Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Jeffrey McDaniel Rides Again!

Mikaela says:
So excited!

One of my absolute, hands-down, god's own, favorite poets, Jeffrey McDaniel, is coming out with a new book of poems in April. I can't tell you how fantastic that is.

His poetry is so accessible as to be transparent -- in the form of corrective lenses. He's a master of metaphor and one of the only poets that I can use to get teenagers to understand the power of an image, how one simile stands in for all the "pain, shattered glass, hurt, heart, soul" you can throw in a teen-angst poem. To really hit home my point, I use this little gem, from The Jerk:

"I'm standing behind you on the subway,
hard as calculus."

Oooooo, do they get that!

Here's the rest, just cause it's too good to pass up:

Jeffrey McDaniel
"The Jerk"

Hey you, dragging the halo--
how about a holiday in the islands of grief?

Tongue is the word I wish to have with you.
Your eyes are so blue they leak.

Your legs are longer than a prisoner's

last night on death row.

I'm filthier than the coal miner's bathtub

and nastier than the breath of Charles Bukowski.

You're a dirty little windshield.

I'm standing behind you on the subway,

hard as calculus. My breath

be sticking to your neck like graffiti.

I'm sitting opposite you in the bar,
for you to uncross your boundaries.

I want to rip off your logic

and make passionate sense to you.

I want to ride in the swing of your hips.

My fingers will dig in you like quotation marks,

blazing your limbs into parts of speech.

But with me for a lover, you won't need

catastrophes. What
attracted me in the first place
will ultimately make me resent you.

I'll start telling you lies,

and my lies will sparkle,

become the bad stars you chart your life by.

I'll stare at other women so blatantly

you'll hear my eyes peeling,

because sex with you is like Great Britain:

cold, groggy, and a little uptight.

Your bed is a big, soft calculator

where my problems multiply.

Your brain is a garage

I park my bullshit in, for free.

You're not really my new girlfriend,

just another flop sequel of the first one,
who was based on the true story of my mother.

You're so ugly I forgot how to spell!

I'll cheat on you like a ninth grade math test,

break your heart just for the sound it makes.

You're the this

we need to put an end to.

The more you apologize,
the less I forgive you.

So how about it?

And because it's still New Year's... an encore.
"Friends And High Places"

It's like escaping a hot, bright room
for the serenity of a city at night, covered in snow.

People eliminated. A carpet of silence
for taxis to whisper across. The world becoming

a pleasant dream of itself. The itch
of want smoldering to life on skin. Memory sends

a chill vanishing between vertebrae.
It's New Year's Eve. Hail the Calendar! As if

clocks will pause for a moment
before reloading their long rifles. Years are tiny

freckles on the face of a century.
Where is the constellation we gazed at each night

through a bill rolled so tight
the first President lost his breath, as our eyeballs

literally unraveled? I am alone
in the rectangular borough in the observatory,

where even fire trucks can't rescue
the arsonist stretching his calves in my brain.

More than anything, I'm excited because I think Jeffrey McDaniel is the poet who speaks most directly to me. It was his work that allowed me to dream that I could call myself a poet -- that the work I was already doing might be relevant to someone other than me.

I'm contemplating ... big confession time ... putting together a manuscript of my own work. I'm terrified to do this and have been dragging my feet for years about it. The very idea breaks me out in hives. But it's Jeffrey McDaniel's work that nags me to do it.

Here's the poem that changed the course of my writing life:


from Alibi School

The family around the table and a silence
so compact no words can break it.

Not even a pigeon swirling through the window
can nudge mother's poorly taped grin.

Her face has the euphoric glow of a mathematician
whispering a formula into the whorl of a rose.

Her eyes are tiny stones testing the black
silk bags she lugs them in.

Since father banned television the sons stare
at the marriage dangling from the ceiling.

Each month it sinks another couple inches
until it's in their food.

No wonder they don't eat.

How amazing is that??? It's like Wes Anderson in a minute, isn't it? In fact, that would be a BRILLIANT collaboration.

But anyway, for now I'm happy just to look forward to a whole new book of poems that I know will speak right to my humorous, dysfunctional core.