Thursday, January 29, 2015

The Novel Begins Here

The little gal at the mid-left is just finishing a full-body shake!
Ducks, I know. . .

The Novel Begins Here                                             

Sylvia decides to rewrite her journal,
beginning with the significant events
of a particular day in October she wishes to hide,
and asks herself if future scholars
will debate the differences in penmanship
from day to day, or lament the layer that is lost,
that shows up around the corners, fast-fading palimpsest,
and wonder which is the correct version,
for now there is reference only to the last
pomegranate clinging after all the leaves are gone,
a mile-and-a-half race on the turf, the favorite scratched,
footprints across the frosty glass, turning brown,
airline tickets received, destination left blank,
an ordinary day again, winter setting in.

Sharon Olson

The Long Night of Flying
Sixteen Rivers Press, 2006, page 27.

Here is a link to a post with a Tomas Transtromer poem called How The Late Autumn Novel Begins.

This is a wonderful sort of poem! Notice how there is only one period, at the end! Just keeps rushing on! I have loved this kind of poem even since I first heard this read. I've written one myself. And so should you. Another task!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Blues and the landscape

Perhaps I should start a blog just for these rearview window pictures that I love to take on trips. 
Something about the brilliant Western light astounds me. 
By the reflection, you can tell 
that I took this with my iPhone, that handy marvel.
Take a look out of your car window soon!

(for Bill and Sonja)

Today the news from Selma and Saigon
poisons the air like fallout,
        I come again to see
the serene great picture that I love.

Here space and time exist in light
the eye like the eye of faith believes.
         The seen, the known
dissolve in iridescence, become
illusive flash of light
         that was not, was, forever is.

O light beheld as through refracting tears.
Here is the aura of that world
         each of us has lost.
Here is the shadow of its joy.

Robert Hayden  (1913-1980)
Art and Artists; poems, Everyman's Library, 2012, page 77.

This is a great little anthology, about 4'' x 6.5 inches, It would make a great gift or a pocket companion. Very wonderful and eclectic choice of poems inspired by works of art. This week, or next, try to get to a museum and find an art work you can see from a bench or chair. And task yourself to write a poem. Look at the art work for 15 minutes or so before you start to write.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A small bird, dark . . .

Cherry blossoms from the spring of 2007 in Japan!

Sometimes it pays to go backwards---maybe just a little way---
maybe a long way. I have finally gotten my hands on a copy of
Burned Kilim by Robert Pesich
published by Dragonfly Press in 2001.
My first memory of Robert Pesich was my observation of him 
at the Foothill Writer's Conference many years before that, 
seated on stairs talking earnestly to another poet. (I think it was Henry Carlisle.)
Their serious expressions impressed me, and I might have been 
a little jealous of the attention
young male poets often received in these situations. . . 
The book turns out to be worth serious attention, with very interesting subject matter 
and excellent handling of the language and themes throughout.
Here is the one I chose for tonight.

A Window in the City

I was in the back, in the bathroom,
reading the Times on the toilet,
a small article under a yellow night-light
because the switch was blown.
"Old woman finds infant in dumpster,
revives him with songs."
It was then that I could hear
someone knocking on the neglected
window in the corner, above my face.
A small bird, dark as my eyes
returning to her chicks.
The nest wedged against the hinge
keeping the window open with its woven
mouth of mud, grass, and tangled
cassette tape holding my voice,
a few words, a brief song, made useful.
Tiny ligature of a greater voice
that brings me to the window.
Black back-alley, bricks,
dumpster and sour diesel.
The birds resting in my breath
while outside, someone shatters
a glass, or a mirror
under a brief snow of blossoms
floating down from somewhere.

Robert Pesich 

Burnt Kilim
Dragonfly Press, Mountain View, California, 2001, page 47.

Monday, January 26, 2015

No longer white, not yet green

This is the way things looked this morning, as if ducks lined up for inspection.

And, from the bedroom window, just a little earlier, I spied these guys taking naps
on what would be the sunny bank if the sun wasn't clouded out. I don't know
where the girls sleep, but I have read they nest in the grasses.
And, I think it is too early for that!

Poem: The Morning Walk

There are a lot of words meaning thanks.
Some you can only whisper.
Others you can only sing.
The pewee whistles instead.
The snake turns in circles,
the beaver slaps his tail
on the surface of the pond.
The deer in the pinewoods stamps his hoof.
Goldfinches shine as they float through the air.
A person, sometimes, will hum a little Mahler.
Or put arms around an old oak tree.
Or take out lovely pencil and notebook to find a few
touching, kissing words.

Mary Oliver

Long Life; essays and other writings, Da Capo, 2004, page 83.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

"hushed and glittering points"

The muted palette of today's late afternoon reminds me of some Japanese woodblock prints; 
that, and the delicate tracery of the dry grasses. The ducks like to hang out here, 
just where the stream bends.

The Tsugaru Strait

A shelf of black stratocumulous clouds has formed in the south
Two ancient blue-green peninsulas
Take turns to brush away the fatigue of the day
         . . .two merging currents
         extracting sea fog again and again. . .
The waves, their hushed and glittering points
Repeated reflections in a variety of angles
Or, the weaving of stripes of silver and onion green
Or tin pest and Prussian blue
And when the water changes its costume of seven colors
Exulting in its companions
          . . .a flashy and lucid wedding
          in the Oriental fashion. . .
The ship's smoke flows toward the south
The channel, a ghastly beautiful arsenic mirror

Before you know it, the land of Hokkaido is undulating
As rainclouds whirl their black tails
Under the northern sun

Kenji Miyazawa

Strong in the Rain; selected poems, translated by Roger Pulvers
Bloodaxe Books, 2007, page 83.

Here is a short Wikipedia article on the Tsugaru Strait, which separates Honshu from Hokkaido.

Look up tin pest in Wikipedia--that's very interesting! In the context of the poem, I thought it was just another color, like Prussian blue. This poem makes me want to go to Hokkaido; actually, I have wanted to go ever since I saw the book of photos that Michael Kenna took there.
This Japanese poet, Kenji Miyazawa, holds a very high place in the history of 20th century Japanese poetry. There is not way I can compare them to the originals, but I am very impressed by the poems in this book!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

where the waves are wild and rough . . .

I might never tire of this brookside haven.


I sleep
under the willows
all afternoon
and wake, covered
in green caterpillars

the river, too
is green, and cloudy
flowing slow
grassy banks gentle
with sleeping ducks

I remember
a brief dream
a wooden boat
the long journey
downstream to the sea

where to, then?
the boat is too small 
to go far
out where the waves
are wild and rough

always my dreams 
turn back to the land
my soul tossed out
onto the riverbank
settling, grounded

Joy McCall

rising mist, fieldstones
Keibooks, Perryville MD, 2015, page 61.

This author has been writing the five-line form known as tanka for a long time, but only recently began to publish, as a result of finding her publisher as she looked for someone to make a few handmade books of her work. In this book, she uses her familiar stanza, but has presented the work assembled in page length poems. I am never sure what to think when I find a poet who doesn't use capital letters or punctuation (except for the essential question mark.) but she really doesn't seem to need them. In an afterword, the publisher tells us that the poet is in ill health and expects not to live much longer. The book is available through Lovers of this short form will find much to admire here.

Friday, January 23, 2015


More tranquil memories from the autumn woodlands.


No sleep, not tonight. The window blazes.
Over the city, fireworks soar and explode.
No sleep: too much has gone on.
Rows of books stand vigil above you.
You'll brood on what's happened
and what hasn't. No sleep, not tonight.
Your inflamed eyelids will rebel,
your fiery eyes sting,
your heart swell with remembrance.
No sleep. The encyclopedias will open
and poets, dressed carefully,

bundled for winter, will stroll out one by one.
Memory will open, with a sudden hiss
like a parachute's. Memory will open,
you won't sleep,
rocked slowly through clouds,
an easy target in the firework's glow.
No sleep: so much has gone on,
so much been revealed.
You know each drop of blood
could compose its own scarlet Iliad,
each dawn author
a dark diary. No sleep,
under the thick blanket of roofs, attics,
and chimneys casting out handfuls of ash.

Pale nights row noiselessly into the sky,
their oars silk stockings delicately rustling.
You'll go out to the park, and tree limbs
will amiably thump your shoulder, making
sure, confirming your fidelity. No sleep.
You'll race through the uninhabited park,
a shadow facing more shadows.
You'll think of someone who's no more
and of someone else living so fully
that her life at its edges changes
to love. Light, more light
gathers in the room. No sleep, not tonight.

Adam Zagajewski

Canvas; translated from the Polish by Renata Gorczynski, Benjamin Ivry and C.K. Williams,
Farrar Straus Giroux, 1997

I cannot stay away from this marvelous poet! So here we are again. Short sentences, longer sentences, short lines, longer lines. And the clear movement of the mind, the way it often moves. Praise to the translators, too, for something that is so vivid in English.