The Art of Attention by Donald Revell
Sure, it gets a little weird when he starts psychoanalyzing his own poems book by book about half-way through. But mostly, this is a glorious meditation on what it means to pay attention to the world around. In these pages, I glimpsed reminders of how, both as poet and person, I should send my eyes through the galaxy. Here are some quotes I carry with me:
"Poems are entities undisfigured by intent and upheld by perfect attendance." (p. 20)
"Aggression is always predicated on fantasy; it is the imagination's preemptive strike upon sovereign facts whose reality it refuses to concede, much less to worship." (p. 29)
"As a subject, the red wheelbarrow only goes so far. But as an object, an object of attention, it is inexhaustible." (p. 34)
Set the Garden on Fire by Chen Chen
My friend Michael, whose first poetry readings have been this year's Everything is Bigger events, bought his first collection of poems a few months ago at an EIB, and this was it (and he loved it!). That's what I love most about Chen Chen's work--experienced reader of poetry or not can find beauty and resonance in these heart-touching, attentive poems. Don't believe me? Don't trust Michael? Check this one out over at Maps for Teeth.
Nostalgia for the Criminal Past by Kathleen Winter
One time I was following Kathleen Winter through the Austin Hill Country woods, and we came upon a clearing with several scattered pieces of feral longhorn bones. Earlier, she had shown me a stream so clear I drank out of it. By the end, I was so exhausted, but also enthralled / inspired / relieved, that we sat and yapped our heads off and drank beer on a porch that belonged to neither of us. This is how I feel reading these daring and delightful poems. Go on an adventure with these three ditties at Slope.
Consolation and Mirth by Ish Klein
This was literally the first book I read in 2016. It sat on my shelf for several months, guaranteed to be a goodie (what from Canarium Books isn't?), but just never quite making the plunge into my hands for the reading time shuffle. With break winding down and the new year clicked over, something just felt right, and right it was. I love when every poem in a book feels remarkably different, a less chill person might exclaim THESE DON'T BELONG TOGETHER. But from little impossible riddles to long ALL CAPS bursts, these poems delight in their sense of trying anything, vying with the impossible and re-imagining the possible. Scroll down to the bottom for the book's opening poem!
Lost John LIVE ep
I know, I know, I freaking know--Lost John is basically on this list every month. But goodness gracious, these Arkansas miracles keep cranking out the good work. Here's a little four song live collection, featuring three full-band do-overs from their most recent albums and a new scratchy number "Howdydoo." Good tunes are good tunes, ya know.
Dave Rawlings Machine Live
One of those delayed presents, from me to Diana for Christmas, and mid-January came so she could cash it in. But heck, it was really a present for myself, just as much. I cried a couple times. I slapped my knee a couple times. I stomped my feet a whole bunch. Even the little kids with their mom beside me were having a ball. Whether they're playing epic DRM songs, Gillian Welch hits, Willie Watson folk ditties, or their rendition of "This Land Is Your Land," this collection of top notch musicians does it with class, precision, and beauty. What acts have made you cry live?
Drea Brown Reading
It's a lucky town that gets to have someone like Drea Brown in it. This particular month, it was getting to hear her reading from her Phyllis Wheatley-channeling chapbook, dear girl: a reckoning. There was a real vibration in that room that night. And there's a real pulse in Drea's poems. Once I can give the chap its due attention, it'll get scrawled in these stoked pages, no doubt.
DeRay Mckesson on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert
DeRay's blue vest has become a symbol for both him and his good work with Black Lives Matter. It was amazing to see him in that vest on national television, and I about fell off this comfy couch when he took the vest behind Colbert's desk. I believe it's no person of color's duty to teach white people about racism, privilege, and how to aid in fixing these problems, but when someone like DeRay Mckesson comes along and is so willing and able to do the good work, then bless him.
Issue 16 of NOÖ Journal
As usual, NOÖ Journal brings us a mind-blowing list of diverse and explosive talent. Sean Lovelace! Chelsea Hogue! Alexis Pope! Morgan Parker! Jared Joseph! Feng Sun Chen! Matt Hart!
"Poetry is the language of intensity. Because we are going to die, an expression of intensity is justified." - C.D. Wright
Like much of the poetry world, the news of C.D. Wright's passing hit me with weeping and then sent me back into the mounds of her good work. Rereading Deepstep Come Shining, I was reminded just how special she was. Her innovation of the poetry book as a form. Her relationship to her rural upbringing and the balance of that with her intellectual life. Her shear intensity. C.D. Wright has been, is, and will continue to be one of the mightiest inspirations for me.
This new play by one of my favorite young Austin artists, Adrienne Dawes, doesn't hold anything back. It's mind-bogglingly absurd and creepily familiar. Everyone I know that has seen this show has been blown away by the sheer energy of this post-apocalyptic tale of a polygamist compound run by an immature goofball named "The Penis." Complete with full frontal (male) nudity and plenty of dick jokes.
Shaqtin' A Fool
OH SHAQTIN A FOOL HOW DID I NOT DISCOVER YOU EARLIER. Watching each week's episode of this show is now a regular event in this house. There's nothing I love more than watching insanely talented people (athletes, artists, construction workers, parallel parkers, whatever) do their good work. But there's joy too in watching them goof up (when the repercussions are low). Lolz at how much JaVale McGee shows up in these clips.
Ralph White Live
When I moved to Austin, I did that overly-enthusiastic goofball move of pouring through the internet for Austin heroes to check out. One of the first bands from that search I found was Ralph White's Bad Livers; after listening to his solo tunes, I knew I had found my guy. What a strange, enchanting fella. Saw him play last month as part of his Beerland Saturday night residency, featuring a rotating cast of characters; this particular night's act featured Ralph backed by a bongo player, a dude playing a jazz bass as a stand-up bass, and someone playing a homemade slide guitar with an electric drill. Ralph White is other worldly, and he creates that world himself.
The Improvement of Myles Turner
I was not too thrilled when my Pacers snagged this one-and-done Longhorn; very skinny and very unpolished, he certainly seemed to be a player in need of long-term development, and gosh, I wanna win now. 2016 has been kind to this young fella, and I'm starting to think he'll be a solid, full-time starter by year two. He's notched a 31 point game and seems to be getting more aggressive (and comfortable) on both ends of the floor. My bad.
Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards by Tom Waits
Tom Waits never did much for me. But the other day I was doing some dishes and Diana flipped on this hulk of a collection and dang, I think I finally get it. I can almost taste the grit of these tunes in my mouth. I like Waits most when he makes little sense and lots of noise (maybe that's just my preference for everything in general). What other Waits albums should I check out?