The year of the rooster is drawing to a close, and along with it comes our last Crucial Rooster column for '05. Reb Livingston, our funny, smart, neighborhood poet, has galvanized this Friday space into a must read for many of our fiction-centric friends, the ones who so often wear blinders when it comes to poetry. Reb has cajoled, taunted, flaunted and seduced us into caring about well-designed chapbooks, little known magazines, and one very kick ass online poetry journal. She has broadened our worldview and challenged our old-timey notions of meter and synecdoche and—god forbid!— a certain Pulitzer prize winning poet. We thank Reb Livingston. We can't pay her. But we can thank her quite publicly and unabashedly. Plus, we're happy to put in a good word with the big guy to go easy on the coal this year— she wasn't really that naughty, was she?
Crucial Rooster: Poetry Column by Reb Livingston
Christmas and Hanukah are only 16 days away, Kwanza 17 days and all this means you have to get your holiday shopping (online, of course) done by early next week. Finding that unique and thoughtful gift becomes more difficult each year. It’s those damn chain stores, I tell you. Oh, I do my fair share of shopping at them. Where else am I going to find such great prices on toilet paper, shampoo and Mr. Rooster’s tube socks? But wouldn’t you like to give a beautiful and interesting gift to your loved ones? Something they might (gasp) treasure? Sure, it’s riskier than that Banana Republic gift card and we all have that relative who really just wants a bottle of vodka. But gift giving is about the thought, not becoming everyone else’s personal shopper for a day. Every year relatives send me their “What I Want Lists” and demand the same in return. Sure, this means I no longer get teddy bear sweaters and electric pencil sharpeners and if I buy my dad those road flares, I won’t have to hear him grumble “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?” but but but . . .
Working off a list is uninspired and there’s still a chance for misinterpretation. Two years ago I asked Mr. Rooster for tanzanite earrings, I took him to a store and showed him the purple stones and reminded him than I only wear platinum, white gold or silver. So what does he get me? A tourmaline ring, set in yellow gold with two hideous sphinx heads. I wish I was making this up. When I opened the gift I cried. Not only did he get me a horrific gift, but our special holiday was marred by the reminder that he never listens to a thing I say. Then he had the nerve to insist I said TOURMALINE. A triple whammy. The dashed expectations, the . . . wait a minute, why did I have any expectations in the first place? Because I basically contracted him to be my personal shopper, something I would never have done in any other situation other than a last minute grocery run. Mr. Rooster is SO unqualified for the job. Aren’t most of us unqualified?
How I yearn for the days of special gifts. I know you do too. Let me guide you towards some simple, inexpensive and marvelous poetry-ish gifts that I promise will surprise (and most likely delight) any civilized individual. Give the gift nobody expects. None of these gifts should break your bank, so if you’ll be banished to the sofa for not buying off the list, consider these as something a little extra – something to break up the monotony of instructed present-time. Also, these are perfect ideas for stocking, “Secret Santas” and “Grab Bags.”
Everybody needs a calendar. Sure, you could go to your local chain bookstore and agonize over chubby cherubs or kittens with yarn or the hilarious Dilbert and when Grandma forgets who you are when she’s revising her will on her deathbed. . . but if she received The Most Intriguing (and Sensual) Male Poets 2006 ($19.99) you might just earn the status of stand-out grandchild and reap the spoils. Beefcake poets? You betcha! Some are legitimately hot, for real. The brains behind this brawny outfit are three lovely poets, Didi Menendez, Jenni Russell and Pris Campell. All profits from this calendar will go CFIDS (Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome) research.
OK, this is totally demented, that is why I love it. Poet, Jill Alexander Essbaum, recently learned how to cook chickens. Chicken was What’s for Dinner? at the Essbaum household on a regular basis. Being a creative type, naturally Jill started dressing the chickens in costumes. Then she started building props and sets. She took pictures. Her habit was getting costly and time consuming and hence Emily Chickenson ($2 - $16.50) was hatched. All the chickens used in these photographs were eventually eaten.
Jill also has a new book of demented sonnets called Oh, Forbidden (Pecan Grove, $9) – a mix of the “sacred and profane,” this slim collection will spice up any Christmas Eve:
“We did it / in the master bath, pressed against the sink. / We were quick, but very quiet. You came / like Christ, as a thief in the night; I split / into halves, a crimson sweet. You polished the wink / of my wet, wistful eye. Then you went home.”
Yes, I’m totally hot for elegantly designed chapbooks. I never stop talking about them, do I? They’re so intimate, such labors of love and so rare. Chapbook print runs are usually anywhere from 25 to 300 copies. These aren’t Cabbage Patch Dolls or Xboxes. Nobody is getting trampled or punched in the face for the last one. Isn’t that a good thing? While everyone is fighting over and overpaying for crap, you get your choice of the good stuff.
Chapbook darling, Joseph Massey, has done it again with his latest chapbook, Bramble a book of lunes (Hot Whiskey Press, $6.50). The little birdies have informed me that there aren’t too many of these left, destining it to become a hot collectable in the not too distant future. If you know someone who’s into haiku, they’ll love the lune form (usually three lines with five syllables, three syllables, and finishing with five syllables).
crows cackle over
starting and stopping
Or give two poets for the price of one. Coltsfoot Insularity (Fewer & Further Press, $7) is a collaboration between poets Aaron Tieger and Jess Mynes. Truly an original purchase, each cover is handcrafted and unique containing different colors, stamp impressions, and design. These poems are funny and surprisingly tender.
What a sight
it must be
been, you? I
too much Orzo
the floor with
my red wool
pants while I
it for me.
That reminds me, my red wool pants are still at the cleaners. Better go pick them up. I need something to wear at the holiday parties. Have a wonderful holiday and remember, be creative with your gift giving!