Up before day, and Cocke and I took a hackney coach appointed with four horses to take us up, and so carried us over London Bridge. But there, thinking of some business, I did ‘light at the foot of the bridge, and by helpe of a candle at a stall, where some payers were at work, I wrote a letter to Mr. Hater, and never knew so great an instance of the usefulness of carrying pen and ink and wax about one: so we, the way being very bad, to Nonesuch, and thence to Sir Robert Longs house; a fine place, and dinner time ere we got thither; but we had breakfasted a little at Mr. Gawden’s, he being out of towne though, and there borrowed Dr. Taylor’s sermons, and is a most excellent booke and worth my buying, where had a very good dinner, and curiously dressed, and here a couple of ladies, kinswomen of his, not handsome though, but rich, that knew me by report of The. Turner, and mighty merry we were. After dinner to talk of our business, the Act of Parliament, where in short I see Sir R. Long mighty fierce in the great good qualities of it. But in that and many other things he was stiff in, I think without much judgement, or the judgement I expected from him, and already they have evaded the necessity of bringing people into the Exchequer with their bills to be paid there. Sir G. Carteret is tickled at this, yet resolves with me to make the best use we can of this Act for the King, but all our care, we think, will not render it as it should be. He did again here alone discourse with me about my Lord, and is himself strongly for my Lord’s not going to sea, which I am glad to hear and did confirm him in it. He tells me too that he talked last night with the Duke of Albemarle about my Lord Sandwich, by the by making him sensible that it is his interest to preserve his old friends, which he confessed he had reason to do, for he knows that ill offices were doing of him, and that he honoured my Lord Sandwich with all his heart. After this discourse we parted, and all of us broke up and we parted. Captain Cocke and I through Wandsworth. Drank at Sir Allen Broderick’s, a great friend and comrade of Cocke’s, whom he values above the world for a witty companion, and I believe he is so. So to Fox-Hall and there took boat, and down to the Old Swan, and thence to Lumbard Streete, it being darke night, and thence to the Tower. Took boat and down to Greenwich, Cocke and I, he home and I to the office, where did a little business, and then to my lodgings, where my wife is come, and I am well pleased with it, only much trouble in those lodgings we have, the mistresse of the house being so deadly dear in everything we have; so that we do resolve to remove home soon as we know how the plague goes this weeke, which we hope will be a good decrease. So to bed.
my hands think without me
a tick will not talk
to his old red comrade
above the world a swan
is as much of the dead
as we know
“I like to imagine Icarus, having fallen, having lost his wings, swimming to shore, crawling up the rocks, finding his new life, no longer son of the great Daedalus, but an anonymous man, lost, far from home, ordinary but alive.” ~ Kazim Ali, The Silver Road
Something about a war, about the gods
fighting for ascendancy; how bits
of rock they threw were pulverized
and landed in the waters to make
these islands. Everything seethes
like noonday heat, all day into night.
Here in the city, I walk with others
through labyrinthine streets, careful
to avoid run-ins with police, trying
to blend in. Wading ashore I must
have looked like a straggler; or one
of those cats slick with sewer grime,
slinking through the alleys. Some days
I help a ragtag group of children sort
through dump yard piles of metal;
or at dawn in the market, unload
baskets of produce from trucks.
Fear is one of the cheapest
commodities— each day yields
a new tally of bodies felled
by masked gunmen, assassins
for hire. In this world, target
could mean anything including
a child or grandmother or school-
boy. There is a morgue that ran out
of space for corpses: they had to pile them
into a drained swimming pool. Even a bull
waiting in its lair could not be this cruel.
Up, and being to go to wait on the Duke of Albemarle, who is to go out of towne to Oxford to-morrow, and I being unwilling to go by water, it being bitter cold, walked it with my landlady’s little boy Christopher to Lambeth, it being a very fine walke and calling at half the way and drank, and so to the Duke of Albemarle, who is visited by every body against his going; and mighty kind to me: and upon my desiring his grace to give me his kind word to the Duke of Yorke, if any occasion there were of speaking of me, he told me he had reason to do so; for there had been nothing done in the Navy without me. His going, I hear, is upon putting the sea business into order, and, as some say, and people of his owne family, that he is agog to go to sea himself the next year. Here I met with a letter from Sir G. Carteret, who is come to Cranborne, that he will be here this afternoon and desires me to be with him. So the Duke would have me dine with him. So it being not dinner time, I to the Swan, and there found Sarah all alone in the house and I had the opportunity a hazer what I tena a mind á hazer con ella, only con my hands — but she was vexed at my offer a tocar la under sus jupes; but I did once, nonobstant all that. So away to the Duke of Albemarle again, and there to dinner, he most exceeding kind to me to the observation of all that are there. At dinner comes Sir G. Carteret and dines with us. After dinner a great deal alone with Sir G. Carteret, who tells me that my Lord hath received still worse and worse usage from some base people about the Court. But the King is very kind, and the Duke do not appear the contrary; and my Lord Chancellor swore to him “by ––– I will not forsake my Lord of Sandwich.” Our next discourse is upon this Act for money, about which Sir G. Carteret comes to see what money can be got upon it. But none can be got, which pleases him the thoughts of, for, if the Exchequer should succeede in this, his office would faile. But I am apt to think at this time of hurry and plague and want of trade, no money will be got upon a new way which few understand. We walked, Cocke and I, through the Parke with him, and so we being to meet the Vice-Chamberlayne to-morrow at Nonesuch, to treat with Sir Robert Long about the same business, I into London, it being dark night, by a hackney coach; the first I have durst to go in many a day, and with great pain now for fear. But it being unsafe to go by water in the dark and frosty cold, and unable being weary with my morning walke to go on foot, this was my only way. Few people yet in the streets, nor shops open, here and there twenty in a place almost; though not above five or sixe o’clock at night. So to Viner’s, and there heard of Cocke, and found him at the Pope’s Head, drinking with Temple. I to them, where the Goldsmiths do decry the new Act, for money to be all brought into the Exchequer, and paid out thence, saying they will not advance one farthing upon it; and indeed it is their interest to say and do so. Thence Cocke and I to Sir G. Smith’s, it being now night, and there up to his chamber and sat talking, and I barbing against to-morrow; and anon, at nine at night, comes to us Sir G. Smith and the Lieutenant of the Tower, and there they sat talking and drinking till past midnight, and mighty merry we were, the Lieutenant of the Tower being in a mighty vein of singing, and he hath a very good eare and strong voice, but no manner of skill. Sir G. Smith shewed me his lady’s closett, which was very fine; and, after being very merry, here I lay in a noble chamber, and mighty highly treated, the first time I have lain in London a long time.
I bit into a kind word
there had been nothing to dine on in the house
and it was a treat
the great dark ink of it
(Lord’s day). Up, though very late abed, yet before day to dress myself to go toward Erith, which I would do by land, it being a horrible cold frost to go by water: so borrowed two horses of Mr. Howell and his friend, and with much ado set out, after my horses being frosted (which I know not what it means to this day), and my boy having lost one of my spurs and stockings, carrying them to the smith’s; but I borrowed a stocking, and so got up, and Mr. Tooker with me, and rode to Erith, and there on board my Lord Bruncker, met Sir W. Warren upon his business, among others, and did a great deale, Sir J. Minnes, as God would have it, not being there to hinder us with his impertinences. Business done, we to dinner very merry, there being there Sir Edmund Pooly, a very worthy gentleman. They are now come to the copper boxes in the prizes, and hope to have ended all this weeke. After dinner took leave, and on shore to Madam Williams, to give her an account of my Lord’s letter to me about Howe, who he has clapped by the heels on suspicion of having the jewells, and she did give me my Lord Bruncker’s examination of the fellow, that declares his having them; and so away, Sir W. Warren riding with me, and the way being very bad, that is, hard and slippery by reason of the frost, so we could not come to past Woolwich till night. However, having a great mind to have gone to the Duke of Albemarle, I endeavoured to have gone farther, but the night come on and no going, so I ‘light and sent my horse by Tooker, and returned on foot to my wife at Woolwich, where I found, as I had directed, a good dinner to be made against to-morrow, and invited guests in the yarde, meaning to be merry, in order to her taking leave, for she intends to come in a day or two to me for altogether. But here, they tell me, one of the houses behind them is infected, and I was fain to stand there a great while, to have their back-door opened, but they could not, having locked them fast, against any passing through, so was forced to pass by them again, close to their sicke beds, which they were removing out of the house, which troubled me; so I made them uninvite their guests, and to resolve of coming all away to me to-morrow, and I walked with a lanthorne, weary as I was, to Greenwich; but it was a fine walke, it being a hard frost, and so to Captain Cocke’s, but he I found had sent for me to come to him to Mrs. Penington’s, and there I went, and we were very merry, and supped, and Cocke being sleepy he went away betimes. I stayed alone talking and playing with her till past midnight, she suffering me whatever ‘ego voulais avec ses mamilles and I had almost led her by discourse to make her tocar mi cosa naked, which ella did presque and did not refuse. Much pleased with her company we parted, and I home to bed at past one, all people being in bed thinking I would have staid out of town all night.
I would borrow a lost god
to hinder me with a hard
and slippery light
I invite guests
meaning to be merry for
I could not be alone
whatever I am is naked
and would have stayed out
This week’s topics: the uses of poetry, the usefulness of external validation, the usefulness of blogging and other creative practices, the uselessness of consistency of style, the usefulness of having consistent topics to write around, the usefulness of group submittathons, the potential usefulness of self-doubt, the pleasures of community poetry festivals, the pleasures of Fatimah Asghar’s poetry, the pleasures of Christopher’s North’s poetry, the dubious utility of writing within constraints, the difficulty of assessing one’s own face, and the existential crisis of living and writing during a planet-wide extinction.
I like poems that do little useful things for you
like telling a friend you’ve been such a jerk,
keeping one company when bored in a long queue,
or teaching some manners to a misanthropic, rude clerk.
Magda Kapa, Once More, Thoughts on Poetry
It is so very much easier to “act” like a poet or writer once you feel like a poet or writer — i.e. when you have the external validation of publication. I wish that wasn’t true, but it is. Of course, in some ways, it’s the easy way, the “lazy man’s way” of writing. The external validation is a shortcut in the path to self-esteem that’s large enough to incorporate a regular writing practice. Honestly — I’m beginning to think that I resisted setting up a regular writing practice — these morning writing sessions — because I didn’t feel like I deserved them. Sometimes I still don’t. But lately I tell that part of myself to fuck off and I go back to the page.
Sarah Kain Gutowski, Writing Practices, Processes, and Productivity
Once I started blogging I discovered that–for whatever reason–I don’t get all uptight and perfection-y about writing blogposts. I just type stuff and go over it a couple times for errors and post. It reminds me of showing up to teach at the college–ready or not, here it is.
Bethany Reid, Why do I blog?
This morning, I wrote a poem–and with that poem, I’ve written a poem every day in November. I’m not sure I’ve ever been successful at writing a poem a day for a month. There have been several Aprils that I have tried.
I’ve also been very active in my online journaling course which started Nov. 4, and in addition to writing a poem a day, I’ve done at least one sketch a day. I’ve been interested in how they feed each other.
When I was working on my MFA, I had to compile a poetry manuscript for my final thesis. I gave my thesis advisor (who was usually very supportive) about 100 pages of poetry. She read around 40 pages of it, gave it back to me, and said, rather miffed, “I can’t read this! Make it sound like one person wrote the whole manuscript.”
I remember thinking, why? (I should have asked her why but was too flummoxed to say anything.) Why is it necessary for a book of poems to be uniform in voice, or for a writer to have a consistency of style? Perhaps for marketability—though poetry is so nonlucrative, marketability seems like an absurd concern.
Eventually some of the poems in this thesis manuscript wound up in other collections that were published. I edited my other collections of poetry, memoir, and fiction based on theme and intuition; they were more consistent than the one I gave my advisor back in 2005. I do consistently want my work to be sensual and honest, and for there to be a sense of humility in the narrative voice. Still, I don’t see the value in consistency, not in a poetry book. I like surprises when I read. In Her Famous Fur-Lined Skirt / an interview with poet Colleen McKee (Bekah Steimel’s blog)
Someone noted in a post I talked about writing “on a project” and “outside of a project,” and asked me to talk a little bit about writing on poetry projects. I don’t usually start a book project knowing in advance what the book is going to be about. Usually I start by getting interested in a certain topic, then more interested, then research that topic, writing a bunch of poems around it, and then later noticing that the poems seem to cluster around a certain subject, and exploring that topic in different ways. Usually I decide I have a book project when I get about fifty poems that hang together, and then I work on arranging, filling gaps, and maybe examining the subject in a different way or in different forms.
In fact, I can feel a little un-moored when I don’t have a subject or topic I’m working on, but it’s a necessary part of the process, because I don’t think anyone’s book should start out over-determined, and we need some creative open spaces – just like it’s good to get out of the house, even in this kind of cold and rainy season, to remind ourselves of the beauties and possibilities of the larger world. It’s especially important, when you’ve maybe reached the end of a large project, you’ve sort of exhausted a subject, and you want to start to explore again. It’s a good time to try a different type of poetry and to read more widely and even to use poetry prompts to get your brain working in a new way. I like to read novels and books of literary biography and writers’ letters in between projects, to give my mind something new to work on. Different voices that can help me develop my own writing in a different way – this seems especially true for me when I read books in translation. I hope this was helpful!
Jeannine Hall Gailey, A New Poem in Scoundrel Time, Talking About Poetry Projects, Giving Tuesday and Women-Run-or-Owned Lit Mags and Presses
Today after a long hiatus, I submitted poems from a Submittathon at SSU. MP Carver set up for 9 a.m.-1 p.m. MP describes it as “a community event designed to get Salem State voices and creative works out into the publishing world. We’ll have people there to help first timers learn the ins and outs of submitting (including cover letters, finding journals, etc). For those with experience submitting work for publication, it’s a dedicated time to focus on sending out your work. There will be snacks and prizes as well!” Jill McDonough is the first poet I know to do this. We’re just following in her literary footsteps.
I was on the early side, but 12 people showed up with laptops and poems to send their poems into the world. This is the second time I’ve participated. The first time (in May, or was it last December?), I didn’t have anything to submit. I’m coming off of one of the worst writing droughts I’ve ever had. As someone who likes to grind it out, I think I’ve written maybe 20 poems in two years. My math may be off, however. When I look at my Poetry 2018 file, there are at least 50 poems. I have enough for a terrible manuscript. But I do have a few gems that need a little polish. Just getting them into the light is a big step.
January Gill O’Neil, Submittathon!
I see a therapist from time to time and we had an hour this week in which we talked mostly about self-doubt. She rightly points out that I have a pretty good resume, career-wise; my loved ones, though afflicted sometimes with crises, are basically okay; that I would do well to ease up and slow down. I do not have to be so afraid, say, of never publishing a ms or writing a great poem or getting pats on the head from the prize-dispensers again. I agree with her and we talked about ways to balance my commitments better. I also argued, however, as I argue to myself sometimes, that self-doubt is a necessary part of being a decent artist, and maybe a decent human being. If you don’t stand back and say, “hey, maybe that writing sample wasn’t really good enough to ensure a grant win,” how do you grow? Isn’t a drive to keep upping the bar a necessary pressure? Shouldn’t I keep questioning myself and my work?
Well, I’m probably rationalizing, because that’s what people do. I doubt my self-doubt. Happy December, my writer friends. Put up those twinkly lights, and don’t mind the darkness encroaching.
Lesley Wheeler, Poetry and self-doubt, with footnotes
I was going to tell you about going to North Carolina for the West End Poetry Festival–where the Carrboro Poets Council partners with the town to produce four days of reading upon reading upon reading, inclusive of all styles and topics. (A 12-person council that hangs out in someone’s living room once a month, and is trusted and given the resources to organize. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we could so easily facilitate the DC government’s relationship to poetry and the arts? Ahem.) I got to talk about poetry of food, I got to hear Ruth Awad, the Chief of Police volunteered to be on-site monitor so we could drink wine in the Century Center, and signs that would usually direct traffic instead directed “Slow Down for Poetry.” I was going to tell you about helping someone write an ode to barbecue, and watching that same gentleman (husband to our hosting Poets Council member) run the toy trains in the garage-loft where we’d been staying. I was going to tell you about buying hatch chiles and okra from the Farmer’s Market.
Sandra Beasley, Six Posts I Didn’t Write & Alex Guarnaschelli
Among the things I adore is the beautiful physicality found in many of these poems, in which the body is sketched out in vivid detail — and not just the pretty bits, but the full reality of a body that makes up a human being. A body is where “mosquito bites bloom” or where exist “hairs crawling out.” In “Oil,” she writes, “The walk to school makes the oil pool on my forehead / a lake spilling under my armpits.” The specifics of existing in a human body in these poems feel as though the speaker is declaring their existence in a world that doesn’t always want them. It’s a lovely way to claim space.
Andrea Blythe, Book Love: If They Come for Us by Fatimah Asghar
I really like the filmic quality of this, a film by Peter Greenaway…the draughtsman’s contract. The story of the bunch of tipsy chums stumbling around in the dark under a huge starlit sky, stumbling over silvered lawns, declaiming of bits of Shakespeare, the absurdity of it that gradually comes to its senses, and back to earth as The town below lolled in sodium. I love the way the declaiming poet comes back to the role of the measuring and sensible surveyor and the group of friends who became a chain of hands. The whole thing is witty, elegantly constructed, and ultimately life-affirming, lyrical and loving.
John Foggin, Well met; a Polished Gem: Christopher North
I have had spasms of trying to write in form. I still shudder to remember the crap I’ve written. Sometimes my poems do, though, begin to take the form of a form: I’ve had poems that seem to take the shape of a sonnet, have had poems begin to exhibit a rhyme scheme, or that show the kind of obsession a form like a villanelle brings out. I could be more willing and try to be more able at encouraging/allowing that, and making the best of it. But to start out with the intention to write in a form? It makes me shudder.
As for the other tricks, the only thing I do — and this only when I haven’t been writing at all — is substitution. That is, I’ll take someone else’s poem, ideally someone whose work is different from mine, so I’m off-balance to begin with, and then word by word substitute my own words. So “…while I pondered weak and weary” becomes “after we made assumptions, burly and full of ourselves,” perhaps. I do this to shake up my work, or push me into process when I’ve lapsed into lassitude.
They do feel like tricks, these constraint games. And I feel like I can feel the artifice in the final product. Which for some people is the point. My own mind, imagination, abilities, proclivities, ignorances, prejudices, blindnesses, laziness, insistence on some kind of logic…well…etcetera…are constraint enough. Aren’t they?
Editor John Wilson once told me that half my face was like that of the nice lady in line behind him at the post office, and the other half belonged to a poet or a murderer. Writers are murderers of a sort. But the look–that’s the work of The Wayward Eyebrow.
Marly Youmans, Book-and-birthday headshots…
A loss of bees leads to a loss of any plant requiring bees for pollination. A loss of beetles and dragonflies and mayflies and even the much-maligned mosquito leads to birds that starve, not to mention amphibians, reptiles, and some omnivorous or insectivorous mammals–particularly vulnerable bat and marsupial populations. The bottom of the food chain matters more than most human beings ever stop to consider.
One part of this article mentions the important, even crucial, role of people who study nature without having gotten degrees…the so-called amateur botanists, lepidopterists, and hemiptera observers. Another reason I find this article so interesting has to do with how Jarvis employs thoughtful, reflective moments in the piece, while maintaining a journalistic stance:
We’ve begun to talk about living in the Anthropocene, a world shaped by humans. But E.O. Wilson, the naturalist and prophet of environmental degradation, has suggested another name: the Eremocine, the age of loneliness.
Wilson began his career as a taxonomic entomologist, studying ants. Insects — about as far as you can get from charismatic megafauna — are not what we’re usually imagining when we talk about biodiversity. Yet they are, in Wilson’s words, “the little things that run the natural world.” He means it literally. Insects are a case study in the invisible importance of the common.
Maybe it’s my personal inclination towards the natural observation, but I find some resonance here. It’s what I tend to do when I write poems–to celebrate the common, or at any rate to notice it. I notice, too, the diminishment.
Some readers have told me my poems feel sorrowful, and maybe that sense of diminishment hunkers behind even the more celebratory poems I write. That’s an idea worth my consideration as I revise my work. Maybe Diminishment should be the title of my next collection.
Up, and busy at the office all day long, saving dinner time, and in the afternoon also very late at my office, and so home to bed. All our business is now about our Hambro fleete, whether it can go or no this yeare, the weather being set in frosty, and the whole stay being for want of Pilotts now, which I have wrote to the Trinity House about, but have so poor an account from them, that I did acquaint Sir W. Coventry with it this post.