Name This Poet

Butterly poised on a thistle’s down.
Lend me your wings for a summer’s day.
What care I for a kingly crown?
Butterly poised on a thistle’s down.
When I might wear your gossamer gown
And sit enthroned on an orchid spray.
Butterly poised on a thistle’s down.
Lend me your wings for a summer’s day.

I’ve put the poet’s name in the first comment.

drink the wet / from the skin of the back

I’ve just ordered Pat Schneider’s Another River, after reading her poems “Sound of the Night Train” and “The Patience of Ordinary Things.” The latter was posted at Carla Zilbersmith‘s blog, which I stumbled upon via Alison Luterman‘s website, which I visited earlier tonight in part because I had California on my mind.

This weekend’s rereadings included Ronald Wallace’s answer to Donald Hall. The last line totally doesn’t work for me, but it’s clearly a darling to Wallace, seeing that it titles his explication page. *shrug* That said, I bought The Uses of Adversity years ago because of his sonnets “The Student Theme” (“The adjectives all ganged up on the nouns…”) and “The Bad Sonnet” (“It stayed up late, refused to go to bed…”); this time around, what made me sit up were “God’s Handiwork” (“We like to vilify our enemies / with metaphor’s elaborate construc-/ tions. Viruses are hoodlums run amok…”) and “Statutes of Limitations,” the latter dedicated to “C.L.L., 1946-1992”:

…Oh, why did we take
the trooper’s word that what we did was wrong
and slink home embarrassed and estranged
and lose the simple we in love’s sweet song,
and see the harm in harmony? Time’s rearranged
us. I am here, and you are gone. Because,
because. Oh, there are laws. And there are laws.


A fisherman mends a glittering net

I spent a couple hours this past weekend with Donald Hall’s This Old Life (1996) and was underwhelmed. I’d read “The Night of the Day” a couple times before, over the years, and caught my breath both at its closing lines (in part because the line “older / than my dark-haired father ever got to be” leapt out at me this time, though it won’t be true in my case for another two decades) and back-of-the-book postscript (in which two more deaths are mentioned) … but the rest of the book, I just didn’t connect with, poetically or anecdotally, except for an acknowledgment of midlife fucked-up-ness (Duthie: “look, self, Donald Hall was an alcoholic mess when he was forty, and he got past it, and you don’t have it anywhere near that dire”) and a flare of momentary self-pity (Hall, on losing the 1993 National Book Award to A.R. Ammons: “I went to sleep easily, / mildly let down, and woke / at three-thirty in a murderous rage.”) In his notes to “The Old Life,” Hall snarks about autobiographical “McPoems” – “prosy little anecdotes…perfect in their narcissism.” My difficulty is that, the rave reviews on the cover notwithstanding, and the sorrows delineated in detail, “This Old Life” comes across to me as an extended collection of prosy little narcissistic anecdotes.

Jack Gilbert’s The Great Fires isn’t making itself matter to me, either. Although the fact that he and Hall were both writing about being widowed did lead me to revisit Milton’s sonnet about HIS dead wife…which, in all honesty, I find not especially memorable until the last two lines. But oh my God, those last two lines.

So what have I read lately that has held up in rereading? Parts of Camille Dungy‘s first book (the second one’s due out next year and already on my shopping list). R. T. Smith’s Shades. Jack Myers’s Cirrus. Milosz’s Encounter. And (especially appreciated after a morning reading aloud about Armageddon) Milosz’s Song on the End of the World.

linkage + linkage

It’s my last night in Jerusalem, and both my physical and mental spaces are crowded with Things I Need To Think More About, never mind the perennially overstuffed closet of Things I Need To Put Into Letters (both alphabetic and correspondential) Sooner Rather Than Later.

But in the meantime, I can at least clear a couple bookmark-threads from my list by mentioning them here…

  • Adrian Matejka’s “Do the Right Thing” (from today’s Poetry Daily); Victoria Chang’s reaction to Matejka’s reported stance on relevance
  • Laura Orem on poetry and collage; Merrie Haskell on using collage as a narrative-development/revision tool; Debi Orton’s Lose the Narrative
  • Blackbird‘s Spring 2008 feature on Lynda Hull – oh, my. I’ve only been through a couple pieces so far — I find reading Hull and reading about her to be like one of those dense, delicious cakes you cannot gobble up frantically if you know what’s good for you. But I am so excited – it includes an audio of Hull reading “The Window,” which is my favorite poem of hers, which I am saving for when I am back on a machine that doesn’t get seizures from a/v files.
  • For years, I held onto the Life magazine I’d bought in some airport at the start of 1990 that included photographs of the Berlin Wall getting sledgehammered by joyful Germans. NYT Op-Ed awesomeness: What Fell Apart, What Came Together
  • “And since we’ll devote all our years / To making things that disappear”

    So, my home phone/internet’s been out of commission since Friday, and there was an airline clusterfuck on Sunday that ended up costing me two cab fares, 50% of my too-late-to-cancel guest-house reservation for yesterday night, and several hours of my life that I don’t get back. Grr, grr, grr.
    That said, I was glad to end up with more time to herd a few more things into order… including completing the “Wishes At Time of Death” form my pastor keeps on file, which includes specifying any readings desired. For what it’s worth, I want Raymond Carver’s “Late Fragment” and Jane Hirshfield’s “The Heart’s Counting Knows Only One” either in the program or read aloud. I’m betting there will be an Emily Dickinson in there as well – though how I will collect if the reader in question chooses as expected, I haven’t quite worked out. (Maybe a dram of Edradour poured over my ashes? But that would be a waste of good whisky…)
    I also treated myself to a glass of Canton ginger liqueur , a long hot soak in the tub, and some visiting with my poetry books. Of particular note:

  • “Dock Ellis Pitches a No Hitter While on LSD” – in Jilly Dybka’s Trouble and Honey. A fun sonnet.
  • Lights, Camera, Poetry! American Movie Poems, the First Hundred Years, edited by Jason Shinder (Harcourt 1996). A book I’ve browsed through in the bath before, judging from the water damage and dog-ears. What disconcerted me this time was seeing how many people have passed away since the anthology was compiled: Shinder included birth- and death-dates in the table of contents, with the youngest poet (Tom Andrews) born in 1961, and quite a few of the living-at-the-time poets are no longer (including Andrews, as well as Shinder himself). I’m used to encountering this in much older collections (e.g., Pockets and Penguins from before 1960), where it’s unsettling in a more expected way (akin to seeing photographs of older relatives and colleagues when they were teenagers). Seeing it in a book I received as uncorrected page proofs has me in the mood to revisit various laments for makaris and makers (cf. Scanlan (source of today’s subject line); Dunbar; W.S. Merwin (anthologized in The River Sound and Lament for the Makers: A Memorial Anthology; I own the former and am now wishing I’d checked it before I left, because I can almost remember his couplet about Nemerov (“sadder than…”) but not quite). And for any Washington DC folks reading this, there’s a gathering on November 11…)
    Anyhow, I un-dogeared some older favorites, and marked some newly noteworthy to me. Current standouts include:
    • Paul Goodman’s “Documentary Film of Churchill” (“What is it with this race that does not learn? / I am weary for meaning and they tire / my soul with great deeds. Yet I cannot turn / my eyes from the stupid story in despair: / since I have undertaken to be born.”)
    • Michael Warr’s “Die Again Black Hero: Version II (Chicago, March 1990)” (“Predictable. / So same-old-shit predictable. / The Marine whose skin / Matches the surface color / Of an Uzi has to die first. /Even on another planet / This dogma cannot be escaped…”)
    • Thylia Moss’s “Hattie and the Power of Biscuits” (“What a wonder she didn’t use strychinine dough.”)
    From The Bedside Guide to No Tell Motel: Second Floor, Michael Meyerhofer’s “Shame as Proof of True Love”:

    …real love, I’ve decided, is when
    you see your lover at their most
    awkward, wretched moments
    and still want to fuck them later.

    There are a couple upcoming deadlines I’ve been working toward, and I’m hopeful about meeting them, albeit not at the expense of time with friends and improving my Hebrew and other being-here-in-the-present priorities. That said, there’s a part of my brain that’s ruthless about testing words with and against each other until they fit just so, and when it’s in gear, there’s no getting any sleep until it’s gotten its due. (In other words, this is why I spent a good chunk of early Monday morning working on two new cinquains instead of sinking back into sleep. At this point, it shouldn’t surprise that me that putting together forty-four syllables = as complicated as shaping water. (Think of fountains. Think of ice. Think of how some faucets gurgle and some whine like tired teakettles. Some poems are downpours that clog up gutters and destroy posters; others strike as lightly as a flutter of drops on a lemon tree. And I seem to be writing a poem in spite of myself, so I’d best wrap this up and pour the rest of my words into something eventually submittable (it’s 1:15 am here, and where I’m staying, the only creatures still awake besides me are a cat in heat and the occasional palmetto bug scuttling across the stones).

  • “We have surrounded ourselves with things that perish”

    The to-read stack currently includes the July/August issue of Star*Line and Carolyn Miller’s Light, Moving. The Star*Line has Duane Ackerson’s “The Bermuda Triangle,” which had me grinning with glee both because of the conceit (“…Having sucked nourishment from WWII aircraft / down to the bones, / it leaves the warm waters of the Gulf…”) and because I’m a sucker for allusions to Galileo’s E puor si muove, which, yes, here, perfect. It’s going on my Rhysling short-list.

    The Miller: the subject line’s from her poem “Christmas Day” (and isn’t that a choice juxtaposition? – as is the line “the bitter perfume of the Christmas tree”) (for the non-carolers reading this: the third king sings about the Crucifixion as he offers myrrh to the newborn Christ). There’s another poem titled “To Dr. Williams” that opens with

    This is just to say
    I never understood
    why the plums were in

    the icebox. Although
    I like to think
    of biting into chilled…

    The poem I lingered over today was “Note to the New World,” which is making me want to reread Alison Luterman‘s “Morning in the Mission: Grandpop Comes to Visit” (my copy of The Largest Possible Life is at home, where I am not) – both poems are set in San Francisco’s Mission District; both celebrate the vibrant beauty of this here world in tandem with memories of a beloved man who “would have loved the day, filled as it was / with the fumes of poppies, smells of Mexican food…”

    I have also been listening a lot to the first two songs on an EP by a Brooklyn group called The Paper Raincoat (Alex Wong was in Nashville last month as the drummer in the Vienna Teng Trio – a terrific show I happened to catch with Joanne). Both songs (“Sympathetic Vibrations” and “Brooklyn Blurs”) are on the group’s MySpace jukebox; musical goodness aside (I really like the bridge in “Vibrations,” there’s a goofy quote from “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” in the mix, and some brilliant arranging in “Blurs”), the lyrics are spot-on. And they’re relevant to this post because they share with Miller and Luterman that sense of being ambushed by the beauty of everyday life.

    …Which is my core sensibility as well, although it has just occurred to me that that shows up much more in my letters than in my poems. Must reflect on that some other time. For now, I’m also haunted by “Brooklyn Blurs”‘s refrain of “… I can’t believe that I’m still standing here / I am a ghost to everyone I know.” (And as much as I know that that isn’t remotely true in the slightest, at the moment I can’t let go of how true it feels. Which means I’m due for a long swim, a bottle of Gewurtztraminer, and a full night of self-medicating word-slamming.)

    “although they fly apart at speeds of light”

    Julie Kane’s “Particle Physics” at Poetry Daily invokes both baseball and eternity.

    (As does Nancy Willard’s Things Invisible to See, which I’ve given as a “you must read this” gift at least twice. And which in turn reminds me of Steve Kluger’s Last Days of Summer, which I once loaned to a baseball-loving minister who told me later she’d enjoyed it enough to give a copy to another friend as a present, and yes, knowing that pleases me mightily.)