January 3, 2011

Start Your Year Right with Drinking Poets

Hello hello, and sorry for the extended holiday break from blog posts. But at least I left you with the first two episodes of the new season of the Cocktail to Cocktail Hour (still four more new episodes left—can you believe it!). And, I’m back to help you start your New Year right, with a link to a blog post on the PBS blog The Daily Need, a post which features videos from four (that’s right, four) of the poets who have poems in In Their Cups: An Anthology of Poems about Drinking Places, Drinks, and Drinkers. Each poet is reading one of the poems they have in the book while sipping on a favorite drink. I can’t think of any way to kick start a cocktail-a-rific and poetic year than by watching the videos (repeatedly, to ensure the year is really all that and then some). The post includes videos featuring amazing writers (and charming drinking companions) Ed Skoog, Amy Fleury, Emily Bedard, and also a video with me (wearing a boss coat, I have to admit). So what are you waiting for? Get your year started right by heading to the Daily Need  now.

September 24, 2010

In Their Cups Week: Ed Skoog, The Last Saturn Bar Poem

For the last poem in In Their Cups week 2010 (celebrating the release and release party this Sunday for In Their Cups and the drinking poems contained therein, as if you didn’t know), I wanted to highlight one of the two poems in book by Ed Skoog (I should mention though, that he also has translations in the book from three languages–you’ll have to look to find out which languages). Without Ed, In Their Cups would have been called “Cups with Holes” and been awfully leaky, cause he not only let me put poems and translations of his own in the book, but helped me track down more poems that made the cut and are in the book, gave advice on ordering of poems and sections, drank a lot with me during the putting together of the book, and was generally helpful in every way you can think of plus a few more you’d forgotten.


 If you don’t know already, Ed is one of the best poets anywhere alive today–buy his book Mister Skylight and you will be changed–but is also a drink maker of some renown, a drink consumer of much renown, and a sweet banjo player to boot who can sing the high lonesome like few others (even after a few–let’s say 5-to-10–shots). If you ever are going into a bar for the long haul (which I’m guessing you will be, probably soon), bring him along. Or at least bring this poem of his about New Orleans’ Saturn Bar, a truly divine dive, along with you as an Ed sub.


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

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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.

December 8, 2009

What I’m Drinking: Zenzero Tropicale

I (along with wife Nat) got the nicest batch of ginger snaps recently from pal Jill M (her husband, pal Ed, has a book just out called Mister Skylight that you should buy, by the way). The snaps were a bit more cookie-y than many ginger snaps (so, not crisp like some traditional ginger biscuits, and nowhere near ginger nuts, or, for that matter ginger balls. And yes, I just said ginger balls. But now my traffic skyrockets), but with goodly ginger flavor and a little bit of chewiness. I liked them lots, and ate lots of them. But then I started thinking: there is a baker’s dozen of them, maybe I should make a drink using them as a garnish? This is the way my mind works. And, I was also thinking (I have up to three trains of thought at once: right now, they consist of writing this post, thinking about a post on the comics blog Progressive Ruin that combines Adam West Batman with Dark Night Batman, and musing about how the leaning tower of Pisa doesn’t fall over) that with the holiday season you might want to know about a drink that uses ginger snaps as a garnish. Cause the snaps tend to show up this time of year.


So, I wanted a ginger-y drink, but one also with some other funtastic flavors. Which led to me playing around with this VeeV Acai (it’s a super fruit!) Spirit I’d had sent to me recently and Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur. The Veev is pretty sprightly with some tropical hints, the DdeC is very gingery and touch sweet, and at first the playing around wasn’t coming out quite right–until I added ol’ reliable, sweet vermouth. Its bit of holy herbal-ness completely rounded out the edges of the other two, and all-of-sudden I was in ginger-island-holiday-paradise. I suggest you stock up on all of the ingredients so you can get to this paradise, too (and because you may just need a drink before the month’s out. The holidays aren’t all sunshine).


Ice cubes

1-1/2 ounces VeeV Acai spirit

1 ounce Domaine de Canton ginger liqueur

1/2 ounce sweet vermouth

Ginger snap or cookie, for garnish


1. Fill a cocktail shaker halfway full with ice cubes. Add everything except the cookie. Shake well.


2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with that cookie (I had to notch it just a bit for proper rim balancing. But after that, I did a lot of dunking with it).


June 30, 2009

Cocktail Talk: Gaslight

Following up on our Ed Skoog-drinks-and-almost-pokes-his-eye-out (thanks for the worry, too, PhiSmi–it’s nice to know folks like you are looking out for the eyes of poets like Ed) post below, I decided to turn this into Ed Skoog week (a week being two posts here at the ol’ Spiked Punch). With that, here’s the first stanza in a poem Ed had in LitRag magazine, issue 5, in Winter 1999, almost 10 years ago. Jeezus. He doesn’t necessarily like the poem anymore (cause poets are like that), but hey, this is my blog, and I’ll do what I want. So there. And I do think this stanza is such a perfect dip into the personality/personalities of that moment when you’ve left the bar after being there a bit to walk out into the night. And I like bars, and poems, and you, which made me think you might like reading it, too. We’ll see (and, this gives me a chance to give a fat shout out from fat me to LitRag magazine, which I used to put out for the screaming masses with D-Rock back in the day, as the kids say).

We waver and our shadows waver

along the alley, walking home drunk

past blurred and dulled angles,

call it the parson’s late night amble

or the clock-gong’s pave of morning,

this moment on the broad plaza

between the Mississippi’s tankers

and Rome’s outpost in the old town,

the scent of old robes rising

as if they were bread loaves

which are baking somewhere, so are

the bars open still, intensely

compressing the night before

for a few more drops of that spell

that holds a body inside four walls

that do not form the corners of home.


–Ed Skoog, Gaslight, LitRag 5

January 14, 2009

What I’m Drinking Right Now: The Drowsy Chaperone

I wish I had a little sound file of me singing “baby it’s cold outside,” because I can’t think it without singing it, and since you’re here now, too, reading this, you should be able to hear what I hear–right? Or is that too meta-something-or-other? And speaking of somethings-or-others, I just learned when looking up “baby it’s cold outside” that in the classic version of the song, “the female voice in the song is called ‘The Mouse’ and the male ‘The Wolf.’” There’s something probably chauvinistic in that, but I like it anyway. Now, where was I? Oh yes, Ed Skoog. He came up with the following recipe for the Drowsy Chaperone, cause he’s so cuddly that when the lights are dim and he’s serving up a warm-but-brandy’d drink in front of the fire he likes the guardian keeping him and his lady love from getting to, shall we say, “amorous town,” he likes that guardian to dodder off into sleepy land. It has nothing to do with the musical comedy of the same name. But all to do with sidling up to that special someone with a toasty liquid treat in a snifter when the wind’s whipping along outside your door.


1 buttermint

1 1/2 ounces brandy

1/2 ounce crème de peche

3/4 ounce Cointreau


1. Add the buttermint to a snifter, and then top it with the brandy and crème de peche.


2. Put the Cointreau in a mug and heat it in the microwave for about 15 seconds. It should be hot but not boiling.


3. Carefully pour the Cointreau into the glass–isn’t it pretty and steamy and warming and lovely?

Rathbun on Film