Saturday, October 20, 2007

A Brief Guide to American Poetry

And now . . . a journey into shameless self-promotion.

My first chapbook of poems has come out. It's called A Brief Guide to American Poetry and includes five pieces selected by editor Michele Cooper for her Premier Poets Chapbook Series.

I want to thank Michele for believing in my work enough to publish me in her fine series of chapbooks, which also features titles by Janet Kaplan, Les Lopes and Alexandra van de Kamp, among others. It's truly an honor.

How weird and exciting to see this little creature come into the world. . . .

If you're interested, you can order a copy online. See the sidebar on the right.

In the meantime, here's the title poem. It's a slightly revised version from the one in the chapbook. (You know poets - always fiddling with their work.)


A Brief Guide to American Poetry

The doorknob is not a part of the floorshow.

The floorshow, while still engaged in a peripheral attempt at
cultural revolution, has been downgraded to a niche market.

There is now a cable channel selling facsimiles
of the first-edition ice box.

If you visit the web site,
you can make the virtual poet recite in Yiddish
or set herself on fire in the lobby of corporate headquarters.

The beaches are nice, but sewage is a problem
after heavy rain.

Members of the Academy have installed an interactive
guillotine for those who want to ask questions.

When you enter the Hall of Mirrors, please remember
to extinguish your signal flares.

Post-war poets can be divided into two camps:
the horseradish-eaters and the smoke detectors.

Class distinction is muted, inasmuch as “class”
as a concept has been transformed into
a porcelain poodle.

Cultural politics play an increasingly important role,
generally that of the sexy bureaucrat in the musical version
of No Exit.

Sexual orientation is often confused and frequently
alone on a Saturday night.

There has been discussion among the thesis committee
about which war is actually being referred to
in the term “post-war.”

The doorknobs are largely symbolic.

The organic zeitgeist you left rotting in the shoebox
has been analyzed and deleted.

Women outnumber men in most areas,
except, of course, in upper management.

If you don’t know the secret handshake, don’t worry.
They weren’t going to let you into the club anyway.

Many pre-war poets, once full of vim and vigor,
have vanished from the post-war catalogue.

The proletariat giraffe-handler is no longer an accurate
guide for trope distribution.

The flag has been surgically sewn into your ass,
so make the best of it when choosing a theme
for your new work.

FYI: The rain is no longer fashionable.

Heroin abuse still elicits a few fervent nods at open mics,
but alienation has been dropped from the List
of Recommended Subject Matter.

Suggested alternatives include: yoga, cats, free
market democracy, and liberal angst at being rejected
by the jocks in charge of the dance committee.

Brechtian tendencies can be treated easily at any writers’ workshop.

Translations of foreign poetry have steadily decreased
since the President sprayed jism on the hired-help’s dress.

This is offset by the growing number of dissertations
on the post-modern significance of
Madonna’s marketing techniques.

Suicide is still an option, though it lost
some of its luster after that Sylvia Plath movie.

The drugs are helping for the most part, but I keep seeing
the horse go up in flames. On bad nights, he sings
a little lullaby while his eyeballs melt.

Be careful reading Baudelaire or Gregory Corso
on the subway. The doorknob in your handbag may explode.


crystal said...

Congrats on the book - i'm envious and impressed :-)

crystal said...

ps - is there a link to where to buy the book?

cowboyangel said...

Thanks, Crystal.

There's a Buy Now button on the sidebar, just below my Bio and a picture of the book. Let me know if it doesn't work. It's Pay Pal.

crystal said...

My browser doesn't see a button .... oh, now I see it. I didn't wait ling enough for it to load before.

Liam said...

Congratulations, batman. The cover is very cool.

cowboyangel said...

Thanks, Crystal, for the purchase! I'll send that out ASAP.

I hope you like it.

cowboyangel said...


Thanks for the comment. And, of course, for all your help and support over the years.

Liam said...

Actually, I should just quote what Ezra Pound said to TS Eliot when he wrote the Wasteland: "Congratulations, you bitch! I am wracked by the seven jealousies."

Jeff said...

Congrats, William! Quite the surrealistic amalgam in your title poem, although I must say, a bit dark compared to what I usually see in your writing.

This is really cool. I'm jealous too, even though I've never tried a hand at poetry.

cowboyangel said...

Jeff, thanks. There's not much to be jealous of - I mean, it's five poems in an 8-page little chapbook that could be (and probably was) put together at Kinko's. About as basic as it gets. Your writing is certainly at a publishing level, as I've said many times before. You've never commented on my comments about that - I'm curious why you don't send out your work. Or do you?

Interesting that you think the poem is "a bit dark" compared to my writing on the blog. I'm a pretty dark guy. I struggle on a daily basis to be positive about life, but it's often a losing battle. Ask Liam. He knows how gloomy I can be.

My writing on the blog never feels like my "creative" work - my poetry or fiction. It's so much more controlled. Maybe that's why it's not as dark. I don't feel as free on the blog to really let go. There are some pretty terrifying demons in there. But as Tom Waits sang, "If I exorcise my demons, my angels may leave, too, and when they leave,they're so hard to find."

Jeff said...


Don't be modest. This is great news for you.

I appreciate the edge on your stuff, but I like your sense of humor too. You have a gift.

I could never write poetry, except perhaps for off-color limericks.

I love Tom Waits. My favorite song of his is Romeo is Bleeding on Blue Valentine, and strangely, the movie of the same title with Lena Olin and Gary Oldman had nothing to do with the song. I don't think they even used it.

Jeff said...

I like $29.00 from that album too.

"Little black girl, in a red dress, on a hot summer night, with a broken shoe....

When you've done a dime in the joint, you figure nuthin' could be worse, and you got $29.00 and alligator purse..."