Saturday, February 23, 2008

circle bound

Snow fall/ house bound/ mind stuck -- 
spondaic phrases tromping about in my wintered brain, which is now officially done with snow scenes (we'll see). But the snow has provided time to finish The Sound and the Fury. To think as well about how, in previous readings, Benjy's section grabbed so much of my imagination and memory that I had hardly recalled the obnoxious Jason.  Perhaps there was something new and daring (to the teenage reader at least) about that first narrative, an introduction to the idea of stream of consciousness. Imitation of that style was definitely something I recall attempting. So this is the gift of re-reading. I recall hearing that the great New Yorker magazine writer Joseph Mitchell read Joyce's Ulysses once a year. How much he must have learned returning to that epic annually! An ongoing conversation with the self, with the book's characters and their travels and travails. 
But do you sacrifice reading other books in taking on such a burden? What gets crossed off the list? What book would you read once a year?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


from John Cage's

Lecture on Nothing

I am here    ,    and there is nothing to say                 .

            If among you are

those who wish to get somewhere      ,        let them leave at

any moment           .                     What we re-quire                          is

silence                      ;          but what silence requires 

                 is              that I go on talking   .

                                                                           Give any one thought

                        a push                      :         it falls down easily

;             but the pusher         and the pushed         pro-duce            that enter-

tainment                                              called              a dis-cussion                .

                                                               Shall we have one later                      ?

Thursday, February 14, 2008


Re-reading The Sound and the Fury and finding the experience haunting. This is the third time. The book seems to rise up at crossroads. As I wind through Faulkner's streams of thought, I encounter the ghosts of old selves, shed like snake skin behind me. I touch the delicate papery self of high school, which nearly disintegrates; rub my thumb across the bookmark of a later, thicker skin.  And the characters too rise up in new shapes. Benjy isn't as compelling. Quentin and Jason too present. I've not yet reached Caddy. The book's power seems diminished. Perhaps that's because the Compsons aren't as exotic as in my younger imagination. I know families like this and sadder now.  So familiar, not diminished. Now, reading this is like looking through a photo album you pull out from time to time.  As opposed to a guidebook to that far off place you'd yet to visit.

Today, to follow my own streaming thoughts, I worked with the fourth graders on poems they're writing, based on a stunning exhibition at the museum where I teach as a visiting writer. We were looking at ways to use verbs and nouns. Later their teacher told me the school's writing curriculum doesn't include lessons on identifying parts of speech. So the kids don't know the names of the words they are using. This makes me sad. How can they use language if they don't know how to name it? 

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


more jean

from Little Boat

Maria Gravida

Then the gold mother began her touching me
With her long brown face & hands
She tickled me & told me I was beautiful
She held me in the ikon & we gazed

We had a pretty goldfinch   death   salavation
Love was strong as death    Peacocks walked by
Blue immortality       Finches played in black branches
Souls around the cross     It was death in life

Our gold earth gravida
Not a casket but a darkroom for our love
The herma wrought of silver, gilded in fire
Gold mother around me inside me gravida

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

wash out

Face to Face

In February life stood still.
The birds refused to fly and the soul
grated against the landscape as a boat
chafes against the jetty where it's moored.

The tree were turned away. The snow's depth
measured by the stubble poking through.
The footprints grew old on the ice-crust.
Under tarpaulin, language was being broken down.

Suddenly, something approaches the window.
I stop working and look up.
The colours blaze. Everything turns around.
The earth and I spring at each other.

By Tomas Transtromer
(translated b Robin Robertson)

Friday, February 1, 2008



Veritas sequitur...

In the small beauty of the forest
The wild deer bedding down --
That they are there!

Their eyes
Effortless, the soft lips
Nuzzle and the alien small teeth
Tear at the grass

The roots of it
Dangle from their mouths
Scattering earth in the strange woods.
They who are there.

Their paths
Nibbled thru the fields, the leaves that shade them
Hang in the distances
of sun

The small nouns
crying faith
In this in which the wild deer
Startle, and stare out.

George Oppen

Edward Hirsch writes that Oppen's epigraph comes from a phrase by Thomas Aquinas, "Veritas sequitur esse rei"-- Truth follows from the being of things.