And diverge?

Why weren’t he and his brother on better terms?

How do you cook fish in a microwave?

He also talked about typewriters, or more accurately the unrealized potential of the newish word processors of the day to improve writing. Since word processors made editing/rewriting something like painless—no need to retype a whole page to insert a better word, say—there should be a marked improvement in the clarity and precision of writing. But was there?

He didn’t think so. Neither did he think microwave ovens had done much for cooking. Except for cooking fish, he said.

These days, of course, typewriters are being rediscovered by the hip (probably more for nostalgia’s sake than out of a quest for the perfect word). And I can’t help but remember that conversation with Snodgrass when I happen across an article like this one.

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Once, we had ample time to neglect a garden.

Once, we had ample time to neglect a garden.

As sometimes happens, that line, those syllables, rattled around in my head for years before finding what seems to be a fitting home in a poem. For now, in any case.

Of course, along the way the line has tried to settle into any number of poems I ultimately discarded, unconvinced that they ‘worked’ in one way or another. In the end–if that is what the published version is–the poem grew ever shorter, more compact, and (I can hope) became a fitting vehicle for the insistent line that demanded it be written.

Planting the Hyacinth Bean Vines

Planting the hyacinth bean vines today

in compost it took us all season to make

from the insistent decay of daily lives rich

in unread newspapers, orange rinds,

eggshells, the cores of apples,

compliant twigs, fallen leaves,

one of us might have thought to say:

“Once we had ample time

to neglect a garden.”

When “Planting the Hyacinth Bean Vines” appeared in print in the wonderful journal Memoir (and), the reader who left a flattering comment on the magazine’s web site couldn’t have known how many years it took to pare a reluctant poem down to nine brief lines that just might merit such generous praise.

Here’s that comment: “Perfectly compressed metaphor. I’m filled with admiration.”

What more could I ask for?

“A poem is never finishedonly abandoned.”

–Paul Valery

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