David Bruce: The Funniest People in Books, Volume 2 — Poetry


• F. Scott Fitzgerald had the soul of a poet. While writer Corey Ford was living in Hollywood, he stayed in an apartment that had a view he disliked and avoided. The view was of a hillside that was being bulldozed for building sites. The hillside had been bulldozed into terraces, on which were trailing vines. One night, Mr. Fitzgerald visited Mr. Ford. Mr. Fitzgerald wandered to the balcony, gazed at the moonlit scene, and said, “The hanging gardens of Babylon.” After that, Mr. Ford frequently enjoyed the view from his terrace.

• While attending Montclair State Teacher’s College in Montclair, New York, Paula Danziger met poet John Ciardi, who greatly influenced her development as a writer of books for young children and teenagers. He once had her analyze a poem by using the color red to underline the funny lines and the color blue to underline the serious lines. When she had finished analyzing the poem, the lines were underlined with red mixed with blue: purple. Ms. Danziger’s own books are a mixture of funny and serious. She says, “That’s what I always write toward — that mixture.”

• Surrealists sometimes played a game called “Exquisite Corpse.” In this game, a person will write a line of poetry on a sheet of paper, bend the paper so that the line cannot be read, then give the paper to another person who does the same thing. The two poets keep writing different lines, until they decide the poem is complete and unfold the paper to read the poem. The game’s name comes from the very first poem created by the game: “the exquisite / corpse / shall drink / the new / wine.”

• In 1992, Bill Clinton chose African-American author Maya Angelou to write and deliver a poem at his Inaugural Day ceremony. To prepare herself to write the poem, she read such works as the sermons of African-American preachers, the poems of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, and the writings of Frederick Douglass and W.E.B. DuBois. Her being chosen to write the poem was big news, and when she traveled on airplanes, fellow passengers sometimes asked her, “Finish your poem yet?”

• When she was a 16-year-old teenager growing up in New Jersey, rocker Patti Smith craved poetry. A bus depot she knew about had a collection of used books — mostly pulp fiction. However, among the dross was a volume of poems by Rimbaud titled Illuminations. Lacking money, she stole the book — then replaced that volume with a book she owned but didn’t want. Ms. Smith says about the Rimbaud book, “I was never sorry that I nicked it.”

• Zen master Sengai was invited to a wealthy man’s housewarming. After enjoying a fine meal, Sengai was asked to compose a poem in honor of the housewarming. He quickly wrote the first half of his poem, “The house is surrounded / By the gods of poverty.” Looking over Sengai’s shoulder, the host became angry, but his mind was set at ease when Sengai finished his poem: “How can the deities of good luck / Ever leave it?”

• World-class African-American poet Countee Cullen wanted to be judged as a poet, not as an African-American poet. He stated that clearly to Brooklyn Daily Eagle reporter Margaret Sperry: “If I am going to be a poet at all, I am going to be a poet and not a Negro poet.” Ironically, the headline for this interview stated, “Countee P. Cullen, Negro Boy Poet, Tells His Story.”

• When he was a student, poet David McCord, author of One at a Time, had a teacher who told him, “Never let a day go by without looking on three beautiful things.” He has always tried to follow that advice, which he acknowledges is not difficult. Mr. McCord says, “The sky in all weathers is, for me, the first of these three things.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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Music Recommendation: Black Lips — “Rumbler”


Music: “Rumbler”


Artist: Black Lips

Artist Location: Atlanta, George

Music Company: Fire Records

Music Company Location: London, UK

Info: Fire Records is a London-based independent label. Founded in 1984, Fire continues its history of maverick and inspired A+R.

“Boasting an unapologetic southern-fried twang, the twelve-track collection marks the quintet’s most pronounced dalliance with country music yet, with a clang and harmony that is unmistakably the inimitable sound and feel of the Black Lips. While the songcraft and playing is more sophisticated, Black Lips were determined to return to the raw sound roots that marked their early efforts.”

funkyratchet, a fan, wrote, “Ramshackle trash country. Undeniable. Favorite track: ‘Gentleman.’”

Price: £1 (GBP) for track; £7 (GBP) for 12-track album

Genre: Country-Tinged Rock. Alternative Country.


Black Lips on Bandcamp




Fire Records