Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Monday, February 26, 2007

Friday, February 23, 2007

Some Simic

The White Room
Charles Simic

The obvious is difficult
To prove. Many prefer
The hidden. I did, too.
I listened to the trees.

They had a secret
Which they were about to
Make known to me--
And then didn't.

Summer came. Each tree
On my street had its own
Scheherazade. My nights
Were a part of their wild

Storytelling. We were
Entering dark houses,
Always more dark houses,
Hushed and abandoned.

There was someone with eyes closed
On the upper floors.
The fear of it, and the wonder,
Kept me sleepless.

The truth is bald and cold,
Said the woman
Who always wore white.
She didn't leave her room.

The sun pointed to one or two
Things that had survived
The long night intact.
The simplest things,

Difficult in their obviousness.
They made no noise.
It was the kind of day
People described as "perfect."

Gods disguising themselves
As black hairpins, a hand-mirror,
A comb with a tooth missing?
No! That wasn't it.

Just things as they are,
Unblinking, lying mute
In that bright light--
And the trees waiting for the night.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


"Le Repos" - William Bouguereau

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Something Devoutly to be Wished


Atrium voices bleed over threshold,
enter salon 6, linger with the wreaths
of dead husks of color that nod to eye,
their vivid dirge resonating - beneath
the canopy, he lies sheathed in vestment.

The conversation filters in like jabberwocky
lies, lacks girth or conviction: incantations
muttered to ward off the lack thereof.
Three deaths in three days: three rooms full
of the necessity of natural progression.

We are trespassers in this house with death's
hands pounding the walls into acoustic purity
so that all is heard - no word escaping
the debate - a silent and futile discourse.

Originally published in March, 2003 - Poetry Super Highway

Friday, February 16, 2007

Accessibility and "Real Sofistikashun"

Excerpts from Real Sofistikashun - by Tony Hoagland - Graywolf Press - 2006


  • The gradual intrusion of self-consciousness is one inevitable side effect of an education in art. To read ten poems, or a hundred, is one thing. To read ten thousand is another. As we internalize more of the tradition and become progressively less shielded by our ignorance, we realize how local our upbringing has been, how much there might be to know, and perhaps even, sigh, how limited our talent.
  • When a person takes the step toward learning more of craft and its history, more of artifice—when, for example, a person crosses the threshold of an MFA program—she chooses to end a childhood in artlessness. She gives up some of their innocent infatuation, the naïveté, the adolescent grandiosity, maybe even some of the natural grace of the beginner.
  • This initiation into knowledge will infect the learner with the virus of self-consciousness. As a consequence of learning of the existence of the poems of W.H. Auden, or Marianne Moore, or Louise Glück, your writing may suddenly seem horribly simplistic, crude as crayon drawings on Masonite. Now the poem, even as your are making it, seems stiff, clumsy, and obvious. Now your work may become, in compensation, coy and encoded. ...Yet that very knowledge, which can inhibit and choke, can also inspire and challenge. Self-consciousness is the necessary border crossing of craft, skill, and even of poetic ambition.
  • Self-consciousness in writing, as it does in life, opens up a kind of delay between impulse and action, between thought and word. That pause—as these examples show—offers the opportunity for calculated intensifications and angularities that would never occur in “natural,” uninformed speech.
  • Self-consciousness in art is a little like the use of radiation in laboratory experiments; while it can produce truly valuable genetic variants, it can just as easily lead to frightening mutations. Getting the dosage right is tricky. Holding a microscope up to language, to meaning itself, there is the danger of falling through, down into the infinite space between words.
  • Self-consciousness often provokes an overexertion of cleverness. But intelligence, when used well in a poem, never makes the reader feel less smart than the writer, or left behind. Rather, it gives the reader the exhilarating pleasure of being smart in concert with the speaker.
  • The goal of the healthy artist is not to be crippled by the weight of literacy, not intimidated into a kind of aesthetic conservatism, not to be engorged with fancy self-protective mannerisms, but to be selectively informed and empowered by knowledge. This development of sensibility could be called the acquisition and use of taste.
  • To learn what a poet needs to know is to become an initiate; that initiation imposes burdens as well as powers. We have the obligation to make real poems, to contribute to the living, evolving heritage of poetry. To make that contribution requires not just skill and desire, but a kind of discriminating insight into the deep structures of poetry. This resourcefulness surely must spring from the union of learning and bold inventiveness.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Vincenzo Bruno (1926-2007)

Emily Dickinson

Tie the Strings to my Life, My Lord,
Then I am ready to go!
Just a look at the Horses --
Rapid! That will do!

Put me in on the firmest side --
So I shall never fall --
For we must ride to the Judgment --
And it's partly down Hill --

But never I mind the steepest --
And never I mind the Sea --
Held fast in Everlasting Race --
By my own Choice and Thee --

Goodbye to the Life I used to live --
And the World I used to know --
And kiss the Hills for me, just once --
Then - I am ready to go!


Friday, February 09, 2007

What's Up?

Mary Biddinger has a debut book of poetry out with a stunning cover. It's published by Steel Toe Books . Check it out.

Thursday, February 08, 2007


John Everett Millais

(June 8, 1829 – August 13, 1896)


1854. Oil on canvas.

City of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery,

Birmingham, UK.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Not Another Anti - "Narrative Arc" Rant

Lately there has been talk of the "narrative arc" of chapbooks & poetry collections. Some eschew this tendency on the part of other poets while others laud the benefits of the poems in a manuscript to "hold together". I'm not sure that any poem written by the same author can be anything but a part of a "narrative arc". After all whatever one writes is but a facet of the mindset of that author. If we "see things as we are" can anything that is produced by our cognitive mindset be that different from whatever else we wrote say in the last few years that it took for us to put a MS together (barring some life-changing occurrence)?

Yes cognitive mindsets do evolve and change as life's experiences change, but certain socio-cultural variables (which inevitably define us) will always be constant in our lives. These variables are unique in each and every person. That is why one voice can never fully echo another. This is also why I must reluctantly side with the school of thought that thinks that deliberately manipulating a manuscript to more closely appear that it follows a "narrative arc" is redundant. There already is a "narrative arc" in place and that is the narrative of the poet's existence that is transmitted to us via the objectification of their poems.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Robert Hass

Heroic Simile

When the swordsman fell in Kurosawa's Seven Samurai
in the gray rain,
in Cinemascope and the Tokugawa dynasty,
he fell straight as a pine, he fell
as Ajax fell in Homer
in chanted dactyls and the tree was so huge
the woodsman returned for two days
to that lucky place before he was done with the sawing
and on the third day he brought his uncle.

They stacked logs in the resinous air,
hacking the small limbs off,
tying those bundles separately.
The slabs near the root
were quartered and still they were awkwardly large;
the logs from midtree they halved:
ten bundles and four great piles of fragrant wood,
moons and quarter moons and half moons
ridged by the saw's tooth.

The woodsman and the old man his uncle
are standing in midforest
on a floor of pine silt and spring mud.
They have stopped working
because they are tired and because
I have imagined no pack animal
or primitive wagon. They are too canny
to call in neighbors and come home
with a few logs after three days' work.
They are waiting for me to do something
or for the overseer of the Great Lord
to come and arrest them.

How patient they are!
The old man smokes a pipe and spits.
The young man is thinking he would be rich
if he were already rich and had a mule.
Ten days of hauling
and on the seventh day they'll probably
be caught, go home empty-handed
or worse. I don't know
whether they're Japanese or Mycenaean
and there's nothing I can do.
The path from here to that village
is not translated. A hero, dying,
gives off stillness to the air.
A man and a woman walk from the movies
to the house in the silence of separate fidelities.
There are limits to imagination.

From Praise by Robert Hass, published by the Ecco Press. 1978.
HarperCollins Publishers.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Is There Balm in Gilead?...or Bukowski?

so you want to be a writer?

Charles Bukowski

if it doesn't come bursting out of you
in spite of everything,
don't do it.
unless it comes unasked out of your
heart and your mind and your mouth
and your gut,
don't do it.
if you have to sit for hours
staring at your computer screen
or hunched over your
searching for words,
don't do it.
if you're doing it for money or
don't do it.
if you're doing it because you want
women in your bed,
don't do it.
if you have to sit there and
rewrite it again and again,
don't do it.
if it's hard work just thinking about doing it,
don't do it.
if you're trying to write like somebody
forget about it.

if you have to wait for it to roar out of
then wait patiently.
if it never does roar out of you,
do something else.

if you first have to read it to your wife
or your girlfriend or your boyfriend
or your parents or to anybody at all,
you're not ready.

don't be like so many writers,
don't be like so many thousands of
people who call themselves writers,
don't be dull and boring and
pretentious, don't be consumed with self-
the libraries of the world have
yawned themselves to
over your kind.
don't add to that.
don't do it.
unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder,
don't do it.
unless the sun inside you is
burning your gut,
don't do it.

when it is truly time,
and if you have been chosen,
it will do it by
itself and it will keep on doing it
until you die or it dies in you.

there is no other way.

and there never was.

From sifting through the madness for the Word, the line, the way by Charles Bukowski. © 2003 - Harper Collins