Albert Goldbarth interview excerpt

Things like question-and-answer sessions, interviews, often leave me feeling kind of dirty afterwards. As if I’ve done the self-sufficiency of the poems themselves a disservice. When I go to a poetry reading, I feel that if it’s a truly good reading, operating at peak level for both the poet and the audience, what I want to do is walk out of the room with the last words of the last poem ringing in my ears. I want to go home and feel my life is somehow transformed because of those words. Instead, inevitably, there’s a question-and-answer session that reminds me of ‘The Oprah Winfrey Show’ more than anything, and those are the confused, weak, uninteresting, ego-filled words that are ringing in my ears. I know those things can occur on a level better than what I’ve just described, but most often they don’t; and most often I’m sorry that all those other gratuitous modes of po-biz expression exist. I don’t care to contribute to them.

- Albert Goldbarth, from an interview in Another Chigago Magazine #24, 1992.


i got a job

don't worry, it wont eat up my valuable blogging time. it involves hitting up a certain used book store in downtown Accra and buying (unbeknownst to me) high-priced books for almost nothing. i was looking up links for my recently updated "five things that aren't mine (and i'm jealous)" (see sidebar), and it turns out i've bought a book that sells for $50 and another that's going for $30 (i paid 80 cents and $1.50, respectively). i also noticed the copy of "Turtle Island" that i bought was autographed by Gary Snyder himself.

i think i'd give all the profits i'm accidently accumulating to anyone who could explain how all these obscure American poetry books ended up in a West African discount bin.


five hours from Tamale, back of the bus

perhaps this is joy or perhaps the delusions of pain
though it hardly seems to matter which
because i am smiling and the girl across the aisle,
body contorted, like my own,
around farm animals and furniture and kitchenware,
is smiling too –
a kindred emotion jutting up from the potholes,
through the wheel well and bus bench to her tailbone,
and finally through her rattling lips and out.

in solidarity, i compose a poem for her in my mind,
pledge to write it down once we disembark
and regain the use of our limbs
though i know it will no longer be the same poem,
and her name will have been jostled from my memory.

so i dedicate this, instead, to all the nameless girls of my life –
not the poem i am composing but the feeling that is swelling
through my hips and bouncing violently up my spine
which is perhaps joy or the delusions of pain,
though it hardly seems to matter now which.

from the January 2007 issue of High Altitude Poetry

read more of my poems from HAP here.


harmattan blues

The harmattan, dust from the Sahara which blots out the sun and covers the city in a gray haze, arrived in Accra a couple of weeks ago. Unless we are blessed with a large rainfall (unlikely as this is the dry season) which would knock the dust out of the sky, the harmattan could be around for a couple of months. In an attempt to break the malaise, I’m heading to Ada, at the mouth of the Volta, for a few days to read and write. In preparation for the trip, I came across this poem by Koomson (another in a long list of Ghanaian poets I can find no information about), which seems perfectly fitting:

Let the Rains Come

(On the Winneba Plains:
From the spy-glass of the Manko Hill)

Let the rains come
that human dirts be washed away
dragging them along gutters and gulleys
getting them buried into yonder sea-beds of limbo

If the rains shall come
these fungied grounds might not stay
those spirogyraed drains will seek refuge
so the debris of the roofs’ top

The rain shall burst relief
brushing yellows and browns with somber bright greens
dropping loose the belly-protruding breezes of fertility
enforcing deadly decrees on the sterile harmattan

Shall the rains come
general malaise shall dwell no more
tears be memories of yesteryears
laugter the bed-mate of the morrow’s birth

Pray let the rains come
that hunger be filled
thirst assuaged
honey drip, milk flow.

- Koomson, January 22nd, 1987


open mic next week!

High Altitude Poetry is hosting an open mic/poetry slam at 8 PM on January 16th at the Highland Pub (SFU's Burnaby Campus). apparently, it's a fundraiser for the upcoming Individual World Poetry Slam, which is neat. it's free if you show up before 8, and $5 if you show up after. you should go.

sorry for the lack of posts lately. the poetry was sprinting along for a while there, but it's winded now. i'm going to get it a glass of water and let it lie in the shade for a bit, and hopefully it will be back up and alert soon. until then, Marta and my travel blog, and the Geroy is Mr. Lube blog, have both been updated, if yer interested.