Monday, December 31, 2007
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Friday, November 23, 2007
Talk normally as little as possible in the coming week. Instead, try to communicate primarily by whispering, singing, laughing, speaking in rhyme, using foreign accents, making animal noises, and imitating cartoon characters. In my astrological opinion, this could free you to express feelings and thoughts that you've been unwisely suppressing. It would give you the power to access potent information that neither your monkey mind nor your rational mind has much interest in.
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
A Short History of the Shadow
Thanksgiving, dark of the moon.
Nothing down here in the underworld but vague shapes and black holes,
Heaven resplendent but virtual
trees stripped and triple-wired like Irish harps.
Lights on Pantops and Free Bridge mirror the eastern sky.
Under the bridge is the river,
the red Rivanna.
Under the river's redemption, it says in the book,
It says in the book,
Through water and fire the whole place becomes purified,
The visible by the visible, the hidden by what is hidden.
Each word, as someone once wrote, contains the universe.
The visible carries all the invisible on its back.
Tonight, in the unconditional, what moves in the long-limbed grasses,
what touches me
As though I didn't exist?
What is it that keeps on moving,
a tiny pillar of smoke
Erect on its hind legs,
loose in the hollow grasses?
A word I don't know yet, a little word, containing infinity,
Noiseless and unrepentant, in sift through the dry grass.
Under the tongue is the utterance.
Under the utterance is the fire, and then the only end of fire.
Only Dante, in Purgatory, casts a shadow,
L'ombra della carne, the shadow of flesh--
everyone else is one.
The darkness that flows from the world's body, gloomy spot,
Pre-dogs our footsteps, and follows us,
Watching the nouns circle, and watching the verbs circle,
Till one of them enters the left ear and becomes a shadow
Itself, sweet word in the unwaxed ear.
This is a short history of the shadow, one part of us that's real.
This is the way the world looks
In late November,
no leaves on the trees, no ledge to foil the lightfall.
No ledge in early December either, and no ice,
La Nina unhosing the heat pump
up from the Gulf,
Orange Crush sunset over the Blue Ridge,
No shadow from anything as evening gathers its objects
And eases into earshot.
Under the influx the outtake,
Leon Battista Alberti says,
Some lights are from stars, some from the sun
And moon, and other lights are from fires.
The light from the stars makes the shadow equal to the body.
Light from fire makes it greater,
there, under the tongue, there, under the utterance.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
from Susan Howe's
I am still moving one wave
twicewashed these are pas-
times voice of evening half
local gold half peregrine red
Where the escaped and their
frolic nobody knows aslant
Style in one stray sitting I
approach sometime in plain
handmade rag wove costume
awry what I long for array
Friday, October 19, 2007
K's cat died, rather we "put him to sleep." A moving on. This is the season.
Jean Valentine's new book continues to haunt. Here's why.
I was lying there
I was lying there, half-alive
in a wooden room at a Russian country place.
You sat by me quietly. It's true you left
sometimes, but came back, sat by me
Woodsman, would you go back to the little-
and turn them on again?
The hide of the deer shivered
The summer wind riffled through my hair.
You are on
a long, patient, summer visit from death.
I am forgiven. Forgiving. To your place
the next to be born.
To my soul (2)
Will I miss you
in the next life?
And you & I, my other, leave
the body, not leave the earth?
And you, a child in a field,
and I, a child on a train, go by, go by,
And what we had
give way like coffee grains
brushed across paper...
Thursday, October 11, 2007
By Barbara Guest
The simple contact with a wooden spoon and the word
recovered itself, began to spread as grass, forced
as it lay sprawling to consider the monument where
patience looked at grief, where warfare ceased
eyes curled outside themes to search the paper
now gleaming and potent, wise and resilient, word
entered its continent eager to find another as
capable as a thorn. The nearest possession would
house them both, they being then two might glue
into this house and presently create a rather larger
mansion filled with spoons and condiments, gracious
as a newly laid table where related objects might gather
to enjoy the interplay of gravity upon facetious hints,
the chocolate dish presuming an endowment, the ladle
of galactic rhythm primed as a relish dish, curved
knives, finger bowls, morsel carriages words might
choose and savor before swallowing so much was the
sumptuousness and substance of a rented house where words
placed dressing gowns as rosemary entered their scent
percipient as elder branches in the night where words
gathered, warped, then straightened, marking new wands.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
The door is fallen down
to the house
I used to try & pry open,
in & out,
I sit underneath the cottonwoods--
what am I meant to be doing?
Nothing. The door is fallen down
inside my open body
where all the worlds touch.
La Chalupa, the Boat
I am twenty,
drifting in la chalupa,
the blue boat painted with roses,
No, not drifting, I am poling
my way into my life. It seems
like another life:
There were the walls of the mind,
There were the cliffs of the mind,
There were the seven deaths,
and the seven bread-offerings--
Still, there was still
the little boat, the chalupa
you built once, slowly, in the yard, after school--
from Little Boat
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Barbara Guest's book, Forces of Imagination
is a series of talks, essays and poems pulled together by Kelsey St. Press. It has been a treat to read this book partly because of the various writers and thinkers she draws upon for insight. So I'll keep compiling underlinings from this book for a while yet.
Not the thing, but the effect it produces.
The poem is the unburdening of ghosts of the past who have come to haunt the writer...These are ghosts not words; they are the ephemera that surround and decorate the mind of the poet, a halo rescued from life.
Mandelstam heard the inner sound "spilling into his fingers."
Imagination is the spirit inside the poem, a nostalgia for the infinite, louder than silk.
Stevens wrote in a poem:
Poetry is a finikin thing of air/That lives uncertainly and not for long/Yet radiantly beyond much lustier blurs.
Details can distract, according to Delacroix. Tending to them:
the artist whose sole urgency is his subject matter neglects the depth rendered by Imagination.
Words without vision are deprived of stability. They cling desparately to a mirrored surface in an effort to attach themselves to a surface because they have no direction and no stabilized vocation.
Words contain their own beauty of face, but they desire an occupation. They cannot exist on beauty or necessity alone. They need dimension. They desire finally an elevation in space. The poet of vision understands the auditory and emotional needs of the words and frees them so that the word becomes both an elemental and physical being, and continuous in movement.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Forces of Imagination: Writing on Writing
Respect your private language.
Plasticity, strive for noble Plasticity.
Never "negotiate" with the reader by projecting the reader's aims into the poem,
such as a "desirable subject."
When in trouble, depend upon imagination.
Picasso, when facing his inquisitors: "Subject matter? You have to have an idea of what you are going to do, but it should be a vague idea."
what Picasso said about subject matter: "It's always something else in the end."
I underlined and marked up a great deal from this next essay by Guest. When I get carried away, I might as well underline the entire thing. It's titled, "Mysteriously Defining the Mysterious: Byzantine Proposals of Poetry," and it opens with a short description of the author purchasing yards of beautiful silk at a bazaar in Turkey. The silk was then turned into curtains and "began to lead a domestic existence, its history asleep, much as a poem enters into an anthology. (Who knows when those Mersan curtains rustled and their sound entered my poetry.)"
I'm struck by the idea of the exotic silk becoming something domestic and then again becoming something mysterious. How that needs to happen in my work.
Underneath the surface of the poem there is the presence of "the something else." Mallarme said, "Not the thing, but its effect." The "effect" is what I have been leading to with my curtains from Mersan. The "thing" is the poetic process which lends its "effect" (the silk of the curtains) to the poem. Process and effect, each go about in disguise. They must be uncovered, these other realms Keats discovered "When First Looking Into Chapman's Homer."
Thursday, September 13, 2007
So you have swept me back,
I who could have walked with the live souls
above the earth,
I who could have slept among the live flowers
so for your arrogance
and your ruthlessness
I am swept back
where dead lichens drip
dead cinders upon moss of ash;
so for your arrogance
I am broken at last,
I who had lived unconscious,
who was almost forgot;
if you had let me wait
I had grown from listlessness
if you had let me rest with the dead,
I had forgot you
and the past.
At least I have the flowers of myself,
and my thoughts, no god
can take that;
I have the fervor of myself for a presence
and my own spirit for light;
and my spirit with its loss
though small against the black,
small against the formless rocks,
hell must break before I am lost;
before I am lost,
hell must open like a red rose
for the dead to pass.
Barbara Guest led me back to H.D. This is an excerpt from the longer poem that appears in H.D. Selected Poems. Jorie Graham has a Eurydice poem that is full of broken color too. I didn't include H.D.'s middle stanzas (I'm wary these days of blogger's weird way with poetry.)
But the colors she throws are worth reading, like a Joan Mitchell canvas.
Thursday, September 6, 2007
My heart, like a bird, went flitting with joy and soared freely about the gear;
the ship sailed on under a cloudless sky, like an angel drunk with the sun's
What is this sad dark isle? —This is Cythera, we're told, a land famous in
song, banal El Dorado of all the old bachelors. Look how after all it's only
a miserable tract.
—Island of sweet secrets and of hearts' festivals! a superb phantom of
ancient Venus floating above your waters like a perfume, spirits heavy with
love and languor.
Fair isle of verdant myrtles, full of flowers in bloom, forever venerated by all
nations, where the sighs of hearts in adoration waft like incense over a garden
or the eternal cooing of ringdoves! —Cythera nothing now but waste terrain,
a stony desert racked by shrill cries. But a singular object caught my eye.
It was no temple in a shady wood, no young flower-loving priestess, body
candescent from a secret heat, loosening her robe to partake of passing
but there, as we skimmed the coast, near enough for our white sails to disturb
the birds—what we saw was a gibbet with three arms, etched in black against
the sky, like cypress.
Fierce birds were settled on their prey, furiously demolishing a hanged man
already rotten, each planting its foul beak like a tool in any bloodsoaked cranny
of that decay;
his eyes were two holes and from the ripped belly the heavy guts hung down
over his thighs and his tormenters, gorged with hideous delicacies, had with
their beaks quite gelded him.
Below, a pack of jealous quadrupeds, muzzles lifted, twisted and turned; a
larger beast in the middle leapt about like an executioner surrounded by his
Inhabitant of Cythera, child of so fair a sky, silently you suffered these
outrages, in expiation of some disgraceful worship and the sins that denied
Ridiculous hanged man, your pangs are mine! I felt, at sight of your dangling
parts, the long bitter river of old sorrows well to my teeth like bile;
before you, poor devil of precious memory, I felt all the beaks, the bites, of
the jabbing crows and the black panthers that once so loved to gnaw at my
—The sky was lovely, the sea was smooth; but for me it was, alas! all dark,
all bloody, my heart, as in a heavy shroud, buried in this allegory.
In your isle, O Venus! all I found erect was a symbolic gibbet hung with my
image . . . —Ah, Lord! give me the strength, the courage, to contemplate my
heart and my body without disgust!
translated from the French by Keith Waldrop
The Flowers of Evil
Sorry about the line breaks...Blogger is a pain! In the
preview, all looks right, but published, the lines are all wrong.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
It's September. Time to shop for supplies with G. Back to school time. List time. Fall projects time. Which leads me to this post--an inventory of underlined passages in the books I'm reading.
This habit -- the underlining-notes-in-the-margin habit -- is left over from too many years of school. I can't read without a pen, without making some kind of mark as I make my way through the book. A star in the margin, a line under a sentence or phrase, an exclamation point or brief commentary. I tend to especially do this with non-fiction and poetry, less with fiction though the pen comes out when I'm especially fond of what I'm reading.
So my books are filled with markings. When I die and my books are boxed up and given to the library or local prison, some reader may come to know me through this marginalia, just as students of Dickinson learned of her love of Milton through the jottings she made in the margins of her copy of Paradise Lost. Not that I'll have students. But strangers who want to get a cheap book will encounter me through my underlinings.
So I propose: to make a regular, ongoing compilation of what I've underlined. To account for the markings so they don't get lost. To offer an overview, a perspective, a way perhaps to see themes or future projects or patterns.
From Forces of Imagination: Writing on Writing by Barbara Guest
There is always something within poetry that desires the invisible.
Ideally a poem will be both mysterious (incunabula, driftwood of the unconscious) and organic (secular) at the same time.
The reader is converted to the poem. (Invisible magic also passes between poet and reader.)
...but arrives from tensions placed on the poem's structure: variability of meter, fleeting moods of expression, trebled sound.
Each poet owns a private language. The poet relies on the pitch within the ear. The ear is also a private affair, and so is pitch. Much poetry betrays a tin ear.
Pitch and ear are the servants of language...
Quoting Cezanne: "the contour eludes me."
Mandelstam once wrote of "sound spilling into fingers." That could be the noise of a poem when it experiences an ecstasy of recognition.
To keep the poem alive after its many varnishings.
A sense of timing.
Mallarme regarded poetry as an art dedicated to fictionalization, an "art consacre aux fictions" where the concrete object is "bathed in a new atmosphere," lifted out of itself to become a fiction.
I want to emphasize that the poem needs to have a spiritual or metaphysical lilfe if it is going to engage itself with reality.
We have learned that words are only utensils. They are inorganic unless there is a spirit within the poem to elevate it, to give it "wings," so that the poem may soar above the page...
Words contain their own beauty of face, but they desire an occupation. They cannot exist on beauty or necessity alone.
And flesh of a poem. Even as a painting has flesh. The vibrancy of its skin.
De Kooning is telling us to beware of description or "subject matter." In other words to think of the poem itself.
Andre Breton said, "to imagine is to see."
She has even trained us to look for the apparitions of ourselves.
The poem's concealed autobiography.
An astonishment throughout the poem at the vibrations of its ego. "I" becomes the bystander and the poem is propelled by the force of the "person" stripped bare.
...the center where the writing rocks back and forth before taking its plunge into space.
Hidden arms are stretched pointing to the variations, the hollows, the deliberate judgements of time within the work of art.
Quoting de Kooning: "You have to keep on the edge of something, all the time, or the picture dies."
color: cobalt blue
Painters are the revolutionaries to whom writers turn in their desire to break from the solemnity of the judicious rules of their craft.
Henri Bergson in Paris said: image is a locus between intuition and concept.
H.D was beginning her own struggle with what Williams in "Asphodel" calls "the tyranny of the image (wonderful phrase). Pound had firmly stressed that you did not work up to the image--no reflections, hesitations, equivocations, hints. The image strikes once with its full force--and brilliantly, "it occurs in an instant."
Thursday, August 23, 2007
by Marie Ponsot
Underwater, keeled in seas,
zinc the sacrificial anode gives
electrons up to save the sunk hull from salt.
The carving of salt water skirls out beaches
where each wave fall can push softly, a long curve in.
Rain widens the waterfall till the stream
slows, swells, winds up, and topples down
onto lilypads it presses forward on their stems.
Carp drowse among stems sunk in the park lake,
their flesh rich in heavy metals. Eat one and die.
A drip from the tap hits the metal sink
& splats into sunlight, cosmic,
a scatter of smaller drops.
One raindrop on a binocular lens,
and a spectrum haloes the far field.
Haloes dim the form they gild but
by its own edge each object celebrates
the remarkable world.
Personal computers make dry remarks, demanding:
Tea, wine, cups must leave the room.
We’re all the wine of something. His Dickens act,
her Wordsworth murmurs, expressed
juices still in ferment when their old children read.
Bones left after dinner simmer down into juices
to make a soup rich as respect or thrift.
As if making allowances
for the non-native limbs of swimmers,
water gives way as I spring into it.
Tuesday, August 7, 2007
Here's what Virgil advised when I randomly opened David Ferry's translation of The Georgics.
The sun gives signs, telling you from what region
The wind is to come that blows away the clouds
Or what the stormy south is thinking of --
And who dares doubt his word? For many times
The sun has warned us of dark events to come,
Treachery, deceit, clandestine plots, and war.
When Caesar's light was quenched, the shining face
Of the sun, in pity for Rome, was covered with darkness,
And that impious generation was in fear
That there would thenceforth be eternal night.
And not only the sun but the earth and the sea gave signs,
And dogs and birds gave signs, of ill to come.
On he goes. Should I fold my tent and quit shopping?
Is this about some greater concern?
Close my eyes and flip through the book to another section?
Another Virgilian approach from his Georgics:
Whether the hive is made by sewing together
Concave strips of bark, or woven of pliant
Osier wands, be sure the entrance is narrow,
For winter cold makes the honey freeze and congeal,
Heat causes it to melt and liquefy,
And either of these is a cause of fear for the bees.
So help them out, by spreading mud or clay
Over the walls of their hive, and maybe scatter
A few leaves over it, too. Be sure there isn't
A yew tree growing too near where the hive is placed;
Beware of roasting crab too close to it, too --
The smoke is poisonous to the bees; beware
Of any place where the smell of mud prevails,
Or where a voice from within a hollow rock
Comes echoing back in response to the sound that struck it.
That's what I need -- a little mud on my hive.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
I need a dress. Went dress shopping. Tried on many dresses. Stella, Prada, Oscar, Miu Miu. To see what I could see. Looked out the window of the dressing room over the avenue to the bottom of the deep blue sea. None of the dresses were the dress. I don't own any dresses. Well, a shift. Otherwise it's skirts and pants. Shoes I like more than dresses. But I must have a dress for a dress occasion. Not a suit. No pants. There are many other places to shop and I will visit some of those stores. It seemed important to begin my quest with the good stuff. Learn from the best, that kind of thing. Begin with Stevens. Bishop. Not that I can afford to actually acquire Stella or Oscar. Anyway, I prefer the dresses made by Lesley Dill, pictured here. To attend an event wearing a dress titled Woman with Hindu Healing Dress or Dress of War and Sorrow or Poem Dress of Circulation or Large Poem Dress or Unknown Nourishment. Some dress like that. Dress of paper and tea-stained vellum. Dress with Dickinson's words a single screw of flesh is all that pins the soul sewn into the waist. To wear it with great shoes.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
And so I fell into a kind of silence as I went back to work and the daily activities. Avoided people. Scrubbed the kitchen table with bleach tonight. And landed here. And re-read something I wrote not long ago when asked about silence in my poetry. And my response included the idea of reticence, conflating the two concepts, and noting some of my mentors in this enterprise-- Stevens, Dickinson, Bishop. Do silence and reticence go together? And how does a poet make use of silence in her work? Does that happen through reticence? Through white space and deletion? How important, on the other hand is telling, is story-making? My unanswered question. Silence and word work are two endeavors that compel me, even as they bounce against each other in my head.
Here's how Bishop looks at silence.
By Elizabeth Bishop
For Grace Bulmer Bowers
From narrow provinces
of fish and bread and tea,
home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,
where if the river
enters or retreats
in a wall of brown foam
depends on if it meets
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;
where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats'
lavender, rich mud
in burning rivulets;
on red, gravelly roads,
down rows of sugar maples,
past clapboard farmhouses
and neat, clapboard churches,
bleached, ridged as clamshells,
past twin silver birches,
through late afternoon
a bus journeys west,
the windshield flashing pink,
pink glancing off of metal,
brushing the dented flank
of blue, beat-up enamel;
down hollows, up rises,
and waits, patient, while
a lone traveller gives
kisses and embraces
to seven relatives
and a collie supervises.
Goodbye to the elms,
to the farm, to the dog.
The bus starts. The light
grows richer; the fog,
shifting, salty, thin,
comes closing in.
Its cold, round crystals
form and slide and settle
in the white hens' feathers,
in gray glazed cabbages,
on the cabbage roses
and lupins like apostles;
the sweet peas cling
to their wet white string
on the whitewashed fences;
inside the foxgloves,
and evening commences.
One stop at Bass River.
Then the Economies
Lower, Middle, Upper;
Five Islands, Five Houses,
where a woman shakes a tablecloth
out after supper.
A pale flickering. Gone.
The Tantramar marshes
and the smell of salt hay.
An iron bridge trembles
and a loose plank rattles
but doesn't give way.
On the left, a red light
swims through the dark:
a ship's port lantern.
Two rubber boots show,
A dog gives one bark.
A woman climbs in
with two market bags,
brisk, freckled, elderly.
"A grand night. Yes, sir,
all the way to Boston."
She regards us amicably.
Moonlight as we enter
the New Brunswick woods,
hairy, scratchy, splintery;
moonlight and mist
caught in them like lamb's wool
on bushes in a pasture.
The passengers lie back.
Snores. Some long sighs.
A dreamy divagation
begins in the night,
a gentle, auditory,
slow hallucination. . . .
In the creakings and noises,
an old conversation
--not concerning us,
but recognizable, somewhere,
back in the bus:
talking, in Eternity:
names being mentioned,
things cleared up finally;
what he said, what she said,
who got pensioned;
deaths, deaths and sicknesses;
the year he remarried;
the year (something) happened.
She died in childbirth.
That was the son lost
when the schooner foundered.
He took to drink. Yes.
She went to the bad.
When Amos began to pray
even in the store and
finally the family had
to put him away.
"Yes . . ." that peculiar
affirmative. "Yes . . ."
A sharp, indrawn breath,
half groan, half acceptance,
that means "Life's like that.
We know it (also death)."
Talking the way they talked
in the old featherbed,
peacefully, on and on,
dim lamplight in the hall,
down in the kitchen, the dog
tucked in her shawl.
Now, it's all right now
even to fall asleep
just as on all those nights.
--Suddenly the bus driver
stops with a jolt,
turns off his lights.
A moose has come out of
the impenetrable wood
and stands there, looms, rather,
in the middle of the road.
It approaches; it sniffs at
the bus's hot hood.
high as a church,
homely as a house
(or, safe as houses).
A man's voice assures us
"Perfectly harmless. . . ."
Some of the passengers
exclaim in whispers,
"Sure are big creatures."
"It's awful plain."
"Look! It's a she!"
Taking her time,
she looks the bus over,
Why, why do we feel
(we all feel) this sweet
sensation of joy?
says our quiet driver,
rolling his r's.
"Look at that, would you."
Then he shifts gears.
For a moment longer,
by craning backward,
the moose can be seen
on the moonlit macadam;
then there's a dim
smell of moose, an acrid
smell of gasoline.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Libra Horoscope for week of
Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh, born under the sign of Libra, has been described
by a fellow teacher as “a cross between a cloud, a snail, and a piece of heavy machinery—a true religious presence.” He translates his lofty visions into the most intimate and practical terms, even providing suggestions about how to get more spiritual inspiration out of breathing, eating and walking. Take a similar approach in the coming weeks, Libra. Bring heaven all the way down to earth. Make the smallest details of your life reflect your highest ideals.
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
The night is July, the aura is rain.
The bay is always at low tide.
Green slime covers the sand
Where herons stop, look and listen.
The sand is as thin as clay.
Men in the night
Leave their caravans and run
Across black grass
To the River Argideen
To claim a position for fishing
Like waiting at baggage claim.
The people in the temperance hall
Hold a dance that most of them watch
From their chairs bitterly.
They can see their shoes are history.
The world was remade before they died.
The herons on the Lee
Are slick with slime, fermenting.
Lots of money is exchanged
In the medieval town.
Beer is fomented in silver silos
And no fish swim. One day down
No one knows what's coming.
The nuclear weapons programs continue.
A boy in a trap drawn by an elegant horse
Trots through Clonakilty.
Men watch and women shop.
Organic food planted in the middle
Of gourmet olives and jellies.
Thanks and help
Are prayer words in fair trade and churches.
Just go in and have a drink at dark.
It's a kind of Sabbath.
In a public house you feel safe with the others.
By now you know the black river has fish
And flowers on it white and shaped
Like strawberry plants.
Two neon kingfishers speed by blue.
Everyone is there for everyone else's fun.
Those men in the night aren't so bad.
A body: this is what it feels
And this is what it feels like.
Sites of massacre and ashes, tin-topped rubble,
Porcelain ovens, jails, a waiting hospital.
Not when it's eternal low tide in a place outside
And birds drain the sand with their appetites.
Wednesday, July 4, 2007
I'm sorry not to have written you sooner.
We are peculiar forms, like someone's old papers rifled quickly through
But not read before the burning.
How to speak of the icy cave-like place I lately feel,
Its white reluctance dividing me from all things I desire and see.
I think it must often be the case
That one holds within oneself a guardedness, expectant, steeply quarried,
The way mistakes grow magnified inside the mind, spiked and sharply gleaming.
How skilled, how dominant, this white unswaying place.
And I wonder how, bred from our churning, it constructs itself so strongly
Like the crush of light I sometimes at the noonhour hear.
By Laurie Sheck
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
It's Miranda July's website.
I think I will look for her book.
I liked her movie.
I want to read some short story collections this summer.
Every summer I make myself an unofficial summer reading list.
I guess that's left over from school days. I like to read big fat books in the summer, the kind that take up too much space in the already overstuffed beach bag, the kind that are good to read and read when you have a stretch of time--like at the beach. So what's on my list? A mixed bag. I'm just about finished with the first book, Elaine Scarry's "On Beauty." I'm still debating whether to dive into the second volume of Hilary Spurling's biography on Matisse. I read the first book 2 summers ago. If I decide to, then that could take a chunk of time. Also on the list is Beckett's "The Unnameable." I'm looking for wildness, strangeness. Or maybe "Molloy." I probably need to read a possible text book if I teach my grad class next year. And there are a few books of poetry, including one I'll be reviewing.
I recently heard Michael Silverblatt interview author Christine Schutt on Bookworm. Her short story collection "A Day, A Night, Another Day, Summer," sounded interesting. Perhaps I'll dip into some essays. Jeff Wall's "Selected Essays and Interviews" is on a table nearby. Summer's hardly here and now it seems gone.
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
by Sarah Riggs
There are whole swabs of pigment. Colors of skin bending and blending.
Skins not separate from bodies, bodies not separate from skin, and the eyes
set free from judging, the eyes in the body, and the pigments, the pigments
nestled in, drawn from within, drawn from without. The sun, the exposure,
the wind alters our skin. We change, our skin expands contracts stretches
sags, is peeled back, cut off, pierced, heals. Skin, every human has skin,
has color. There are no colors that you don't paint, there's hair in that pigment,
and nails, teeth, corpus, the pigments swirl touch breathe speak, not the
words but the blur. They're screaming, they're exalted, joy, joy in that not
judging, in that over there, and here, closer than here, farther than there.
There are no characters in your painting.
Thursday, June 21, 2007
What gladdens her is the spoon,
with its tiny saucer of remnants,
its slender shaft, scrubbed last—
and now the kitchen's clean.
Clean are the knives and forks
all akimbo in their drying cage
at the window. The spoon
leans alone toward light,
a backyard limb reflected
in its sunken belly, so a
liquid darkness tongues
its curves and bends
along its slender neck,
making the one tidying up blush
at this bed she's come upon—
refractive, gleaming, the old
dream of coupling
here portioned out
in such a strange
When the light is gone,
the immaculate house hushed,
she puts down her book
and returns, barefooted,
waking the wood planks
to the kitchen. The cupboard,
too, sighs, its ascending note
sliding wind-clean. And even
before shaking whole grains
into her midnight bowl,
she has reached out,
across the ticking, low-watt
world, her warm mouth
clamping itself wetly
around the cooled,
of the spoon.
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
I noticed in the long time since my last post that some blogs have pictures of flowers-even gardens. So I'm adding these. The spring has been short here it seems. Snow in April, lots of rain, still some cool nights. Summer next week. School's out. Long days slipping by too fast.
And this poem.
Don't write history as poetry, because the weapon is
the historian. And the historian doesn't get fever
chills when he names his victims, and doesn't listen
to the guitar's rendition. And history is the dailiness
of weapons prescribed upon our bodies. "The
intelligent genius is the mighty one." And history
has no compassion that we can long for our
beginning, and no intention that we can know what's ahead
and what's behind ... and it has no rest stops
by the railroad tracks for us to bury the dead, for us to look
toward what time has done to us over there, and what
we've done to time. As if we were of it and outside it.
History is not logical or intuitive that we can break
what is left of our myth about happy times,
nor is it a myth that we can accept our dwelling at the doors
of judgment day. It is in us and outside us ... and a mad
repetition, from the catapult to the nuclear thunder.
Aimlessly we make it and it makes us ... Perhaps
history wasn't born as we desired, because
the Human Being never existed?
philosophers and artists passed through there ...
and the poets wrote down the dailiness of their purple flowers
then passed through there ... and the poor believed
in sayings about paradise and waited there...
and gods came to rescue nature from our divinity
and passed through there. And history has no
time for contemplation, history has no mirror
and no bare face. It is unreal reality
or unfanciful fancy, so don't write it.
Don't write it, don't write it as poetry!
translated from the Arabic by Fady Joudah
Monday, May 21, 2007
Tomorrow I'll sit down and talk with another poet, Jill Magi, whose new book Threads has just been published by futurepoem. Our discussion is part of an interview for a journal I help edit. She's judging a contest of student work. I'm curious to hear about her process, particularly because she has successfully in this book, it seems to me, used words and visual images. Indeed, the book is described as a "hybrid work of poetry, prose and collage." This is so compelling. I consider myself inept in the making of visual images. In other words, drawing, painting, sculpting etc., while completely appealing, are talents I do not possess. (I'm not so bad in the cutting and pasting department.) Words are the way I make pictures, which lets me play with Horace's idea that painting resembles poetry. So I have many questions for Jill and the chance especially to discuss process and how she thinks about making a narrative or not. And what role collage plays in this making or unmaking. Also, the notion of history and memory. Hers plays out on a large political landscape because of the story of her grandparents and father and their life in
Perhaps an excerpt from her book would be appropriate now.
Amber return, once fluid, hardened breath-trap.
Sap turns to stone as these sounds conjure whose memories?
Air pocket scarred with debris, a dictionary. His voice on tape translates
my flat speech:
too few vowels and endings that stop, closed in by consonants.
Flash card fossils. How to count, the days, the months,
I am a student, where is the bathroom, the night is long,
over the threshold, write me a letter.
Thursday, May 10, 2007
the list. For various reasons, my zeal to plow through that list is a bit diminished today. I'd rather spend an hour looking out my desk window. I bet I'd see the maple tree leaves enacting their spring fling. The other day I decided I should create a flow chart for my life, a flow chart of what's to come. Is that possible -- to organize the barrage of the mundane with a chart? Well, there's Ashbery's effort in that regard, which I pulled off the bookshelf:
from Flow Chart: A Poem
Still in the published city but not yet
overtaken by a new form of despair, I ask
the diagram: is it the foretaste of pain
it might easily be? Or an emptiness
so sudden it leaves the girders
whanging in the absence of wind,
the sky milk-blue and astringent? We know life is so busy,
but a larger activity shrouds it, and this is something
we can never feel, except occasionally, in small signs
put up to warn us and as soon expunged, in part
Sad grows the river god as he oars past us
downstream without our knowing him: for if, he reasons,
he can be overlooked, then to know him would be to eat him,
ingest the name he carries through time to set down
finally, on a strand of rotted hulks. And those who sense something
squeamish in his arrival know enough not to look up
from the page they are reading, the plaited lines that extend
like a bronze chain into eternity.
Marjorie Perloff says the book-length poem "recalls Wordsworth's Prelude." Which I grabbed as well. Looking for what-something to rub off the malaise. I read over one of my favorite parts, about the dream by the sea--the Arab phantom who gives young William the stone and the shell. And this made me think about books of course, especially the one I'm reading called The Tears of Things: Melancholy and Physical Objects. On how we embue things with memory but they can only organize emptiness as Lacan wrote. Not that I've read him. He's quoted at length in this book, which also explores how the art we make, not exactly but somewhat, fills the void, creates another kind of thing/container through which to consider the emptiness. Kind of like Stevens' jar on the hill idea. But now it's time for the bus, time to leave the aery of desk and tree. Return to the list, the chart. The flow.
Monday, May 7, 2007
From Cole Swenson's
The Glass Age
repeated. Thus proliferates. Because every body involves a window
or windows, looking out on the world "at large," as they say, the
body is not single. And though painting was invented to correct
this, it has ended up accomplishing the opposite, making the eye
an errant thing, like that mode of traveling based on forgetting,
which we also call the body," so that these windows bring us back,
but not to us.
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
Frank O'Hara by Alice Neel
Interior (with Jane)
By Frank O'Hara
The eagerness of objects to
be what we are afraid to do
cannot help but move us Is
this willingness to be a motive
in us what we reject? The
really stupid things, I mean
a can of coffee, a 35 cent ear
ring, a handful of hair, what
do these things do to us? We
come into the room, the windows
are empty, the sun is weak
and slippery on the ice And a
sob comes, simply because it is
coldest of the things we know
Monday, April 23, 2007
My own interest in looking at and writing from the visual arts is greatly enriched when I work with youngsters, currently a group of fourth graders. Together with their art and language arts teachers, I helped students look at a recent exhibition at a nearby museum and then the kids made poems and visual art pieces based on their interpretations of the exhibition, which was called "Tools as Art: The Hechinger Collection."
Last week the kids' sculptures and paintings were hung in the museum and in 2 weeks there will be a poetry reading. The visual pieces were incredible. Full of energy and imagination. They'd used all kinds of visual and verbal puns and metaphors to re-envision the idea of tools.
I love this piece, titled "The Persistence of Rulers." Aren't all of our lives conscribed some how by various kinds of rules and rulers? An astute little kid. His use of Dali and Dali's commentary on time is also smart. I like how he glued his own image into this appropriation.
Makes me want to be 10 again. But I wasn't that precocious.
Monday, April 16, 2007
I don't know how the clouds out here
survived. Points are so perfect that
if you believe in them enough
they prick. Each point will leave
a tiny bruise. And lines are sharp.
The pure ones cut you like the starched
edges of grass-blades, it smarts,
though the wound's too fine to see.
In bristles, they can nearly chafe you
raw. Even here, outdoors, as I stagger
and blink, swamped in this hot mess
of light and sticky shadow, that black
and white headache won't go away.
The points cling in stains, I can't
get rid of them. The vestige
of a line is running furtively along
the street. And the letter A prime
still glows in the midst of the elm
tree, while the Principle of Duality
has just flown up and alighted
with those sparrows on the wires.
I can hardly walk, it's underwater,
it's all a jungle here. The leaves flash
their bellies, swimming and wriggling
along in unison, they gobble everything.
The best-trimmed lawns glitter
with chaos like smashed glass. The light's
like acid. You can feel it working
mildly on your skin. The more acid
in the light the more I like it.
I'm going to take a bath in it, splash
this stuff up into my eyes and rub
until the swelling goes away,
then dive in over my head and
soak myself for as long as it takes
to make the dazzle of the last hard
point dissolve in space.
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Tuesday, April 10, 2007
In a letter to artist Eva Hesse, he wrote:
Stop it and just DO. Try and tickle
something inside you,
your 'weird humor.'
You belong in the most secret part of it.
Loopy Doopy, Box 1999
That notion of art-making and tickling is kind of wonderful, especially when I think about LeWitt's work, which seems so controlled, so much about order. That's why I'm drawn to him. Like Martin, he used a grid as an organizing form. He also used words. And in reading some of the titles listed in the obit, I think of Wallace Stevens.
Listen to these: "Loopy Doopy (Red and Purple),"
"Buried Cube Containing an Object of Importance but Little Value,"
"Run I-IV." I hear "The Emperor of Ice Cream," and "The Man on the Dump."
Just last month I was looking at his wall drawings at Dia: Beacon, copying his directions in my notebook and thinking that though they appeared dry there was an appealing whackiness to them, particularly when broken into lines. Ordered whackiness.
I'm needing some ordered whackiness these days.
That's spring talk for where's the warmth.
This morning on the way to the bus stop, it was below freezing. G said it smells like it's going to rain, and it was true. Like a spring rain storm was brewing under the hard frozen ground. The weather is out of order. That's why I railed at the universe yesterday morning, why the computer's hard drive crashed, why S can't find work. I miss mud season, want the peepers to come back and sing all night.
Saturday, April 7, 2007
Blue. Purple. Scarlet deep
with gold [revealed] on [Sinai]
by [GOD] as [noblest]
Others chiefly green
with white & black
used in points of small mass
to relieve blank color
Byzantine flung repetitions
Could we trade length of dress?
Paint unpredicted folds where thigh
opens outward, joints resist
(large blank surfaces)
-four horizontally (lambs,
too) in doorway-noting
to circle where heat lifts
Gesture of damp gnawing grief
twice refusal of
flocking terminal lines vertical
Lines, no draperies, broad masses
arm held stiff to pale colors
leaked in vertical bands
For some reason blogger won't let me add spacing to this poem.
Thus the 3 words Fraser sends on over to the right margin--grief, gnawing, vertical--
get stuck in with the other words in the line.
Friday, April 6, 2007
By Dick Barnes
Chuang Tzu and Hui Tzu were hundreds of years old.
They flew over Galilee. Hui Tzu said,
"There goes another country boy."
"Country boy my ass," said Chuang Tzu,
"you just watch him crucifly away
up to the sky." Hui Tzu said, "You mean
crucify, not crucifly: crucify,
you asshole." Chuang Tzu said,
"Excuse me if you are mistaken."
*Author's note: It is possible that Chuang Tzu--eponymous author of the Taoist classic, the Chuang Tzu Book--is a fiction. Hui Tzu, on the other hand, is a verifiable historical personage...The most famous story about (the pair) is this.
One day as they were walking across a dam on the Hao River, Chuang Tzu said,
"Look at them little fish darting around. That's what they really enjoy."
"You're not a fish, how do you know what they enjoy?"
"You're not me, how do you know whether I know or not?"
"I may not be you but you're a fish even less, and that proves my point."
"Let's go back to your original question . You asked how I know what the fish enjoy.
Your question implies you knew I knew what they enjoy.
The answer is: I know it by walking alone on this here dam."
Thursday, April 5, 2007
of their spring hue, the brush of red
that hints at the regeneration
of green and I recalled
it's April, despite the flurries,
so I dug out Lorca.
Green, how much I want you green.
Green wind. Green branches.
The ship upon the sea
and the horse in the mountain.
With the shadow on her waist
she dreams on her balcony,
green flesh, hair of green,
and eyes of cold silver.
Green, how much I want you green.
Beneath the gypsy moon,
all things look at her
but she cannot see them.
Green, how much I want you green.
Great stars of white frost
come with the fish of darkness
that opens the road of dawn.
The fig tree rubs the wind
with the sandpaper of its branches,
and the mountain, a filching cat,
bristles its bitter aloes.
But who will come? And from where?
She lingers on her balcony,
green flesh, hair of green,
dreaming of the bitter sea.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Verde viento. Verde ramas.
El barco sobre la mar
y el caballo en la montana.
Con la sombra en la cintura
ella suena en su baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
con ojos de fria plata.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Bajo la luna gitana,
las cosas la estan mirando
y ella no puede mirarlas.
Verde que te quiero verde.
Grandes estrellas de escarcha
vienan con el pez de sombra
que abre el camino del alba.
La higuera frota su viento
con la lija de sus ramas,
y el monte, gato garduno,
eriza sus pitas agrias.
Pero quien vendra? Y por donde...?
Ella sigue en su baranda,
verde carne, pelo verde,
sonando en la mar amarga.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Piles of Books, Hercules Segers
How heartening it was to find this image by 17th century Flemish artist Hercules Segers.
Piles of books beside beds have been around for a long time.
My inventory includes: Grief Lessons By Anne Carson, translations of plays by Euripides; Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog: The Quirky History and Lost Art of Diagramming Sentences by Kitty Burns Florey; The Unfolding of Language (still!); Threads by Jill Magi; thisconnectionofeveryonewithlungs:poems by Juliana Spahr; The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai; Caffeine for the Creative Mind; Concordance by Mei Mei Bressenberger and Kiki Smith; Museum of Words by James Heffernan and so on.
But these are books I must finish. And like other folks I'm sure, I read several at the same time: one before falling asleep, another in the car while waiting, a third at the gym. And I'm writing too -- my friend (a screenwriter) and I are emailing each other work daily -- no commenting, no editing. Just write and email. Revision can come later. I like to zig zag back and forth between the processes. Along with the reading and listening and looking. All to feed the night.
Monday, March 26, 2007
from Next Year or I Fly My Rounds, Tempestuous
Wade all life
backward to its
runs too far
emphasis is on
you know me
I'll be no one.
heat is within
the control of
standing of him
is more touch-
ing than intelli-
gent; he holds
her knees with-
out her knowing
how she's boned.
I can always
go back to
I talk at the top
of my white
and what is
it on a post-
on a target -
the ham line.
Holes are too
freak ass to
tiation of acro-
a nose where
Smooth out the
substance of your
These are selections from a found poem of Niedecker's that Jenny Penberthy, who edited Niedecker's Collected Works, discovered during her research. Each aphoristic poem was pasted on one of those desk calendars, the kind with the hopeful homilies, apparently as a gift to Louis Zukofsky. Penberthy says the poems reminded her of Dickinson and I felt that too as I typed the excerpts -- thought of D's Wild Nights. I'm drawn to the form and fragment. She wrote them by hand and punched holes in them and tied them all together with red ribbon so there's the making of a day book in a way. And the freedom of her language -- so unconstrained. Sometimes it's good to break away from the boundaries of the blank page and see what happens.
When Ecstasy is Inconvenient
Feign a great calm;
all gay transport soon ends.
Chant: who knows -
flight's end or flight's beginning
for the resting gull?
Heart, be still.
Say there is money but it rusted;
say the time of moon is not right for escape.
It's the color in the lower sky
too broadly suffused,
or the wind in my tie.
Know amazedly how
often one takes his madness
into his own hands
and keeps it.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
Filling the void:
The death poem of Zen monk Daido Ichi'i who died on the twenty-sixth day of the second month in 1370 at the age of 79. From a collection, Japanese Death Poems: Written by Zen Monks and Haiku Poets on the Verge of Death. These are written in the last moments of the poet's life, a kind of bon voyage song as the next journey begins. Seems particularly appropriate with last night's convergence of seasons. The image of the writer on the cusp of 2 worlds, pausing for a moment with pen and paper, to make note of transpiration, expiration, crossing over, is poignant this morning -- with /snow/bird call/sun out my window.
Monday, March 19, 2007
A straight line is drawn
from a point halfway
between the center of the wall
and the upper left
corner to a point
where two lines
would intersect if one line
were to be drawn from a point
half way between the mid
point of the top side and the
corner to the mid point
of the bottom side
and a second line
were to be drawn
from a point half way
between the mid
point of the top
side and the upper left
corner to the midpoint
of the right side.
A broken line is drawn
from a point when 2 sides
if all lines
were to be
from the end
point of the straight
line to a point
between the mid
point of the left
side and the lower
left corner and a second
line were to be drawn
from a point half
a point halfway
to the mid point
of the bottom
side and the lower
right corner to a point
half way between
the mid point of
the top side
and the upper left
a point which
way between the mid
point of the left
side and the upper left
corner and whose
length is equal
to the distance
between the second
point of the not
straight line and the mid point
of the top side.
Saturday, March 17, 2007
and the castanets and the night we missed
The boat at
That awful deep down torrent O and the sea the sea crimson sometimes like
Fire and the glorious sunsets and the figtrees in the
And all the queer little streets and the pink and blue and yellow houses and
The rosegardens and the Jessamine and geraniums and cactuses and
Rose in my hair like the Andalusian girls used to or shall I wear a red yes and
How he kissed me under the Moorish wall and I thought well as well him as
Another and then I asked him with my eyes to ask again yes and then he
Asked me would I yes to say yes my mountain flower and first I put my
Arms around him yes and drew him down to me so he could feel my breasts
All perfume yes and his heart was going like mad and yes I said yes I will
Thursday, March 8, 2007
Detail fromA Sudden Gust of Wind (after Hokusai) 1993 Transparency in lightbox 2290 x 3770 mm
At MoMA some amazing photographs -- huge scenes by Jeff Wall, a Canadian photographer. Instead of the typical photos bounded by an 8x11 or 11x14 or some other 19-th or 2oth-century paper size or frame, these are HUGE (like Gursky) -- landscapes, street-corner-scapes, room-scapes. Such incredible light too, some of which comes from the light boxes that hold certain photos. Also the detail that large negatives can capture is so apparent. One amazing landscape of a river scene with mountains in the background offered clarity, as if the air had been sharpened by lightning. I loved the portrait of an artist as he drew a preserved forearm from an anatomy lab.
Also the photo above -- A Sudden Gust of Wind, based on a 19th-century Japanese woodcut. The flying pieces of paper, the scarf and hats swept up in the breeze, sheen on the water -- it's great the way Wall has re-imagined Hokusai's narrative. And Wall's photo is as much an invention as Hokusai's print. He "painted" and staged the scene. The technology of the camera, the computer and its software let photographers move farther away from the aesthetic constraints of documentary. These tools work like paintbrush and palette.
So story-telling lives on, even as we debate its necessity. Narrative comes under assault -- visual and written works of art are imagined as broken, as collages of color and sound. Don't get me wrong, I love a good story. I desire beautifully made descriptions and melodies and portraits. But it's true we live in brokenness. Stuff happens. Is it chaos theory? There's no rhyme or reason it seems. Perhaps that's why we prefer the tapestry of plot over the torn or shredded cloth.
Monday, March 5, 2007
I said goodbye to some of her works from the 1980s hanging at Dia:Beacon, the so-called Field of Vision series, not her title. The paintings were leaving Dia to return to owners. I remember when I first found Agnes Martin -- her show at the Whitney. My kids were little and I was buried in diapers and chicken nuggets and legos. I escaped one day to view the exhibition. It was as if I had traveled across the country to New Mexico and her desert. I didn't want to leave and visited the show several times before it closed. This was an awakening time for me, like attending a revival meeting, something exploded inside. But there was also tranquility in the work, in all the neatly measured lines and colors, in the collision of well-made ocean blues and desert sandy browns. The order was compelling, compared to my chaotic life. I envied Agnes, though that's an emotion she'd disdain. I got lost in her field again today.