Gestation

Up, and by water to the Temple, and thence to Sir Ph. Warwicke’s about my Tangier warrant for tallies, and there met my Lord Bellasses and Creed, and discoursed about our business of money, but we are defeated as to any hopes of getting [any] thing upon the Poll Bill, which I seem but not much troubled at, it not concerning me much. Thence with Creed to Westminster Hall, and there up and down, and heard that Prince Rupert is still better and better; and that he did tell Dr. Troutbecke expressly that my Lord Sandwich is ordered home. I hear, too, that Prince Rupert hath begged the having of all the stolen prize-goods which he can find, and that he is looking out anew after them, which at first troubled me; but I do see it cannot come to anything, but is done by Hayes, or some of his little people about him. Here, among other newes, I bought the King’s speech at proroguing the House the other day, wherein are some words which cannot but import some prospect of a peace, which God send us! After walking a good while in the Hall, it being Term time, I home by water, calling at Michell’s and giving him a fair occasion to send his wife to the New Exchange to meet my wife and me this afternoon. So home to dinner, and after dinner by coach to Lord Bellasses, and with him to Povy’s house, whom we find with Auditor Beale and Vernatty about their accounts still, which is never likely to have end. Our business was to speak with Vernatty, who is certainly a most cunning knave as ever was born. Having done what we had to do there, my Lord carried me and set me down at the New Exchange, where I staid at Pottle’s shop till Betty Michell come, which she did about five o’clock, and was surprised not to ‘trouver my muger’ there; but I did make an excuse good enough, and so I took ‘elle’ down, and over the water to the cabinet-maker’s, and there bought a dressing-box for her for 20s., but would require an hour’s time to make fit. This I was glad of, thinking to have got ‘elle’ to enter to a ‘casa de biber’, but ‘elle’ would not, so I did not much press it, but suffered ‘elle’ to enter ‘a la casa de uno de sus hermanos’, and so I past my time walking up and down, and among other places, to one Drumbleby, a maker of flageolets, the best in towne. He not within, my design to bespeak a pair of flageolets of the same tune, ordered him to come to me in a day or two, and so I back to the cabinet-maker’s and there staid; and by and by Betty comes, and here we staid in the shop and above seeing the workmen work, which was pretty, and some exceeding good work, and very pleasant to see them do it, till it was late quite dark. And the mistress of the shop took us into the kitchen and there talked and used us very prettily; and took her for my wife, which I owned and her big belly; and there very merry till my thing done, and then took coach and home, in the way tomando su mano and putting it where I used to do; which ella did suffer, but not avec tant de freedom as heretofore, I perceiving plainly she had alguns apprehensions de me, but I did offer natha more than what I had often done. But now comes our trouble; I did begin to fear that su marido might go to my house to enquire por ella, and there trovando mi moher at home, would not only think himself, but give my femme occasion to think strange things. This did trouble me mightily, so though ‘elle’ would not seem to have me trouble myself about it, yet did agree to the stopping the coach at the streete’s end, and ‘je allois con elle’ home, and there presently hear by him that he had newly sent ‘su mayde’ to my house to see for her mistresse. This do much perplex me, and I did go presently home Betty whispering me behind the ‘tergo de her mari’, that if I would say that we did come home by water, ‘elle’ could make up ‘la cose well satis’, and there in a sweat did walk in the entry ante my door, thinking what I should say a my ‘femme’, and as God would have it, while I was in this case (the worst in reference a my ‘femme’ that ever I was in in my life), a little woman comes stumbling to the entry steps in the dark; whom asking who she was, she enquired for my house. So knowing her voice, and telling her ‘su donna’ is come home she went away. But, Lord! in what a trouble was I, when she was gone, to recollect whether this was not the second time of her coming, but at last concluding that she had not been here before, I did bless myself in my good fortune in getting home before her, and do verily believe she had loitered some time by the way, which was my great good fortune, and so I in a-doors and there find all well. So my heart full of joy, I to the office awhile, and then home, and after supper and doing a little business in my chamber I to bed, after teaching Barker a little of my song.

we eat anything
a trout a sandwich

all the stolen words
like unborn water

press on the drum
of my big belly

where I begin to hear
a new dark voice


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 11 February 1667.

Self-Portrait with Soft Ropes and Escape

I'm a poor imitation of a parrot as boss or calendar planner.

I do better as a minor-minor Houdini
untangling a bowl of pasta ropes with my tongue.

Even better as a lint roller who insists
there can be a little more life after one square.

At meetings I've learned to copy the language of banned
synthetics: transparency, opacity, longevity.

Does knowing a thing can never be destroyed make it happy?

Growing up in a family of breakfast table
knife-throwers,
I'm still trying to learn the pose "Serene
Buddha of Glacial Composure."

My friends want to sign me up for workshops on Yes You
Can Really Not Give a Fuck.

Several times a day I am torn between misery and elation,
disappointment and hope—

Just pick one, any one, they say with impatience.

But when I finally make my candy selection, most likely
I wind up with the chocolate covered maraschino.
It's the one with the goopy center
that tastes like cough medicine.

Those who don't really know me
sometimes gush: You have such a charmed life.

When I close my eyes I want to see
a line of water buffaloes in tutus,
kicking up their heels
a la Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

The ensemble has yet to stage "Carmen;"
but when they do I want it to be only that part
where she sings her beguiling seguidilla and convinces
the officer of the guard to untie her bonds.

I want to be that one scene only: the gypsy
woman in red, her laughter the sound
made by clear glass
marbles rolling away, little wicks
of trapped color pulsing like flames.

Poetry Blog Digest 2020, Week 8

Poetry Blogging Network

A personal selection of posts from the Poetry Blogging Network and beyond. Although I tend to quote my favorite bits, please do click through and read the whole posts. This week’s digest includes posts about the poetry business as most of us actually live it: going to readings and book fairs, meeting up with writer friends, promoting new work, struggling to juggle writing with other commitments, caring for family members, teaching, dreaming, reading, pondering the big questions, and making books and poems out of whatever comes to hand.


So he helps us follow words

by drawing dance steps through the air, dotted
lines that appear like gestures of language

sculpted with his fervor for this, for what
must be said, for what he has said before,

and again, so many times now, waiting
still to be heard by someone who has not

met these words before. Now and then he takes
a step with tenderness, wrapped in woolen

memories as if a child’s blanket curves
and spins around him; he waltzes to words.

PF Anderson, Seeing Ilya Read

I love walking around London and discovering quirky, lost or almost lost sites. Author Paul Talling’s ‘Derelict London’ walks are a must if you’re into this sort of thing and within striking distance of the city. I’ve been on a few of them – but you have to book months ahead, as they fill up within minutes of his posting them online. Subscribe to his email alerts and you’re given a day’s warning so you can be ready on the dot of 9am to hit ‘buy tickets’. Paul’s site is fascinating and labyrinthine, but you can sign up for his emails here if you’re interested the walks.

You may wonder what this has got to do with poetry, but in fact it segues very neatly into a little pamphlet from Tamar Yoseloff’s Hercules Editions that I picked up yesterday, called Formerly. It was the first pamphlet from the press, and a collaboration with photographer Vici Macdonald. Vici’s photos of London’s derelict buildings, ghost adverts and Victorian boozers were the prompts for Tammy’s sonnets. Doorstep sellers, ‘Sweeney’-style low life, barmaids and the dead are some of the voices in these poems, as the poet imagines the people inhabiting these nearly-gone and semi-lost places.  It’s accompanied by a pull-out guide describing the locations, and Vici’s and Tammy’s accompanying notes. Fascinating. I admit I’m a sucker for attractive packaging and Hercules specialise in gorgeous covers – fab fonts, spot varnish and gold leaf abound! The press’s latest publication is Martyn Crucefix’s Cargo of Limbs, which I also bought and am looking forward to reading.

Robin Houghton, Free Verse at Conway Hall

I’m not going to recount the entire half year in this post — but I’ll end with some of the good things: A second book launch in September on Long Island, on my birthday, with friends and family. A trip to Austin, Texas with our children — the first time we’d attempted any kind of family vacation like this — which coincided with the Texas Book Festival, where I signed some books and met more members of Texas Review Press. And a return to the Pen Parentis Annual Winter Poetry Salon, this time with the full-length Fabulous Beast (the last time was with my chapbook), which was celebratory and gratifying and an excellent introduction to some new (to me) fellow parent-writers.

I’m writing new poems and slowly editing my new manuscript, and also applying when and where I can to post-publication awards. I’m trying to support the book and promote it whenever possible without being obsessive and unbearable. The difficulties in securing reviews is a little depressing, but that’s offset by the fact I’ve received some lovely feedback recently — informally and mostly from strangers, but cherished all the same.

Isn’t that really why one writes, and then publishes? In the hope that someone out there is listening?

Sarah Kain Gutowski, It’s Been A Time: The Six Months Recap No One Asked For

Between volleyball matches, at last weekend’s intercity tournament and this weekend’s invitational tournament, I continued to read Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver, and finished it this morning. I was sensing that one of the characters, Mary Treat, who wrote letters to Charles Darwin and Asa Gray, must be a real person, and she was! A naturalist who has plants and ants named after her! I liked her a lot. In the novel, she lets a Venus flytrap gnaw on her finger.

It was a lovely, busy, birthday week for me. The Poetry is Normal open mic at the library resumed for 2020. Our overall theme this year is life itself, its major events, starting with Birth, and, delightfully, our first date coincided with my actual birthday. People read poems on and mostly-on theme, by themselves or others. I gave away candy and books. Our next theme is Childhood, in April, National Poetry Month.

A lovely child named Dusty is born into grief in Unsheltered and is almost ready to walk right into joy at the end.

Kathleen Kirk, Venus Flytrap

Karen Head and I read 300 submissions for the Mother Mary Comes To Me poetry anthology forthcoming from Madville Publishing this fall. We’re getting ready to start sending out acceptance letters and contracts. We’re excited about the work and poets who will appear in this book. We can’t wait for you to see it.

A number of events are on the horizon, including the launch event for Closet Cases: Queers on What We Wear (et alia press) edited by Megan Volpert. I’m one of 75 queer writers who contributed an essay and photo about an article of clothing that define and inspire us. Mine? Black t-shirts, of course. The launch is March 29, 4 p.m., at the Decatur Library in conjunction with Georgia Center for the Book. The same day, I’ll be celebrating the release of Julie E. Bloemeke’s long-awaited debut collection, Slide to Unlock (Sibling Rivalry Press). Julie has cooked up a theatrical evening of sights and sounds along with the help of fellow poets (including yours truly) interpreting her work. Watch for details on her website.

Collin Kelley, On the horizon

It might not have been a night for promenading outdoors, but it was a privilege to take to the stage and perform at the microphone. Judge Katherine Stansfield advised that poets would be called up to read, and would be handed their book bundle prize by the new editor of Poetry Wales magazine, Jonathan Edwards. The last three poets to be called would be the three award winners … hence there was a nervous pause after the end of each poet’s performance, wondering who the next poet called would be. The email from Poetry Wales one month before the awards event was unspecific in its congratulation. Essentially it hoped the shortlisted poets would be able to attend to receive their prizes … of course the word prize could signify one of the three awards or one of the highly commended places.

I don’t know about the other shortlistees but I was counting on my fingers how many names were called and my pulse began to quicken as we passed the halfway point! … Might I be one of the three award winners?

I was the penultimate name to be called! Number 9 of the 10 shortlisted poets. I was guided up to the mic and read my poem, ‘Refugee Piece … Existential Jigsaw’. It was a delight to shake Jonathan’s hand as he revealed that there were no hard-copy books for me … Seren had considered my sight limitations and would send me PDF copies that my computer screen reading software would be able to read aloud for me :)

Giles L. Turnbull, Pick of the Poetry

Sometimes it seems like the hardest part has already been done – I already wrote the poems and edited them multiple times. I arranged and rearranged them. I deleted some poems and added others. I submitted it to lots of presses and publishers and was fortunate that Vegetarian Alcoholic Press snapped it up. I found the cover art and did final edits. All of this was hard work. All of this was time consuming. All of this took time and effort. And yet, that was easy compared to what came next: promotion.

No one likes to talk about this because self-promotion has become a dirty word – it seems and yucky and kind of skeezy. But it’s not. And if you want to be successful, you have to self-promote. (For poets I highly recommend PR for Poets by Jeannine Hall Gailey, it is excellent and has a lot of good advice and guidance for how to better promote your poetry.)

I didn’t write a book of poetry to get rich. I’ll never quit my day job, I’ll never be able to live off the money I make from poetry, I’ll likely never even make a single mortgage payment from poetry. I wrote a book of poetry because I love poetry and I think the world needs it. I process things via poetry and it’s one way I see and experience the world. And I think poetry is necessary in today’s world. So I’m okay with knowing I can’t live off my writing but that doesn’t mean I don’t want my book to do well. I still want people to read my book, I want it in libraries and I want it around the world. And this means self-promotion.

Courtney LeBlanc, Dirty Word

It’s Sunday evening and there are so many things I could have done today that I didn’t.  I didn’t send any notes to anyone for no reason than just to say hi. I did not go outside and take a walk, looking up at the clouds or tree tops.  Other than to get out and drive to yoga, I went no place else.  I read maybe 4 or five poems this morning. I journaled around 2:30 a.m. when my mind raced, chased by anxiety throughout the house. […]

Earlier in the day, I was thinking a lot about the upcoming AWP conference. I always get  anxious as it gets closer.  I will likely have bouts of anxiety daily between now and the time I leave.  Also, on my mind today is Ash Wednesday that is approaching. What will I give up for Lent? Will I give up anything?  Will I substitute some proactive thing to do instead?

Michael Allyn Wells, Looking for the Good

If I know in advance that I’m going to have some time free, I try to plan accordingly. Alas, more often than not my inspirational moods don’t sync with the free time. The same usually goes for residential courses too.

Carrying a notepad around helps, as does being able to assemble fragments. Audio book might make me more efficient too. Just occasionally I can combine work and play. But mostly I cope by cutting corners, and doing nothing as well as I could have. I feel I’ve plateau’d in the things I’ve tried. There are no longer any quick wins – significant progress will require significant time investment. It’s just the way things are. I’ve noticed already that I’m compensating by remembering past successes more than planning future ones – see my Illustrated CV. And unexpectedly I’m gaining pleasure from the successes of people I know.

Tim Love, Finding time

Carved out some time (and energy – been a little under the weather) to attend a poetry potluck celebrating my friend Kelli Russell Agodon’s book contract with Copper Canyon Press, and it was great! I got to catch up with some friends I don’t see very often who I’ve known for fifteen, sixteen years now and meet others I’ve only “seen” on Facebook. Some of my old friends had little kids when I met the who are now in college or grown-up with jobs. We talked about where our lives had taken us. Some talked about not submitting or writing for a while. Some talked about new books and planning readings.  It always helps give me perspective on the writing life and all of our journeys when I hang out with other writers. It also gave me motivation – I came home and submitted a piece of fiction (which I rarely do) and sent out some poems as well. There is just something about being with other writers that inspires me to action. […]

I was reminded that the writing life is a journey. There are ups and downs and detours, time to write and time to rest. We don’t all go at the same pace. Life gets in the way sometimes. A supportive spouse can make a lot of difference (and I feel lucky to have mine – plus everyone raved about his gluten-free mini pumpkin pear cupcakes!) And encouraging each other is part of the job. It can feel awfully lonely when those rejection slips roll in, or when your grant application is denied, or that job doesn’t come through. It’s good to have the company of people who have been there, done that.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Hanging Out with Poet Friends, Signs that Spring Is On The Way

My poems ‘Hare Moon’ and ‘The Postscript’ have been published in issue 89 of Obsessed with Pipework. Thanks so much to the Charles and Katerina for making such a lovely issue and for taking the time to ship it to my far corner of Europe. My kids were excited to see my name in the issue and hear me read one of the poems out, they don’t usually get to see my writing. Though my son said it didn’t rhyme, so I’ll need to spend some time working on his poetry knowledge.

I’ve had a couple of chances to teach creative writing to kids here in Finland as part of my substituting. I recently had to whip up a quick lesson when a teacher accidentally made a mistake in her lesson plans and asked me to teach the same lesson I had taught her class the week before. I gave them three vague prompts about aliens, sports, holidays and asked them to focus on ‘to be verbs’ which our lesson was covering. Some students wrote their one page dutifully, but showed very little excitement because it was just another assignment, but the wee group of boys who had been keeping me on my toes all week took a while getting into it. I forgot how much I enjoy watching kids enjoy writing.

I could see it, the fire behind their eyes as ideas began to grow, as words filled page after page. They didn’t want to go out to break, they wanted to continue writing after they finished their required work in the next lesson. One asked if I could publish their work. If only. That’s why I used to teach creative writing, to see that excitement. Even my teaching assistant was surprised that these particular kids, who struggled with school, who didn’t read according to her, were able to find the imagination to come up with stories that they wanted to write and share. It can be a challenge to find a way to kick start their interest, but there’s usually a way if you can take the time to work with them. I hope it get to use my skills more during the rest of this year.

Gerry Stewart, Teaching Kids and Creative Writing

How to respond in such a way that I might serve both the girl in front of me and the woman she will become? How to be honest (because she has a sense for dissembling sharper than any I’ve known)? How to answer this question that so many women have struggled to answer? That I have struggled to answer?

Let’s re-frame the premise, I remember thinking.

“You know,” I said, “you don’t have to choose. You can be a mommy and still be an artist.”

Not entirely true, but not entirely false. Good enough?

“But I want my art to come first. And if you’re a mommy, that should come first.”

“Lots of women do both. You can, too.”

I remember her looking directly at me. “But you don’t,” she said.

BAM.

Oh, I thought, as her words walloped me. Why is this so hard? “This” being all of it–parenting, art-making, making a living. Being so goddamned tired all the time.

It was not the first time, and most certainly not the last, that I knew with swift, sharp clarity that every single choice I made was teaching my children something about how to live, and that my actions carried more weight than my words ever would or could.

What was I teaching her about how to be a woman? How to make a meaningful life? About serving others and serving ourselves?

She knew that I had a published book. She and her twin brother and father had traveled with me for poetry readings, where she’d seen me on stage, reading my work. I had thought I was a pretty bang-up role model, being a fully-present mom, a published writer, and, through my work as a teacher, a financially independent wife. Apparently, however, she knew that I wasn’t doing much writing. And, clearly, she was attributing that to my being a mother. Her mother.

Shit.

“No,” I said, knowing I had to tell the truth. “I don’t very much.”

Rita Ott Ramstad, Creating Life

I’m so excited to have another poem published by one of favorites–Voicemail Poems! My poem “Resurrection Party” is included in their Winter 2020 issue, along with some really great recordings by several other poets, including Ariel Francisco, Usman Hameedi, Sarah Matthes, and more.

Resurrection Party” is a poem of recovery. It’s important to me that this personal poem is out in the world. Special thanks to Tinderbox who originally published it in 2017. Many of you know that in 2015 my son (21 at the time) was in a horrible accident in which he was hit on his bicycle by someone in a pickup truck in downtown Salt Lake City. He nearly lost his life. Recovery was difficult, but he made it through and I’m grateful every day that he is still the same amazing, creative person he was before the accident. His personality definitely comes out in this poem.

Trish Hopkinson, My poem “Resurrection Party” published by Voicemail Poems – always open for submissions

Take me and my poetry – why would someone continue to professionally and financially handicap themselves in order to do something they love, even if society is against it, even if your contemporaries are hardly supportive – why don’t you do something that pays lots of money. The answer is simple: I haven’t the will-power and threshold for bullshit that you do, but I have an inexhaustible desire to do what I want to do, even if I don’t do it well. And the poetry world is based on demonstrable accomplishments, so if you’re like me – 33 years old and no prizes to show for it – then you must be in the wrong game, yes? No, hell no.

Dad began as a careerist. He fell into a really well paid job as a surveyor for the Opencast, then they promoted him to a site manager. The job, he recalls, was pretty laid-back and relaxed but then he got made redundant as coal mining was slowly dissolved in this country. He then trained as a lawyer – he spent three years and graduated top of his class. He came home from his graduation and told my mother that he’d never be a lawyer as long as he lived, it was an awful, morally bankrupt profession. So he went back to university, got a degree in urban planning and got involved in conserving old buildings. It’s something he’s utterly passionate about, but like his job at the Opencast, it’s something in direct opposition to the prevailing winds of taste. Nobody cares about really, truly conserving old buildings now unless they’re castles. Councils are so under-staffed and under-funded that greedy property developers now that they can rips out the old windows of building, put in tawdry plastic ones and even if someone complains, it’ll never get taken to court. Not even a tree protection order works, because tree surgeons can be bought – all it takes is insisting the beautiful tree has some disease and must come down. The architectural fabric of this country is being ripped up just so the venal neo-Thatcherite greed-heads can get ahead and it sickens me, it sickens him.

Richie McCaffery, Dad

The poet Lisel Mueller has died.  Every time I came across a poem of hers, I liked it, but I never bought one of her books–in many ways, she reminds me of Mary Oliver, whom I also liked, but until recently, never bought a book of hers.  Both women were much older than I thought that they were–I don’t say this to be ageist, but to say how they seemed to be part of the poetry landscape, but with a much fresher approach to poetry that made me think of them as just bursting on the scene. 

Perhaps I am being ageist after all. Or maybe I’m unfairly dismissing the years of work that go into making fresh poems.  In this idea, I find inspiration.

When I heard of her death this morning, I read some of her poems that I found online.  I was delighted by her approach to history:

“A close-up of a five-year-old
living on turnips. Her older sister,
my not-yet-mother, already
wearing my daughter’s eyes,
is reading a letter as we cut
to a young man with thick glasses
who lies in a trench and writes
a study of Ibsen. I recognize him,
he is going to be my father,
and this is his way of keeping alive.”
from “Beginning with 1914”

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, A Late Appreciation for Lisel Mueller

Poe claimed that there was no subject more suitable for poetry than the death of a beautiful woman; but he was full of crap about that or, at any rate, too swayed by the culture in which he resided in his awkward and outsider way. Nonetheless, he puts forth the assertion that from death can come something that is itself beautiful: a work of art, a lyric, a poem. I do not disagree with him on that point.

Certainly many poets end up writing about, with, or against death; raging or praising; querying, challenging, wondering, fearing, fighting, sometimes embracing or accepting. Do I hear Emily Dickinson in that chorus? Dylan Thomas? Walt Whitman? Marie Howe? Mark Doty? Ilyse Kusnetz?

In a previous post, I alluded to the death of a beautiful woman (a friend), and asked about the value(s) we humans place on beauty–and the way(s) we define, describe, and name it.

Because death’s one of The Big Mysteries–and writers tend to gnaw around the edges of things that are not easily put into words, and mortal is what we are–poets poke at death, encounter it, question it, and question the religious, biological, and social accretions that surround it. Can we find beauty in death, from it, surrounding it? Recently, I attended a philosophy lecture concerning death and the soul from a Catholic (Thomist) perspective, and the talk briefly moved into inquiry concerning the intersection of death and beauty. I did not ask, what sort of beauty–aesthetics, or awe?

But I am asking now.

Ann E. Michael, Death & beauty

Soshin immortalized
an iris on the page.
She herself gone
at twenty-seven.
You & I seek
the same permanence;
faces turned toward the sun
till a breeze carries us away.

Jason Crane, POEM: Petals

I was asleep, and I dreamed of a life with no hands.
Instead, at the end of each arm was a large, evil crow.
Whenever these crows would caw, a person died,
Not where I was, but faraway in a place that is nameless.
I struggled to keep the crows quiet, but I failed.
I woke up from the dream exhausted,
Still shushing the damned crows on my arms.
It was my own dream, and I had death for hands.

James Lee Jobe, I was asleep, and I dreamed of a life with no hands

Even beyond the images of teeth and skulls and wildflowers, or weeds, that haunt these poems, the music itself is haunting, staying in the mind and the ear. Consider this passage from “Maar”:

“Buffaloburr veins around siltstone
mounds on the monocline

flow rock smooths over into oar
cutleaf cornflower overgrown

pollen blown out
larkspur and beeplant on the meadow

grasp at the basement fault
taut atop diatreme”

A later line in the same poem says “laccolith ghost shadows over hungry dust,” and the word laccolith has lodged in my brain.

The collection includes several multiple-poem sequences, and in these sequences, [Jake] Skeets allows each poem its own form, its own space on the page.

Skeets attends to space on the page masterfully. In “In the Fields,” a discussion of white space interacts with the white space around it.

Joannie Stangeland, Saturday Poetry Pick: Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers

the book has a QR code
but I don’t have a smart-phone
do you read music though

a parish map from 1886
iridescent turquoise beetles
and a ladybird in the floodwater

I tried to knit with dried grass
wrap it round a rusty can
and boil it for an hour

the next day I went to the hedge
for ink beyond the oak gall
the golden glow of the first rust

Ama Bolton, ABCD: February 2020

titanium, that dream of pages being torn one at a time from the book as you are trying to write it, but writing, writing it anyway;

stainless, that hurling of knives against ice-slick targets, fingers sliced and blood on snow but increasing accuracy and control in spite of numb;

a ring of Damascus steel lost somewhere under all this cold, silver, brass, copper braids no longer spun and flesh-warmed but I guess down there somewhere;

something forged white hot, this small, rounded praxis in my body of praise song, praise song, praise song, praise song.

JJS, February 21, 2020: more metal than hope

The problem is that I’m a sucker for a well-put idea, even if it’s my own. I get dazzled by thought. I forget that what moves me, stirs something deeper than dazzle, is the combination of idea and that other thing that arises from the body, sensorial, flesh on flesh or wind on flesh or hum on ear, tang on tongue.

Get out of your head, I say to myself. In my head.

It’s funny because lately I’ve been living much more outside, so am filled with fresh air and pines and the rumple of hilltops and dit dit dah of tracks in the snow. You’d think my body would have something to more to say to my head.

Where in my body have these concerns risen? Where is the slant of my truth? Where is the half-open door from which these ideas breathe a scent — damp cellar? root vegetables? cumin and cinnamon? Where do the tracks lead?

Marilyn McCabe, Going out of my head day and night; or, On Finding a Hook to Hang an Idea On

This little poem is solar-powered, sucking up the sun’s rays and putting them to good use like a hummingbird’s tiny wings do with air.

This short poem doesn’t use more energy than it generates. Does its best to make your light brighter, offer electricity to your coffee maker and cell-phone charger.

This subtle, solar-powered poem longs to cut carbon pollution, create jobs, and empower communities.

Even after its warranty expires, this bright and fleeting poem will not give up the ghost.

Its every word fluoresces across your lips.

Rich Ferguson, Tiny Champion

my first typewriter was called a
‘Little Brother’ and I was ten
much better than a pen
I thought
that the poems looked real
typecast and not typecast
and putting the words down
clattered as if they mattered
to me they emptied my pockets
to make room for more of the words
that were simmering on the back burner
of the rain on the hobs of childhood
wait – stop
don’t smudge the ink with tears you silly old man

Jim Young, My Little Brother

How Hard it is to Keep Watch

I am always alone
in the abandoned bell
tower of myself. Whoever
used to come and keep

company has withdrawn.
In one of the corners,
perhaps, is an earring
I lost sometime ago.

I could not find its gleam
though I searched high
and low. But always,
a rope asking to be

pulled several times a day
so the clapper can kiss
the surface it hits.
If there were ever

servants who cleaned
this place, it must
have been several
lifetimes ago. Dusk:

the only cloth that buffs
these surfaces, faithfully.
Morning light brings
noise and lists, bodies

that don't want to get up.
Night is the chanting
monks pour into rivers
of endless suffering.

I am trying to fit
into the space between
the landing and the swing.
I am trying to only be

the silence of no
longer trembling, a weight
at the end of a string
pointing toward the earth.

The quiet of no longer
tensing for the sound
of the next blow
to come.




Industrial revolution

(Lord’s day). Up and with my wife to church, where Mr. Mills made an unnecessary sermon upon Original Sin, neither understood by himself nor the people. Home, where Michell and his wife, and also there come Mr. Carter, my old acquaintance of Magdalene College, who hath not been here of many years. He hath spent his time in the North with the Bishop of Carlisle much. He is grown a very comely person, and of good discourse, and one that I like very much. We had much talk of our old acquaintance of the College, concerning their various fortunes; wherein, to my joy, I met not with any that have sped better than myself. After dinner he went away, and awhile after them Michell and his wife, whom I love mightily, and then I to my chamber there to my Tangier accounts, which I had let run a little behind hand, but did settle them very well to my satisfaction, but it cost me sitting up till two in the morning, and the longer by reason that our neighbour, Mrs. Turner, poor woman, did come to take her leave of us, she being to quit her house to-morrow to my Lord Bruncker, who hath used her very unhandsomely. She is going to lodgings, and do tell me very odde stories how Mrs. Williams do receive the applications of people, and hath presents, and she is the hand that receives all, while my Lord Bruncker do the business, which will shortly come to be loud talk if she continues here, I do foresee, and bring my Lord no great credit. So having done all my business, to bed.

mills made
unnecessary people
who grow like their fortunes

better than us who use hands
to tell odd stories

how people come to be tin
and ring


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 10 February 1667.

Regimen

I watch it work
and am made new.|
I watch it fall
apart, and doubt
I could remember
what I need to do
to make me forget
this isn’t the end.
I watch the digits
slide into place
on the clock:
that’s how 
the minutes go
—by increments,
forever and
again.

 

 

 

 

In response to Via Negativa: Watchmaker Analogy.

Watchmaker analogy

To the office, where we sat all the morning busy. At noon home to dinner, and then to my office again, where also busy, very busy late, and then went home and read a piece of a play, “Every Man in his Humour,” wherein is the greatest propriety of speech that ever I read in my life: and so to bed. This noon come my wife’s watchmaker, and received 12l. of me for her watch; but Captain Rolt coming to speak with me about a little business, he did judge of the work to be very good work, and so I am well contented, and he hath made very good, that I knew, to Sir W. Pen and Lady Batten.

life is no watchmaker

I watch it work
and am made new
o pen


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 9 February 1667.

Memory of a Paradoxical Dream

- after "Memory of a Paradoxical Dream," Armando Valero

Everything forks, and everything converges.

I covered your eyes, and I stared straight
ahead at the world. Your ears
opened like vases
to the sound of wind.

In my belled sleeves, I kept hidden from myself
as much as from you the terrible faces
the future could wear.

Look intently at your reflection in the mirror
and you will see how one eye
bends like a leaf

at the corner; or how
half of your face softens at the hairline

and toughens to a slight point
on the other side.

On these back roads goldened by
the dust of years, cars are always
coming and going. Have they
ever arrived?

Every tree on every hill opens
like a parasol. We could lie
in the shade of any of them,
making garlands of leaf

and flower. We could pretend
nothing is ending or everything
is beginning or we are happy
just to be here.

Speech

"...where is speech for the block of ice we pack 
in the sawdust of our hearts?" ~ Ellen Bass

For many years, I did not know the words
for some things that were done
to me as a child
that should never be done to any child.

Where I'm from, it's considered unseemly
for a girl or a woman to come
forward with accusations about how
her body was violated.

And when she does, she is more than likely
met with disbelief, especially if it
involves a member of the family.
She is asked why on earth
she needs to make up such things;
or what she hopes to gain.

Years later, a friend who has been through
a similar experience asks: are you now
able to talk about it to anyone?

Sacrificial

This morning my brother John come up to my bedside, and took his leave of us, going this day to Brampton. My wife loves him mightily as one that is pretty harmless, and I do begin to fancy him from yesterday’s accident, it troubling me to think I should be left without a brother or sister, which is the first time that ever I had thoughts of that kind in my life. He gone, I up, and to the office, where we sat upon the Victuallers’ accounts all the morning. At noon Lord Bruncker, Sir W. Batten, [Sir] W. Pen, and myself to the Swan in Leadenhall Street to dinner, where an exceedingly good dinner and good discourse. Sir W. Batten come this morning from the House, where the King hath prorogued this Parliament to October next. I am glad they are up. The Bill for Accounts was not offered, the party being willing to let it fall; but the King did tell them he expected it. They are parted with great heartburnings, one party against the other. Pray God bring them hereafter together in better temper! It is said that the King do intend himself in this interval to take away Lord Mordaunt’s government, so as to do something to appease the House against they come together, and let them see he will do that of his own accord which is fit, without their forcing him; and that he will have his Commission for Accounts go on which will be good things.
At dinner we talked much of Cromwell; all saying he was a brave fellow, and did owe his crowne he got to himself as much as any man that ever got one.
Thence to the office, and there begun the account which Sir W. Pen by his late employment hath examined, but begun to examine it in the old manner, a clerk to read the Petty warrants, my Lord Bruncker upon very good ground did except against it, and would not suffer him to go on. This being Sir W. Pen’s clerk he took it in snuff, and so hot they grew upon it that my Lord Bruncker left the office. He gone (Sir) W. Pen ranted like a devil, saying that nothing but ignorance could do this. I was pleased at heart all this while. At last moved to have Lord Bruncker desired to return, which he did, and I read the petty warrants all the day till late at night, that I was very weary, and troubled to have my private business of my office stopped to attend this, but mightily pleased at this falling out, and the truth is [Sir] W. Pen do make so much noise in this business of his, and do it so little and so ill, that I think the King will be little the better by changing the hand.
So up and to my office a little, but being at it all day I could not do much there. So home and to supper, to teach Barker to sing another piece of my song, and then to bed.

if love is an accident
I should be kind to this
rogue October heart

take it out for dinner
all good and hot
like a devil

pleased to have
my private sin sing
another piece of my song


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 8 February 1667.