Steve J. Moore

Posts Tagged ‘poetry’

Diana Saw Dr. Awkward Was an Aid.

In Comedy, Film, poem, poetry, Radio, The Web, TV on February 8, 2009 at 6:50 pm

So I’ve spent much of this weekend doing several things while my wife was out of town: finding new blogs and people to follow on twitter, watching TV, putting off writing assignments, and watching as much Demetri Martin as I could find on YouTube. If you are following me on Twitter (@stevejmoore), then you probably saw me sharing my excitement at Mr. Martin’s videos as I discovered them.

I had seen his work on Comedy Central, knew he wrote for Conan O’Brien for a while, and was a big fan of his flip-chart bit because of the part where he draws an empty circle and says, “this is a pie chart about procrastination.” That killed me.

I highly suggest that you check out his DVD, Demetri Martin, Person and his new show coming up this Wed. on Comedy Central as well. If Bill Gates was successful because he dropped out of Harvard, then Demetri is so because he dropped out of law school.

What stuck out to me most in his routine was the over 200-word palindrome


Yes, I drew these all by myself

“Dammit I’m Mad”


Demetri Martin

Dammit I’m mad.
Evil is a deed as I live.
God, am I reviled? I rise, my bed on a sun, I melt.
To be not one man emanating is sad. I piss.
Alas, it is so late. Who stops to help?
Man, it is hot. I’m in it. I tell.
I am not a devil. I level “Mad Dog”.
Ah, say burning is, as a deified gulp,
In my halo of a mired rum tin.
I erase many men. Oh, to be man, a sin.
Is evil in a clam? In a trap?
No. It is open. On it I was stuck.
Rats peed on hope. Elsewhere dips a web.
Be still if I fill its ebb.
Ew, a spider… eh?
We sleep. Oh no!
Deep, stark cuts saw it in one position.
Part animal, can I live? Sin is a name.
Both, one… my names are in it.
Murder? I’m a fool.
A hymn I plug, deified as a sign in ruby ash,
A Goddam level I lived at.
On mail let it in. I’m it.
Oh, sit in ample hot spots. Oh wet!
A loss it is alas (sip). I’d assign it a name.
Name not one bottle minus an ode by me:
“Sir, I deliver. I’m a dog”
Evil is a deed as I live.
Dammit I’m mad.

Truly the work of a solitary genius. Off the top of my head, I only know a few palindromes beyond the title of this post (ah, did you catch it?), “madam, I’m adam,” and “racecar.” I certainly can’t imagine spending time trying to create an entire poem out of nothing but these reflexive devices; simply astonishing and awesome. I think his act, if you take a bit of time to watch it, says a lot about art. Martin was interviewed this week on NPR, which is what prompted me to find more of his material. He has a great narrative and is now an artist I respect very much. His stand-up explores more than jokes; he gets in so many digs about humanity, philosophy, and social idiosyncrasies, but does so with such loveable sophomoric snark, that you have to digest it all with a hearty chuckle.

Very funny, and I hope his new show will be too.

Reading Ballistics and Conceiving a Journey to the Top of Chimney Rock

In Nature, poetry, Writing on February 3, 2009 at 8:27 pm


I wish I could climb a rock
fingers in cracks and feet en pointe
through rubber
my soul wants to rise up
through to the clouds above the summit
and I wish

I could read a book of poems
while I was shimmying
jimmying, and scraping to the top.

I wish his words–Billy’s words were there
at each cinch and in each crevasse
speaking in forms of detached
and animated cartoon mouths
so I could reap
so I could roll back my eyes
while my muscles contract.
The striated, lean, and corpusculous
tissues conquering the planet’s skin.

The crag should drink my blood
where the sun could bake it black
with everything but the carbon evaporating,
because of such a rough disagreement
of skin and bone with sediment.

A Poetic Inauguration

In poetry, Radio, TV, World Events, Writing on January 20, 2009 at 9:48 am

Because I love poetry, because I love politics, because I am too lazy busy to write anything else, I am posting a copy of the inaugural poem that Robert Frost read for John F. Kennedy on this very day in 1961.

Barack Obama has chosen Yale poet and scholar Elizabeth Alexander to pen the fourth presidential inauguration poem for him. She was a Pulitzer finalist in 2005 and has written several volumes of poetry.

 This first poem, Dedication (pictured below), was written in commemoration of John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inauguration, but due to 87 year old eyes, Frost could not read the type. Instead of the poem below, he read The Gift Outright (further below) from memory.






Summoning artists to participate

In the august occasions of the state

Seems something artists ought to celebrate.

Today is for my cause a day of days.

And his be poetry’s old-fashioned praise

Who was the first to think of such a thing.

This verse that in acknowledgment I bring

Goes back to the beginning of the end

Of what had been for centuries the trend;

A turning point in modern history.

Colonial had been the thing to be

As long as the great issue was to see

What country’d be the one to dominate

By character, by tongue, by native trait,

The new world Christopher Columbus found.

The French, the Spanish, and the Dutch were downed

And counted out. Heroic deeds were done.

Elizabeth the First and England won.

Now came on a new order of the ages

That in the Latin of our founding sages

(Is it not written on the dollar bill

We carry in our purse and pocket still?)

God nodded his approval of as good.

So much those heroes knew and understood,

I mean the great four, Washington,

John Adams, Jefferson, and Madison

So much they saw as consecrated seers

They must have seen ahead what not appears,

They would bring empires down about our ears

And by the example of our Declaration

Make everybody want to be a nation.

And this is no aristocratic joke

At the expense of negligible folk.

We see how seriously the races swarm

In their attempts at sovereignty and form.

They are our wards we think to some extent

For the time being and with their consent,

To teach them how Democracy is meant.

“New order of the ages” did they say?

If it looks none too orderly today,

‘Tis a confusion it was ours to start

So in it have to take courageous part.

No one of honest feeling would approve

A ruler who pretended not to love

A turbulence he had the better of.

Everyone knows the glory of the twain

Who gave America the aeroplane

To ride the whirlwind and the hurricane.

Some poor fool has been saying in his heart

Glory is out of date in life and art.

Our venture in revolution and outlawry

Has justified itself in freedom’s story

Right down to now in glory upon glory.

Come fresh from an election like the last,

The greatest vote a people ever cast,

So close yet sure to be abided by,

It is no miracle our mood is high.

Courage is in the air in bracing whiffs

Better than all the stalemate an’s and ifs.

There was the book of profile tales declaring

For the emboldened politicians daring

To break with followers when in the wrong,

A healthy independence of the throng,

A democratic form of right divine

To rule first answerable to high design.

There is a call to life a little sterner,

And braver for the earner, learner, yearner.

Less criticism of the field and court

And more preoccupation with the sport.

It makes the prophet in us all presage

The glory of a next Augustan age

Of a power leading from its strength and pride,

Of young ambition eager to be tried,

Firm in our free beliefs without dismay,

In any game the nations want to play.

A golden age of poetry and power

Of which this noonday’s the beginning hour.




The Gift Outright


Poem recited instead by Robert Frost at the

1961 Inauguration


The land was ours before we were the land’s.

She was our land more than a hundred years

Before we were her people. She was ours

In Massachusetts, in Virginia,

But we were England’s, Still colonials,

Possessing what we still were unpossessed by,

Possessed by what we now no more possessed.

Something we were withholding from our land of living,

And forthwith found salvation in surrender.

Such as we were we gave ourselves outright

(The deed of gift was many deeds of war)

To the land vaguely; realizing westward,

But still unstoried, artless, unenhanced,

Such as she was, such as she would become.


As a gem for those of you who at least scrolled to the bottom of this post (not everyone reads poetry carefully, I know) I stumbled upon two poems that Obama, himself, had published in an Occidental College journal years ago. Read them for yourself here.


In Writing on November 8, 2008 at 10:47 am


A Confession to Pretension

I’ve been writing this in my head
while I drink black coffee and
unroll the etymology of a cigarette
with my tongue, wet from a soft kiss
my mistress muse gave me
after we made love in-between
the sheets of Shakespearean Sonnets

She, I will compare to the
coldest winter’s eve,
the kind that chills
a wind, inducing stupor

I’m not sure how to tell her
I use a smartphone to text my wife
or that I drive a decent car and have
zero facial hair.

I’ve never known someone who killed himself.

I have no gruffness,
no malice to stew in.
Maybe I should chain myself
to a type writer, but I don’t have one
and word processors are so much less
dramatic, so much less noisy.

What I want are reasons:
reasons to sew tulle into a sentence
in an effort to fish for compliments,
reasons to build flying buttresses
that are the pointed eyebrows
of a great face,
reasons to brew tea in a can of Mountain Dew
in order to save money on sugar,

reasons to sing along with—visit—Highway 61
for the first time again.

But I can’t give in.

Everything Else Now Should Come Easy.

In Writing on October 30, 2008 at 5:01 pm

Sit down for a few minutes, turn off the TV, close your laptop–wait, don’t do that, just close your YouTube or Hulu windows–take a sip of Sumatra, and relax.

Pretend like you’re reading this out loud in your head, perform for yourself silently and savor each liquid word.

Malcolm Alexander


If you wish to be wealthy, duck beneath
the topcoat of a well-dressed river
until you come up with a mossy boot
filled with shiners. Spend them wisely.

To tread lightly on the earth,
first breathe in and out slowly
to sense how oxygen walks barefoot,
then observe butterflies, so weightless
even our poetry burdens them.

Avoid mistaking sadness for blueberries,
but if this happens, remember only one
of the two tastes like a somersault.

Make nothing more of the moon
than what it is, a great big pebble
hunting for a shoe, not to be confused
with the heart, likewise a vagabond.

Inside of every stray cat lurks a person
who discarded love. Remember this
when you bend over to wind them up.

If you feel compelled to fly a flag,
note how it struggles in vain to be a rainbow
and how envy will make it twist and flap
like a tongue. Consider instead a kite.

If you desire to reach heaven,
have your body buried in an aspen grove.
In time, all of you will wick up
into a loud version of it.

If the noise of the human world overwhelms you,
trace the voicebox of an orchid with your finger.
When you get to the aria, listen.
But beware, for beauty can be a lacewing
or a meteor, and lands wherever it pleases.

When you finish reading a poem,
bend it around so you can see
yourself in it. Then laugh out loud.
Everything else now should come easy.

2006 Rattle Poetry Prize, Honorable Mention

Now, have a good day 🙂

I Can Get Behind That

In Music, Writing on September 23, 2008 at 3:53 pm

I recently picked up William Shatner’s album from 2004 “Has Been” upon a friend’s recommendation. My experiences with ol’ Billy Shatsky (as I like to refer to him) were previously limited to reruns of Star Trek, Priceline ads and spots for Boston Legal. The cover art is fitting, a picture of Shatner neck up with a hand covering his face in the pseudo-shame of a true has been. The title track doesn’t come until you’re mostly through the album, but it plays tongue-in-cheek into the ironic concept of hasbeendome and those who would give Bill such a label.

Some songs–and I would call them songs, as lacking in singing as they are–are avant garde amalgamations of Gene Roddenberry sci-fi and the Beatnik oral poetry of Allen Ginsberg in the strangest way. The songs are rich in confession and complex emotions being dealt with in a surprisingly casual way. One track, “That’s Me Trying” is a letter of apology to his daughter for being an absent father. While it could sound like the sadder cousin of “Butterfly Kisses,” (cheesy, overdone, and trite) it is much more akin to songs like Ben Folds’s “Still Fighting It,” a song about growing up written for his son; but maybe that song comes more easily to mind because Shatner borrows Folds’s voice for the chorus.

There’s a surprising amount of emotion in this album–and humor too! I think what I like best about it is the blending of the two. The authentic combination of humor and heartfelt emotion, though they seem to me inseparable, is the seminole mark of success in any artistic medium. Maybe that’s the curse of the eternal optimist, seeing the good in everything means finding ways to lament through a laugh and to chuckle quietly at a tear shed. Shatner’s album isn’t earth-shaking or grammy worthy (although that’s almost an insult anymore for most genres–the Grammy part) but its audacity, eccentricity, and stark likeability are just what every wordsmith, lyricist, actor or singer could hope for in an expression.

Here are a few gems along the album’s lines of humor:

The Shatner WoW commercial

1978 Rendition of Sir Elton John’s Rocket Man

I See the Moon

In Writing on August 21, 2008 at 9:01 am

At a Red Light Where No One Waits

Even after years of church,
I see the prayers
I have not prayed,
not the ones to come
later on,
but rather those meditations
of my heart
that I did not speak
with closed dark eyes
hands folded out of habit.

I see them in a crosswalk
not walked across
and at a red light
where no one waits.

I see them in tea leaves
steeped and sipped
but not Seen.

They live in the wood body
of a guitar in my closet
whose diaphragm waits taut
for breath so it may sing again.

They live in O and N
on a damp window pane,
where lips were near
and love is vain.

Politics and the Coffee Pot

In Writing on August 1, 2008 at 11:50 am


Alt text is not amused by your mouse hovering.

I wake up in the morning
and the coffee brewing
sounds like Tony Blair
in a long grey tunnel
repeating the word “bottle”

in his distinguished brown
British accent.
But covered in hot grounds,
he cannot finish his thought
aloud. We are stuck wondering

what came before “bottle”
and what may have filled
it. Perhaps, a political bottle-
neck metaphor as we approach
election. Or maybe bottle-

caps littering the street
of the not-so-green London.
I see green bottles high up
on my shelf in a line
like soldiers guarding

the dishes and cups
reminding me of joyous nights
past. Some emptied more
hastily than others.
Now I await eagerly to drain

the pot with a burnt crust
ringed forever at its bottom
and I chuckle at the thought
of my diplomatic dark roast
as my eyes open slowly.