Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Big Box Poetry Project

By Way of Gratitude for CD Wright, Her Books, Her Poems

Her new book, with its gloriously long-winded and whacky title – “The Poet, the Lion, Talking Pictures, El Farolito, a Wedding in St. Roch, the Big Box Store, the Warp in the Mirror, Spring, Midnights, Fire & All” – underscores what we will miss. I’m particularly taken with the piece, Concerning Why Poetry Offers a Better Deal Than the World’s Biggest Retailer.

It’s not news that poetry is missing from the ordinary places of our lives – supermarket, drug store, subway stop, airline terminal, hospital corridor, lunch room, nursing station, police station, radio station, state house, big box store, you get the idea. Numerous books and essays have studied and theorized as to why.

“Distraction trumps concentration,” CD postulates, “and nothing is more distracting than buying a ginormous pallet of stuff.”  And so, as I was running the other day, this idea came to me. What if I could get poems in the corridors of commerce? Thus – the Big Box Poetry Project. Wherein I’ll disperse poems daily throughout April in various places of business so that they might, “enlarge the circle,” as CD writes. Perhaps these poems, placed among soda packs or toothpaste cartons or palettes of mayonnaise might, “avail themselves of the shrapnel of everything: the disappearance of cork trees and coral, the destroyed center of Ramadi, the shape of buildings to come, the pearness of pears…”

Here’s the deal: I’d like your help. Send poem suggestions and let’s build a list. Poems that “keep a big box sense of humor at the ready,” as CD suggests in her book, or just your favorite poems. During April, I’ll put the poem in a place of human endeavor, in the hopes that someone, while shopping or waiting for the bus or dentist, might pick up the page, read the poem, and consume its words and ideas. I’ll even post photographs!

So, if you want to contribute a previously published poem – of your own or written by someone else – send me a note and I’ll take it from there. I don’t want to miss another connection.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Postcard from the edge

Photographer Anastasia Taylor-Lind is doing something that
caught my eye. She has been working in the Ukraine documenting
the conflict there (remember that one). To bring attention to it
she is sending postcards. So I sent her my address and she mailed
this postcard to me. It's pretty ordinary -- a city scene of Donetsk
in the evening. But its note is part of an ongoing sadness connected
to the war.

I was moved by the tension between the image and the information,
though I know very little about the situation in the Ukraine. A bit
of research provided some background for this poem.

In Donetsk, about 100 troops of the self-styled separatist Donetsk People's Republic took an oath of an allegiance, in an apparent sign of defiance to Mr Porosheko's peace plan. In a ceremony on the town's Lenin Square, armed fighters, some wearing face masks, pledged they would "defend the Donetsk People's Republic to the last drop of blood."
Alexei, a miner, said he decided to take up arms last week. "I am 43. I have children. I had a job but I dropped everything to defend the homeland," he said.

For Aleksandr Vyrotsky
            Killed in Uspenka Ukraine 5/16/2014

By Pamela Hart

When your postcard arrived in the mail
the weather here was classic August

90 degrees the cicadas whirring
bales of heat piling on top of each other

like thunder storms as my day accumulated
its usual list – noisy, mundane – Trump is at it again

another car bombing in Kabul while polar
ice melts though it’s snowing in Bozeman

I could go on and on about things
the stories, news, the sunsets

I miss you and wish you were here
not there or wherever you were

when you left emboldened
by face-mask and gun

I still picture the street lamps and spring blossoms
glowing like small beautiful explosions


While the miner quoted in the news report isn't 
Aleksandr Vyrotsky, I wonder about both their stories,
think of their families. The Irish poet Seamus Heaney
argued rightly that a poem never stopped a tank
but I like to think perhaps a poem, like a photograph
or a postcard, can inspire the person 

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Out loud


The Dream of Water


Take a poetry book outside. Read it aloud. Perhaps
record while you read wherever you are. There's
the backdrop of meadow or pond or city street.
Sounds. Of words and wild life. The poem does
breath. Experiment with where a poem comes
into the world. 

* Readings from Bone Map by Sara Eliza Johnson

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Big Sky

Sometimes everything is Montana or at least for today. It's
nearly 9 pm and the light sits high as 4 pm back east. Another
reason why Montana holds on like the ocean the bear grass
the sage sand dune. Everything becomes Montana
even The Cantos of Ezra Pound, which I'm reading
this summer. Let me make a collage of lines:

(These fragments you have shelved [shored].)
The leaves are full of voices
Crescent of blue-shot waters, green-gold in the shallows
The water whirls up the bright pale sand in the spring's mouth
The shallow eddying fluid
Blue agate casing the sky
The sputter of resin
This wind is the wind of the palace
Great bulk, huge mass, thesaurus
The stone is alive in my hand
And will not hawk nor hunt
Nor get her free in the air
Nor watch fish rise to bait
Nor the glare-wing'd flies alight in the creek's edge
And the old voice lifts itself
Weaving an endless sentence

Everything even Pound is Montana but then
doesn't that happen when you travel to some
new landscape and your lens shifts and what
ever you look at or do or think about while
in that new place is marked. Remember reading
The Lovely Bones in Florence and how the
vineyard became an ossuary.
Here the elk shuttle across meadows like ghosts
because Montana means mountain and the mountains
do rise to meet the roof of the sky or the floor
of the earth depending on where you stand.

Monday, April 20, 2015


I played Telephone a few years ago. And then something
amazing happened. THIS. Hundreds of artists from many countries.
One artist made something and that was passed on to another artist
and so on and so on. I made this.  When you read, you should
get lost in all the translations.
Plus you can read more about the whole project here.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

slat box light

The light through the slatted blinds in the Beinecke reading room was lovely and moist – a languid light like the rarefied climate. Scholars and researchers (not me) sort through rare books or other archives at wide library tables. Dissertation ideas float in the air. I want to walk around and look over the scholars' shoulders. This is my third week and third box of SH notebooks. This box has about 25 notebooks. And since the journals seem to contain long entries, I will be returning. 

Just inside the cover were several typed pages folded together, including the Stevens poem pictured above. The House was Quiet and the World was Calm. You can see how she marked the poem, highlighting repetitions and patterns, to read closely. Below the first stanza of Tennyson's poem, Tithonus. Which I had to google to figure out. How unexpected to open the notebook and find those treasures. Her hand quite present. Handwriting looser than in the later notebooks. Her life from 1984-86 and how it bumps into mine, the years of my mother's illness and death. I was lost in her life, also remembering my own. And thinking about where this is going. And how easy it is to fall into her pages and musings. Years ago I went through a phase of reading all of Woolf's letters. A similar sensation. 

I'm reading her life out of order. So I know what's coming as SH, here in her late forties, describes struggles, insecurities about her work, the poetry community, family, money, marriage. The first entry is about a reading she's done in Buffalo, where her family lived when she was very young. The quiet sadness as SH recalls her father, considers her reading of a particular poem in his memory. How much of her childhood in the city rises up in memories during the visit. "How the world tosses one about like a tiny flag -- what direction time moves in." 

Saturday, March 21, 2015


This week I went to the Beinecke library at Yale to read from the Susan Howe archive. It was the last day of winter. I ordered 4 boxes – notebooks mostly and drafts. To see a mind at work. To read her musings and worries and plannings. How this fits with what I’m doing. I will never have an archive. From the Greek arkheia for public records. I went with an idea for a book about the brain and its family and how the brain hurts and worries and sees and doesn't see and repeats and patterns and frays. I read 13 small notebooks. I took notes and some photos of individual pages. Her handwriting is small. She filled the books with quotations and lovely small drafts of poems -- at least I think they are drafts. "The deep truth is imageless," -- a quote from Shelley contained in the first notebook. 


I worked at a library table in the reading room. I could hear her voice as I read and turned the small pages, even though I've only heard her speak on a recording. But there's something about handwriting that's akin to sound. Perhaps the physicality of the pencil marks on the page. She used pencil and pen. Along with quotations, the books included what I came to think of as her "container" poems -- because they're small and intense and hold much energy. And then some personal entries about the usual -- work, health, money, family. The room was quiet except for the clicking of keyboards. Later I thought of when a blog friend Rebecca Loudon visited the home of outsider artist Henry Darger in Chicago and how she sensed his presence/ghost. Susan Howe is still alive. And more so as I read and took notes and thought. I'll go back next week. What am I looking for? A mentor. A process. Words.