September 19, 2010

In Their Cups Week: John Keats, Lines on the Mermaid Tavern

With the release reading for In Their Cups: An Anthology of Poems about Drinking Places, Drinks, and Drinkers just around the corner (and by “just around the corner” I mean Sunday, September 26th, at 3 pm, at the almighty Open Books), I wanted to prime the proverbial poetic drunken pump with a couple choice selections from said book. To get things started, much like the book itself gets started, here’s Keats’ rollicking reverie to his favorite bar, the Mermaid Tavern. It’s somehow weirdly (well, maybe it’s not weird–what do you think, bar lovers?) reassuring to me that Keats had a favorite drinking spot in the early 1800s that he wrote about, and by his writing I think I might have enjoyed sitting there with pals having pints (and the occasional Dog’s Nose, as they did at the time). So, take a step back  with Mr. Keats before all this internet-y-ness, when folks actually did their talking and drinking face-to-face.


Lines on the Mermaid Tavern


Souls of Poets dead and gone,          

What Elysium have ye known,          

Happy field or mossy cavern,

Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?   

Have ye tippled drink more fine               

Than mine host’s Canary wine?         

Or are fruits of Paradise         

Sweeter than those dainty pies          

Of venison? O generous food!          

Drest as though bold Robin Hood            

Would, with his maid Marian,           

Sup and bowse from horn and can.   


  I have heard that on a day   

Mine host’s sign-board flew away,    

Nobody knew whither, till             

An astrologer’s old quill        

To a sheepskin gave the story,           

Said he saw you in your glory,          

Underneath a new old-sign    

Sipping beverage divine,               

And pledging with contented smack 

The Mermaid in the Zodiac.  


  Souls of Poets dead and gone,        

What Elysium have ye known,          

Happy field or mossy cavern,       

Choicer than the Mermaid Tavern?



Lines on the Mermaid Tavern, John Keats

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September 8, 2010

In Their Cups Release Reading, Open Books, 9-26, 3 PM

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

Be the First on Your Block to Get Drunk and Read Poems

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.

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December 15, 2009

Cocktail Talk: Catullus, Poem 27, Translation by Ed Skoog

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.


Poem 27


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.

November 13, 2009

Drinking Writer Alert: Meaghan Dorman and a Blood Orange Mojito

I was recently in NYC (you may have heard of the town—nice place), and had lots of drinks I’ve been meaning to blog about (but this silly holiday season keeps getting in the way) with many fine folks (who I should also blog about). But one of the most fun sit-downs was a lunch interview I had with drinks writer Meaghan Dorman at Republic. Really, “interview” sounds  a bit formal, cause we mostly just gabbed about everything under the sun (with a slight emphasis on Dark Spirits), a gabfest she’s going to miraculously transcribe into a Penthouse article (which you can pick up I think in March–just for the articles, of course). Meaghan’s not only a dandy freelance drinks-and-spirits writer, but also writes the super-cool-and-packed-with-boozy-goodness blog Spirit Me Away, and (if that wasn’t enough) is the head bartender at the speakeasylicious Raines Law Room. Now, everywhere under the tipsy sun seems speakeasy-esque these days, but Raines has such a lovely sort-of renaissance romance vibe, and such an interesting “bar-without-a-bar” layout that it really stands out. So, go check it out when you’re in the big city, and visit Meaghan on her blog, but first look at her sip this Blood Orange Mojito and think about what a happy bunch drink writers tend to be.


October 16, 2009

Drinking Writer Alert: Gary Regan and an Unknown Drink

Okay, maybe I should have gone with the “Shaking and/or Stirring Writer Alert,” as in the below pic Mr. Regan is making a drink, and not actually drinking a drink. But, I promise you he did, indeed, drink one of the drinks he made. I promise. And, to be honest, I just wanted to have more than one “Drinking Writer Alert” (the first being the happy-go-luckiest poet, Ed Skoog, in this post) and hadn’t yet been sent any other pictures of drinking writers. So there.


And, Gary (or Gaz, as he’s now known from Tempe to Timbuktu) definitely fits the “Drinking Writer” name, as you probably know. But on the off chance you don’t, he’s one of the foremost drink writers in the world (the universe, even. The multi-verse, even , for you who’ve read a lot of What If? comics). The below picture was actually snapped at an evening celebrating his newest book, the bartender’s GIN compendium. I detail the book in more in-depth fashion on this Al Dente blog post, but in case your finger’s broken and you don’t feel like clicking, let me give you, as they say, the skinny. The bartender’s GIN compendium is a sweet book all about gin: history of gin, 250 recipes (or more) utilizing gin, and tasting notes and information on many, many specific kinds of gin and gin cousins and gin uncles and aunts, and gin pets, even. It’s a book for gin lovers, natch, but also a book for cocktail lovers, history lovers, and genial drunks who know how to read. Mr. Gary/Gaz Regan not only knows his gin (and drinks), but also is a darn witty fellow, and almost as fun to read as it was to meet him in person (but not quite: ain’t nothing like the real thing, as the song reminds us).


Which, to reiterate, I did, recently, at a lovely evening sponsored by the fine folks at Plymouth Gin. Beyond just talking gin, we hit the underground tour in Seattle (prostitute talk a’poppin, as it seems Seattle was once all prostitutes and mud), and then wound up at the Rob Roy. Which is where Gaz made himself and me (and Mr. Robert Hess, too) the drink he’s making below. The only down side? I don’t know exactly what drink it is–and it was darn good. It had gin, for sure. Vermouth? You bet. Bitters? Uh-huh. But what proportions? And did he pour in anything else? It was tasty, but darn it, I didn’t watch closely enough. Now, I’m going to have to track him down and have him make me another. Wait, that doesn’t sound bad at all.

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Rathbun on Film