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Category: literature (Page 1 of 7)

Literarily related articles. Book reviews. Poetry. Literary references

How Christmas became New Year’s (in poetry in 2006-07)

Looking back, as one does as a New Year approaches, I found this post from December 2006. I had had a poem accepted to be published in the Sunday Journal of the News & Observer (Raleigh). I had seen it as a simple poem with a complicated view of joy based on some simple rhymes and numbers. Perfect for Christmas. My editor agreed. Until someone sent in a poem with a star. Here’s our exchange:

“Joy is Here” is bumped to New Year’s Eve 12/20/2006

She: [other poet] sent me a christmas poem, so i’d like to run yours on new years eve. okay?
Me: You mean it’s more joyful than mine?
She: Not necessarily. [other poet]‘s is more Christmasy.
Me: More Christmasy than a contingent and contextual look at the compromises we make to achieve joy?
She: [other poet]‘s has a star in it.
Me: if i add a star somewhere in my poem can i be the christmas poem? i already have birds and a tree.
She: yours will be the perfect poem to greet the new year.
Me: What if someone shows up with a poem with party hats and champagne in it, will I get bumped again?
She: hmm. well .. let me think about that.
Me: Wait! Wait! I’m rewriting now. Mine will have a party hat. And it will have a very large acorn.
She: ok! you’re secured!

And here is the poem and 99 word preamble which explains itself.

27 Views of Chapel Hill (available now)

27 Views of Chapel Hill
Yes, I am of the 27 whose views of Chapel Hill are included in the new literary anthology, 27 Views of Chapel Hill, from Eno Publishers. The official publication date is September 1, but there are already copies in the Bull’s Head Bookshop (here on the UNC Campus) and at

A kickoff reading/celebration is planned for September 24th at 2 pm at Flyleaf Books in Chapel Hill. If you buy your copy there, you can meet many of the authors and get your books signed by us.

I’m represented by a poem, “In the Poetry Section of a Used Bookstore”.

Blooker Prize gives rise to Colby-mania

Peter Freedman who has been handing the media side of the Blooker Prize writes us, the judges, to say that the Prize and more importantly the overall winner, Colby Buzzell and his blook, My War: Killing Time in Iraq, have been getting a lot of attention. Peter sends this:

The coverage is still coming but the following are the highlights so far:

– The Blooker announcement was the lead story on Google News at least a couple of times on Monday

– There have been maybe 300 or more (?) pieces of coverage in the traditional media and several hundred blog-posts (maybe 700 or 800 so far… and counting), including one in every conceivable language and script

– It was covered by all the major news agencies: Associated Press, Reuters, AFP/Agence France Presse, Bloomberg and, in the UK, the Press Association. Plus a few that I’d never previously heard of.

– The BBC alone have now covered this year’s Blooker over 15 times on different media, including interviews with Colby on both their flagship current affairs show (“Today” on Radio 4) and their global TV channel

– It has been covered by The Times? not just by The (London) Times and Sunday Times (the latter did a big piece after the shortlist) and The New York Times but also the LA Times, Chicago Sun-Times, Seattle Times, New Orleans Times (etc), Ely Times (NV), Howell Times (UT), Centre Daily Times, Pioneer Times-Journal, Albany Times-Union, Florence and North-West Alabama Times, Brisbane Times, Contra Costa Times, Taipei Times and North Korea Times — and probably others that we’ve missed.

– The Guardian in the U.K. gave it the whole of page three + an opinion piece on May 15, having already covered it three times on its website, plus a big piece by Nick in his column for their Sunday paper, The Observer.

– Other U.S. papers, magazines and websites to have covered it include The Washington Post, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor, San Francisco Chronicle (twice), Houston Chronicle, Baltimore Sun, Las Vegas Sun, Miami Herald, Denver Post, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Forbes, Business Week, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, San Jose Mercury,,,

– Most or all of leading papers in Canada and Australia have covered it, as have:

– The International Herald Tribune

– People’s Daily and China Daily News in China

– There has also been lots coverage in all the major European countries (Germany, France, Spain, Italy), not just through Reuters
but in their leading newspapers (particularly in Italy for some reason where all the biggest newspapers reported both on the
short-list and winner announcements.)

– Media in Iran and much of the Arab world, mainly fed by Agence France Presse

– Colby has been or is going to give TV interviews to CNN, BBC News 24, CBS News TV for the History Channel? Channel 7 News on the West Coast, City TV in Toronto

– Umpteen other TV channels, large and small, at least reported the announcement, including CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox News

– The Lulu Blooker Prize site has risen just under two million places in the world website rankings.

Shhhh It Happened Here First

Another first for Chapel Hill and the state of North Carolina (via Duncan Murrell on with links added by me):

From this week’s The New Yorker, Louis Menand summarizing an entry in the recently published Yale Book of Quotations, edited by Fred Shapiro:

“It is extremely interesting to know, for instance, that the phrase “Shit happens” was introduced to print by one Connie Eble, in a publication identified as “UNC–CH Slang” (presumably the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), in 1983.”

My Timeless Verse

Every poet aspires to write at least one poem that someone will remember and think good after a number of years. We usually don’t live to know whether we’ve accomplished that. But e-mail today gave me some hope and confirmation.

In 1980, I won or was finalist in The Cold Mountain Review Poetry Contest. As a result, I was invited to Boone, NC and to Appalachian State University for a dinner, a panel and a reading and later, as was the style of the period, late night drinking.

I met the editors, R. T. Smith (now at Washington and Lee University editing Shenandoah) and Charles Frazier (later known as the author of Cold Mountain and Thirteen Moons). I was even more amazed that the home of the Department Head (I think) who hosted the late night party had central vacuum connections. Little portals that suck in each room. Much delight was obtained.

Now 27 years later the poem that took me up the mountain, “Feet,” [JPG of the poem] has been selected by 35th anniversary issue editor Joseph Bathanti to represent 1980.

Thanks, Joe and Rod and Charles.

The Eternal Optimism of Peots

Just received in email:

Date: Thu,  1 Feb 2007 06:48:33 -0500 (EST)
From: gabriel
To: Paul_Jones@XXXXXX
Subject: peoms for sale

cGood day,,
i am mr gabriel ,i am a peom writer based in africa.I WRITE peoms
based on any topic.i have peoms for sell with various topics so i
decided to contact you.
The topics are listed below,

(6)THE IRONY OF LIFE————-$6500
(7)THE IRONY OF LIFE————-$6500

This peoms are peoms written by me and which have not been
posted out to the public and are peoms that has impact in peoples
life and can change people for the best in life.
please if interested,you can send me your,
I will recieve my payment through western union money transfer
i will be expecting to hear from you soonest and the peom will be
deleverd to you via DHL OR FEDEX.

yours sincerely,


Catalogers as Critics?

In reviewing Kockroach by Tyler Knox in the December 31 NYTimes Book Review, Matt Weiland writes:

Our finest literary critics hold no endowed chairs and never win prizes, yet their work has the poetry of truth about it and there’s nobody better at answering the fundamental question about any book, a question always more interesting and always harder to answer than whether it’s any good: what is it really about? I mean, of course, the anonymous librarians who prepare the Cataloging in Publication data for the Library of Congress, the brief descriptive classifications that appear on the copyright page of most books. Is there a more succinct description of John Updike’s “Rabbit, Run” than “Middle class men — Fiction”? What writer doesn’t envy the economy and force of “Massacres — Fiction” for Cormac McCarthy’s “Blood Meridian” and “Industrial accidents — Fiction” for Don DeLillo’s “White Noise”? And will there ever be a finer gloss on Marilynne Robinson’s “Housekeeping” than “Eccentrics and eccentricities — Fiction”?

Poetry supporters and Stanza offenders

Rus of Poetry and Poets in Rags tells us that two papers other than News and Observer do a great job of publishing poetry — the Oregonian and the Washington Post — but they also screw up the lines and stanzas in their online versions.


Here’s May Swenson’s, after David Biespiel discusses it
[ in the Oregonian]

For doubles-spacing, the Washington Post does it all the time. Here’s Pinsky discussing O’Hara last month

Same poem with stanza breaks [at Book of Joe].

And here’s a poem by Dorianne Laux turned into a prose poem by the Oregonian.

Song(s) of Joy

As you were warned, my poem “Song of Joy” came out today in the News and Observer‘s Sunday Reader. The print version looks really nice and the Sunday Journal section is full of interesting photographs from the past year. The downside is that the online version totally ignores the stanzas. You’d think by now that the folks there would have worked on their templates — it’s been several years now and the templates are aging — or they would have fixed the problem — the problem has persisted for several years.

Here’s what you see at the News and Observer site.

And here’s a version I fixed and uploaded in about three minutes so it’s the right way — damn it!

My sentence on Marketplace

The Marketplace bit on On Demand Books ran this morning. Running time less that one minute. The show isn’t chopped so you need to listen (carefully) or advance the stream. The books on demand story starts at 3:33. My one sentence is said at about 3:55 in. And the whole books piece is ends at 4:25 (out of a show that runs 8:24).

The show is chopped and online and has its own webpage. Very Nice! (and very brief ;->).

Here’s the text (also on the Marketplace site).

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: A vending machine for books — Janet Babin reports from the Marketplace Innovations Desk at North Carolina Public Radio.

JANET BABIN: The machine looks like an elaborate printer. It can produce up to 20 fully-bound books an hour, in any language, all by itself.

On Demand Books is marketing the machine. You can see a demo of it on the company’s website:

[ Demo: “All fully-integrated, automated, and under the control of one computer.” ]

Professor Paul Jones at the University of North Carolina says this type of machine will make it easier for bookstores to compete with online retailers like Amazon:

PAUL JONES: One of the things we’re going to see more of is the ability to be able to walk in and have your reading and other interests satisfied right there.

The company says it will have access to more than two million book titles, most in the public domain. But Jones says it will need much more content to become successful.

I’m Janet Babin for Marketplace.

“Joy is Here” is bumped to New Year’s Eve

An exchange of notes with my editor goes like this:

She: [other poet] sent me a christmas poem, so i’d like to run yours on new years eve. okay?
Me: You mean it’s more joyful than mine?
She: Not necessarily. [other poet]’s is more Christmasy.
Me: More Christmasy that a contingent and contextual look at the compromises we make to achieve joy?
She: [other poet]’s has a star in it.
Me: if i add a star somewhere in my poem can i be the christmas poem? i already have birds and a tree.
She: yours will be the perfect poem to greet the new year.
Me: What if someone shows up with a poem with party hats and champagne in it, will I get bumped again?
She: hmm. well .. let me think about that.
Me: Wait! Wait! I’m rewriting now. Mine will have a party hat. And it will have a very large acorn.
She: ok! you’re secured!

Such are the battles of literature.

Song of Joy (coming soon)

I’ll be off the net all day today (Wednesday), but I do have unrelated news. I have a poem upcoming in the News and Observer’s Sunday Journal. Not sure which Sunday as I write this. I can’t put the poem here since it needs to appear in the Sunday Journal first, but I can give you the 99 words of the introduction to the poem:

I heard a voice in the night saying “Joy is here” then after a pause “It might be insincere.” I noticed that the lines created a perfect triplet of three lines of three syllables with rhyme. Of course they should occur three times in a poem. But the poem’s length? The most magical number would be ninety nine; the sum of the sums of divisors of the first eleven integers. Incidental to this mathematical epiphany, I suddenly recalled William Wordsworth‘s wonderful poem “The Tables Turned.” The birds sang as the sun rose. I wrote this poem. Hope you enjoy.

Must be more to Morrie

Went to see the opening night of the Playmakers’ production of “Tuesdays with Morrie” on Saturday. It was mostly harmless. I mean I laughed at the quips, but the play didn’t stay with me. I didn’t feel for the characters. It was without without the power and doubt of “Wit” or the insistence of “Whose Life is this Anyway?” both about dying smart people (who are more interesting than Morrie as characters — he, Morrie, is much more lovable and in a way simple which makes him predictable and ultimately shallow).

Morrie and Mitch are not as diverting or deep as say either character in “My Dinner with Andre.” Nothing in the “Tuesdays” approaches anything said or written by Spalding Gray. There is more comedy and more good ole pathos in David Mamet‘s “Duck Variations.”

I was amused by Morrie and not so taken or put off by Mitch, but soon afters I felt letdown.

There was one exchange in which Morrie asks Mitch, his former student now a Detroit sports writer, “What have you got against touchy-feely?”
Mitch answers “It’s fine by me except for the touching part [pause] and the feeling part.”

Morrie says something about God later. Mitch: “I thought you were an agnostic?” Morrie – “I was but now I’m not so
sure” that kind of thing. I laughed at the time but only once and only quickly.

But “Wit,” that play haunted me for months.

Note: The Daily Tar Heel reviewer agrees with me (on his own terms of course).

Further note: Morrie loves to quote Auden out of context and incorrectly as “We must love each other or die.” I too love the line but realize some of its complications. The line. “We must love one another or die” comes from “September 1, 1939”. Auden first changed the line to read “We must love one another and die.” Next he dropped the stanza containing the line. Then completely frustrated he dropped the poem from his Collected saying “We die anyway.” The poem was restored to Auden’s collected work only after his death. I love the line in the original and in the poem, but I also love the complexity with which I must read it. How right was Auden at each stage of revision? How true the poem at each point in his life? In my life? And the context of the poem, the beginning for World War II

Paul Muldoon in NYTimes Mag

Great little article on Paul Muldoon in today’s NYTimes Magazine. A bit too much on his garage band project,Rackett, and not nearly enough room to show how creative and expansive his poetry projects are — deceptively so in a very good way. Also we learn that Helen Vendler now says that Paul has an emotional center. Thanks Helen. He had one all along just not one worn on his sleeve.

Also an okay video of Muldoon reading in a studio. The poem “The Sightseers”

Poems at the end of The End

it is sad to say, almost so sad that i can barely type this, that a novel– a novel that you should not read if you are at all sensitive, a novel that ends a heartbreaking series of 13 novels, a series of unfortunate events–ends with two poems or nearly ends there as there are no true endings in the world as the narrator points out to the point of pain. you will know these poems because the are about heartbreak and because they are spoken at a desperate point in the lives of two characters–their unfortunate ends, although there are also beginnings, but not for them. these two poems are not credited directly, but i can tell you that the authors are called “associates” of those in VFD which if you have had the unpleasant experiencing the novels you will know far too much about but also not enough.

one poem is by the famous poet Francis William Bourdillon. his poem is not sung by bobby vee, a singer that once fired bobby zimmerman a poser according to vee who often claimed to be booy vee himself but later became known as bobby d taking on the name of a poet who met an unfortunate end. the poem is not the script for a 1948 movie starring Edward G. Robinson. it is a sad thing of its own from the late 1800s. it is short as
life would have it. and it is sad but true.

The other poem is sadder and truer still. it pains me to even mention it. in fact the speaker, a bit of continuous and sad evil claiming to be misunderstood, only mutters and sputters the last verse–this series being for children or at least the child-like. there are reasons not to say the first two verses that have to to with the sensitivity of our children toward language. the title of the poem is not mentioned, but you who know poetry know that the poet took his title from Robert Louis Stevenson’s own Requiem. this title and this poem are, young hipster postmodernists, what literary irony is all about–not the silly songs of certain talented but transient waifs who would title their unironic collections, ironic. i could write more but i am overcome with sadness.

let other poets and literati point you more directly to the poems in question or refer to pages 317 and 318 of The End or call your library reference desk.

Paul Muldoon – October 9 at UNC

Muldoon as Rocker
Paul Muldoon is a wonderful and witty writer. One of the best and most unique to come from Ireland in a long time. He can be deep complex historical and completely wacky all within the same poem. More Joyceian than Yeatsian in many ways. I was lucky enough to be one of the Wake Forest Press readers for some of his early books and it’s been a delight to see his work mature.

You will not be disappointed.

When: 6 pm Oct 9
Where: Pleasant’s Family Room, Wilson Library

Official announcement with misspelling in tact:

Please join us for the opening of a special exhibit at UNC’s Rare Book Collection in Wilson Library: “Nobel Times Four: Yates, Shaw, Beckett, and Heaney.” Pulitzer Prize-Winning poet Paul Muldoon will read from and sign copies of his works at the opening:
October 9, 6PM
Pleasants Family Assembly Room, Wilson Library

The exhibit will run from Oct 9-Dec 31, 2006–but you will really enjoy hearing Paul Muldoon, so try to make the opening! Please invite your friends, students and colleagues as well. (a printable flyer is attached,
and more information is available at:

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