Wednesday, June 29, 2005

"No one I think is in my tree,
I mean it must be high or low."

Saturday, June 25, 2005

"Do You Know What I Mean!"

Mary di Michele

Stanzas for Sulmo (Sulmano)


I wish I were a girl in Sicily
-----------------------------------------------on my lips was blasphemy.
Would Ovid whine that way
-----------------------------------------------for his own exile, to be beached
again at the Black Sea,
-----------------------------------------------out of reach of the beloved
hills of Sulmo, glittering
-----------------------------------------------with grapes and goat droppings?


My poetry made me immortal
-----------------------------------------------and my name still gives Phaon
breath in the story Ovid wrote
-----------------------------------------------I am no longer joyless and dry
though the boy forgets
-----------------------------------------------Sappho as soon as he picks
up his clothes, he forgets
-----------------------------------------------what heat, what words, can do.


If indeed
-----------------------------------------------we toiled at the task of love
you know
-----------------------------------------------the man was no
boy or the boy
-----------------------------------------------was no man.
I always had good
-----------------------------------------------reason to prefer women.


Her face, more radiant
-----------------------------------------------than Phoebus whose name
means shining,
-----------------------------------------------blinds me to a thousand
and one others.
-----------------------------------------------more heliotrope than human,
Without shame,
-----------------------------------------------I still watch, I still wait.

This poem is reprinted from Debriefing the Rose (House of Anansi Press Ltd., Toronto, Canada, 1998)

Mary di Michele is the author of eight books of poetry including Stranger in You and Debriefing the Rose, as well as a novel, Under My Skin. She is the editor of the influential 1980s anthology Anything is Possible. Mary di Michele has one of the most distinctive voices in North American writing. Her poetry has been included in over a dozen anthologies. She has won several prizes: the CBC poetry competition, 1980; the Silver Medal, DuMaurier Award for Poetry, 1982; Air Canada Writing Award, 1984; the Toronto Arts Award, 1990; and the ARC Confederation Poets Award, 1996. Her work is widely anthologised and has been translated into French, Spanish, Italian and Dutch. Born in Italy and raised in Toronto; since 1990 she has been teaching creative writing in the English department at Concordia University , Montreal , where she is now full professor.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Gimme a Break Would You!

I am free verse,
and know the rules,
and use them -
when they suit me,
which admittedly
tends not to be the case.
tradition, laws;
very much not
my sort
of thing,
I fear.
Perhaps, on occasion,
I go too far in the opposite direction,
and shun the accepted merely because it's accepted,
accepting its opposite merely because it isn't;
but since it's clearly
better that than
being normal;
What Poetry Form Are You?

Gee, and there I was thinking I might be a sonnet:

I am the sonnet, never quickly thrilled;
Not prone to overstated gushing praise
Nor yet to seething rants and anger, filled
With overstretched opinions to rephrase;
But on the other hand, not fond of fools,
And thus, not fond of people, on the whole;
And holding to the sound and useful rules,
Not those that seek unjustified control.
I'm balanced, measured, sensible (at least,
I think I am, and usually I'm right);
And when more ostentatious types have ceased,
I'm still around, and doing, still, alright.
In short, I'm calm and rational and stable -
Or, well, I am, as much as I am able


Discovered this over at Patty Paine's Blog: Notes from Qatar .

Friday, June 17, 2005

"Bad Moon Rising"

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Notes to Myself With Regards to Poetic “Occasion” Versus Poetic “Experience”

In the June 2005 issue of Poetry, Christina Pugh argues, “for the viability of reading as a version of, or a substitute for, "lived experience." She goes on to say in her essay, “No Experience Necessary” , that: “…what is missing in the work of some younger poets is not "experience" at all, but reading that is deep enough to effect changes in the self?” Her refutation of the hypothesis that universities fail poets by depriving them of experience, thus resulting in the same “experience-challenged, cookie-cutter verse” hinges on her observation that what she finds lacking in most of the poetry she reads, “is an ability to distinguish experience from occasion: what [she] defines… as the prime mover of the poem, be it based in the poet's empirical life, in imagination, in the jurr of language, in literary texts.”

Furthermore, she posits that: “poetic occasion may not always be the result of "lived experience" per se.” She concludes her arguments by stipulating that it is not necessary to: “…go out and have an exciting life that you can write about in your work. Instead, … it's the ability to read widely enough to know which poetic occasions stir you: be they empirical, imaginative, aleatory, linguistic, discursive—and how various and transhistorical are poems' means to stir.”

Perhaps, I am missing the point here, but the “knowledge” that one gleans from the written word is not imbued with the richness of first hand experience, but is in essence only a representation of the author’s interpretation filtered via their unique mindset. (We, in turn, subjectively reinterpret this representation.) One does not read several travel books concerning vacationing in Europe and conclude that they have been there. Reading about some concrete “experience” only pales in comparison to the actual real-life experience, although the former admittedly complements the latter and vice versa.

I agree that what she refers to as “occasion” need not necessarily be based on the poet’s empirical life and that which prompts a poet to write can originate from many sources. However, in order to write about a conceit in a novel fashion, breathing new life and a unique prospective quite often is predicated on more than a perfunctory knowledge. It is certain that we, as a product of a unique process of socialization and different socio-cultural constructs, “…don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.” (Anais Nin).

It has been restated many times and in many ways since, but perhaps Ezra Pound put it best almost a century ago in his essay, “A Retrospect”: “No good poetry is ever written in a manner twenty years old, for to write in such a manner shows conclusively that the writer thinks from books, convention and cliché, and not from life, yet a man feeling the divorce of life and his art may naturally try to resurrect a forgotten mode if he finds in that mode some leaven, or if he think he sees in it some element lacking in contemporary art which might unite that art again to its sustenance, life.”

Monday, June 13, 2005

The Undisclosed Truth About PC Game Addiction!

Apparently some PC games can become very addictive. In fact some support groups have sprung up to help alleviate this rising social problem. Please use the following link and then click on the "Addiction is Uncivilized" icon: You'd be surprised at who suffers from PC game addiction.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

What is it that a poet knows?

What is it that a poet knows

Louis Dudek

What is it that a poet knows
----------------that tells him ­­ 'this is real'?
Some revelation, a gift of sight,
granted through an effort of the mind
------------------------ of infinite delight.

All the time I have been writing on the very edge of knowledge,

heard the real world whispering
-------------------with an indistinct and liquid rustling­­
as if to free, at last, an inextricable meaning!
Sought for words simpler, smoother, more clean than any,
---------------------- only to clear the air
of an unnecessary obstruction…

Not because I wanted to meddle with the unknown
------- (I do not believe for a moment that it can be done),
but because the visible world seemed to be waiting,
----------------- as it always is,
somehow, to be revealed


From: From Atlantis. In The Poetry of Louis Dudek. Golden Dog Press.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The Galleys Arrive…With Nary a Sail in Sight.

Last fall, along with thousands of others, I submitted poems to several top literary journals: Agni, Ploughshares, Tri-Quarterly, Boulevard…etcetera. Among the publications chosen was Shenandoah (The Washington and Lee University Review). Responses came quickly from some, with a note of unequivocal rejection. No matter how pleasant sounding the terminology implemented is, a form letter cuts to the quick. When the bulky response from Shenandoah came, I was sure that my manuscript had been left intact in its pristine state, accompanied only by a slip of nothing – denoting nothing, implying all.

I opened it with the deft slice of a letter opener meant to take a stab at the bill collectors, bulk mail purveyors and rejection slips. Inside, were two of the three poems that I submitted. The third was nowhere to be found. If not for the accompanying letter and contract requesting permission to publish “The 30Hz Hypothesis”, I would, without a doubt, have inferred that they had recycled my poem as a coffee mug coaster subsequently crumpled it up into a ball and slam dunked it for two points in the nearest waste paper basket.

Today in my mailbox, I received the Spring/Summer 2005 special edition of Shenandoah Vol. 55, No. 1. I opened up the edition to the contributor’s notes section. The poets included herein are: Mary Oliver, Cleopatra Mathis, Michael Waters, William Wenthe, Sarah Gorham and Robert Parham. There are another 33 poets included in “A Portfolio of Appalachian Poets” (partial list: Maggie Anderson, Robert Morgan, Lynn powell, Steve Scafidi, Jr., George Scarbrough, Jonathan Williams, Charles Wright and Marianne Worthington...) . I had specifically requested this issue to be included (with my complimentary one year subscription) because of the vast array of poets that it afforded. I am, so far, not disappointed with my choice. In particular “Six Recognitions of The Lord” by Mary Oliver caught my eye and will inevitably require rereading.

The Fall/Winter Volume i.e.: Vol. 55, No. 2 will not be a “special issue”, albeit that it will (for me) represent a very important step towards some form of recognition of what I am attempting to accomplish with the written word using the elements of poetry as blueprint. Included therein, and presented here, in no particular order are poets: Leigh Ann Couch, Robert Collins, Rodney Jones, Linda Pastan, Alice Friman, Stever Gehrke, Gary Gildner, Ronald Wallace, Stephen Corey, Tim Keane, Adam Sol and David Wagoner. Perhaps as some detractors have intimated, I am unworthy of being included in the same publication as the above. Maybe they're right!

The poem in question has been critiqued in the on-line poetry workshop milieu and received some rather caustic remarks from several critics. Yet, the very same poem has been accepted by a highly reputable review. Furthermore, the words, diction, syntax, line, trope and rhetoric have not been altered one iota. These two facts appeared to me to be irreconcilable and constitutes one of the reasons why I decided to limit my participation on these on-line poetry boards. I did not like the implications and/or the conclusions that I arrived at when trying to formulate an hypothesis which best accounts for the aforementioned discrepancies.

Perhaps, to many of my blogging colleagues the accomplishment of being published in a top print publication is passé as they have authored books of poetry and have garnered poetry awards and achievements. But to this humble would-be poet it affords “un motif valable” to consider himself a poet. Now comes the hard part: to write more poetry that I feel comfortable presenting to a reading public.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

I Repent - Mea Culpa...Mea Culpa!

After reading my post on "The Homeless Cake" - Father Dominic of our local parish asked me to take "Dante's Inferno Test ". It appears that I'm still salvageable. Thank you, Father.

The Dante's Inferno Test has sent you to the First Level of Hell - Limbo!

Charon ushers you across the river Acheron, and you find yourself upon the brink of grief's abysmal valley. You are in Limbo, a place of sorrow without torment. You encounter a seven-walled castle, and within those walls you find rolling fresh meadows illuminated by the light of reason, whereabout many shades dwell. These are the virtuous pagans, the great philosophers and authors, unbaptised children, and others unfit to enter the kingdom of heaven. You share company with Caesar, Homer, Virgil, Socrates, and Aristotle. There is no punishment here, and the atmosphere is peaceful, yet sad.

"Hey, Virg', Ari, Julie and Homer. Pass the absinthe will you! I think Socrates is going into one of his dialectical tirades again!"

Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Purgatory (Repenting Believers)High
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)Very High
Level 2 (Lustful)Low
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Moderate
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Low
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Low
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's" Inferno Hell Test

Thursday, June 02, 2005

On Being Asked by a Young Writer About Their Poetry: I Answer With

W.S. Merwin's poem "Berryman" from Opening the Hand (1983):


I will tell you what he told me
in the years just after the war
as we then called
the second world war

don't lose your arrogance yet he said
you can do that when you're older
lose it too soon and you may
merely replace it with vanity

just one time he suggested
changing the usual order
of the same words in a line of verse
why point out a thing twice

he suggested I pray to the Muse
get down on my knees and pray
right there in the corner and he
said he meant it literally

it was in the days before the beard
and the drink but he was deep
in tides of his own through which he sailed
chin sideways and head tilted like a tacking sloop

he was far older than the dates allowed for
much older than I was he was in his thirties
he snapped down his nose with an accent
I think he had affected in England

as for publishing he advised me
to paper my wall with rejection slips
his lips and the bones of his long fingers trembled
with the vehemence of his views about poetry

he said the great presence
that permitted everything and transmuted it
in poetry was passion
passion was genius and he praised movement and invention

I had hardly begun to read
I asked how can you ever be sure
that what you write is really
any good at all and he said you can't

you can't you can never be sure
you die without knowing
whether anything you wrote was any good
if you have to be sure don't write

W. S. Merwin, Flower & Hand: Poems 1977-1983
Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA (1997) pp. 155-156

Can we really ever be sure that anything we write is any good?