Your email is not valid
Recipient's email is not valid
Submit Close

Your email has been sent.

Click here to send another


Feel the Burn

Poet Wayne Koestenbaum reveals his toxic attractions

Print Email

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

bewitches her.

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.

Print Email

Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180

Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.

Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.

We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.


Your comment may be no longer than 2,000 characters, approximately 400 words. HTML tags are not permitted, nor are more than two URLs per comment. We reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments.

Thank You!

Thank you for subscribing to the Tablet Magazine Daily Digest.
Please tell us about you.

Feel the Burn

Poet Wayne Koestenbaum reveals his toxic attractions

More on Tablet:

Cancer, As We Know It

By Stephanie Butnick — Our coverage of the illness is raw, inspiring, scientific, sad, historical, and familial. Have a look.