Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Recapping the 4th Annual Contemporary Poetry White Elephant Gift Exchange

Twas the season for my annual Contemporary Poetry White Elephant Gift Exchange at Glendale Community College. This was our 4th year of spotlighting and sharing some of the worthwhile poetry that probably doesn't get stocked on the bookshelves of the national Barnes and Nobles (unlike copious copies of James Franco's newest book).

Sponsored by the supportive and generous GCC Writing Department, I get to select a handful of books to introduce and giveaway each December. We also invite people to bring any book they would like to share or exchange and there are opportunities to "steal" ones that catch your attention.

Ideally, people might walk away with a few new poets and/or books to watch out for and hopefully even order. Here are the books I selected this year:

Patricia Lockwood's Motherland Fatherland HomelandSexuals


Fantastic cover image, but Lockwood also has a knack for equally vivid titles:
"Is Your Country a He or a She in Your Mouth?"
Last of the Late Great Gorilla-Suit Actors
"The Fake Tears of Shirley Temple"
The Father and Mother of American Tit-Pics” (Walt Whitman nude, in the forest, staring deep into a still pool — the only means of taking tit-pics available at that time)

But it was her poem Rape Joke that stopped me in my tracks to re-read as soon as I got to the end.

Gregory Robinson’s All Movies Love the Moon

I was lucky to have Robinson come to town earlier this year for one of the monthly readings I host. He's undeniably likeable in person, but his book is even better. From the backjacket description:

"Anyone who watches silent movies will notice how often crashes occur—trains, cars, and people constantly collide and drama or comedy ensues. Gregory Robinson’s All Movies Love the Moon is also a collision, a theater where prose, poetry, images, and history meet in an orchestrated accident. The result is a film textbook gone awry, a collection of linked prose poems and images tracing silent cinema’s relationship with words—the bygone age of title cards."

Here's a video trailer with one of these poems:

Claudia Rankine's Citizen: An American Lyric

Unfortunately, this book becomes more and more relevant, with every passing news cycle.
A collection of vignettes exploring varying degrees of racism embedded into daily experience.

I knew whatever was in front of me was happening and then the police vehicle came to a screeching halt in front of me like they were setting up a blockade. Everywhere were flashes, a siren sounding and a stretched-out roar. Get on the ground. Get on the ground now. Then I just knew.

And you are not the guy and still you fit the description because there is only one guy who is always the guy fitting the description.

The Poetry Foundation has a few more excerpts here:

Simone Meunch's The Air Lost In Breathing

I immediately hunted down this book after hearing her read the poem "Tom Waits I Hate You."
This book wasn't easy to find, because it appears to be out-of-print,
but I thought it was worth the search:

It was a little easier for me to find a copy of my own book that came out in August, so I also gave away a copy of The Existentialist Cookbook.


John Tottenham's Inertia Variations

Tottenham was one of the poets I read with at the recent Long Beach Poetry Festival and his commitment to bleak resignation struck a self-loathing chord in my soul. These poems are like the antidote to all of those uplifting self-help yoga-panted memes that your friends keep posting on Facebook.

A Richer Victory

Broke, bitter and alone.
What more could I possibly ask for?
I have failed, at last,
beyond my wildest expectations.
I don’t understand
why I’m still not satisfied.

Life Without Work

To do nothing
In this day and age,
When so much pointless work
Is being produced,
Could almost be considered an achievement.
It all compares most unfavorably
With my own imaginary
Body of work.

The Measure of a Man

A long time ago I made a decision
To become a failure. It wasn’t
As easy as I thought: browsing through life
From one distraction to the next, while waiting
For the last lost moment to become unseizable.
As if there were some fundamental honesty
To not striving: There wasn’t. –
I suspected it all along.

I'm already looking forward to selecting some books for next year.


  1. I love the idea of this event. You are doing excellent poetry work in the world!

  2. Thanks, Drew
    but I'm just trying to keep up with you.