Tag Archives: poetry

At Paul’s Mall

Freddie Hubbard on the bandstand
blowing away at abstract truth
until up jumped spring
and we smoke the darkness
of Paul’s Mall just as if
it will go on forever—
jazzed breath ascending
endlessly heavenward through
the coils of the flugelhorn—
and just as if one jazzedsex waitress
is still returning to our table
like first light, all lips without sound
when the trumpet washes over
the shape of her words
and we order another round,
another round if only for the sake
of the intervals sculpted by her
wordless tongue and teeth
on this again our maiden voyage.

Copyright 1998, 2014 by Kenneth Salzmann

You can hear Freddie Hubbard’s rendition of “Up Jumped Spring” on Youtube:  http://youtu.be/khby51sf82s

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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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Poets Responding to SB 1070

It really is true, it seems more and more, that the emergence of “social media” changes everything from how we read and write to how we debate the issues and ideas of the day–and who has a voice Poets Responding to SB 1070in those debates. For poets, who should be accustomed to small audiences, the effect may be especially dramatic. Today, a personal blog, a Twitter or Facebook account, or the like, can lend new, previously unimaginable credence to Percy Shelley’s bold assertion that “poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Thanks to a Facebook page called “Poets Responding to SB 1070” here’s my recent contribution to the immigration debate.

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January 6, 2013 · 12:23 pm

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

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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First Words

CHILD OF MY CHILD was born in April, 2009, along with its flesh and blood twin, Josephine, 7 pounds, 6 ounces upon arrival.

In truth, we didn’t quite know at the time that a book had been born.

All of our attention was focused instead on one small child who had just reshaped our lives and changed our identities in ways we are still discovering. But it was inevitable that, sooner or later, we would look for a literary response to Josie’s life-changing presence, given our own backgrounds and sensibilities.

For me, Josie’s birth brought the seemingly straightforward passage into grandparenthood. That joy, however, was necessarily tempered by the awareness that her Grandmother Diana, my wife of nearly thirty years, did not live to see our only child become a father. For Sandi, who is now my wife, Josie brought joy as well, along with a flood of questions about the place she would have in Josie’s life as a step-grandmother.

We realized then that being a grandparent in the 21st century brings both timeless joys and sometimes harrowing challenges. Families fracture and recombine, often muddying traditional roles. For some, becoming a grandparent also means becoming a caretaker again.

For some, becoming a grandparent is an insistent call to look themselves or their own children in the face and take account. For others, not being a grandparent is a kind of loss. For many, that grandchild arrives bundled in equal parts hope and fear, because the baby’s parents may have struggled with substance abuse, financial or legal problems, or other demons. Sometimes, people become grandparents, but only learn that fact years later, as one poem here explores.

And, perhaps for all, the arrival of a new generation brings undeniable evidence of aging and mortality. That may be a particularly tough pill to swallow for the millions of Baby Boomers who have aged into this new role (and sometimes bristle at taking on traditional grandparent names).

When we decided to create this anthology and began soliciting contributions, Sandi and I suspected that some of these issues and concerns would be reflected and examined in the work we would receive. The mountain of submissions we received, however, brought many unexpected stories, too—along with much more excellent material than we possibly could use in a single volume. In assembling the collection, we have been blessed to have the always wise, sometimes surprising, sometimes challenging, prose and poetry of more than five dozen highly accomplished writers as our building material.

We are grateful to each of them and proud to include their work in CHILD OF MY CHILD.

That title, by the way, is borrowed from a wonderfully resonant image offered up, in slightly different forms, by two contributors to this volume: Barbara Evers and Karen Neuberg. It is both a powerful image in its own right and a fitting umbrella for the wide range of experience and emotion contained in this book.

A BRIEF NOTE TO JOSEPHINE, FROM DIANA

Kenneth Salzmann

Take this quilt and let it blanket you,

in comfort and in loss.

It was stitched just for you

six generations ago.

Ever since, these colorful threads

have run through the lives

of daughters, then mothers,

then grandmothers, then daughters.

Take this quilt and one day

spread it over your own children

and over their children,

in comfort and in loss.

Everything is changing, and will.

But these ancient threads are holding fast.

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Child of My Child: Poems and Stories for Grandparents

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My appearance on “Today’s Authors”

Here’s an excerpt from one of two 30-minute interviews conducted by writer/poet/broadcaster Gary McLouth. . . .

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December 1, 2012 · 1:15 pm