Poet, critic and English professor Wayne Koestenbaum has a penchant for provocative book titles, from The Queen’s Throat, his study of opera and homosexuality, to Cleavage, a pop culture exegesis.
The title of his newest poetry collection, Best-selling Jewish Porn Films, gets points for shock value. But does it also signal a new interest in things Jewish?
Koestenbaum discusses the grappa-like pleasure of listening to German soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, his immigrant father, and what he’s after with his latest collection.
From Best-selling Jewish Porn Films
Two Little Elegies for Joe Brainard
I sit awake all night
watching a ladybug
cross the windowpane.
The tower of Babel
at my fingertips
I’ve wasted my forties—
today’s the second
morning of my fortieth year.
Oh, but I must mention
one rare red record,
found at a flea market:
“The Rosary,” sung
by Vivian Delia Chiesa.
It holds up.
At the great soprano’s husband’s funeral
the synagogue smells of talc and hair oil.
I wear a tie with chromosomal squiggles
and read “Kubla Khan” while waiting for the service
to begin. My grail is intersection,
though I can’t hold it,
don’t know what it is—
mysterious sadness falling into neat piles.