Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Great Figure

We'll close National Poetry Month with William Carlos Williams, one of America's greatest and most important poets. He influenced many poets across a wide and diverse range, from Robert Lowell, to Robert Creeley to Allen Ginsberg. My own work owes a great debt to his.

The Great Figure

Among the rain
and lights
I saw the figure 5
in gold
on a red
to gong clangs
siren howls
and wheels rumbling
through the dark city.

April may be over, but keep poetry part of your life every day!

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Don't Love Your Life Too Much

Continuing our National Poetry Monthly selections, an excerpt from Mary Oliver, one of our finest poets and one of the few who can actually sell out a reading:

For years and years I struggled
just to love my life. And then

the butterfly
rose, weightless in the wind.
"Don't love your life
too much," it said,

and vanished
into the world.

from "One or Two Things"

And something new from me:

Lightning in a Bottle

Dozens of interlaced
nerves branch out
like ant pathways
in all directions
crackling like a hundred
tiny electrical fires if
I could find the switch
I could sleep.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Check These Out

To hold my readers until I can post another poem (Mary Oliver is up next), here's a link to a very entertaining article about the value of poetry up against, e.g., mathematics. Also, I am not alone in thinking
George Oppen
deserves a wider audience.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Out of a Cloud

Continuing our Poetry Month postings, here's another first-rate poet who happens to have been a woman (I'm not falling into that "woman poet" locution ever one calls T.S. Eliot or Whitman "America's greatest man poet"!):

Several Voices Out of a Cloud

Come, drunks and drug-takers; come, perverts unnerved!
Receive the laurel, given, though late, on merit, to whom
and wherever deserved.

Parochial punks, trimmers, nice people, joiners true-blue,
Get the hell out of the way of the laurel. It is deathless
And it isn't for you.
—Louise Bogan

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Off Balance

We pause in our regularly scheduled poetry postings for a trenchant observation. If this was true in 1932, how much more so today....

The number of people on the borderline of insanity in a big country is simply appalling, and these seem especially addicted to believing themselves saviors and prophets. It takes only a slight stimulus to throw them completely off their balance.—Clarence Darrow

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Thursday, April 17, 2008


I noticed I have yet to post any poems by women poets, so to correct this oversight, a selection from a very fine British writer, Anne Stevenson. I was aware she had written a biography of Sylvia Plath, but not until I received a poem of hers in my daily Poetry Month e-mail from Poetry Daily did I discover what an incredible poet she is.

The next day, a fleet of high crosses cruises in ether.
These are the air pilgrims, pilots of air rivers;
a shift of wing, and they’re earth-skimmers, daggers,
skilful in guiding the throw of themselves away from themselves.

Quick flutter, a scimitar upsweep, out of danger of touch, for
earth is forbidden to them, water’s forbidden to them,
all air and fire, little owlish ascetics, they outfly storms,
they rush to the pillars of altitude, the thermal fountains.

—from "Swifts"

My own modest attempt to depict swifts:

a flight of
swifts just at
dusk their strange
high thin music
a thin reed
to grasp a hope
for next day's
dusk and again

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Madness Amourous

Having just seen PBS' excellent American Experience program about Walt Whitman, I thought today would be a good day for this excerpt:

The female form approaching, I pensive, love-flesh tremulous aching,
The divine list for myself or you or for any one making,
The face, the limbs, the index from head to foot, and what it arouses,
The mystic deliria, the madness amorous, the utter abandonment,
(Hark close and still what I now whisper to you,
I love you, O you entirely possess me,
O that you and I escape from the rest and go utterly off, free and lawless,
Two hawks in the air, two fishes swimming in the sea not more lawless than we).

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Friday, April 11, 2008

New For NaPoWriMo

I haven't been able to manage a poem a day, but I did knock this one out on the bus this morning:


This is the leaf
I meant to send
you it's a bit
dry now and veined
with tiny fissures
be careful holding it
it was alive once.

Comments welcome.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Prize Poetry

Congratulations to Robert Hass and Philip Schultz, co-winners of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry!

The rest of us have to act like we believe
The dead women in the rubble of Baghdad
Who did not cast a vote for their deaths
Or the raw white of the exposed bones
In the bodies of their men or their children
Are being given the gift of freedom
Which is the virtue of the injured us.
It's hard to say which is worse, the moral
Sloth of it or the intellectual disgrace.

—Robert Hass, from "Bush's War," in Time and Materials

The deep forlorn smell of moss and pine
behind your stone house, you strumming
and singing Lorca, Vallejo, De Andrade,
as if each syllable tasted of blood,
as if you had all the time in the world. . .

You knew your angels loved you
but you also knew they would leave
someone they could not save.

—Philip Schultz, from "The Failure"

I've had two poems of my own accepted for the May issue of The Scrambler. In addition to the texts, you will be able to listen to audio files of me reading the poems. I'll repost the link when that issue is online.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Holding Pattern

Until I have time to select and post another favorite poem, here is the latest version of my own most recent effort. Thanks to my friend and ace scribe Jim P. for a very helpful comment.


Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?
And was it the bass or the keening
vocal that kept me awake for two hours
in the first place? And was I ever
really asleep?

Still no takers on identifying the source of the opening line....

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Friday, April 04, 2008

"Still the sea is salt"

In my continuing series of poems for National Poetry Month, here is a lovely lyric by A.E. Housman. While his poems may not have the grandeur of Tennyson or the philosophical heft of Matthew Arnold, his ear is matchless and his handling of meters and his musicality make him worthy of a wider readership.

Stars, I have seen them fall,
But when they drop and die
No star is lost at all
From all the star-sown sky.
The toil of all that be
Helps not the primal fault;
It rains into the sea,
And still the sea is salt.

And in the spirit of NaPoWriMo, here's a fragment of my own. Perhaps it will grow into a fulll poem, but in any case, it's all I have that's new to offer at the moment.


Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?
And was it the bass or the keening
vocal that kept me awake for two hours
in the first place? And did I ever
actually fall asleep?

This piece was inspired by a writing "assignment" from the editors of Red Morning press, a small poetry press, sent to their e-mail list. The challenge was to use the last line of a favorite poem as a starting point for a poem of one's own. Your assigment: Identify the poem and author of my first line.

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

NPM & NaPoWriMo

It's April and that means both National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo (National Poetry Writing Month), during which many poets will try to write a poem a day for the duration of the month. While I don't expect to have the time or energy to write a poem every day, I do intend consciously to make time and space for regular writing. To get the month started, here's my most recent poem.

(for B)

Dark stones shine
at your throat
and your eyes
are dark and shine
like your black hair
that cascades down
the sides of your pale face.
I should be listening
to what others are saying
but my eyes dart back
to you. I wonder
what you are thinking
as I turn away again.
I try to think about
what I will say when
it’s my turn but my eyes
are caught again and
again by your slender
nervous hands.

Thanks as always to Naomi for her keen eye and ear in helping me revise. I'll be posting poems throughout the month, so look back in when you can.

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