Holiday update

I’m a little behind on this blog – which is funny because it no longer has any readers and to be ‘behind’ implies that something is actually happening. Which it is, of course, if only in one’s mind. Then again, that is where everything ‘happens’, so I suppose a lot has been happening. (Forgive me, I’ve been reading Homo Deus and I’m beginning to think like a cyborg.)

As far as poetry goes, which is where this blog is at the moment, a few of my poems have appeared in the last few months, most notably in Verse-Virtual. In fact, an entire sequence of poems about my father was published in October. There are also photos and some prose, which makes it a cool mixed-media kind of thing. Below is my favorite of the poems, which is about how my dad used to wake up at night – sometimes more than once – and raid the fridge, guzzling milk and pretty much anything edible he could reach.

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Breaking the news

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Here is a poem I had up at Poets Reading the News in October, called “Breaking”. It was written in response to the breakneck pace of news during the Kavanaugh hearings, where every hour seemed to disclose some new revelation. I found that enjambment worked well here, kept up the pace of the poem as if it were an unstoppable series of half-baked ‘events’ from beginning to end. It aims to be disorienting. Also, as a language teacher, I was intrigued by the possibility of using as many collocations as I could for break.

Breaking

I’m tired of breaking things the petulant news
always a bull breaking china breaking
into our homes like a thief
at breakneck speed we break
our backs to break our fall it’s time
to break for commercial take
a break from this record-breaking
breaking of the law and take
a moment to break down quietly
in a corner and softly mark
the breaking hours all around
us I find it’s hard to break the habit
though my will is broken broken
by the promise of broken ground
beneath our feet broken windows
in our cars broken glass in
our shoes that still need breaking
in          when will we break loose
from these broken promises
broken dreams break
free

*

September poetry update

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that’s pretty much it for now

Vampire Pome

Somebody Suggested the World Needed More Vampire Poems, So I Wrote One*
-for Kristin Tracy

My sixteen year-old niece says she’s finally finished
with them. Vampires, that is. She’s all grown up
now.  She’s tossed out that pair of white plastic teeth
she used to frighten me with, those glow-in-the-dark fangs
from the costume shop. They tasted like old ketchup.
Her prized collection of Harry Potter books
has cozied up to tales of death and vengeance,
the kind that lead you toward philosophy
not shopping malls. Even her bedroom wall
projects a morbid serenity it never had
before. I gave her a Vampire Weekend album
on vinyl, thinking she’d get it but she just said
Thanks but what am I supposed to do with this
my mom threw out your old turntable
years ago.

© 2018 Marc Alan Di Martino
*This poem isn’t really about vampires.

New poem up at gravel.

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I’m excited to have a poem up at GRAVEL. It’s a gentle satire on the submission guidelines poets must wade through when sending work out. Some journals write guidelines as if they were gourmet menus, and the result is that a poet can easily feel that his or her work could never live up to such expectations. This is definitely the way I’ve felt on many occasions.

Incidentally, Steve Klepetar had a poem with the same title and a similar approach at Verse-Virtual in April. Our efforts were completely independent of each other, suggesting that this is something many of us are noticing. Editors, if you’re reading, feel free to tone it down a notch. The amp doesn’t always have to be at 11.

“Submission Guidelines”

We’re seeking original work that sucker punches us
& pilfers our wallets, leads us down
the garden path, slides its uninvited hands
up our thighs on the L train – takes us
by surprise, if you will.  (read more)

Two Poems at Tuck Magazine

I had two “news” poems – does it sound cheap to call them that? – published in Tuck Magazine a couple of weeks ago. Here is the first:

Pawn’s Game

Some are content to sit and watch the world
burn from their bedrooms, minutely attuned to events
through secret channels. Others jam the streets
with indignation, shadowboxing power,
euphoric in their dissent. Others still observe
comfortable events unspool their destinies

as in a game of chess, eye cocked on the king
confined to his quadrant. One faulty move and
check – the pendulum begins its slow descent.

It was inspired by that fool president of ours holing up at his Florida resort while students were protesting the umpteenth school massacre out in the streets. Pendulums have a habit of swinging both ways eventually.

“National Day of Atonement”

A few weeks ago my poem “National Day of Atonement” went up at Writers Resist, a website “born of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election”. The poem was actually written in November 2017, in response to the Virginia election results. It was the first time in a year where there seemed to be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. The poem takes its first line from an article about Americans actually screaming at the sky on the anniversary of the election. There is a play on Wallace Stevens’ “Blanche McCarthy” there, as well. The poem attempts to end on a note of hopefulness. Let’s hope 2018 fulfuls that wish.


 

“National Day of Atonement”

Scream at the empty mirror of the sky,
the waiting blue, the blinding cosmic eye,
until your pain lathes the Plutonian rim
of the Solar System.

Scream at the crystal ceiling of the sky
until it cracks up like an electoral map
of the United States, our jagged earthly cry
a collective bootstrap.

April poetry rundown

April was a good month – for poetry, anyway. After a two-month streak of rejections I thought would never end, I had two poems accepted. The first is an ekphrastic – a poem inspired by an image, in this case one from NASA – and the second is inspired directly by the moon (no telescope required).


 

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Space Station Crew Sees Lots of Clouds 

From up here it’s an oceanic birthday cake
these frosted tufts of cloud

makes you want to poke your finger in and lick
it right across the sugary mounds

of chemical-sweet butterscotch icing
gold-plated by the setting sun

then suck it through your teeth and tongue. Up here
we get lonely for such things.

Published in the Ekphrastic Review


 

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To the Horned Moon

How often I meet you here
above the trees and houses
nested in sleep, the edges

of you ringed, luminescent
as a dropped nickel in a pool
of crude oil. Copper-crowned

night, twilit and electric blue,
presiding above the world
unchallenged. What star

measures up to you? None
I know of. They are too far.
You, on the other hand,

so close I could
take you by the horns
wrestle you to Earth or

steer you forever
at ten million miles per hour
straight out of the universe.​

Published in Verse-Virtual

From Morpheus to myself

Astute readers will notice that I’ve added my name to the header of this blog. I’ve quietly been abandoning @godlessinitaly as my online handle, which I’ve been using for quite a few years. Perhaps I should’ve turned it into a brand and tried to monetize it, which seems to be the way these things go. Whatever, I’ve never been good at that kind of thing. This blog has gone through quite a few permutations over the years, and I reserve the right to do whatever I want with it. Lately, that means poetry. I’ve dipped my toe again into the waters of Lethe. I’ve sent out some poems into the world and some have come back with wings.  Here is a poem I wrote about the opioid crisis after reading an article on the Sackler family in the New Yorker (them again?). The poem was written quickly, as “news poems” usually are, in order to keep pace with the ever-morphing news cycle. As such, it is part of an interesting contemporary experiment: can poetry – typically a slow and arduous form of expression, often subject to years of revision – say something worthwhile about current events, while they’re still current? I think it can, and so so the editors at Poets Reading the News, where this was published back in November 2017.

Morpheus in West Virginia

A scion of robber baron philanthropists
whose last name is synonymous with pain
has, through the toxic advertising mists,
made murder legal, elegant, humane.

Like Jagger’s Lucifer, he wears a tie
outfitted in the finest Italian suits
possessing all that money cannot buy
prestige and prominence the world salutes.

The dead of West Virginia are his keep,
couples with needles hooked into their arms,
their babies born into narcotic sleep,
more dust from opiates than firearms.

The mortuaries have run out of beds
to stretch the corpses on. In this shell game
the blue pills were swapped deftly for the reds
by Morpheus. I hope you guess his name.

I actually wrote my first news poem the week after 9/11, about those terrible events. It was written at a Chinese restaurant on 48th & 6th, and I can still smell the scent of that food as I wrote those bitter lines. Those were heady days, but there was no outlet for poetry that commented what was happening, as it was happening. I sent it out to the usual journals, but it was never accepted. Of course it lost its immediacy. What to  do with such a poem almost twenty years later?

Write new ones.

A Letter to the New Yorker

Yesterday I wrote a letter to the editors of the New Yorker. Since I very much doubt it will get published or even answered privately (then again, who knows?) I’ve decided to publish it here, as I feel it is in the general interest of those who read and write poetry.

Dear New Yorker,

As a longtime reader, enthusiast, poet, poetry-submitter and subscriber – not necessarily in that order – I was taken aback to see that the poet Traci Brimhall (“Dear Eros“, “Love Poem Without a Drop of Hyperbole in It“) was published twice in a three-week period in January, 2018. I have no qualms with Brimhall or her work; in fact, I loved her poems on both occasions. But to publish one poet twice in such a short period, in a magazine which publishes roughly a hundred poems a year, comes off as a display of cliquishness. It reminds me of an exchange I once had with a former poetry editor of this magazine nearly twenty years ago. When I queried if I could send her some of my work, she responded with visible embarrassment, “Please understand – I have obligations.” The New Yorker is highly-regarded for the quality of the work it chooses to publish, and no one would ask that it lower its standards in order to broaden its sweep. But one wonders if, among the thousands of poems on the editor’s desk, there wasn’t one which might have rivalled Brimhall’s for ingenuity. I’d bet almost anything there was.
I’m not sure why I was so ticked off by this, but I was. A poet friend of mine says he doesn’t read the New Yorker, so he doesn’t care what they publish. Well, I do, and I generally esteem their selection. And I also recognize that a great many poets dream of seeing their work in its rarified pages. I just keep wondering, what obligations exactly? Every poet wants to be on a level playing field, don’t they? If their submissions page said, “Agented submissions only,” I’d grit my teeth and understand. But it doesn’t. It sounds friendly and open and, well, encouraging. As if you or I might actually stand a chance.
I’m not worried about burning my chances with the New Yorker because of a kvetchy little post like this one. After all, it is the New Yorker – right? What’s New York without a good kvetch?
*Update: As of May 15, 2018 there has been no response from the New Yorker. Unsurprised.