Which Poet, Which Beer (3)

beer

Nebraska Brewing Company’s Melange a Trois, a strong Belgian-Style Blonde ale, aged for six months in French Oak Chardonnay barrels, carries a good bit of the wine, with citrus and a hint of vanilla. A little musty, with an excellent frothy head, which, I believe, could describe me most mornings. But I digress. Deceptively strong (11+ ABV) with a pleasant bitterness. I would pair this with a plate of cured meat and David Wevill’s Other Names for the Heart: New and Selected Poems 1964-1984.

He writes in “Grace”:

… Sometimes lately

a bird you can’t identify has flitted close
and sung from the branches of his hands.

He leaves us touching ourselves.

Over the past thirty years, much of Wevill’s writing has left me with unrequited questions, with an itch to branch out, to learn more, to delve deeper into what makes us human.

But there are those days when introspection flies out the back door into the overgrown backyard, and all you want to do is sit back, watch the football game, relax, be entertained, escape. On those days I’ll break out a few cans of Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap, a German-style pilsner, moderately malty, straw-colored, with citrusy hops evident. A clean, palate-cleansing drink, good with nachos or chips, or hell, even with a Greek salad (heavy on the feta and olives, please). And if you’re like me and can’t devote yourself fully to the game, multitask – dip into Jeff Schwaner’s Goat Lies Down on Broadway, and absorb “Goat Reads the Signs”:

The sun rises like music
every morning. Wind goes
around the world and comes
back in a week or two. Goat
waits on top of a hill, judging…

As do we. Don’t stop there. Continue. Turn off the tube – one team will win, the other will lose. But Goat never wins. Goat never loses. Goat befriends Jerry Falwell. Goat eats Jerry’s tie. Goat ingests Sartre. Goat dies. “Goat is never dead.” A lively read, to say the least.

And speaking of lively, Independence Brewery’s Lupulust is a traditional Belgian-style tripel with a touch of modern hoppiness. It pours with a big head and spicy, floral notes, with a dry finish, reminding me of Karen Craigo’s No More Milk, in which she speaks of life – ordinary life – which, in her hands, becomes like that floral scented, big, hoppy beer. In “Scat with Mourning Dove” the narrator wakes “to syncopated song” and marvels at the bird’s jazz refrains from her place in bed with “a body warm against mine,” celebrating

how God made us, made jazz,
made an instrument of a dove.

Sip this book. Share it with friends. Take it to bed with a glass of warm milk. Savor it.

no-more-milk

“Which Poet, Which Beer (3)” appeared here in September 2016.

Which Poet, Which Beer?

file6671234665917

I’m staring at the flight of beers that Jon has placed in front of me. On the left I find Real Ale Brewing Company’s Phoenixx Double ESB. Next to it rests Ranger Creek’s Saison Oscura, followed by Revolver Brewing’s High Brass Golden Ale, and finally, Southern Tier Brewing’s Creme Brulee Stout. I sip the Phoenixx ESB, and am delighted to find it just as I remembered: dry, but sweet, without being overly bitter. Rich, deceptive, caramely odor, amber color. Overtones, hidden layers. I immediately think of Cole Swensen and her book Try, my real introduction to her work, how she reflects tone and imagery, perception and language, intricately weaving them into patterns, into narrative bits to be experienced and savored. “There’s a world out there that isn’t there,” the Phoenixx, evidently a fan of Cole Swensen, whispers.

I linger over the last sip of the ESB, and move on to the Saison Oscura, which quite frankly, surprises me. And that’s good. My preferences edge towards the bitter, and most of the saisons I’ve tried have finished a tad fruity and sweet for my palate. Not so with Ranger Creek’s rendition. Its beguiling light body, with notes of pepper and spice, end with just the right note of bitterness. But which poet, which book would I pair with this dark saison? Someone who juggles the lyrical with harsh realism, whose voice blends and releases the bitter, the forsaken, in distilled snippets of striking clarity. Ah, yes. I have just the book, The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart, by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, and the line:

The whole world tastes like salt,

crows overhead shout, Gone, gone
gone. She can’t help me any more.
I’ll have to walk.

It’s much more difficult to pair the Revolver Brewing High Brass Golden Ale with a favorite poet, because, sadly, I find it lacking. It’s light in the mouth, and, to take Gertrude’s quote totally out of context, there is no there there. If I’m to choose a blonde ale, I’d much prefer Real Ale Brewing’s Fireman’s #4. But waste not, want not. I down it, and consider which poet would not only transcend this disappointment, but also hand it a one-way ticket to, perhaps, Stein’s lost Oakland? Easy. G.C. Waldrep, whose Goldbeater’s Skin sets its barbed hooks into my flesh each time I open it. And for this particular occasion, I find no poem more appropriately titled than “What Begins Bitterly Becomes Another Love Poem,” in which he writes:

We stood without shadows on asphalt at midday.
What we call patience is only fire again, compressed.

And fire should accompany Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee Stout. A crackling fire fending off the icy, shingle-ripping wind, with Miles Davis echoing in the background, an exquisite meal resting comfortably in the belly, and the pleasure of knowing that the book you’re about to dip into is an endless well. Quite simply, it’s a liquid dessert. Light coffee, a tad chocolatey, with big vanilla. Medium body, sweet. Smells like creme brulee. Tastes like it. But it’s beer. It tells the truth, but tells it slant! And who better to accompany this frothy delight than Emily Dickinson?

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth’s superb surprise…

Onward to the next flight, and more truth. More poetry. More beer. More surprise!

photo(14)

This last appeared on the blog in November 2015.

Which Poet, Which Beer (4)

I come here to sit quietly, emerging from my shack, if only briefly, to eavesdrop and observe, to sip beer and participate in the world of commerce. Ah, yes. The grocery store. If only all of them housed craft-beer bars. I place cilantro and shallots in my basket, add arugula, asparagus and a lime, and wander over to the fish case where two small fillets of Chilean sea bass, the commercial name for Patagonian toothfish, catch my eye.

Finally at the bar, I order Lone Pint Brewery’s Zeno’s Pale Ale, and overhear a disquisition on hydration and landscaping, and a conversation on war and snipers and gratitude. The ale arrives with a light, lacey head, exudes a bready malt profile upfront, and a pine-citrus punch at the back. I can’t quite uncover the truth of the flavor, but enjoy the search, and amidst the swirling combination of voices and beer I somehow think of Veronica Golos’ “Snow in April,” a ghazal in her stunning book Vocabulary of Silence.

“Has my flock of flowers died? An ambush, a bullet-shot
of cold. Undone beneath the snow, what’s truth, in April?”

What is the sniper’s truth? What gratitude might we find within April’s layers? I have no answers, only more questions, and with more questions comes thirst.

My second beer is a curious blend of old and new – a Belgian-style quadrupel that, don’t laugh, smells a bit like a cola, but in a good way. Unibroue’s Trois Pistoles is dark brown, let’s call it mahogany, with a fruity but mellow flavor and a toasty malt finish. And well balanced – with an alcohol content of 9%, it’s strong, but not too strong. Historical undercurrents flow through this brew, yet it also brings with it an appreciation of the new and popular, which leads to thoughts of one of my favorite poets, Frank Bidart, whose work often refers to and resonates with historical figures (in the book at hand, Watching the Spring Festival, Tu Fu and Catullus come to mind), and his poem “Sanjaya at 17,” referencing an American Idol contestant:

“There is a creature, among all others, one,
within whose voice there is a secret voice
which once heard
unlocks the door that unlocks the mountain.”

Today the mountain does not swing open for me. Perhaps a second Trois Pistoles might have done the trick, but instead, knowing I have to prepare dinner, starting with a compound butter of shallot, cilantro, garlic and lime zest, I request a mere taste of Founder’s Breakfast Stout, because, well, the idea of stout for breakfast has a certain appeal, though in my case would not be practical, as it would likely put me to sleep. And yes, it contains both chocolate and coffee (Sumatra and Kona), tastes a bit smoky, is smooth and luxurious in the mouth, and makes me long for a lonely, cold winter’s night in a far-off country, a fire crackling with just a hint of madness, and the full moon leering down at all of us, but particularly the dead genius that was Thomas James, whose poem “Wild Cherries,” from his one and only book Letters to a Stranger, ends:

I watch you eat, tasting yourself perhaps,
Some bitterness that is a part of you,
And I accept it gratefully. When you smile,
I see you dying in that single instant.
Walking back home, into ourselves, we enter
A far-off country neither of us wanted.”

Oh, those things we want and don’t want. To feel. To write. To cook, to sing. To share. To love. To be alone. To be numb. To do nothing. To do everything…

Which Poet, Which Beer (2)

pint

Tastes change. In my younger years I preferred sweeter brown ales, eschewed hoppier, bitter beverages, and seldom branched out. Nowadays, I lean heavily towards the bitter, and when the opportunity presents itself, feel compelled to sample the unknown. Thus when I spied Alaskan Brewing Company’s Alaskan Jalapeño Imperial IPA on tap, I had no choice but to order a pint. We may not normally place the words Alaska and jalapeño alongside each other, but if this Imperial IPA is any indication, perhaps we should. With an odor of hops and capsicum, it felt smooth on the tongue, a little malty, even earthy. Not  complex at the outset, but subtle, defying definition and developing over time, in the way a good poem develops. My only complaint would be the lack of heat. But hey, I’m from Texas, and we do jalapeños. This is a beer of multiple cultures, a blend of distinct identities. I think of Joan Naviyuk Kane, and her first book, The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, in which she writes in “Antistrophic”

Instead of out, I am in,
Trying at the old habit of imperfect definition
As well as the less familiar,
Between falling gold

Kane’s narrative, her mythology and landscape, are not mine, yet they invite me in and envelop my senses, allowing synthesis, acceptance, to occur.

But sometimes I crave the unadorned. The Lone Pint Brewery’s Yellowrose IPA, a single malt, single hop concoction, startled me. Surprisingly mellow in the mouth, it imparts grapefruit and perhaps pineapple with a hint of something I can’t readily identify. Strong yet delicate, infinitely interesting, Yellowrose is most definitely a celebration of simplicity and craft – a few ingredients combined to create magic. Which may also describe Christina Davis’s book An Ethic. Spare in nature, her work transcends the limits of language, the borders of the page. Her poems blossom anew with each reading, and the farther away I move from them, the more I long to return:

”All Those That Wander,” in its entirety:

After the ark survived the Flood,
it was taken apart
to be made into cages.

This is the nature of religion.

Of course my curiosity leads me down other paths, too. Infamous Brewing Company’s Sweep the Leg peanut butter stout pours with a small head, and tastes of rich malts and coffee, with a little cocoa and, of course, subtle peanut tones. An opaque, dark brown or black, with minimal carbonation, exuding stillness, it isn’t quite what I anticipated, with the peanut butter flavor a tad muted. But the mouthfeel is spot on, and the aftertaste lingers, leaving me requesting more of this unlikely combination, and reminding me of Charles Simic’s  Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell, in which he imparts, through prose poems, the experience of viewing Cornell’s enigmatic art. Nothing is quite as you expect it should or could be, yet you go on, somehow understanding. He writes in “Secret Toy”:

In a secret room in a secret house his secret toy sits
listening to its own stillness.

Simic offers openings into Cornell’s art, explains the unexplainable without explanation. I stare into the pint of Sweep the Leg, and find my own stillness. I read Simic and find another. This is what I seek in poetry, what I want in good beer. I have found it.

blackbeer

“Which Poets, Which Beer (2)” first appeared here in October 2015. You will be relieved to hear that I am still conducting research in these matters.

Which Poet, Which Beer (3)

beer

Nebraska Brewing Company’s Melange a Trois, a strong Belgian-Style Blonde ale, aged for six months in French Oak Chardonnay barrels, carries a good bit of the wine, with citrus and a hint of vanilla. A little musty, with an excellent frothy head, which, I believe, could describe me most mornings. But I digress. Deceptively strong (11+ ABV) with a pleasant bitterness. I would pair this with a plate of cured meat and David Wevill’s Other Names for the Heart: New and Selected Poems 1964-1984.

He writes in “Grace”:

… Sometimes lately

a bird you can’t identify has flitted close
and sung from the branches of his hands.

He leaves us touching ourselves.

Over the past thirty years, much of Wevill’s writing has left me with unrequited questions, with an itch to branch out, to learn more, to delve deeper into what makes us human.

But there are those days when introspection flies out the back door into the overgrown backyard, and all you want to do is sit back, watch the football game, relax, be entertained, escape. On those days I’ll break out a few cans of Austin Beerworks Pearl Snap, a German-style pilsner, moderately malty, straw-colored, with citrusy hops evident. A clean, palate-cleansing drink, good with nachos or chips, or hell, even with a Greek salad (heavy on the feta and olives, please). And if you’re like me and can’t devote yourself fully to the game, multitask – dip into Jeff Schwaner’s Goat Lies Down on Broadway, and absorb “Goat Reads the Signs”:

The sun rises like music
every morning. Wind goes
around the world and comes
back in a week or two. Goat
waits on top of a hill, judging…

As do we. Don’t stop there. Continue. Turn off the tube – one team will win, the other will lose. But Goat never wins. Goat never loses. Goat befriends Jerry Falwell. Goat eats Jerry’s tie. Goat ingests Sartre. Goat dies. “Goat is never dead.” A lively read, to say the least.

And speaking of lively, Independence Brewery’s Lupulust is a traditional Belgian-style tripel with a touch of modern hoppiness. It pours with a big head and spicy, floral notes, with a dry finish, reminding me of Karen Craigo’s No More Milk, in which she speaks of life – ordinary life – which, in her hands, becomes like that floral scented, big, hoppy beer. In “Scat with Mourning Dove” the narrator wakes “to syncopated song” and marvels at the bird’s jazz refrains from her place in bed with “a body warm against mine,” celebrating

how God made us, made jazz,
made an instrument of a dove.

Sip this book. Share it with friends. Take it to bed with a glass of warm milk. Savor it.

no-more-milk

Which Poet, Which Beer?

This week I’m reposting some old favorites. “Which Poet, Which Beer” first appeared in February 2014.

file6671234665917
I’m staring at the flight of beers that John has placed in front of me. On the left I find Real Ale Brewing Company’s Phoenixx Double ESB. Next to it rests Ranger Creek’s Saison Oscura, followed by Revolver Brewing’s High Brass Golden Ale, and finally, Southern Tier Brewing’s Creme Brulee Stout. I sip the Phoenixx ESB, and am delighted to find it just as I remembered: dry, but sweet, without being overly bitter. Rich, deceptive, caramely odor, amber color. Overtones, hidden layers. I immediately think of Cole Swensen and her book Try, my real introduction to her work, how she reflects tone and imagery, perception and language, intricately weaving them into patterns, into narrative bits to be experienced and savored. “There’s a world out there that isn’t there,” the Phoenixx, evidently a fan of Cole Swensen, whispers.

I linger over the last sip of the ESB, and move on to the Saison Oscura, which quite frankly, surprises me. And that’s good. My preferences edge towards the bitter, and most of the saisons I’ve tried have finished a tad fruity and sweet for my palate. Not so with Ranger Creek’s rendition. Its beguiling light body, with notes of pepper and spice, end with just the right note of bitterness. But which poet, which book would I pair with this dark saison? Someone who juggles the lyrical with harsh realism, whose voice blends and releases the bitter, the forsaken, in distilled snippets of striking clarity. Ah, yes. I have just the book, The Last Time I Saw Amelia Earhart, by Gabrielle Calvocoressi, and the line:

“The whole world tastes like salt,

crows overhead shout, Gone, gone
gone. She can’t help me any more.
I’ll have to walk.

It’s much more difficult to pair the Revolver Brewing High Brass Golden Ale with a favorite poet, because, sadly, I find it lacking. It’s light in the mouth, and, to take Gertrude’s quote totally out of context, there is no there there. If I’m to choose a blonde ale, I’d much prefer Real Ale Brewing’s Fireman’s #4. But waste not, want not. I down it, and consider which poet would not only transcend this disappointment, but also hand it a one-way ticket to, perhaps, Stein’s lost Oakland? Easy. G.C. Waldrep, whose Goldbeater’s Skin sets its barbed hooks into my flesh each time I open it. And for this particular occasion, I find no poem more appropriately titled than “What Begins Bitterly Becomes Another Love Poem,” in which he writes:

We stood without shadows on asphalt at midday.
What we call patience is only fire again, compressed.

And fire should accompany Southern Tier’s Creme Brulee Stout. A crackling fire fending off the icy, shingle-ripping wind, with Miles Davis echoing in the background, an exquisite meal resting comfortably in the belly, and the pleasure of knowing that the book you’re about to dip into is an endless well.
Quite simply, it’s a liquid dessert. Light coffee, a tad chocolatey, with big vanilla. Medium body, sweet. Smells like creme brulee. Tastes like it. But it’s beer. It tells the truth, but tells it slant! And who better to accompany this frothy delight than Emily Dickinson?

Tell all the truth but tell it slant,
Success in circuit lies,
Too bright for our infirm delight
The truth’s superb surprise…

Onward to the next flight, and more truth. More poetry. More beer. More surprise!
photo(14)

Which Poet, Which Beer (2)

pint

Tastes change. In my younger years I preferred sweeter brown ales, eschewed hoppier, bitter beverages, and seldom branched out. Nowadays, I lean heavily towards the bitter, and when the opportunity presents itself, feel compelled to sample the unknown. Thus when I spied Alaskan Brewing Company’s Alaskan Jalapeño Imperial IPA on tap, I had no choice but to order a pint. We may not normally place the words Alaska and jalapeño alongside each other, but if this Imperial IPA is any indication, perhaps we should. With an odor of hops and capsicum, it felt smooth on the tongue, a little malty, even earthy. Not  complex at the outset, but subtle, defying definition and developing over time, in the way a good poem develops. My only complaint would be the lack of heat. But hey, I’m from Texas, and we do jalapeños. This is a beer of multiple cultures, a blend of distinct identities. I think of Joan Naviyuk Kane, and her first book, The Cormorant Hunter’s Wife, in which she writes in “Antistrophic”

Instead of out, I am in,
Trying at the old habit of imperfect definition
As well as the less familiar,
Between falling gold

Kane’s narrative, her mythology and landscape, are not mine, yet they invite me in and envelop my senses, allowing synthesis, acceptance, to occur.

But sometimes I crave the unadorned. The Lone Pint Brewery’s Yellowrose IPA, a single malt, single hop concoction, startled me. Surprisingly mellow in the mouth, it imparts grapefruit and perhaps pineapple with a hint of something I can’t readily identify. Strong yet delicate, infinitely interesting, Yellowrose is most definitely a celebration of simplicity and craft – a few ingredients combined to create magic. Which may also describe Christina Davis’s book An Ethic. Spare in nature, her work transcends the limits of language, the borders of the page. Her poems blossom anew with each reading, and the farther away I move from them, the more I long to return:

”All Those That Wander,” in its entirety:

After the ark survived the Flood,
it was taken apart
to be made into cages.

This is the nature of religion.

Of course my curiosity leads me down other paths, too. Infamous Brewing Company’s Sweep the Leg peanut butter stout pours with a small head, and tastes of rich malts and coffee, with a little cocoa and, of course, subtle peanut tones. An opaque, dark brown or black, with minimal carbonation, exuding stillness, it isn’t quite what I anticipated, with the peanut butter flavor a tad muted. But the mouthfeel is spot on, and the aftertaste lingers, leaving me requesting more of this unlikely combination, and reminding me of Charles Simic’s  Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell, in which he imparts, through prose poems, the experience of viewing Cornell’s enigmatic art. Nothing is quite as you expect it should or could be, yet you go on, somehow understanding. He writes in “Secret Toy”:

In a secret room in a secret house his secret toy sits
listening to its own stillness.

Simic offers openings into Cornell’s art, explains the unexplainable without explanation. I stare into the pint of Sweep the Leg, and find my own stillness. I read Simic and find another. This is what I seek in poetry, what I want in good beer. I have found it.

blackbeer