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

Friday, April 4, 2008


The Poems of Our Climate

Clear water in a brilliant bowl,
Pink and white carnations. The light
In the room more like a snowy air,
Reflecting snow. A newly-fallen snow
At the end of winter when afternoons return.
Pink and white carnations-one desires
So much more than that. The day itself
Is simplified: a bowl of white,
Cold, a cold porcelain, low and round,
With nothing more than the carnations.

Say even that this complete simplicity
Stripped one of all one's torments, concealed
The evilly compounded, vital I
And made it fresh in a world of white,
A world of clear water, brilliant-edged,
Still one would want more, one would need more,
More than a world of white and snowy scents.

There would still remain the never-resting mind,
So that one would want to escape, come back
To what had been so long composed.
The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
Since the imperfect is so hot in us,
Lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.

Wallace Stevens

Thursday, April 3, 2008


Georgia O'Keefe's Sky Above Clouds

How Beautiful

A personal lens: glass bending rays
That gave one that day's news
Saying each and every day,

Just remember you are standing
On a planet that's evolving.
How beautiful, she thought, what distance does

For water, the view from above or afar.
In last night's dream, they were back again
At the beginning. She was a child

And he was a child.
A plane lit down and left her there.
Cold whitening the white sky whiter.

Then a scalpel cut her open for all the world
To be a sea.

By Mary Jo Bang
from Elegy

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Excerpt from Susan Tichy's latestBone Pagoda, 
a beautiful, harsh book from Ahsahta Press. 


What O'Keefe said in paint is that light lays hands on us

Not that color is event, but the weight of pure sensation
So rubble, when you touch it, could be absolute blue

Otherwise the word remains transparent

As when critics said the poet
Must be equal to what she has seen

An umbrella closes suddenly in the middle of the block
And a forest is not tableau it is a forest

When the hospital corridors ran with blood
They  said think of another image, that one's old


Here's what O'Keefe said about bones--

I was most interested in the holes in the bones--
what I saw through them--
particularly the blue
from holding them up in the sun 
against the sky.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

just say no

no na po wri mo for me

Willow in Spring Wind: A Showing

Pointless homesickness. Pointless shudderings.
Wind now clockwise: surrendering this way.
Wind now counter: surrendering that.
Wide tree with its good throat up from the dark
flinging forth embroiderings of inaudibles,
limbs jerked like a cough -- then like a credo, flung --
then broken oars; then oars not broken at all but thrumming in
unison into
the open sea of my
Clasp me, trellis of glancings,
delicatest machine--
body of the absconding god--
replacing something (I know not what)--
undulating, muttering liqudly...
Is it my glance or is it the willow kneeling wildly now
as if looking for corpses,
dragging its alphabet of buds all along the gravelly walk--
scraping -- ripping -- along the seemingly insatiable
hardness of gravel? Also the limestone wall they slap...
Where is the sharp edge that we seek?  Where
                                 the open mouth? --
the true roughness -- halo distended --
glittering with exaggeration --
dazzling the still philosophies --

by Jorie Graham