Sunday, September 17, 2006

Ted Bookey

Moon Pie Press would like to congratulate Ted Bookey on his interview at the new website for Maine Writers, Writer’s Gambit:

The website also features three poems with SOUNDFILES so you can listen to Ted read them online. This is a wonderful way to experience Ted’s poetry, which is fantastic on the page and even more superlative in his presentation:

Ted, as I have mentioned in an earlier entry, is someone I consider a mentor and role model as well as an indispensable friend. I am tempted to ascribe to Ted and Ruth the mantle of surrogate parenthood, but they are, in the most important sense, much too young for that role. When you meet Ted and Ruth, you immediately sense a profoundly deep, fiercely loving and unconditional partnership, passion, and shared vision—a marriage of the sort most of us dream about but few achieve. They are more than happy to share their riches and entertain sumptuously and often. I call the warm and hospitable home they built together my “Rivendell”; last homely house in Middle Earth and refuge of the elves—an enchanted place, like the one Tolkien described in his books : “a perfect house, whether you liked food or sleep or story-telling or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all” (The Hobbit). When I visit this special place, crammed wall to wall with wonderful books and an astonishing collection of art of all kinds—much of it Ruth’s originals—I feel immediately that my soul has sat down at a well-laden table for a perfectly delicious and utterly nourishing meal. A poetry group has met in their home for many years, and the magic seems to rub off, as some of our fine Moon Pie Poets are among the past or current participants: Jay Franzel, David Moreau, Darcy Shargo, and Ellen Taylor; our accomplished poet Eva Miodownik Oppenheim is his cousin.

Ted moved to Maine in 1980 from New York, where he taught English in public schools and at Long Island University. He and his beautiful, talented wife Ruth teach in the Senior Education program at the University of Maine in Augusta where they are also on the Board of Directors.

Ted is the author of three books of poems: Mixty Motions, published by Nightshade Press ; a book of translations from the German of Erich Kästner for Red Dancefloor Press (in collaboration with his wife Ruth), and Language As A Second Language from Moon Pie Press
(read the title poem at the above link, as well).

Ted's poetry, criticism and reviews appear in many journals and anthologies, including these two book reviews available online at the excellent literary journal, Poetrybay:

Ted’s plays have been produced in Maine and off Broadway in New York City.

Ted is involved with so many cultural happenings in Maine I am certain there are many more than collected here but a few in which he has a hand are:
-The Live Poet’s Society of Maine
-The Belfast Poetry Festival
-The Terry Plunkett Maine Poetry Festival at UMA, an annual weekend event honoring the memory of UMA poet and Professor of English Terry Plunkett.

Ted’s books are in the collection of the Maine State Library and he is featured on the Maine Poet’s Website:
Ted’s poem “About Laughter in Poetry” can also be found here.

Ted and Ruth are long-time organizers, with Baron Wormser, of the readings at the Harlow Gallery in Hallowell.
and many of our best Maine poets can be heard at these readings, paired with poets of national renown from all over the country.

Ted’s work has received much critical acclaim, including the following accolades:

On Language As aSecond Language, Ted Bookey, Moon Pie Press, (2004):

Baron Wormser, Past Poet Laureate of Maine: Bookey's poetry is exactly what poetry should be - irrepressible. At turns meditative and playful, he has his astute finger on the mystery of the human pulse. His language is scintillating, wry and overflowing with brio. His humanity is always palpable.

Acclaimed Poet Tony Hoagland writes: Great to have your as usual, sparky, true, full of heart human, with flashes of brilliance, always insubordinate new poems—they have the life-force too much poetry lacks, plus they hold it up. And a great title!

George Wallace, Editor of Poetrybay: These are fearless poems that dance on a tightrope of surrealism, with and irrepressible energy. The tone ranges from scatological to sacred. Like the women in one poem who would ‘spank the air like wet fireworks’ or else eat a frong instead of kissing it into a prince, these poems laugh at convention and punish the night like so many roman candles. Ted Bookey offers us mayhem, madness—and then the unexpected tenderness and intimacy of ‘His Beautiful Woman’, or the sobering moral reflection of ‘Kein Warum’. Handle with care—there is dangerous fun inside this book.

Ed Pomerantz, playwright and screenwriter: Language As a Second Language is pure pleasure….Bookey is in top form, particularly, for one, in the title poem and especially in Torture, With Eggs, my favorite, which isn’t only a grat poem, but a terrific short story and one act play as well! In this time of paralysis and despair, thanks for reminding me that the act of language and poetry really counts.

Dennis Camire, poet and reviewer for Animus: With Ted’s poems it’s impossible not to share in the joy he has in playing with language: creating aphoristic phrases, inverting syntax, and, ans Vivaldi heeds, “making the form work toward the meaning”. A poem, for this writer, encompasses more than the mere telling of an interesting story…. Read this wonderful chapbook if you want to know the heights contemporary free verse can reach and if you, too, yearn to “find a whole world in a mouthful of words.”

The Selected Poetry of Erich Kästner by Eric Kästner, Ruth Bookey, and Ted Bookey, Red Dancefloor Press:

Tony Hoagland: The poems of Erich Kästner, in this excellent imperialist century translation, are as frank and bitter as strong black coffee, with much the same effect on the reader. Informed by a deep knowledge of human nature and social reality, keen-minded, observant, unpretentious, very conversational, by turns mercilessly realistic and empathetic, these poems speak in the very real voice of a man worth listening to. Kästner is our contemporary, and these poems come across perfectly in American.

Riva Berleant:
Erich Kastner, up there next to Heinrich Heine, would be pleased to know that, finally, the message is available to us Amerikaners of the 1990s, translated with verve and love into a voice and language we need. Ted and Ruth Bookey know Kastner in all his moods: angry, ironic, pessimistic and profoundly empathetic with ordinary people.
Sean Thomas Dougherty:Widely hailed in Germany, Kastner was a political poet, a populist poet, one who spoke for those who can only "mutter" amid the loneliness that comes at 5 AM, the voices that haunt our sleep in the dim time before dawn and work and the gray day, and the bit of humor which helps one "get along." Translators Ruth and Ted Bookey offer to the American reader these satiric voices-across language and time as if to say to the end of our, "There's no way it can keep up this way / -if it keeps up this way".

You can read all of the enthusiastic editorial reviews of these amazing translations here:

Read more about Erich Kästner here:

On Mixty Motions, Nightshade Press, 1995:

Tony Hoagland:
What lifts the poems themselves above the level of story is the linguistic energy, the active meditative intelligence that recurs in their zany but controlled orbitings…Bookey’s style disdains neatness and formality and gives us an intensity of testimony to the human heart and mind, and after reading so much cultured, careful, well-modulated poetry, this work is enormously refreshing. It has a keen mind, honesty, gusto, full language, emotional responsiveness and appetite; it cherishes human experience, but insists on not fooling itself; it draws upon different parts of the mind and psyche.

Here are two of my very favorite Ted Bookey poems:

HIS Beautiful Woman

What life is there, what delight,
Without soft golden Aphrodite. — Mimnermus (c. 650—c. 550 BC.)

You mean the one with the narrow hips?

—No, with the broad ones.

The woman he says is always the same?

—Yes, always same: always new.

The one he calls a woman for all seasons?

—Her seasons are warm, soft, moist, kind, clear.

The tea rose scented Modigliani thighs woman?

—Yes, who plants a garden in his beard.

Whose beauty he says she wears like it is natural?

—No, more like something she has earned.

Perhaps more like flower that’s won some sort of prize?

—Prize is, well, obvious is not quite the word—but yes.

With hair of a fragrance only of hair?

—No, rosaceous, curls about her, spanks the air like wet fireworks.

The woman he stares at when she leans toward the mirror?

—Yes, at twin smiles of her female bottom plump as scent bottles.

Otherwise he never stops what he is doing to just gaze at her?

—He steals side glances, at the movies, when they drive.

The woman he said he didn’t want first time he saw her?

—No, wanted her then. wants her even more now.

But she’s the one he never shows his poems?

—No, it’s for her he writes them.

Torture With Eggs

Every night they snore the house down in their separate rooms

Sans respite & as if for spite & every morning my mother

& my father at breakfast & every morning she’ll ask him

What he wants & every morning he’ll say You know what

I want I want the usual & she’ll say it’s every morning

The same thing with you with juice & oatmeal & your

Sanka & your two toasts with the grape jelly

For God’s sake! you smell like Quaker Oats

Why can’t you ever try anything new & he’ll say Because it agrees with me

& she’ll say Well I don’t agree with you you’re always highly constipated

Every morning ou’re in there grunting it’s like someone’s killing a pig

& he’ll say Your fault you always forget to add the bran to my cereal

& she’ll say Maybe if you tried something new you would like it

& he’ll say I am not trying & I am not liking leave me alone

& she’ll say Oh, go ahead I don’t care it’s your stomach

Do whatever you like. I’m making you eggs.

& he’ll say You know some people might just call it being independent

Besides I know what I like & she’ll holler I am not some people

Maybe you are some people & no you do not know what you like

Supposing your oatmeal people went out on strike then what

& he’ll say Save your voice you win & she’ll say O please

Just don’t do me any favors & now he’s conciliatory

You said something about eggs make me an egg

& she’ll say But you don’t like eggs.

& he’ll say Yes I hate eggs eggs taste funny to me & she’ll say

Eggs taste funny to you? So can you chuckle while you eat

How would you like your eggs & he’ll say you’re the cook

You decideI can’t decide & she’ll yell it’s your belly

You want fried you want boiled you want poached

You want scrambled or maybe you would prefer it

Cracked over your head just tell me how!!

I can’t damnit stand it!!

& he’ll say OK you can fry me & she’ll scream

You want fried! O my God all that grease

Again the whole night you’ll be in there

Squealing like it’s someone murdering

& nothing to show for it after

I’m making you oatmeal

The same as I do

Every morning.


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