David Trinidad is Doing Tim Dlugos
I don’t mean for that to sound as provocative as it does. Trinidad is in the midst of editing Dlugos’s Collected Poems. Dlugos is still under-read, in part because contemporary poetry is still just catching up to his Pop-Art poems, his eclectic palette of cultural references and tones. I did hear Joan Larkin singing Dlugos’s praises to students at New England College two summers ago, and I think that Trinidad’s loving restoration of so many heretofore unpublished gems will help to bring these poems—both intimate and public, wistful and acerbic—to a wider audience.
I just got the new Columbia Poetry Review and wanted to give a tease, a little schmattering of some of the Spring issue’s 200-plus pages of poetry. Smack in the middle of it all is twenty poems by Dlugos, with Trinidad’s brief introduction provocatively placed on page 69 of the magazine. Here’s my favorite, a mordant send-up of one of Hollywood’s most perplexing figures, with a nod to O’Hara’s Lana Turner poem:
Shelley Winters you’re such a pig I love you
Not “even though” you’re ugly and never shut up
and dress like the wife of a cabbie who won
the Lottery, but because of it!
I think you’re a miserable actress, and didn’t
even care when you drowned in The Poseidon
Adventure, it was a terrible movie and you
were just wretched all the way through.
I agree with Neal Freeman that, objectively, you
are ALWAYS unsatisfactory
And incredibly tacky: I know someone who
saw you stinking drunk and stumbling down a
corridor in the Traymore, now you always
remind me of Atlantic City, and that’s dreary.
Every time you’re on Dick Cavett I get embarrassed
for him just watching you talk.
You never answer the questions. You never remotely
answer the questions.
Shelley, sometimes I don’t think I can take it you
depress me so, but you fascinate the hell out of
me just the same
And I say with a sigh, “It’s okay, it’s just the
way Shelley is.”
I’m so young, you’re so dumb, it never could work
still I watch you every chance I get and love
you, you’re such a mess
* * * * * * * * * *
I don’t think I’d ever read anything by Benjamin Paloff, but I was smitten by his updated version of Roman philosopher Seneca the Younger. He combines the instructive voice of Seneca’s dialogues with a self-effacing humor and a sense of the modern:
Seneca on Banishment
Somewhere I missed where it said not to do the emperor’s sister,
and at last I get what the khans will be about: outside, nothing
is more inviting than a wall visible from space. So I say to myself,
O Greatest Etcetera of your generation, show me a cataclysm
quieter than an exploding star and I’ll know there’s no need
to console my mother for what I’ve become, a dream
of walking so far at night that my clothes wake me in the morning,
anxious to go, gasping for breath. I pray to Time to make this real.
This issue of Columbia Poetry Review is chock-full of great poems, by a broad range of poets. Some highlights: Brenda Hillman, E. Ethelbert Miller, Aaron Smith, Larissa Szporluk, Mary Ann Samyn, Reginald Shepherd, Brad Gooch, Meg Reilly, Timothy O’Keefe, Matthew Rohrer, Srikanth Reddy, Matthew Zapruder, Amy Gerstler, Carl Phillips, Gary Soto, Mark Bibbins, Stephanie Strickland, Michael Montlack, Terrance Hayes, Kathy Fagan. And I’m not even beginning to list all that’s in there—you have to buy it.
One more morsel, to excite your appetite:
Bless Me, Delicious
Scattering ashes on the cracked porch
as if we would never sweep again—the crisped leaves,
ticket stubs, anonymous twigs of greater breaking.
Who notices the stray cat scouting my pale autumn flowers?
Who reads anymore to the garden spider
furiously bouncing his web? Bless me, vague turning away.
Bless me, quick car door and right turn signal.
There is a powder here lining my window sills
and the faint scent of something wonderful we once ate.
Born in Albany, Georgia, D. A. Powell earned an MA at Sonoma State University and an MFA at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His first three collections of poetry, Tea, (1998), Lunch (2000), and Cocktails (2004), are considered by some to be a trilogy on the AIDS epidemic. Lunch was a...