Monday, September 30, 2013

Last light; last September Day

I've messed up something. Posting from iPhone.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Turkey in the Straw

Or, more precisely in this morning's autumn weeds and grasses. I was pleased to catch the backlight through the wattle. Handsome, no? Tonight S made spaghetti sauce with fresh tomatoes. Mushrooms. Came out great! I am still in love with that autumn treat, sliced cucumbers in vinegar. Just like Mom used to make. This cucumber was chilled, crisp and from my daughter's garden.

I had an amazing, wonderful letter from my second cousin, R, in last night's email. All about our shared family based in Arizona. But my folks moved away and I didn't know most of these people. R visited my mother in Utah much more than I did. Of course, I lived farther away, but it still makes me a little ashamed. How little we know about what goes on in the lives, hearts and minds of other people, even those we are closely related to. How self-interested I have been, preferring to let other people manage without my attention. Oh, well. They did manage.

When I said I was going to not give you so much Adam Zagajewski, I thought I meant it. But tonight's poem is another one from  his Unseen Hand, translated by Clare Cavanagh FSG, 2009, page 67.


And the impassive Garonne flowed in silence
like an Indian brave in plumes of sun.
No one saw, no cameras,
only an azure eye, absolute ignorance
serenity, glory, bliss.
A letter opener
lay on the wooden table,
a handful of nuts, a purple plum
that shone violet
as in a Spanish canvas,
a worn-out plastic ballpoint
with dark streaks of poetry.
Is it a memory
or the promise of new life?

Without the ballpoint, this would not be nearly as fine a poem. The shift it takes at that plastic implement seems to be at the very the heart of it. The Garonne is a tidal river headwatered in the Pyrenees, and far from Poland, Why might it be more impassive than other rivers, I do not know. But Garonne has a lovely mellow sound. A short poem made of a river, a still life, a pen, poetry and a question. And somehow, deeply satisfying. 

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Falafel Gyro with Yoghurt Sauce

This is nautical Greek Island decor in Mim's Mediterranean Restaurant outside of Petoskey. It has absolutely nothing to do with this night's post; I just like the colors.

In the same recent Paris Review as last night's post there is another interview, this on with a well-regarded French writer whose work I do not know, Emmanuel Carrere.

I was so struck by this piece of writer's advice, I thought I would share it here.

In the novel [Bravoure] you mention a writing exercise. Have you done it?

It's a piece of advice given by the German Romantic Ludwig Borne. "For three successive days, force yourself to write, without denaturalizing or hypocrisy, everything that crosses your mind. Write what you think of yourself, your wives, Goethe, the Turkish war, the Last Judgment, your superiors and you will be stupefied to see how many new thoughts have poured forth.. That is what constitutes the art of becoming an original writer in three days."

I continue to find this excellent advice. Today, still, when I'm not working on anything, I'll take a notebook and for a few hours a day I'll just write whatever comes. about my life, my wife, the elections, trying not to censor myself. That's the real problem obviously---"without denaturalizing or hypocrisy." Without being afraid of what is shameful or what you consider uninteresting, not worthy of being written. It's the same principle behind psychoanalysis. It's just as hard to do and just as worth it, in my oprinion. Everything you think is worth writing, Not necessarily worth keeping, but worth writing, And fundamentally, that's what a large part of literature attempts to do---reproduce the flow of thought. Well, at least the literature I love the most, Montaigne, Sterne, Diderot. . . "

Emmaneul Carrere interviewed by Susannah Hunnewell in Paris Review 206, page 103.

I got out one of those black-and-white-cover school notebooks today, and picked the pen that is easy for me to write with, but haven't had the nerve to try it yet.

Instead, I'm reading another of Blake Bailey's books about alcoholic male writers. This is his third one, Farther and Wilder, which treats the author of The Lost Weekend in gripping and compassionate yet clear-eyed fashion. These are great biographies, well-researched and well-written, and have won all sorts of awards. If you can keep from being depressed by the subject matter, they make compelling reading,

Perhaps tomorrow, I will find out some of what I really think. . . . . . .

Friday, September 27, 2013

Waiting for him

Every day, these little gals ornament the hall rug while S takes a shower. You can see the lumps on Pookie from her autoimmune condition: sterile nodular panniculitis. You can also tell the girls are mature dachshunds by their gray muzzles. We're gray, too, so it doesn't matter that much. This picture has absolutely nothing to do with poetry (maybe just a little?) but tonight, class, we might talk some about form.

Today, I was able to settle in with the new Paris Review. I love the Interviews and am thrilled that they are ALL available FREE to read online, even the one in the current issue. I know I have mentioned this before but this is SUCH a great resource! I am reading them also on my iPhone. Since they started in 1956, they should last me a long time, even if I don't reread the ones I read 30 years ago.

There are two Interviews in the current issue. And here's a girl in Dutch costume (from an old photo) with a great expression on the cover, and more Dutch photos inside.

Emmanuel Carrere is a French writer, probably better known in Europe. He has some very interesting things to say about writing in general and his writing in particular.

Ursula LeGuin is a fine writer with a special appeal to many of my friends. She is known and praised for fiction for both children and adults. She is also a poet. Over a lifetime of writing, she has produced many fine works of many different kinds.

This was what she had to say in response to a question about what the appeal was for a writer to write in a genre:

"It's like working in any form---in poetry, for example. When you work in form, be it a sonnet or villanelle or whatever, the form is there and you have to fill it. And you have to find how to make that form say what you want to say. But what you find, always---I think any poet who has worked in form will agree with me---is that the form leads you to what you want to say. It is wonderful and mysterious. I think something similar happens in fiction. A genre is a form, in a sense, and that can lead you to ideas that you would not have just thought up if you were working in an undefined field. It must have something to do with the way our minds are constructed."

Ursula LeGuin, interviewed by John Wray 
in Paris Review 206, page 73.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Light through cloud

Looking south, there are almost always clouds over Pickerel Lake, which is about a mile away and slightly downhill. These abundant clouds come in striking variety. Sometimes they are ominous, sometimes bright and fluffy. My eyes are always on the skies through the big windows.

Here is a poem by Adam Zagajewski from Unseen Hand, Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 2009.

Vita Contemplativa

It may already be September. I drank tasteless coffee
in a cafe garden in Museumsinsel
and thought about Berlin, its dark waters.
These black buildings have seen much.
But peace reigns in Europe, diplomats doze,
the sun is pale, summer dies serenely,
spiders weave its shining shroud, the dry leaves
of plane trees write memoirs of their youth.

So this is the vita contemplativa.
The Pergamon's dark walls, white sculptures inside.
A bust of Greek loveliness. So this is it.
An altar before which no one prays.
So this is the vita contemplativa.
Happiness. A moment without an hour, in the words
of the poet killed in Lublin by a bomb. So this is it.
And what if, in this or another city, the vita activa
burst forth once more, What would Artemis,
fourth century B.C.E. do? Narcissus? Hermes?

Pergamon faces watch me with envy
---I still make mistakes, they can't.
Comparing day and night, so this is it.
Dream with waking, world and mind. Joy.
Composure, focus. the heart's levitation.
Bright thought smolder in dark walls.
So this is it. What we do not know.
We live in the abyss. In dark waters. In brightness.

                         --Adam Zagajewski, translated by Claire Cavanaugh, pp. 8-9.

I had decided on this poem (because of September; because of the spiders; because somehow it suited my mood) so now I have just looked up what poet died in the bombing of Lublin, to put in a link. It was the Polish poet, Jozef Czechowicz.  And found out more than that. Because after the bombing of the Lublin airfield in early September, 1939, the Nazis turned the airfield into one of their death camps.

This shows the perils in writing a blog post that is not completely researched and thought out before one starts. Sigh. But I have learned a lot, and perhaps how not to be so hasty or in a rush. Museumsinsel: here's one more thing I learned. 

Germany. Europe. Poland. Art. Mythology, and the human in myth. Another day tomorrow. I am thinking to find something somewhat less bleak. I have to admit though, that for people of my generation and the generation just before, that thoughts about World War II, and ideas related to those thoughts are always present with us. It is how we learned to think about the world.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

My Grandmother sings SWEET BIRD

This picture was taken by my mother at Grandma Susie's 90th birthday celebration. She is singing "Sweet Bird" her father's favorite song. When she was dying six years later, she said her father was coming to get her in the wagon. She used to ride on the wagon seat beside him. Since she lived in Arizona and I grew up in New York, I didn't know her very well. She had a dry, soft, powdery withered cheek that I was told by my mother to kiss. I didn't want to. Kids can be pretty stupid.

Probably because he got the Nobel Prize for poetry in 2011, a translation of Transtromer's long poem from 1974 Baltics has recently been published here in a bilingual edition with the Swedish on facing pages. It is in a handsome volume that includes many black and white photos taken on the island where his family's summer home has been for three generations. The photographer, Ann Charters, wrote the first biography of Jack Kerouac and also took many photographs of the beat generation. Her husband, Samuel Charters, has translated Transtromer for many years. The photos were taken on their visit to the island in 1973. I love this book! I like having the Swedish there to look at, I love the photographs; I love the size of the book and the smooth paper. Most of all I love the poem; it is generous enough to include many different kinds of things in the most elegant, free and thoughtful way. The passage I picked for you tonight is the one about the poet's grandmother on page 57.

"My grandmother's story before it's forgotten: her parents dying young,
the father first. When the widow realizes the disease will take her, too
she walks from house to house, sails from island to island
with .her daughter. "Who can take care of Maria?"
A strange house on the other side of the bay takes her in.
They could afford to do it. But the ones who could afford to do it
       weren't the good ones.
Piety's mask cracks. Maria's childhood ends too soon,
she's an unpaid servant, in perpetual coldness.
Year after year.Perpetually seasick behind the
long oars, the solemn terror
at the table, the expressions, the pike skin crunching
in her mouth: be grateful, be grateful.
                                                       She never looked back.
And because of this she could see The New
and seize it.
Break out of the bonds.

I remember her, I used to snuggle against her
and at the moment she died (the moment she passed over?) she
        sent out a thought
so that I, a five-year-old, understood what had happened
a half an hour before they called."

Tomas Transtomer, Baltics, Tavern Books, 2012, page 57.
Translated from the Swedish by Samuel Charters.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Waiting for autumn color

If you run in to the store to pick up milk, the clerk asks you, "Have you noticed the leaves are  changing?"  Or you might be filling your tank with expensive gas. . . In this climate, with all these sugar maples, watching and waiting for the leaves to turn is the common fare that binds us all together. This picture was taken in mid-October in 2007. We are planning to leave the week before that, so we might miss the best part, but are hoping for some good color anyway. You can always hope. Today we said goodbye to Jeff, the massage guy who works at the senior center here. We've gotten used to his therapeutic care.

Autumn always makes me think about haiku. The sort of melancholy that belongs naturally to autumn (decay, falling leaves, winds, winter coming, summer gone) also belongs naturally to haiku. Many of the great and famous haiku are about autumn,

     This road
no one goes down it,
     autumn evening

     You've heard monkeys crying--
listen to this child
     abandoned in the autumn wind

     This autumn---
why am I growing old?
     bird disappearing among clouds

     Deep autumn---
my neighbor,
     how does he live, I wonder?

These versions of haiku by Basho are all in the Basho section of The Essential Haiku; versions of Basho, Buson and Issa, by Robert Hass, W.W. Norton & Co., 1994.

I have been reading a little book about Issa that I got today and meant to talk about that haiku poet, but this is what happened. And I am yawning and off to bed early.
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Aunt Kim's Tacos with Sour Cream

 This is Logan, who paints, and who took an independent walk. Here he is enjoying sour cream during the same visit earlier this summer. I was looking through the photos for a handsome nature shot and was captured by this one. Which is kind of a handsome nature photo, if you think about it. At least, as his grandmother, I think so!

There is a bakery here that makes a round loaf with whole grains, pecans and whole sour pie cherries in it. All summer long, it sold out early in the day, and when we stopped by that day's baking was all gone. But now most of the Summer People have gone home. And this afternoon, there was plenty of cherry bread; I bought two loaves. I don't think that is why I am so tired tonight--I only ate two slices!

I got a book of poems today by an Oregon poet, Mark Thalman, whose work I was not familiar with, even though these poems have appeared in many literary magazines.

I was attracted to this one by the first line, and it's good all the way through. It is an example of a kind of poem I like, with many images taken from the natural world.


A deer wades in the shallows at dusk.
The lake is smooth and calm as a meditation.

Trout sporadically rise
taking flies, forming rings . . .

While evening dims, shadows
the size of a hand, flit across the surface.

Seizing insects, they dive in looping figure eights
or sliightly graze the water.

forming ripples, which blend
back into the transparent body

already turning a black sheen,
capturing stars, galaxies---

light from across the universe
before the Cascades existed.

from Catching the Limit, by Mark Thalman, Northwest Poetry Series, Fairweather Press, 2009, page 55.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Sunrise: they slip away into the wood

Early this morning before they left, they did a lot of gamboling or dancing in the dawnlight. It was very playful and spontaneous and went on for a long time. Just full of joyous play! It was thrilling to watch! Makes me want to stay here in Northern Michigan, but S pointed out they won't be dancing in the snow! True enough. I cannot get enough of Adam Zagajewski! Here's a life enhancing tree poem from Tremor.

In the Trees

In the trees, in the crowns of the trees, under rich
robes of leaves, under cassocks of splendor,
under the senses, under wings, under wands,
a peaceful, sleepy life is hiding in the trees,
it breathes, it circles, a sketch of eternity.
Kingdoms of plenty gather in the lecterns
of the oaks. Squirrels are running, motionless
as the little russet sunsets hidden
under eyelids. Invisible hostages
swarm under the husks of acorns.
Slaves bring in baskets of fruit and silver,
camels sway like an Arab scholar
over a manuscript, wells drink
water and vinegar, sour Europe
drips like the resins from cut wood. Vermeer paints
robes and a light that doesn't subside.
Thrushes are dancing under the circus tents.
Slowacki has moved to Paris already; he buys
and sells stocks fervently. A rich man
squeezes through a needle's eye,
he groans and moans, oh what pangs, Socrates
explains to prospectors of gold what
the lie is, what is right, what is virtue.
Oarsmen row slowly. Sailors sail
slowly. The survivors of the Warsaw
Uprising are drinking sweet tea. Their laundry
dries on the branches. Where is my country,
somebody asks in sleep. A green schooner
lies at rusty anchor. A choir of immortal
souls rehearses Bach cantatas, in complete silence.
Nearby, Captain Nemo takes his nap
on a narrow couch. A woodpecker cables
an urgent report on the capture of
Carthage and on the Boston Tea Party.
A weasel has no intention of changing
into Lady Macbeth, the the crowns of the trees
there are no qualms of conscience. Icarus
drowns serenely. God rewinds the reel. Punitive
expeditions return to the barracks. We shall live
long in the lines of the arabesque, in the hooting
of a tawny owl, in desires, in the echo which is
homeless, under rich robes of leaves,
in the crowns of the trees, in somebody's breath.

Adam Zagajewski translated from the Polish by Renata Gorczynski in Tremor, FSG, 1985, pp.17-18.

I love this poem for its breadth of natural imagery, cultural baggage (CaptainNemo!,) historical and artistic references, speed, jollity and merry language-play. The English version has great linebreaks, too, well worthy of study.

As for Slowacki, He's in Wikipedia, and if you click on the link in his article you can find out about the emigre job he had for an entity called Congress Poland, a sort of puppet state to the Russian Empire of which I had never heard and which maintained offices in Paris, where Slowacki lived as an emigre, having been forced to leave his homeland because of his political activity early in 1831. How the struggle for control of other people and resources repeats itself, over and over; at least that's how it seems to me.

Get a good rest, and get out in the woods as soon as you can! Love, June

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Photo Chart of Olga's Ancestors

A single click on this picture will enlarge it; otherwise it is pretty difficult to see.

That's my Mom on the left. It used to be the fashion, among Mormon genealogists, to create an 8 1/2 by 14 inch looseleaf book to keep track of the ancestors. Printed sheets were available to fill in with the names and dates. The slots were numbered and when you ran out of space, you took the last persons and started a numbered sheet for each of them. And so on. Our book was about three inches thick and also contained typescripts of pioneer reminiscences. Mom took the book apart later on for other projects, As you can guess, even from this chart, she usually kept working on things until neatness was lost.

This is a scan of a photocopy (I have no idea where the original is) of a picture chart that Mom made for our book. As you can see, there is only room for a few generations back on a page; in this case it correlates well with the birth of photography. The outline on the right was taken from a silhouette. And the guy under the silhouette is a photo of a statue! For some of these people, there is no extant likeness, or only this one. I would love to see copies of similar charts from other families, if you know of them. If you would be willing to share one with me, send me a message. I know at least one story about most of the people on this chart (just ask me!) and a photo or likeness is a really nice hook to hang one's information on.

There are no direct descendants of Edvard Grieg (although there are pictures in Wikipedia) since his only child died very young of meningitis. This poem is for anyone who loves his music! Or who loves poems that are funny and serious at the same time. From a poet who has been one of my top favorites for 30 years. They finally got around to giving Transtromer the Nobel Prize for Poetry in 2011!


I, Edvard Grieg, moved free among men.
I joked a lot, read the papers, often on tour.
I conducted the orchestra.
The auditorium and its lights shuddered with each triumph
                            like a train ferry pushing in to dock.

I have holed myself up here to butt heads with silence.
My work hut is small.
The grand piano fits as rubbing-tight in here as a swallow
                             under a roof shingle.

The steep and lovely mountain slopes are silent most of the time.
There is no path
but there is a wicket that sometimes opens
and a peculiar light leaks in directly from the trolls.


And hammer blows in the mountain came
came one spring night into our room
disguised as heartbeats.

The year before I die I shall send out four hymns
                              to track down God.
But it begins here.
A song about that which is near.

That which is near.

Battlegrounds within us
where we Bones of the Dead
fight to come alive.

Tomas Transtromer, translated from the Swedish by May Swenson with Leif Sjoberg  in Windows and Stones; Selected Poems, pages 29-30.

Try writing a poem in the voice of a musician. Since you will have to translate that into words, you will get a different kind of poem than if you wrote about a writer. Or you could write about Rebecca Thorne at the top right in the lovely frilly cap. The Bones of the dead will appreciate it.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Some days you just feel like this. New rules just went into effect here about the size of the antlers on bucks you are permitted to shoot during the upcoming hunting season. A buck must have at least four points on each side, so this guy might make it through another year. An exception to the rule is that hunters UNDER NINE YEARS OLD (with a hunting license can shoot any buck. The mind reels! I wonder how many kids have that kind of marksmanship or will be made party to a parental lie at the tagging station. Children are paying attention all the time.

I was reminded of this by a passage in an autobiographical work by Leslie Scalapino. I find her writings very interesting, but hard to take in large doses. In her work she is fragmented and jumpy, as if following the movements of a very speeded-up and hyper-alert consciousness. Because her other books were a slow slog for me, I was delighted to find Zither & Autobiography, published by Wesleyan University Press in 2003.
The book is in two parts, Zither, a long work in her characteristic manner and Autobiography, which makes a stab at prose that is easier to follow. Not terribly easy, just easier. Autobiography was written at the behest of Gale Research for use in a biographical encyclopedia. They paid $1000 and held it for six months before final rejection. Gale's Joyce Nakamura told her they would not publish it because, "It is too esoteric and not what our readers would expect. I mean, I can appreciate the stream-of-consciousness and all---but this is going to be in libraries!" Later, and then later in response to questions from another editor, Scalapino added other passages to the work. The part I chose for you was written in 1997 about a train journey with her parents through Taiwan (by my estimate in 1951.)


"In regard to laughing---crossing lush, green Taiwan in a train car seated together, my younger and older sister and I were singing [I was seven], Then I realized we were singing in public.

I was embarrassed but looking around I perceived that my mother (sometimes looking encouragingly or contentedly at us, pleased that we were happy) and the other adults in eyesight all of whom were Chinese didn't think this was unusual. That children sang in public.

The train, traveling through one village after another by rice fields so incredibly green that it is imprinted later on the retina 'as if' memory, then stopped for a long time by one small village. My older sister and I ran forward through the train cars. A six-year-old girl had been killed, run over by the train. Her arms and legs had been cut off and were lying beside the track.

The entire village of adults stood by the embankment all in a line shaking as bending appearing to be laughing because the gesture of laughing and weeping were the same.

Later, knowing it was manner of 'extreme' emotion of crying, I asked my father They were laughing? He said No, it appears to be the same but they were expressing grief. I took note interiorly later also that they were demonstrating strong emotion for a little girl. This indicated a difference between what people said occurs at all [in society] and what occurs in fact."
Leslie Scalapino, Autobiography & Zither, page 3.

My earliest childhood memory is standing up behind the seat just being able to see over the front seat of the car as we drove my mother's pumped breast milk to my premature baby sister in the hospital. (I was three and three-quarters) [Note: just now writing this, I got tangled in the syntax trying to include the information about prematurity without attaching it to the hospital. A rewrite solved it. Also, in my writing, I attempt to use the conventional tricks of commas, quotation marks and so forth. Typing this passage from Autobiography, I had to be very careful not to insert commas and "fix" places. The result is that I learned some things about written expression and about thought, especially the written expression of "child-thought"

I won't be able to ask Leslie, she died quite young, more than ten years younger than I am now, but on the evidence of her writing, she thought in this jumpy and hyper-intelligent fashion. It is something that I feel I would not be able to even imitate, but I find it extremely interesting. Does your wiriting reflect your day-thought, your dream-thought, or something else? So many things to think about while spinning the Memory Thread, Good Night! Sing in public, if you get the chance.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

My mother photographs a winter tree, circa 1954

Sometimes, back in the world of developed and printed pictures before he left home, my eldest son would flip through the 36 shots--flip, flip, flip-- saying, "Where are the people?" It has never occurred to me until recently that I might have learned most of my ideas about what it would be fun to photograph (No lining up, no saying "CHEESE" no bossiness from the photographer. Just take pictures of what IS and maybe move a little closer or to one side.)

This is is one of the windows that my mother made by accretion in a photo I took on a visit to Shaker Heights. Now I wish I had lined it up a little better. I just had a lot of my mother's slides scanned and I am very glad I did. This tree is one of them, but most of them DO have people.

Here in Northern Michigan, we had frost a couple of nights ago that turned the leaves of the tomato plants in daughter K's garden translucent.  And now the maple leaves are just beginning to turn. So it really is true: winter is coming..

As a Swedish poet and person, Tomas Transtromer is well acquainted with winter. He has also been on this blog before! This is because he is an essential poet for me. I was so glad when he got the Nobel Prize for poetry in 2011!


We are at a party that doesn't love us. Finally the party lets
the mask fall and show what it is: a shunting station for
freight cars. In the fog cold giants stand on their tracks. A
scribble of chalk on cardoors..
   One can't say it aloud but there is a lot of repressed
violence here. That is why the furnishings seem so heavy.
And why it is so difficult to see the other thing present: a
spot of sun that moves over the house walls and slips over
the unaware forest of flickering faces, a biblical saying
never set down: " Come unto me, for I am as full of
contradictions as you."
   I work the next morning somewhere else. I drive there in
a hum through the dawning hour which resembles a dark
blue cylinder. Orion hangs over the frost. Children stand
in a silent clump, waiting for the schoolbus, the children
no one prays for. The light grows as gradually as our hair.

Tomas Transtromer, translated by Robert Bly from Truth Barriers, Sierra Club Books, 1980, page 32.

The motion of this poem is astonishing and natural (at the same time) to me. It includes individual life and worries, concern for others, the natural world, the iron world of machinery and modern life and so much more. I love the unexpected and wonderful shifting here. Read it over again, out loud! And sleep well.

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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Coyote in the sun; Good Friday in the Métro

He spent a long time in the meadow Sunday, mostly lying down curled up in the sun. The lives of animals exist in parallel to our lives. In this case, even if this guy was sick or injured (and we rarely see them and never acting like this!) there was  nothing we could do about it. I am sure he wouldn't have just gotten in the car to go to the vet, who is closed on Sunday anyway. He seemed to be working on a spot on the front of his back--the fur looked wet and matted in the photos and he bent his head around repeatedly to lick or chew at it. Most of the rest of the time he just curled up in the warm sunlight. Every so often he would get up and turn around a few times and lie back down again. This is one of the only two pictures I got of him on his feet. We will wonder about him for a long time.

Here is more from Adam Zagajewski's Tremor.

Good Friday in the Tunnels of the Métro

Jews of various religions meet
in the tunnels of the Metro, rosary beads
spilled from someone's tender fingers.

Above them priests sleep after their Lenten supper,
above them the pyramids of synagogues and churches
stand like the rocks the glaciers left behind.

I listened to the St. Matthew's Passion,
which transforms pain into beauty,
I read the Death Fugue by Celan
transforming pain into beauty.

In the tunnels of the Métro no transformation of pain,
it is there, it persists and is keen.

                         Adam Zagajewski, translated from the Polish by Renata Gorczynski.
                                                   In Tremor, Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1985. Page25

I think my coyote is also in this poem. I love the way the text moves from small religious things to ritual to buildings to glacial rocks to the big questions concerning pain and art's healing, which is after all, not a solution. Well. I just love the movement of this 12-line poem.

When my brother was dying of cancer he listened to a Passion--I think it was this one---and he wrote me about it. That was many years ago now, but he is still my brother. I have three other brothers and some people don't have any, but he blessed my life in so many ways. He said everything is a poem -- it's all poetry, and I loved the way he explained that. He studied the way people talk to each other: once he spent a long time analyzing a short video of a mother and daughter talking while they loaded a dishwasher together. There was really a lot in it, like a very short play by a very sharp playwright. This made me very curious about the way people talk to each other. All talk is language play. Take a walk downtown and listen to people on the sidewalk, if you can. It's all poetry.  Sleep well.

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Tuesday, September 17, 2013


From The Nearsighted Naturalist by Ann Haymond Zinger, Univ of Arizona Press, 1998, page 168.

“My peace of mind comes from picking up pebbles. Some people fly-fish. Some people hang-glide. Some people do needlepoint, I pick up beach pebbles. Here most pebbles don't survive the battering to reach quail-egg size. Some of the most intriguing and colorful rocks don't smooth out into elegance. The grainy granules retain their rough grainy texture --- they don't give in to the water. I admire them for their recalcitrance alone.
Most pebbles show their best side, their promise of perfection on top, hiding their flaws in the sand. A good pebble collector becomes a cynic about surface perfection while retaining an eternal optimism that on this shore of trillions of pebbles, there is one perfect one. I, who am not foolish enough to ever buy a lottery ticket, will spend hours with far worse odds trying to find that perfection of pebble.
Asking me why I pick up river rocks or ocean pebbles is like asking me why I write natural history, I've picked up pebbles along the shorelines of Greece and the Green River of Utah, the Jersey Islands and Saint-Malo, the outer banks of North Carolina and the San Juan River of the Southwest, for pursuing and perusing pebbles gives me pleasure. They are reminders of a natural world that grinds everything down to size. Some the sea shatters and breaks, some it makes beautiful, some it just gives up on. There is an aesthetic pleasure here, and an athletic one in bending and stretching; an intellectual pleasure in trying to figure out the physics of pebbles, the puzzles of tides, the working out of a pebbled set of values that depends upon rock and place and time.
While I pace the beach, I feel the worry seep out of my shoulders.”

Long ago, I took the picture above when both of my grandsons were still living at home. We spent several hours at the Thorne Swift Nature Preserve on Lake Michigan. The water-worn rocks here are very varied in color, size and shape. 
Ann Zinger is a naturalist and nature artist. She has written many books, and all of them are a delight to read. I am particularly fond of Run, River, Run: A Naturalist's Journey Down One of the Great Rivers of the West. This book is about the Green River and pretty much contains everything you could learn about this important Western stream.And you won't want to miss her Downcanyon: A Naturalist Explores the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Both of these are what I call "penny books" --meaning that used copies on Amazon are available for 1 cent plus shipping, which is $3.98. And they are widely available from libraries, too. If you like natural history, Zwinger is very enjoyable reading, a great mix of science, art and personal impressions.
In the poetry zone, I got another copy of Tremor, by Adam Zagajewski, (1985) which is holding its place as one of my all time favorite books of poems! I must report that it is not a "penny book" though--I got one at a decent price and it came in the mail today. I have just reread it, all of it. Do you prefer an 80 page book of poetry by a single poet, as I do?? This one is just about perfect and contains some of my all-time favorites like "Franz Schubert: a press conference." One thing I had forgotten though, is how much of the natural world,--flowing water, verdure and singing birds--is in almost every poem.

Here is just a short taste, from page 19; there will be more in the coming days:

A River

Poems from poems, songs
from songs, paintings from paintings,
always this friendly
impregnation. On the other bank 
of the river, within range of being,
soldiers are marching. A black army,
a red army, a green army,
the iron rainbow. In between, smooth
water, an indifferent wave.

These poems were translated from the Polish by Renata Gorczynski, who has done a terrific job of making them flow so naturally in English. In the preface Czeslaw Milosz says of Zagajewski, "His poems have been acquiring a more and more sumptuous texture, and now he appears to me as a skillful weaver whose work is not unlike Gobelin tapestries where trees, flowers and human figures coexist in the same pattern. That rich and complex world re-created and transformed by art is for him not a place of escape. On the contrary, it is related in a peculiar way to the crude reality of our century, even if it is on the other side of "smooth water, an indifferent wave." "

And now we are in a new  century, but crude realities persist. And birds still sing. Good night!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Rocky Shore, Sturgeon Bay

"The journey of the rock is never ended. In every tiny part of any living thing are materials that once were rock that turned to soil. These minerals are drawn out of the soil by plant roots and the plants used them to build leaves, stems, flowers and fruits. Plants are eaten by animals. In our blood is iron from plants that draw it out of the soil. Your teeth and bones were once coral. The water you drink has been in clouds over the mountains of Asia and in waterfalls of Africa. The air you breathe has swirled thru places of the earth that no one has ever seen. Every bit of you is a bit of the earth and has been on many strange and wonderful journeys over countless millions of years. So---here we go. Maybe as rocks and I pass each other I could say how-do-you-do to an agate."

From "Lake Superior Country; Vacation Trip '66" in Lake Superior; Lorine Niedecker's poem and journal, along with other sources, documents and readings by Lorine Niedecker, Wave Books, 2013. Page 7.

This slender book is a knockout! In less than 91 pages printed on quality creamy paper, we get a whole project of Niedecker's surrounding a trip around Lake Superior she took with her husband in 1966. Included are her 6-page poem "Lake Superior", the journal she kept in typescript of her trip, letters to Cid Corman, an essay on her work, a section from Schoolcraft and one from the WPA guide to Wisconsin, writings of the 17th century explorer Radisson, ans a piece by Aldo Leopold on a monument to the passenger pigeon. But I guess that the thing that was most unexpected and that pleased me utterly was a section of Basho's Back Roads to Far Towns as translated by Cid Corman. What a treat to find Basho here!
Also included are facsimiles of some of her notes and typescripts;

This book came out just this year and is available from Amazon for a reasonable price. I am very glad to have found it. It makes me want to go back to a project of my own on the history of the Franklin Expedition. It is pleasant and enlightening to spend time with history, particularly because recent events are so tangled and unpleasant. Perhaps it may also give us a new perspective. Niedecker's life was very circumscribed and male-dominated--although in many ways she was also fiercely independent. The excellent biography of LN by Margot Peters was published in 2011 and makes fascinating reading.

 I guess I need to look up Radisson; up to now, he was only a hotel chain. Wow! He was captured by Mohawks! He learned to speak their language. Another Indian Captivity! One of the first books I remember reading was an Indian Captivity story called The White Indian Boy. I was eleven years old. I started reading it when I was babysitting for Joan Leigh, and she gave the book to me. I still have it. I've been interested in these stories ever since. And so to bed.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Another step

Recently I got a most pleasant surprise. In an envelope with several different beautiful Japanese stamps came  a lovely slender book printed in creamy paper. It has a pale blue, textured cover titled in both English and Japanese: An Introduction to Haibun with a translation of Kurita Chodo's Tsukiyo soshi. I had company and was busy so I had to set it aside, I am ashamed to report that I never yet sent my thank-you note to Mrs' Minako Noma, the haiku writer. That's for tomorrow.

Opening the book, past the two beautiful flyleaf papers, I found color photos of the moon over Matsuyama Castle; The inspiration behind this book, Mrs. Noma, lives in Matsuyama and was so wonderful to us when we were there on our haiku trips. Translated, the book by Kurita Chodo (1749-1814) is called Sketches of Moonlit Nights. It is a group of haibun on the different manifestations of the moon. Haibun are short, evocative prose pieces with haiku. The most famous ones are Basho's travel journals. Kurita Chodo was also a Matsuyama poet. The book also includes a chronology of his life, and other interesting information about him, as well as brush painted illustrations and a history of how the translation came to be. This book was a real treat! As soon as I began to really look at it, I read it all. I hope that sometime, you, too, will get such a nice, unexpected surprise in the mail!

Because it is autumn, I have chosen this haibun (page 13) from the book to share with you: This poet reminds me of Sei Shonagon in the use of "delightul", and his general attitude.

The Waxing Moon

By the seventh and eighth days, the moon takes on a lovely shape.
As people come and go along a broad street, they may look familiar,
but it is difficult to know for sure. How delightful it is to exchange
glances for no reason at all. At this time, the moon hidden behind
pine needles is especially wonderful.

going out in autumn
it always seems to be
a moonlit night

Haibun is a wonderful form. The best ones have different, yet subtly related matters in the prose passage and in the poem. Try doing this, you will surprise yourself! Sleep well, under the moon's motion.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness

The way I remembered the first line was "yellow" fruitfulness. But somehow it wasn't mellow enough and something was troubling me. Here we go. It really is autumnal now and we have this heavy mist almost every morning. This is the view looking south from the house. It's an iPhone panorama of shots stitched together. This is the teensy version that Blogger displays. A single click on the picture should make it bigger.

Summer went so fast! So it really is autumn now! Today is my birthday; my granddaughter phoned and sang the Happy Birthday song to me. She is making a diorama about the Miwok Indians for school.

So here's the poem, by great and well-loved poet John Keats. Mellow instead of yellow.

Ode To Autumn
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
Steady thy laden head across a brook;
Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river sallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

John Keats, circa

Friday, September 13, 2013

Her slender beauty and grace

In a book about the life of the whiltetail deer, I read that females can become pregnant in their first year--as early as nine months old! How amazing is that? This one brought her children here today to browse and I took this portrait through the window. She's been here before; I recognize the dark spots on her front.
I've been picking up and putting away books, magazines and papers; I need to get things done before we leave after the leaves turn. Today I found Mariposa 16, Spring-Summer 2007, the membership journal of the Haiku Poets of Northern California. I'm a proud member.

One of our haiku friends was Paul O. Williiams, who died in 2009. His haiku and his thinking about this form were very special, so I was delighted to find that I had marked this haibun in the Mariposa 16.

The Singularity of Haiku

Paul O. Williams

    One of the most endearing things about haiku to me is its difference from pop culture. We arae being told endlessly of the vast importance of the celebs. We are supposed to know what is the latest with Jessica and J. Lo, to worry about Brad Pitt's latest attractions. The newspapers often confuse these non-events with real news. They even report the latest twists in the soap plots.
     Fortunately for haiku, it is very much a non-pop art. No haiku poet will even become a Liz Taylor, or an Andy Warhol, nor will his or her work ever draw the adulation of a Britney Spears. And that, of course, is good. The poems must be taken singly, turned in the mind until they burst open with meaning. The meaning each haiku gives us has nothing to do with the mass of thought. It is totally singular, It appeals to one mind at a time, even in a room of listeners.
Beyond that, it appeals often only to the mind of its creator. The poems are so individual that an experience of one person can mean important things to that poet, but lie like a wet pancake on the minds of others. That doesn't really, really matter. Why? Because the truly important thing about the poem is writing it--- thinking it and writing it, not necessarily presenting it to another person. One hopes, of course, it is a pleasure to both. But nonetheless, the truly important thing about poems is the doing of them. Never forget that. That is where the poems are individually, singularly experienced at their most intense.

                                     this one mockingbird
                                     today on my chimney, singing
                                     spring's perfect song

                                                  * * *

Thinking about this, I find I agree with most of it, but I am not sure that everyone will feel the same. I also think that "the truly important thing about poems is the doing of them."  Perhaps you will agree. It is interesting to think about. I still miss Paul's laughter, humor and incisive mind. 

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Storm Rising

And a poem by Denise Levertov.

Crackle and flash almost in the kitchen sink---the
thunderclap follows even as I
jump back frightened,
afraid to touch metal---

                           The roofgutters pouring down
                            whole rivers, making holes in the earth---
         The electric bulbs fade and go out,
                another thin crackling lights the window
         and in the instant before the next onslaught of kettledrums

a small bird, I don't know its name,
among the seagreen tossed leaves
                                                    begins its song.

From Denise Levertov; Poems 1968-1972, New Directions, 1987, page 69.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013


This is yesterday's goldenrod that I planned for last night! We will try something besides Centurylink next year in hopes of a more reliable Internet connection, A local provider has put up a tower for wireless transmission and I understand it is working quite well.

And here, slightly out of sequence is the poem I picked last night to go with these late summer flowers.

Summer Solstice

                                             from Osip Mandelstam

Orioles live in the elms, and in classical verse

the length of the vowels alone determines the measure.

Once and once only a year nature knows quantity

stretched to the limit, as in Homer's meter.

O this is a day that yawns like a caesura:

serene from the start, almost painfully slowed.

Oxen browse in the field, and a golden languor

keeps me from drawing a rich, whole note from my reed.

                               ----Stanley Kunitz

From Passing Through by Stanley Kunitz, W.W. Norton, 1995, page 35.

Passing Through contains another translation by Kunitz of a longer poem by the great Russian poet Mandelstam. If you haven't read the two volumes of memoir and history by his widow, Nadezhda Mandelstam, plan to do so, The titles are Hope Against Hope and Hope Abandoned. You get a good sense of Soviet Russia and that whole period of time from them, as well as an introduction to an important and fruitful period in world literature.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Green pants, a flowered top

Internet seems broken. Your job is to write something based on Savana's drawing. Posted by PicasaSent from phone,

Monday, September 09, 2013

Sunlight caught in a web

This little web was shining in the middle of the dark woods near Sturgeon Bay. Each of us is spinning a little web somewhere, and things might come out well for the spider, or for us, but nothing is certain.

A few days ago, Amazon suggested the book String of Beads; complete poems of Princess Shikishi; trnaslated by Hiroaki Sato; University of Hawaii Press, 1993, to me on the basis of other books I have bought. Since I have the greatest respect for Professor Sato, and I really don't know much about tanka (except that many of my friends are very enthusiastic about it---for instance Mariko Kitakubo will soon give her 100th tanka reading in Paris wearing a stunning kimono, I am sure,---how fabulouly elegant is that? I bought the book and it came this morning. The translated tanka are also given in Romaji (so we can get a sense of the sound) and printed as one-line poems, but the Japanese characters are not included.

These tanka are limpid and beautiful. It is possible, of course, to get tired of that convention about crying into your sleeves, but I can overlook that in this case. Here is probably her most well-known poem:

String of beads, if you must break, break; if you last longer, my endurance is sure to weaken. (page 13)

There are three sets of one hundred tanka, arranged by topic, beginning with the seasons. All of her other known tanka are included in the final section. It is really wonderful to think how long people have been reading and reciting these poems, many of which have been included in the various imperial anthologies of Japanese poems, since her death date in the year 1201. Really, 1201!!!

Here are some of my other favorites:

Did I think I'd grow used to living it in, in Fushimi at dusk, in pine winds, this hut  (p. 49)

Grass pillow: over the dewdrops lodged fleetingly lightning at dusk gleams intermittent (p. 61)

The voices of insects and the deer by the fence, as one, disturb me to tears this autumn dusk  (p. 61)

A dew-soaked field was affecting enough I thought, but insects visit me this autumn dusk (p. 62)

The strategies the translator has used sometimes result in English that sounds just a little strange, or foreign. I find these very interesting instead of infelicitous. I think there is something be be learned by bringing this sort of strangeness sometimes into our own work. I chose the above examples because they touched me and not for these ideas. But is do find, for instance, "at dusk, in pine winds, this hut" to be a very interesting model. I also find "intermittently" to be a cumbersome word and rather like the effect of shortening it here.

You might think about writing some tanka, short poems --in one line as here, or arranged in 5 lines and containing no more than 31 syllables.

Syllabics! Now that's a topic for another evening!!! Good night!

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Curve of the Water at Sturgeon Bay, Lake Michigan

Sometime in the early 1980s, when Hilda Morley came to read her poetry in San Jose, she wanted to see the ocean, so D and I took her to the Monterey Bay beach near Moss Landing. I wish I had written about it afterwards, because now I have forgotten almost everything about this jaunt except her tiny person, her good-quality raincoat and her love for Stefan Wolpe, her dead husband. And a sort of fierce, faded, unwillingly quiescent air she seemed to me to have. I bought her books, and she signed them, but they are in California and I am here near Lake Michigan, and must make do with the nice selection found in Postmodern American Poetry, pages 51-55.

Curve of the Water

To make that curve of the water
live---  to make it so,  extended
into space wholly its own
                                         & the rocks
part of the curve and therefore
grown into the hillside
                                    & where the water is
green unexpectedly,
                                 it is
the source of all other greens,
                                                it is
of a green not leaf---not moss-green,
                                                           not even
green of the bracken    but contains them: is
the well out of which they come,    to which they also
return---is their harbor.
                                      The flame-oranges,
the reds, dark fires,
                                the burnt out
red siennas,    thinned out yellow mirrors
of each other,
                         they flare up now
out of whatever it is,    even on
the blue water     the blueness of it.
                                                     They are there to
be the not-expected,
                                     what is as variance to
what we know.
                        We see them but
they are not held as seen, not kept there
behind the eyes,    never wholly
                     as if a bird's wing had
flashed sideways
                           in the sunlight
to prove us earthbound
                                   (our slowness
itself impossible
to hold.

                              ---Hilda Morley, 1988

Examine this poem and its use of space, the predictable and unpredictable strategies of spacing, the two ampersands and half-set of parentheses. Note also the loving and specific use of colors (Morley was a friend of many painters.)  This is not a poem in stanzas, but it flows through space in a set of mini-stanza-like ways. When I was first writing poetry, I spread out some of my poems like this (I was somewhat challenged by my dot-matrix printer!) and Bob Hass said maybe I should stick to the left margin for a while. It has been a while and then some. Tonight I want to try moving around the page.

                                                                    Get your feet wet!

Literary biography reading note: Finally got back to Blake Bailey's book: Cheever; a life.  It's a heavy tome; Cheever is mainly irritating, and often pitiable, in an irritating sort of way. I am two-thirds of the way through, and it is like a bad investment, you hang on because you have already spent so much energy on it. S is listening on Audible and we get to talk about it and that is nice. When I finish this, I'll go back to Cheever's very interesting, splenetic diaries. Think I'll have time to do any writing myself??? Sleep well.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Winged cloud

I got lucky this morning, took a bunch of pictures of the sun coming up. Then I used an iPhone app called Autostitch to blend them into one big view. (A single click on the picture will enlarge it -- in this case, it is worth doing. WHINE: the pictures on Blogger are too small . . .) One is supposed to crop the result back into a rectangular photo-shape, but I LOVE it this way! It reminds me of an angel, as in Messiah, "At the last trummm-pet!" I think it would have looked just fine painted on a Renaissance ceiling.

As it happens, tonight's poem is also about art. It is from the first edition of the book, Postmodern American Poetry; a Norton Anthology edited by Paul Hoover, which has more good stuff in it than you might guess from the title. About 40 years of unstuffy poetry from the likes of Kerouac, Denise Levertov, Ginsberg, John Cage, Leslie Scalapino, Hilda Morley and so forth. Mine is the older edition, but a revised one has just been released and well-reviewed.

Why I Am Not a Painter

I am not a painter, I am a poet.
Why? I think I would rather be
a painter, but I am not. Well,

 for instance, Mike Goldberg
is starting a painting. I drop in.
"Sit down and have a drink" he
says. I drink; we drink. I look
up. "You have SARDINES in it."
"Yes, it needed something there."
"Oh." I go and the days go by
and I drop in again. The painting
is going on, and I go, and the days
go by. I drop in. The painting
is finished. "Where's SARDINES?"
All that's left is just
letters, "It was too much," Mike says.

But me? One day I am thinking of
a color: orange. I write a line
about orange. Pretty soon it is a
 whole page of words, not lines.
Then another page. There should be
so much more, not of orange, of
words, of how terrible orange is
and life. Days go by. It is even in
prose, I am a real poet. My poem
is finished and I haven't mentioned
orange yet. It's twelve poems, I call
it ORANGES. And one day in a gallery
I see Mike's painting, called SARDINES.

Frank O"Hara  (1971) pages 129-130 of.Postmodern American Poetry  Norton, 1994.

I would like to call attention to the way the lines end and begin in this poem. Read it out loud and make a conscious pause at the end of each line, Feel the little jolt as the new line is sort of torn loose from the previous line, separating words that--were the prose version broken into sense-chunks--would remain together. A phrase like, "I am thinking of a color" gains energy somehow by being interrupted in this way. This strategy is used throughout this poem,

"All that's left is just

The word letters gets that little extra JOLT from the linebreak here. And so on. (When I talk like this in the blog, I  am talking to myself as much as to you, fellow poet and friend.) I think the study of poetry is terribly, terribly interesting.

Sleep well, and try to catch tomorrow's sunrise, wherever you find yourself.

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Friday, September 06, 2013

The Red Geranium

I love the touches of bright pink in this flower in bright light. This is the plant that started my porch flower extravaganza this year. It has a name : Viva Big Red" and according to the tag, a true red geranium long served as a holy grail among breeders, because all the red geraniums were polluted with orange. Not this baby!

S is just reading this weeks blog posts and found several typos, mostly in the poems. I have corrected them now. Apologies.

I was reading again tonight in Next-to-Last Things by Stanley Kunitz. [Used copies of the paperback if Next-to-Last Things fall apart in your hand because the glue has failed; just put a rubber band around it and keep on reading! "My Mother's Story is riveting!] In the included Paris Review Interview (DID YOU KNOW THAT ALL THE PARIS REVIEW INTERVIEWS ARE AVAILABLE FOR FREE ON THE INTERNET??? IT IS A FEAST!) he discusses the composition of his poem "King of the River" so I went in search of that poem, which first appeared in the Atlantic Monthly in the July, 1970 issue. It's a spectacular poem! Try reading it aloud!

King of the River

If the water were clear enough,
if the water were still,
but the water is not clear,
the water is not still,
you would see yourself,
slipped out of your skin,
nosing upstream,
slapping, thrashing,
over the rocks
till you paint them
with your belly's blood:
Finned Ego,
yard of muscle that coils,

If the knowledge were given you,
but it is not given,
for the membrane is clouded
with self-deceptions
and the iridescent image swims
through a mirror that flows,
you would surprise yourself
in that other flesh
heavy with milt,
bruised, battering toward the dam
that lips the orgiastic pool.

Come. Bathe in these waters.
Increase and die.

If the power were granted you
to break out of your cells,
but the imagination fails
and the doors of the senses close
on the child within,
you would dare to be changed,
as you are changing now,
into the shape you dread
beyond the merely human.
A dry fire eats you.
Fat drips from your bones.
The flutes of your gills discolor.
You have become a ship for parasites.
The great clock of your life
is slowing down,
and the small clocks run wild.
For this you were born.
You have cried to the wind
and heard the wind's reply:
"I did not choose the way,
the way chose me."
You have tasted the fire on your tongue
till it is swollen black
with a prophetic joy:
"Burn with me!
The only music is time,
the only dance is love."

If the heart were pure enough,
but it is not pure,
you would admit
That nothing compels you
any more, nothing
at all abides,
but nostalgia and desire,
the two-way ladder
between heaven and hell.
On the threshold
of the last mystery,
at the brute absolute hour,
you have looked into the eyes
of your creature self,
which are glazed with madness,
and you say
he is not broken but endures,
limber and firm
in the state of his shining,
forever inheriting his salt kingdom,
from which he is banished

---Stanley Kunitz

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Last of This Year's Daylilies in Black and White

This flower is yellow-orange, but you cannot see its color now. Likewise you cannot see, in the few cobbles along the bottom and the left edge of the photo, that summer S finished stone-edged beds for flowers around our home here near the wood..
He had to sit on a low stool to work at it and he wound up hurting his back. When we ran out of stone, our daughter would bring us cobbles from her stone-pile in the bucket of her small tractor. We bought the lilies from the nursery that grows great beds of them that you can see from the highway. The nurseryman also posts Christian messages on a signboard by the road. The people that work there are very nice; they help you pick out just the right colors and types to extend the blooming season. For me--all of this is in that photo--along with the blacks and the whites.

I met the poet Carol Snow at a writer's workshop taught by Leslie Scalapino. (This photo was taken at that time.) Here is a poem from Carol's first book, FOR, University of California Press, 2000. I have seen this pool and these fish, but my poem would have been completely different, as would yours,---should you have written one. You can also sense just how much felt life and thought went into the making and contemplation of this pond.



by the pond, the immediate---
breath---and then the text, and then the pond.


Thought, an intermediate

murmuring---which would be sound (which displaces
sound) but accompanies



watching the goldfish

(why)---the body passive,
small eye movements (as though in a dream)


Quiet breaths

in a still place. "Each next"
taking up a little of the spill.



thoughts, gone.

                      And the varied
sights, intimate
with these thoughts---

(Carol Snow, from FOR, pages 39-40)

Look at all the glorious space in this poem! Look at the arrangement, the asterisks and punctuation. Then go sit somewhere quiet in your yard or womwhere else with special resonance for you, and write something, perhaps even a haiku. Good night.
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Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Dark Postcard of Porch Flowers

Tonight's poem is by Michael Ondaatje. It's in his book of wonderful stuff called The Cinnamon Peeler, which came out in 1991, a year before his novel The English Patient made him much more famous. His memoir Running in the Family has long been one of my favorites in that genre. Here's the poem:


the peacock means order
the fighting kangaroos meant madness
the oasis means I have struck water

positioning of the stamp -- the despot's head
horizontal, or 'mounted policemen'.
mean political danger

the false date means I
am not where I should be

when I speak of the weather
I mean business

a blank postcard says
I am in the wilderness

Michael Ondaatje, The Cinnamon Peeler, Vintage Books, 1991, page 168.

I have been thinking a lot about mail: the real kind with a stamp on it, that you can crush in your hand, answer with mail of your own, put in an album, burn, deface or tie into a packet with colored ribbon, or just some silly old used string. I have made many cards and postcards with my photos, but I rarely send one now. Just yesterday I found a packet of stamps that I had mislaid and this enables me to create and send mail virtually without cost, since I have all the supplies ready to hand. But lately this isn't really that much fun since one often gets no reply. I joined an art postcard swap a couple of years ago, and enjoyed it, but . . . there was a quality of coercion to it, sort of like a daily walk for exercise if you know what I mean.

Speaking of daily walks, I slept very well last night after my long walk at Sturgeon Bay. I was pretty slow on that walk and know I should walk more. We shall see. . .


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Tuesday, September 03, 2013

At Sturgeon Bay, grasses cast shadows

Went with the Petoskey Regional Audubon Society to the wild and beautiful Sturgeon Bay in Wilderness State Park. The first part was on a trail through forest that went up hill and down dale. We didn't really see many birds (spring is better for birding here) but it was a beautiful day and a longer walk that I am used to. I took a different camera and found out the that the autofocus is not as good as what I am used to on the small Lumix. There were also many autumn wildflowers in bloom on the beach.

Like these; aren't they sweet? Don't ask me the name yet, because I was usually so far behind the rest of them, that I didn't get the benefit of the flower-book ladies who were naming them for us.
And here is a view of the Bay.
I had a glorious time and now go to bed early.  Good night!Posted by Picasa

Monday, September 02, 2013

Foretaste of Winter

Did I surprise you? When I get back to my ducks (these were waiting for a cracked corn handout last January) I will have to leave behind my glorious porch display of potted everything. A local grocery store has been tempting me with just one or two pots among the chrysanthemums in front of the store. I was so pleased with the variety of the first one, that if they have another one I get it it almost every time I go. I have a fantasy that there is a lunatic somewhere in a greenhouse just sticking plants in and fertilizing them like crazy. They are blowsy and almost bursting from the pots. Some of the plants are ivy geraniums, fibrous begonias in white, pink and red, lantana, white snapdragons, a tiny white pointed flower I do not know, angel-wing begonia, and a very rich wine-colored plant with maple shaped leaves. All are well grown, and I can only call them juicy. I am made happy every time I look at them. I long for my own greenhouse!

That was a tangent I didn't know I'd take or make. Idiom? And I just went out and took some iPhone snaps of these flowers under the porch light. Not bad, considering it is night.

Meanwhile, Metropolitan Opera Radio is playing once again the slightly frenetic Marriage of Figaro. This pretty music always makes me feel as if I were too sedentary. . . or they were too frantic.
Meanwhile back at the Poetry Ranch: tonight's poem is by the German poet Ingeborg Bachmann, translated by Mark Anderson, and has BOTH music and flowers.


Wherever we turn in the storm of roses
thorns illuminate the night. And the thunder
of a thousand leaves, once so quiet on the bushes,
is right at our heels.

Wherever the roses' fire is put out,
rain washes us into the river. Oh, distant night!
Yet a leaf that touched us now floats on the waves,
following us to the sea.

From The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry, edited by J. D. McClatchy, Vintage Books, 1996, page 124.