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The Famous Poet’s Society, Part 6 of 8

A Serialized Excerpt from Nothing Happened and Then It Did

By Jake Silverstein on 4.19.10

Now, Part 6 of the serialized excerpt from Jake Silverstein’s Nothing Happened and Then It Did, in stores today! [Need to catch up? Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4 | Read Part 5.]

That night at the Shakespeare banquet we hashed out the odds on the twenty-five grand. From the open field a few favorites had emerged. At my table a dental hygienist from Dallas advised that the smart money liked a man from her class. “His name is James Stelly,” she said, “and he’s given his whole life to going around and telling what drugs did to him. He can bring tears to anyone’s eye that hears him.”

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The Famous Poet’s Society, Part 5 of 8

A Serialized Excerpt from Nothing Happened and Then It Did

By Jake Silverstein on 4.15.10

Now, Part 5 of the serialized excerpt from Jake Silverstein’s Nothing Happened and Then It Did, in stores on April 19th. [Need to catch up? Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3 | Read Part 4.]

The judged readings had been going on since eight a.m. in the Celebrity Showroom, an old dinner theater with heavy tables and plush cocktail booths. This was the Nugget’s swankiest venue. The railings were dark polished mahogany. Red velvet covered the walls. A gold lamé curtain bordered the stage, bunched in dazzling symmetrical folds around the proscenium. Tiny Tivoli lights outlined the aisles and the steps and the ample round lip of a stage that had been trod by the likes of Dick Dale, Pasquale Esposito, and Gordon Lightfoot.

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The Famous Poet’s Society, Part 4 of 8

A Serialized Excerpt from Nothing Happened and Then It Did

By Jake Silverstein on 4.12.10

Now, Part 4 of the serialized excerpt from Jake Silverstein’s Nothing Happened and Then It Did, in stores on April 19th. [Need to catch up? Read Part 1 | Read Part 2 | Read Part 3.]

On Monday morning I woke in a tangle of sheets and lay there turning things over in my head. The confidence I’d felt after the first homeroom session was shaken. Clearly I needed to be dramatizing my poem if I wanted to win the $25,000. This kid with the Ricky Martin routine was going to walk all over me. How would it feel to come all this way and lose to a dance routine? I ran over my poem a few times, looking for places where I might go down on a knee, but my poem did not seem to lend itself to that kind of theater. The clock was ticking. Class Six was scheduled to read before the judges at three p.m. I threw on some clothes and headed downstairs for Joel’s morning lecture, “How to Be a Poet on Your Feet.”

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The Famous Poet’s Society, Part 3 of 8

A Serialized Excerpt from Nothing Happened and Then It Did

By Jake Silverstein on 4.08.10

Now, Part 3 of the serialized excerpt from Jake Silverstein’s Nothing Happened and Then It Did, in stores on April 19th. [Need to catch up? Read Part 1 | Read Part 2.]

After a short break, we reconvened for the Master Workshop, presented by Al D’Andrea. Al affected a professorial demeanor, repeatedly snatching off his reading glasses and gesturing philosophically with his hands. He ranged over a number of poets, from William Carlos Williams to Lucille Clifton, each one serving the overall point of his address, which was called “Saying Yes: Embracing the Life Force of Your Poem.” He closed with a poem by James Scully entitled “What Is Poetry?” Having just witnessed the dramatic opposition of Rigg’s experimental soundscape and Joel’s corny baseball rhymes, and with $25,000 hanging somewhere in the balance, I found the question pertinent. Unfortunately, Scully offered no definitive answers. He posed instead a series of odd counter-questions, such as “if it were a crib / would you trust your baby to sleep in it?” Al added to the weight of these quandaries by chewing on his glasses.

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The Famous Poet’s Society, Part 2 of 8

A Serialized Excerpt from Nothing Happened and Then It Did

By Jake Silverstein on 4.05.10

Now, Part 2 of the serialized excerpt from Jake Silverstein’s Nothing Happened and Then It Did in stores on April 19th. [Miss Part 1? Read it here.]

Five days before the convention was to begin, terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, killing thousands of Americans and plunging the country headlong into the age of terror, but the Famous Poets Society decided to push ahead with its program as planned. It was felt that poetry was needed now more than ever. It was also felt that there would be no full refund of the $495 registration fee, in the event of a canceled flight or a distraught flier or a sinking sensation that the timing was bad for big bets. I flew to San Francisco, rented a car, and took Interstate 80 up into the Sierra Nevadas, over Donner Pass, to John Ascuaga’s Nugget in Reno.

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The Famous Poet’s Society, Part 1 of 8

A Serialized Excerpt from Nothing Happened and Then It Did

By Jake Silverstein on 4.01.10

Editor’s Note: On April 19th, W. W. Norton will publish Nothing Happened and Then It Did, the first book by Texas Monthly editor Jake Silverstein. Sherman Alexie has called it “hilarious, poetic, lovely, and disturbing.” Annie Dillard calls it “a masterful literary debut.” Like Alexie and Dillard, the Poems Out Loud team has fallen in love with the book. One chapter in particular, about an unforgettable poetry competition in Reno, Nevada, has secured my personal lifetime membership in the Silverstein Forever Fan Club. To help us celebrate National Poetry Month, Jake Silverstein has generously agreed to let Poems Out Loud share this chapter with you, dear readers. So throughout the month of April, in eight parts, we’ll be serializing the story of the Famous Poet’s Society from Nothing Happened and Then It Did. Read along with us and there will be a few opportunities throughout the month to snag a free copy of the book. So now, I turn you over to Jake and Part 1 of the Famous Poet’s Society. Enjoy!

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The Poem That Invented Us

By Sherod Santos on 3.29.10

It’s a thing of the past, we often say of the past. But like childhood, something within it is always present. And something within the lyric poem relives that fateful moment when the human figure stepped from the shadow of heroes and gods to assume its natural form. Here I am, the lyric said, and here I am as I am.

we are born of the dead

In the seventh century BCE, poets first began to compose whole poems around the day-to-day particulars of their own lives; and in so doing, they invested the lyric with an awesome, self-renewing power, the power to fire the human spirit and, at the same time, to call into question the religious, social, and political structures that governed their daily world.

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The Secret Life of Emily Dickinson

An Introduction to the Novel

By Jerome Charyn on 3.26.10

She was the first poet I had ever read, and I was hooked and hypnotized from the start, because in her writing she broke every rule. Words had their own chain reaction, their own fire. She could stun, delight, and kill “with Dirks of Melody.” I never quite recovered from reader her. I, too, wanted to create “[a] perfect—paralyzing Bliss,” to have my sentences explode “like a Maelstrom, with a notch.”

It was the old maid of Amherst who lent me a little of her own courage to risk becoming a writer. ” A Wounded Deer—leaps highest,” she wrote, and I wanted to leap with Emily.

We had so little in common. She was a country girl, and I was a boy from the Bronx. She had a lineage with powerful roots in America, and I was a mongrel whose heritage was like an unsolved riddle out of Eastern Europe. Yet I could hear the tick of her music in my wakefulness and in my sleep. Suddenly that plain little woman with her bolts of red hair was as familiar to me as the little scars on my own face.

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“Another Failed Poem About the Greeks”: The Story Behind the Poem

By Sandra Beasley on 3.24.10

In I Was the Jukebox, I set out with the goal of writing away from the biographical self. These poems speak as sand, as orchids, as Egyptian gods. In “You Were You,” which yields the collection’s title phrase, the speaker’s displaced self becomes a barroom jukebox. Her beloved shares the bar—with his new flame in tow.

Another Failed Poem About the Greeks” is another tale of thwarted love, with a dividing wall of centuries rather than plastic and glitter. One day I got an image stuck in my head: a gleaming warrior dragging a bloodied Gorgon’s head behind him. He was standing not in a scene out of Clash of the Titans but on a suburban front stoop, waiting for his blind date to answer the door. I wanted to write the poem that could own that moment, and play out its consequences.

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Interview with Ron Egatz: Poet, Designer, and Publisher

By The Editors on 2.26.10

On Letter from a Young Poet (the fledgling Poems Out Loud interview series), we now hear from Ron Egatz: poet, designer, and founder of Camber Press. Ron is also currently being filmed for a documentary on the state of contemporary American poetry. Listen to Ron read one of his recent poems, “Post-Eisenhower Nourishment”, and then check out the smart things he has to say about lucid poetry, the effects of his homemade popcorn on women, and so on.

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