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Brent Goodman: 5 Poets Who Changed My Life

Brent Goodman: 5 Poets Who Changed My Life

Author: Brent Goodman

April 16, 2010

Dear Allen,

I wore a “Starving, Hysterical, Naked” T-shirt to my first AWP. By then I had carried you since undergrad, navigating the tendrils of your biography through Kerouac, Burroughs, Snyder, Frank, through Berkley, New York, the Universe. There a constellation of stars melted on my tongue. You pointed to the Talmud with the same fingers ashing your cigarette. There a nude Buddha loads film into the back of a Brownie. You showed me how each river carves its shoulder into a waterfall, just how many roaring prisms every descent illuminates. Sweet wild prophet, you took Neil Cassidy to the hilt and howled.

Dear Walt,

My warmest requirement. You witnessed the first time I heard anyone rhyme “Eve” with “Steve” and caught me guffaw. Forgive me, it was high school, my skull hadn’t completely fused yet. Years later Ginsberg introduced us at a party, remember? I was the one who could not loose the stop from my throat. I thought I was opening Leaves of Grass for the first time but by then you had already unbuttoned my shirt. I only look this disheveled standing in your doorframe. Did Dr. Kyrillian posthumously prove your theories by finally photographing the blue sparks trailing our fingertips? Are you a Comet? Will you touch me? Your breath carves wax from a cylinder. A century later, stooped behind a mixing board, I sampled “America” into an electronica mash-up jazz groove and turned my bright body around.

Dear Charles,

I’ll meet you again inside a stone. Your voice: I drink it from a shot glass.

Dear Rimbaud,

You naughty naughty boy. Struck by lightening, fingering girls. You are my archeology, my sugar spoon, my brave accident. No one was supposed to find you. I carried your collected into a Paris pub, ordered a plate of ham and a sweating mug of icy draft, one foot always under my heart. Historians are jealous they could not shake you. I’m jealous Verlaine tasted your explosions. You left almost nothing. Eventually your right leg no longer reached the ground. The souvenir photo I carry of your narrow street points to the window where you lived, a floating arrow tipping from the sky.

Dear Rumi,

800 years has passed or more. Say I am you, or these thoughts are not my own. I believe that. First thought you a root but now see nothing but branches. Coleman Barks had a lucid dream where Shams descends inside a sundog. There is nothing between us that is not imagined. Free these poems from their cages! Bly commanded. You cure me, I hear myself thanking you. Every poem a horizon drawn through a flute. I keep falling into the sky. Some gravity charts my ellipse.

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About: Brent Goodman

Brent Goodman is the author of The Brother Swimming Beneath Me (2009 Black Lawrence Press) and two chapbooks, Trees are the Slowest Rivers ( Sarasota Poetry Theatre Press), and Wrong Horoscope (Thorngate Road), which won the Frank O’Hara Award. His work has been featured in Poetry, Diagram, No Tell Motel, Court Green, Rattle, Poetry, Green Mountains Review, The Beloit Poetry Journal, and Zone 3, among others. He is an instructor in the Dzanc Creative Writing Sessions and an assistant editor for the online journal Anti-.

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