Dave Bonta

In the morning called out to carry 20l. to Mr. Downing, which I did and came back, and finding Mr. Pierce, the surgeon, I took him to the Axe and gave him his morning draft. Thence to my office and there did nothing but make up my balance. Came home and found my wife dressing of the girl’s head, by which she was made to look very pretty. I went out and paid Wilkinson what I did owe him, and brought a piece of beef home for dinner. Thence I went out and paid Waters, the vintner, and went to see Mrs. Jem, where I found my Lady Wright, but Scott was so drunk that he could not be seen. Here I staid and made up Mrs. Ann’s bills, and played a game or two at cards, and thence to Westminster Hall, it being very dark. I paid Mrs. Michell, my bookseller, and back to Whitehall, and in the garden, going through to the Stone Gallery I fell into a ditch, it being very dark. At the Clerk’s chamber I met with Simons and Luellin, and went with them to Mr. Mount’s chamber at the Cock Pit, where we had some rare pot venison, and ale to abundance till almost twelve at night, and after a song round we went home. This day the Parliament sat late, and resolved of the declaration to be printed for the people’s satisfaction, promising them a great many good things.

down came the axe and found my head
which made pretty beef

I stayed and played a white stone
being round and great

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 23 January 1659/60. (See the original erasure.)

This morning, from some difference between my wife and Sarah, her maid, my wife and I fell out cruelly, to my great discontent. But I do see her set so against the wench, whom I take to be a most extraordinary good servant, that I was forced for the wench’s sake to bid her get her another place, which shall cost some trouble to my wife, however, before I suffer to be.
Thence to the office, where I sat all the morning, then dined; Mr. Moore with me, at home, my wife busy putting her furniture in order. Then he and I out, and he home and I to my cozen Roger Pepys to advise about treating with my uncle Thomas, and thence called at the Wardrobe on Mr. Moore again, and so home, and after doing much business at my office I went home and caused a new fashion knocker to be put on my door, and did other things to the putting my house in order, and getting my outward door painted, and the arch.
This day I bought the book of country dances against my wife’s woman Gosnell comes, who dances finely; and there meeting Mr. Playford he did give me his Latin songs of Mr. Deering’s, which he lately printed.
This day Mr. Moore told me that for certain the Queen-Mother is married to my Lord St. Albans, and he is like to be made Lord Treasurer.
Newes that Sir J. Lawson hath made up a peace now with Tunis and Tripoli, as well as Argiers, by which he will come home very highly honoured.

this cruel discontent
we take to be a good servant

forced for the sake of wardrobe and fashion
to put on other things

getting my war paint
and the arch book of dances

the play of bans like news
made up well

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 22 November 1662.

I went in the morning to Mr. Messum’s, where I met with W. Thurburn and sat with him in his pew. A very eloquent sermon about the duty of all to give good example in our lives and conversation, which I fear he himself was most guilty of not doing. After sermon, at the door by appointment my wife met me, and so to my father’s to dinner, where we had not been to my shame in a fortnight before. After dinner my father shewed me a letter from Mr. Widdrington, of Christ’s College, in Cambridge, wherein he do express very great kindness for my brother, and my father intends that my brother shall go to him.
To church in the afternoon to Mr. Herring, where a lazy poor sermon. And so home with Mrs. Turner and sitting with her a while we went to my father’s where we supt very merry, and so home. This day I began to put on buckles to my shoes, which I have bought yesterday of Mr. Wotton.

eloquent lives I fear:
the door to a college
the herring poor
my father’s buckle

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 22 January 1659/60. (See the original erasure.)

Up early in finishing my accounts and writing to my Lord and from thence to my Lord’s and took leave of Mr. Sheply and possession of all the keys and the house. Thence to my office for some money to pay Mr. Sheply and sent it him by the old man. I then went to Mr. Downing who chid me because I did not give him notice of some of his guests failed him but I told him that I sent our porter to tell him and he was not within, but he told me that he was within till past twelve o’clock. So the porter or he lied. Thence to my office where nothing to do. Then with Mr. Hawly, he and I went to Mr. Crew’s and dined there. Thence into London, to Mr. Vernon’s and I received my 25l. due by bill for my troopers’ pay. Then back again to Steadman’s at the Mitre, in Fleet-street, in our way calling on Mr. Fage, who told me how the City have some hopes of Monk. Thence to the Mitre, where I drank a pint of wine, the house being in fitting for Banister to come hither from Paget’s. Thence to Mrs. Jem and gave her 5l.. So home and left my money and to Whitehall where Luellin and I drank and talked together an hour at Marsh’s and so up to the clerks’ room, where poor Mr. Cook, a black man, that is like to be put out of his clerks place, came and railed at me for endeavouring to put him out and get myself in, when I was already in a good condition. But I satisfied him and after I had wrote a letter there to my Lord, wherein I gave him an account how this day Lenthall took his chair again, and resolved a declaration to be brought in on Monday next to satisfy the world what they intend to do. So home and to bed.

early on
all the keys failed

but tell me that a lock lied
or to have some hope

and talk together an hour
like clerks on a Monday

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 21 January 1659/60. (See the original erasure.)

Within all day long, helping to put up my hangings in my house in my wife’s chamber, to my great content. In the afternoon I went to speak to Sir J. Minnes at his lodgings, where I found many great ladies, and his lodgings made very fine indeed.
At night to supper and to bed: this night having first put up a spitting sheet, which I find very convenient. This day come the King’s pleasure-boats from Calais, with the Dunkirk money, being 400,000 pistols.

a great peak
at night is a pit

I find pleasure in pistols

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 21 November 1662.

In the morning I went to Mr. Downing’s bedside and gave him an account what I had done as to his guests, and I went thence to my Lord Widdrington who I met in the street, going to seal the patents for the judges to-day, and so could not come to dinner. I called upon Mr. Calthrop about the money due to my Lord. Here I met with Mr. Woodfine and drank with him at the Sun in Chancery Lane and so to Westminster Hall, where at the lobby I spoke with the rest of my guests and so to my office. At noon went by water with Mr. Maylard and Hales to the Swan in Fish Street at our Goal Feast, where we were very merry at our Jole of Ling, and from thence after a great and good dinner Mr. Falconberge would go drink a cup of ale at a place where I had like to have shot at a scholar that lay over the house of office.
Thence calling on Mr. Stephens and Wootton (with whom I drank) about business of my Lord’s I went to the Coffee Club where there was nothing done but choosing of a Committee for orders. Thence to Westminster Hall where Mrs. Lane and the rest of the maids had their white scarfs, all having been at the burial of a young bookseller in the Hall. Thence to Mr. Sheply’s and took him to my house and drank with him in order to his going to-morrow. So parted and I sat up late making up my accounts before he go.
This day three citizens of London went to meet Monk from the Common Council.

going with the sun
into the street

I drink like a scholar
at the burial of a book

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 20 January 1659/60. (See the original erasure.)

All the morning sitting at the office, at noon with Mr. Coventry to the Temple to advise about Field’s, but our lawyers not being in the way we went to St. James’s, and there at his chamber dined, and I am still in love more and more with him for his real worth. I broke to him my desire for my wife’s brother to send him to sea as a midshipman, which he is willing to agree to, and will do it when I desire it. After dinner to the Temple, to Mr. Thurland; and thence to my Lord Chief Baron, Sir Edward Hale’s, and back with Mr. Thurland to his chamber, where he told us that Field will have the better of us; and that we must study to make up the business as well as we can, which do much vex and trouble us: but I am glad the Duke is concerned in it. Thence by coach homewards, calling at a tavern in the way (being guided by the messenger in whose custody Field lies), and spoke with Mr. Smith our messenger about the business, and so home, where I found that my wife had finished very neatly my study with the former hangings of the diningroom, which will upon occasion serve for a fine withdrawing room. So a little to my office and so home, and spent the evening upon my house, and so to supper and to bed.

a field is in love with the sea
as a ship is with land

where will we make war
guided by lies

where finish the hanging
or withdraw

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 20 November 1662.

Luisa A. Igloria close-up photoToday marks the fifth anniversary of Luisa Igloria’s very first poem on Via Negativa—a poem that proved to be the starting point of an amazing poem-a-day exercise that has never let up, not even for holidays or conferences. That first poem was sparked by a post on my daily microblog The Morning Porch:

Dawn. In absolute silence, a pileated woodpecker hitches its way up a locust trunk, silhouette pivoting like a pawl on an invisible ratchet.

On Facebook, Luisa posted this response:


Dawn: in absolute silence,
a pileated woodpecker
hitches its way up
a locust trunk, silhouette
pivoting like a pawl
on an invisible ratchet—

consider this early
summons, this parking
ticket—momentary stay
before the hubbub
and transmission
of gears.

Luisa continued to use The Morning Porch for daily writing prompts—something I’ve always encouraged by applying a permissive Creative Commons license to all my work. When I learned a few weeks later that she was continuing the series, I invited her to become first a regular guest writer and then, as I slowly adjusted to the idea, a co-blogger. After the first year, Luisa broadened her pool of places to get writing prompts from (while still regularly using my porchisms), and when I began my own daily poetry exercise with the inception of the Pepys Diary erasure project in 2013, Luisa’s example was my biggest inspiration. Thanks to her, Via Negativa has evolved from one writer’s miscellany into a uniquely collaborative and improvisational poetry zine.

cover of Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil EraserIt’s natural for poetry fans to regard print books as the ultimate repository of the art, and by that measure, Luisa’s exercise has succeeded spectacularly. Ode to the Heart Smaller than a Pencil Eraser won the 2014 May Swenson Poetry Award, chosen by Mark Doty, and two other books—Night Willow and The Saints of Streets—also consist mainly of poems that came out of her daily writing exercise. There’s also an e-book, Bright as Mirrors Left in the Grass, in connection with which Luisa answered a question about her practice and linked back to a 2011 interview with Marly Youmans where she went into quite a bit more detail. This was early on, when the memory of how it started was still fresh:

In a lull just before Thanksgiving last year, I read Dave’s November 20 observation of a pileated woodpecker inching up the trunk of a locust tree “like a pawl on an invisible ratchet” and I thought: what a cool image, what a cool word—pawl—and immediately I wanted to turn it into a poem. […] I really didn’t intend for it to turn out into the daily “devotional” that it seems to have become, but now I’m thoroughly hooked.

What I’m happiest about is how I’ve incorporated it into my daily writing practice, and that the simple rules I’ve set for myself seem to work well in terms of getting me to that place of focus and attention where there is the potential for making poetry happen. My rules are: I don’t have a fixed time for visiting The Morning Porch to read the latest line Dave’s written. But when I do, I try to respond immediately, without premeditation, composing as I go. I try not to belabor what I find in the starting “trigger”—because I don’t see myself obligated to respond via a form of poetic reportage. What happens instead is that the bit of image or language that first catches my eye or ear, meets what I bring to that moment (a combination of many things—what I may have been reading or remembering recently, what kinds of questions I might be asking that particular day). Finally, I try to do all of this in thirty minutes, forty max; I feel that if I go over this time limit I set for myself, I will be belaboring the whole enterprise too much.

Do read the rest.

I texted Luisa an hour ago, just as she was settling in to write today’s poem at her neighborhood coffee shop, escaping some chaos at home. I asked her if she’d ever expected to be able to keep it up this long, and she admitted she hadn’t. I asked her whether it’s gotten easier over time, and what advice she might give to other poets who’d like to write more often, but feel overworked and overwhelmed. She told me,

Some things have gotten easier with time—those “throat clearing parts” for instance. I think knowing that I will write every day and that I’ll make my way to that time of writing every day has freed up some of the anxiety about starting (or starting from scratch, from nothing, every time one approaches the page). It does really seem like there’s something to be said about the aspect of athleticism involved in doing any kind of practice daily: people run to prepare for marathons, swim laps, warm up, etc. Having written daily for this long I do feel I have gotten more limber in some ways: in the ability to filter out extraneous noise, and more importantly the ability to relax about some of the process. The latter as I’m sure you know is one of the hardest things to do.

And she added:

What I’ve come to understand of my own needs (they may not necessarily be the same for others) from my daily writing practice: it’s the space I can look forward to every day where whatever existential or other question in the fore- or background of my awareness is where I can go to meet it/wrestle with it/knead it—in poetry—for a little while.

A huge congratulations to Luisa on reaching this milestone, and here’s hoping that her poems can continue to grace these virtual pages for many years to come.

At home all the morning, putting some of my goods in order in my house; and after dinner, the like in the afternoon. And in the evening to my office, and there till 11 a-clock at night upon my Lord Treasurer’s letter again, and so home to bed.

morning, put me in order
like the afternoon
or a letter home

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 19 November 1662.

This morning I was sent for to Mr. Downing, and at his bed side he told me, that he had a kindness for me, and that he thought that he had done me one; and that was, that he had got me to be one of the Clerks of the Council; at which I was a little stumbled, and could not tell what to do, whether to thank him or no; but by and by I did; but not very heartily, for I feared that his doing of it was but only to ease himself of the salary which he gives me.
After that Mr. Sheply staying below all this time for me we went thence and met Mr. Pierce, so at the Harp and Ball drank our morning draft and so to Whitehall where I met with Sir Ant. Cooper and did give him some answer from my Lord and he did give us leave to keep the lodgings still. And so we did determine thereupon that Mr. Sheply might now go into the country and would do so to-morrow.
Back I went by Mr. Downing’s order and staid there till twelve o’clock in expectation of one to come to read some writings, but he came not, so I staid all alone reading the answer of the Dutch Ambassador to our State, in answer to the reasons of my Lord’s coming home, which he gave for his coming, and did labour herein to contradict my Lord’s arguments for his coming home. Thence to my office and so with Mr. Sheply and Moore, to dine upon a turkey with Mrs. Jem, and after that Mr. Moore and I went to the French Ordinary, where Mr. Downing this day feasted Sir Arth. Haselrigge, and a great many more of the Parliament, and did stay to put him in mind of me. Here he gave me a note to go and invite some other members to dinner tomorrow. So I went to White Hall, and did stay at Marsh’s, with Simons, Luellin, and all the rest of the Clerks of the Council, who I hear are all turned out, only the two Leighs, and they do all tell me that my name was mentioned the last night, but that nothing was done in it.
Hence I went and did leave some of my notes at the lodgings of the members and so home. To bed.

in the heart of the country
we expect no ambassador

coming here is coming home to ore
and the ordinary feast

I am put in mind of a marsh with all
the all they name nothing in it

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 19 January 1659/60. (See the original erasure.)