Wednesday, December 31, 2008


Libra Horoscope for week of January 1, 2009

"God calls you to the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet," wrote Frederick Buechner. You're free to ignore that call, of course. You can pretend that you don't really know what brings you deep gladness, and you can act as if the world's deep hunger is of no concern to you. But if you hope to be proud of the life you have lived when, many years from now, you shed your mortal coil, I advise you to at least experiment with using Buechner's formula as a working hypothesis. The coming year will be en excellent time to do just that.

Don't know about the god part, but I like the thought of next year/tomorrow being about experimentation, about collaboration, about constructing hypothesis, about work.
There's an urgency now too that needs attention. And possibility, always!

Monday, December 29, 2008


Whenever we are trying to recover a recollection, to call up
some period of our history, we become conscious of an act
sui generis by which we detach ourselves from the present
in order to replace ourselves, first, in the past in general,
then, in a certain region of the past--a work of adjustment,
something like the focusing of a camera.
~Henri Bergson, Matter and Memory

The new year is fast here and looking forward 
I look back. About detachment,
I don't know.More often I step back 
and, yes, that's what I've been up to. 
There's a web, all spun, knotted even. 
Yes, I see with clarity -- that's what it's about.
Bergson's idea of adjustment and memory 
does feel right as I consider the coming year. 
Other projects on the list for 2009, yes, 
and always, read more, write more, 
be more present. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

felice navidad

There's a certain Slant of light,
Winter Afternoons--
That oppresses, like the Heft
of Cathedral Tunes--

Heavenly Hurt, it gives us--
We can find no scar,
But internal difference,
Where the Meanings, are--

None may teach it--Any--
Tis the Seal Despair--
An imperial affliction
Sent us of the Air--

When it comes, the Landcape listens--
Shadows --hold their breath--
When it goes, 'tis like the Distance
on the Look of Death--

-- Emily Dickinson

Sunday, December 21, 2008


More snow, more overcast, more cold.  I have vacuumed and done laundry and other nesting activities, which are other things one does after several days of snowy weather. I even re-arranged my nests, the ones I have found on walks etc over the years, lined them up and took a family photo, they are so beautiful and messy. It's dark here even in the afternoon and I'm learning again.

Louise Gluck

Do you know what I was, how I lived? You know
what despair is; then
winter should have meaning for you.

I did not expect to survive,
earth suppressing me. I didn't expect
to waken again, to feel
in damp earth my body
able to respond again, remembering
after so long how to open again
in the cold light
of earliest spring -- 

afraid, yes, but among you again
crying yes risk joy

in the raw wind of the new world. 

Friday, December 19, 2008

first snowfall

Galatea Resurrects #11 is out.  There's lots to peruse.
And you can read my review
of Kate Greenstreet's chapbook,

It's snowing here in the east. And a snow day is a reading day. I'm reading Talking Hands by Margalit Fox. It's non-fiction --about a remote village of Bedouins in Israel where the residents have over centuries developed their own sign language. I've just started, looking forward to getting into the details of how this indigenous language was constructed, how gesture/image and "word" go hand in hand, so to speak.  I continue to think and read about the way image-making informs language-making -- and vice versa. We talk with our hands, our bodies, whether we're deaf or not.  Though it's not signing, our gestures are used to emphasize and illustrate our words, as we scribe the air. I'd love to make a poem that could be translated into sign language and then re-translated and then even painted or sung or danced.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Skate away

Herbie Hancock and Joni Mitchell. Very different from the original. I love her smoky voice as much as I love the younger, fluid voice.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

check it out


my poem & photo at postal poetry!

talk talk

It's been fun to post videos. There are tons out there of course, though I wish there were a better way to search and sort. Dr. Atomic opened this fall to acclaim. I've not seen it. One review commented on the thinness of his libretto. Still, the "conversation" between music and word, not to mention history.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Triple Sonnet of the Plush Pony Part 3

I'm excited to see Anne Carson's latest collaborations, Stacks and Bracko, with sculptor Peter Cole and choreographer Jonah Bokaer. I've admired Carson's work-- The Glass Essay, Plainwater, Autobiography of Red and The Beauty of the Husband have been important. I return often to her translations of Sappho, If Not Winter, and Grief Lessons, four plays by Euripides. The reading/performance is to be staged at NYU later in the week.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

thank you


And it was at that age...Poetry arrived
in search of me. I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river.
I don't know how or when,
no they were not voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street I was summoned,
from the branches of night,
abruptly from the others,
among violent fires
or returning alone,
there I was without a face
and it touched me.

I did not know what to say, my mouth
had no way
with names,
my eyes were blind,
and something started in my soul,
fever or forgotten wings,
and I made my own way,
that fire,
and I wrote the first faint line,
faint, without substance, pure
pure wisdom
of someone who knows nothing,
and suddenly I saw
the heavens
and open,
palpitating plantations,
shadow perforated,
with arrows, fire and flowers,
the winding night, the universe.

And I, infinitesimal being,
drunk with the great starry
likeness, image of
felt myself a pure part
of the abyss,
I wheeled with the stars,
my heart broke loose on the wind.

--Pablo Neruda

Sunday, November 23, 2008

who I'm reading


In the spider and on the web. On the branch
and in the pothole. Yellowed grass, wilted
fern, blackened growth. On the skeletal
stems of black-eyed Susans and in dawn's
stretch.  The glint of street lights. The sibilant
mulberry behind blinds.  Empty sky. Listen
to these old windows,
how they lend themselves to rattle.

Suzanne Frischkorn
from Lit Windowpane

The God Chain
Priest River, Idaho

Anchor sheen trout tulip under yellow wood flicks its goose aside,
holds hot the malediction kitchen march, oh marvelous me puddle
pulsing the river's run.  He speaks static, flicks the bristled coat and
ducklings disappear easier into every field's floor.  It is an arrow
bath clogging and cracking the code under the milk skirt snow.

Rebecca Loudon
from cadaver dogs

Two incredible books. Plus time spent roaming a swath of Woodlawn
Cemetary. Amazing statues. Lots of angels. Not every angel is demure or
holy, as Milton knew. 

Sunday, November 9, 2008


from Edmond Jabes
The Book of Margins if all the truth transported by the book--this
portion of dark where the light wears thin--
were but an approach to death, for which
writing is both a piece of luck
and a misfortune; a death becomes ours
through every word, every letter, through sounds
and silence, where sense is only what makes
sense of the adventure.
As if, moreover, in order to make sense,
this adventure needed the deep sense of words,
their multiple meanings,
which are but focal points of their radiance.

The point here being that I've accumulated work enough for another book, dare I write this, world, whoever you are...and so the work begins again, with the point also being that there's sorting and re-reading and assemblage and revision/ new understandings--an adventure for sure--courage, roll up the sleeves.

Saturday, November 8, 2008


everywhere leaves, especially
if you live in the woods,
particularly with regard to oak,
last to let go, still holding on,
thus my free time is spent 
these days raking, blowing 
and dealing with leaves, 
as they cling or fall

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


I is other said Rimbaud, and why not add I is other is I, which leads me to the mirror neuron. The empathy neuron. This cell located deep in the brain, in the premotor cortex, the insula. Also found in a place I'd like to be right now (rain pounding all day) -- the superior temporal sulcus.

Smile and the whole world smiles too, but the rest of the song (cry and you cry alone) may not be accurate. As they probe, neuroscientists learn we're all lost in the looking glass when the mirror neuron fires. I look and imitate. You raise your hand to wave. I lift the soup spoon. Let's share a meal.

Such tree-like structures -- these neurons of pigeon and chick drawn by the great Spanish Nobel neuroscientist Santiago Ramon y Cajal. Did he find his way out?

I am musing on mirror neurons. Especially the delicate rendering by artist Judy Moonelis. I appropriate in language. My muse is about breaking and entering. "Tell me, Muse, of the man of many ways, who was driven far journeys," said Homer. "Tell me the causes, now, O Muse," writes Virgil as he opens The Aeneid, "how galled in her divine pride, and how sore at heart from her old wound."

Who do I invoke? Is it inspiration or simply the excitement of looking? A synapse fires. I'm obsessed. My mirror neurons tingle, awed by representations of cells. Wire and bead collaged in air, or branchings penciled on paper -- all such beautiful construction work. Everything rising, converging. And my small heart running to catch up.

head case

Archaic Fragment

I was trying to love matter.
I taped a sign over the mirror:
You cannot hate matter and love form.

It was a beautiful day, though cold.
This was, for me, an extravagantly emotional gesture.

........your poem:
tried, but could not.

I taped a sign over the first sign:
Cry, weep, thrash yourself, rend your garments--

List of things to love:
dirt, food, shells, human hair.

tasteless excess. Then I 

rent the signs.

the naked mirror.

Louise Gluck
from Averno

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


like it's...

Libra Horoscope
Week of October 16, 2008

Describing the poet Kenneth Koch, his colleague John Ashbery said that his work "gives you the impression that you are leading an interesting life; going to parties and meeting interesting people, falling in love, going for rides in the country and to public swimming pools, eating in the best restaurants and going to movies and the theater in the afternoons. By comparison, most other modern poetry makes me feel as if I were living in a small Midwestern university town." In the coming weeks, Libra, I exhort you to have an impact on people that's like Koch's poetry. Here's the best way to do that: Live the most interesting and imaginative life you can dream up.

What a hoot -- and under a full moon even.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


Here's an online journal that combines word and image.

And my small poem. 

Check it out.

Monday, October 6, 2008


My neighbor drained his pond. The muck and mud-covered boulders are visible, the silt that has built up along the edges. There's the man-made dam that slows the stream, which creates the pretty lozenge of water reflecting tree branch and sky light.


A few years ago, the Met had an exhibition of prints by Chuck Close. It included proofs and woodblocks and etching plates of his work. There on the walls were the drafts, the carved out spaces, rough, unfinished. Work in process. Remains of ink.


I've been thinking recently about beauty and memory. How we remember and especially how I look in order to remember. The link between memory and what is beautiful as well as ugly and why I remember what I remember and how looking informs all of this.


I like the grid, the horizon line, the fragment, the shard. I like Rothko's blocks of color. And Diebenkorn's cartographies of blotched and colored land mass. I adore Agnes Martin quilted grids. I don't mind at all if a poem is broken. I can sometimes knit the poet's language together, or not. I prefer it when a poem isn't made neatly, even though I do this myself occasionally. I am not an orderly person.


At the end, he was just face, mostly mouth. That's what I memorized. The twitch of breath on lip and lid. The pale canvas of his cheekbones. Half-closed eyes. The cell phone that rang, or sounded. Step back from the blank page and fill it with a block of images, or a shadowy line. Draw up close. Pull back. Look at the years. There are waves, not just blocks, of color and story. Or words. Do I remember what is ugly better than what is beautiful. Does my recollection of anguish become lovely in the recreation.


Oh but we wanted to paint what is not beauty, how can one paint what is not beauty...? (and you must learn to feel shape as simply shape whispered the wind, not as description, not as reminiscence not as what it will become)
Jorie Graham
from her book The End of Beauty

Saturday, September 20, 2008


Sun all day, face in the sun, sun on rock, rock above water, water near path, mind on path, walk on path, sun on face, brain on fire, more walking, more sun.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow
by Robert Duncan

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind,
that is not mine, but is a made place,

that is mine, it is so near to the heart,
an eternal pasture folded in all thought
so that there is a hall therein

that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall.

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady.

She it is Queen Under The Hill
whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words
that is a field folded.

It is only a dream of the grass blowing
east against the source of the sun
in an hour before the sun's going down

whose secret we see in a children's game
of ring a round of roses told.

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow
as if it were a given property of the mind
that certain bounds hold against chaos,

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

I admit to having a thing about meadows, fields. This evening I went for a walk in one of my favorite fields. The air was cooling off. A breeze stalked me and I let it get snagged in my hair. There was a kind of returning, when I returned to this place "of first permission," the field folding into me.

Monday, September 15, 2008


I've been gone but here. Thinking and losing thought. Losing has been happening. Still, lots of reading. Also I've considered this space. But that's for another day.

quote/unquote/Where I'm At

an elsewhere falling apart from its lack

even then, another's body was both landmark and landscape.

the thing is a form desire takes

I'm calling up the tongue-and-groove gestures, the hook-and-eye moments of the day, so they might again spend themselves freely, mark the layers of events en route, classify the waiting.

how the notion was forming, with hawklike curves

See how the moments go layering up

I am tied to the sight of the world, to things burnished and scoured by use, and by their diminution loved.

indulgence, a failure, partial sight

--from a collection of essays by Lia Purpura

Saturday, July 26, 2008


Poems at qarrtsiluni. Check the journal out. Great combination of image and text.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


The other afternoon I went to the fifth floor at MoMA to see Monet's waterlilies. It was packed naturally. July in New York. But I managed to get close. Next thing I know, I'm getting choked up. Something about the intimacy of his hand. And the age of the paint, the age of his strokes. The colors. The panels. I guess the deep effort, the work and how Monet seemed to be there in the crowded gallery, full of tourists sprawled on the benches. Folks posing before the painting as their friends snapped photos for the album. Like we were at the Grand Canyon.

I went there to think and prepare for a class I'm giving this weekend on looking and writing, sketching with words. We're going to spend time at the museum. I wanted to visit some of the works again. So I looked at Giacometti's thin strange figures. There was Matisse's red studio, drawing a crowd of course, the way red can. And Pollack's mad splashes. I found some Rothkos. And Kiki Smith's women, which looked a bit like gravestone rubbings. There were some neat photos by the Bechers, known for their typologies. Oh, I could have roamed for hours but it was closing time. I ducked outside to dash in and out of the prefab houses in a lot next door. Small dwellings -- perfect for a writer!

Now I'm working on getting my readings. I'll offer a handful of so-called ekphrastic poems that riff on and off of visual works of art, some at MoMA. Then present some strategies for close looking and writing. Then we'll spend time in the galleries wandering and writing. It's really a generative workshop. Here's the thing. I need a disclaimer. Because as much as I love visual art, I'm all thumbs when it comes to the practice. And I don't have a background in art history or graphic design. I'm your basic English major, with lots of literature and language courses. What little I know I've picked up on my own. Like most writers I'm an observer. I like to look and listen. Nuance is important. And just gazing. Even with my eyes closed. You see better when your eyes close and your mind opens.

I yearn to be able to make. Do I repeat myself? Wish I could draw or paint or sculpt. (Have tried knitting. Sewing. Not good.) (I can bake bread.) (And other forms of cooking.) It's paint and color and canvas I lust after. I envy poets who can draw. That kind of mark-making. When I'm looking at a visual work of art, it seems closer to the imagination than language. Then the process of words moving across a page to create images feels clunky. I resign myself to language. No, that's melodramatic. I love words and letters and everything they can do. I am thus resigned to looking at art. And let Monet's swirls of blue and green swim and shimmer so that I might pretend.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


Are you looking for something to read as summer winds along? Thinking about poetry, perhaps, especially contemporary poetry? Would you like some assistance in knowing what's out there? Poet and publisher Eileen Tabios offers an amazing service on her blog The Blind Chatelaine's Keys. Every few months she pulls together an online journal full of book reviews on poetry. The journal, Galatea Resurrects, features books by poets from the post-avant to the school of quietude, to use terms coined by the don of the poetry blogging world, Ron Silliman.

This is an amazing endeavor and I've had fun contributing reviews to Eileen's journal. For me, it's an exercise in close reading and thinking. As I write about collections like Bone Pagoda by Susan Tichy or The Marvelous Bones of Time by Brenda Coultas I have a chance to study technique and voice and style. When I read Child in the Road by Cindy Savett I see again how it is to write from the dark center of powerful emotion and how language guides me through. When I return to Brigit Pegeen Kelly's The Orchard to write about it, I push myself to examine the work of the line, particularly the densely laden line. I learn from my reading and then from my writing. And hopefully I carry that back to my own work.

My reviews are among 68 postings on the latest issue of Galatea Resurrects -- a record. There is a healthy selection of work by poets who won't get ink in the Sunday book review sections or in establishment journals like Poetry. Often collections are reviewed multiple times, so you, dear reader, can have additional perspectives. Along with my review of Brenda Coultas' book, poet Patrick James Dunagan writes about it too.

Thus, this is a rich feast arranged by Eileen Tabios. I marvel at her diligence and thank her. She has other projects you'll learn about if you visit her blog. And do roam around the reviews at Galatea Resurrects. You'll find it a great mix of books to savour as the summer declines toward the dog days.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

cicada song

by Louise Glück

In your extended absence, you permit me

use of earth, anticipating

some return on investment. I must report

failure in my assignment, principally

regarding the tomato plants.

I think I should not be encouraged to grow

tomatoes. Or, if I am, you should withhold

the heavy rains, the cold nights that come

so often here, while other regions get

twelve weeks of summer. All this

belongs to you: on the other hand,

I planted the seeds, I watched the first shoots

like wings tearing the soil, and it was my heart

broken by the blight, the black spot so quickly

multiplying in the rows. I doubt

you have a heart, in our understanding of

that term. You who do not discriminate

between the dead and the living, who are, in consequence,

immune to foreshadowing, you may not know

how much terror we bear, the spotted leaf,

the red leaves of the maple falling

even in August, in early darkness: I am responsible

for these vines.

Monday, July 14, 2008


I've been pretty remiss about posting here recently. Lots going on family wise that intervenes as it must. And summer is whirling past me in sad and good ways. And always too fast. So it goes, Billy Pilgrim wisely pointed out.

And so it goes that I have news to share. In one of my incarnations I get to work with one of the best small museums around -- The Katonah Museum of Art, where I've been giving workshops as a visiting writer. For the past few years, young writers, from 3rd grade through high school, actually bring their notebooks to the museum's galleries and write--poems, other stuff. It's a pretty wonderful collaboration indeed. The folks in the museum's education department are completely into exploring how writers and visual artists collide, how poems and other kinds of writing can arise from the experience of close looking, how we learn how to think by looking and then writing.

The exhibitions at the museum range from contemporary artists using glass to ancient Buddhist texts to this summer's California Impressionists. In another life maybe I was or will be a visual artist. However, in the here and now, I can't draw worth a hoot. But I love the stuff -- the brushes and pencils, the palettes of messy colors bumping into each other, the darkroom, the kiln, the drawing board. I like to get lost in the looking, to visit places in my imagination when I look and write. And working at the museum lets me breathe in all kinds of visual works.

And now I'm officially writer in residence...ta da! I'm excited about the unfolding of this endeavor, about creating more collaborations. Who knows -- dance and writing and visual art, music and art and writing. It's a work in progress. Above, I've posted a painting from the summer exhibition, All Things Bright and Beautiful: California Impressionism.

One more small headline -- another poem accepted by the online journal qarrtsiluni! Do visit and read some of the work there. The latest issue on water has been compiled as a podcast. Take a listen and you're bound to feel as if you've had a nice long swim in the surf. Good things happening there, so I'm pleased to have my poem, "Anecdote of Air," included in the upcoming issue on "transformation." I'll note its posting here.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

on books


THERE is no frigate like a book
  To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
  Of prancing poetry.
This traverse may the poorest take      
  Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
  That bears a human soul!

That by Emily Dickinson...with thanks to Chris and Pamela for their help. Since summer is book time, I think I'll keep adding poems on books, on the pleasure of reading. I'm not so interested in poems about poetry. Again, your suggestions greatly appreciated! 

Monday, June 23, 2008


I'm looking for poems about reading, about books.
Even about specific books.
Thomas Lux has one.
Any other suggestions?

The Voice You Hear
When You Read Silently

is not silent, it is a speaking-
out-loud voice in your head: it is spoken,
a voice is saying it
as you read. It is the writer's words,
of course, in a literary sense
his or her voice, but the sound
of that voice is the sound of your voice.
Not the sound your friends know
or the sound of a tape played back
but your voice
caught in the dark cathedral
of your skull, your voice heard
by an internal ear informed by internal abstracts
and what you know by feeling,
having felt. It is your voice
saying, for example, the word barn
that the writer wrote
but the barn you say
is a barn you know or knew. The voice
in your head, speaking as you read,
never says anything neutrally -- some people
hated the barn they knew,
some people love the barn they know
so you hear the word loaded
and a sensory constellation
is lit: horse-gnawed stalls,
hayloft, black heat tape wrapping
a water pipe, a slippery
spilled chirr of oats from a split sack,
the bony, filthy haunches of cows...
And barn is only a noun -- no verb
or subject has entered into the sentence yet!
The voice you hear when you read to yourself
is the clearest voice: you speak it
speaking to you.

Thomas Lux

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Robert Smithson:
A Map of Broken Glass

Language operates between literal and metaphorical signification. The power of a word lies in the very inadequacy of the context it is placed, in the unresolved or partially resolved tension of disparates. A word fixed or a statement isolated without any decorative or "cubist" visual format, becomes a perception of similarity in dissimilars - in short a paradox. Congruity could be disrupted by a metaphorical complexity within a literal system. Literal usage becomes incantory when all metaphors are suppressed. Here language is built, not written.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


I'm reading in Nyack on Tuesday June 17 at 7:30 p.m.
at Riverspace.

Reading with me is a poet I don't know -- Frank Messina.
We'll read with saxophonist Erik Lawrence
for an evening of poetry and jazz entitled "Mellow Declamations."

Should be interesting, especially as it has been awhile since I've

Wednesday, June 4, 2008


Posted most of the new work and some older, but barely revised,
work at the private blog. It's a curious sensation to put the poems
there, leaving me with the mini-sensation that the work is in some
kind of completed state -- lulling me. But I know there's
work to be done.

I'm clearing space in my head and, poem by poem, I see and see again
the crevices, the rough places that must be made plain, the plain
places that want messiness. Oh it's all a walk on the wild side.

And a brain shift is necessary. So many words, so little time.
Sometimes I want them to just go away.

Sunday, June 1, 2008


These amazing lilacs are blossoming now (later than others). Their scent permeates the house, the street, me. I've not written in a while, taking a break to sort through the writing I did in April. I've been reading over the poems and other gorgeous junk (garbage becoming compost). I recently decided to manage the revision process by stealing an idea from RebeccaLoudon. In her interview with Kate Greenstreet, Rebecca says that for one of her books she used a private blog for document control, revising on the blog and giving access to a select few.

I revise a lot. And my drafts tend to get scattered the deeper I go. Usually I keep track by putting dated drafts in notebooks. But sometimes I'm lazy about printing out. And, true confession time, I don't back my files up. Rebecca Loudon's idea seemed to make good sense.

I started a private blog last week and have begun putting poems there. So far I'm leery about sharing that work. In point of fact, I have never even posted my own poems here. Yes, readers can follow links to previously published work, but I've not posted works-in-progress. Maybe I will. We'll see how it goes. Also, I decided to do the private blog in Wordpress, which is also free. Just to see how things worked over there. My plan is to get an accumulation of poems up and then roll up my sleeves. In fact, as I move the drafts over to the blog, I start to fiddle. Revision is deep, important work for me. So I'm excited about this format. I'll keep you (whoever you are) posted.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

bone work

Picked clean is how I'm feeling after April and pages of words, more than expected, my output seemingly to be at the low end of outputting in blogland, at least from what I've observed, but output nonetheless. Sometimes, I'll admit, I worry as others seem to outpace my pace, books streaming out, poems posted, chappies shipped as I peck away at the same old bones. So there it is, printed out, the pages -- a good amount of work to work with. And whether any of it is any good won't matter because I needed matter and matter is what I made morning after morning starting when it was dark and dawn not yet around though as the mornings went on there dawn was brighter than me as the words did some kind of magic. Now to look at the work, see the bones, play with the bones, the bones-o, like a fox on the town.

Friday, May 9, 2008

theme & variation

from The Geometry of Shells

The shells of mollusks derive much of their aesthetic
appeal from the regularity of their form. From the platelike
valves of scallops to the tightly wound needle-shaped shells 
of auger snails, shells are endless variations on a geometric
theme in which an expanding figure sweeps
out a curved or spirally coiled hollow edifice. 
Because shells are growing structures built by animals, 
an appreciation of how these variations
are brought must rest on an understanding 
of how shells grow. Once we know the rules, 
we can ask why certain shapes that are compatible 
with the rules are rarely or never encountered in nature.

Geerat J. Vermeij

My mind, being tired, is thinking about other ways of being.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008



my mother drew spider webs
on any paper within her reach

my mother on the telephone
drew webs across names in our address book

my mother in her rocker
drew webs on bills and Christmas cards

my mother in my bedroom drew
webs deep in diaries

everywhere in that house I found
ink    pencil    crayon

-Teresa Carson
from Elegy for the Floater

Monday, April 28, 2008



Ambition. Jealousy. The numbing flow
of adrenaline pumped along the blood.
The fear that loneliness is punishment
and that corrosive draining feeling down
the chest the natural and just result
of failures...What delicious leisure not
to feel it. What a sweet reprieve to linger
here with these ovals of purple and flamingo
plumed from the tree or splayed on the pavement.
If only for these seconds before returning
back to the open air those flowers keep
pushing out of themselves to die inside.

Peter Campion

Saturday, April 26, 2008


The meaning of this is entirely and best to say the mark, best to
say it best to show sudden places, best to make bitter, best to make
the length tall and nothing broader, anything between the half.

Gertrude Stein
from Tender Buttons

So the cruelest month is nearly over and I'll admit a certain rebellious disdain for napowrimo but fact is jumping part way on that bandwagon is yielding work or at least words, pages of them, all marks, some showing sudden places, which is a good thing, and when courage comes time to read, perhaps there'll be marks worth another look, then more work. This mark-making/type-making has been a relief.

more Gertrude

Water Raining
  Water astonishing and difficult altogether makes a meadow and a stroke.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

one more from Matthea

Museum of the Middle

You're walking down the middle of the road when you start sinking.
Each white stripe gets successively softer, like strips of gum left out
in the sun.  You pass daffodils, coffins, and fossils until you're at the
earth's core.  The doorknob burns your hand but inside is the usual
cool, museum-ish hush.  A tapestry (2' x 48') charting the rise and fall
of the middle class is backlit so that the stitched line fluoresces like a
heartbeat on a monitor.  Most prized is a worm segment in the foyer,
a pink accordion mounted on black velvet and framed in gold. They
say a worm can live if you cut it in half but not if you extract its exact
middle.  In the next room and spilling into the one after that is the
ever-expanding gallery of middle-management--almost all white
men.  Today there are two special exhibits--to your left, Hermes
and Other Intermediaries; to your right, The Middle Distance: For-
gotten Focus. In each painting, the foreground and background have
been blacked out, leaving fragments of fields, flagstones, the occa-
sional midsized sheep.  But why are you here? Do your parents love
you exactly 5 % less than your brother and 5% more than the dog?
What museum-worthy mediocrity do the curators see in you?

from Modern Life

Reading Harvey's latest is a graphic experience. I'm learning how to lighten up. 
Not that she's funny haha. Rather that she's looser and kind of darkly playful 
in her associations and subject matter. Some of it is spookily goofy, 
if that makes sense.  Anyway, good reading.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

dig it

Ode to the Double-Natured Sides of Things

God and the angels arrive in Eden to find only a scattering of stems
on the ground. Noticing how the angels' wings fall from left to right
as they bend over the stems, God invents a more flexible forgive-
ness. Things change just slightly  The usual botany class--two rows
of long tables, students on either side with wildflowers in vases be-
tween them--keeps its format, but now, if a boy puts down his refer-
ence book and stares instead at a dot of green on the cheek of the girl
across from him, his essay "How a Leaf So Tiny Got on Her Cheek"
is relevant, may even warrant an "A." Above the sky may be dark.
Below the corn may be dry. Some days recess has to be on the west
side of the school because it's raining on the east side.

Matthea Harvey
from Modern Life

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

dead line

Implications for Modern Life

The ham flowers have veins and are rimmed in rind, each petal a
little meat sunset. I deny all connections with the ham flowers, the
barge floating by loaded with lard, the white flagstones like platelets
in the blood-red road. I'll put the calves in coats so the ravens can't
gore them, bandage up the cut gate and when the wind rustles its
muscles, I'll gather the seeds and burn them.  But then I see a horse
lying on the side of the road and think You are sleeping, you are sleep-
ing, I will make you be sleeping.  But if I didn't make the ham flow-
ers, how can I make him get up? I made the ham flowers. Get up,
dear animal. Here is your pasture flecked with pink, your oily river,
your bleeding barn. Decide what to look at and how. If you lower
your lashes, the blood looks like mud. If you stay, I will find you
fresh hay.
Matthea Harvey

Wednesday, April 9, 2008



What is it to be human?

What is staying alive? To possess
A great hall inside of a cell.
What is it to know? The same root
Underneath the branches.

What is it to believe? Being a carer
Until relief takes over.
And to forgive? On fours through thorns
To keep company to an old enemy.

What is it to sing? To receive breath
From the genius of creation.
What's work but humming a song
From wood and wheat.

What are state affairs? A craft
That's still only crawling?
And armaments? Thrust a knife
In a baby's fist.

Being a nation? What can it be? A gift
In the swell of the heart.
And to love a country? Keeping house
In a cloud of witnesses.

What's the world to the all powerful?
A circle spinning.
And to the children of the earth?
A cradle rocking.
translated from the Welsh by Menna Elfyn

This from the translation issue of Poetry. I dig into it when it arrives in the mail because the poems sound so different. Even through the veil of English they retain the trace of their native language. This issue, which the journal started a few years ago, is a favorite because it's full of new sounds. I tire sometimes of the droning of words in my head or on the page. This issue brings refreshment.

Menna Elfyn wrote this about her work with Waldo Williams' poem.

In Welsh poetry, and in Celtic poetry in general, poets sang their poems, and we sense here the aura of the songs, in tune with the sounds of trees and harvests. He depicts an era where singing was second nature to breathing, part of that same joyous song.

Sunday, April 6, 2008


We Are Ready: Petition to the Chinese Government
On August 8, 2007, China launched a publicity campaign proclaiming “We Are Ready” to host the Olympic Games in August 2008. We, the undersigned members of PEN American Center, are writing to ask you to show the world that China is in fact ready—not just to stage the Olympics, but to acknowledge, protect, and celebrate the full rights of its citizens.

PEN believes there are currently 38 writers and journalists imprisoned in China for exercising their right to speak and write freely, as guaranteed under Chinese and international law. We are concerned that, despite official pledges to respect essential rights in this Olympic year, Chinese authorities continue to harass and detain writers in violation of their right to freedom of expression.

In order to fulfill the promises China made in securing the Olympic Games, and to ensure that the rights of our colleagues are fully protected in your country, we therefore urge you to:

• facilitate the immediate and unconditional release of all writers and journalists currently imprisoned and end the practice of detaining, harassing, and censoring writers and journalists in China

• abide by China’s pledge that “there will be no restrictions on media reporting and movement of journalists up to and including the Olympic Games”; and

• end internet censorship and reform laws that are used to imprison writers and journalists and suppress the free exchange of information and ideas on the internet.

ACT NOW: sign the petition
Visit the PEN website