Careless lovers

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up and to White Hall to a Committee for Tangier, where his Royal Highness was. Our great design was to state to them the true condition of this Committee for want of money, the want whereof was so great as to need some sudden help, and it was with some content resolved to see it supplied and means proposed towards the doing of it.
At this Committee, unknown to me, comes my Lord of Sandwich, who, it seems, come to towne last night. After the Committee was up, my Lord Sandwich did take me aside, and we walked an hour alone together in the robe-chamber, the door shut, telling me how much the Duke and Mr. Coventry did, both in the fleete and here, make of him, and that in some opposition to the Prince; and as a more private message, he told me that he hath been with them both when they have made sport of the Prince and laughed at him: yet that all the discourse of the towne, and the printed relation, should not give him one word of honour my Lord thinks mighty strange; he assuring me, that though by accident the Prince was in the van the beginning of the fight for the first pass, yet all the rest of the day my Lord was in the van, and continued so. That notwithstanding all this noise of the Prince, he had hardly a shot in his side nor a man killed, whereas he hath above 30 in her hull, and not one mast whole nor yard; but the most battered ship of the fleet, and lost most men, saving Captain Smith of “The Mary.” That the most the Duke did was almost out of gun-shot; but that, indeed, the Duke did come up to my Lord’s rescue after he had a great while fought with four of them. How poorly Sir John Lawson performed, notwithstanding all that was said of him; and how his ship turned out of the way, while Sir J. Lawson himself was upon the deck, to the endangering of the whole fleete. It therefore troubles my Lord that Mr. Coventry should not mention a word of him in his relation. I did, in answer, offer that I was sure the relation was not compiled by Mr. Coventry, but by L’Estrange, out of several letters, as I could witness; and that Mr. Coventry’s letter that he did give the Duke of Albemarle did give him as much right as the Prince, for I myself read it first and then copied it out, which I promised to show my Lord, with which he was somewhat satisfied.
From that discourse my Lord did begin to tell me how much he was concerned to dispose of his children, and would have my advice and help; and propounded to match my Lady Jemimah to Sir G. Carteret’s eldest son, which I approved of, and did undertake the speaking with him about it as from myself, which my Lord liked. So parted, with my head full of care about this business.
Thence home to the ‘Change, and so to dinner, and thence by coach to Mr. Povy’s. Thence by appointment with him and Creed to one Mr. Finch; one of the Commissioners for the Excise, to be informed about some things of the Excise, in order to our settling matters therein better for us for our Tangier business. I find him a very discreet, grave person. Thence well satisfied I and Creed to Mr. Fox at White Hall to speak with him about the same matter, and having some pretty satisfaction from him also, he and I took boat and to Fox Hall, where we spent two or three hours talking of several matters very soberly and contentfully to me, which, with the ayre and pleasure of the garden, was a great refreshment to me, and, ‘methinks, that which we ought to joy ourselves in. Thence back to White Hall, where we parted, and I to find my Lord to receive his farther direction about his proposal this morning. Wherein I did that I should first by another hand break my intentions to Sir G. Carteret. I pitched upon Dr. Clerke, which my Lord liked, and so I endeavoured but in vain to find him out to-night. So home by hackney-coach, which is become a very dangerous passage now-a-days, the sickness increasing mightily, and to bed.

our want was so sudden
we laughed at it
how poorly formed it was
a ship turned out of relation
to what satisfied
like an appointment
at the grave of a clerk


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 23 June 1665.

Our Lady of Sorrows at the Border

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

“Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also…” ~ Luke 2: 35

In the small chapel named after St. Nicholas
in Aachen is a painted image of the Suffering

Madonna— Our Lady of Tears, Our Lady of Sorrows:
her heart a mother’s heart, small lumpy heart

a pin cushion stabbed by seven slender knives
and glowing with crimson oils. How is she

even standing after the first assault,
the second, the third? How does she

not swoon to the floor and expire right there?
And the grey-haired woman on her knees, on a pew

in front of the altar: has she brought her own
mutilated heart as offering, does she pray

for the safety of her first born who’s left home
in a rage and vowed to never speak to her again?

Is that man standing by the pillar, eyes closed,
thinking of a brother who will soon be unhooked

from his hospital ventilator? We’ve all had
our share of such lacerations, many more

than seven— but how can they even compare?
And who can even keep count now of all the hearts

that pass through the border, of children wailing
as they’re ripped apart from their mothers,

reaped like potatoes from a truck and dumped
straight from a sack into a metal bin…

Moth parts

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up pretty betimes, and in great pain whether to send my mother into the country to-day or no, I hearing, by my people, that she, poor wretch, hath a mind to stay a little longer, and I cannot blame her, considering what a life she will through her own folly lead when she comes home again, unlike the pleasure and liberty she hath had here. At last I resolved to put it to her, and she agreed to go, so I would not oppose it, because of the sicknesse in the towne, and my intentions of removing my wife. So I did give her money and took a kind leave of her, she, poor wretch, desiring that I would forgive my brother John, but I refused it to her, which troubled her, poor soul, but I did it in kind words and so let the discourse go off, she leaving me though in a great deal of sorrow. So I to my office and left my wife and people to see her out of town, and I at the office all the morning. At noon my wife tells me that she is with much ado gone, and I pray God bless her, but it seems she was to the last unwilling to go, but would not say so, but put it off till she lost her place in the coach, and was fain to ride in the waggon part.
After dinner to the office again till night, very busy, and so home not very late to supper and to bed.

a moth cannot consider
what life she will lead

like my words let go at last
but not lost to the night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 22 June 1665.

Poet Bloggers Revival Digest: Week 25

poet bloggers revival tour 2018

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.

Current events cast a heavy shadow over poets’ blogs this week, but we still found plenty of other things to write about as well, which is a tribute to our mental resilience, I suppose. So I decided not to impose much order on my selections this time around, emphasizing variety instead of common themes.

in the secret game in the secret room your face is circled
Grant Hackett, untitled monostich

*

M.S. and I have begun tooling around with a new collaboration, something I’m working on during my morning writing sessions. Our spring sketchbook-making was such a good way of keeping me/us working through the semester, even with the chaos of classes, and I loved the experience of responding to visual art and having visual art made in response to my writing. The new project is less binary, less call-and-response, and more like two adjacent artists working around a similar theme — at some point we’ll exchange our work and reveal what we have and then move on from there. . . I think. The project springs from one of M.S.’s earlier works, actually, that I found inspiring and she wanted to develop further, so to some extent I already have visuals in my head that I can respond to . . . unfortunately she has to wait for work from me, since everything is coming out in these weird blotches of language. I’m not really interested in writing prose poems, so I’m just considering them bookmarks for poems that I’ll eventually write, and hopefully sooner rather than later.
Sarah Kain Gutowski, New Writing and Close Readings

*

When the breast is deprived of the baby
The tissue turns to stone
The ducts stiffen, become infected, inflamed
The breast weeps droplets of milk

 

There is no Promised Land
El Norte is a cruel myth
El Norte has stolen children
For hundreds of years
If the child be of darker hue
Christine Swint, Pilgrimage to el Norte

*

Josephine Corcoran launched her collection, What Are You After, to a packed room, with special guest readings by Rishi Dastidar, Jackie Wills and Susannah Evans. I found Susannah’s apocalyptic poems really engaging (and funny, too; I love poems that make me laugh aloud) and I’ll be watching out for her forthcoming Nine Arches collection. Rishi and Susannah also paid tribute to Josephine’s online treasure trove that is And Other Poems by reading one of their poems published on the site.

I had my copy of What Are You After to hand for Josephine’s launch reading but found myself so drawn by the voice of the poet and the poems themselves that her book stayed on my lap (instead, it was my travel companion for the return train journey). Her poems have their feet planted firmly in everyday language; they are frank, funny, human, poignant. Afterwards, we were able to watch ‘Poem in which we hear the word ‘drone” as a film poem by Chaucer Cameron and Helen Dewbery of Elephant’s Footprint along with other poems from recent Nine Arches collections.
Jayne Stanton, Happy 10th birthday, Nine Arches Press!

So let’s watch that film poem Jayne mentioned:

*

I have been musing on Rebecca Solnit’s text in which she writes about the Romantics’ “new” appreciation of Nature. I was particularly struck by her research about how in Europe, and among the Eurocentric American colonizers, pre-Romantic era society considered mountains not only dangerous but also “ugly” (in Wanderlust: A History of Walking). Aesthetics began to change in the late 18th and the 19th centuries. Walking the natural world for something other than pure transportation from place to place altered our social ideas about what’s “beautiful.”

The first question I ask myself when something doesn’t seem to be beautiful is why do I think it’s not beautiful. And very shortly you discover that there is no reason.
—John Cage

[…]

Looking closely enough at something to find that you no longer see it as ugly requires an almost meditative change in perspective. It’s been an approach useful to me as a poetry prompt and as a means of more closely appreciating the world and everything in it. I don’t mean that I identify with the 19th-c Romantics, though I eagerly trod where Wordsworth trod when I visited the Lakes District a few years back; I don’t. My view of nature is really with a small ‘n’ and is pragmatic and scientific, among other things.

But: John Cage’s question to himself is a reminder to be compassionate, to observe with openness, information, education, perspective, and loving-kindness…while walking through the world.
Ann E. Michael, Aesthetic “therapy”

*

[Octavia] Butler’s life as a writer has also been an inspiration and a comfort. I was so happy when she won the MacArthur award. I read an interview with her in Poets and Writers shortly after she won that award. She talked about the value of money to a writer, how having a funding source freed her to write all the books she’d been storing up but couldn’t write because she had to work. And in her early years, that work was often menial labor, the kind that leaves one too tired to write.

Butler was a writer who writers could love. Like many of my favorite writers, she stresses habit and persistence over talent and inspiration. Here’s a typical quote (found on GoodReads): “First forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not. Habit will help you finish and polish your stories. Inspiration won’t. Habit is persistence in practice.”
Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Happy Birthday, Octavia Butler!

*

I am sharing a poem today from my upcoming collection The Lure of Impermanence (Cirque Press). I wrote this shortly after the recent presidential election. It seems that the number of corpses on frosted asphalt has only grown larger in this increasingly unkind and immoral political atmosphere many of us Americans find ourselves in. May we all join together and be the song we need to hear.
Carey Taylor, Post Election

*

In this body, which has become increasingly fragile as I age, I worry I can’t do enough – for others, for my country, for my dad. What can my contribution be? Well, I can at least not stay silent. I can at least let my politicians who care about my vote know where I stand. I can let my Dad know I’m thinking of him with care-packages and advice. I feel like I’m on the verge of yelling or crying almost all the time these days. None of it is enough. I can write my way through it – probably the only thing I feel competent to do right now.

How do you get through Crisis Mode? How do you take care of yourself and still help take care of the world? How do you, as a poet feel we should respond?
Jeannine Hall Gailey, Crisis Mode, My review of Oceanic up at the Rumpus, Redactions New Issue, Lit World Gender Representation, Crisis Mode Again

*

How does one wade in the water, when the water is toxic? The current United States Poet Laureate, Tracy K. Smith, approaches this question in a variety of thought-provoking ways in her profound fourth collection, Wade in the Water. The water Smith considers is literal, political, historical, and metaphorical: the water we drink, the culture we are steeped in, the history we carry with us, and the spirituality imbued in our everyday lives. With a deeply critical mind, Smith probes these dynamics through juxtaposition, documentary poetics, erasure techniques, secular hermeneutics, as well as anecdotal narrative. Following her Pulitzer prize winning collection, Life on Mars, Smith returns to an abused and ravaged earth, and listens to its discontents, sorrows, and complaints and shows us what is essential and not essential to the human condition.

At the center of this struggle for a world we can all wade in are power dynamics. Whether political or domestic, on a grand or a small scale, these dynamics directly affect the daily existence of Americans, whether we realize it or not. Power dynamics also affect our drinking water. Water is supposed to cleanse, replenish, and revive us, and yet due to unregulated toxic chemicals seeping into drinking water, it is killing people, in America and around the world. In the eco-poetics poem “Watershed,” Smith pulls phrases from an article summarizing a lawyer’s long-standing legal battle with the megacorporation DuPont. The case exposed decades of chemical pollution that resulted not only in sick employees, but in severe water contamination in specific towns as well as contamination throughout the world. The second definition of watershed is: an event or period marking a turning point in a course of action or state of affairs. This case against DuPont was a watershed moment in environmental legislation, though for many people the outcome came too late; the original plaintiffs both died of cancer after watching the majority of their 200 cows become diseased, deranged, and die from contaminated drinking water.

It is difficult to digest the horrific ramifications of DuPont’s negligence, nearly all people have been exposed to PFOA, the poisonous chemical used to process Teflon, it is in our blood and blood banks. Tracy K. Smith could have read this article in the NYT and gone on with her day, but instead she created a lasting work of art that stands as testament to this catastrophic event. With a surgical hand Smith extracts particularly disturbing portions of this text and interweaves them with extracts from a second text, accounts of near-death experiences, which are considerably different in tone and subject matter. This kind of courageous leap in thought is part of what makes contemporary poetics so exciting. The result of this interweaving is an almost surreal poem that underlines this global health threat, and also considers what it really means to be on the threshold between life and death. The near-death experiences Smith selects are rooted in love, an action opposite of the ones corporations are accustomed to taking. In the afterlife, according to these accounts, “All that was made, said, done, or even thought without love was undone.”
Anita Olivia Koester, American Toxicity: Wade in the Water by Tracy K. Smith

*

Where I’ve been staying, most days in the early evening I hear a strange soft clatter, and look out the door to find a relatively orderly herd of goats walking down the road, kept moving along by a relatively polite and very efficient border collie. Sometimes a goat will pause to nibble at a tasty vine, but in short order the collie urges it along, and they all disappear around the corner of the stone barn next door. Often soon thereafter I’ll hear some bellowing, and I know the man down the street is calling the cows back to the barn from the field across the road, and they’ll shamble along slowly to his “Allors,” as if reluctant attendees to an obligatory meeting. Early mornings I wake to what sounds like a strangled cry which, after he clears his throat, will turn out to be a rooster’s call, soon to be joined by the dove’s ooo-ooo-er, over and over and over and over. And it occurs to me that these are my main modes of thought. And I can’t predict from one situation to the next, one impulse to the next, which of the modes will kick in. I can only hope they ultimately serve whatever the purpose: to move me along, to gather myself together, to wake me up, or get me out of the house to escape the incessant repetitions of thought. Allors.
Marilyn McCabe, I Herd You; or Habits of Mind

*

What I am reading:

What Is Not Beautiful, Poems by Adeeba Shahid Talukder (The Glass Chapbook Series, June 2018)

This small book of poems can be read in order and in one sitting, a process I like to apply to all books of poems, but am not always able to. There is this joy with chapbooks, when good–as this one certainly is–in that their concentrated effect can be mesmerizing.

Starting with the picture on the cover, a small girl looking at herself in the mirror with a look that is hard to decipher. Wise and knowing? or tough and jaded? Compare this to the author’s picture on the back cover and you have the same face, the same expression, the same wonderment that presages the narrative of the book.
Risa Denenberg, Sunday Morning Muse Report

*

Ian McMillan, Elvis, Ted Hughes … I spent this afternoon at the Ready Teddy workshop organised by the Ted Hughes Project and run by Ian McMillan. Ian was as entertaining as always, but what really came through was his ability to transcend the ordinary and to take his workshop participants with him on a flight of fancy which was uncannily grounded in the real and everyday. The setting of the former Mexborough Grammar School, where Hughes studied, was a gift. We wandered the corridors making absurd but inspiring links between past and present, fact and fiction, imagining Elvis on the trail of his hero, Ted Hughes. People came up with daft theories about off-the-wall things like boiled hamburgers, and outside we discovered ‘Elvis artefacts’ including a wooden heart. We sang Jailhouse Rock to the tune of On Ilkley Moor Baht ‘At to get us in the mood for writing and Ian shared a brilliant tweet he’d received: You ain’t nothin’ but a thought fox.

That’s what Ian’s so good at, getting you to be absurd and creative and not to worry about what you’re writing.
Julie Mellor, Ready Teddy …

*

My father Langston hands his camel jacket to the coat-check lady.
He lifts his menu with a flourish and says now you order anything, anything.
My father Thomas Stearns says use your inside voice.
Embarrassment beads his forehead.
My father Ezra chants a grace to drive the waiter mad.
My father John Keats urges a scalpel between cork and bottle.
A candle-flame repeats in glass, wine, his hectic cheeks.
My father Walt pries open mollusk after mollusk, grooves on his thumbs adoring the grooves of each inky shell.
My father Allen insists I eat my broccoli broccoli broccoli and the outrageous curry of hilarity anoints his beard.
My father James Merrill, tortoiseshell-buttoned, conserves naked chicken bones for broth.
I will bathe them, he says, with bay leaves, peppercorns, and whole onions quartered through paper to root.
When the liquid alchemizes I will strain its gold and measure in cubes of potato, crystals of salt.
This soup will be for you.

Lesley Wheeler, Paternity suit

Currency

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and very busy all the morning. At noon with Creed to the Excise Office, where I find our tallys will not be money in less than sixteen months, which is a sad thing for the King to pay all that interest for every penny he spends; and, which is strange, the goldsmiths with whom I spoke, do declare that they will not be moved to part with money upon the increase of their consideration of ten per cent. which they have, and therefore desire I would not move in it, and indeed the consequence would be very ill to the King, and have its ill consequences follow us through all the King’s revenue.
Home, and my uncle Wight and aunt James dined with me, my mother being to go away to-morrow.
So to White Hall, and there before and after Council discoursed with Sir Thomas Ingram about our ill case as to Tangier for money. He hath got the King to appoint a meeting on Friday, which I hope will put an end one way or other to my pain.
So homewards and to the Cross Keys at Cripplegate, where I find all the towne almost going out of towne, the coaches and waggons being all full of people going into the country. Here I had some of the company of the tapster’s wife a while, and so home to my office, and then home to supper and to bed.

all the morning will
not be money

or rest or every strange
desire I have

consequences follow us
home with our money

where I own people
in the company of ice


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 21 June 1665.

Industrial park

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Thankes-giving-day for victory over ye Dutch. Up, and to the office, where very busy alone all the morning till church time, and there heard a mean sorry sermon of Mr. Mills. Then to the Dolphin Taverne, where all we officers of the Navy met with the Commissioners of the Ordnance by agreement, and dined: where good musique at my direction. Our club come to 34s. a man, nine of us.
Thence after dinner, to White Hall with Sir W. Berkely in his coach, and so walked to Herbert’s and there spent a little time avec la mosa, sin hazer algo con ella que kiss and tocar ses mamelles, que me haza hazer la cosa a mi mismo con gran plaisir. Thence by water to Fox-hall, and there walked an hour alone, observing the several humours of the citizens that were there this holyday, pulling of cherries, and God knows what, and so home to my office, where late, my wife not being come home with my mother, who have been this day all abroad upon the water, my mother being to go out of town speedily. So I home and to supper and to bed, my wife come home when I come from the office.
This day I informed myself that there died four or five at Westminster of the plague in one alley in several houses upon Sunday last, Bell Alley, over against the Palace-gate; yet people do think that the number will be fewer in the towne than it was the last weeke!
The Dutch are come out again with 20 sail under Bankert; supposed gone to the Northward to meete their East India fleete.

over all the mills
a white haze

is this holy water
this form of plague


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 20 June 1665.

Stadhuis; Grand-Place, Brussels

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

“…According to legend, the architect [Jacob van Thienen] upon discovering this error leapt to his death from the tower…” ~ Wikipedia

From far afield, beyond shingled fences
or in our own green pasturelands: news

of the pain of the world always finds its way
to us, though there are coppices, willow-hurdles

that try not to break the spell of musk-scent
in the worked but naturally unruly garden. And here,

at summer’s throat among airborne colonies of midges
and thunderflies, are cups of English roses in shades

of peach and apricot: gold-stamened and airy as the lark
whose trill the poet described as lifting, ascending—

He rises and begins to round, He drops the silver chain of sound,
Of many links without a break…*
Ringing the square in the old

town, the gilded opulence of buildings whose beauty someone
wrought to try and withstand the ironies of time. There’s a legend

they like to tell in these parts, pointing out how the left wing
of the building is longer than the right; of how the builder,

despairing of this perceived imperfection, threw himself from
the roof. Who gathered his bones, who laid them end to end

and back together? The body’s column in the center, 12 pairs
of ribs. On either side, not one less or more, in woman or in man.

~ For Meg and Tim

(* “The Lark Ascending,” 1883; George Meredith)

Some days one must refuse the terrible future

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

“I will eat everything I love
from its edge to its center.”
~ Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

My friend says it’s time
to use the red lipstick
in its false tortoiseshell
cartridge, time to use up
the sweet almond oil
on haunted skin: clean
the body that lived
decades on salt and water,
that sang its prisoner
songs in the garden.
I didn’t realize how late
the evening has grown—
I was only looking
for everything I’d lost:
for the lucky amulet
of cracked stone
sacrificed to the weeds,
and the silence I drowned
in the well along with
its army of white clouds.
Maybe I am ready to eat
at a table instead of
in the shed, to read
slowly in rinsed womb-
light. Maybe the violin
will climb out of its coffin,
now calmed of its tremors
enough to house its longings.

Classy-eyed

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and to White Hall with Sir W. Batten (calling at my Lord Ashly’s, but to no purpose, by the way, he being not up), and there had our usual meeting before the Duke with the officers of the Ordnance with us, which in some respects I think will be the better for us, for despatch sake. Thence home to the ‘Change and dined alone (my wife gone to her mother’s), after dinner to my little new goldsmith’s,1 whose wife indeed is one of the prettiest, modest black women that ever I saw. I paid for a dozen of silver salts 6l. 14s. 6d. Thence with Sir W. Pen from the office down to Greenwich to see Sir J. Lawson, who is better, but continues ill; his hickupp not being yet gone, could have little discourse with him. So thence home and to supper, a while to the office, my head and mind mightily vexed to see the multitude of papers and business before [me] and so little time to do it in. So to bed.

an ash of ordnance
a black salt of law

who could have discourse
with the multitude


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 19 June 1665.

Pear-shaped

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Lord’s day). Up, and to church, where Sir W. Pen was the first time come from sea, after the battle. Mr. Mills made a sorry sermon to prove that there was a world to come after this. Home and dined and then to my chamber, where all the afternoon. Anon comes Mr. Andrews to see and sing with me, but Mr. Hill not coming, and having business, we soon parted, there coming Mr. Povy and Creed to discourse about our Tangier business of money. They gone, I hear Sir W. Batten and my Lady are returned from Harwich. I went to see them, and it is pretty to see how we appear kind one to another, though neither of us care 2d. one for another. Home to supper, and there coming a hasty letter from Commissioner Pett for pressing of some calkers (as I would ever on his Majesty’s service), with all speed, I made a warrant presently and issued it. So to my office a little, and then home to bed.

sorry as a world
with no art is
our one pretty pear
for supper


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 18 June 1665.