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My poetry book Glued To The Sky is now also an audiobook. Glued To The Sky includes both narrative and lyric poems concerning group identity and gender issues in a wide variety of forms. Glued To The Sky was published by PulpBits in 2003. Sadly, PulpBits went out of business in 2007. An ebook version of Glued To The Sky in the pdf format can be downloaded at davidfcooper.com
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My two part review begins with the poet's bio and backstory in New York Journal of Books and continues with a discussion of his poems in examiner:

"Anglophone readers (especially those who also read Hebrew) will find both this handsome book’s bilingual presentation of Ruebner’s selected poems, and his heart wrenching backstory described by translator Rachel Tzvia Back in her informative introduction and endnotes, compelling reading."

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“As moving as are each of these expressions of grief the cumulative effect of Falling Out of Time‘s nearly 200 pages is even more powerful. It certainly conveys bereaved parents’ pain to readers who have not suffered that loss and may help some mourning parents work through their grief, though others may feel it reopens emotional wounds.” -- from my New York Journal of Books review of David Grossman's new multi-genre book.

Also see my examiner article.

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On 11/22/63 I was a 4th grader in PS 110 in Manhattan. That afternoon our lesson was interrupted by a radio broadcast over the PA system describing the shooting and eventually President Kennedy's death. Only then did the principal or asst. principal announce early dismissal. On the door of my bedroom I had a poster of the presidents and added "-1963" under the picture of President Kennedy. Three decades later I wrote JFK: Lines of Fire, a Verse Docu-drama

JFK: Lines of Fire is a sequence of dramatic documentary vignettes culled from the literature concerning the assassination of President Kennedy. . Many of these found poems are dramatic monologues in the voices of people who had information about the assassination and either failed to prevent it or lacked a context to understand such information until it was too late. These accounts share certain emotional undercurrents, the need to act balanced by a sense of resignation, the shock of recognition balanced by a callous bravado. Whether or not Oswald acted alone or was nuts, there was (is) a wider insane acceptance of violence that (through these dramatic voices) provides an emotional context to this event. In this sense the real subject of this book is our American vernacular and the ways these themes are expressed in our speech. JFK: Lines of Fire was first published by PulpBits in 2003; PulpBits went out of business in March 2007, and I am happy to make it available here.

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In my New York Journal of Books review I describe The Gorgeous Nothings as “. . . one gorgeous book . . . like attending a museum exhibition in the comfort of one’s own home.” For a comparison between Ms. Dickinson's draft of a poem and the posthumously published version see my examiner article.

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Why We Are Truly a Nation

Because we rage inside
the old boundaries,
like a young girl leaving the Church,  
scared of her parents.

Because we all dream of saving  
the shaggy, dung-caked buffalo,  
shielding the herd with our bodies.

Because grief unites us,
like the locked antlers of moose  
who die on their knees in pairs.

William Matthews, “Why We Are Truly a Nation” from Selected Poems and Translations, 1969-1991. Copyright © 1992 by William Matthews. Reprinted with the permission of Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved,

Why We Are Truly a Nation by William Matthews : The Poetry Foundation
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via examiner.com:

Next month will mark the 40th anniversary of the publication of Cruelty, the first of eightbooks of poetry by the poet whose pen name and legal middle name was Ai and the third anniversary of her death from breast cancer at age 62. Today W.W. Norton is publishing all eight of her poetry books in one volume as The Collected Poems of Ai. In my review of the book in New York Journal of Books I note that at a time when most American poetry was autobiographical Ai wrote dramatic monologues in other people's voices.

The Collected Poems of Ai book cover
New York Journal of Books

In his introduction to the book poet Yusef Komunyakaacompares Ai's dramatic approach to that of a method actor. Another analogy for the way Ai inhabited other people's voices and roles would be the one woman shows of Anna Deavere Smith.

Ai's poems are not to everyone's taste. If you prefer the Rolling Stones to the Beatles, Howling Wolf to Muddy Waters, the gritty realism (including graphic violence and strong sexual content) of HBO's Sunday night original series to PBS' British dramas you'll probably enjoy Ai's poetry; if not, stay with safer, tamer, less edgy poets. But even if you're fond of her poems you'll probably want to pace yourself at just a few at a time because of their frequent and brutal violence.

Ai is drawn to the shocking and perverse. She quotes the Rolling Stone's song "Gimme Shelter" in her poem"The Mortician's Twelve-Year-Old Son," a poem whose depiction of necrophilia one could imagine dramatized on HBO. In my NYJB review I quote "The Kid" as an example of graphic violence in Ai's work. In "Knockout" Mike Tyson’s rape of Desiree Washington is discussed by an inner city sex worker who has no empathy for Ms. Washington. In “Why Can’t I Leave You?” Ai addresses marriage and sexuality in the context of rural poverty from the wife's perspective.

Quite a few of Ai's poems are in the voices of villains. She lets the bad guy tell his side of the story and in so doing he incriminates himself. "The Good Shepherd: Atlanta, 1981" is in the voice of a serial killer (see video). In "Kristallnacht," a four part six and a half page poem, the speaker is a half French half German former Nazi collaborator. The poem's final couplet is haunting: "Pretend I died for nothing/instead of living for it."

In “Life Story,” another six and a half page poem, the speaker is a Roman Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse, and in “Family Portrait, 1960” the speaker is the poet’s step-father whom her bed-ridden mother asks to supervise eleven year old Florence and her seven year old half sister Roslynn as they shower instructing them to “scrub your little pussies.”

History is a recurring theme in Ai's work with poems in the voices of Leon Trotsky, J. Robert Oppenheim, Senator Joseph McCarthy, Jimmy Hoffa, J. Edgar Hoover, Fidel Castro, Presidents Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Clinton and George W. Bush, among others as well as lesser known figures. Ezra Pound defined an epic as a "poem including history." The Collected Poems of Ai is an everyman and woman's The Cantos for the late Twentieth and early Twenty-first Centuries.

Also see my NYJB review:

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“Why can’t I be an empty house falling into decay, unaware of myself? Why can’t I be the sky empty or the river flowing into the sea senselessly or an empty plate or knife or fork, whatever is but does not feel itself? If I were the grass that covers the graves I could forget being human. I want it taken away. The sun is sparkling on the waters. Why should I not be the sparkle rather than the eyes that show me the difference in myself. Shine upon me, sun, so that I become lit up like a sunbeam.”—David Ignatow, “Why Can’t I Be…”Art Credit Ellie Ga, Fissure 5: 83N, 2E, 2008–11, Digital C-print.

“Why can’t I be an empty house falling into decay, unaware of myself? Why can’t I be the sky empty or the river flowing into the sea senselessly or an empty plate or knife or fork, whatever is but does not feel itself? If I were the grass that covers the graves I could forget being human. I want it taken away. The sun is sparkling on the waters. Why should I not be the sparkle rather than the eyes that show me the difference in myself. Shine upon me, sun, so that I become lit up like a sunbeam.”

David Ignatow, “Why Can’t I Be…”
Art Credit Ellie Ga, Fissure 5: 83N, 2E, 2008–11, Digital C-print.

3:04 pm  •  9 January 2013  •  127 notes

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I dreamed I called you on the telephone 
to say: Be kinder to yourself 
but you were sick and would not answer

The waste of my love goes on this way
trying to save you from yourself

I have always wondered about the left-over
energy, the way water goes rushing down a hill
long after the rains have stopped

or the fire you want to go to bed from
but cannot leave, burning-down but not burnt-down
the red coals more extreme, more curious
in their flashing and dying
than you wish they were
sitting long after midnight

An apposite poem at the time of her passing via bryantmcgill.com

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In my New York Journal of Books review I compare Jonathan Galassi's new book Left-Handed: Poems to the movie Beginners and recommend it "to all poetry lovers and to all readers who find they must radically change their lives in order to live more authentically." via examiner.com

"Left-Handed: Poems" book cover
New York Journal of Books

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2011 Jewish fiction and poetry books (a list of Jewish fiction and poetry books I reviewed in the past year).

Egon Schiele’s striking 1912 self-portrait is the cover image for Seven Days in Rio by Francis Levy.
New York Journal of Books

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“Vultures” by Chinua Achebe

In the greyness
and drizzle of one despondent
dawn unstirred by harbingers
of sunbreak a vulture
perching high on broken
bones of a dead tree
nestled close to his
mate his smooth
bashed-in head, a pebble
on a stem rooted in
a dump of gross
feathers, inclined affectionately
to hers. Yesterday they picked
the eyes of a swollen
corpse in a water-logged
trench and ate the
things in its bowel. Full
gorged they chose their roost
keeping the hollowed remnant
in easy range of cold
telescopic eyes...

indeed how love in other
ways so particular
will pick a corner
in that charnel-house
tidy it and coil up there, perhaps
even fall asleep - her face
turned to the wall!

...Thus the Commandant at Belsen
Camp going home for
the day with fumes of
human roast clinging
rebelliously to his hairy
nostrils will stop
at the wayside sweet-shop
and pick up a chocolate
for his tender offspring
waiting at home for Daddy's

Praise bounteous
providence if you will
that grants even an ogre
a tiny glow-worm
tenderness encapsulated
in icy caverns of a cruel
heart or else despair
for in the very germ
of that kindred love is
lodged the perpetuity
of evil.

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At the time of her death in 2005, Dahlia Ravikovitch was Israel's second best loved poet after Yehuda Amichai. She was also a committed peace activist, yet her readers included Israelis from all points on the political spectrum.

photo of Israeli poet Dahlia Ravikovitch
photo of Israeli poet Dahlia Ravikovitch
Dan Porges

Hovering at a Low Altitude: The Collected Poetry of Dahlia Ravikovitch book cover

Two years ago a new translation of her complete poetry was published by New York publisher W.W. Norton, and last week a paperback edition of Hovering at a Low Altitude: The Complete Poetry of Dahlia Ravikovitch was released (perfect for poetry loving commuters). In my New York Journal of Books review of the book I describe Ms. Ravikovitch's work as "sophisticated, intelligent, conscientious, and empathic," and Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld's translations as "strong and moving English poems in their own right."

My review includes biographical background with references to her feminism, her political activism, her secularism, her mental health issues, and excerpts from her poems (had space allowed I would have included more). Here is her poem "The Dress":

The Dress

for Yitzhak Livni

You know, she said, they made you a dress of fire.
Remember how Jason's wife burned in her dress?
It was Medea, she said, Medea did that to her.
You've got to be careful, she said,
they made you a dress that glows like an ember,
that burns like coals of fire.

Are you going to wear it, she said, don't wear it.
It's not the wind whistling, it's the poison seething.
You're not even a princess, what can you do to Medea?
Can't you tell one sound from another, she said,
it's not the wind whistling.

Remember, I told her, that time when I was six?
They shampooed my hair and I went out into the street.
The scent of shampoo trailed after me like a cloud.
Then the wind and the rain made me ill.
I didn't know yet how to read Greek tragedies,
but that fragrance filled the air and I was very ill.
Now I can tell that perfume was unnatural.

What will become of you, she said, they made you a burning dress.
They made me a burning dress, I said. I know.
So why are you standing there, she said, you ought to beware.
Don't you know what that means, a burning dress?

I know, I said, but not to beware.
The scent of that perfume confuses me.
I said to her: No one has to agree with me,
I don't put my trust in Greek tragedy.

But the dress, she said, the dress is on fire.
What are you saying, I shouted, what are you saying?
I'm not wearing a dress at all, can't you see
what's burning is me.

For more info: David Cooper

via the late examiner.com

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Read the poem on kaffeinkatmandu.tumblr.com

Fraction Factions, a poem I wrote two years ago that was just published on kaffe in katmandu, an arts/literature blog. Were I writing this poem now I would substitute the word "climaxing" for "ejaculating" since men without prostate glands do not ejaculate. When I fully recover from my prostate surgery I hope to still be a 40%er.


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"...I walk through the tall grass of Russian syllables, where colons and commas are abundant in June, and syntax is vague on ladybugs' wings..."


Poems by Russian-American poet Irina Mashinski on stosvet.net


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When Canadian poet and novelist Leonard Cohen decided to become a singer/songwriter four and a half decades ago he moved to New York City to launch his new career. New York is mentioned in his songs "Chelsea Hotel" and "Famous Blue Raincoat." And today a New York publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, is publishing a selection of Cohen's poems and songs in its Everyman's Library Pocket Poets series, a series that includes some of the best loved English language poets. In my New York Journal of Books review of Leonard Cohen Poems and Songs I describe the small handsomely made volume as a likely gift book.

Cohen is an alumnus of Herzliah High School in Montreal. Jewish themes are found throughout his work in such songs as "Story of Isaac" and "Who by Fire" which is based on the Unetaneh Tokef high holiday prayer. He observes the Sabbath while on tour. Seeing his work on the page finds that Cohen spells the word God with a hyphen following Orthodox Jewish practice. He also spent five years living in a Zen Buddhist monastery, but he sees no contradiction with his Judaism. "Well, for one thing, in the tradition of Zen that I've practiced, there is no prayerful worship and there is no affirmation of a deity. So theologically there is no challenge to any Jewish belief." (Source: 2009 NY Times article)

Leonard Cohen in 1988.
Leonard Cohen in 1988.

Leonard Cohen Poems and Songs book cover

Montreal's ubiquitous Catholicism has also influenced Cohen as he describes in his prose poem, "Montreal":

We who belong to this city have never left The Church. The Jews are in The Church as they are in the snow. . . . The Church has used the winter to break us and now that we are broken we are going to pull down your pride. The pride of Canada and the pride of Quebec, the pride of the left and the pride of the right, the pride of muscle and the pride of heart, the insane pride of your particular vision will swell and explode because you have all dared to think of killing people.

Leonard Cohen Poems and Songs includes some of the psalm like prose poems from his 1984 Book of Mercy. In my New York Journal of Books review I quote "All My Life":

All my life is broken unto you, and all my glory soiled unto you. Do not let the spark of my soul go out in the even sadness. Let me raise the brokenness to you, to the world where the breaking is for love. Do not let the words be mine, but change them into truth. With these lips instruct my heart, and let fall into the world what is broken in the world. Lift me up to the wrestling of faith. Do not leave me where the sparks go out, and the jokes are told in the dark, and the new things are called forth and appraised in the scale of the terror. Face me to the rays of love, O source of light, or face me to the majesty of your darkness, but not here, do not leave me here, where death is forgotten, and the new thing grins.

Starting today Leonard Cohen Poems and Songs is available at book stores and on-line book vendors.

For more info: David Cooper

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April 03, 2011

Paul Violi 1944-2011


We are sad to report that our beloved friend Paul Violi died yesterday after months of contending with pancreatic cancer. Paul -- a prince of a friend, a generous teacher, an inspiring poet -- was perhaps the most consistently inventive poet of a singularly talented generation upon whom the legacy of Ashbery, Koch, and O'Hara rested not as a burden but an as impetus toward poetic originality and freshness of vision and language. For nearly ten years Paul taught a poetry writing workshop in the graduate writing program at the New School. It was a great experience for students and teacher alike. I will write more about my friend in the weeks to come. But first the news must sink in.
-- David Lehman

Appeal to the Grammarians
by Paul Violi

We, the naturally hopeful,
Need a simple sign
For the myriad ways we're capsized.
We who love precise language
Need a finer way to convey
Disappointment and perplexity.
For speechlessness and all its inflections,
For up-ended expectations,
For every time we're ambushed
By trivial or stupefying irony,
For pure incredulity, we need
The inverted exclamation point.
For the dropped smile, the limp handshake,
For whoever has just unwrapped a dumb gift
Or taken the first sip of a flat beer,
Or felt love or pond ice
Give way underfoot, we deserve it.
We need it for the air pocket, the scratch shot,
The child whose ball doesn't bounce back,
The flat tire at journey's outset,
The odyssey that ends up in Weehawken.
But mainly because I need it—here and now
As I sit outside the Caffe Reggio
Staring at my espresso and cannoli
After this middle-aged couple
Came strolling by and he suddenly
Veered and sneezed all over my table
And she said to him, "See, that's why
I don't like to eat outside."


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My review concludes with an expression of gratitude to author Jennifer Grotz for sharing her inner life and its conflicts via her mind’s eye and poet’s ear in The Needle.


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