Wednesday, December 19, 2012


You don’t need the Sugar Plum Fairy or even visions of sugar plums in your head to delight in listening to the splendid sounds of poetry.  There are many websites that offer audio recordings, podcasts and videos of a variety of poets and poetry readings. 

This holiday season (and all through the year) sit back, relax by the glow of the computer screen and treat yourself to the voice, rhythms and words of a poet you admire (or one who’s new to you).

Here are a few sites to visit:

The Poetry Foundation has a wide variety of both audio and video offerings.


The Library of Congress has both their Poet Vision series

and “The Poet and the Poem” radio program webcasts

Moving Poetry is “a compendium of video poetry from around the web with a new video every weekday.”

Lunch Poems is a very fine poetry series at the University of California – Berkeley under the direction of UC Berkeley professor and former Poet Laureate Robert Hass.  The series is broadcast on UCTV.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012



I’m delighted to announce the publication of my new book of poems, The ABCs of Memory.

Click here to see book at

Click here to see book on publisher's site.

Unlike the way I organized each of the previous collections (around a narrative, told mainly through persona poems), in this new volume, I wanted to apply a wholly different structure (a simple, and familiar, framework used to catalogue various pleasures, ordeals and mixed blessings of American life).  

The ABCs of Memory contains two sections of poems titled alphabetically.  The first set of poems, called “An Alphabet From An Ample Nation,” probes the American psyche by examining such icons as Mr. Potato Head, Elvis, a Playboy centerfold, Mary Worth and Wonder Bread.  This grouping includes a prize-winning parody of Ginsberg’s “Howl”.  The second section, “An Alphabet of Modest Means,” explores little life moments of ordinary people and it’s the aggregate of these experiences that throws light on facets of American identity.

 Let me show you a poem from each section.  
First, from “An Alphabet From An Ample Nation”:


What you do remember of the rapid years,
when you spent your days learning how
to hokey pokey and to read simple stories
about Dick and Jane and their dog Spot,

was how in the evening after dinner
your mother grabbed the familiar white bag
with red, yellow and blue balloons and 
pulled out two slices of simple Wonder Bread.

She placed one round portion of baloney 
between the pieces of white bread before 
she sliced the sandwich.  Always vertically
and never cutting off the crust.

On winter mornings when you could see
the wispy body of your breath as you rushed out
holding your metal Howdy Doody lunch box,
always anxious about being late,

you were confident you carried the bread
Buffalo Bob said builds strong bodies eight ways
more crucial, you thought, than the handful
of carrot sticks or a snack box of raisins.

You can’t recall exactly when things changed.
Certainly it was after Clarabell finally spoke,
lips quivering as he whispered, Goodbye, kids,
and there was no more Buffalo Bob and Howdy.

Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Roy Rogers were gone.
Annette and the other Mouseketeers no longer
sang and danced in Roll Call each afternoon.
One day it was all different.

The earth mothers moved into kitchens
in cities and suburbs.  Their sleek hands
kneaded bread dough, punching out air.
The aroma of baking bread was everywhere.

Soon alfalfa sprouts appeared
with hummus on whole wheat
or spreadable Neufchatel with sunflower
seeds or bananas on multigrain bread.

Overnight metal lunch boxes with the faces 
of our favorite TV characters on the front
disappeared, gone with Wonder Bread,
while mothers mouthed Just as well.  Good riddance!

In its own way, whiter than God intended,
even enriched with minerals and vitamins,
bread became somehow tarnished and not good
enough for us who no longer trusted in wonders.

     from The ABCs of Memory, 2012, Lenny Lianne

                And from the second section:


The pyracantha bush taps fingers 
against the window in a code
he doesn’t bother to comprehend.
Down the street one car horn
blasts twice in reprimand. 
Even the wind hurls its own slurs.

More and more, every noise annoys him,
especially his wife cracking an ice tray
over the spine of the sink, a cipher
that splits the air like an angry bird.
Up early, she is alone in the kitchen
making the same flavor Kool-aid
she’s made every day but puts
no smile on the pitcher anymore.

In the beginning he trusted familiar 
things he’d known all his life --
squirrels at the bird feeder,
husk of snake’s skin in the attic,
red and white soup cans on the far side
of the pantry -- all the household
gods of modest means.

But over the years he’s learned 
he travels, locked in place.
As the moon pales and plunges,
he is a bird bashing its head
against the empty picture window
while the waking world wishes him
nothing but trouble.

     from The ABCs of Memory, 2012, Lenny Lianne