2018

Up, and all the morning at the Exchequer endeavouring to strike tallys for money for Tangier, and mightily vexed to see how people attend there, some out of towne, and others drowsy, and to others it was late, so that the King’s business suffers ten times more than all their service is worth. So I am put off to to-morrow. Thence to the Old Exchange, by water, and there bespoke two fine shirts of my pretty seamstress, who, she tells me, serves Jacke Fenn. Upon the ‘Change all the news is that guns have been heard and that news is come by a Dane that my Lord was in view of De Ruyter, and that since his parting from my Lord of Sandwich he hath heard guns, but little of it do I think true. So home to dinner, where Povy by agreement, and after dinner we to talk of our Tangier matters, about keeping our profit at the pay and victualling of the garrison, if the present undertakers should leave it, wherein I did nor will do any thing unworthy me and any just man, but they being resolved to quit it, it is fit I should suffer Mr. Povy to do what he can with Mr. Gauden about it to our profit. Thence to the discoursing of putting some sums of money in order and tallys, which we did pretty well. So he in the evening gone, I by water to Sir G. Carteret’s, and there find my Lady Sandwich and her buying things for my Lady Jem.’s wedding; and my Lady Jem. is beyond expectation come to Dagenhams, where Mr. Carteret is to go to visit her to-morrow; and my proposal of waiting on him, he being to go alone to all persons strangers to him, was well accepted, and so I go with him. But, Lord! to see how kind my Lady Carteret is to her! Sends her most rich jewells, and provides bedding and things of all sorts most richly for her, which makes my Lady and me out of our wits almost to see the kindnesse she treats us all with, as if they would buy the young lady.
Thence away home and, foreseeing my being abroad two days, did sit up late making of letters ready against tomorrow, and other things, and so to bed, to be up betimes by the helpe of a larum watch, which by chance I borrowed of my watchmaker to-day, while my owne is mending.

see how people other others
as the news guns gun for our kindness

as if they would buy time
by the help of a watchmaker


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 14 July 1665.

Lay long, being sleepy, and then up to the office, my Lord Brunker (after his sickness) being come to the office, and did what business there was, and so I by water, at night late, to Sir G. Carteret’s, but there being no oars to carry me, I was fain to call a skuller that had a gentleman already in it, and he proved a man of love to musique, and he and I sung together the way down with great pleasure, and an incident extraordinary to be met with. There come to dinner, they haveing dined, but my Lady caused something to be brought for me, and I dined well and mighty merry, especially my Lady Slaning and I about eating of creame and brown bread, which she loves as much as I. Thence after long discourse with them and my Lady alone, I and wife, who by agreement met here, took leave, and I saw my wife a little way down (it troubling me that this absence makes us a little strange instead of more fond), and so parted, and I home to some letters, and then home to bed. Above 700 died of the plague this week.

in sleep I was the skull within me
a thing of my own

troubling that this absence makes it
strange to die


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 13 July 1665.

old fashioned words unapologetic for the crispness of close consonants

and the first click in the finger joint after the needle’s steroid deposit

the slow breaths you coax as counterpoint to anxious thoughts at night

and the spinning echo of clothes tumbling in the dryer

the woody smell of rosemary next to sparse fringes of lavender

and felted caterwauling calls of barred owls

the pale clean stump where a camellia bush used to stand

and the underpattern of roots beneath the grass

a letter that wounds whenever it’s read

and a ransom that won’t ever be paid

the feeling you get looking up into fruiting branches

and the electric hum from cicadas’ tymbals as their torsos contort

peaches that drowned a brown sugar taste in the beer

and your fear of the season’s first slow-moving storms

the fat on the back of a slab of brisket

and the jar of bird chillies in a drawer

the clock on the mantel that never keeps the time

and the piles of small change you keep finding through the house

~ after “Flower Woman with Soft Piano,” Salvador Dali (1969)

If I could roll up my soul, bolt
of blue cloth under an arm; fallen

drape that crumples up then ends
in music— perhaps finally I’d

understand what it means to say
And time stood still. I can’t

remember when last my head erupted
in flowers, when a dream of ice

descended from the skies in foliate
shapes before melting and warming

into streams. Every day, it’s work
to try and widen the ledge on which

I stand. Every day, it’s work
to couple one hook to its eye, one

car to another, then send it off
in the right direction. I would like

to be unshackled from here, to lope
like a thing with young, supple legs

into a field without grids, even
without the accompaniment of music.

After doing what business I could in the morning, it being a solemn fast-day for the plague growing upon us, I took boat and down to Deptford, where I stood with great pleasure an houre or two by my Lady Sandwich’s bedside, talking to her (she lying prettily in bed) of my Lady Jemimah’s being from my Lady Pickering’s when our letters come to that place; she being at my Lord Montagu’s, at Boughton. The truth is, I had received letters of it two days ago, but had dropped them, and was in a very extraordinary straite what to do for them, or what account to give my Lady, but sent to every place; I sent to Moreclacke, where I had been the night before, and there they were found, which with mighty joy come safe to me; but all ending with satisfaction to my Lady and me, though I find my Lady Carteret not much pleased with this delay, and principally because of the plague, which renders it unsafe to stay long at Deptford. I eat a bit (my Lady Carteret being the most kind lady in the world), and so took boat, and a fresh boat at the Tower, and so up the river, against tide all the way, I having lost it by staying prating to and with my Lady, and, from before one, made it seven ere we got to Hampton Court; and when I come there all business was over, saving my finding Mr. Coventry at his chamber, and with him a good while about several businesses at his chamber, and so took leave, and away to my boat, and all night upon the water, staying a while with Nan at Moreclacke, very much pleased and merry with her, and so on homeward, and come home by two o’clock, shooting the bridge at that time of night, and so to bed, where I find Will is not, he staying at Woolwich to come with my wife to dinner tomorrow to my Lady Carteret’s. Heard Mr. Williamson repeat at Hampton Court to-day how the King of France hath lately set out a most high arrest against the Pope, which is reckoned very lofty and high.

a solemn day for lying
when the truth dropped

what do they shoot
at that time of day
how high is high


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 12 July 1665.

And so all night down by water, a most pleasant passage, and come thither by two o’clock, and so walked from the Old Swan home, and there to bed to my Will, being very weary, and he lodging at my desire in my house.
At 6 o’clock up and to Westminster (where and all the towne besides, I hear, the plague encreases), and, it being too soon to go to the Duke of Albemarle, I to the Harp and Ball, and there made a bargain with Mary to go forth with me in the afternoon, which she with much ado consented to. So I to the Duke of Albemarle’s, and there with much ado did get his consent in part to my having the money promised for Tangier, and the other part did not concur. So being displeased with this, I back to the office and there sat alone a while doing business, and then by a solemn invitation to the Trinity House, where a great dinner and company, Captain Dobbin’s feast for Elder Brother. But I broke up before the dinner half over and by water to the Harp and Ball, and thence had Mary meet me at the New Exchange, and there took coach and I with great pleasure took the ayre to Highgate, and thence to Hampstead, much pleased with her company, pretty and innocent, and had what pleasure almost I would with her, and so at night, weary and sweaty, it being very hot beyond bearing, we back again, and I set her down in St. Martin’s Lane, and so I to the evening ‘Change, and there hear all the towne full that Ostend is delivered to us, and that Alderman Backewell did go with 50,000l. to that purpose. But the truth of it I do not know, but something I believe there is extraordinary in his going. So to the office, where I did what I could as to letters, and so away to bed, shifting myself, and taking some Venice treakle, feeling myself out of order, and thence to bed to sleep.

swan lodging in my clock
elder brother to the air
the night being hot beyond bearing
deliver us some treacle of sleep


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 11 July 1665.

Up, and with great pleasure looking over a nest of puppies of Mr. Shelden’s, with which my wife is most extraordinary pleased, and one of them is promised her. Anon I took my leave, and away by water to the Duke of Albemarle’s, where he tells me that I must be at Hampton Court anon. So I home to look over my Tangier papers, and having a coach of Mr. Povy’s attending me, by appointment, in order to my coming to dine at his country house at Brainford, where he and his family is, I went and Mr. Tasbrough with me therein, it being a pretty chariot, but most inconvenient as to the horses throwing dust and dirt into one’s eyes and upon one’s clothes. There I staid a quarter of an houre, Creed being there, and being able to do little business (but the less the better). Creed rode before, and Mr. Povy and I after him in the chariot; and I was set down by him at the Parke pale, where one of his saddle horses was ready for me, he himself not daring to come into the house or be seen, because that a servant of his, out of his horse, happened to be sicke, but is not yet dead, but was never suffered to come into his house after he was ill. But this opportunity was taken to injure Povy, and most horribly he is abused by some persons hereupon, and his fortune, I believe, quite broke; but that he hath a good heart to bear, or a cunning one to conceal his evil. There I met with Sir W. Coventry, and by and by was heard by my Lord Chancellor and Treasurer about our Tangier money, and my Lord Treasurer had ordered me to forbear meddling with the 15,000l. he offered me the other day, but, upon opening the case to them, they did offer it again, and so I think I shall have it, but my Lord General must give his consent in it, this money having been promised to him, and he very angry at the proposal.
Here though I have not been in many years, yet I lacke time to stay, besides that it is, I perceive, an unpleasing thing to be at Court, everybody being fearful one of another, and all so sad, enquiring after the plague, so that I stole away by my horse to Kingston, and there with trouble was forced, to press two sturdy rogues to carry me to London, and met at the waterside with Mr. Charnocke, Sir Philip Warwicke’s clerke, who had been in company and was quite foxed. I took him with me in my boat, and so away to Richmond, and there, by night, walked with him to Moreclacke, a very pretty walk, and there staid a good while, now and then talking and sporting with Nan the servant, who says she is a seaman’s wife, and at last bade good night.

a nest of papers
convenient as one’s own pale horse

not yet dead
but open to it

an ink body to carry me
away by night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 10 July 1665.

It’s long afterward, but still
you want what doesn’t exist anymore—

and so you light a votive, set it
on a leaf to float across the lake’s

dirty surface. Every crack in the pavement
is part of a letter penned in script,

its fissures just wide enough to admit
a trail of insects walking toward the ghosts

of bodies trapped in a cavern below.
They drink from a trickle of rainwater

falling into the basin. They save
a thimbleful of pee for that time no one

speaks of— Please, don’t tell them it’s
over. When you shred a dandelion’s slight

corona in your hand, don’t mention the sound
of buildings collapsing. Don’t tell them

the morgue has run out of sheets, the funeral
parlors have run out of candles and coffins.

 

In response to Via Negativa: Childhood memory.

poet bloggers revival tour 2018 A few quotes + links (please click through!) from the Poet Bloggers Revival Tour, plus occasional other poetry bloggers in my feed reader. If you’ve missed earlier editions of the digest, here’s the archive.

A shorter digest than usual this week — no doubt because of bloggers being off on holiday — but some unusually hard-hitting posts more than make up for it.

Scrape the leftovers into a pan on the stove,
whatever was chilled in the fridge, crammed in cupboards,
canned or covered, not quite fresh but only newly

expired. Things others would throw away, like broken
laws or a person who told the right story at just
the wrong time. Call this truth.
PF Anderson, Leftovers

*

I’ve been slowly and painfully reading Claudia Castro Luna’s stunningly beautiful book, Killing Marias (Two Sylvias Press, 2017), in which she celebrates in elegiac poems the “disappeared women” of Juarez, Mexico. Of course, these stories portray the same conditions that women in Central America continue to confront, conditions in no small part fostered by US policies. The added insult however, is that now families are being torn apart at US borders.

This morning I looked for my copy of To Bedlam and Part Way Back, Anne Sexton’s first book of poems, published in the early 60’s, which reflects on her first psychiatric hospitalization, an event that separated her from her young daughter. I didn’t find the book, not surprising, having moved so many times since it was placed in my hands by a friend who saw the suicide in me, back in the seventies, while I was trying to make sense of having lost contact with my son. I had already swallowed Plath’s The Bell Jar whole, and was identifying more with feeling like I was crazy, less with how power and abuse were shaping my life, and just on the verge of reading/writing poems myself. I held on to the Sexton book at least long enough to remember these lines:

I could not get you back
except for weekends.

My son was kidnapped by his father when he was four; afterwards, the legal sham of a custody war dragged on for over a year. I don’t speak about losing custody of my son often or easily; the experience was too awful and left me with unremitting feelings of shame and helplessness. I identified with Sexton when I read those lines, my own poetic line for my relationship with my son was briefly, in summers.
Risa Denenberg, Sunday Morning Muse in Bedlam

*

This week I visited Virginia State University to read the papers of Amaza Lee Meredith, an African American artist, architect, and teacher who was a sometime neighbor and longtime friend to the poet Anne Spencer. I leafed through scrapbooks Meredith kept full of letters from students, memorabilia about Spencer, and poems she either copied out or clipped from magazines. She also preserved clippings about a few favorite politicians and a receipt from her $5 donation to Adlai Stevenson’s campaign. Meredith and Spencer were friends during the Jim Crow era and they clearly talked urgently and often about educational inequality and school segregation. I’m not comparing my experiences to theirs–Spencer and Meredith and their families were in physical danger, as well as being subject to daily degradations, because they were black in mid-twentieth-century Virginia–but I think negotiating this political moment is tuning my awareness to aspects of Spencer’s situation.

What sustained Spencer when social injustice and literary rejection demoralized her? Her garden. Reading and writing. And friends like Amaza Lee Meredith, to whom she signed “I love you,” late in life, in a shaky hand.
Lesley Wheeler, Poetry, politics, and friendship

*

For me, it is as if, like all great art, The Waste Land were taking place in a continuous present. Furthermore, in my own condition, that present was entirely enveloping, full of echoes that shook me without my knowing quite why they did so. Perhaps I recognised the revolutionary Budapest of 1956 with its bullet and shell scarred buildings in those falling towers; perhaps the woman who drew her long black hair out tight was an incarnation of my mother and her black hair as she turned away from me to brush it; perhaps the voices of Eliot and Vivienne in the room and those of the group down at the pub echoed some experience of hearing my own mother and father at a point of tension and the presence of overheard unfamiliar others engaged in their own lives in some social space.

Perhaps all this was personal, or some core of it was. I chose to concentrate on it here because of its significance to me then, But also because the world it conjured is never quite dead. Not even now.
George Szirtes, FIRST ENCOUNTER WITH ELIOT / Little Gidding 8 July 2018

*

It has no name. The thing that swells up
inside me like a hurricane. The thing
that visits me in the late afternoon.
Last week I came home and it filleted
me open like a fish.
Crystal Ignatowski, Whole

*

I recently read James Geary’s entertaining book I Is an Other–The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World. Geary takes his title from one of Rimbaud‘s letters, calling this phrase metaphor’s “principal equation”:

Metaphor systematically disorganizes the common sense of things–jumbling together the abstract with the concrete, the physical with the psychological, the like with the unlike–and reorganizes it into uncommon combinations.

I like this definition because it feels more complete than the typical definition of metaphor as a comparison without the use of the adverbial comparative (i.e., no “like” or “as”). Indeed, metaphor probably forms the basis of language itself; while that conclusion’s much debated in semiotics, linguistics, and other scholarly disciplines, common sense and common usage strongly suggest that even thought itself–in terms of how we think internally about the world–employs metaphor as an underpinning.
Ann E. Michael, Back to metaphor

*

Jorie Graham is a master orchestrator of thought; her poems have always treated thought as a kind of entity. Graham has studied this entity and given it a language that floods, eddies, pivots, and unfolds, and yet that language is elevated beyond thought’s actuality, which is transformed through this mimesis. But what if Jorie Graham’s entity—made up of a single person’s thoughts—met another entity, a bot, full of the encyclopedic knowledge of the internet as well as the user’s voice. The first of four sections in Graham’s most recent collection Fast explores this collision of minds, of art and information, of human and machine. The resulting poems are frenetic as they are thoughtful, their pace perhaps lacks the elegance of Graham’s earlier poems, and yet this is the point. Something here of the self is lost to modernity, to the cacophony of disembodied voices and to the many horrors of information floating around the internet like sand in the ocean.
Anita Olivia Koester, Through the Looking Glass and Beyond: Fast by Jorie Graham

*

Collecting Dust

Sometimes the problem with hording is remembering what you’ve hoarded or, more accurately, what is in what you’ve hoarded. The number of times I look back at lines in my (electronic) ideas pad and have no memory of several of the lines is not even funny, and that’s stuff I’ve apparently written! But, when I received the list of books in the Poetry 1 module reading list for my MA course, I was delighted to recognise names I know from the online world or have actually met in person :)

The Module Matrix

I never really understood a matrix, other than that the plural was matrices; modules I understand marginally better, though the reading list for Poetry 1 module is rather baffling: there is a list 1 and a list 2, and list 2 is further subdivided into required reading, suggested reading and recommended reading … it gets trickier when some books are on list 1 and 2, so it is quite hard to figure out in which folder to file the electronic copy of the text!
Giles L. Turnbull, A Collection of Poetry Friends

*

It’s Saturday night and I am home trying to do a poetry submission.

Poetry submissions annoy me when I overthink them. I look at my work and say, “Hmm, this isn’t good, nor is this.” I say, “not this poem, this poem sucks, maybe I’ll work on this poem, hey–what’s this? I’m hungry, do we have any sliced gouda?”

I sabotage myself. I can’t figure out who to submit to, even though I have a list in front of me of journals I want to submit to.

I put the “pro” in “procrastinate,” and so much, I end up writing a blog post (which I am behind on), instead of submitting.

And wait, I’m the one who wrote that viral piece, Submit Like a Man? I could learn a lot from myself.
Kelli Russell Agodon, Friday Submission Club

*

Sometimes when I’ve just “finished” a project, I get all bouncily excited. I can’t wait to get it out into the world, CERTAIN that the world will be AGOG. At times like this I wish someone would gently wrest the “Send” button from my hand.

If I do excitedly send the fresh, new piece, fortunately it takes so long for most places to respond that the rejection letters come less as a knife to the heart of Tigger as a knife to the heart of, say, Kanga, perhaps, or Roo, or, depending on the day, Eeyore.

If I’m a sensible bear, I’ll put the piece aside. I’ll come back to it later and HATE EVERYTHING ABOUT IT. Then I’ll put it aside again and later come to it with a more measured response. Although if I wait too long, I’ll get too Wol-ish about it all, and that can be insufferable.
Marilyn McCabe, Help Me If You Can; or On the Stages of Project Completion

*

Colin Potts – photographer, professor, chess enthusiast and all-around good egg – shot my new author photo, which will appear on the back cover and in publicity for the book. I wanted the photo to have a connection to my favorite poem in the collection, “In the afterlife my father is a London cab driver.” Since we couldn’t get to London, we convened in the parking garage of the MidCity Lofts in Atlanta on a hot Sunday afternoon. Fellow poet and BFF Karen Head loaned us her car. Sitting in the back seat of a hot car wearing a winter coat on a July afternoon is not recommended, but Colin did a spectacular job. He was shooting in close quarters, from a low-angle and basically blind since he couldn’t see the viewscreen on his camera. Lighting was also an issue, but the overhead “map lights” provided just enough illumination to give the photo the noir look we were after. Thank you, Colin, for making me look like a rock star!

I was asked to write a short blurb for an upcoming appearance to describe the collection, so I’ll share that with you as well:

Sibling Rivalry Press will publish Collin Kelley’s third full-length poetry collection, Midnight in a Perfect World, in Nov. 2018. This sequence of cinematic, dream-like poems is infused with travelogue, pop culture and music – from Joni Mitchell and Kate Bush to Kylie Minogue and David Bowie. With the city of London as a final destination, readers will touch down in Los Angeles, New Orleans, Denver, Atlanta and New York before crossing the pond for a cathartic reunion of ghosts from the poet’s past.
Collin Kelley, “Midnight in a Perfect World” coming Nov. 15

*

July is a good time to get together one-on-one with friends, to appreciate the little beauties around us, to maybe make peach ice cream or learn one more grill-out recipe to share. We just celebrated Glenn’s birthday with my little brother and sister in law drinking cider, eating grilled-duck tacos and spent the end of a warm evening watching the hot air balloons going up in Woodinville. The goldfinch showed himself off too.

So, be sure to enjoy your summer, be sure to enjoy the little things, take advantage of downtime to do thing you forget to do during the rest of the year – watch the birds, water your garden, drink something cold outside. Read some poetry and be kind to your little poems as you revise and refresh. It’s a good time to go a little easier on ourselves.
Jeannine Hall Gailey, Goldfinch and Sunflowers, Thanks to the Coil, and Celebrations

(Lord’s day). Very pleasant with her and among my people, while she made her ready, and, about 10 o’clock, by water to Sir G. Carteret, and there find my Lady in her chamber, not very well, but looks the worst almost that ever I did see her in my life. It seems her drinking of the water at Tunbridge did almost kill her before she could with most violent physique get it out of her body again. We are received with most extraordinary kindnesse by my Lady Carteret and her children, and dined most nobly. Sir G. Carteret went to Court this morning. After dinner I took occasion to have much discourse with Mr. Ph. Carteret, and find him a very modest man; and I think verily of mighty good nature, and pretty understanding. He did give me a good account of the fight with the Dutch. My Lady Sandwich dined in her chamber.
About three o’clock I, leaving my wife there, took boat and home, and there shifted myself into my black silke suit, and having promised Harman yesterday, I to his house, which I find very mean, and mean company. His wife very ill; I could not see her. Here I, with her father and Kate Joyce, who was also very ill, were godfathers and godmother to his boy, and was christened Will. Mr. Meriton christened him. The most observable thing I found there to my content, was to hear him and his clerk tell me that in this parish of Michell’s, Cornhill, one of the middlemost parishes and a great one of the towne, there hath, notwithstanding this sickliness, been buried of any disease, man, woman, or child, not one for thirteen months last past; which very strange. And the like in a good degree in most other parishes, I hear, saving only of the plague in them, but in this neither the plague nor any other disease.
So back again home and reshifted myself, and so down to my Lady Carteret’s, where mighty merry and great pleasantnesse between my Lady Sandwich and the young ladies and me, and all of us mighty merry, there never having been in the world sure a greater business of general content than this match proposed between Mr. Carteret and my Lady Jemimah. But withal it is mighty pretty to think how my poor Lady Sandwich, between her and me, is doubtfull whether her daughter will like of it or no, and how troubled she is for fear of it, which I do not fear at all, and desire her not to do it, but her fear is the most discreet and pretty that ever I did see.
Late here, and then my wife and I, with most hearty kindnesse from my Lady Carteret by boat to Woolwich, come thither about 12 at night, and so to bed.

drinking
I almost kill myself
my promised joy buried
like a match in the night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 9 July 1665.