"...heaven make me full
and be my cellar"
~ D. Bonta
In response to Via Negativa: Khayyam Redux.
Up, and mightily pleased with the setting of my books the last night in order, and that which did please me most of all is that W. Hewer tells me that upon enquiry he do find that Sir W. Pen hath a hamper more than his own, which he took for a hamper of bottles of wine, and are books in it. I was impatient to see it, but they were carried into a wine-cellar, and the boy is abroad with him at the House, where the Parliament met to-day, and the King to be with them. At noon after dinner I sent for Harry, and he tells me it is so, and brought me by and by my hamper of books to my great joy, with the same books I missed, and three more great ones, and no more. I did give him 5s. for his pains, and so home with great joy, and to the setting of some of them right, but could not finish it, but away by coach to the other end of the town, leaving my wife at the ‘Change, but neither come time enough to the Council to speak with the Duke of Yorke, nor with Sir G. Carteret, and so called my wife, and paid for some things she bought, and so home, and there after a little doing at the office about our accounts, which now draw near the time they should be ready, the House having ordered Sir G. Carteret, upon his offering them, to bring them in on Saturday next, I home, and there, with great pleasure, very late new setting all my books; and now I am in as good condition as I desire to be in all worldly respects. The Lord of Heaven make me thankfull, and continue me therein! So to bed. This day I had new stairs of main timber put to my cellar going into the yard.
a bottle of wine and a book
to my great joy I could not finish
either little world
heaven make me full
and be my cellar
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 21 September 1666.
When you first palmed
my face in greeting when I arrived,
how long did I howl? Or
did I stutter, knowing instinctively
there would be no way to tongue
the right syllables for that wash
of light pouring and pouring
from all sides and above?
And when you cleaned the soft
sludge and bark away from my body,
did the blinking of my new eyes flash
pictures of cypress and pine,
moss and peat, gypsum and shale,
veined limestone? Later,
in the tattered years, I too
looked into the eyes of the just-
born and nearly fell
into a galaxy we have no maps for yet—
where the milk of breath
is something we can only imagine
in the great wordless dream
of our loneliness.
Up, much troubled about my books, but cannot imagine where they should be. Up, to the setting my closet to rights, and Sir W. Coventry takes me at it, which did not displease me. He and I to discourse about our accounts, and the bringing them to the Parliament, and with much content to see him rely so well on my part. He and I together to Broad Streete to the Vice-Chamberlain, and there discoursed a while and parted. My Lady Carteret come to town, but I did not see her. He tells me how the fleete is come into the Downes. Nothing done, nor French fleete seen: we drove all from our anchors. But he says newes is come that De Ruyter is dead, or very near it, of a hurt in his mouth, upon the discharge of one of his own guns; which put him into a fever, and he likely to die, if not already dead. We parted, and I home to dinner, and after dinner to the setting things in order, and all my people busy about the same work. In the afternoon, out by coach, my wife with me, which we have not done several weeks now, through all the ruines, to shew her them, which frets her much, and is a sad sight indeed. Set her down at her brother’s, and thence I to Westminster Hall, and there staid a little while, and called her home. She did give me an account of great differences between her mother and Balty’s wife. The old woman charges her with going abroad and staying out late, and painting in the absence of her husband, and I know not what; and they grow proud, both he and she, and do not help their father and mother out of what I help them to, which I do not like, nor my wife. So home, and to the office, to even my journall, and then home, and very late up with Jane setting my books in perfect order in my closet, but am mightily troubled for my great books that I miss, and I am troubled the more for fear there should be more missing than what I find, though by the room they take on the shelves I do not find any reason to think it. So to bed.
imagine his mouth
on his own gun
like a dinner of absence
I set my books in perfect order
and do not find any reason
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 20 September 1666.
Poetry Blog Digest 2019: Week 39
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 found poets settling into an autumn mindset, with all that implies. Considering how momentous the political news has been in the US and the UK, it’s frankly amazing that anyone took the time to blog at all. But there are still poems to read, and to write, and—for many—to teach. There are manuscripts to revise. There are creative partnerships to nurture. And always there are new surprises to wonder at, a tiny minority of which ever make the news.
Those short,JJS, Pinhole
sharp lines of autumn, and the last
lightning bugs grounded now
by the density of their own end.
The Milky Way, just there, close
enough to touch.
If we lived in an earlier culture, we would celebrate Michaelmas today. It’s one of the harvest holidays, one of the quarterly celebrations that kept people rooted to traditions of the seasonal cycles. […]Kristin Berkey-Abbott, The Hinge Holiday of Michaelmas
I am trying to slow down, even as the world encourages us to zoom, zoom, zoom. I want to savor the way the afternoon light slides into evening from a different angle now. I want to enjoy the seasonal decorations that we have now.
It is, for me at least, a new year. Wishing everyone a happy Rosh Hashanah with hopes for a year in which we all move forward in all of the ways that we are able, hold on to one another in health and illness, and hang on to our own and each others’ goodness.
My new year starts with retirement in exactly 8 weeks. The scramble is on to apply for Medicare supplemental insurance and social security benefits. and then, at Thanksgiving, I am leaving my peninsula home for a month of family visits. More about that another time. But I am still looking for someone who would like to retreat at a lovely private home with water and mountain views in exchange for catsitting while I am away, in case you know anyone who might be interested.
And ! There are new chapbook reviews to check out!
I have a review and interview with Carl Phillips up at the Adroit Journal!
And there are new chapbook Reviews at The Poetry Cafe!Risa Denenberg, Sunday Morning Musing over What’s Next?
Shortly after I published a post about the connection between writing and self-care, I received an email notice about a new post from Trish Hopkinson’s blog* on reframing your poetry manuscript. The post — which is a guest post by Natasha Kochicheril Moni — caught my eye because I’d been contemplating publishing an update about the status of my poetry manuscript.
That update is simple: I no longer know who it is.
I can relate to the standstill/stare-down Natasha describes in the opening of her post. When I go visit my manuscript, it doesn’t even welcome me. There’s no room for me in it anywhere. Not even space for me to park my car out front. Like the warning I saw on a recent trip to Brattleboro, VT: “No parking EVER. Violators will be towed.”
I have been telling myself to grab the poems that still mean the most and start over. But for months and months that felt too much like a break-up (a feeling Natasha also identifies), and I wasn’t ready. I’d nurtured the thing for more than six years. And anyway: I don’t have enough new material to make a clean break. At least not yet.
But new things are brewing.Carolee Bennett, violators will be towed: a manuscript update
EveryTom Montag, Old Man
day is like
this, a white
bird in the sun.
This has been a super-hard September, beginning with emotional transitions–dropping my son off for his first year at college, establishing my daughter in her first apartment–and proceeding through too many doctor visits and grant applications on top of the usual stuff. And the usual stuff brings its own challenges. It’s hard to kick off classes well; students and advisees need and deserve a lot of attention. One of this month’s biggest difficulties, though, arose from the good luck of having two books scheduled for spring publication. Edits for my poetry collection arrived in late August, but while finalizing any ms makes me super-anxious, those edits weren’t heavy. As soon as I turned them in, though, the novel edits began arriving, and they have been much more demanding, in large part because I’m newer at prose fiction. I had more to learn about economy and precision than I realized. […]
I’m most likely to push myself when the writing obligation involves someone else’s time and effort, as is the case in delivering mss to editors, and if you’re like that, too, you can find ways to create obligations that don’t involve imminent book contracts. One colleague made a lot of writing progress this summer, for instance, by blocking off non-negotiable writing time on her calendar and making public commitments to get a certain amount done. Another has started a writing group for two hours a week: with snacks, in silent camaraderie, we sit together and work on something not related to teaching, then set goals aloud for what we’ll do in the week ahead. I’m usually very solitary about writing–I’ll always choose a shut door and a quiet room over a cafe, for instance–so I’m surprised to be enjoying it, at least in small doses. I’ll probably be happier when I can use that time on new work rather than face up to the endless failings of this endless ms, but it’s good to be reminded that all the writers you know are waging similar battles with themselves.
Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever just hang up the towel on the stress of publication, but I guess this post is one possible answer: I would keep writing even if no one wanted to listen anymore. I seem to rest from writing by writing in other modes, or at least reading. Lunacy, probably, but here I am.Lesley Wheeler, Pacing
Clear from the first poem, “Blessing for Beauty,” is the indisputable truth that the speaker has cancer.
Maybe the universe wants to spare me the apocalypse,
maybe it wants me to counsel the dead,
maybe the cancer finds me so delicious
it wants to eat me from the inside out…
Oh trees, flowers, small animals at the bird feeder—
And so the poems unspool, sometimes in high lyric and sometimes in plain truth. Many of the poems are also love poems to Kusnetz’s husband, poet and writer, Brian Turner. One of my (many) favorites comes late in the book and is not technically a love poem at all, “Meditation on “Cottage Window, St. Remy de Provence.”
And so perhaps we cannot furl the lit hoursSusan Rich, A Must Read: ANGEL BONES by Ilyse Kusnetz
inside ourselves, relive their sinuous grace
The poems range from the philosophical to science fiction, to nature, to a love of ginormous proportions. In my copy the pages are folded back, marked and reread again. I promise Angel Bones will make a difference in your life. It has in mine.
I recently read a new and very special pamphlet by Valerie Morton and Karen Dennison where the two co-writers respond to each other — a conversation with poems. Two of the poems from their sequence, and ordering information is here. I asked Valerie a few questions about the project. When answering, she first passed along this quote:
“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end” Seneca
Elly: How did Still Born come to be?
Valerie: It has been an enormous pleasure and privilege to work with Karen Dennison on this pamphlet which began as an idea after I had been reading about response poems and how they could inspire and rejuvenate poets into discovering places they may not have visited before. Karen and I both had ‘a poem in waiting’ and the pamphlet was born.
As we continued we realised we had created something special and that we could put it together into a collection and publish in the hope that we could raise some money for a charity.
Elly: Please say something about the title. After reading the poems, I was struck by how well it reflects, what seems to me the themes and multiple possible ways to respond to the pamphlet.
Valerie: I am glad you read it that way. The title plays on the word stillborn because I believe that even though this is such a big loss that person stays very much alive in the mind and memory and so they are still born and with you, if that makes sense?E.E. Nobbs, Two Poets & Their New Pamphlet “Still Born”
Often I am asked about what it’s like to work–I always think the verb should be dance–with artist Clive Hicks-Jenkins. He has illuminated and beautified my books for a long time now. I often thought of us as metaphysical twins (I can’t remember who first came up with that thought) when we first tumbled into correspondence. The first year of exchanging letters was so inspiring! It’s marvelous when you meet a person who inspires you and whom you inspire in turn. […]
Somehow when I’m in a Clivean-Marlyan mode, congruence seems to increase, and not just a congruence of minds. Surprise happens: things happen that suggest that the world is a more enchanted, spark-lit, symbolic place than we commonly know. It’s as if we are turning around a hidden center, that we live in a place of abundance. And for moments I’m more congruent with the deep shapes and patterns of the world, and I feel heart-struck and tied in spirit to someone on the other side of the sea.Marly Youmans, Hands across enchanted seas
Soon, he closes his eyes to listen
to my new poem. Soon,
I stumble. Again,
again. These words
don’t relate to us. They are torn
from the fragile body of things
that can be told simply.
I walked slowly with my father.Romana Iorga, Genesis
Do you find that the writing of poetry can be a way to process the kind of intense emotions you have gone through?
Poetry is the way I have been expressing myself since I was a teenager. I’ve always loved horror fiction and films so as an adult I found that combining my real life experiences with horror imagery was a way I could deal with my sorrows from a distance. Horror in my work is like a distorted lens I can use.
One of the ways your poems seem to work through the horrors of adulthood and loss is through traditional horror imagery of blood and monstrousness? What is the value of horror as a genre in addressing emotional experience?
I turn subject matter like cancer, chemo and child abuse into the horrors that they truly are but allow the readers to feel their own pain. The value is that readers can can see their own monsters in the words. They can step into my shoes or draw on their own pain. We all have monsters hiding under the bed. We all have moments, that if we were deranged, we’d kill the ones who caused pain or watched us, with dead eyes, groveling in the dirt of our horrors.Andrea Blythe, Poet Spotlight: Michelle Scalise on the horrors of grief
A dog barks;
a man calls.
The sounds curl away.
The men sleepDick Jones, Night Poachers
This five week hospital stay I think I’ve only drafted two poems, but they are two very hard won poems. I used to think of writing as something like exercise…like “oh I haven’t gone for a jog in a few weeks, suppose I should…” except I was always far more diligent with writing than I ever have (ever!) been with any sort of exercise. Instead I think of the habit or hobby or practice, whichever you prefer, of writing as a gift. Not necessarily a “gifting” but a gift. When I come to another mid-week of driving hours in the car to and from the hospital with the children, trying to keep things a little balanced and half normal for them as I work so hard to just get the chance to hold my baby, when I come again to that mid-week, I know that I always have the gift of writing. I can use that to sift all of it through, to categorize it, put words to it. I can put words to it. And that is a gift, it is truly a gift.Renee Emerson, writing in hospitals
Have you been reading the depressing news about the extinction of trees in Europe (in particular, the Horse Chestnut tree is in trouble) and the disappearance of about half of the bird population in North America since the seventies? Oh, right, you were focused on all the impeachment stuff in the news? Totally understand. But it is a reminder to appreciate and notice the birds and trees around us, especially the ones that are difficult to grow and maintain, the birds and plants susceptible to changes in habitat and climate and invasive species. Also, there have been some really interesting articles about how spending time in nature literally helps your body heal, and I believe that’s probably true. As I’ve gotten older I’ve gotten more interested in planting things, and trying to appreciate the work that goes into maintaining public spaces, parks and gardens. I’ve been trying to plant things around the garden that butterflies and hummingbirds like, and planting sunflowers for finches and other small birds. […]
I hope you have had a good beginning to fall, full of promise and good cheer, celebrating the changing seasons as much as you can. I am hoping to fill the increasingly dark and rainy days with writing and reading (I just got a new stack of library books) and hoping to find good publishers for my two book manuscripts, placing poems and hopefully getting to do some writing-related social things (I have a reading scheduled for the first week of October in Auburn so hopefully I will be better for that!)Jeannine Hall Gailey, Glass Pumpkins, Appreciating Fragile Things, and the End of September
Don’t want us to become Hitler-haired hate machines. Don’t want us to become snuffer-outers of incense and childhood dreams. Don’t want us to make our bed to now only lie in it. Don’t want us to become the uncorrected manuscript all about treating one another incorrectly. Don’t want the alphabet to ever lose the letters MLK. Don’t want Mother America to become a scullery maid for the criminally corrupt. Don’t want us to become a movable feast that loses its groove. Don’t want us to become the strange fruit in bitter homes and gardens.Rich Ferguson, When My Therapist Asked What I Didn’t Want Outta Life
talking to my catJim Young, [untitled haiku]
slowly the sunshine returns
an autumn morning
Gardens aren’t for ornament
We're told a privacy fence is fine
enclosing three sides of the backyard;
but it's hinted that a metal or
picket border in front would seem
a bit in the neighbors' faces, a kind
of message that might smack of disinterest
in mingling. The strip of grass along
our sidewalks is public space— planted
with aging pines that shed their needles
and dead branches everywhere. Back
in my childhood, the women in every house-
hold had charge of burning dead leaves
at sundown; we could pick plants
and herbs for healing, and straighten
runners of beans and sweet potato
when we passed. But we were taught
everything else in nature knows its time
and place, in spite of our forced calendars.
Funicular + summer videohaiku collection is complete!
I wasn’t going to use this footage of The Aberystwyth Cliff Railway, lovely as it is, but then I got the idea for a videohaiku, and some six hours later (five of them on the text, believe it or not), voila. That turned out to be the final piece in my third seasonal collection, Summer in the UK. To reproduce what I just blogged on my author site:
Much as I love my Pennsylvania mountaintop, I’m not as fond of our humid and increasingly hot summers; the cooler and drier maritime climate of the UK, where my partner lives, is far more to my liking. Regardless, summer is my least favorite season, and I often find it difficult to get in the mood for creative work. For most of July I fell off the videopoetry wagon altogether. But with a rush of catch-up videopoeming and a generous definition of summer (early June to the autumn equinox), I think I now have just enough to make a satisfying collection of haiku videos, if not quite as coherent a sequence as I put together for winter or spring. The high point, I think, is a nine-verse renku (linked verse) sequence called “Sea Levels” based on a low-tide visit to the submerged forest off the Welsh coast at Borth. Other locations in the collection include Aberystwyth, Hebden Bridge, Brill in Buckinghamshire, and various places in London, including Kew Gardens and the British Museum. To preserve a sense of seasonal progression, the videos are presented in the order in which the footage was shot rather than the order of composition.
As before, I’ve given the collection its own permanent page at DaveBonta.com (linked in the drop-down menu under Videopoetry if you’re viewing it on a proper computer), in addition to a showcase on Vimeo and a playlist on YouTube. The individual videos have also been shared on my Instagram and Twitter accounts (but not Facebook, because I have no truck with that hell site). If anyone would like to share this collection, first of all, thank you! And I think that YouTube will actually give you embed code. I’m happy to share the Vimeo embed code on request. Or of course you could simply share the link to my page.
Up, and with Sir W. Pen by coach to St. James’s, and there did our usual business before the Duke of Yorke; which signified little, our business being only complaints of lack of money. Here I saw a bastard of the late King of Sweden’s come to kiss his hands; a mighty modish French-like gentleman. Thence to White Hall, with Sir W. Batten and Sir W. Pen, to Wilkes’s; and there did hear the many profane stories of Sir Henry Wood damning the parsons for so much spending the wine at the sacrament, cursing that ever they took the cup to themselves, and then another story that he valued not all the world’s curses, for two pence he shall get at any time the prayers of some poor body that is worth a 1000 of all their curses; Lord Norwich drawing a tooth at a health. Another time, he and Pinchbacke and Dr. Goffe, now a religious man, Pinchbacke did begin a frolick to drink out of a glass with a toad in it that he had taken up going out to shit, he did it without harm. Goffe, who knew sacke would kill the toad, called for sacke; and when he saw it dead, says he, “I will have a quick toad, and will not drink from a dead toad.” By that means, no other being to be found, he escaped the health. Thence home, and dined, and to Deptford and got all my pictures put into wherries, and my other fine things, and landed them all very well, and brought them home, and got Sympson to set them all up to-night; and he gone, I and the boy to finish and set up my books, and everything else in my house, till two o’clock in the morning, and then to bed; but mightily troubled, and even in my sleep, at my missing four or five of my biggest books. Speed’s Chronicle and Maps, and the two parts of Waggoner, and a book of cards, which I suppose I have put up with too much care, that I have forgot where they are; for sure they are not stole. Two little pictures of sea and ships and a little gilt frame belonging to my plate of the River, I want; but my books do heartily trouble me. Most of my gilt frames are hurt, which also troubles me, but most my books. This day I put on two shirts, the first time this year, and do grow well upon it; so that my disease is nothing but wind.
to kiss to curse to lick a toad
to kill everything in my sleep
missing my cards
I forgot where I belong
but my shirts grow well
on nothing but wind
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 19 September 1666.
What it Took to Get Here
Don't you wonder sometimes where
to trace your line, how it is
your forebears came to claim states
or provinces from which they derived
their names? The 1852 California census
lists at least five men citing Manila
or the Philippines as their birth
place—one was a seaman, two
were laborers, the fourth was a cook;
the other two did not list their
occupations. In the crew aboard
galleons that plied the route
between Manila and Acapulco in the 1800s,
who among them were your great-uncles,
your great-grandfathers? Which of them
wielded the compass and plane, laid
brick or peeled turnips in the ship's
dank hold? Which waded ashore
somewhere in Louisiana, sick of dark
nights rocking in the wet belly
of the boat, homesick for sun
and salt? After the World's Fair
and traveling carnivals packed up,
who traded in their feathered head-
pieces for a parcel of land
and a plow, a field of drying
tobacco in Virginia, a dog
and a plate of fatback?
Do you look some mornings
in the mirror and wonder at
the shape of your nose and brow,
the stirring you feel in your bones
for places you vaguely know?
A videohaiku filmed several weeks ago at Rotherhithe on the south bank of the Thames, London. There were many other things that afternoon and evening that I wish I’d filmed, such as the grand spectacle of the tide going out on the Thames, or the 18th-century clay pipe stems that still appear by the thousands among the stones on the foreshore. But you have to go with what you’ve got — and nothing stops me from making poems without video, after all.