Smooth and shapely calves; lover of shiny new shoes and stilettos—but now she can't walk unaided. Limbs like jelly until the nurse hoists her into a chair. Then the arms take over, conducting an invisible choir. The voice, repeating pleas for food, for money. A locked bedroom door ignites a frenzy. The terror of going without. Heartless: those who used to live with her. The mind drifts in and out of all its rooms: a very old mansion trying to preserve some of its beautiful façade. She doesn't remember its architect— only the man who swept her in so long ago and across the threshold. Even from the afterlife, he husbands her living appointments. She'll never stop singing his praises.
Up, and all the morning in my chamber making up some accounts against this beginning of the new year, and so about noon abroad with my wife, who was to dine with W. Hewer and Willet at Mrs. Pierces, but I had no mind to be with them, for I do clearly find that my wife is troubled at my friendship with her and Knepp, and so dined with my Lord Crew, with whom was Mr. Browne, Clerk of the House of Lords, and Mr. John Crew. Here was mighty good discourse, as there is always: and among other things my Lord Crew did turn to a place in the Life of Sir Philip Sidney, wrote by Sir Fulke Greville, which do foretell the present condition of this nation, in relation to the Dutch, to the very degree of a prophecy; and is so remarkable that I am resolved to buy one of them, it being, quite throughout, a good discourse. Here they did talk much of the present cheapness of corne, even to a miracle; so as their farmers can pay no rent, but do fling up their lands; and would pay in corne: but, which I did observe to my Lord, and he liked well of it, our gentry are grown so ignorant in every thing of good husbandry, that they know not how to bestow this corne: which, did they understand but a little trade, they would be able to joyne together, and know what markets there are abroad, and send it thither, and thereby ease their tenants and be able to pay themselves. They did talk much of the disgrace the Archbishop is fallen under with the King, and the rest of the Bishops also. Thence I after dinner to the Duke of York’s playhouse, and there saw “Sir Martin Mar-all;” which I have seen so often, and yet am mightily pleased with it, and think it mighty witty, and the fullest of proper matter for mirth that ever was writ; and I do clearly see that they do improve in their acting of it. Here a mighty company of citizens, ’prentices, and others; and it makes me observe, that when I begun first to be able to bestow a play on myself, I do not remember that I saw so many by half of the ordinary ’prentices and mean people in the pit at 2s. 6d. a-piece as now; I going for several years no higher than the 12d. and then the 18d. places, though, I strained hard to go in then when I did: so much the vanity and prodigality of the age is to be observed in this particular. Thence I to White Hall, and there walked up and down the house a while, and do hear nothing of anything done further in this business of the change of Privy-counsellors: only I hear that Sir G. Savile, one of the Parliament Committee of nine, for examining the Accounts, is by the King made a Lord, the Lord Halifax; which, I believe, will displease the Parliament. By and by I met with Mr. Brisband; and having it in my mind this Christmas to (do what I never can remember that I did) go to see the manner of the gaming at the Groome-Porter’s, I having in my coming from the playhouse stepped into the two Temple-halls, and there saw the dirty ’prentices and idle people playing; wherein I was mistaken, in thinking to have seen gentlemen of quality playing there, as I think it was when I was a little child, that one of my father’s servants, John Bassum, I think, carried me in his arms thither. I did tell Brisband of it, and he did lead me thither, where, after staying an hour, they begun to play at about eight at night, where to see how differently one man took his losing from another, one cursing and swearing, and another only muttering and grumbling to himself, a third without any apparent discontent at all: to see how the dice will run good luck in one hand, for half an hour together, and another have no good luck at all: to see how easily here, where they play nothing but guinnys, a 100l. is won or lost: to see two or three gentlemen come in there drunk, and putting their stock of gold together, one 22 pieces, the second 4, and the third 5 pieces; and these to play one with another, and forget how much each of them brought, but he that brought the 22 thinks that he brought no more than the rest: to see the different humours of gamesters to change their luck, when it is bad, how ceremonious they are as to call for new dice, to shift their places, to alter their manner of throwing, and that with great industry, as if there was anything in it: to see how some old gamesters, that have no money now to spend as formerly, do come and sit and look on, as among others, Sir Lewis Dives, who was here, and hath been a great gamester in his time: to hear their cursing and damning to no purpose, as one man being to throw a seven if he could, and, failing to do it after a great many throws, cried he would be damned if ever he flung seven more while he lived, his despair of throwing it being so great, while others did it as their luck served almost every throw: to see how persons of the best quality do here sit down, and play with people of any, though meaner; and to see how people in ordinary clothes shall come hither, and play away 100, or 2 or 300 guinnys, without any kind of difficulty: and lastly, to see the formality of the groome-porter, who is their judge of all disputes in play and all quarrels that may arise therein, and how his under-officers are there to observe true play at each table, and to give new dice, is a consideration I never could have thought had been in the world, had I not now seen it. And mighty glad I am that I did see it, and it may be will find another evening, before Christmas be over, to see it again, when I may stay later, for their heat of play begins not till about eleven or twelve o’clock; which did give me another pretty observation of a man, that did win mighty fast when I was there. I think he won 100l. at single pieces in a little time. While all the rest envied him his good fortune, he cursed it, saying, “A pox on it, that it should come so early upon me, for this fortune two hours hence would be worth something to me, but then, God damn me, I shall have no such luck.” This kind of prophane, mad entertainment they give themselves. And so I, having enough for once, refusing to venture, though Brisband pressed me hard, and tempted me with saying that no man was ever known to lose the first time, the devil being too cunning to discourage a gamester; and he offered me also to lend me ten pieces to venture; but I did refuse, and so went away, and took coach and home about 9 or to at night, where not finding my wife come home, I took the same coach again, and leaving my watch behind me for fear of robbing, I did go back and to Mrs. Pierces, thinking they might not have broken up yet, but there I find my wife newly gone, and not going out of my coach spoke only to Mr. Pierce in his nightgown in the street, and so away back again home, and there to supper with my wife and to talk about their dancing and doings at Mrs. Pierces to-day, and so to bed.
I am making up my life
a cheap miracle
like a playhouse full
of proper citizens
and I play myself
as a prodigal committee
I play a child
wearing out the hour
I play to forget how old
I could become
I play an under-
I play a madman
in his nightgown in the street
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 1 January 1668.
We’re sorry your longing
for Christmas pudding
dissolved in the shallow depths
of an unimpressive mug cake.
The toy plastic dustpan never had
any honorable intentions. Not all
styrofoam peanuts from the box
get to help you separate your toes
during a pedicure. We don’t know
how many jars of yellow-footed
millipedes it would take to up
our chemical warfare game.
Even if you took an interest
in just one swan, all of them
officially belong to the Queen
of England. Also, some people
will never fathom what it means
to care about others, even if
they grew two more hearts
like octopus or squid.
With today’s erasure of December 31, 1667, I’ve completed another year of Pepys Diary erasures, and so it’s time to release another volume as a free PDF. Here’s the link to read or download. Apparently WordPress now supports automatic embeds of PDFs as well, so unless you’re reading this in an email or feed reader — not sure about those — you can also browse it at the bottom of this post.
You’ll notice from the URLs that I have ambitiously designated these compendiums as Vol. 5, Vol. 6, etc., which raises the question whether there will ever be Vols. 1-4. I guess it depends on how burnt out I feel when the diary comes to an end a year and a half from now (or slightly longer, given that I am now nearly a month behind). For the first three and half years of this project, my erasures generally sucked — that’s over a thousand erasure poems that will need to be revised or replaced. (I’m not saying they’re always brilliant now, only that I have a somewhat better idea of what I’m trying to do.)
Anyway, thanks to everyone who’s put up with all this, and especially to the few of you who are actively enthusiastic about it. Enjoy the PDF, and please let me know if you run into any mistakes. I’m afraid I can’t be bothered to proof it. You get what you pay for here, folks.
Up, without words to my wife, or few, and those not angry, and so to White Hall, and there waited a long time, while the Duke of York was with the King in the Caball, and there I and Creed stayed talking without, in the Vane-Room, and I perceive all people’s expectation is, what will be the issue of this great business of putting these great Lords out of the council and power, the quarrel, I perceive, being only their standing against the will of the King in the business of the Chancellor. Anon the Duke of York comes out, and then to a committee of Tangier, where my Lord Middleton did come to-day, and seems to me but a dull, heavy man; but he is a great soldier, and stout, and a needy Lord, which will still keep that poor garrison from ever coming to be worth anything to the King. Here, after a short meeting, we broke up, and I home to the office, where they are sitting, and so I to them, and having done our business rose, and I home to dinner with my people, and there dined with me my uncle Thomas, with a mourning hat-band on, for his daughter Mary, and here I and my people did discourse of the Act for the accounts, which do give the greatest power to these people, as they report that have read it (I having not yet read it, and indeed its nature is such as I have no mind to go about to read it, for fear of meeting matter in it to trouble me), that ever was given to any subjects, and too much also. After dinner with my wife and girl to Unthanke’s, and there left her, and I to Westminster, and there to Mrs. Martin’s, and did hazer con elle what I desired, and there did drink with her, and find fault with her husband’s wearing of too fine clothes, by which I perceive he will be a beggar, and so after a little talking I away and took up my wife again, and so home and to the office, where Captain Perryman did give me an account, walking in the garden, how the seamen of England are discouraged by want of money (or otherwise by being, as he says, but I think without cause, by their being underrated) so far as that he thinks the greatest part are gone abroad or going, and says that it is known that there are Irish in the town, up and down, that do labour to entice the seamen out of the nation by giving them 3l. in hand, and promise of 40s. per month, to go into the King of France’s service, which is a mighty shame, but yet I believe is true. I did advise with him about my little vessel, “The Maybolt,” which he says will be best for me to sell, though my employing her to Newcastle this winter, and the next spring, for coles, will be a gainful trade, but yet make me great trouble, but I will think of it, and so to my office, ended my letters, and so home to supper and to bed, good friends with my wife.
Thus ends the year, with great happiness to myself and family as to health and good condition in the world, blessed be God for it! only with great trouble to my mind in reference to the publick, there being little hopes left but that the whole nation must in a very little time be lost, either by troubles at home, the Parliament being dissatisfied, and the King led into unsettled councils by some about him, himself considering little, and divisions growing between the King and Duke of York; or else by foreign invasion, to which we must submit if any, at this bad point of time, should come upon us, which the King of France is well able to do. These thoughts, and some cares upon me, concerning my standing in this Office when the Committee of Parliament shall come to examine our Navy matters, which they will now shortly do. I pray God they may do the kingdom service therein, as they will have sufficient opportunity of doing it!
angry people’s expectation
is only their stand against chance
a soldier coming to mourn
with her hat off
walking up and down out of shame
will heal with little hope
the whole nation lost
to foreign thoughts
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 31 December 1667.
Who doesn't want to heal a human body? Wrenched by a seizure of hands, out of solitude stone, do we wrap it in balm, honey As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame A sound commences in my left ear and words are soot blackening the glass And still this life parts your lids, you see all boundaries, as in love I am your jar (if cracked, I lie?) in a wood where I too have wandered. * (Source texts: Bhanu Kapil; Pablo Neruda; Carl Phillips; Gerard Manley Hopkins; Jane Kenyon; Li-young Lee; Claudia Rankine; Rainer Maria Rilke; Linda Pastan)
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: blues, anxiety, uncertainty, cautious celebration, (in)auguries, and embodiment. Plus some insights into small publishing, the joys of book reviewing, the writing process, and as always the books that might or might or not be helping us get through it all.
Blue. To let blue in. Early morning blue and middle of the night blue. The hue of deep rivers and the hue of Steller’s jays. A color that flexes depending on what reflects it, evoking peace, spaciousness, as well as sorrow.
It is January of 2021 which is precisely eleven years after I started this website/ blog/ newsletter amalgam. I haven’t posted anything for the last year because my former server suddenly stopped supporting all of the intricate behind-the-scenes codes necessary for me to update securely. And the hassle and difficulty to move everything seemed so insurmountable in the middle of it all.
Lately, though, I’ve felt that snippets and sound-bytes on social media maybe aren’t enough. The maelstrom of pick-pick-pick on such platforms lends one play it safe so as not to arouse ire, self-righteous indignation, punishment. At the beginning of the year, I admitted on Facebook that I hadn’t posted the number of books that I read in 2020 because I did not want to deal with mean-spirited remarks. (For the record, 154 books, 106 of which were poetry collections).
Indigo. How to navigate loss while remembering how lucky one is?
Cerulean. Aiming for the sucker-hole when the whole sky is grey but for that one opportunity.Erin Coughlin Hollowell, Welcome back
This poem was written when my children were very young and my fear of losing them, all-consuming. Over the years, this fear has morphed into something I can live with. Sometimes it’s a mere worry, a claw of unease scratching between my shoulder blades. Other times, it becomes deep anguish, growing out of proportion like wildfire. Perhaps this is what it means to be a parent–along with the bone-melting joy of perpetuating life, you get to worry about all the things that could harm your children out there, in the carnivorous world.Romana Iorga, Two Children
I like my doctor. She’s a good, diligent doctor and she is a nice and caring person. I understand that she was just thinking out loud as she worked through her clinical decision-making process. But words have impact, and perhaps saying “biopsy” right out of the gate wasn’t the most sensitive approach. I work around a lot of nurses and medical-type folk, and I am constantly astonished at the casual way they talk about medical maladies and blood-spurting and “impacted colons” and God knows what other disasters that befall the human body with upsetting regularity. (How on earth does one get an impacted colon? Do you eat a brick?) I’ve been working in hospitals for almost ten years now and I’ve never gotten used to it. It’s great for them, the “medical haves” who understand that things can be fixed and who have the clinical knowledge and know-how to heal the sick, but for the rest of us, the“medical have-nots,” that stuff freaks us the eff out. I don’t care if my theoretical, non-existent cancer was treatable or not. Just because my doctor knows it would have been treatable does not mean that this was not a potential catastrophe for me. I cannot get cancer. Cancer is for plucky housewives in Lifetime movies. I am too crabby and too negative to survive something like that. I do not and will not have a positive mindset and I would be punished for my pessimism by a swift death. Everyone understands that principle. It’s the law of karma.
At any rate, my imaging results were totally normal and everything is fine. It was just a weird anomaly, and now I regret even having said anything because I probably shaved a few years off my life with the cortisol spike this caused.Kristen McHenry,The B-Word, Medical Have-Nots, Death by Pessimism
When I start my weekly Sunday run, at 9.33, it’s just starting to snow. I presume, though, that it will be nothing more than the lightest, icing-sugar dusting. It hasn’t snowed properly in this corner of north-east Surrey / south-west London for about six years, but down it comes. To run through it is a full-on, sensory, exhilarating experience.
refilled as quickly as I make them footprints in the snow
I watch my footing and slow my pace: I’m sure that pitching up at A & E with a broken ankle would not endear me to the brave, fantastic folk at Kingston Hospital.
snow settlesMatthew Paul, Snow Biz
on a small allotment:
the bean canes aslant
Another round-up of thoughts as I’m finding myself consistently and effectively overworked but wanting, needing to connect, to word here:
– That it’s been hard to hear others speak of hope this week.
– That it’s been hard to hear others sign off on emails with some reference to vaccines being “on their way!” As if they had a hand in the accomplishment. As if it brought loved ones back.
– That it’s been hard to feel what I cannot call hope but can neither call despair.
– That it’s been hard to hear others share that they feel relief for the first time in four years.
– That I’ve been feeling what I cannot call hope but can neither call defeat much longer than four years.what I cannot call hope
My poem “Dolly, When I Met You There Was Peace” was included in the Dolly tribute issue of Limp Wrist that was released today (her 75th birthday)! Check out this whole amazing issue. I’m honored to be in such company!
As if this tribute issue weren’t enough, tonight we brought the pieces to life via Zoom at the Wild & Precious Life Reading Series. What a joyful way to celebrate a wonderful human! Thanks to Dustin and Julie for including me.Katie Manning, Dolly Tribute
Eighteen poems [by Beau Beausoleil] written over the course of half a century document the tumultuous relationship between a timeless elemental and a poet of our time.
The Muse is essentially capricious, erratic in her comings and goings, supremely undependable.
She wears red and black and always makes a dramatic entrance. She is glamorous and shabby, magnificent and pathetic, needy and generous with her random gifts. She has bad habits and an unhealthy lifestyle.
She stays away for months and turns up when least expected. She makes unreasonable demands, and gives unreliable advice. She’s superstitious, manipulative and amoral. She never apologises nor ever explains.
Commitment is not in her vocabulary, though she is fluent in all the languages humans have ever spoken.
She is maiden and crone but she’s nobody’s wife, nobody’s mother. She is Sibyl and Siren. Don’t call her a goddess; she is contemptuous of those who worship her. But she’s happy to sit on a bar-stool or on a river-bank and have a conversation with one who comes close to understanding her and will buy her a whisky or find her a cigarette.
She has come in many different guises, as the Muse of Homer, Sappho, Dante, Shakespeare and countless others. We can’t do the work of poetry without her.
These poems are bruising and uplifting, tender and harsh, down-to-earth and otherworldly; they are full of honesty and subtle wit.Ama Bolton, Meeting the Muse
There are only four more poets to post at my poetry site, And Other Poems, before I take a break from posting. The site had gone to bed for 20 months but I opened it up to submissions in November, while waiting for the US election results. It was a means of distracting myself from feeling dreadfully tense and was also a gesture of support to the poetry community I belong to at the start of another UK lockdown. Now, as the final poems selected from the open submissions window are posted, Joe Biden has been inaugurated into the White House. So I know that time has moved on, even though time feels the same. I watched snippets of the ceremony on Wednesday and was moved to tears more than once. Lady Gaga made me cry, actually, with her sincerity and beauty, as did Jennifer Lopez speaking a line from the Woody Guthrie song ‘This Land is Your Land’ in Spanish. What a time in history we have been through and are still living through, some people more painfully and at greater cost than others. And a global pandemic on top of everything. As I’ve told various people this year, and last year, it’s good to cry sometimes, even if you’re only crying because of feeling some kind of hesitant relief.Josephine Corcoran, Falling Hyacinths and It’s Still January
Sometimes when describing Southwest Waterfront, the other person interrupts—Oh, you mean the Wharf?—and I wince, caught between waves of gentrification. The pandemic has complicated my feelings toward this multi-million dollar behemoth. Restaurants where I couldn’t afford to a sit-down meal converted their pantries to bodegas that sold chicken, carrots, onions, and greens. The fancy liquor store distributed locally distilled sanitizer. When I first read The Anthem’s sign, “We’ll Get Thru This,” my immediate thought was: Okay then. We will. I needed to have someone say it. I needed for someone to spell it out in foot-tall letters.
Still, the city’s ghosts pull no punches. This past April, when it didn’t feel safe to go out, I could step out on the balcony and see cherry trees blossoming along East Potomac Park. I took great comfort in that. Now Washington Channel is disappearing, floor by concrete floor. Fifty years after our own building went up, I understand the irony of complaining about new construction or rising rent. I can still glimpse the water, if I stand in the right spot.
In just a few weeks, Made to Explode will be published with W. W. Norton. The collection (my fourth!) has a whole section of prose poems that interrogate the strangeness of our monuments and memorials, our “living history, plus a sestina called “American Rome.” There are lots of things that I am unsure of, but one thing I do know is that DC is the right place to be as this book enters the world.Sandra Beasley, Who Gets to Be “From DC”?
The poet feels the jolt of recognition: this was where she grew up. But, having moved away, she uses a search engine for clues. What strikes her is the normality of guns: shops selling them and the image on the boy’s t-shirt, even as he is reunited with his mother after another school shooting. It asks, when guns are revered, how can such events be stopped? Another poem witnesses President Obama at a press conference at another shooting. The final poem is another parking lot, “The Shooting Gallery Central Academy of Excellence, Missouri, 2019”, where
“Mylar balloons rise into a white sky: pink hearts and blue, gold and silver stars. In the place of an artist’s signature in the lower right corner, a caption: Anjanique Wright, 15.”
The skyward rise is significant. The name and age labelling one is a reminder of the loss: not only the life of the child but the loss of the adult that child could have become, the children she might have borne.
Carrie Etter’s spare prose gives readers enough guide to build a sketch of what’s being described but also enough space to read and engage with the resulting poems. Their quiet tone and lack of hectoring enable the reader to ask questions and consider the juxtaposition of youth and violence, the potential of not-yet-adulthood with the abrupt end of that potential.Emma Lee, “The Shooting Gallery” Carrie Etter (Verve Poetry Press) – book review
On BBC radio 4’s Front Row program on 22nd Jan, Lavinia Greenlaw (chair of the TS Eliot prize judges) had the difficult task of describing each of the 10 shortlisted books in a paragraph or so, justifying each without showing favour. The quote I’ll keep is “when language fails, people turn to poetry”.
She thought that there’s a new stylistic freedom afoot (I can believe that) and that poetry’s caught up with the present in a way that other art-forms haven’t yet (not so sure about that). The poets have “interrogated the constructs”.
I think she was careful to share out the praise without overusing any particular word. She used “extraordinary”, “incredible”, “astonishing”, and “remarkable” twice each; “powerful”, “amazing”, “startling” once.Tim Love, TS Eliot prize shortlist
I’ve been messing around with a new tarot deck for the sheer calming pleasure of it; producing readings is contemplative and a little like solving a puzzle, trying to understand flows of possible meanings. I don’t claim they have purchase on facts or the future, although I believe that in the hands of an intuitive person they lead, at least, to useful introspection. Lots of poets use them, it turns out. Here‘s an interesting conversation about poetry and Tarot with Airea D. Matthews and Hoa Nguyen led by Trevor Ketner. Matthews calls tarot as “a tool for healing and revealing and critical thinking,” and Nguyen links poetry and tarot through the way they cultivate receptivity and invite otherness into our thinking. I can say personally that since I unboxed these cards, I’m writing poetry again.
I just pulled the three cards below while wondering about the inauguration. Interestingly, in the interview cited above, Nguyen pulled the six of swords just prior to the last inauguration–although below it’s reversed, which changes its significance. My interpretations are only based on brief study, but it suggests a state of transition, perhaps loss; the woman and child being poled away, perhaps against their will, remind me of the trauma of migration. The image also evokes painful baggage carried over from the Trump administration. (I wish the man terrible consequences for his crimes–even as I want the country to move on speedily to address the damage). The first card, the ace of cups, signifies auspicious beginnings and calls for generosity. The Queen of Wands, well, she’s a bold, charismatic, vital woman leader surrounded by symbols of courage and coming back to life. Sounds good to me.Lesley Wheeler, Augurations
Last night, my son’s cat stretched himself out on my bedroom rug and showed me his oh-so-soft little belly and called to me in his oh-so-sweet little meow. I fell for the ploy. And when he gave me my arm back, I was bloody from elbow to wrist. I know it’s strange to say so, but this is exactly how the poems in All Day I Dream About Sirens by Domenica Martinello (2019, Coach House Books) have been working on me. Quite appropriate to their obsession (the Sirens of Greek mythology), these poems lure me in and smash me on the rocks.
Here’s a little background:
“I used to walk by a Starbucks on my way to work, and one day it just hit me how unsettling the implications of the siren logo are. Using the image of a feminized (and often sexualized) sea monster who lures sailors to their deaths with her enchanting song to sell coffee? The premise sounds like a devilish fable in and of itself, and I’ve always loved mythology so I couldn’t stop thinking about it. … the more I researched the Starbucks siren (herself born from the corporation’s literary allusion to Starbuck, the coffee-loving first mate in Moby Dick), the more all-encompassing the ancient and contemporary mythologies surrounding sirens and mermaids became. They felt both real and familiar to me and while also being these doors into meditations on gender, power, agency, capitalism, feminism, ancestry, sexuality, ubiquity.”
Martinello in an interview in The Adroit Journal
As both a consumer and a marketer (my day job) (gasp!) I feel responsible. We lure and are lured. As a feminist, I feel vindicated. But not entirely. It’s not that easy. I also feel implicated. When I find myself sexy, it’s sometimes in a way I’d like to reject.Carolee Bennett, “the sun hangs in the sky like a logo”
My new book, Lost in the Greenwood, is out in the world.
The poems circle around the unicorn tapestries of 500 years ago. There’s much more than unicorns: the making of the tapestries, the world that made them, magic, nature, belief.
It’s a book of poems about all of this, but I still think of these poems as “my unicorns.” And these unicorns are not the modern, friendly kind. They are goatlike, feisty and as dangerous as the world in which those who imagined them lived.Ellen Roberts Young, My Unicorns Have Escaped
A smart observer once said about our new president: “If you ask me who the luckiest person I know, it’s Joe Biden. If you ask me who the unluckiest person I know, it’s Joe Biden.” As a lover of paradox, a light went off when I first heard it. It seems like a joke, a mocking play on reason, a Woody Allen wisecrack that one knows immediately is smart, and later profound. The way an oracle would speak and we wouldn’t understand it, though we’d count intuitively on its deep truth.
Biden’s biography fills the blanks of the paradox – his success as a debut politician was followed by the deaths of wife and daughter. He would have died of a brain aneurysm, ignoring his health and stumping away on the campaign trail if he hadn’t been forced to drop out of a presidential race on charges of plagiarism. His son, Beau, died young of a brain tumor. After eight years as Vice-President, he’s fulfilled his ambition — in the most wrenching stretch — of becoming President.
We live in paradoxical times. We’re lucky – the election went our way. We’re unlucky – part of our poltiical body tried to burn down the house. I heard, as the inauguration neared, people were nervously organizing and ironing as women due before they’re about to have babies. Nothing is guaranteed, and the successes of America the literal, the exceptional and idealist must open to the shadow life of paradox. The biblical Isaac survived a binding, but his shadow death walks alongside him as a human. Experience of tragedy is just on the other side of exuberance, suffering clings as a double. If we’re lucky, as a country, we just might mature to hold a vision of reality where success is willed to a small extent only, and chance plays its hand. Between the two forces, a reminder to be human. It depends how we play our hand.Jill Pearlman, What Augurs, Biden?
I remember a poem a woman shared in my poetry workshop, back in the mid-80s, about her newborn; she compared his body to that of a frog, listed all the ways in which his body was not the one she expected, making him not the baby she had dreamed of. The last line was, “your mother is trying to learn to love you.” Most of the poems from that workshop have left me now, but that one stays. After she shared hers, I wrote one about my body, the first time I admitted out loud that I thought of my body as an antagonist to the protagonist that is me.
My body has changed during the pandemic. Maybe it’s the pandemic. Maybe it’s my mid-50s. Maybe it’s living through four years of attempted autocratic takeover. Maybe it’s that my job has become toxic to me. Maybe it’s all of the above. My body feels like a foreign country these days, and I’m an expat who wants to go home. I’m trying to learn to love it.
On the morning of the biopsy, I think that maybe the metaphor I’ve just conjured is all wrong. Maybe my body isn’t a country, but a passport.Rita Ott Ramstad, A reprieve (of sorts)
The pandemic has me unable to go to the pool. Covid scarred my lungs and damaged my heart, I don’t know if they will fully rehab or not but I’m sure trying – if there’s one thing I know, it’s impossible rehab.
I still want to swim the Strait of Gibraltar. The only question I have is whether I should instead swim the Strait of Messina, because swimming between Scylla (spine surgery) & Charybdis (covid-19) seems – well, obvious.
Hopefully, my endurance breathing will come home to me and I will be making decisions like that.JJS, Lumbar-safe core strengthening
On the ground, you leave the nether
regions of that body ransacked
and marked with every conquest.
Where it severs from the cage
of your heart, the wound
is brilliant as pomegranate;Luisa A. Igloria, Portrait of Demeter as Manananggal
its innards go on for miles.
I’ve recently seen several excellent articles and features on poetry in lockdown (and in the pandemic in general), advocating all sorts of useful approaches. These articles often focus on energising creativity, on organising time, on motivation, on finding stimuli that might help to generate a reconnection with art. This post is in no way intended to disparage or knock such features, because there’s no doubt they’re helping to bring people together and support in other in terrific ways.
However, there are other sections of the population who are probably beyond this sort of assistance right now, poets who don’t really have the chance to write in the pandemic and especially in lockdown, people whose route to writing has been blocked, such as stay-at-home parents who’ve lost the hours in the middle of the day when they carved out a bit of time for themselves. And then there’s a group who form the core of today’s post. I’m referring to poets that used to leave the house every day to commute and do a full-time job, but are now working from home.
It’s worth pointing out that I’m not among them: my working life, while tough, is also flexible. Nevertheless, I know of many friends who had an established writing routine that they’d built around the construct of the old working week. It made a clear-cut separation between their working time, family time and poetry time, their working space, family space and poetry space. That’s all now disappeared.
All of a sudden, these poets are finding it hugely tough to defend their writing. Spaces they once used for poetry are now taken up by work, while timetables are fast becoming blurred. Bosses, colleagues and customers, who are also working from home, are now demanding constant connectivity and immediate reactions to requests at times that were previously viewed as unreasonable and/or out of bounds. In other words, work is intruding on periods of the day and week that were sacrosanct prior to the pandemic. And all of the above, of course, is before we mention home-schooling!Matthew Stewart, The Working Time Directive for Poets
The other book I read–quickly, sometimes skimming–at the “right time” was Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn. This is a new book at the library, I was the first to check it out, and I didn’t want to keep it too long, which is one reason for the skimming, another being self-protection. I didn’t want to dwell too long in pandemic reflections, so if a poem was too long, too prosey-looking, or with too many virus-related words glaring up at me, or if it seemed too easy, bordering on the cliched or sentimental, I skipped it. Instead, I went for the shorter poems, with simple, direct language–“simple” being quite different from “easy” in my meaning here, with simple language so often the container for rich complexity. […]
There is the connection of our pandemic to the 1918 pandemic, and also to whatever contortions of grief and circumstances might be happening now. My heart broke to read the phenomenal “An American Nurse Foresees Her Death,” by Amit Majmudar, where, sadly, the title tells the story. With “Leaving Evanston,” by Deborah Garrison, I sympathized with the theatre students having to leave school before their spring showcase production, before their Commencement, and thus also with all the students who lives and expectations were disrupted this past spring…and likely will be in the spring to come.
“How I wish feeling terrible felt useful, as it did when I was a teenager,” says Nicole Cooley in the poem “At CVS Wearing a Mask I Buy Plastic Eggs for My Daughter.” That resonated, and also reminded me of the narrator of Milkman, who is seventeen and eighteen when the main events happen; it’s hard to come of age when the adults don’t know how to show you, teach you, bring you along. And in “Poem for My Students,” by Sharon Olds, I encountered “chain-reading” (like chain smoking), something I do, reading one book right after another.Kathleen Kirk, Reading-While-Walking
The sweat and discipline it takes to listen down deep into our shared potential when all around us is the white noise of proud boys for whom black lives don’t matter.
This continual struggle and change, the change and struggle, when dementia‘ed history keeps forgetting itself, then repeating the same questions, wondering if mercy and forgiveness will ever be a part of our lexicon.
Some gather weapons while others build mighty monuments from the wounds of those who’ve suffered in the name of uplift.
Some sing in the key of flowers while others sing in the key of bombs; it all depends upon how your hearts and voices have been trained.Rich Ferguson, This Upstream Sojourn Along the River Sticks and Stones
An alarm pulling us from sleep, even to offer hope, exposes our most vulnerable nerves. These truths that fade in sleep. Or in dreams, are popped into relief as a kind of rehearsal for the inevitable. Waking is a reprieve sometimes. Awake, asleep – both are ambivalent states of being. There is nowhere to escape from ourselves.
Is there comfort?
Soothing is not healing. But doesn’t try to be. What if the largest part of our job is a kind of palliative care? What if all that there is, is the soothing of ruffled feathers? A warm hand on a cheek? An intention to reassure one another: you are not alone.
Breathe, and be here with me. Even over a telephone connection. Like a dream. Listen to the wind against the window. Be here with the wind.
Reaction is not action.
In the theater, an actor’s every, individual action is supposed to be an assertion of the character’s will. Actors strive to inhabit the character’s lack of self-awareness. Acting is the inverse process of living Socrates’s examined life. Don’t act: react.
Art is, by most definitions, artifice. It has the intention of recreating life. But for what purpose? Many diverse cultures have had a tradition of hiring mourners for funerals. Actors, reacting in an act of compassion. We cannot bring back the dead, but we can care for the living. The theatrical is no less real for being theatrical.
And leading an examined life, acting instead of reacting, is no less real for its directorial perspective.Ren Powell, Knowing the What, Not the Why
regime changeK. Brobeck [no title]
finches versus cardinals
at the feeder
I loved the swearing in–tears again and again. I loved Biden’s speech. I realize that he trotted out familiar themes for inauguration day, but what a relief to have a president who understands why these themes of unity are important. What a relief to have a president who wants to inspire us, not divide us.
I loved the music and the musicians. I loved that Jennifer Lopez sang “This Land Is Your Land”–a Woody Guthrie song so perfect for the day! I loved the poet, although I found her hand motions distracting. Will her poem become my favorite? No–but no inaugural poem so far will be my favorite. I’m always just happy when a poet is invited to be part–it sends a message that is so important to me.Kristin Berkey-Abbott, Notes on an Inauguration Day
There’s a boyMarilyn McCabe, Some Poems
tucks a note into the pocket
of a coat he’s sending a stranger, saying
“Have a good winter. Please write back.”
A branch breaks, a lamp flickers,
the dog digs at a flash of something
paler than snow. A boy uncrinkles a note.
What happens next?
Every morning when I get up and open the blinds near my desk, I take a moment to peer into my terrarium. It’s changed since I planted it in the fall: some of the mosses have died back while others seem quite happy; the liverworts are thriving; there’s a green film of algae growing on the beige shelf fungus, and the fern has put out three adventurous fronds. A small gnat seems to live inside the glass, even though it could easily escape. I think the moisture level has been too great for the lichens, and not quite enough for the moss. There’s life and growth happening, as well as decay. I’m doing my best to take care of this little world for which I’m entirely responsible, drawing on a certain amount of knowledge and common sense, but the fact is…a lot of the time I’m guessing. Should I slide the top open a little more, or less? Should I mist the terrarium today, or wait? I make decisions based not only on what I see, but on the smell of the interior, the dampness on the pebbles, and the warmth and humidity I sense when I quickly put my forefinger inside, close to the soil.
This little experiment has filled me with renewed awe for the balance of life on our planet, an even greater awareness of its fragility, and the amazing harmony with which these small life forms colonize a tree stump in nature to form a garden far more beautiful and complex and self-sustaining than anything I could ever create.
I’m also learning something about myself: the strong but almost subconscious desire I had to create a little world, care for it properly, and see it thrive during this time when almost nothing in our real world — where I am the gnat, but can’t escape — seems controllable or even predictable.
I suppose we all want that. Nobody really likes chaos, or fear, or one change on top of another to which we have to adapt. We’d like our homes to be comfortable, secure places of refuge during this time, and instead they’ve sometimes felt like traps. We haven’t been able to pick up the glass globe in which we’re living and give ourselves or others what we need; instead we’ve sometimes felt like hapless inhabitants looking out as some large invisible hand shakes our world around, turns it upside down, and surrounds it with toxins or threatens it with violence.Beth Adams, Hermit Diary 54. The Illusion of Controllable Worlds
night dew and moonlightJames Lee Jobe, memories watch me
mingle and shine
friends don’t you know
that this world is filled
with blue flowers
We have snow in the forecast in the next day or so, but I wanted to highlight these beautiful tulips in a brief moment of sunlight, and a few of my bird visitors, to cheer you up during this dark and dreary time of year. January can be a tough time, especially as we wait the interminable wait for the vaccine, as we wait for the days to get a little longer and warmer, we wait for things to start to bloom. […]
I also had the chance to Zoom with a few poet friends, which really raised my spirits – we talked about literary magazines and publishing opportunities, but also laughed a lot. Hey, laughter is good for the immune system. While I miss in person visits – and it’ll probably be a few more months, realistically, before we can see each other in person – it was nice to see friends virtually and catch up. There is something incredible bolstering about being with other writers, especially when you yourself are feeling discouraged about writing. You get to share stories about hilarious mishaps and crushing disappointments, as well as celebrate our little victories. Just like the birds in my garden, we tend to find strength in numbers. I know no one wants more Zoom in their life, but for the right reason – a great lecture, a chance to see friends – it’s worth it.
My father got his first dose of vaccine in Ohio, but my mother still hasn’t, and here in Washington, it looks like it’ll be a while for chronically ill folks – longer than I was hoping, so in the meantime, I’ll try to get well from this stomach bug. Hoping you all stay safe and warm and get your vaccines soon!Jeannine Hall Gailey, More January Birds and Blooms, A Week Under the Weather, and Zooming with Poet Friends
Late JanuaryJim Young [no title]
the snow is melting again
I peel some parsnips
Reading Lucretius, at long last, having found a translation I like, and I find him easy and comfortable. We’re on the same side of that gulf. We think that our personhoods are chance constellations, shapes made up by dreaming shepherds out of random stars. Some philosophical problems become easier, some become harder, when you think that. But they all become different.
Nothing can emerge from nothing, says Lucretius, and Nature does not render anything to naught.
It can be a terrifying thought. Lear quotes Lucretius. Nothing will come of nothing, he says, Speak again. To Shakespeare, a world without souls is a deadly transactional world of quid pro quos, where all love is conditional and everything is bought with something else. I don’t think he was right about that: but Shakespeare is not a man to dismiss lightly. Not at my time of life.Dale Favier, The Nature of Things
When someone asks me am I working on something, I never really know what to say. I want to answer truthfully, for that is how I was brought up. Yes, I say, there is something. I don’t know what it is yet, but I think there is something, yes. What is it, they say. I can’t tell you, I say. Can’t or won’t? Both.
I’m much happier talking about writing that has happened, in the past, the artefact of it, not the action. This is also the case for talking about that most shadowy of concepts my ‘process’ or ‘practice’. I put those words in quotes partly because I have a long-standing terror of coming across all pretentious and partly because I only recognise these things as having occured, in the past tense. When I am actually writing the last thing I am aware of is what this practice entails. All I am prepared to give away is that it is messy, non-linear and never as easy as I want it to be.
But there is one thing that is common to all of my projects (practice), and that is the moment when you realise what it is you have been doing (or have foolishly embarked on) has the potential to become something other than what you first intended. In other words, it appears to you (to me) as having a form, a being, a living entity, with a life of its own. In Still Writing this is what Dani Shapiro says arrives ‘with the certainty of its own rightness’. Emerson called it ‘a gleam of light which flashes across [your] mind from within’. Joan Didion called it ‘a shimmer around the edges’.Anthony Wilson, The gleam
What first brought you to publishing?
It was unintentional, and, at first, incidental. In the early 2000s, I worked as an administrator in the financial services industry, and spent much of my spare time photographing bits of southern England. The office was usually deserted after 5pm, and I started to misuse the equipment, making photocopies of the photographs and copies of the copies. The poet Andrew Hirst (aka photographer Karl Hurst) invited me to collaborative with him on a sequence of poems and images, which took shape over a couple of years. As we didn’t know who to approach, or how we might approach them, we decided to set up a small imprint through which we might publish the work. I had no formal experience of design, printing, editing, or publishing, but I’d resolved to try to do everything myself, so it was a gradual (and intermittently disastrous) process of trial and error. It was problematic, but there was some interest from audiences, and creative momentum, so it made sense to work with other poets on further publications. There was no plan. There is still no plan. […]
How has being an editor/publisher changed the way you think about your own writing?
Again, I’ve learned a great deal from the poets I’ve worked with. It’s a rare privilege to be invited to read and comment on sequences and collections in varying stages of development; after a few years of this, I found that I was reading almost everything much more closely, and much more critically. It’s also helped me to understand, and develop, the potential for arranging (or rearranging) work on the page and for performance. The multiple iterations of Matthew Clegg’s Edgelands (2008) were among the earliest outcomes of this methodology; we published a pamphlet edition, comprising 50 poems, which were further subdivided into 10 themed clusters of 5 poems, and a matchbox edition, in which the full cycle of 56 poems was reordered and concertinaed on a single continuous strip. The work was also ‘dispersed’ through single-poem cards and postcards, and continually rearranged by Clegg in readings and performances. The experience (and others like it) undoubtedly informed the development of my own work, including the sequence White Thorns (Gordian Projects, 2017).rob mclennan, 12 or 20 (small press) questions with Brian Lewis on Longbarrow Press
In my thirty years of writing, I had only published four poetry book reviews until last year. So ending the year with sixteen reviews written and published took a major shift in attitude and practice. You could do this too. […]
If you start reviewing books, you will have free books for the rest of your life. Everybody will shove books at you. Editors would be happy to have your review their publications. Journals have a list of titles they want reviewed, and then there are your friends and friends of friends who have a new book out and would love to send you a copy for review. […]
It’s not like I haven’t had stacks of poetry around my house for the last thirty years. But, I didn’t always give myself the best chance to learn from them. Writing a book review makes me read poetry slowly, carefully, with a deep consideration of how each poem was made. Writing a book review makes me a better poet.My Year of Writing Poetry Book Reviews – guest post by Deborah Bacharach (Trish Hopkinson’s blog)
When I wrote my last entry, I lumped it in with all the other things I miss in pandemic world–surface things that lockdowns and safety protocols prevent, but the worst is perhaps the one thing I can’t really do that no one at all is stopping me from at all. Namely, sitting in a house and a library full of books and not really having the concentration or bandwidth to read a single one. And don’t think it’s for a lack of trying. I’ve started many books, new ones and old faves I thought would snap me out of it, Sometimes I get in a few pages, but I don’t last for long with so much in the world competing for my attention. This is true at home where I take a book to bed and wind up doomscrolling instead. Or on my commute, where I used to get the bulk of my enjoyment reading done, which is now instead spent fretting over proximity of bodies and maskwearing, and whether of not that person just has allergies or is trying to kill us.
At first I worried I’d lost interest and enjoyment in so much, and it’s true, even writing, which, thank god, still happens and is perhaps my only rudder. I think because I’m writing poems in the morning, in an unpolluted state of mind. Blog entries are still possible (obviously.) Even art, which at this point to be possible again. But reading for enjoyment..I’m not so sure. Even my manuscript reading this fall and my proofing now is something more rote and mechanical than it ever was before. It’s not the books fault surely, but some door that needs to be closed in my brain. Or maybe a door that needs to be opened again. It’s strange to think I’ve barely opened a book (touched books, yes, many, chapbooks and library books and textbooks) but read so very little. And in fact, have been hoarding things again at my desk in the library for some magical day it will come back.Kristy Bowen, the wolf at the door
At 2:55 they let me in. Inside the church building someone took my temperature and sanitized my hands. I saw volunteers in bright yellow vests, and in bright blue vests, and in EMT uniforms. Everyone seemed happy. I filled out paperwork, I answered questions, I sat down at a freshly-sanitized table and rolled up one sleeve. A friendly EMT said “a little pinprick in three, two, one.” I said a silent shehecheyanu.
I sat for fifteen minutes, dutifully, to make sure I didn’t have a bad reaction. I imagine the arm will ache, later, like it did when I got vaccinated for typhoid and yellow fever before my first trip to Ghana. I’m startled to realize that that was more than 20 years ago. I remember that we needed to find a doctor who specialized in travel medicine. I wonder what became of the fold-out yellow card I carried in my passport then.
So now I’m halfway vaccinated against covid-19. This isn’t going to change my behavior. We don’t know yet whether or not the vaccines protect against asymptomatic spread. And besides, I won’t begin developing immunity until two weeks after the second shot. But it feels to me like one more reason to hope. Every person who gets vaccinated brings us one step closer. Someday we’ll embrace again.Rachel Barenblat, First shot
“During the first lockdown of 2020, I found that words wouldn’t come, but paintings did.” Why do you think this was the case?
I have puzzled over this a few times – I was incredibly burned out in the first lockdown for reasons I can’t quite understand. After all, I wasn’t home-schooling children as so many of my peers were. In some ways my family & friends were in more regular touch with me than before lockdown, and my work pattern hadn’t changed radically… But I suppose, words are a part of my day job and when work and homelife are already fused to that extent, you want a more drastic change to keep a balance.
I started drawing towards the end of a relationship in the middle of the first lockdown. He was very dismissive of my doodles, which just made me want to spend more time doodling and less with him! As I healed from the breakup and dealt with various health issues, drawing, and then painting just took up a larger and larger part of my life.
I found painting akin to meditation, except I’ve never managed to get on with meditation. You start with a blank page and “wake up” in essence an hour or two later with something created out of a chaos of paint. You have a vague notion of how it got there, but also not really. Painting is just magic really.
I’ve had those moments with writing poetry – and that woosh is wonderful – but it’s not as systematic as with painting. So, in that period of time, I guess it made sense for paintings to take over during periods of stress.
Does the written word feed into your paintings?
It has started to. I have tentatively started playing with incorporating poems into paintings. This was the first experiment and the most recent one involves printing poems inside scallop shells. It’s an interesting process, in every case I have found myself editing the poem – finding what is essential to it. I don’t think my writing & my paintings are properly conjoined yet, but it’s a thread I am following casually as I go. […]
What are you currently working on (art or poetry)?
I’m trying to finish the manuscript of my third poetry collection, currently called Our Lady of Tires. It’s inspired by a village perched on a cliff near me that held off riot cops for six weeks in the early 80s to prevent the building of a nuclear station. They called going to the barricades going to mass, hence the title. I’ve been wanting to write about it for so long and it’s been slow going but I’m getting there!
Painting-wise, I am just keeping going without pressure, painting when and if the mood strikes.Abegail Morley, Unlocking Creativity with Claire Trevien
Having a lot of enforced time off over the past surreal, nasty, stressful and boring year has been a mixed experience. The one really good thing about it, for me, has been the opportunity to immerse myself in the Russian language. I had been interested in doing this for a few years already, but when I was first furloughed in the spring I thought that I needed to start using my time. This has meant lessons, apps and discernible progress, though I think my teacher may be about to notice that I have been spending more time listening to Russian rock music and watching Russian films and TV than assiduously studying my grammar and vocabulary. I may say that it’s also been nice to discover that I am still capable of learning a new language in adulthood. I learned to speak French as a small child and Spanish as a young teenager, and I haven’t tried learning another language until now.Clarissa Aykroyd, Kharms: a film about the Russian poet Daniil Kharms
One of the films I have recently enjoyed is Kharms (2017, directed by Ivan Bolotnikov). You can watch it on the Kino Klasska Foundation website here, and the link also includes some very nice programme notes: https://www.kinoklassikafoundation.org/project/kharms/
You can watch this for free for just a few days, until Tuesday 26 January at 12 noon GMT. I think it may only be available in the UK due to rights issues, but you can always check to see if it’s available in your territory.
Kharms is a film about the life of the surrealist Soviet-era poet Daniil Kharms. I was only vaguely aware of this poet, partly because he loved Sherlock Holmes and used to smoke a calabash pipe. ‘Kharms’ was a pen name and may be a reference to the Russian pronunciation of ‘Holmes’. This was noted in the film by the poet’s sartorial choices and one subtle joke.
The film isn’t a strict biography; it celebrates the poet’s work, his life in the beautiful city of St Petersburg/Leningrad, his friendships and romances. Colour and black-and-white film, static and moving shots combine to create a wistful and quirky view of different eras and events. The tragedy of Kharms’ death by starvation during the siege of Leningrad is also part of the film.
Orange is the new
orange, a long, slow
is when everything
evens, when love
equals loss and
it seems worthwhile
to hope again
morning, forTom Montag, ORANGE IS THE NEW
as a new orange.
Up before day, and by coach to Westminster, and there first to Sir H. Cholmly, and there I did to my great content deliver him up his little several papers for sums of money paid him, and took his regular receipts upon his orders, wherein I am safe. Thence to White Hall, and there to visit Sir G. Carteret, and there was with him a great while, and my Lady and they seem in very good humour, but by and by Sir G. Carteret and I alone, and there we did talk of the ruinous condition we are in, the King being going to put out of the Council so many able men; such as my Lord Anglesey, Ashly, Hollis, Secretary Morrice (to bring in Mr. Trevor), and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and my Lord Bridgewater. He tells me that this is true, only the Duke of York do endeavour to hinder it, and the Duke of York himself did tell him so: that the King and the Duke of York do not in company disagree, but are friendly; but that there is a core in their hearts, he doubts, which is not to be easily removed; for these men do suffer only for their constancy to the Chancellor, or at least from the King’s ill-will against him: that they do now all they can to vilify the clergy, and do accuse Rochester of his being given to boys and of his putting his hand into a gentleman (who now comes to bear evidence against him) his codpiece while they were at table together. And so do raise scandals, all that is possible, against other of the Bishops. He do suggest that something is intended for the Duke of Monmouth, and it may be, against the Queene also: that we are in no manner sure against an invasion the next year: that the Duke of Buckingham do rule all now, and the Duke of York comes indeed to the Caball, but signifies little there. That this new faction do not endure, nor the King, Sir W. Coventry; but yet that he is so usefull that they cannot be without him; but that he is not now called to the Caball. That my Lord of Buckingham, Bristoll, and Arlington, do seem to agree in these things; but that they do not in their hearts trust one another, but do drive several ways, all of them. In short, he do bless himself that he is no more concerned in matters now; and the hopes he hath of being at liberty, when his accounts are over, to retire into the country. That he do give over the kingdom for wholly lost. So after some other little discourse, I away, meeting with Mr. Cooling. I with him by coach to the Wardrobe, where I never was since the fire in Hatton Garden, but did not ’light: and he tells me he fears that my Lord Sandwich will suffer much by Mr. Townsend’s being untrue to him, he being now unable to give the Commissioners of the Treasury an account of his money received by many thousands of pounds, which I am troubled for.
Thence to the Old Exchange together, he telling me that he believes there will be no such turning out of great men as is talked of, but that it is only to fright people, but I do fear there may be such a thing doing. He do mightily inveigh against the folly of the King to bring his matters to wrack thus, and that we must all be undone without help. I met with Cooling at the Temple-gate, after I had been at both my booksellers and there laid out several pounds in books now against the new year. From the ’Change (where I met with Captain Cocke, who would have borrowed money of me, but I had the grace to deny him, he would have had 3 or 400l.) I with Cocke and Mr. Temple (whose wife was just now brought to bed of a boy, but he seems not to be at all taken with it, which is a strange consideration how others do rejoice to have a child born), to Sir G. Carteret’s, in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and there did dine together, there being there, among other company, Mr. Attorney Montagu, and his fine lady, a fine woman. After dinner, I did understand from my Lady Jemimah that her brother Hinchingbroke’s business was to be ended this day, as she thinks, towards his match, and they do talk here of their intent to buy themselves some new clothes against the wedding, which I am very glad of. After dinner I did even with Sir G. Carteret the accounts of the interest of the money which I did so long put out for him in Sir R. Viner’s hands, and by it I think I shall be a gainer about 28l., which is a very good reward for the little trouble I have had in it. Thence with Sir Philip Carteret to the King’s playhouse, there to see “Love’s Cruelty,” an old play, but which I have not seen before; and in the first act Orange Moll come to me, with one of our porters by my house, to tell me that Mrs. Pierce and Knepp did dine at my house to-day, and that I was desired to come home. So I went out presently, and by coach home, and they were just gone away so, after a very little stay with my wife, I took coach again, and to the King’s playhouse again, and come in the fourth act; and it proves to me a very silly play, and to everybody else, as far as I could judge. But the jest is, that here telling Moll how I had lost my journey, she told me that Mrs. Knepp was in the house, and so shews me to her, and I went to her, and sat out the play, and then with her to Mrs. Manuel’s, where Mrs. Pierce was, and her boy and girl; and here I did hear Mrs. Manuel and one of the Italians, her gallant, sing well. But yet I confess I am not delighted so much with it, as to admire it: for, not understanding the words, I lose the benefit of the vocalitys of the musick, and it proves only instrumental; and therefore was more pleased to hear Knepp sing two or three little English things that I understood, though the composition of the other, and performance, was very fine. Thence, after sitting and talking a pretty while, I took leave and left them there, and so to my bookseller’s, and paid for the books I had bought, and away home, where I told my wife where I had been. But she was as mad as a devil, and nothing but ill words between us all the evening while we sat at cards — W. Hewer and the girl by — even to gross ill words, which I was troubled for, but do see that I must use policy to keep her spirit down, and to give her no offence by my being with Knepp and Pierce, of which, though she will not own it, yet she is heartily jealous. At last it ended in few words and my silence (which for fear of growing higher between us I did forbear), and so to supper and to bed without one word one to another.
This day I did carry money out, and paid several debts. Among others, my tailor, and shoemaker, and draper, Sir W. Turner, who begun to talk of the Commission of accounts, wherein he is one; but though they are the greatest people that ever were in the nation as to power, and like to be our judges, yet I did never speak one word to him of desiring favour, or bidding him joy in it, but did answer him to what he said, and do resolve to stand or fall by my silent preparing to answer whatever can be laid to me, and that will be my best proceeding, I think. This day I got a little rent in my new fine camlett cloak with the latch of Sir G. Carteret’s door; but it is darned up at my tailor’s, that it will be no great blemish to it; but it troubled me. I could not but observe that Sir Philip Carteret would fain have given me my going into a play; but yet, when he come to the door, he had no money to pay for himself, I having refused to accept of it for myself, but was fain; and I perceive he is known there, and do run upon the score for plays, which is a shame; but I perceive always he is in want of money.1
In the pit I met with Sir Ch. North, formerly Mr. North, who was with my Lord at sea; and he, of his own accord, was so silly as to tell me he is married; and for her quality (being a Lord’s daughter, my Lord Grey), and person, and beauty, and years, and estate, and disposition, he is the happiest man in the world. I am sure he is an ugly fellow; but a good scholar and sober gentleman; and heir to his father, now Lord North, the old Lord being dead.
day of order
where I am safe as a ruin
may I retire
into my thousands of books
with their unrest
I shall have an orange
and just one light for all
between us like a door
to the north
Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 30 December 1667.
To become separate, divided into parts: the way children, bored after dressing and undressing their dolls, will snap off a leg or an arm or the head. Foretaste of power in the split- second, as something gives or gives way. How when you choose instead of are chosen for, you don't have to settle. Tell, if you like, the story of how the god left you waiting at the altar; of your monstrous anger and the blue-black wings it tailored for purging the countryside at night. On the ground, you leave the nether regions of that body ransacked and marked with every conquest. Where it severs from the cage of your heart, the wound is brilliant as pomegranate; its innards go on for miles. Long before that other seed grew into a child, you knew the stories they would weave: stingray whips, deadly poultices of salt; you and your hideous hauntings. How ordinary you look in sunlight. No one can imagine how wide the territories of ice in your sight, how you sustain those arguments with yourself through the year: cleave or forget? Soften or stay, but refuse to disappear.
Think of her as not here, Lord. Only a thin pencil stroke from the last bonfire, only the salt-crust from a storm's last heave. Day after day, she picks splinters out of her hair or covers her face in a quilt arranged by the sea. Even these, Lord, she would prefer. But when you lob lockets filled with hair wreaths of disaster, she turns into a backyard of landmines— except she's made to understand such munitions are not for her to deploy, but to detonate or dispose. But if you think of her at all, Lord, deliver a vision untouched by talons except as they swiftly alight on an arm extended in trust to the air. Stroke on her torn cheek a camphor blessing. Adorn her with hornbill earrings.