A Birthday Candle
Thirty today, I sawThe trees flare briefly likeThe candles on a cake,As the sun went down the sky,A momentary flash,Yet there was time to wish.
Happy Birthday, Donald Justice.

A Birthday Candle

Thirty today, I saw
The trees flare briefly like
The candles on a cake,
As the sun went down the sky,
A momentary flash,
Yet there was time to wish.

Happy Birthday, Donald Justice.


New York 
Pablo Neruda reading at the 92 Street Y. 

New York 

Pablo Neruda reading at the 92 Street Y. 


New York
The little black dress of poetry turns 50. 
If not now, when. If now you, who. 

New York

The little black dress of poetry turns 50

If not now, when. If now you, who. 


Portland + Los Angeles
The American poet Norman Dubie says that what gives poetry so much freedom is that no one gets rich off writing it. Passion, and expressive language, drive poems into the world. 
Poetry is unique among artforms because it uses as its medium the building blocks of all communication, and, more or less, the building blocks of thought: language. Poetry uses language to communicate something that is beyond language, which is weird and causes things to be at once both what they are and so very much more than they are. 
At its most minimal, language speaks to us on two levels: it communicates raw info and it communicates contextual feelings and directions about that info. In the 1960s and ’70s, Aram Saroyan was mining this linguistic landscape to much notoriety — and infamy. His poem, “lighght,” exploded the idea of what a poem even is. 
And as the tattoo here illuminates, it’s still exploding ideas right down to the skin. This left hand belongs to another poet, Zachary Schomburg, who writes notes on his hands when he’s not collaborating and touring with musicians and filmmakers and making the sincerest surrealist books since sliced pages.

Portland Los Angeles

The American poet Norman Dubie says that what gives poetry so much freedom is that no one gets rich off writing it. Passion, and expressive language, drive poems into the world. 

Poetry is unique among artforms because it uses as its medium the building blocks of all communication, and, more or less, the building blocks of thought: language. Poetry uses language to communicate something that is beyond language, which is weird and causes things to be at once both what they are and so very much more than they are. 

At its most minimal, language speaks to us on two levels: it communicates raw info and it communicates contextual feelings and directions about that info. In the 1960s and ’70s, Aram Saroyan was mining this linguistic landscape to much notoriety — and infamy. His poem, “lighght,” exploded the idea of what a poem even is. 

And as the tattoo here illuminates, it’s still exploding ideas right down to the skin. This left hand belongs to another poet, Zachary Schomburg, who writes notes on his hands when he’s not collaborating and touring with musicians and filmmakers and making the sincerest surrealist books since sliced pages.


Huntington, Long Island, New York
"We were together. I forget the rest." 
Poppa Whitman, you were the great things of these United States from before they were united. Thanks for being a voice and an example to those of us making our own way. Are you my angel?

Huntington, Long Island, New York

"We were together. I forget the rest."

Poppa Whitman, you were the great things of these United States from before they were united. Thanks for being a voice and an example to those of us making our own way. Are you my angel?


Life loves the liver of it. —Maya Angelou 

Life loves the liver of it. —Maya Angelou 


New York City, 1966

Frank O’Hara, “Having a Coke with You.” 


Portland, ORINTERVIEW: DANNIEL SCHOONEBEEK
Danniel Schoonebeek’s poems take back roads and veins to an American place filled with secrets in your ear. Where the barn behind you is lit with the most eerie Gregory Crewdson-like light.  
Last Saturday Ace New York hosted Bound by Chance. Danniel wasn’t there, but his words were. People used them to make stories and bound those stories into pamphlets. Tonight, Danniel reads from his book in Portland at Crema Coffee + Bakery before he sails back home to Brooklyn. It’s going to be an after hours poetry party. 
You recently completed a poetry tour in support of your first book, American Barricade (YesYes Books). Independent musicians tour all the time to support themselves. What was the experience like as a poet?
When I was seventeen I left high school and toured in a van with four other guys. We were a band, I was the drummer, and we toured the country for a few months, living in the van with our instruments. What’s startling to me is that I did this again ten years later. This time I was alone, I was reading my poems and not hitting a snare, and I took the trains across America instead of riding in a van. The tours were alike in that they were both these depleting, chaotic bursts in which you learn more about yourself than you knew was possible. You aren’t working hard enough are the words I came away with when I was seventeen. Our last date on that tour was at CBGB’s, and there was this holy feeling like we’d arrived. But nobody gave a shit about our songs, not the bands, not the people. I think that experience taught me that you have to demand to be heard, like a list of demands is heard in a hostage situation, and that list of demands is work. 
The tour I just finished leaves me to this day with jubilee. In some ways it was like playing a chess match against my own life. I’d just been kicked out of my apartment, I’d just been laid off, the love life was in the gutter. I booked the tour myself, no agents, no help from my publisher. I needed to see if a poet could do it alone. Friends came out to read and see me off, let me sleep on their floors. Strangers opened their doors to me, handed me their keys, helped me hunt down venues. These people are part of my life now, and they handed me small tokens along the way, tchotchkes and mementos, a little scratch some nights. The trains are their own crash course in how much American disgust you can tolerate within yourself. If you don’t have the constitution within yourself to wash your hair in the sink on a moving train, or deal with drunks, or fall asleep hungry on a dinner of tic-tacs, don’t get on the trains. But there was something unbelievable about waking up on the train, feeling like shit, drinking a styrofoam cup of coffee, and watching the landscape of America peel away outside while you’re surrounded by all these families and drifters and bulleting your way to a poetry reading in a different city each night. It was like not being a citizen anymore. 
I’m finishing a book about this last tour and that’ll come out soon. I’m working with two editors who are challenging the work and pushing it in directions I’m thrilled about. I can’t say who yet, but it’s coming. It’s called C’est La Guerre. 
[[MORE]]

The poems you write have a lovely ability to at once feel very intimate—even small—while also having ragged edges that touch on archetypes that deal with American culture and values. What’s your creative process when you sit down to write? Do you have an agenda? A guiding principal?
I try to always keep myself unsettled. I hate flying, so I work on poems while I’m a mess in the sky. Or sometimes I’ll wear nothing but a blanket and wake up in winter and write in the kitchen. I always write poems if I have a nasty fever, or I like to cast out lines aloud if I’m standing, never longhand if I’m sitting. I write a lot in bed, the classic pose, we all do. I would like to write a poem while hanging upside down from the lintels of a doorway. So my process is to always throw a wrench in my process. I’m opposed to regimens, culturally and artistically, because they fail to do justice to the changing face of what composes them. American ways of life, as our culture defines them, always fail the people who are actually living their lives in America, never nuanced enough and always leaving someone locked outside. In the same way, I think having any guiding principal about poetry is a failure to language, how nuanced language is and how fast it changes and disrupts us. I try to always undermine myself, disrupt myself, refuse myself. The terrifying part for me is that undermining yourself, disrupting yourself, refusing yourself—these are also regimens that need to be undermined, disrupted, and refused.

Portland, OR

INTERVIEW: DANNIEL SCHOONEBEEK

Danniel Schoonebeek’s poems take back roads and veins to an American place filled with secrets in your ear. Where the barn behind you is lit with the most eerie Gregory Crewdson-like light.  

Last Saturday Ace New York hosted Bound by Chance. Danniel wasn’t there, but his words were. People used them to make stories and bound those stories into pamphlets. Tonight, Danniel reads from his book in Portland at Crema Coffee + Bakery before he sails back home to Brooklyn. It’s going to be an after hours poetry party. 

You recently completed a poetry tour in support of your first book, American Barricade (YesYes Books). Independent musicians tour all the time to support themselves. What was the experience like as a poet?

When I was seventeen I left high school and toured in a van with four other guys. We were a band, I was the drummer, and we toured the country for a few months, living in the van with our instruments. What’s startling to me is that I did this again ten years later. This time I was alone, I was reading my poems and not hitting a snare, and I took the trains across America instead of riding in a van. The tours were alike in that they were both these depleting, chaotic bursts in which you learn more about yourself than you knew was possible. You aren’t working hard enough are the words I came away with when I was seventeen. Our last date on that tour was at CBGB’s, and there was this holy feeling like we’d arrived. But nobody gave a shit about our songs, not the bands, not the people. I think that experience taught me that you have to demand to be heard, like a list of demands is heard in a hostage situation, and that list of demands is work. 

The tour I just finished leaves me to this day with jubilee. In some ways it was like playing a chess match against my own life. I’d just been kicked out of my apartment, I’d just been laid off, the love life was in the gutter. I booked the tour myself, no agents, no help from my publisher. I needed to see if a poet could do it alone. Friends came out to read and see me off, let me sleep on their floors. Strangers opened their doors to me, handed me their keys, helped me hunt down venues. These people are part of my life now, and they handed me small tokens along the way, tchotchkes and mementos, a little scratch some nights. The trains are their own crash course in how much American disgust you can tolerate within yourself. If you don’t have the constitution within yourself to wash your hair in the sink on a moving train, or deal with drunks, or fall asleep hungry on a dinner of tic-tacs, don’t get on the trains. But there was something unbelievable about waking up on the train, feeling like shit, drinking a styrofoam cup of coffee, and watching the landscape of America peel away outside while you’re surrounded by all these families and drifters and bulleting your way to a poetry reading in a different city each night. It was like not being a citizen anymore. 

I’m finishing a book about this last tour and that’ll come out soon. I’m working with two editors who are challenging the work and pushing it in directions I’m thrilled about. I can’t say who yet, but it’s coming. It’s called C’est La Guerre

Read More


Somewhere
a black bear
has just risen from sleep
and is staring

down the mountain.
All night
in the brisk and shallow restlessness
of early spring

I think of her,
her four black fists
flicking the gravel,
her tongue

like a red fire
touching the grass,
the cold water.
There is only one question:

how to love this world.
I think of her
rising
like a black and leafy ledge

to sharpen her claws against
the silence
of the trees.
Whatever else

my life is
with its poems
and its music
and its glass cities,

it is also this dazzling darkness
coming
down the mountain,
breathing and tasting;

all day I think of her–
her white teeth,
her wordlessness,
her perfect love.

Spring
by Mary Oliver


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