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So excited to share what is one of my very favorite episodes of AEWCH with you, discussing poetry, the esoteric, the strange, and the occult with poet D.A. Powell (AKA Doug)!
Doug is the author of multiple books of poetry, and is best know for his Repast trilogy, including the books Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails, which have all be described as potent AIDS-era poetry. But what makes Doug such a profound thinker and poet (aside from his incredible poetry, of course!), is that he refuses to have his poems reduced to political polemic, even as they evince politics. Instead, Doug's poems and Doug himself insist on the myriad of meanings each poem presents, and in that way, transmutes poetry into an alchemical act.
In addition to talking, Doug reads many of his poems, starting with the excellent "The Kiwi Comes To Gridley, CA" which is in his (also excellent) collection, Useless Landscape: A Guide For Boys. He also reads "Why We Have No Future," "Mass For Pentecost: Canitcle for Birds & Waters", "[strange flower in my hands. porphory shell. clipped wool.]", "Don't Touch My Junk", and "Slut".
We talk about
- how poetry can't be reduced to its contents or our current political situation
- why plants are tops (really!)
- those plaintive sighs at poetry readings
- how the political overtakes and consumes all other meanings
- loving and hating what you write
- why poetry is not metaphor
- how poems destroy the focus on a single point and expand the cosmos
- how poems are related to the Holy Ghost and the angels
- the problem with the lack in psychoanalysis
- how to hex people and cure people with words
- what rhymes are
- The secret poetry of the 1960s Batman and Robin TV series
- Christ's foreskin (really!)
• For more Doug, get Tea, Lunch, and Cocktails, all included in the collection, Repast. He's also th author of the collection, Chronic, and co-"author" (with David Trinidad) of By Myself, which is a touching and hilarious autobiography collaged together from lines of other autobiographies. Here, also, is Doug's Poetry Foundation page, with links to more of his poems online!]
• Here's a short article on W.B. Yeats's mysticism and occult practices.
• Dear non-gay listeners, here's a little hanky code (AKA flagging) chart to get you up to speed.
• Anthropologist Michael Taussig is a dream guest fro AEWCH. I love his writing. And I'm looking forward to reading his latest, Palma Africana, which I'm sure won't disappoint.
• Below is my poem, "Animal Door", the only poem I've ever published. But I do write poetry all the time and plan on submitting more!
• If you'd like to read Doug's poem, "Why We Have No Future", here it is.
• Agha Shahid Ali was an incredible gay Kashmiri poet, and everyone should read his work. The best place to start, I think, is Rooms Are Never Finished.
• Here's Sylvia Plath's poem, "Morning Song".
• I couldn't find the poem by Margaret Danner that Doug referred to ("Three Lives"), but here's Danner's Poetry Foundation page with links to more of her work.
• Here's W.H. Auden's poem, "Musée des Beaux Arts", and below that, the Bruegel painting, "Landscape with the Fall of Icarus" to which it refers
Musée des Beaux Arts
About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer's horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel's Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water, and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
Had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.
• You can still get A Susan Sontag Reader!
• Want to read Doug's poem, "Mass for Pentecost: Canticle for Birds & Waters"? It's online here.
• I love Kate Bush (the other dream guest for the show!), and I love her song, "Ariel Tal".
• Judith Balso (pictured below) has written an incredible book on the ever-present-ness of poetry, called Affirmation of Poetry.
• One of my very favorite book of poems is Crush by Richard Siken. It's urgent, sexual, and frightening. Here's a poem in that collection, "Little Beast". Richard recently suffered a stroke, so please do support his GoFundMe. He definitely needs all the financial support he can get in his recovery.
• The other poetry episode of AEWCH is also a favorite of mine - Zachary Schomburg on AEWCH 40.
Until next time, friends