“Live” Poetry on the Web

The World Wide Word Radio Networks Presents
This Wednesday March 5 on
The Moe Green Poetry Hour
To listen to show click below
Listen live or later
Call in number (718) 508-97175 Pm Pacific time 8 PM eastern
Join Moe Green (AKA) Rafael F. J. Alvarado and
His cohost
Corrie Greathouse
as they listen to the poetry of

Larry Gavin
Philip Metres
Harvey Shapiro

Mr. Gavin is a poet, essayist and translator as well as a teacher. His book of poetry, Necessities, published in 2005 was nominated for a Pushcart prize. His second book Least Resistance was published in 2007 and is nominated for a Minnesota book award. His third book will appear in 2009 and is titled Stone and Sky. Mr. Gavin is editor of Tumbling Crane Magazine a postcard magazine that is devoted to publishing haiku. He’s also a senior editor of Midwest Fly Fishing Magazine.His environmental writing has appeared in Gray’s Sporting Journal, Gun Dog Magazine, Fly Rod and Reel, Sporting Tales, Minnesota Monthly, the Minneapolis Star Tribune and many other publications. His poetry has been published widely and is anthologized in Minnesota Seasons: Classic Tales of Life Outdoors, published by Cabin Bookshelf and in Farming Words an anthology of rural poetry.This year his short story “Even Better Than Love” was published in TOSCA: a magazine of opera, and his story “Just Above the Water Line” will appear in the spring issue of The Yale Angling Journal.
He’s a founding member of The Rivers Trust of Minnesota, an organization that purchases and preserves the headwaters of critical coldwater streams.

Mr. Gavin lives in Faribault, Minnesota.

Born in San Diego on July 4th, 1970, Philip Metres grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. He graduated from Holy Cross College in 1992, and spent the following year in Russia on a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, pursuing an independent project called “Contemporary Russian Poetry and Its Response to Historical Change.” After stints as a temp in sundry offices in Boston and Philadelphia, Metres went to Indiana University, where he received a Ph.D. in English and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, both in 2001. Since then, his writing has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Best American Poetry. He is the author of a number of books, including To See the Earth (Cleveland State 2008), Behind the Lines: War Resistance Poetry on the American Homefront since 1941 (University of Iowa Press, 2007), Instants (a chapbook, Ugly Duckling Presse, 2006), Primer for Non-Native Speakers (a chapbook, Kent State 2004), Catalogue of Comedic Novelties: Selected Poems of Lev Rubinstein (Ugly Duckling 2004). and A Kindred Orphanhood: Selected Poems of Sergey Gandlevsky (Zephyr 2003). He has received fellowships from Thomas J. Watson Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, Ledig House, and the Ohio Arts Council. Currently, he is an associate professor of English at John Carroll University, where he teaches American Literature and Creative Writing, and the proud papa of Adele and Leila. Information about his workshops is available here. He is a regular contributor to the radio show “WordPlay,” on WJCU 88.7 FM, Wednesdays at Noon.

Born in the Bronx and having grown up next door to New York City in Montclair, N.J., I feel an odd nostalgia hearing Harvey Shapiro’s poems. He makes me see my birthplace as he sees his home territory, with an added element of Old Testament reference, beautiful wording, expression and emotion. At 84, I have no desire to go back to New York — to the parks, museums, theaters, stores, eateries. Only in Shapiro’s poems am I pleased to look up at a bridge, a street sign, as if walking back into a dream and sitting down one day on a park bench. Particularly appealing is the odd, diarylike poem ”May 14, 1978”:

The poet Kenji Miyazawa asks me,
What world is it you want to enter?
Percussive rain on the early morning window.
The house, the steady breathing, focused now
on the lighted surface of my desk.
I cannot answer him for joy and dread.

For 40 years I have lived a continent away, and southern California has no existence for Harvey Shapiro, who works as an editor at The New York Times Magazine. But Shapiro fits his other country, Judaism, comfortably into New York, its islands and waterways — a weird mixture of Beulah Land and Brooklyn, loaves and fishes in a Manhattan delicatessen. Both his reverence and his kitsch are genuine, disconcerting, lovable. In Shapiro’s mind, the city is his backdrop, but set in a haze of another time, another culture, an ancient faith, perhaps even more real than the streets he moves through. English-speaking poets move with him, or off to one side, sharing his space and his thoughts.
Allen Ginsberg does this with comic effect, as in his mischievous picture of Whitman eyeing the grocery boys in a supermarket. Shapiro’s poets of other centuries continue life along with the ghost of his father and with characters from the Hebrew Bible. The two worlds come to a new focus in ”A Jerusalem Notebook.” Of New York, he says:

we live
there as if we were in Jerusalem,
Jesus and Mohammed touching down
and going up, just another
launching pad, as I get off
the bus and head home.

Here is a strange balance between two cities, his actual and ancestral homes. In ”Traveling Through Ireland,” he has the same sense of many worlds in one. Routine topics possess a startling freshness; in all the matter-of-fact descriptions there shines a spiritual dimension. ”Where I Am Now” is a prime example of commonplace setting infused by the hope of renewal:

I am on the lookout for
A great illumining,
Prepared to recognize it
Instantly and put it to use
Even among the desks
And chairs of the office, should
It come between nine and five.

I enjoy Shapiro’s traditional meters, and the way he often seems to say ”The hell with it” and finishes a line with an offhand semiprose rhythm or even a colloquialism, as when one friend explains her high spirits: ”I’m on psychopharmaceuticals and in the country,” and the speaker replies, ”Ah, that’s the ticket.”
These ”so-what” idioms and speech rhythms have pleasing sonorities. Amid the casual diction come the surprising images: ”Linkages of bird song make a floating chain,” ”beneath the stars / the poets creep on the harp of the Bridge,” a roomful of books ”echoes with my midnights.” Self-knowledge and self-acceptance give a beautiful bluntness in the poem ”Brooklyn Heights”; he feels God wanted him this way.

Shapiro’s women seem to be equal parts goddess and whore, beauty and a kind of harmless beastiness. This vision is too limited, but it is at least frank — not hostile, just limited. Many readers may wonder, as I do, how he put his book together. Although the work seems to be printed in roughly chronological order, it would be a kindness to the reader to have some sort of grouping, even if only numbered batches. But these are minor concerns. As a ”reader” who has recently gone blind, I am thankful for Shapiro’s ”Selected Poems.” As he says of the English poets, ”they can / bring me back my City line by line,” so his poems bring me back my childhood city, poem by poem.

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