May 19, 2020
Well, I know what I’m doing today: waiting around watching my mailbox, sidewalk, and street for the postal person who today is supposedly delivering to me the new book of poems by Ed Skoog, called Travelers Leaving for the City. At least, I was told it would arrive today, when I ordered it. Hopefully you are doing the same thing – unless you’re lucky enough that your copy has already been delivered? – but if you aren’t, then for gosh sakes make your life better by ordering now. If, by some strange and cruel twist of fate, you aren’t already acquainted with Skoog (feels that should be all-capped, SKOOG, but I’m resisting. Or not), then let me tell you, not only is he a genius poet and writer, but also a champ banjo player, snappy dresser, fleet-footed dancer, and more, but also one of the swellest bar companions you could ever desire. While I’m waiting to spend many hours devouring his newest, I thought I’d ramp up my synapses by re-reading one of his poems from In Their Cups: An Anthology of Poems About Drinking Places, Drinks, and Drinkers. He has two poems in there – both awesome – as well as a few translations (also awesome), which he can do cause he is, as mentioned, a genius. In the feeling of community, I felt you also might want to read a snatch of Skoog if your copy of the latest hasn’t shown, and so here we are with the below.
The Last Saturn Bar Poem
Around the art barn, Mike Frolich’s bar-tab
bartered paintings hang the hell that rose with him
from the Gulf of Mexico floor too fast, torturing
blood with air: maniac fish, demon in a diving bell,
and then from cadmium sunset through marsh comes
the boat bearing forward in grand roving the name
O’Neal, our bartender. Theirs are the dreams we enter,
entering the Saturn Bar’s owly heat re-tooled for unlovely
loss, the rattled corner leaning away from Chartreuse, neat,
and when I’m able to dream jukebox damaged warbling,
a Saturn-like-thing opens within me, but this is the last
Saturn Bar poem–I’ll try, I’ll try–to stop singing
shadows of St. Claude and Clouet on security camera
pavement grays we keep talking about with increasing
reluctance, ready to move on to fresh bewilderments,
spiraling neon, neon that lights up my nameless shot.
–The Last Saturn Bar Poem, Ed Skoog
September 8, 2010
Calling all drinkers, drink-makers, poets, poetry-readers, and anyone who is friends with anyone who fits in the above categories–which means, calling everyone. I was lucky enough to spend a chunk of the last year or so editing up a collection of poems about drinking places, drinks, and drinkers, and you’re lucky because said collection is coming out this month, and we’re having a big reading/party to celebrate. It’s going to be September 26th, at 3 pm, at Open Books here in Seattle (Open Books is at 2414 N. 45th St. Seattle, and the full reading listing is here).
Wait, though, jump back–I haven’t even told you the name yet. The anthology is called In Their Cups, and it features poets from hither and yon, poets who wrote in ancient times all the way up to poets who wrote a line yesterday. The whole idea behind the book (in a way) was to populate one giant bar with poets from throughout history, give them all some cocktails, and let them start spouting poems that would encompass the experiences of all drinkers. Did it work? You can find out by coming to the reading (or picking up the book, if you can’t make it). The reading will feature four of Seattle’s finest poets (and me) reading the poem they have in the book, plus a couple others from poets who couldn’t make it because they don’t live nearby, or don’t live at all anymore. The line-up includes:
Effervescent Emily Bedard
Action-packed Allen Braden
Jumpin’ jolly James Gurley
Awfully excited to be in such company A.J. Rathbun
One giant mystery guest
If you still aren’t sold, the full-on listing of poets who have poems on the pages of In Their Cups is: A.J. Rathbun, Henry Aldrich, Thomas Bailey Aldrich, Guillaume Apollinaire, Emily Bedard, Bridget Bell, Allen Braden, Henry Carey, Richard Carr, Catullus, John Clare, Jaime Curl, Emily Dickinson, Philip Dow, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Stephen Dunn, Amy Fleury, Philip Freneau, Du Fu, Thomas Godfrey, Jeff Greer, James Gurley, Mark Halliday, Robert Herrick, Charles Fenno Hoffman, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Elizabeth Hughey, Richard Hugo, Christopher Janke, Jonathan Jonson, John Keats, J. Robert Lennon, John Lyly, William Maginn, Tod Marshall, Robert Hinkley Messinger, Dan Morris, Joseph O’Leary, William Olsen, Cesare Pavese, Li Po, Francesco Redi, Arthur Rimbaud, Ed Skoog, Gerald Stern, George Walter Thornbury, Chase Twichell, and Royall Tyler.
See you on the 26th friends and neighbors and local poetic drunkards.
May 18, 2010
Maybe, just maybe, you live on a block of drinking poetry readers. If so, you’re lucky (and maybe sleepy, too, as poetry and drinking combined lead some to stay up all night). If not, or even (and maybe moreso) if so, then I want to let you know about the book that will change your life, and have you drinking and reading poems for days. The trick is (and this is how you can be a trendsetter, instead of a trend follower) that the book isn’t even out yet, but is pre-orderable, so you can be the first person you know to get it. It’s called In Their Cups: An Anthology of Poems About Drinking Places, Drinks, and Drinkers. I’d tell you about it in detail, but A: I edited it, so am bias’d, and B: I want to save some of my gushing for when it comes out proper, and C: the wonderful poet Richard Jackson already said this about it:
“Souls of poets dead and gone,” goes the line from Keats, but AJ Rathbun’s wonderful In Their Cups brings them back, at least for a few more drinks, and we too are invited in. And what company we enjoy: we can imagine classic poets as diverse as Catullus and Du Fu speaking to polar opposite modernists like Cesare Pavese and Appollinaire, perhaps interrupted here and there by diverse contemporary voices such as Mark Halliday and William Olsen. Rathbun has created a unique imaginary world here, adding a couple of his own fine poems to the conversation, where we can hear, with Richard Hugo, the “dusty jukebox crackling” on every page. This is a book you’ll want to raise a glass to.
Now, don’t be scared if you don’t cozy up with poets on an every day basis—you’re going to love it. I promise. Read it with drink in hand, and you’ll probably never put it down, until you fall down. Which is saying something.
PS: Want to see an actual poem that’s in the book to get you going? Check out here, and here.
December 15, 2009
It is the middle of the holiday cocktail party season. There are, let’s see, daytime work holiday parties, and nighttime work holiday parties, afternoon drinking parties with friends, and evening drinking parties with friends, holiday booze-teas with families, and holiday booze-luncheons with families, and holiday booze evenings with families, and then a host of parties thrown by those that might be friends, but not good friends, but parties you feel you should go to anyway, in the spirit of the season. With all this holiday partying, it’s possible (if not probable) that one or two of the parties may be more chore than cheer. With that, I’d like to present the following poem by Catullus, ancient partier. The poem is about these later parties a bit, and may well be worth reciting loudly when you’re at any holiday party. The translation (because, well, I can’t read ancient Latin) is by modern partier and poet Ed Skoog (did you get Mister Skylight yet? Cause if not, I’m sending a zombie Catullus to haunt you) and is, well, delicious.
Are you tending the bar, kid? Pour me the strong stuff,
the Falernian wine, and one for yourself. We’re going to need it,
the way this party is going. Our host, Postumia, is drunker than
these grapes. No water, please. It kills what wine is.
Save water for the fool who prefers his own sorrow.
This wine is more than wine. It’s the blood of the god
whose mother was destroyed by his father’s splendor,
the god of madness and ecstasy, who shares it with us.
— Poem 27, Catullus, translated by Ed Skoog
PS: Enjoy this drunken poetry and lit’rature stuff? Then you must, I say must, visit the blog Drunk Literature. It’s a literary boozehound’s dream blog.