Thursday, April 30, 2015

David's Portrait

Here, in another one of my mother Olga's scanned slides, 
beloved family friend Burns Hansen takes a portrait of my brother, David. 
Burns and Evelynn have already moved back West, but sometimes 
he comes back to GE in Schenectady on business and visits us. 
This picture was taken at the white corner of the house on The Farm.
If the yellow is forsythia, it is springtime. David was born in 1944, so
this would date about the mid-fifties. I remember well
those all-purpose, adjustable military style belts the boys wore.

Answer the Phone

Before telephones the dead sent letters
sheets of tissue so thin

a hand passed through them like smoke.
They dried the tongue like warm red wine,

glittered our dreams into fragments.

Now the dead use the phone like everyone else;
they ring once and wait. We press the receiver

to our ears, hear the long static hum,

faint clicks and breaths,
explanations and descriptions. They want one

thing only, to tell us what they saw
when one light went out

and another turned on. We want to
show them the pictures we've taken

since they left us: that cathedral in central Europe;
the jellyfish at a California aquarium.

We forget what we need to tell the dead
as we rush too quickly from sleep.

Their letters stopped coming years ago.

We wait by the phone.

Erica Goss

Wild Place; poems by Erica Goss 
Finishing Line Press, Georgetown, Kentucky, 2012, page 4.

Looking at these slides to find those I want to share on this blog has made me think of the dead more often. Burns has been gone for quite some time. I would phone him if I could! His wife, Evelynn, told me that he saved the copy of my poem I had sent him (see link above) in a small box of his treasured things. I just talked to David yesterday!

Erica Goss is the Poet Laureate of Los Gatos, near my home in California. I think this is her first book, but she has won many awards and published poems in many different places. I have been wondering: If I had written this poem, would I have tried to have it all, or mostly, in couplets? What do you think??

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Earthbound Farm$ $urpri$e!

 It started out as a pretty ordinarily dull day with a visit to the excellent Dr. Williams 
to take out the single tiny stitch from S's cataract operation one week ago. 
Then it got better with a visit to Baja Fresh for a cheese quesadilla  
and a Grilled Shrimp Chile Lime Salad. And some Guacamole, of course.
Just before we got home, S suggested we make an unscheduled stop 
at Albertson's for some sourdough bread.
The huge display of hanging flower baskets on the way in was irresistible, 
but I did resist. Inside the store, I passed the rows of luxury items and selected 
cheese balls, avocados, big ripe tomatoes, raspberries in a tiny plastic box, corn on the cob, 
vegetable sushi, cashews. I didn't buy everything I noticed; I did curb myself some. 
Then I asked the price ($24.95) and went back outside and selected a huge hanging basket.
Meanwhile, S was on one of those riding carts getting orange juice and soy milk 
and his favorite sliced havarti cheese. Back inside, when I still couldn't find him 
I noticed a pot of red and yellow tulips in bloom. While I was fitting them into my basket,
another shopper asked me what this white-flowered plant was. 
The tag read Starburst Hydrangea
I had never seen one and bought it. Very pretty.
Just as we got to the checkstand, a young woman and a smiling fellow intercepted us
and told us that we had been selected for an Earthbound Farms promotion:
What would we think, they asked, if we said we would like to pay for your groceries?
We would be slightly embarrassed, but we would let them. 
They added their Earthbound Farms Spring Mix  and Baby Spinach, 
and the nice reusable shopping bag that appears in the photo above 
with the Starburst Hydrangea and the Spring Mix.
The bill was a little over $165. Some sourdough bread stop!
I am still a little embarrassed, but smiling.
I promised I'd put them on Facebook!

EarthBound Farms is an organic outfit; I wish we had 
more of these. And, they have made a friend for life
And here is the Starburst Hydrangea. looking from above.
Tomorrow I'll probably show you the tulips.


I have absolutely no memory of driving this tractor! But there I am in my favorite plaid shirt. 
Mom is taking the picture; that's her shadow in the lower left. Dad is in front of the car. 
Susan stands tall on top of the bales and Richard is there, too. Marjory is walking toward Mom 
in a little red sweater. Robert, Richard and John are on the trailer of hay behind the car. 
We are all together in the golden past.


On an early summer's day the clover blossoms
silently received the bumblebee on a farewell party.
It is done with dignity
and the bumblebee says thank you for everything that has passed.

Across fields waiting for their moment
the melodious voices of children follow the wind
as when a psalm is sung.

The cuckoo is now silent,
It was heard further and further away each day.
Towards the end it sounded like a church bell.

Harry Martinson
Translated by Lars Nordstrom

The Procession of Memories; selected poems 1929-1945,
Wordcraft of Oregon, 2009, page 111.

In my quest for more Swedish poetry because I love Transtromer so much, I found Harry Martinson.
He is recommended by Robert Bly and was the recipient of a shared Nobel Prize (with Eyvind Johnson)  in 1974. This volume contains previously untranslated poems. You will be delighted to learn that the Swedish for "church bell" is kyrkklocka!"

Last night the Internet was broken; this is a makeup post.

Monday, April 27, 2015

The Footsteps of Morning

Thinking about dawn tonight; I have many more photos of sunsets because I usually sleep late.
This was years ago as the sun come up over Lake Michigan at the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
I need to check out the dawn here at the Little Union Canal.

I have been looking again into Poet's Choice; poems for everyday life, 
selected and annotated by Robert Hass, Ecco, 1998.
Which led me to the transcriptions by Frances Densmore of Chippewa songs.
This one on page 100 is a current favorite.


The magpie! The magpie! Here underneath
in the white of his wings are the footsteps of morning.
It dawns! It dawns!

Frances Densmore also made notations of the music of these Native American songs. 
I wish I could hear them.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

April Sun on Young Fig Leaves

I have been wondering about my garden in the drought, since I am not there to see
the new leaves of the fig in springtime. This is how they were last April in bright sunlight.


The year's first poem done,
with smug self confidence
a haikai poet.

Longer has become the daytime;
a pheasant is fluttering
down onto the bridge.

The haiku post Buson also wrote longer poems. I don't know the source of this one or the translator.
But tonight it pleases me. Instead of a pheasant, I had a quail on the porch railing today. The grasses and the birds are waking up and the iris are budding beside the Little Union Canal.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

In another autumn

My brother Robert and my sister, Marjory gather autumn leaves in the mid-1950s 
at The Farm, on one of my mother's slides. We always enjoyed the bright autumn leaves. 
When we lived in Scotia, I remember my mother melting blocks of paraffin 
in a skillet and dipping in the brightest leaves to coat them with wax. 
Then Mom made arrangements with the orange bittersweet berries 
that grew beside the porch. How well I remember these striped T-shirts
that passed down from one brother to another. 
And how difficult it was to cut little blonde bangs as straight as this.

drawing near them
a sudden loneliness...
autumn leaves

translated by David Lanoue

Friday, April 24, 2015

Each Minute

                                                  photo by Olga Butler Hopper
We are at The Farm in Rexford. I am packing to leave New York State 
and attend the University of Arizona, a two-day train-ride away. 
In the heat of an August afternoon in 1953, my littlest sister is trying to figure things out. 
The striped suitcase in the foreground was my mother's and has her initials O.B. on it; 
I will never give it back, My outfit is a "squaw skirt," 
 (Note:apparently, one can still get squaw skirts on Etsy!)
 three tiers of gathers on a waistband,
 and a blouse I made to wear with it of black fabric 
and some of the dark-pink-flowered skirt fabric with a black ground.
I am wearing the first prescription sunglasses I ever owned;
my mother knew I would need them in Arizona.
I think we have just been outside for Mom to photograph me in this outfit;
she shot three rolls of film, because, she said, "You will never be the same." 


The fire in leaf and grass
so green it seems
each summer the last summer.

The wind blowing, the leaves
shivering in the sun,
each day the last day.

A red salamander
so cold and so
easy to catch, dreamily

moves his delicate feet
and long tail. I hold 
my hand open for him to go.

Each minute the last minute.

Denise Levertov  (1923-1997)

A Book of Luminous Things, edited by Czeslaw Milosz, 
Harcourt, 1996, page 24.

This is a wonderful anthology; I cannot recommend it too highly!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Let me tell you this:

Here is another of my mother's scanned slides, cropped and changed to black and white.
Christmas in Shaker Heights: my beloved youngest brother, Robert, holds a book-gift and smiles
at the youngest of us, my sister Marjory. I think this is Christmas, 1962,
in the house on Lee Road in Shaker Heights, Ohio. I was in the hospital having my back fixed.
The classy French-style chair was one of a pair that never seemed to me to go with
any of our other furniture, except the French Provincial sofa that was purchased 
at the same time and still lives in Susan's house, I think.

You may forget but

let me tell you 
this: someone in
some future time
will think of us

translated by Mary Barnard

Sappho; a new translation,
University of California Press, 1958, page 60.

The story of the recovery of fragment's of Sappho's poetry on pieces of papyrus is wonderful. One fragment was discovered 
very recently. Many poets feel that these
versions by Mary Barnard capture 
the spirit of the Sappho's poems best.

Sometimes fragments are all we have: I recently posted

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mallards Taking the Sun this Morning

These green feathers shine and shine! Observe the curly tail feathers
which only male mallards wear. You can sometimes see hybrids
and know that they have some mallard background if you see these curls!
The necks are quite adjustable in length, too. This fellow raised his head
this morning to look around, while she rested more quietly.

Life List

Blear-eyed and solitary
I study the lake at dawn.
Binoculars and a black
notebook keep me company
in this dry blind, but nothing
stirs marsh reeds
or disturbs the gray air.
My tenth winter of willing
indenture to this listing,
I scan the ragged treeline 
and recall magpies pecking
litter from ash, a maverick
bunting fencing with his
image in a garden mirror or
the osprey's nest with its
cracked bough ready for
collapse. So many entries,
vigils, pretenses--I become
fir, or a barkless snag, 
an odd rock under goshawk
circles--anything to help 
me  blend in and eavesdrop,
any camoflage for my sly
voyeur's form. From habit
and instinct I follow my
field guide's advice on
habitat and music to catch
another bird's name, to
cage him on lined paper,
add a date beside cactus
wren, swamp sparrow, Bell's 
vireo with a red berry,
a wet gnatcatcher perched 
on the bent yellow limb.
Once a fishing spoonbill
spread roseate wings like
Victory, and I mis-stepped
and fell into a ditch. Once
a mockingbird pecked my head.
Wood duck, Sabine gull on
driftwood, a male kittiwake
soaring, or the anhinga with 
a meter wingspan--all have 
appeared beside thin birches
bright as birdsong or under
opalescent clouds. Each bird
gave evidence of such zest
and the pleasure of flight
I am drawn back to forest
and water for more sustenance.
Crouching now, I can taste
bacon grease and yearning
while a ruddy duck approaches,
then follows another cove,
awakening my old envy of all
grace and dazzle these beasts
harbor in their hollow bones,
lightness of mantle and scapular,
instinct's swift rituals,
and I am drifting myself, half
dreaming when the duck darts
to bare timbers shovering
in mist. Then his soft wings
oar the air, and I raise
the Zeiss to catch in round
lenses the low dip and levitation,
the sudden star of his wild
and transforming eye.

R. T. Smith

Hunter-Gatherer; poems by R. T. Smith, 
Livingston Press, 1996, pages 9-10.

There is a great deal of information from many different birding outings in this poem. It convinces me that the poet has really done some serious birding. One of the main things I noticed while typing it (I usually say it aloud, line by line, as I type) is the rhythm, which is quite strong and sometimes almost independent of the line. It is a much more "poetical" sort of poem than I had at first suspected.
Read it aloud.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Wood ducks often wander across the lawn in couples like this.

Northern Flicker; a haibun
aspens leafing out—
a flicker dashes headlong
against the window

When I found him—his upright claws clenched loosely around air—his folded wing cast a long shadow in the morning light, as if it could once again assume the shape of flight. All day he lay on the porch, bereft of life, cupped in a serene circlet of his own shining yellow black-tipped feathers. A pair of downy woodpeckers were nesting in a dead tree near the back door, but if the flicker had a mate, she did not show herself.

We bent to admire the brilliant red on the top of his head, his elegant speckled breast, and for our closest look, and look again, at the nictitating membrane, blue-white and half-closed from the bottom of his eye. It was hard to give him up: so curious and beautifully made. 

I thought at first of a tree burial, of walking deep into woods and placing him as high as I could reach. My grandson and I buried him, neatly folded into a section of the Petoskey News-Review, at the edge of a small pine grove. With formal care, we chose a gray boulder to mark his grave.After we had strewn it with dandelions and very small pale blue violets, I sang a hymn from my childhood religion.

in the leafing wood
woodpeckers drum all day
his funeral music

June Hopper Hymas

The dandelions reminded me of this haibun that I wrote many years ago. A haibun is short, compact prose with haiku included. It is a wonderful form for a memory like this. It is one of my favorite forms. jhh
And here he is, poor fellow!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Through the night-blue fields

I have loved viewing the sky over this six-acre field, which is now for sale.
It has long been planted in a mixture of alfalfa and other hays, irrigated using
an historic "water-right" for flooded irrigation. Since it is surrounded 
on all sides by housing and commerce, and a road newly extended on its north side,
I very much fear for its loss as a space to see the open sky in all weathers.

The Merchant's Song

after "Foxfire" by Hiroshige

Through the night-blue fields, with lanterns, we go,
under the leafless ayenoki,
and the ghostly foxes
shelter under dry branches and unwinking stars.
Toward the distant houses of Oji,
toward the slopes covered with pine
we make our way,
and we wish our lanterns are
flames in air, the burning aether.
We come to collect the unpaid bills,
for the new year is upon us,
and those not paid this last night of December
must wait until April.
Here, in the cropped fields of Oji,
among encampments of foxes,
their slender ears and ankles,
the stooks which stand like silent peasants,
we take our rest,
for there are those among us
who have died this year,
and must wander tonight, forever,
unseen, except as flames among the foxes,
collecting bills which will not be paid
in April, or ever.

Roo Borson

McClelland & Stewart Inc., Ontario, 1989, page 30.

The Canadian poet, Roo Borson, is one of my very favorite poets, whose work I have featured before. This is an example of an ekphrastic poem, one which is based on a work of art, in this case a Japanese woodcut by Hiroshige. In this century when images and background information are so easy to find with a computer, there is more reason than ever to try this type of poem. You could even set yourself the task of writing a series of poems on related images, or works by the same painter. 

Here is a link to EKPHRASIS, a biannual, printed poetry journal that publishes only such poems. You might find a home for your poems there.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Check Marks the Spot

 The man with the check over his head is my father, Jack Hicks Hopper, 
the year he was captain of the Polo Team at the University of Arizona!
Circa 1932-1933
I just about wore these yearbooks out; 
they were always in the tall shelf at the bottom of the bookcase.

And here is the song my brother, Robert (1945-1997) 
wrote about my father and often sang with his guitar.
Look for the Polo Pony Ace!

Briefcase with Initials
                                                      for jhh

You were high and handsome, I was two feet tall.
You were strong and skillful, I was weak and small.
You held your shoulders high above the ground.
Your red-faced laughing hearty warming sound.
Your thick black hair, your broad Clark Gable face
set off a picture slim and fair to see.
Some yearbook picture polo pony ace
looks through his rimless glasses down at me.

            A father is to son as big to small;
            it’s hard to get to know the man at all.

Double-breasted suits and bright red ties,
a special voice for praying deep and wise,
 you kept your distance from our hazy days.
You brought surprising punishment and praise.
A briefcase with initials on the side,
a block of ice for doing homemade ice cream,
some land a hundred forty acres wide,
I help you in the garden in my dream.
You know I love you Dad, sometimes I told you.
You grew small and frail then when my long arms hold you.
You never told me what, and rarely showed me how.
I see the world through your steel blue eyes now.

Now kids look up at me and smile and lie.
I ask them can’t they please go play outside.
They ask to look at pictures from back when.
They look like I look ten feet tall to them.
Say Dad, did they have cars when you were small?
Did you know Mom when you were a kid?
 How old is our Granddaddy after all?
Do we do things that you and your daddy did?

            A father is to son as big to small.
            It’s hard to get to know the man at all.’

                                              1977, 1987; Sing in C
Robert Hopper

And here is the rest of the team!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

In Evening Light

Grass is springing now beside the stream; last night
the water looked like hammered metal. jhh
My Life by Water

My life
  by water—

  first frog
    or board

out on the cold


to wild green
  arts and letters

  my lettuce
    One boat

  pointed toward
    my shore

thru birdstart

of the soft
  and serious—

Lorine Niedecker

The Oxford Book of American Poetry, edited by David Lehman, Oxford University Press, 2006. page 482.

The life of Lorine Niedecker was full of trial. The biographies by Jenny Penberthy and Margot Peters are both well-written. As well as making you (if you are a woman poet, especially) glad you live now, they give an insight into her era of poets. Her complete works are available, and a selected poems, The Granite Pail, is a wonderful grouping. I am particularly fond of Lake Superior, a unique blend of poetry, prose and history, beautifully presented by the publisher in a soft white paper cover, wonderful to touch.

An examination of this poem will give a poet several strategies to try. I love the short lines, the repeated indentations, the abandoned punctuation, and most especially the fresh compound-words, often presented without hyphens. Use these strategies in writing about someplace you particularly love when you set yourself the task of a new poem. Good night, Lorine, rest well!

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Fiery Glee

At the faery paradise of the Farnworth Farm in Northern California
you never know what you are going to see, but it is always terrific!
This was several years ago in springtime; I hope to get back soon!

The Resemblance Between Your Life and a Dog

I never intended to have this life, believe me—
It just happened. You know how dogs turn up
At a farm, and they wag but can’t explain.

It’s good if you can accept your life—you’ll notice
Your face has become deranged trying to adjust
To it. Your face thought your life would look

Like your bedroom mirror when you were ten.
That was a clear river touched by mountain wind.
Even your parents can’t believe how much you’ve changed.

Sparrows in winter, if you’ve ever held one, all feathers,
Burst out of your hand with a fiery glee.
You see them later in hedges. Teachers praise you,

But you can’t quite get back to the winter sparrow.
Your life is a dog. He’s been hungry for miles,
Doesn’t particularly like you, but gives up, and comes in.

Robert Bly

The Oxford Book of American Poetry; edited by David Lehman,
Oxford University Press, 2006, page 744.

Oh, that Robert Bly! Five three-line stanzas of philosophy and a sparrow! I don't know what to say about this poem, other than that it really tickles me. I never intended to have this life. . . 

Thursday, April 16, 2015


In the last light, I went down to see the bees, and the new leaves on the willow 
and the light on the water of the Little Union Canal.

Willow in the Rain

Tangled even further
in the wind
that dries them---
threads of green willow
wet with rain

Saigyo       (1118-1190)
trans. by Burton Watson

Saigyo; Poems from a Mountain Home
Columbia University Press, 1991, page 33.

This poem is in the form of a waka, or tanka, an ancient Japanese five-line poetic form that still has power. Many of the people who write English language haiku also try this form. Many translators have worked to bring these elegant poems into versions in English. I am finding that when I use them here, I often prefer Burton Watson's English renditions of Saigyo and of other poets, too. As here, there is often a thought-break between the first three lines and the final two lines. Another task: try writing in this form, perhaps after a walk outdoors, or on a rainy afternoon on the porch.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Visiting Family; a memory thread

Liberty, Idaho (mid-1960s) in front of Aunt Ella's house. Adults, left to right:
Aunt Ella Matthews Hymas, Scott Simpson Hymas, Eva Hymas, Luella Matthews Hymas,
Front, my older children: Kimberli Susan Hymas, Scott Bradford Hymas.
Aunt Ella is Luella's aunt and Eva's mother. Luella and Ella are married to brothers.
Luella is the mother of Scott and the grandmother of Kimberli and Scott Bradford.
I am taking the picture; it's a nice one, don't you think?



The calendar is full but the future is blank.
The wires hum the folk-tune of some forgotten land.
Snow-fall on the lead-still sea. Shadows
           scrabble on the pier.


In the middle of life, death comes
to take your measurements. The visit
is forgotten and life goes on. But the suit
             is being sewn on the sly.

Tomas Transtromer

The Deleted World; versions by Robin Robertson, 
Farrar Strauss Giroux, 2111, page 31.

Don't get mad at me because death is in this poem! Don't freak out! It's really everywhere . . .

This is a poem in two parts of merely eight lines. But what a freight it carries. 
Pay special attention to the consonant sounds, particularly the sound of the letter l.
Say the last two lines of the first section over several times. Listen!
Look at the elegant and simple beauty of the poem's arrangement on the page.

And remember to visit your family whenever you can!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Hoping for the bee-loud glade

It was finally time to install the bees and today the queen arrived with a few minions. 
And now they are hopefully settling in to the new hive so they can forage along the canal.
And I am reading on the Internet about their care.

The China Painters

They have set aside their black tin boxes,
scratched and dented,
spattered with drops of pink and blue;
and their dried-up, rolled-up tubes
of alizarin crimson, chrome green,
zinc white, and ultramarine;
their vials half full of gold powder;
stubs of wax pencils;
frayed brushes with tooth-bitten shafts;
and have gone in fashion and with grace
into the clouds of loose, lush roses,
narcissus, pansies, columbine,
on teapots, chocolate pots,
saucers and cups, the good Haviland dishes
spread like a garden
on the white lace Sunday cloth,
as if their souls were bees
and the world had been nothing but flowers.

Ted Kooser

Delights and Shadows, Copper Canyon Press, 2004, Kindle Location 143

Although Ted Kooser is three years younger than I am, he was exposed to a kind of community life that I never knew. His books are rich with it! My parents had come East from Arizona and I never saw anyone painting china. There was a fair amount of knitting, and many people sewed at least some of their own clothes. Rarely, one can find a China-painted cup or saucer in a thrift store; it always pleases me and makes me a little sad at the same time. And of course, I put this here for the bees.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Why should I . . .

Not a raven, but an off-season American goldfinch
at the feeder that seems to demonstrate the same cheeky spirit
as the bird in Merwin's poem below.

Noah's Raven
Why should I have returned?
My knowledge would not fit into theirs.
I found untouched the desert of the unknown,
Big enough for my feet. It is my home.
It is always beyond them. The future
Splits the present with the echo of my voice.
Hoarse with fulfilment, I never made promises.

W. S. Merwin   (1927-

The Harvard Book of Contemporary American Poetryedited 
by Helen Vendler, Harvard University Press, 1985, page 251.

Here's another task: write a poem or series of poems in the viewpoint of and/or spoken by a minor character or bystander (animate or inanimate) in some famous event. You could even make a series of characters speak on the same event. Look to the Bible or to American History, or Ancient History (or any other thing in which you have a deep interest) for ideas. Saturate yourself in accounts of the event before you start to write. I always love to see anything you try!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Whose words form awkward curves

I have always loved the white grace of these gulls in a photo taken many years ago 
on a boat tour of the Pictured Rocks that edge Michigan's Upper Peninsula. 
It was part of a wonderful rip with our daughters and her two young sons. 
Who would have thought that birds looking for a handout 
from the tourists on the boat could demonstrate such grace?

Notes for Echo Lake 4


Who did he talk to

Did she trust what she saw

Who does the talking

Whose words formed awkward curves

Did the lion finally talk

Did the sleeping lion talk

Did you trust a north window

What made the dog bark

What causes a grey dog to bark

What does the juggler tell us

What does the juggler’s redness tell us

Is she standing in an image

Were they lost in the forest

Were they walking through a forest

Has anything been forgotten

Did you find it in the dark

Is that one of them new atomic-powered wristwatches

Was it called a talking song

Is that an oblong poem

Was poetry the object

Was there once a road here ending at a door

Thus from bridge to bridge we came along

Did the machine seem to talk

Did he read from an empty book

Did the book grow empty in the dark, grey felt hat blowing down the
street, arms pumping back and forth, legs slightly bowed

Are there fewer ears than songs

Did he trust a broken window

Did he wake beneath a tree in the recent snow

Whose words formed difficult curves

Have the exaggerations quieted down

The light is lovely on trees which are not large

My logic is all in the melting-pot

My life now is very economical

I can say nothing of my feeling about space

Nothing could be clearer than what you see on this wall

Must we give each one a name

Is it true they all have names

Would it not have been simpler

Would it not have been simpler to begin

Were there ever such buildings

I must remember to mention the trees

I must remember to invent some trees

Who told you these things

Who taught you how to speak

Who taught you not to speak

Whose is the voice that empties

Michael Palmer  

Earth Took of Earth; 100 great poems of the English language
edited by Jorie Graham, Ecco, 1996, pages 275-277.

I would like you to take a careful and prolonged look at the strategies of this poem. Read it over several times. Read it out loud. It is made of mostly questions without question marks, or other ending punctuation. Each line is separate, and everything on each line is separate from the other lines. (Except for the two-line section--which serves to emphasize the separateness of all the other lines.) The voice of the poem is interrogatory. 

This is the last poem in the book, the other poets were born in 1928 or before--this was part of an early decision by Ms. Graham to limit it this way. She stretched the concept to include two final poets who were born in 1929 and 1930. Michael Palmer was born in 1943. His poem is placed at the end of the book under the word AFTERWORD. Why did the editor include it and label it that way? 

Your poetry task for the next year or more would be to write a short poem 
beginning with each of these lines.

NOTE: This is an anthology unlike any other, definitely worth your time. It begins with one poem before Chaucer and includes Chaucer, Wyatt, Shakespeare, Milton, Blake, other classics and many familiar and well-chosen moderns, one poem apiece. Included are a reasonable amount of women poets and a Navajo War Chant.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Hello, Grin, Where's Jack?

 My brother reminds me that my father died around this time in 1987. 
I hadn't been keeping track of anything except birth dates. 
Here is a picture of Dad before he was my dad.

My father's education included the memorization of many poems. He used to recite Longfellow's "The Blacksmith," (Under the spreading chestnut tree . . . . sinewy hands .. ) and Tennyson's "The Lady of Shallot" and many others, but his true specialty was the Robert W. Service poems: "The Cremation of Sam McGee" and "The Hermit of Sharktooth Shoal" which Douglas Hopper memorized to thrill us with at a family reunion! Look these poems up, they are all on the Web now and it's great stuff! I am sure that's why Alfred Noyes' "The Highwayman" was my favorite poem in Junior High. I developed a taste for this great stuff.

Jack Hicks Hopper 1906-1987
This is the original scan I got from an album using my mother's first scanner.
On some visits, I used to stay up and scan after she went to sleep. I don't
know who put on that caption; I just scanned what I saw.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Arrangement in black, yellow and red

Something from last October; the pileated woodpecker
is a fine feeder bird. He fancies suet.
I fancy seeing him again.

On Jeopardy recently there was a question about Whistler's Arrangement in Blue and Gold, so I looked up the titles of his other "arrangements" and while doing so found him in Wikiquotes, which I had sort of forgotten about. I love this one:

"Paint should not be applied thick. 
It should be like a breath 
on the surface of a pane of glass." 

James Abbott McNeill Whistler




Here the walker suddenly meets the giant
oak tree, like a petrified elk whose crown is
furlongs wide before the September ocean's
murky green fortress.

Northern storm. The season when rowanberry
clusters swell. Awake in the darkness, listen:
constellations stamping inside their stalls, high
over the treetops.

Tomas Transtromer
The Great Enigma; new and collected poems,
New Directions, 2006, Kindle location 574.

This is the first of three parts of Autumnal Archipelago. Just two four-line stanzas, with a much shorter fourth line. The two other parts use the same form. I think it would be a useful task to try writing several loosely linked poems in this form. I like the way the poem moves from the solitary walker to the impatient stars.

I haven't had rowanberries in my life, but I have had elderberries [I made ink from them when I was 10 years old; I knew I would need it to be a writer. I macerated the berries in an empty tuna fish can and hid it in the garage, near where the bush grew.] and serviceberries (also called Juneberries) [Once I spent an afternoon watching the squirrels in the west meadow follow the bending branches out the tip to eat serviceberries.] and I have plucked tiny wild strawberries almost too small to taste. I think autumn must be my favorite season, although our current spring is progressing well here in Idaho, and often berries ripen in summer.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

Afternoon Light in Grace, Idaho

Memory Thread, circa 1960: My adored little boy poses with my beautiful young daughter 
while we visit S's parents at their home in Grace. What is he holding in his hand? 
I don't remember, The red you see behind him is from the gorgeous geraniums
my mother-in-law, Luella, grew every year. I never could get such large blooms.
The pink brick facing on the house Lu and Sim put on themselves, in their sixties,
after they had the house moved 60 miles from Liberty, Idaho, and
put on the lot next to Scott's sister's place. 
They did the dry-walling, too, and that's how Lu broke her ankle.
While we lived in the West, we visited them every year;
it still makes my children happy to talk about it.

The Other Side of the River

Easter again, and a small rain falls
On the mockingbird and the housefly,
                                                             on the Chevrolet
In its purple joy
And the TV antennas huddled across the hillside---

Easter again, and the palm trees hunch
Deeper beneath their burden,
                                               the dark puddles take in
Whatever is given them,
And nothing rises more than halfway out of itself---

Easter with all its little mouths open into the rain.


Charles Wright      (born 1935)

Oxford Book of American Poetry, 2006, page 920
This is the first part of a four-page poem by our current poet laureate. The sections are not numbered, but are divided, one from the next, by three stars in a row. Two of Wright's books of poems have garnered the Pulitzer and the National Book Award. If you will read this section aloud, you will be pleased by its lovely rhythm and sense.

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Jack at the bat

My father, Jack Hicks Hopper, ready for the pitch, circa 1920. Photographer unknown.
Probably taken in Yuma, Arizona.

if my father were here--
dawn colors
over green fields

translated by David Lanoue
at haikuguy/issa

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Decorating cookies

My grandgirl always likes to get involved with cooking!
This was several years ago; how fast they grow!


Spinning up dust and cornshucks
as it crossed the chalky, exhausted fields,
it sucked up into its heart
hot work, cold work, lunch buckets,
good horses, bad horses, their names
and the names of mules that were
better or worse than the horses,
then rattled the dented tin sides
of the threshing machine, shook
the manure spreader, cranked
the tractor's crank that broke
the uncle's arm, then swept on
through the windbreak, taking
the treehouse and dirty magazines,
turning its fury on the barn
where cows kicked over buckets
and the gray cat sat for a squirt
of thick milk in its whiskers, crossed
the chicken pen, undid the hook,
plucked a warm brown egg
from the meanest hen, then turned
toward the house, where threshers
were having dinner, peeled back
the roof and the kitchen ceiling,
reached down and snatched up
uncles and cousins, grandma, grandpa,
parents and children one by one,
held them like dolls, looked
long and longingly into their faces,
then set them back in their chairs
with blue and white platters of chicken
and ham and mashed potatoes
still steaming before them, with
boats of gravy and bowls of peas
and three kinds of pie, and suddenly,
with a sound like a sigh, drew up
its crowded, roaring, dusty funnel,
and there at its tip was the nib of a pen.

Ted Kooser

Delights and Shadows, Copper Canyon Press, 2012,  
Kindle location 152
This all-one-stanza form suits this poem by demonstrating the onrush and inclusiveness of memory very well. Some of my favorite poems give me the specific details of memories of the lives of the poets. I am thinking right now of Elizabeth Bishop and reminding myself to get some of her poems for this blog.

Monday, April 06, 2015

A gull takes a walk

Once I went to Pescadero to meet my sketching group and went to the wrong bay overlook.
They were not there. But this place was pretty anyway
and I found them later for lunch at Duarte's.
I like this picture for the gull and the woman on the far rock.
And the curl of the wave always is always pleasing.

The Wave and the Dune

     The wave-shaped dune is still.
          Its curve does not break,
        though it looks as if it will,

        like the head of the dune-
         shaped wave advancing,
                its ridge strewn

        with white shards flaking.
   A sand-faced image of the wave
          is always in the making.

     Opposite the sea's rough glass
cove, the sand's smooth-whittled cave,
           under the brow of grass,

         is sunny and still. Rushing
               to place its replica
    on the shore, the sea is pushing

               sketches of itself
  incessantly into the foreground.
All the models smash upon the shelf,

but grain by grain the creeping sand
           re-erects their profiles
          and makes them stand.

May Swenson

The Oxford Book of American Poetry
chosen and edited by David Lehman, 2006, page 601

Still longing to see my Northern California sea and sky again soon, I found this photo to go with May Swenson's poem. It was tricky to type until I figured out that the lines are centered. She uses a diacritical mark which I cannot make, for combining re and enter, so I had to substitute a hyphen. It's a beautiful poem, like the motion of the sea. Do you ever arrange your poems on a central axis?