Now playing on Otherppl, a conversation with Matthew Zapruder. His latest poetry collection, Father’s Day, is available from Copper Canyon Press.

 

This is his second time on the program. He first appeared in Episode 477 on August 9, 2017.

Zapruder is a poet, translator, professor and editor. He earned a BA in Russian literature at Amherst College, an MA in Slavic languages and literature at the University of California, Berkeley, and an MFA in poetry at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he studied with Dara Wier, James Tate, and Agha Shahid Ali.

He is the author most recently of Sun Bear, Copper Canyon, 2014, and Why Poetry, a book of prose about poetry, Ecco/Harper Collins, 2017. An Associate Professor in the MFA at Saint Mary’s College of California, he is also editor at large at Wave Books, and from 2016-7 held the annually rotating position of Editor of the Poetry Column for the New York Times Magazine. He lives in Oakland, California. He also plays lead guitar in the rock band The Figments, a Western Massachusetts based band led by songwriter Thane Thomsen.

Zapruder’s other collections of poetry include Come On All You Ghosts (2010), The Pajamaist (2006), and American Linden (2002). He collaborated with painter Chris Uphues on For You in Full Bloom (2009) and co-translated, with historian Radu Ioanid, Romanian poet Eugen Jebeleanu’s last collection, Secret Weapon: Selected Late Poems (Coffee House, 2008).

You surprised no one by dying of an overdose.
Was it glue or oven cleaner?
I can no longer recall, but I know
you enjoyed them both to the full.
Your time on earth was brief, though not brief enough
to keep you from torturing a cat to death
with leftover fireworks and a refrigerator box.
Why is sharing the pain always easier than sharing the joy?

Rod McKuen is the Odd Man Out in the history of American pop culture. Music encyclopedias almost never included him even though he released albums for over 40 years. Surveys of contemporary literature overlooked him despite (or perhaps because of) his enormous sales. Rod’s work as a musician and poet didn’t lend themselves to easy categorization. Over the decades, he was associated with the San Francisco beat poet scene, the Twist dance craze of the early ’60, the folk revival, the Great American Songbook school of pop, the early days of New Age environmental recordings and 20thCentury classical music.  Yet none of these genres or movements claim him as even an adjunct member. He remains sui generis by his own choice or otherwise.

His fans didn’t care. Try to see him as they saw him at the height of his fame: a rumpled, slightly stooped 30-ish man with lemon frosting-colored hair ambling into the spotlight to the sound of orchestral fanfare. Inevitably, he is dressed in a sweater, jeans (or chinos) and high-topped sneakers – no amount of success could change his outfit. There’s a laid-back cowboy charm about him, as well as the romantic melancholy of a French cabaret singer. He laughs bashfully, gives wistful sideways glances, rises from quiet murmurs to emotional crescendos. Now close your eyes and hear his voice – hoarse, pitted, compelling in its imperfection. It adds to his pathos and his sexiness.

You were born and raised in the Bronx, what brought you to LA?

For better or worse, I really didn’t think about it much, I just did it. I had a best friend who moved out here and I was curious to see the city that Bukowski wrote about. I was only writing for a few years at this point, still trying to find my voice, but I thought throwing myself into a whole new strange world and starting from scratch would give me the kick in the ass I needed.

To be quite honest, it damn near killed me. Writing was the only thing that kept me going… that and booze, lots and lots of booze.

today
will not
get away

it will be
hunted and
stalked

opened
and entered

feasted upon
and finally
laid to rest

well lived
and unwasted.

grow sick of gilets
and the posturing of
redundant letters

lie down

recognise the fissure
for what it is

take out a loan and
employ an artist’s
impression

obliterate savings
and proliferate
suspect via
billboards and sky writing

lie under breach
until face comes
forward

Now playing on Otherppla conversation with Milo Martin. He is the author of the poetry collections Poems for the Utopian Nihilist (Echo Park Press) and the forthcoming sublemon/sublime. He is also collaborating on an upcoming art book with Gigi Spratley and Jack Waltrip.

A poet by trade, Martin has toured extensively throughout the United States and Europe. He has been invited to perform at international literature and poetry festivals in France, Italy, Germany and Croatia as well as numerous venues in Estonia, Switzerland, Holland, Liechtenstein and Serbia. His works have been translated into four languages. Educated at San Francisco State University and the University of Southern California, he currently resides in Los Angeles. He contends that birds and insects are manifest angels.

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What does it most often look like around you when you write? Do you have a zone?

I like a big desk and a bulletin board. I decorate my writing space with earthly treasures and many different notes that help guide me through my process. I also like to have space to get up and dance while I work because moving my body makes it all better. I like to be in complete solitude while I write. The best is a room with a view of nothing but landscape and a nearby wall that I can tape paper and images to. I’ve been lucky enough to conjure this at various times in my life and am in awe of the privilege. I seek out solo retreats in Joshua Tree and Humboldt County. The natural world, as opposed to the urban, is a consistent part of my practice.

Start by loving a God that lives
Inside the shell of a black beetle.
Now get a little older
And become a Jew
Who loves a God inside letters
That read backward on the page.
Older still and Christ comes
To teach some other version
That wipes us all clean
When we get dunked
In an above-ground swimming pool.

Get yourself an invite to a room full of fear, hubris and desire.

Enter to applause

          for someone just over your shoulder.

Gently float.

You are invisible…
you do not register.

Glide through the room,

          enter their orbits

          questioning if you still have skin.

Humid chatter is the evening’s soundtrack.

Start open. Start loose and
easy. Let your lines blink in
the sun. Start with the second thing
you ever knew. Draw your fingers together
like circling wagons, then like dancing lovers,
then like puzzle pieces. You should find
at the end of yourself

What was the genesis of this book?

Save Our Ship was inspired by “The Diverse Vices of Women, Alphabetized,” a renaissance alphabet intended to instruct women to avoid sensual pleasure, particularly that of speech. I overheard my art history colleague, Theresa Flanigan, mention her work on it, and my poet-spidey-sense tingled: I knew I could use it. I began by writing against it, but the result was too one-note. Meanwhile, I had become increasingly obsessed by the climate crisis and sixth extinction. So feminist rants were joined by environmental freakout poems, with some more quotidian poems mixed in, I hope leavening the whole with some humor. My elevator pitch is: “#MeToo meets Global Weirding, in abecedarian form. But in a good way.”

Your clamshell rings and rings
                                                         wrapped in seagreen plastic

         Mer-crone calling Fisher King

The number you are calling has a voice mail box that has been deluged

          a drowned sailor picks up

… crusts of dried salt in the streets …
                                                                      you’re breaking up …

          the tide of pink jellyfish
                                                      big as washing machines
                                                                                                     rises

When did you first think about talking to the dead?

As a child first without thinking, it seemed normal to have a cast of characters always in my head separate from the voices we all carry. They have their own languages. But with intention, not until my brother suicided; then I thought there must be a way to tune in and reach specifically, blood of my blood and coded the same as we are. I spent two years meditating while writing BASIC PROGRAMMING creating a visual narrative that involved walking 108 steps, one for each isolated inhale or exhale down a spiral staircase to the underworld where I could shed this coil and find him. If I lost count going down or my focus wavered, I would get up from the mat. And when I finally reached the bottom, I realized I didn’t know what to do at that point. You have to know how to get back up safely.

110 < >

By Megan Burns

Poem

what I do/ bemoan loss/ my betrayal/ what’s good/ never
traveled a land of dead to get me/ would you/ never waded my city
to pull photos from floodwater stained walls/ would you/ never tried
to pull my spine, notch vertebrae notch through back where I’m split/ spit on me/ would you/ never lowered yourself into mud spewing vomit, your lies that bile thick hanging from your chin/ or clawed your eyes out to not see pain you cause me/would you/ never put muzzle back of my head/ but you did/ never pulled trigger sending metal biting through wishes, dreams, nightmares / never put your mouth on mine & sucked out my breath or put it back in/
wouldyou/wouldyou/wouldyou/