Lunch Poems – Matthew Zapruder



I'm Giovanni singleton lunch poms coordinator and thank you all for being here today and also I'd like to thank the Morrison Library for hosting this event and their lovely space it is a great space don't you agree yeah I'd like to invite you to sign up on our email list which is over on the librarians desk and also on our web site lunch poems berkeley.edu you can view today's reading and all of our past readings as webcast on youtube we have our very own channel so please go go there and check it out next month on May 3rd is our annual student reading so please do come back and join us and this month the month of April is National Poetry Month so please give a real warm welcome to lunch poems director Jeffrey J O'Brien who will introduce our special special guests and we are celebrating again National Poetry Month so give them a huge round of applause thank you thank you for training the audience as well we're really thrilled to have an incredibly local poet of international stature here in Matthew Zapruder Matthew and I have the fortune and dis fortune to belong to a generation whose life has been sort of really neatly bisected by the advent of the web we remember what it was like before you could connect in that way when you could only do what eeehm Forrester wanted you to do only connect where as now perhaps it should be only disconnect but here we are on the other side and we've had to write for most of our adult lives with that sense of how easy it is and how lonely it is or how difficult that easiness can be of reaching out to disembodied others via that other technology besides the poem and I say this because I think that trying to institute a sense of belonging a feeling of wanting to collect with others and be collected is something that really animates Matthew's work and has for a long time I'm going to read a couple of lines from a poem called poem for passengers sharing without knowing the same dream in it we are carrying something an empty casket somehow so heavy only together can we carry it over a bridge in the snow emerging suddenly into the light we wake and open our laptops or a book about murder or a glossy magazine though we are mostly awake part of us still goes on solving problems so great that cannot be named even once we've reached our destination and disembark into whatever weather for a long time there's a compartment within us filled with analog silence inside us the dream goes on and on maybe your ears caught the key words that let us know what moment were in laptops and the back formed analog silence so certainly you know the web and what it's done the digital to us is there as content but actually much more fascinated by what Matthew has done with poetic form when trying to think about how to capture are incredibly fugitive attention and and the span of that attention he can keep syntax going for way too long for impossibly long and he can segment it into such small pieces through which that information flows and spills and that drama of incredibly brief encounters with packets to use a net term of language within the flow of a sentence whose the responsibility for keeping it in mind is now ours as much as the poet the drama of the long and the short and the long made of the short is something he does more beautifully I think than anybody else writing now and does for this in intimate reason to make us feel together in these brief evaporative spaces but again and again and again I hope we'll hear that even if we're not seeing it on the page in what follows please welcome Matthew Zapruder hi everyone thanks for being here thank you javonni and Thank You Jeffrey two poets whose work I really treasure and whose friendship I'm equally grateful for it's great to be here among all of you see some familiar faces and some not so I am a proud graduate of Cal I was a graduate student here for two years and I've somehow managed to like make that essentially the only academic institution I was ever part of I can keep talking about it more and more everybody's gonna think I was an undergrad here too which sadly I was not but anyway so it's a special treat to be back here and in this room where I've seen so many wonderful readings among all these books among all these people and yeah I love this series because it does something that I think I want poems to do it interposes itself in the middle of the day and creates a different sort of space where we can all be present and uh really and what I think of as an essential way so thank you for continuing this work you know about running this series I recently my most recent publication is a book of prose called why poetry I'm so sick of prose that I want to read poems so that's what I'm gonna do I'm a at the very end read a little bit from from my poetry but I'm just eager to read poems so thank you this first poem is called journey through the past and I wrote it right after I moved back to California so it has that sort of stunned like I can't believe I live in this place feeling for me journey through the past listening to Neil Young in California is like throwing away the old pills that used to cure something and turning your face toward the day ie the ocean filling the window with gray boats floating and totally bright present alumnus for several weeks on my laptop I had a picture of the space shuttle docking then I replaced it with the ravenous woolly adelgid covering a blight at Eastern Eastern hemlock one branch looks like a limb destroyed by an improvised explosive device friend whose father is dying let us exchange dreams I'm strong enough for yours and you can move down the long boring beige literal corridor and replace the batteries in the thermostat fingering a diamond hair clip travelers among mountains and streams today I have the feeling no matter which way I turn my head I am into ideas like everyone is freer than me painlessly bonking whatever is the mental equivalent of my nose my actual one itches it's the plum trees shedding invisible sexual particles onto the streets I go and see the horrible charming Victorians of my new home San Francisco where I have moved for love like purple plastic wedding dresses they are ready to be left out in perviously in the rain let's put down the book about the later phase of Lu Corbusier when he planned the perfect harmonic Indian city of Chandigarh and pick up one about makers of an early type of Japanese kimono called the Casa de on them sometimes artists painted landscapes such as Casa de with tree and flowering plants by Sakai a Hoyt su like the little figures in the picture through the picture we journey slowly with our eyes closely observe moving mountain formations a waterfall trees a village and tiny figures of travelers just like us once the silk over someone's body rippled now the kimono hangs on a wall oh lifestyle Oh cake between my ears is drifting now a strange translucent golden word axolotl through its whole life it never grows any older through its shoulders you can see its blood thousands of miles away the East a kingdom covered by giant clouds where was I born among human faces deep in the Sun of a real young mother under blowing unmagical snow I sort of like that poem because it's like I'm like really like clipping along in my little Wieck Wikipedia Zone you know of like this is cool look at that over there and then suddenly I'm like I have no idea what I'm talking about and I just I forever writing the column and thinking oh that was that was the most fun part is when I suddenly didn't know what was going on anymore this poem is called VAE which is undramatic they I remember the house where I first lived it was small and wooden and next door to a loud friendly Catholic family whose three sons Andy and something and something else constantly with mysterious lack of effort flicked and orange basketball through a rusty hoop and one afternoon taught me duh once a car screeched and hit a girl whose name I just remembered Julia we weren't there but came running out it was quiet and we stood a little away from the man from the car who stood over her there was a dark spot on her leg it was broken she was fine but they decided to limit the danger by making the street one way with a speed limit of 30 who were they then they have been here looking over my shoulder sometimes taking care at others making the wrong decisions leading to more bad things there's no way to talk about it except maybe right now now when I look at photographs of me and the twins I hear the green glass beads separating my bedroom from theirs clicking in my mind is that a memory or what I know those sorts of beads sound like in a breeze every day one block up to Connecticut Avenue and over to oyster bi-lingual where I sometimes was asked to stand in front of the class and hold up the picture of a duck or a house when the teacher said the words in Spanish and English both I played Santa and the Christmas play which made sense one day Luis stabbed another kid with a pencil on the throat he was also fine another day I went to visit a friendly girl and ran straight through the plate-glass window in her apartment building lobby and out the door and home my parents never knew I was as I would now say unscathed soon after we moved to Maryland where the new Catholics were threatened and mean but that's a different story I don't yet remember I think once a parent dies the absence in the mind where new impressions would have gone as clear a kind of space or vacuum related memories pour into which is good my childhood the orange ball arcs perfectly into the orange hoop making a sound like a drawer closing you will never get to hold that I'm here and nothing terrible will ever happen across the street the giant white house full of kids turns the pages of an endless book the mother comes home and finds the child animal sleeping I left my notebook beside the bed the father came home and sat and quietly talked one square of light on the wall waiting patiently I will learn my multiplication tables while the woman in the old photograph looks in a different direction this poem is called when I was fifteen I was very literally I was given an assignment to write a poem for like an anthology of fifteen-year-old kids and I took this assignment look completely literally when I was fifteen when I was fifteen I suddenly knew I would never understand geometry who was my teacher that name is gone I only remember the gray feeling in a classroom filled with vast theoretical distances I can still see odd shapes drawn on the board and those inscrutable formulas everyone was busily into their notebooks scribbling I looked down at the velcro straps of my entirely white shoes and knew inside me things had long ago gone terribly wrong and would continue to be when the field hockey star broke her knee I wrote a story for the school paper then brought her the history notes in the snow she stood in the threshold a whole fire lit life of mysterious familial warmth glowing behind her and took them from my hands like the blameless queen of elegant violence she was walking home encased in immense amounts of down I listened to the analog ghosts in the machine pour from the cassette I had drawn flowers on into my ears it sang everything they told you makes you believe you're trapped in a snow globe forgotten in a dark closet we're exhausted shadows argue what is sorrow cannot become joy but I am here from the future to tell you you are not all you must do is stay asleep a few more years great traveler waiting to go this poem is called lamp day it's a holiday I invented lamp day all day I've felt today is a holiday that the calendar is blank maybe it's lamp day there's one very small one I love so much I've taken it everywhere even with its loose switch on its porcelain shade are painted tiny red flowers clearly by someone who's careful hand we will never know because it's lamp day I'm trying to remember where I got it maybe it was waiting for me in the house on Summer Street I moved into almost exactly seventeen years ago I think without thinking I just picked it up from the floor and put it on my desk and plugged it into the socket and already I was writing so much since that moment has happened on lamp day we try not dreamily but systematically to remember it all I do it by thinking about the hidden reasons I love something small when you take a series of careful steps to solve a complex problem mathematicians call it an algorithm it's like moving through a series of rooms each with two doors you must choose one you can't go back I begin by sitting on a bench in the Sun on September 21st thinking all the walks I've taken in all the cities I have chosen to live in or visit with loved ones and alone make a sunny and rainy map no one will ever be able to hold is this important yes and no now I'm staring at clean metal girders people keep walking past a hotel it's bright glass calmly reflecting everything bad and good blue boots bright glass guests in this moment a child through the puddles steps exuberant clearly feeling the power unplugged in I'm calm lamp day has a name just like this cup that is somehow drifted into my life and towards which sometimes for its own reasons my hand drifts in turn upon it is written the single word Omaha there really is a mug it says Omaha note this poem is called never to return and it's not there where it's supposed to be I wrote this poem thinking about when I lived here it doesn't really matter but it just I had um very badly dyed hair when I was a graduate student here try to imagine it it's important for this poem never to return today a ladybug flew through my window I was reading about the snowy plumage of the willow ptarmigan and the song of the Nashville Warbler I was reading the history of weather how they agreed at last to disagree on cloud categories I was reading a chronicle of the boredom that called itself the great loneliness and caused a war I was reading mosquitos road to Hawaii on the same ship that brought the eucalyptus to California to function now as a terrible fire accelerator next to me almost allowed a book said doctors can already transplant faces another said you know January can never be June so why don't you sleep little candle a third one murmured some days are too good they had to have been invented in a lab I was paging through a book of unsent postcards some blazed with light others were a little dim as if someone had breathed on the lens in one it forever snowed on a city known as the Emerald in embers the Sun had always just gone behind the mountains never to return and glass buildings over the harbor stayed filled with a sad green unrelated light the postcard was called the window washers in handwriting it said someone left an important window open and night the black wasp flew in and laid on the cell and died sometimes I stop reading and find long black hairs on my keyboard and would like you to know that in 1992 I mixed Clairol dye number two with my damaged bleached hair to create a Bluegreen never seen before my best look according to the girl at the counter who smiled only once I know less than I did before and I live on a hill where the wind steals music from everything and brings it to me this is palm for doom poem for doom birds don't lie they're never lost they never think above the earth I stole this form or blue is the best I listen to it singing mild man is far away singing American songs stolen from those who lived and what now is but was not the park which makes me love him I'm eating an orange someone grabbed from nature over me I hear controlled mechanical obsidian dragonflies search for anarchists for a long time I went to school in the palm of my life carrying a stone obeying the law of semblance now each night I bring it back down to the land ass Fidel's cover then I wake and take my son out on the porch to say hello everything hello green hills that slept hello tree drawn on the side of a white truck eggs or ibly rumbling towards some hole hello Magnolia whose pink and white blossoms have left it for wear oh sweet doom we are all going then behind us we closed the black door with the golden knob and sit in the great chair morning light through the shades always makes look like a dream forest thrown all around our subjects the shadow trees rise up their private thoughts filling the room I take them like an animal with gentle ungrateful ceremony from a leaf takes do so I kind of thought this poem why as I mentioned earlier I have a training in Russian literature Russian studies and I sort of thought that was in Akron a stick that that training turns out could come useful speaking with our new overlords so if you need a new translator I'm here to – you know petition the authorities so uh but um I wrote this poem yeah again sort of thinking about the map you know in Russia and just looking at it closely and thinking about that it's called poem for Russia with a white plastic wolf deer Russian people I'm standing like some retired general above the wooden kitchen table looking down on an actual map of the world the red tea pot rattles and the radio worries about the fate of a hundred whales everyone wants you to send a ship to blow up the ice they wandered into probably never thinking it would not be water as always the experts say it's bad to let short-term sadness decide down I look on massive Alaska like the head of a gentle white snow beast facing left it is always across the blue Strait known as Bering about to ceremoniously kiss its mother I like the way the dotted lines separating our night from yours come straight down then slides to the right to pass through the Narrows I placed my finger on Tin City then abandoned now kaan we're Eskimo lived in the time before us or you and then I pushed my pointer finger with its purl nail like a cosmonaut breathing behind a facemask farther westward over Siberia and the sea of a husk toward Baikal older than any thought then over to dead Lake Tibet coal ore no fish swim high in the old mountain place last night at the top of a glass hotel I drank much amazing wine thankfully no one asked what I do though it is summer this morning is cold the electric heater makes a rasping sound a truck goes by shaking the table and the tiny white plastic wolf I placed on the map in California its feet point west like it is ready into the future to leap away from the Pacific it turns its head back to the east and our capital over an uncertain shoulder so this poem is about Cody's books are IP Cody's books at supplies I spent a lot of time I'm you know when I was a grad student here that's when I first started writing poetry and getting into poetry and I used to go to incredible readings there I saw because some Keats there I'm pretty sure Coleridge definitely read there and no I mean I was but no but it was like that I was like Neal oh she's so it's me Lois reading okay that's cool you know Audrey and rich who died the next week all right you could just go in there telegraph and telegraph flowers as I'm sure a lot of you all remember was the name of that flower shop that was right in front of the in front of the store Telegraph flowers I stood a while before the flowers I always passed on my way to where wherever I was going for once this time just touching the white plastic tabs someone had so carefully held a black sharpie and written Latin and familiar names on to it always seemed this flower shop had interposed it's fragile green plants and every colored blossoms between the store full of books and the famous chaotic Street whose name means message that crosses far sometimes the message says come here from everywhere the Revolution dream has filled the people again soon they will go and maybe to simply say what they feel to the covered faces of the beneath their helmets totally human riot police and sometimes you private being I am a river pouring books and people talking into the great Plaza inside you the bookstore was closing forever past me people walked like if it was for something not time but it was it was the last day I could ever pass through the doors and take down volumes from shelves I stood before when I was a student of what I thought I should be a student of then I tried to fill my head but now I know it has a socket and like a plastic globe light cover surrounding an indicator light it lights up only when I converse with the dead I stood before the doors on the street dogs and people I hoped on them a little money and no rain would fall my breath without me traveled in to say nothing to the books soon buy time and hands to be dispersed most will never if they ever were be read again I know things are more important so I bought a plant and held it while I listened to the woman slowly give me careful instructions I think she said my son if you do one thing wherever you find yourself just be celestial that is light and reflection and also heavy for you have returned where you belong penultimate poem let us walk one more time very slowly to the famous meadow whose name eludes us from there we can see the ghost ship sail off the lake and into the clouds let's speculate on where it is gone and touched the glass thought animals and talk about the machine that makes nothing matter so totally it will never be different our lives have already changed and now we all have to go back into the city and combine pleasurably or at least well with the day we will walk beneath the huge blue gorgeous corporate windows and know they are glass cases the figurines inside them so carefully painted they're almost completely alive like our parents under the earth there are low voices in the kitchen say they didn't mean anything by it and now like great dead poets they understand us just one more thing no matter how long it seems it has been gone this feeling everything you touch with your mind so beautifully together belongs will keep falling up into your life like airplanes rise into the miraculous unremarkable sky over the harbor and it's great ships taking their names out to sea I wake up I wake up before the machine I wake up before the machine made of all the choices were together not making lights up this part of Oakland it's dark so I can imagine another grid humming in the East already people are deciding I lie in the western pre-decision darkness and almost here that silent voice is saying go down there the coffee needs you to place it in the device its next form will help you remember daylight is coming but dreams do not go away they just move off and change your mind is a tree on a little hill surrounded by grasses that look up and say father wind loves moving through you so the other reason I love this series so much besides everything about it is that it's named after or I think it's named after one of my favorite books by one of my favorite poets frank O'Hara so I'm just gonna finish with this very brief passage from why poetry in which I talk about one of his poems thank you all so much for listening and for being here and thank you again to Giovanni and Geoffrey G so this is just the end of the book really I wrote it's it's a P and afterward I wrote after the our most recent presidential election and it's about sort of the immediate days after that and like sort of figuring out how poetry starting to have some very beginning thoughts about how poetry might fit in or not two days after the 2016 presidential election I taught my graduate seminar in poetry which meets Thursday nights on the one hand it seemed ludicrous to blithely continue moving through the syllabus without acknowledging what the students were feeling on the other four days my students and colleagues haven't had been talking of nothing but their shock and fear and confusion the atmosphere was already heightened to an almost impossible degree so devoting several hours to talking about what we already what we were already all only talking and thinking about felt intolerable the only thing I could think of to do was to ask everyone to bring in poems they loved so that we could read them aloud and just sit and listen sitting and listening to poetry for an hour or so was not some kind of cure for some it didn't really even seem to help some students cried others seemed not to be very present their bodies were in the room but their minds were still wandering through anxious uncertain shifting futures I ended class by reading one of my favorite poems by frank O'Hara a true account of talking to the Sun at Fire Island in the palm the Sun comes to O'Hara early in the morning the Sun first reproaches the poet for not being awake when he comes and then gives him some encouragement with a bad pun on his first name frankly I wanted to tell you I like your poetry I see a lot on my rounds and you're okay you may not be the greatest thing on earth but you're different the class full of aspiring poets laughed the sun goes on to tell the poet he should look up more often and to always embrace things people earth sky stars as I do freely and with the appropriate sense of space I almost never cry but I got choked up just as I do every single time I read this poem because even though O'Hara died at the age of 40 after being hit by a Jeep on a beach in Fire Island the year before I was born I love him and I'm sure I know him the poem ends son don't go I was awake at last no go I must they're calling me who are they rising he said someday you'll know they're calling to you too darkly he rose and then I slept they're calling to you too in poems someday you'll know this is the promise of poetry in this time of crisis and beyond thank you you [Applause]

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