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The subject is rabbit ears: Joel Allegretti talks to Joel Allegretti.

March 6, 2013 \pm\31 2:52 pm

Poet John F. Buckley tagged me to take part in The Next Big Thing, a series in which authors interview themselves about new or upcoming books. All participating authors use the same set of questions. Here, I converse with myself about a forthcoming anthology I edited. 

What is the title of the book?

Rabbit Ears: TV Poems. I can’t take credit for the title. Billy Collins suggested it.

Where did the idea for the book come from?

It all goes back to 2011, when I wrote poems about The Dick Van Dyke Show and Bob Crane, who is best known for the 60s sit-com Hogan’s Heroes and for being the victim of a murder that was never solved. They were my first television poems. (Two years earlier, I wrote a poem about the Riddler, my favorite Batman villain. I know him because of Frank Gorshin, so the poem could qualify as dealing with TV, but the character predates the Batman TV series by decades.) In addition, a TV icon, Rod Serling, has had a huge influence on me.

In early 2012, I had the insight there were anthologies of poetry about movies and music, but as far as I knew, none about television, a medium that for more than a half century has influenced our lifestyles, tastes, opinions and politics. I did my due diligence and discovered I was right.

I proposed the project to Roxanne Hoffman, who runs Poets Wear Prada. She was enthusiastic about it and said she’d like to take it on. I sent the first invitations to submit on April 6. I knew I was on to something, because I began receiving submissions right away. Some poets, like Ellen Bass, Amy Gerstler, Lewis Warsh and Hal Sirowitz, wrote brand-new work specifically for the anthology. Others, like Ron Padgett, Timothy Liu and Diane Wakoski, sent me unpublished poems.

The anthology contains 128 poems by 129 poets. One poem is a collaborative effort by two poets, Martin Ott and the aforementioned John F. Buckley. For the record, my poem “The Dick Van Dyke Show: The Unaired Episodes” is my contribution. It’s scheduled to appear in Gargoyle this summer in advance of Rabbit Ears.

Which genre does your book fall under?

Poetry anthology

Which actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?

Since the anthology is about television, you’re essentially asking which actors would play the actors who play the many characters the poets cover in their work. In other words, who would play Adam West, who plays Batman? To put it another way, who would play Batman as played by Adam West? We’re venturing into post-modern territory.

By coincidence, a genuine actor is a contributor to Rabbit Ears. The TV and movie actress Grace Zabriskie, who is a serious poet, contributed a poem about an episode of Big Love in which she appeared.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

It is the first anthology of poetry about television.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

The submission period ran April 6 – September 30, 2012. As I accepted poems, I arranged the contents mentally. When I actually sat down to work on the manuscript, it basically put itself together. I was truly surprised that it took less than a month to prepare a draft.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

Absence inspired it, the absence of a poetry anthology about something that has such a massive influence on our lives. Unlike the majority of poets, I’ve never worked in academia. My background is in media relations, so I have hands-on experience with television producers and reporters. My career played a significant role in how I viewed (no pun intended) submissions about TV news.

That said, I doubt I would have thought of an anthology of television poetry if I hadn’t written my own TV poems.

As for my current TV watching, I like Morning Joe and Hardball with Chris Matthews, both on MSNBC. At the other end of the spectrum, I’m a big fan of reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show and That 70s Show.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Rabbit Ears: TV Poems is coming fall 2013 from Poets Wear Prada, a New Jersey-based press that published my last two collections of original poetry, Europa/Nippon/New York: Poems/Not-Poems and Thrum.



The Count is in.

March 4, 2013 \pm\31 12:37 pm

The 2012 count is here.

The past three years compared.

A bit of analysis from Amy King.

Feel free to vent or whatever in comments. I’m going to digest this a bit before writing about it. But I will. Who ate all the blueberry pie?

Valentine’s Fill-in-the-blanks.

February 14, 2013 \pm\28 1:35 pm

Roses are red

violets are blue



go for it!


[this is a blatant ploy to see if anyone is paying attention ~ we who are coming out of our coma]

Ain’t dead yet.

February 12, 2013 \am\28 11:07 am

Due to a bit of a snafu, WWAATD sorta disappeared and then even though it reappeared, we couldn’t get in to post anything.

But that’s fixed now – fingers crossed – and we’ll start posting soon.

CAConrad’s life manual

January 22, 2013 \am\31 9:06 am

The Philadelphia poet CAConrad in interview after interview has made it clear that he not only wants poetry to be his life, he wants his life to be poetry. He articulates this personal mission at length in his latest book, A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon: New (Soma)tics (Wave Books, 2012), and urges the reader to sign on as an active participant.

“Poetry collection” is an insufficient term for this work; poems as poems constitute only a part of it. Yes, A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon is a poetry book, but it’s also a self-help guide, a portfolio of performance texts, a political manifesto and a textbook for a course you will attend for the rest of your life.

“(Soma)tic” (parentheses included) is a portmanteau of Conrad’s invention, a blend of “soma,” an Indo-Persian word for “divine,” and the Greek “somatic.” The essential goal of the (Soma)tic exercises, consequently, is to locate the divine within the flesh.

The 27 exercises of A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon are by turns deceptively simple (devote particular days to eating foods of a single color), cathartic (write down some of the most painful events of your life), transgressive (imagine grotesque ways you will die in 10, 15, 20 years) and virtually dadaistic (build your own marsupial pouch and spend a few hours in it). Your next assignment is to write a poem after the completion of each (Soma)tic.

As someone who has spent most of his life as a serious guitarist, I find the musical aspects of (Soma)tics particularly interesting.  In the exercise which calls for eating yellow food on one day, red food on another, etc., Conrad writes that he listened to Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet” for 18 consecutive hours in preparation for his day of blue food. By choosing “Blue Velvet,” Conrad re-contextualized even further a square, middle-of-the-road oldie that was re-contextualized by David Lynch in 1986. Conrad, toward the back of the book, elaborates on the importance of sound to the (Soma)tics in an interview with the poet and scholar Thom Donovan. The interview is essential reading in order to understand the origins, nature and principles of the (Soma)tic exercises.

I’m a poet not a / motivational speaker, Conrad declares in “Myrrh,” the last of seven short poems that follow the second (Soma)tic. I have to disagree with the latter part of the statement. In the early 90s, I attended conferences for my job and had to listen to motivational speakers, each more insipid than the previous one.  I can’t tell you how much I wish at least one of them had instructed the audience to go for a Radiant Elvis MRI [(Soma)tic 13] instead of telling us idiotic things like “seize the moment” and “be the captain of the ship that is your life.”

A spirit of generosity informs Conrad’s book. His tacit message to the reader is, “You’re a big part of this, too. Let’s make things happen.”

I had an insight after reading A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon. It’s not enough to be a poet. As a poet, one must aspire to be.

Let’s talk about trees.

December 21, 2012 \am\31 8:50 am

We Who Are In Shock…

December 16, 2012 \pm\31 2:11 pm

The other week I wrote about reviving this blog. And I intend on doing that. Writing  more, and getting others to write. But right now, writing this is all I can do. I live only a half mile, as the crow flies, from the scene of the latest horrific tragedy. I am purposely  not using any place names. I am not tagging this post. I will not share it through social media. I am writing it because I feel a responsibility to this blog. And because my mind is still reeling.

I heard the first shots. Yes, I live that close. Thought WTF?  Then sirens. And more. And more. More than I’ve heard in maybe forever. There’s a freeway nearby and often there’s accidents and we hear the sirens. The firehouse is close by and they go flying off to hose things down, etc. But I’d never heard anything like this. I was about to head out, get on that freeway, so I thought I better check online (yes, always checking online). But the traffic map looked fine. There were too many sirens for that. So I checked news. And then, less than a half hour after I heard those shots, I heard about the school.

As the minutes crept by, the helicopters came, mostly news choppers, but also a state police chopper over the woods behind our house. The news choppers would be there all day, into the night, hovering. As the news came, it was horrific. All three of my  now grown children went to that school. I volunteered for years in the classrooms. I can close my eyes and see the place, even though I haven’t been there for several years. I still know teachers there, and friends have children there. I dreaded the moment that I had to see “the list” even though I knew I’d have to look. An odd, guilty sense of relief when I read it. Oh, I recognize faces, and names, but I didn’t really “know” any of them.

I have not been personally touched, but I know that our entire town, and beyond – because that’s how towns are – has been traumatized. I see it in the eyes of the folks in the laundromat where I had to go to this morning (my washer is broken and I was down to my last pair of clean underwear – that’s reality for you). I saw it in the few folks wandering the grocery store aisles yesterday morning (I went specifically when a press conference was underway so that the road would be relatively “quiet”).

Only one of my children lives at home now (when he’s not at college). One is on the other side of the country and one is on the other side of the world and I hovered on Skype and Facebook and email as I waited to see her show up in her morning – so I could be the one to break the news. Seeing her face, as she recognized the shooter’s last name (she was a classmate of the older brother), is something I’ll not soon forget. And all I could think is “I can’t hug her.”

As I think I said (though I was interrupted by a phone call from my brother – so I lost my train of thought while writing) – I’m posting this only because I feel a responsibility to this blog. I’m purposely not using any words that will “tag” this to show up as people search for stuff about this. Though my husband disagrees with me on this – he’s an old newspaperman – I can’t help but feel that anything more than what I’ve done here is somehow exploiting the situation. I know, rationally, that’s not the case. But I’m going from the gut here.

Maybe I’ll eventually be able to write more about all this, but for now, I just have to keep it this way. It’s much too personal, and yes, I know that’s called “survivors guilt” which WAY TOO  MANY people in this town are already experiencing.

And don’t get me started on the media monster, of our own creation, that feeds us film of little kids being interviewed only moments after a life-changing experience, and film and pictures and soundbites. We insist on being fed instantaneous information, fact-checked or not, and so the monster feeds in order to feed us. That’s why the story keeps changing. It is incredible. I cannot move beyond my home without having to drive past news cameras. My heart goes out to each and every community ever touched by a media infestation like this. Locusts. They will chew us down to the stalks and then fly on to the next news story. Not soon enough though. And the next “star of the show” is watching at home, taking notes.

Yet, my daughter halfway around the world is glad of this coverage because otherwise she’d be in the dark. People I haven’t heard from in years have called and emailed and messaged. It’s so complicated and puzzling.

This is a sad story, no matter what angle.

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