The bee has drunk too much

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
 
of its own fevered dream and almost
doesn't find its way back to the hive.
Who told it to gorge on flowers of
fermented lime, to drink past the limits
of necessity? Every bristle that brushed
against bursting tendrils, dark gold
and orange, comes back freighted
with so much more than it went out
to find. But there's still the problem
of getting past the sentinels
who wait to tear off its legs,
punishment for straying too far, perhaps
too long; for making the daily drone
a drudgery even more wedded to certain
death. In my own life, how many times
have I taken that kind of risk, the kind
that leads from these little cells sticky
with the rind of industry, where comb is one
letter away from tomb? I never wobbled
when I walked, though sometimes I turned
morose and cried or spoke of secrets.

Post-natal

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

This come Mr. Shepley (newly out of the country) to see me; after a little discourse with him, I to the office, where we sat all the morning, and at noon home, and there dined, Shepley with me, and after dinner I did pay him 70l., which he had paid my father for my use in the country. He being gone, I took coach and to Mrs. Pierce’s, where I find her as fine as possible, and himself going to the ball at night at Court, it being the Queen’s birth-day, and so I carried them in my coach, and having set them into the house, and gotten Mr. Pierce to undertake the carrying in my wife, I to Unthanke’s, where she appointed to be, and there told her, and back again about business to White Hall, while Pierce went and fetched her and carried her in. I, after I had met with Sir W. Coventry and given him some account of matters, I also to the ball, and with much ado got up to the loft, where with much trouble I could see very well. Anon the house grew full, and the candles light, and the King and Queen and all the ladies set: and it was, indeed, a glorious sight to see Mrs. Stewart in black and white lace, and her head and shoulders dressed with dyamonds, and the like a great many great ladies more, only the Queen none; and the King in his rich vest of some rich silke and silver trimming, as the Duke of York and all the dancers were, some of cloth of silver, and others of other sorts, exceeding rich. Presently after the King was come in, he took the Queene, and about fourteen more couple there was, and began the Bransles. As many of the men as I can remember presently, were, the King, Duke of York, Prince Rupert, Duke of Monmouth, Duke of Buckingham, Lord Douglas, Mr. Hamilton, Colonell Russell, Mr. Griffith, Lord Ossory, Lord Rochester; and of the ladies, the Queene, Duchess of York, Mrs. Stewart, Duchess of Monmouth, Lady Essex Howard, Mrs. Temples, Swedes Embassadress, Lady Arlington; Lord George Barkeley’s daughter, and many others I remember not; but all most excellently dressed in rich petticoats and gowns, and dyamonds, and pearls.
After the Bransles, then to a Corant, and now and then a French dance; but that so rare that the Corants grew tiresome, that I wished it done. Only Mrs. Stewart danced mighty finely, and many French dances, specially one the King called the New Dance, which was very pretty; but upon the whole matter, the business of the dancing of itself was not extraordinary pleasing. But the clothes and sight of the persons was indeed very pleasing, and worth my coming, being never likely to see more gallantry while I live, if I should come twenty times.
About twelve at night it broke up, and I to hire a coach with much difficulty, but Pierce had hired a chair for my wife, and so she being gone to his house, he and I, taking up Barker at Unthanke’s, to his house, whither his wife was come home a good while ago and gone to bed. So away home with my wife, between displeased with the dull dancing, and satisfied at the clothes and persons. My Lady Castlemayne, without whom all is nothing, being there, very rich, though not dancing. And so after supper, it being very cold, to bed.

at my birth a ball of light
like some sort of pearl
danced in the hole of itself

I live with difficulty
it is dull without dancing
and so cold


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 15 November 1666.

High crimes

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and by water to White Hall, and thence to Westminster, where I bought several things, as a hone, ribbon, gloves, books, and then took coach and to Knipp’s lodging, whom I find not ready to go home with me. So I away to do a little business, among others to call upon Mr. Osborne for my Tangier warrant for the last quarter, and so to the Exchange for some things for my wife, and then to Knipp’s again, and there staid reading of Waller’s verses, while she finished dressing, her husband being by. I had no other pastime. Her lodging very mean, and the condition she lives in; yet makes a shew without doors, God bless us! I carried him along with us into the City, and set him down in Bishopsgate Street, and then home with her. She tells me how Smith, of the Duke’s house, hath killed a man upon a quarrel in play; which makes every body sorry, he being a good actor, and, they say, a good man, however this happens. The ladies of the Court do much bemoan him, she says. Here she and we alone at dinner to some good victuals, that we could not put off, that was intended for the great dinner of my Lord Hinchingbroke’s, if he had come. After dinner I to teach her my new recitative of “It is decreed,” of which she learnt a good part, and I do well like it and believe shall be well pleased when she hath it all, and that it will be found an agreeable thing. Then carried her home, and my wife and I intended to have seen my Lady Jemimah at White Hall, but the Exchange Streete was so full of coaches, every body, as they say, going thither to make themselves fine against tomorrow night, that, after half an hour’s stay, we could not do any [thing], only my wife to see her brother, and I to go speak one word with Sir G. Carteret about office business, and talk of the general complexion of matters, which he looks upon, as I do, with horrour, and gives us all for an undone people. That there is no such thing as a peace in hand, nor possibility of any without our begging it, they being as high, or higher, in their terms than ever, and tells me that, just now, my Lord Hollis had been with him, and wept to think in what a condition we are fallen. He shewed me my Lord Sandwich’s letter to him, complaining of the lack of money, which Sir G. Carteret is at a loss how in the world to get the King to supply him with, and wishes him, for that reason, here; for that he fears he will be brought to disgrace there, for want of supplies. He says the House is yet in a bad humour; and desiring to know whence it is that the King stirs not, he says he minds it not, nor will be brought to it, and that his servants of the House do, instead of making the Parliament better, rather play the rogue one with another, and will put all in fire. So that, upon the whole, we are in a wretched condition, and I went from him in full apprehensions of it. So took up my wife, her brother being yet very bad, and doubtful whether he will recover or no, and so to St. Ellen’s, and there sent my wife home, and myself to the Pope’s Head, where all the Houblons were, and Dr. Croone, and by and by to an exceeding pretty supper, excellent discourse of all sorts, and indeed are a set of the finest gentlemen that ever I met withal in my life. Here Dr. Croone told me, that, at the meeting at Gresham College to-night, which, it seems, they now have every Wednesday again, there was a pretty experiment of the blood of one dogg let out, till he died, into the body of another on one side, while all his own run out on the other side. The first died upon the place, and the other very well, and likely to do well. This did give occasion to many pretty wishes, as of the blood of a Quaker to be let into an Archbishop, and such like; but, as Dr. Croone says, may, if it takes, be of mighty use to man’s health, for the amending of bad blood by borrowing from a better body.
After supper, James Houblon and another brother took me aside and to talk of some businesses of their owne, where I am to serve them, and will, and then to talk of publique matters, and I do find that they and all merchants else do give over trade and the nation for lost, nothing being done with care or foresight, no convoys granted, nor any thing done to satisfaction; but do think that the Dutch and French will master us the next yeare, do what we can: and so do I, unless necessity makes the King to mind his business, which might yet save all.
Here we sat talking till past one in the morning, and then home, where my people sat up for me, my wife and all, and so to bed.

I bought love and took it
while she finished dressing
her husband being mean

God carried in a moan
like an undone possibility

without being high
how in the world do we croon

pretty discourse
pretty experiment

on the blood of the blood
from another brother
that they give over for lost


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 14 November 1666.

Poetry Blog Digest 2019: Week 47

Poetry Blogging Network

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 I want to depart from my usual pattern here in the intro and draw your attention to a call-out I just posted: Wanted: Your picks for best poetry collections of 2019(ish). This is for something in addition to the blog digest — modeled after blog carnivals, if anyone remembers those — in which I hope we can together create our own, bloggish alternative to all those lists that poetry critics assemble each year. I’m asking for a short post about one favorite book (and an optional few runners up), with a deadline of December 3 so we can have a compendium of recommendations out in time for holiday shopping. Check it out.

And as long as I’m breaking habits, I want to include a quote from one of Via Negativa’s own posts, because I really like what Luisa wrote about hitting the ninth birthday of her poem-a-day practice here and what that practice means to her.


What have I learned, what am I still learning? That fear is probably the biggest obstacle to getting anything written. We all cycle through moments of exhilaration and anxiety, confidence and paralysis; too much of either can turn into writer’s block. Fear goes by other names like impostor syndrome. And perfectionism. That what it is I crave that’s met in part by coming to my daily writing is the promise of untrammelled time and space— which as all creatives know, is the ideal condition for dreaming and making art. For such as it is, it means that I want to create even a small space in my day, every day, to try to meet myself there; whatever might come out of it is already surplus, a gift.

Luisa A. Igloria, Nine Years! and, “Love Poem to Skins”

Every day was still jam-packed with meetings, but I found myself scratching out poems during some of the meetings – maybe it was in the air, maybe it was all the champagne I consumed that week, maybe it was me reminiscing on the first time I was in Paris, maybe it was me reminiscing on another lost love. Or maybe it’s just that Paris is a city that inspires poetry.

After slightly terrifying my colleagues by reading some of my recent poems, every time I started writing in my notebook one of them would ask, “Are you writing a poem?” and more often than not, I would nod my head yes. There was something about being in that city that kept the words coming.

Courtney LeBlanc, Writing Poetry in Paris

I have been awake for hours–but have I been writing?  No, I’ve been grading.  It’s that time of the term.  I am caught up–but I will only be caught up for a day or two.  It’s that time of the term.

But let me also note–I wrote a poem yesterday.  Yesterday I was watering the plants in the butterfly garden at school.  I noticed that 2 of the milkweed plants had aphids on them, so I spent some time killing them by rubbing them off the leaves.  Their dying stained my fingers bright yellow, even after I washed my hands.

This line came to me:  On the last day of the impeachment hearings, I kill the aphids on the milkweed plants.  I played with it off and on throughout the day, and eventually a poem came together.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Killing Aphids, Listening to Impeachment Hearings

Some terrific people at my university just organized our first ever Native American Heritage Month, involving two lectures, two documentaries, and a poetry reading with tastings of traditional foods. I made it to four out of five events, and every one was interesting, moving, and really fun–I’m so grateful to the organizers for their work.

The commemoration also made me return to a teaching/ research question that’s bothered me for a long time. My “modernist” poetry course hasn’t, in fact, carried that label for years, because I find it limited and misleading. Instead, I teach “U.S. Poetry from 1900-1950.” Alongside the modernist canon I was trained in, and the white women poets I added to my mental list of innovators during my PhD years, we read the formalisms of Frost, Millay, Cullen, Georgia Douglas Johnson, and others, and the poetic experiments of the New Negro Renaissance (these people and bodies of work overlap, of course). I’m currently teaching the most inclusive version of this course I’ve ever constructed. So where are the Native American poets?

Lesley Wheeler, Modernism in Native American Heritage Month

I got a chance to see Mary Ruefle read some poetry and prose and do a Q&A at SAL this week. Getting downtown was a nightmare, which reminded me why we don’t go downtown very often, and the building didn’t have any handicapped parking and was a million miles from any kind of parking, and getting to the hall the reading was in the required using an elevator that tried to kill me with crazed hard-slamming doors, but I was happy I made it. Mary Ruefle was very funny and I liked her prose work on friendship almost as much as I liked her poetry.

During the Q&A, someone asked her why she was a bad kisser (a reference to one of her poems.) She said “I find it boring. There are just so many better ways to spend your time. I’d much rather be reading and writing.” Well, there you go then.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Welcome to the Holidays, Mary Ruefle, Lizzo, and Another Round of Revision and Thinking of Poets and Charisma

It’s fair to say that, 18 months after my book was published, I’d put it to bed, gone downstairs and thought it was fast asleep.  A delightful surprise, then, to discover that the book has been staying up late chatting to Jonathan Edwards who described the poems in What Are You After? as “accessible, witty, moving, memorable, class conscious” and the writing as “warm and memorable, full of personality…”

I haven’t been blogging much recently as I’ve been travelling about going to poetry festivals and readings, as well as working on poems which I hope will form themselves into my second collection of poetry.  I’m still on the poetry competition trail (not sure if I mentioned that I’m finding competitions a useful way to focus on completing poems).  Recently I was shortlisted in the Bridport Prize and longlisted in the Ginkgo Prize.  All this, plus the surprise review, is a lovely nod to keep on keeping on.

Josephine Corcoran, ‘What Are You After?’ reviewed at Poetry Wales

Goodness, I can’t believe I missed the whole month of October here in the blog. Yes, I continue to be busy, with necessary downtime between tasks and events. At an event in November, I read poems from a new book, This Moment…in Sarah’s Garden, for which I had written poems in the voice of Sarah Davis to accompany photographs by Ken Kashian. That’s it above, accordian style, with its box and inserts, which include a packet of poppy seeds and a booklet about the history of David and Sarah Davis, their letters, her garden, and you can learn more about it at Ken’s Artist Book site here. After a busy week of meetings and events, including a story slam last night, I am having a grand Slattern Day today, of rest, reading, grocery shopping, and an at-home movie, borrowed from the library. My Cousin Rachel, based on the book by Daphne du Maurier, but not exactly the same story. […]

Perhaps all this movie watching and novel reading is escapism…from politics, despair, impeachment hearings, desperate reality. But Monday I will turn in my ballot petition to run again as a precinct committeeperson, because I have to do something. Of course I will vote. And see the new Tom Hanks movie about Mr. Rogers. “Look for the helpers.”

Kathleen Kirk, This Moment…

I’ve hit my 100 rejection target and I can see the positive results in the numbers. I’ve submitted about twice as many so far this year and have had about a 12% acceptance rate which of course I’m very happy with. The daily writing I’ve done most of the year has helped as I have a good amount of poems to submit, but it has been hard work.

I no longer edit a poem every time I submit it, though I do proof it for errors. I maybe cast a more serious eye of them every few submissions, longer if they’ve had a quick turnaround. I still research the magazines as much as I can, via guidelines, masthead blurbs and looking at old issues if I can, but I am more open to online magazines. I currently have a big backlog of unsubmitted poems, just because I don’t have the time or energy to do tons of submissions. […]

The writing course I’m on has been a nice distraction, its focus is works found in several museums, art and artefacts. So I’ve been losing myself in research black holes about photograms, gum diggers, curiosity cabinets and other unexpected subjects. I try not to spend too much time researching, but sometimes jumping from one subject to another is how I find the sweet spot from which a poem can spring.

Gerry Stewart, Targets and Black Holes

It’s my 5th straight day of yoga tonight,  even as I don’t feel well.  It’s the coughy – runny stuff. I confess that I would like to stay home tomorrow but we will see how I am in the morning. I have started some Clairton – D so maybe that will help. The coughing has brought on chest pain. 

I was telling someone the other day that it did not know if yoga was making me a better writer, but it sure was making me a less stressed writer.  I am hoping that over time that will translate into better writing. I confess that hope is a good thing. 

This past week I have been spotty as far as writing. No, I confess I have not written daily. This is the ugly truth. I say that because I know all too well how important it is to do so. I do have a new draft that I will need to work on more, so this has not been a total loss of a week. 

Michael Allyn Wells, Confession Tuesday – Dark Pillows – Impeachment – Yoga – and Poetry drafts.

I’ve got into a rhythm of reading a Canto of Dante’s Purgatory each night before falling asleep, sometimes I get through the chapter commentary & notes too, sometimes not. If I’m too tired to finish the Canto I have to start it again the next day. Purgatorio is a more complex read than Inferno. There are just as many references to people and politics of the time, requiring explanation, but it seems to me there’s more characterisation and symbolism to get one’s head around, not to mention the philosophical wondering it’s sent me on.

Alongside this I’ve had a number of poetry collections on the go recently. Perhaps I’m getting more reading done this month because I’m not drinking alcohol? I can’t really see the connection, but I’m struggling to notice any other benefits to Dry November except the feeling of smug satisfaction that I can do it, if I put my mind to it. I hope I’m not jinxing it by making that claim when there are twelve days to go. Anyway, I wish I could commune with my internal organs and ask them if they’re feeling detoxified or rejuvenated.

Robin Houghton, Recent reading

This weekend, I find myself banging my head against the wall over these new poems I’m working on. With both of them, I think I’m trying to do too many things in too small of a space, and I’m getting all tangled and twisted up in confusing metaphors involving fire and churning waters and clarity of mind and the Trapezius. (That’s the big triangular muscle in your upper back, in case you didn’t know.) Also, Glut Bridges, although that’s a separate poem and will be a bit more…cheeky. Ha! (If I can’t write a proper poem I can at least crack myself up with a terrible pun.) I know it will all come together, but I’m very frustrated at the moment. It’s all in there, I canfeel it, but it won’t comeoutright. Argh! I need a writers-frustration helmet to keep me from bruising my forehead.

I’m also frustrated about the crocodiles. Of late, I have been playing lots of vintage Tomb Raider while waiting with baited breath for the award-winning Divinity: Original Sin 2 to go on sale…and it finally did! I downloaded it with great excitement, only to find that’s it just as hair-pulling as trying to write poems.

Kristen McHenry, Poem-Induced Head-Banging, Crocodile Wars, Clothes Complaint

Wherever inspiration is traded for expiration, or atoms of grace are centrifuged into one feud after another. Wherever life’s breath root is cut from flowers of affection, or love’s architects are left dumbfounded when their homes have been burned down—that is where you’ll find a hint of humanity blooming through those leaves of grass as Walt Whitman’s beard points faithfully towards peace. 

Rich Ferguson, Walt Whitman’s Beard

Last night, assembling books at 1am before I went to bed, I was struck by how much calmer I am now than a couple months ago.  It’s a realization that strikes me, especially when I am able to finish a batch of books (or several) during a time like overnight when I normally would have had to sandwich all of them into the couple hours I was able to be at the studio.  It does occur to me occasionally that I’d have been better served to have never rented the space, the only thing sustaining me being some more storage space for supplies (and having the whole operation & big shelves at home has proved less taxing. The dining room is a mess right now, but it’s just a few unpacked boxes I’ll get to this weekend.) There was the dream, of course, of events and open studios, but there wasn’t room for anything more than the occasional open studio (which never really happened that frequently.)  And perhaps that is the need that needed to be cast off–that little dream at the back of my head that I would one day have a little public space, a little shop, maybe, somewhere to sell books and art and maybe host readings and workshops. Maybe a bigger space there in the building (which is hilarious since I could barely afford the one had most months.) 

Kristy Bowen, new ways of working and letting go…

My S.O. and I were talking the other day about work ethic and how deeply ingrained it is in us. We were raised to be industrious. Great value was placed on labor. Laziness and leisure were suspect. To work hard, more often than not, meant you were a good person.

But work hard at what?

Because that’s what people do isn’t as satisfying an answer as it used to be.

And then there’s this: exactly what are we working hard for?

* * *

Like many of you, I turn to books and poetry for this kind of thing. Poems nearly always show me the pearl. And when they don’t do that, they describe the irritant so clearly that I understand better what I’m up against. Reading the Fall 2019 issue of Waxwing Magazine recently was like putting on a mood ring: the poems reflected back to me what I was feeling; they showed me what I was up against.

You must lift your own tired self
beyond the threshold of the door

You Must Lift Your Son’s Languid Body by Oliver de la Paz, Waxwing Magazine, Fall 2019

Here’s how it goes: We commute, we work, we commute. We shop for dinner, we cook dinner, we clean up after dinner. We watch the evening news and search our brains for the right questions (on Jeopardy, of course). We read things and text people. We scroll. We lift heavy things at the gym and run in circles around the neighborhood. We shower, dry, dress, brush.

Literally and figuratively, the days lather, rinse, repeat.

Carolee Bennett, “on the other side is what?”

This year I’ve learned the language of doctors, immersed myself in medical journals, kept daily tabs on her vitals. Everything a nurse or therapist would take the time to teach me, I learned–changing NG tubes, hep-locking a PICC line, what every single monitor meant, and there were so many monitors; what every potential side effect of a drug was, and there were so many drugs.

I returned the medical equipment a few days after Kit died, along with a note of gratitude for her surgeon, nurses, doctors. Hand-written, thanking by name, on high-school notebook paper: my resignation letter. I felt like I had been part of their team in a high stakes game; I’d been all in, and we lost.

I’ve forgotten what it is like to live this life I gave up last January, on the ultrasound table, when I learned I was having a baby–my fifth daughter!–with a potentially fatal heart condition. I took each role as doctors handed them to me–mom to a heart baby, a special needs baby, a potentially blind baby. I acclimated to native culture.

I didn’t realize, when I brought my daughter in to the hospital for that last stay, that it was her last stay. That it was the last time I would have all my children together earthside, the last time I would cradle her in my arms cord-free before I cradled her lifeless body.

Maybe like every missionary, I am desperate to go back. If I could have another day–even in her most critical days, where I spent hours bent over her bed, rubbing her forehead on the only spot with no monitors and wires–I would take it. I would walk those hall again, sit through the scary talks with doctors again, even, yes, hold her as she died again. I want to go back to that Holy Land.

I’ll always be her mom; but my assignment of mothering her, of raising her, is over. So here I am learning a new language, this incomprehensible dialect of grief.

Renee Emerson, Re-Entry

my son lithely dropped to the forest floor to shoot that mothership mushroom that is so huge it seems to be trying to lift my house from its foundation it is hubcap sized and strange and fantastic Thanksgiving will only be the two of us but I’m cooking for all his friends too who don’t have families as I always do for us it is a day to indulge in food I only eat once a year buttery rich dressing hollandaise sauce that took me years to perfect salad with candied pecans and Boursin cheese and raspberries mashed potatoes with real cream and of course pumpkin pie it is a day to relax and for my son who is remarkably normal it is a day in which he visits his friends and their families I used to cook for huge gatherings even in my tiny house friends who had no place to go and for a very long time for my ex husband which my son requested then I eventually lost touch with my friends or felt too uncomfortable around people to function and I realized that having my ex there was terrible because I had cooked for him for ten years without ever receiving a thank you when we were married and I knew when I stood in my kitchen one year making vegetarian mushroom gravy and was considering poisoning him that it was be his last meal at my house ever did I resent him for leaving my year old son and me to fend for ourselves with no child support forever you’re goddamned right I did and I still do

I am glad now that I was pushed out of the messy matrimonial bed where I was never happy to go to work in the factories to be self sufficient enough to put my son in private schools to care for him and build a home for us to watch him become such an outstanding human to teach and play music professionally to write and be published to eventually earn a union won pension to survive and thrive against all odds I am proud of what I have done

Rebecca Loudon, Pig and farm report

Lock me up or I will
say the word
that stops the lying,
stops the hate,
stops the pain
inflicted on the innocent.

Lock me up or I will
say the word
that resists,
pushes back,
says no, no, no.

Tom Montag, LOCK ME UP

I was young and wanted out of my family and out of my past. I had not yet learned that this was impossible. So what did I do? I ate several years of the calendar. I then vomited up a new calendar with new days, strange numbers, and different names for the months. And my family? What did they do? The same as always; my father kept drinking good bourbon and my mother told everyone that things were fine, just fine. and my poor sister tore a page from the first calendar, wrapped it around herself like a blanket, lives that way to this very day. “Sis, are you alright?” No answer. Just big eyes and a shiver.

James Lee Jobe, ‘I was young and wanted out of my family and out of my past.’

Winner of the Walt Whitman Award, Emily Skaja’s BRUTE (Graywolf Press, 2019) is a stunning collection of poetry that navigates the dark corridors of trauma found at the end of an abusive relationship. “Everyone if we’re going to talk about love please we have to talk about violence,” writes Skaja in the poem “remarkable the litter of birds.” She indeed talks about the intersections of both love and violence, evoking a range of emotional experiences ranging from sorrow and loss to rage, guilt, hope, self discovery, and reinvention. These poems reflect the present moment — ripe with cell phones, social media, and technologies that shift the way humans interact with each other — while maintaining a mythic quality, with the speaker feeling like a character struggling to survive in a surreal fairytale world.

Andrea Blythe, New Books in Poetry: BRUTE by Emily Skaja

A few years ago, in mid-July, I revisited Reedham. I stood at the edge of the first field, the one that bordered the rambling gardens of the Old Hall and across which I used to stride at the beginning of my explorations. Initially it looked much the same, but a cursory inspection swiftly revealed the changes: the windbreak hedgerows had gone; the crop had been harvested already; not a single skylark spiralled high into the clear air.

I learned recently that since 1970 the skylark population has declined by 52%. Major changes in cultivation and harvesting procedures are thought to be responsible for this, notably the switch from spring to autumn-sown cereals, the disappearance of the hedgerows and the vulnerability of birds to the massively increased use of insecticides and weedkillers.

It would seem, then, that the skylark – a bird whose rural associations transcend entirely the phoney bucolic Merrie England clichés – is another casualty of the late-20th century. Apparently not. Although a 52% decline in a little over 30 years is dramatic and alarming, a government-funded study has demonstrated that merely the provision of two small patches left untouched within a hectare of cultivated land can reverse local decline. Experiments done over a two-year period resulted in an increase of nearly 50% in skylark breeding. So to encourage the process, farmers are being offered £30.00 per hectare to join a scheme involving small, undrilled patches across their field systems.

A small resistance to an advancing tide. ‘So shines a bright deed in a naughty world’. If the farmers of East Norfolk are an enlightened crew, maybe I’ll be able to lie on my back in the great fields by The Old Hall, Reedham again in a year or two, watching & hearing the larks ascending.

Dick Jones, LARKS ASCENDING

I stand at the threshold
where one thing
becomes another.

I choose sky.
Water.
Sitka spruce.

Return of
snowy plover.

Carey Taylor, Threshold

Wanted: Your picks for best poetry collections of 2019(ish)

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

It’s that time of year when the official arbiters of taste are rolling out their Best Of lists. And 2019 was an exceptionally good year for poetry, so even the relatively staid and standard sources still recommend some amazing works. But must they all include the same amazing works? I mean, how likely is it, with poetry in English so vital, diverse, and multinational, that the same dozen names keep popping up? Well, I think we all know the reason: professional critics are afraid to go out on a limb. Ten years ago, that would’ve resulted in mostly white male poets getting the nod — thank goodness that’s no longer the case. But there’s still a strong bias toward mainstream poetics and a provincial disinclination among US-based critics to consider works published beyond their borders, let alone poetry in translation.

So screw that! Let’s make our own list(s). Starting in 2016 and continuing in 2017 a bunch of us chose one favorite book or chapbook we’d read that year, and it turned into a really fun exercise. Last year I forgot to coordinate it, probably because I was too busy with the weekly poetry blog digests, but this year I’d like to give it another go — and hopefully recruit some more bloggers to help out. Why just let Via Negativa readers have all the fun? Continue reading “Wanted: Your picks for best poetry collections of 2019(ish)”

Remodeling

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

At the office all the morning, at noon home to dinner, and out to Bishopsgate Street, and there bought some drinking-glasses, a case of knives, and other things, against tomorrow, in expectation of my Lord Hinchingbroke’s coming to dine with me. So home, and having set some things in the way of doing, also against to-morrow, I to my office, there to dispatch business, and do here receive notice from my Lord Hinchingbroke that he is not well, and so not in condition to come to dine with me to-morrow, which I am not in much trouble for, because of the disorder my house is in, by the bricklayers coming to mend the chimney in my dining-room for smoking, which they were upon almost till midnight, and have now made it very pretty, and do carry smoke exceeding well.
This evening come all the Houblons to me, to invite me to sup with them to-morrow night.
I did take them home, and there we sat and talked a good while, and a glass of wine, and then parted till to-morrow night.
So at night, well satisfied in the alteration of my chimney, to bed.

drinking in
the disorder the bricklayers have made

to it to them a glass
of alteration


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 13 November 1666.

For what it’s worth, this is Via Negativa’s 10,000th published post.

Saturdays in Childhood

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall
 
Saturdays then, no school,
just chores and homework; or
practicing scales, then walking
to the store with our 3 boarders
who wanted to buy coconut jam.
I don't know when father and mother
decided to take in lodgers, or how
they found this particular group,
all attending the local university.
They were beautiful and leggy; and,
having come from Bangkok, everything
they said sounded like the fluted
sounds of tongues trying out
English in another country
where English was not the first
language either. They humored
me, awkward child with thin arms
and scars down my legs, curious
about the mysteries of the curling
iron and the manicure set: in turn
I adored them as older sisters
might perhaps be adored, though I
wouldn't know, as I didn't have
any. When they left, as we knew
they would, I was back to being
by myself: fading into the back-
ground with a book in my hands,
watching as the grownups combed
their hair or put on lipstick,
put on clothes for going out.

Mob rule

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Lay long in bed, and then up, and Mr. Carcasse brought me near 500 tickets to sign, which I did, and by discourse find him a cunning, confident, shrewd man, but one that I do doubt hath by his discourse of the ill will he hath got with my Lord Marquess of Dorchester (with whom he lived), he hath had cunning practices in his time, and would not now spare to use the same to his profit. That done I to the office; whither by and by comes Creed to me, and he and I walked in the garden a little, talking of the present ill condition of things, which is the common subject of all men’s discourse and fears now-a-days, and particularly of my Lady Denham, whom everybody says is poisoned, and he tells me she hath said it to the Duke of York; but is upon the mending hand, though the town says she is dead this morning. He and I to the ‘Change. There I had several little errands, and going to Sir R. Viner’s, I did get such a splash and spots of dirt upon my new vest, that I was out of countenance to be seen in the street. This day I received 450 pieces of gold more of Mr. Stokes, but cost me 22 1/2d. change; but I am well contented with it, — I having now near 2800l. in gold, and will not rest till I get full 3000l., and then will venture my fortune for the saving that and the rest.
Home to dinner, though Sir R. Viner would have staid us to dine with him, he being sheriffe; but, poor man, was so out of countenance that he had no wine ready to drink to us, his butler being out of the way, though we know him to be a very liberal man. And after dinner I took my wife out, intending to have gone and have seen my Lady Jemimah, at White Hall, but so great a stop there was at the New Exchange, that we could not pass in half an houre, and therefore ‘light and bought a little matter at the Exchange, and then home, and then at the office awhile, and then home to my chamber, and after my wife and all the mayds abed but Jane, whom I put confidence in — she and I, and my brother, and Tom, and W. Hewer, did bring up all the remainder of my money, and my plate-chest, out of the cellar, and placed the money in my study, with the rest, and the plate in my dressing-room; but indeed I am in great pain to think how to dispose of my money, it being wholly unsafe to keep it all in coin in one place. But now I have it all at my hand, I shall remember it better to think of disposing of it. This done, by one in the morning to bed.
This afternoon going towards Westminster, Creed and I did stop, the Duke of York being just going away from seeing of it, at Paul’s, and in the Convocation House Yard did there see the body of Robert Braybrooke, Bishop of London, that died 1404: He fell down in his tomb out of the great church into St. Fayth’s this late fire, and is here seen his skeleton with the flesh on; but all tough and dry like a spongy dry leather, or touchwood all upon his bones. His head turned aside. A great man in his time, and Lord Chancellor; and his skeletons now exposed to be handled and derided by some, though admired for its duration by others. Many flocking to see it.

the carcass
I live and walk in
is common as dirt

and poor
out of wine
out of the way
out of money
out of hand

I think of disposing of it
stop seeing it
this fire and flesh

but the bones turn
and expose me
for a flock


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 12 November 1666.

Deacon

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Lord’s day). Up, and to church, myself and wife, where the old dunce Meriton, brother to the known Meriton; of St. Martin’s, Westminster, did make a very good sermon, beyond my expectation. Home to dinner, and we carried in Pegg Pen, and there also come to us little Michell and his wife, and dined very pleasantly. Anon to church, my wife and I and Betty Michell, her husband being gone to Westminster. Here at church (God forgive me), my mind did courir upon Betty Michell, so that I do hazer con mi cosa in la eglisa meme. After church home, and I to my chamber, and there did finish the putting time to my song of “It is decreed,” and do please myself at last and think it will be thought a good song. By and by little Michell comes and takes away his wife home, and my wife and brother and I to my uncle Wight’s, where my aunt is grown so ugly and their entertainment so bad that I am in pain to be there; nor will go thither again a good while, if sent for, for we were sent for to-night, we had not gone else. Wooly’s wife, a silly woman, and not very handsome, but no spirit in her at all; and their discourse mean, and the fear of the troubles of the times hath made them not to bring their plate to town, since it was carried out upon the business of the fire, so that they drink in earth and a wooden can, which I do not like. So home, and my people to bed. I late to finish my song, and then to bed also, and the business of the firing of the city, and the fears we have of new troubles and violences, and the fear of fire among ourselves, did keep me awake a good while, considering the sad condition I and my family should be in. So at last to sleep.

brother to the known God
mind a haze of creed and ease

I grow ugly
in pain for some spirit
to drink

and wooden like the ears
we have in sleep


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 11 November 1666.