“a few old socks and love letters”


Today’s subject line comes from the last paragraph of George Whitman’s obituary in the New York Times:

Mr. Whitman had variously called himself a communist, a utopian and a humanist. But he may have also been a romantic himself, at least concerning his life’s work. “I may disappear leaving behind me no worldly possessions — just a few old socks and love letters,” he wrote in his last years. Paraphrasing a line from Yeats, he added, “and my little Rag and Bone Shop of the Heart.”

That’s a Whitman manifesto at the top of this entry. This is my partner in front of Shakespeare & Company, browsing through a book on the Japanese economy:


This is what the rest of the front patio looks like on a chilly November night:


Lori-Lyn asks (in her “Loving 2011” series), What books made an impression on you this year? One of them was Mademoiselle London Hearts Paris (Sometimes), which I picked up on impulse inside S&Co. I especially like the poem that starts out with her throwing rocks at Hemingway’s geraniums.

I deliberately searched for was Yves Bonnefoy’s translations of Yeats’s poems (which I eventually picked up at the Gallimard shop, along with Fuzier and Denis’s translations of Donne into French). The thing is, I knew about their existence because I’d come across part of Bonnefoy’s rendition of The Circus Animals’ Desertion back in college:

J’ai cherché un thème et ce fut en vain,
Je l’ai cherché cinq à six semaines.
Peut-être qu’à la fin, vieux comme je suis,
Je dois me contenter de mon coeur. Et pourtant,
L’hiver comme l’été jusqu’à ce grand âge,
Ce qu’elle a paradé, ma ménagerie …

Les images sont souveraines de par leur forme achevée
Et celles-ci grandirent dans la pureté de l’esprit.
Mais de quoi naissaient-elles? Du dépotoir
Où va ce que l’on jette et le balayage des rues.
Vielles marmites, vielles bouteilles, boîte cassée,
Vieux fer, view os et nippes, et à la cassée
Cette souillon qui délire. Mon échelle est tombée,
Et je dois mourir là, au pied des échelles,
Dans le bazar de défroques du coeur.

But the last words for tonight should be Monsieur Whitman’s, non? [click the images to enlarge]



the tree that bears the fruit / is not the one that was planted

Today’s conundrum subject line comes from W. S. Merwin’s “Place,” which I saw this morning both in an e-mail from Poetry Daily and in the April issue of Oprah’s magazine. (Yeah, still making my way through it.)

Also in O: an interview with Maya Angelou.

Q: How do you write?

MA: I keep a hotel room in my town, although I have a large house. And I go there at about 5:30 in the morning, and I start working. And I don’t allow anybody to come in that room. I work on yellow pads and with ballpoint pens. I keep a Bible, a thesaurus, a dictionary, and a bottle of sherry. I stay there until midday.


I keep meaning to mention that Mary and I have a collaboration up at Blue Print Review. This delights me.

Also, I will be reading with Jane Ormerod and Ice Gayle Johnson at Nashville’s Global Education Center on Friday, May 13, at 7:30 pm. Admission is $8. Jane and Ice Gayle are co-editors of an Uphook Press anthology that will include one of my poems.


Some of the poems on the tabs I’ve had open:

Life is a long song

The glory of words

New fruit

a blade into his heart

Loving “Hate That Cat”

I picked up Sharon Creech’s Hate That Cat at a sale, thinking it might make a good birthday present for a friend.

Two things I didn’t realize:

(1) It’s a sequel. (Guess I’ll have to keep or donate it instead.)
(2) It’s about poetry! I’m 32 pages in and there’s already been an entry on William Carlos Williams that made me laugh.

not broken, but rearranged

I’m liking what I’ve read so far of Lauren Kizi-Ann Alleyne’s poetry:

  • Reb reprinted On the day of your favorite color: at the BAP blog
  • A selection at the Drunken Boat (including “It is not impossible to survive,” from which today’s subject line is taken)
  • Five poems in the No Tell Motel archives. Mmm. I’ve printed “Bend, Bend, Break” to put in my re-read binder.

  • As for me, there’s The Silence of Too Much To Say at unFold, and a packet almost ready to mail out. According to my submissions log, it’s the first snail mail batch I’ve prepared this year. Oy and oof. Maybe I’ll declare October to be la grande PegPoSubMo. (Maybe I should get back to the Must Dos currently in the way of my Wanna Writes. Yeah.)

    “Let me see your feet.”

    It’s the height of summer, and my hands currently smell of basil and garlic. (I’m making pesto with the last of last week’s leaves before improvising some sort of okra-onion curry for dinner.) I’ve got Rameau on the CD player and assorted windows open. Let me tell you about some of them…

    Recently published:

  • You can tell…, at microcosms (today!)
  • Cheshire knife…, at microcosms (August 2)
  • The song goes…, at PicFic (July 19)
  • By the waters…, at microcosms (July 16)
  • Some poems I’ve printed out or e-mailed:

  • Pin Setter, by Chris Green
  • Lightning Bugs and the Pleiades, by Coleman Barks
  • Horizon of Feet, by Philip Dacey
  • A collection I’m enjoying (and which I’ll be reviewing for Galatea Resurrects): Eating Her Wedding Dress: A Collection of Clothing Poems

    A collection I need to return to: the postings at the Blue Print Review blog under the “moment” tag. The entries that held my eye at first glance:
    “sky crossing 2,” “sky crossing 1,” “missing words,” “december in just a moment,” “samurai” (this one’s getting rec’d on the fandom blog when I steal some other moment to update it)

    Current squee: I’ve managed to draft 22 pieces in 23 days as a participant in 24/7 (actually 23 pieces in as many days, but I didn’t manage to finish anything within day 8), as well as one twelve-line poem outside of the project. That pleases me — and so does one of the pieces being scooped up for publication within hours of my posting it privately to the group. (The editors said they were “smitten” by it! I will thunk back to earth as soon as I turn to the next page of my notebook — ars longa, verse nty-nth — but at the moment, I’m as full of bubbly glee as a flute of sparkling wine.)

    (And speaking of returning to earth, I’d best get back to the making of pesto and curry…)

    “the side of a highway into Nashville”

    The subject line’s from Sarah Lindsay’s “The Driver,” one of the poems featured on the NYT’s Hot Type: Poems for Summer page this weekend. I love both the wordplay and narrative of Tony Hoagland’s “Summer Studies,” and am entertained by the pairings created by the slant rhymes of Edward Hirsch’s sonnet. (They make me want to spend some time expanding them into new poems of my own…)

    Pieces published since the last time I posted here:

    A Study in Setting at qarrtsiluni (text and audio)

    free from school… at tinywords

    Robin Morgan’s “Monster”

    I have been struggling to find all of Robin Morgan’s poem “Monster” since I read an excerpt of it on Feminist SF – The Blog.

    It’s an angry poem and I adore it. I would love to quote you the entirety of the piece, all 6 pages of its glory, but I would also like to respect Morgan‘s creative ownership of the piece.

    I admire its bravery, I admire the descent to violence but not the submission to violence. I need it because it reminds me that there are ways of writing that align with my ways of being and that most of the written word and the spoken word are not written and spoken in those ways. It reminds me that there is nothing wrong or despicable about who I am.

    Here is an excerpt:

    And you, men. Lovers, brothers, fathers, sons.
    I have loved you and love you still, if for no other reason
    than that you came wailing from the monster
    while the monster hunched in pain to give you the power
    to break her spell.
    Well, we must break it ourselves, at last.
    And I will speak less and less and less to you
    and more and more in crazy gibberish you cannot understand:
    witches’ incantations, poetry, old women’s mutterings,
    schizophrenic code, accents, keening, firebombs,
    poison, knives, bullets, and whatever else will invent
    this freedom.

    This is adult, end-of-the-day Poetry Friday.

    Off My Desk

    Christian Wiman‘s book, Hard Night, has been sitting on my desk for months, wedged open to “Reading Herodotus” and I have been able to set nothing on top of it—or nothing stably—for that whole time. Perhaps I can exorcise the need for the poem’s presence by sharing some of it with you folks.

    It opens:

    Sadness is to lie uneaten
    among the buried dead, to die
    without feeling a fire
    kindled in your honor, that clean smell
    of cypress rising and the chants, heat
    increasing under you, into you, an old man
    whose name the feasters weep and sing.

    and closes:

    Close your eyes
    just this side of sleep and you can almost hear them,
    all the long wonder of it, the lost gods
    and the languages, the strange names and their fates,
    lives unlike our own, as alien and unknowable
    as the first hour on this earth for a womb-slick babe
    around whom the whole tribe has formed a ring,
    wailing as one for what the child must learn.

    and dies the entire time in between. So powerful.

    “adorned with laurel and lightning bolts”

    If I could get all y’all to buy one poetry book in the near future (say, in celebration of spring, or National Poetry Month), at the moment it would be Alison Luterman‘s See How We Almost Fly (Pearl Editions, 2010). Today I quote to you from “The World Card,” which begins:

    I always wanted the World card,
    naked androgynous figure striding the globe,
    adorned with laurel and lightning bolts…

    and builds and builds to

    …I wanted to cross the sky and come back
    bearing dead stars in my hands, fossil fuel
    for poems. I wanted to inhale God’s breath
    till it singed my lungs; to be used up by love,
    to hang from a tree by my heels.
    “Be careful,” the old fortune-teller advised me shrewdly
    at the shop where I paid her ten bucks
    to turn the deck over in her ringed, swollen fingers.
    “It’s not always a good thing, you know –”
    but I wouldn’t let her finish. I didn’t want good,
    good was too small. I wanted the world.

    Speaking of Tarot cards, the Black Phoenix Alchemy Lab has a new series to benefit the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund: Fifteen Painted Cards from a Vampire Tarot. I associate BPAL with poetry in part because many of the fragrance names and descriptions borrow from Poe, Swinburne, Keats, and others, and the CBLDF series is associated with Neil Gaiman. I should also note that, over the years, I’ve received some incredible responses to BPAL scents on me, and some fond memories (as well as a few “OMG scrub that off NOW!” moments — no risk, no reward) — a vial of “Embalming Fluid” came to the rescue in a too-small ScotsRail compartment after a too-long day sans showers, and there was an elevator ride where a stranger exclaimed “What IS that?” in a happily gobsmacked way in reaction to the Nanny Ashtoreth.

    In other news, my sometime partner in crime Greta Cabrel has a new poem up at Thirteen Myna Birds, I have a booklet of hay(na)ku available via Open Hand Press (all proceeds donated to Haiti relief efforts), and last night I read Wendy Babiak’s The Uninvited Guest, thanks to a rec Joanne made on Twitter. (And speaking of Joanne and Twitter, I really like today’s tanka by Peter Newton on 7×20, the zine she edits, which incidentally is open to submissions…)