From church to church
we go to seek out the statues
of the dead Christ, exposed
scars on the plaster flesh
of his hands and feet, crimson
gash on his side into which the one
seeking proof would be asked to plunge
his hand. What is it we kiss
when we bend our lips to the wound?
Doubt or belief, the same sun
burning a hole through the dome of the sky
and the sea's metallic roof
where multiples of fish hide from our
skillets and knives. What we clean
and gut, we throw to the cats: except
the gills fanning out like crowns.
Up and to the office, where busy all the morning. At noon dined in haste, and so my wife, Mrs. Barbary, Mercer, and I by coach to Hales’s, where I find my wife’s picture now perfectly finished in all respects, and a beautiful picture it is, as almost I ever saw. I sat again, and had a great deale done, but, whatever the matter is, I do not fancy that it has the ayre of my face, though it will be a very fine picture. Thence home and to my business, being post night, and so home to supper and to, bed.
noon has a barb
here in my shed as ever
the air of night
Erasure haiku derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 20 March 1666.
You kept herbs in bottles, rice sacks under the sink.
You peeled the fruit and pulled each section apart so its echoes would stain your hands.
There is not a day I don’t wonder how and where you lay down; months later, I swam up to the shore, a yellow sash around my mouth.
Your face was a planet I could hear moving through the rooms, smelling of heat or soap.
Why did you teach me to take a bundle of sticks in my. hand and sweep the rainwater falling on the stoop?
Your fingers could thread needles in the dark, undo the tiniest hooks.
When the neighborhood children chanted from behind their windows, you peppered the stew and doubled the measure of sugar baked into our bread.
Up betimes and upon a meeting extraordinary at the office most of the morning with Lord Bruncker, Sir W. Coventry, and Sir W. Pen, upon the business of the accounts. Where now we have got almost as much as we would have we begin to lay all on the Controller, and I fear he will be run down with it, for he is every day less and less capable of doing business. Thence with my Lord Bruncker, Sir W. Coventry to the ticket office, to see in what little order things are there, and there it is a shame to see how the King is served. Thence to the Chamberlain of London, and satisfy ourselves more particularly how much credit we have there, which proves very little. Thence to Sir Robert Long’s, absent. About much the same business, but have not the satisfaction we would have there neither. So Sir W. Coventry parted, and my Lord and I to Mrs. Williams’s, and there I saw her closett, where indeed a great many fine things there are, but the woman I hate. Here we dined, and Sir J. Minnes come to us, and after dinner we walked to the King’s play-house, all in dirt, they being altering of the stage to make it wider. But God knows when they will begin to act again; but my business here was to see the inside of the stage and all the tiring-rooms and machines; and, indeed, it was a sight worthy seeing. But to see their clothes, and the various sorts, and what a mixture of things there was; here a wooden-leg, there a ruff, here a hobbyhorse, there a crown, would make a man split himself to see with laughing; and particularly Lacy’s wardrobe, and Shotrell’s. But then again, to think how fine they show on the stage by candle-light, and how poor things they are to look now too near hand, is not pleasant at all. The machines are fine, and the paintings very pretty.
Thence mightily satisfied in my curiosity I away with my Lord to see him at her house again, and so take leave and by coach home and to the office, and thence sent for to Sir G. Carteret by and by to the Broad Streete, where he and I walked two or three hours till it was quite darke in his gallery talking of his affairs, wherein I assure him all will do well, and did give him (with great liberty, which he accepted kindly) my advice to deny the Board nothing they would aske about his accounts, but rather call upon them to know whether there was anything more they desired, or was wanting. But our great discourse and serious reflections was upon the bad state of the kingdom in general, through want of money and good conduct, which we fear will undo all. Thence mightily satisfied with this good fortune of this discourse with him I home, and there walked in the darke till 10 o’clock at night in the garden with Sir W. Warren, talking of many things belonging to us particularly, and I hope to get something considerably by him before the year be over. He gives me good advice of circumspection in my place, which I am now in great mind to improve; for I think our office stands on very ticklish terms, the Parliament likely to sit shortly and likely to be asked more money, and we able to give a very bad account of the expence of what we have done with what they did give before. Besides, the turning out the prize officers may be an example for the King giving us up to the Parliament’s pleasure as easily, for we deserve it as much.
Besides, Sir G. Carteret did tell me tonight how my Lord Bruncker himself, whose good-will I could have depended as much on as any, did himself to him take notice of the many places I have; and though I was a painful man, yet the Navy was enough for any man to go through with in his owne single place there, which much troubles me, and shall yet provoke me to more and more care and diligence than ever.
Thence home to supper, where I find my wife and Mrs. Barbary with great colds, as I also at this time have.
This day by letter from my father he propounds a match in the country for Pall, which pleased me well, of one that hath seven score and odd pounds land per annum in possession, and expects 1000l. in money by the death of an old aunt. He hath neither father, mother, sister, nor brother, but demands 600l. down, and 100l. on the birth of first child, which I had some inclination to stretch to. He is kinsman to, and lives with, Mr. Phillips, but my wife tells me he is a drunken, ill-favoured, ill-bred country fellow, which sets me off of it again, and I will go on with Harman. So after supper to bed.
to see what little I am
to see an absent satisfaction
close to the dirt
to see inside a machine
to see what things
make a man himself
to see how fine the machines are
to see me wanting like a bad king
to possess death
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 19 March 1666.
~ after Armando Valero, "Flower Girl"
Between the wind and the tree
is the sound
of a train bisecting the day.
Between the eye
and the meadow is the shape
of the bend made in each
finger of grass. It is inaccurate
to speak of ships
passing each other in the night:
we are always
tearing ourselves in half while the body held in place
is always turning toward the station
or the town or looking for rest
rooms, the ticket counter,
the 24-hour drugstore, a clean bed
in the rundown motel.
Between dreaming and rousing, a tingle
in the blood before it wakes;
that relief from being returned.
Even the lily we name star-
gazer films over with orange dust
in the crimson of its throat,
pulling away from the edges bandaged white.
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: wildlife and wild lives; imperfect bodies; off-beat workshops; archives, glossaries, and anthologies; cultivating attention and being attentive to others; preparing for AWP and preparing for NaPoWriMo.
Try to read spirit and thisLesley Wheeler, A smoke of fox escapes
ensues: writing shivers, a trick,
a tease. Creatures shifting shape
can’t pause at the mirror to preen.
Someone wears nine tails;
something prepares to change
by burning all the words.
A smoke of fox escapes.
Yesterday, I wrote about my Thursday encounter with a fox while taking an early morning walk through my neighborhood. I’ve continued to think about that fox. We don’t live near a forest. How did it come to live here? I think of its family, its extended network, living in this non-native habitat. And then I wondered if maybe it was once a native habitat of foxes before we paved it over.Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Neighborhood Encounters
As I drove through my neighborhood on my way to the grocery store this morning, I saw a thin man walking barefoot through my neighborhood. I might not have noticed, except that earlier this week, I saw a different thin man walking barefoot through my neighborhood.
In the car, our son stared
at the darkness. Our daughter wept:
“He’s frightened the deer.
She’s kicking to get away.”
The doe jerked, paused. “No,”Ann E. Michael, Deer metaphor
I said, “Your father is touching it.
Soothing it, so it will not die alone.”
When Lauren Davis read from her chapbook, Each Wild Thing’s Consent (Poetry Wolf Press, 2018), at Imprint Books in Port Townsend WA, where she works as a bookseller, I understood why she chose to read the less risky poems in this very daring chapbook, but I’ll admit I was disappointed. When the first poem in a Table of Contents is titled “Vulvodynia,” you’d really have to trust your audience. But to her crafty credit, Davis intersperses poems about sexual encumbrance with gorgeous, very Pacific Northwest nature poems. And it renders everything enticing, as it should be. For what is sexuality if not nature?
On the other hand, you can’t look at the book’s cover (a photo with the understated title “Red Petaled Flower in Selective-color Photography,” credit: Donald Tong) without thinking of vulva. As with a Georgia O’Keefe painting, you can’t look without gazing, or gaze without longing. And here is where the marriage of wild life and the external female genitalia is clinched.Risa Denenberg, Each Wild Thing’s Consent
She is not perfectly constructed-Sarah Stockton, A Doll is a Poem is a Woman is a Yes
and for that, I love her.
Her dress doesn’t match her hair,
sea urchin spines hang like nunchucks
from her belt and she only has one breast.
Awake now, I remember the story
my chaplaincy supervisor told
about the patient who went on and on
about dysfunctional plumbing.
The punchline was, she was talking
about her own body and didn’t know it.Rachel Barenblat, Dream
like not being able to remember a dream you cannot wake up from
like the scarecrow you once knew when he was a rake
like living inside a bubble in a fish’s ear full of the consonants of wavesJohannes S. H. Bjerg, likes again / som’er igen
Our subject was moths and the writing was generated by listing ideas and descriptions that were suggested by looking in very close detail at some live moths which Winston had collected the night before and stowed in the fridge! Looking at these butterflies of the night close up almost made me forget they were moths at all. In fact, l had everything from forks to typewriters in my notes. That, l believe, is the power of poetry and somewhere at the heart of why we do it. But it is also the sign of a really good workshop so thank you, Winston Plowes, for making me see the world a little differently.Julie Mellor, Butterflies of the night and a 3D poem
Eight of us from the book-art group ABCD achieved more than seemed possible in two days of Tom’s teaching. Three books each! Two with hard covers and head-bands! One with a leather spine and raised bands! When people ask (they do, sometimes) what sort of books I made, I have always described myself as a coarse binder. Now I’ve had a brief taste of fine binding. I’m rather proud of my hand-dyed indigo book-cloth and end-papers, and the red glove-leather that clings to the spine like a tight-fitting evening gown.Ama Bolton, Bookbinding with Tom O’Reilly
My personal archive is now officially part of the Georgia State University Library Special Collections and Archive. The first two boxes, which were actually delivered late last year, contained copies of my books, original manuscripts, early journalism, press materials and more. There are many more boxes to come, and will eventually include correspondence, my journals, early writing and ephemera. Last week, Franklin Abbott (who also donated his archive to GSU) interviewed me for a videotaped oral history that will soon be available on YouTube. I have quietly been in the process of organizing my archive for more than a year. It’s a process that will continue until I depart this realm. Many thanks to archivist Morna Gerrard, who has made this process so stress-free and is an absolute delight to work with. I am grateful, honored and more than a little gobsmacked that my writing has, literally, found not one, but two forever homes. My titles with Sibling Rivalry Press are also part of the Library of Congress’ Rare Books and Special Collection vault thanks to publisher Bryan Borland and editor-in-chief Seth Pennington.Collin Kelley, Update: Georgia State Archive, reading with Dustin Lance Black, a new review
How much background info does the reader need? If I reference a myth connected to a creature, do I need to explain it to them or can I just use the imagery from it and hope if they’re interested they’ll look it up themselves, as long as my connections to the images and the myth work within the poem on their own.
Yeats never mentioned Zeus in ‘Leda and the Swan’ and I remember a teacher having to explain the myth to the class, though I knew it. Does the power of the poem still hold if you don’t know the story? I don’t want to spoon-feed my reader info, but in some poems there are certain bits of info that would help the reader to understand better, so I do have to include that. Do I have to explain every Finnish word or cultural reference, include a glossary in my book or can I leave some to context?Gerry Stewart, Grounding
I’ve just finished reviewing Filigree: Contemporary Black British Poetry (Peepal Tree Press, 2018) for Under the Radar magazine. There are seventy poems by approximately 45 Black and Asian British poets, a good range of backgrounds, ages, ethnicity, fame in the poetry world. Many very strong poems and a delicious variety of subject matter and poetic styles – this book would be brilliant for a writing/reading group and would also be good to take into schools and universities to teach writing from. There is a comprehensive, meticulously evidenced preface by Professor Dorothy Wang about colonialism and the English language and English poetry. And at £8.99 for 70 poems (plus a substantial preface) this book is my recommendation for World Poetry Day.Josephine Corcoran, World Poetry Day
Strong coffee, Thelonious Monk playing solo,James Lee Jobe, ‘Strong coffee, Thelonious Monk playing solo’
And some poems by W.S. Merwin.
We lost Merwin last week, 91 years old.
He’s been on my mind;
The poetry, his work with the trees,
Restoring a piece of the earth.
Isn’t it great that the very process required to make art is what [Marion] Milner discovered is the process required to feel fulfilled, once we’ve jettisoned the ideas of fulfillment handed to us by parents, others, society, tradition. This is not to say that fulfillment is not found in all kinds of work, but rather that it is found in moments of quiet, sensory-based attention to what is at hand, whatever is at hand — a meeting with a client, the combining of ingredients for a cake, the resolution of a column of figures, or the act of mustering experience, imagination, and language to write a poem.
Milner wrote: “I had felt my life to be of a dull dead-level mediocrity, with the sense of real and vital things going on round the corner, out in the streets, in other people’s lives. For I had taken the surface ripples for all there was, when actually happenings of vital importance to me had been going on, not somewhere away from me, but just underneath the calm surface of my own mind.”Marilyn McCabe, Love the One You’re With; or On Envy, Fulfillment, and the Writing Life
I ran under a blue sky this morning and could see the moss-covered tree trunks, the rings in the water. The dog ran faster than usual, and is now sleeping on the couch in the other room. I can picture him there, from here.
Oh, to be my age and still clinging to imagesRen Powell, Dating: 18.03.19
wanting to hold them as evidence of a real life
these still lifes, these dead moments
past or imaginary, equally irrelevant.
One of those days when you come awake and bestirred. How things suddenly shift, like an old log in a river bed that twists into a release and a rush. Two days ago I wrote a poem to take to a Poetry Business Writing Day; a poem I’ve been trying to write for two years or more, an old log of a poem, and everything pent up behind.
I put it down to how the company of other poets matters, how listening to them tells you ‘it can be done’. There may be writers who can make poetry out of solitude but I can’t imagine how it is to be like that. I love the urging and weight of stuff. And deadlines, pressure. When the company and the pressure come together I can feel blessed and released.John Foggin, Wise sisters . Greta Stoddart
If you are nervous about talking to other people, remember that most of them are writers, and therefore also uncomfortable talking to other people! Offering others help is always a great place to start, so I like to make a little map in my head in case people ask me where things are, (and as a disabled person, I especially take note of quiet places, places to get a drink or snack, and accessible restrooms). Expressing genuine enthusiasm for other writers’ work is always pretty safe. […]
If you, like me, are nervous about performing in front of strangers, whether doing offsite readings or official panels, just remember it’s not just about you, it’s about what you’re giving others, whether your poems, or your advice or information that could be helpful. It’s so hard for me to not feel self-conscious these days – my MS has amplified the things to be self-conscious about now – walking, talking, remembering things/people’s names – but mostly people are too preoccupied by feeling self-conscious themselves to even notice the things you’re worried about. Putting people at ease is as important as anything else.Jeannine Hall Gailey, Spring, Supermoon, AWP: Day Trip to Skagit, In-Depth on a Poem, and Surviving AWP Portland Part II: Last Minute Tips
As we come up on another April, another NAPOWRIMO, I can’t help but think that last year’s endeavor was really the beginning of me digging in on daily writing. For all those years that I tried and failed, the only thing done differently was prioritizing the writing at the beginning of the day instead of putting it off til the end. In previous attempts, I’d make it about 10 days in and buckle. I aced April last year, and (mostly) continued on for the rest of the year (I did take a couple of breaks when things got crazy and/or I needed to somehow fill the well. So many pages, and poems, and series have come about in the last year. I’m only sad it took so long to realize that was what I needed to do. I was productive before, but mostly in droughts and spurts, and never as much to my liking. Also, I think the more time you spend at it, the more you write, the better you get. You might write 10 poems and only one is a keeper, but that one is better for all those other pieces.Kristy Bowen, the cruelest month
(Lord’s day). Up and my cold better, so to church, and then home to dinner, and so walked out to St. James’s Church, thinking to have seen faire Mrs. Butler, but could not, she not being there, nor, I believe, lives thereabouts now.
So walked to Westminster, very fine fair dry weather, but all cry out for lack of rain. To Herbert’s and drank, and thence to Mrs. Martin’s, and did what I would with her; her husband going for some wine for us. The poor man I do think would take pains if I can get him a purser’s place, which I will endeavour. She tells me as a secret that Betty Howlet of the Hall, my little sweetheart, that I used to call my second wife, is married to a younger son of Mr. Michell’s (his elder brother, who should have had her, being dead this plague), at which I am glad, and that they are to live nearer me in Thames Streete, by the Old Swan.
Thence by coach home and to my chamber about some accounts, and so to bed.
Sir Christopher Mings is come home from Hambro without anything done, saving bringing home some pipestaves for us.
in dry weather
I go for wine
the secret owl of my heart
is married to a swan
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 18 March 1666.
~ erasure poem based on The First Voyage Round the World;
Antonio Pigafetta, 1874
a greater sign of affection a little of his blood from
his right arm
At last they said they did not know what more to answer
but that they placed themselves in
his hands, and that he should do with them as his own servants
Up, and to finish my Journall, which I had not sense enough the last night to make an end of, and thence to the office, where very busy all the morning. At noon home to dinner and presently with my wife out to Hales’s, where I am still infinitely pleased with my wife’s picture. I paid him 14l. for it, and 25s. for the frame, and I think it is not a whit too deare for so good a picture. It is not yet quite finished and dry, so as to be fit to bring home yet. This day I begun to sit, and he will make me, I think, a very fine picture. He promises it shall be as good as my wife’s, and I sit to have it full of shadows, and do almost break my neck looking over my shoulder to make the posture for him to work by. Thence home and to the office, and so home having a great cold, and so my wife and Mrs. Barbary have very great ones, we are at a loss how we all come by it together, so to bed, drinking butter-ale. This day my W. Hewer comes from Portsmouth and gives me an instance of another piece of knavery of Sir W. Pen, who wrote to Commissioner Middleton, that it was my negligence the other day he was not acquainted, as the board directed, with our clerks coming down to the pay. But I need no new arguments to teach me that he is a false rogue to me and all the world besides.
I am finite as my picture frame
I sit full of shadows
and break my neck looking
over my shoulder
at a loss how we all come to be
in a new rogue world
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 17 March 1666.
~ erasure poem based on The First Voyage Round the World;
Antonio Pigafetta, 1874
In the island are mines of gold, which they
find in pieces as big as a walnut or an egg
he had a cross
he showed them the
sign of the emperor his lord and master
we saw many houses built on trees
wished for peace he would have peace if he wished for war he would have war