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it gets run over by a van.
you find it at the side of the road
and bury it.
you feel bad about it.
you feel bad personally,
but you feel bad for your daughter
because it was her pet,
and she loved it so.
she used to croon to it
and let it sleep in her bed.
you write a poem about it.
you call it a poem for your daughter,
about the dog getting run over by a van
and how you looked after it,
took it out into the woods
and buried it deep, deep,
and that poem turns out so good
you're almost glad the little dog
was run over, or else you'd never
have written that good poem.
then you sit down to write
a poem about writing a poem
about the death of that dog,
but while you're writing you
hear a woman scream
your name, your first name,
both syllables,
and your heart stops.
after a minute, you continue writing.
she screams again.
you wonder how long this can go on.

—Raymond Carver,
from Fires

more poems online

Charles Bukowski
Considered a sexist neanderathal by some, idolized by many more, Buk's is a no-bullshit approach to verse. Tough talk, casual sex, classical music, alcohol, horseraces, and cigarettes are the props which adorn his celebrations of the seamier side of life, a caustic wit and cutting tongue are the weapons in his war on hypocrites. Whatever your politics, there's no denying that this is compelling poetry, perhaps because it confronts its author's admitted wretchedness stripped of the usual trappings of polite language, fake graces, and Poetry with a capital P. Don't bother trying to find him at your local public library--either they consider him pornographic or somebody has already stolen all the copies.

[ reviews of novels by charles bukowski ]

Raymond Carver
  • Fires: Essays, Poems, Stories
    As spare as they are, most of Carver's short stories strike me as a bit long-winded. Not so his poetry, which treat his usual themes--alcoholism, working-class poverty, and rocky relationships--with greater wit and vigor than his prose. The essays will be of interest to would-be writers and Carver biographers, but what makes this book outstanding is the 60 pages of poetry which comprise its heart.
  • A New Path to the Waterfall: Last Poems
    Assembled during the final days of Carver's battle with cancer at the age of 51, there's not an ounce of fat on this book. The poems are urgent and moving, bold as poetry can be only when there is nothing left to lose and no time left in which to lose it. Carver also let go of ego, including versified snippets of Chekhov as well as entire poems and translations from Jaroslav Seifert and Czeslaw Milosz

Gregory Corso
  • Gasoline
    So many grown-ups in their sophistication and death of idealism dispel reading the Beats as an adolescent exercise, nice for its time but out of step with the plodding realities of romanceless existence to which they are resigned. But it's hard to pick up an Orlovsky or Ginsberg or Corso or Kerouac and not be inspired oneself to scribe the details of the instant before it slips into the distance, so if you're looking for some portable inspiration unencumbered by "messages" or a political agenda, Gasoline is a nifty pocket edition perfect for carrying around and grazing at bus stops and post office box, complete with a couple of blank pages at the back whereon to tell your own story, lid on the top of your head loosened by a deft turn of phrase and vision of obviously miraculous which you might not otherwise have noticed.

Allen Ginsberg

One of Eric Drooker's extraordinary illustrations

  • Illuminated Poems
    illustrated by Eric Drooker

    In the tradition of William Blake, sumptuous paintings and drawings complement rather than describe the poems. Chosen by Drooker, the selections reflect the painter's political activism, but "Howl," "Sunflower Sutra," and "On Neal's Ashes" all are here, as are other lesser-known poems such as "When the Light Appears," which is featured on the Cornershop album When I Was Born for the 7th Time.
  • Howl and Other Poems
    Perhaps the most famous poem of the 20th century, Howl was inspired by fellow San Franciscan Kenneth Rexroth's "Thou Shalt Not Kill," a lament for poets such as Dylan Thomas and Hart Crane who were driven to self-destruction by the vulgarity of the first half of the 20th century; these are the "best minds of my generation destroyed by madness" of Howl's much-quoted opening line. They hadn't seen anything yet.

    Ginsberg went crazy, too, but rather than having his mind destroyed he found an outlet in expansive verse which he considered sheet music for breathing, through which the reader assumes the spirit (from the latin spiritus, for breath) of the poet when the poem is read aloud. At least that's how he described it when I took his Literature of the Beats class at Brooklyn College in spring 1994.

    This is the original little square City Lights edition which rode in the pockets of beatniks and hippies all through the '50s and '60s, complete with introduction by Ginsberg's mentor and fellow Paterson resident, William Carlos Williams. Read it for yourself and decide whether or not Moloch "...whose mind is pure machinery! Moloch whose blood is running money! Moloch whose fingers are ten armies! Moloch whose breast is a cannibal dynamo! Moloch whose ear is a smoking tomb..." still walks among us.

Peter Orlovsky
Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs
Funny poems from Allen Ginsberg's lover. Like old Ezra Pound, Orlovsky eschewed proper spelling in deference to word essence. Soul is connection between mouth and asshole, empty without both, all parts of meat vehicle and cosmic connections celebrated here. Orlovsky's anatomical candor resonates with soapy wiping station in Kerouac's Dharma Bums (no pun?) and Burroughs' famous line from Naked Lunch: Gentle Reader, we glimpse god through our assholes in the flashbulb of orgasm. This is a sweet little pocket-sized book, out of print, admired by Williams, assigned by Allen Ginsberg in his Beat Lit class at Brooklyn College. Let it tickle you.

CAT HAIKU (p. 70):
Cat throughing up in all the rooms
              Is that my heaven to clean up vomit
                           well! here I am in the city tickling floors

[ read Good Fuck with Denise from Clean Asshole Poems... ]

Phil Rizzuto
O Holy Cow!: The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto
Phil "The Scooter" Rizzuto was shortstop during 1950's Yankees dynasty, later became "Voice of Yankees" on WPIX local NYC radio and TV stations. His was the fatherliness I never had in the home. This book is broadcast transcripts broken into linebreaks making true American poetry. Example:

...You know, it might,
It might sound corny.
But we have the most beautiful full moon tonight.
And the crowd,
Enjoying whatever is going on right now.
They say it might sound corny,
But to me it's some kind of a,
   Like an omen.

Both the moon and Thurman Munson,
Both ascending up into heaven.
I just can't get it out of my mind.
I just saw that full moon,
And it just reminded me of Thurman.
   And that's it.
August 6, 1979
Baltimore at New York
Ron Guidry pitching to Lee May
Fifth inning, bases empty, no outs
Orioles lead 1-0

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© 1999 robert zverina