O SHIRTWALKERS!

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Can you surrey? Can you picnic? Surrey down to a stoned soul picnic… And from the sky come the Lord and the lightning. -from the song “Stoned Soul Picnic” by The 5th Dimension They hit the streets, those Single gents spilling out of the cleaners All partnered up & promenodding Escorting their dainties. O You Shirtwalkers! Drop her, she’s just a thin wire of feigned domesticity Nothing but a clothes hanger. The press and starch of your city life Is blanding your manly. Don’t you see me passing? I want to slap my hands against your plackets & Pop your […]

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Starting Over

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I can’t not keep coming back to this place that’s not a place, its pepper trees, olive trees, lilac, narcissus, jasmine, here with me and mock orange and eucalyptus and working words that fill in others, an earthquake-enlivened rose bush, pollarded plane trees and sycamores, and cypress flat-topped by sea wind. Here are Interstate concrete, desert dust, hardpan, here are cobblestones and woven bricky streets, Death Valley’s salt flats, here are red granite domes that cool at night and groan. They are here. The imagination rushes toward the world in fear of forgetting anything: witness and invent, it says, and […]

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Second Wind

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The white of the ocean’s foam-froth is said to contain all colors, while the sea’s green-blue depths are composed of the colors our ancestors could not bear. Or could not bear to let go: the story varies with the source. And the shadow that lies on the sea is cast by no flying or orbiting thing, but by the ocean floor where it blocks the light from the sun at the heart of the earth. These things, however they might terrify, are nonetheless true. I will hold you through the shivers and terrors. I will kiss the unholy curve of […]

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Houdini at 40

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Handcuffed and head down in the tank two and a half minutes behind the black velvet curtain, deadbolts across the opening and nothing but the sound of water filling my ears, I discover myself on the verge of a possible mistake.  This is to say I meant for Anatole to leave me bound this time round; the longer the lapping occurs in my head, the closer I come to the governance of happiness.  I am truly singing in here, not drowning but singing, and if only you could hear me strumming in this little ocean of sleep, you would know […]

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Between Possibilities: Stephen Dunn’s ‘Here and Now’

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Whenever a poet as preeminent as Stephen Dunn releases a new corpus of material, the potential for failure can’t help but manifest itself. Some might fear that the book, having come from an author who has already attained a pinnacle of critical achievement (Dunn won the Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for Different Hours), will turn out to be a footnote compared to the works that preceded it. Still others might stifle an otherwise solid book with narrow expectations or preconceptions. Yet Dunn’s most recent publication, Here and Now (Norton; 112 pages), is anything but stillborn, an object all its own—rather […]

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This Evening From Far Away

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Dean Young is the critically-acclaimed author of several books of poetry, including Skid (2002), a finalist for the Lenore Marshall Prize, and Elegy on Toy Piano (2005), a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He’s been awarded Guggenheim and NEA fellowships, and has taught at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and is the William Livingston Chair of Poetry at the University of Texas in Austin. And he’s recently had a heart transplant.

At 7 p.m. tonight at the University of California at Berkeley, his peers and his admirers from the Bay Area and farther out will be reading from their work and Dean Young’s at a public fund-raiser. Admission is free, but chances will abound to donate funds for his staggering health care costs.

The following poem is one of many small joys from his new book of poetry, Fall Higher (Copper Canyon Press). Come on out, commune with the literary community, and enjoy more of his wondrous verse.

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Everything That Happens Can Be Called Aging

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Carl Adamshick, who lives in Portland, Ore., is the 2010 recipient of the Walt Whitman Award. His first poetry collection, Curses and Wishes (Louisiana State University Press), was just published in April. “Everything That Happens Can Be Called Aging” is one of his two poems in the Spring 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA.

The poem evokes the giddy moment when we realize how much we love our somewhat average existence, when we grasp how remarkable and vibrant our seemingly unremarkable lives really are.  “I need no resolution/just the constant turmoil of living,” says the speaker, who notes in the poem’s first line: “I have more love than ever.”

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The Giraffe

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Robin Ekiss, a former managing editor at ZYZZYVA, has been a waterslide attendant and an AFL/CIO meat cutter. She’s also an accomplished poet. Her first collection of poems, The Mansion of Happiness (2009), was published by the University of Georgia Press. Her work also has appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, APR, POETRY, TriQuarterly, Ploughshares, The Kenyon Review, New England Review, Black Warrior Review, and VQR.

“The Giraffe” is one of her two poems in the Spring 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA. Only ten lines long, its compactness belies its intricacy. Along with Tom Barbash and Vanessa Hua, she will be reading at the Booksmith in San Francisco on May 4.

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Things Lost in Translation

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Devreaux Baker is a Northern California poet and the author of many collections, including Red Willow People (2010), published by Wild Ocean Press in San Francisco. She also produces the Mendocino Coast Poetry Reading Series and produced “The Voyagers Radio Program of Original Student Writing,” which aired on KZYX Public Radio.

“Things Lost in Translation” appeared in the Winter 2010 issue of ZYZZYVA. (You can get a copy here.) Baker’s poem could be described as a romantic plea, urging the beloved to allow the speaker full knowledge of his or her life. “Empty the words from your pockets/rearrange the stars if you have to,/ but tell me something untold before/”

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My Father in Russia

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Portland, Ore., poet Matthew Dickman won the 2008 APR/Honickman First Book Prize and the 2009 Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry (Oregon Book Awards) for his first poetry collection, “All-American Poem” (American Poetry Review). His second book of poems, “Maykovsky’s Revolver,” will be published by W.W. Norton & Co. in 2012.

The Spring 2011 issue of ZYZZYVA (you can buy a copy here) features three new poems from him, including “My Father in Russia,” an ecstatically comic vision of the new East (and of the West, for that matter). He’ll be reading with his fellow Portland writer and Spring 2011 contributor Erika Recordon at the Rumpus in San Francisco on Monday, April 11.

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National Geographic

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Victor Martinez was eight years away from winning the National Book Award for his novel “Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida” when ZYZZZYVA published a poem of his in its Summer issue of 1988. (At the time, Martinez was editing Humanizarte, the publishing arm of Aztlan Cultural/Centro Chicano de Escritores in Oakland.) Alternately terrifying and comic, “National Geographic” captures a besieged state of mind, one cataloging the dangers of a sinister society and a corrupted environment. Victor Martinez died Feb. 18 in San Francisco. He was 56.

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The Pen

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Raymond Carver was still living in Port Angeles, Washington, and had just had published his poetry collection “Where Water Comes Together With Other Water” when ZYZZYVA ran his poem “The Pen” in its Fall 1985 issue. It’s a playful poem, and could be read as a gruff take on Pablo Neruda’s “Odes to Common Things.” Here, all inspiration flows from the pen itself, not the writer. But the pen is no more reliable than the put-upon poet.

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