Managerial

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

All the morning at the office, dined at home, and expected Sheres again, but he did not come, so another dinner lost by the folly of Creed. After having done some business at the office, I out with my wife to Sheres’s lodging and left an invitation for him to dine with me tomorrow, and so back and took up my wife at the Exchange, and then kissed Mrs. Smith’s pretty hand, and so with my wife by coach to take some ayre (but the way very dirty) as far as Bow, and so drinking (as usual) at Mile End of Byde’s ale, we home and there busy at my letters till late, and so to walk by moonshine with my wife, and so to bed. The King, Duke of York, and the men of the Court, have been these four or five days a-hunting at Bagshot.

morning at the office
dinner at the office
out back to take some air
and the moon in a bag

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 21 September 1667.

Stranger strands

At the office doing business all the morning. At noon expected Creed to have come to dine with me and brought Mr. Sheres (the gentleman lately come from my Lord Sandwich) with him; but they come not, so there was a good dinner lost. After dinner my wife and Jane about some business of hers abroad, and then I to the office, where, having done my business, I out to pay some debts: among others to the taverne at the end of Billiter Lane, where my design was to see the pretty mistress of the house, which I did, and indeed is, as I always thought, one of the modestest, prettiest, plain women that ever I saw. Thence was met in the street by Sir W. Pen, and he and I by coach to the King’s playhouse, and there saw “The Mad Couple,” which I do not remember that I have seen; it is a pretty pleasant play. Thence home, and my wife and I to walk in the garden, she having been at the same play with Jane, in the 18d. seat, to shew Jane the play, and so home to supper and to bed.

a reed in the sand
as lost as us

a mad couple at play
with the sea

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 20 September 1667.

Allopath

Up, and all the morning at the office. At noon home to dinner, W. Hewer and I and my wife, when comes my cozen, Kate Joyce, and an aunt of ours, Lettice, formerly Haynes, and now Howlett, come to town to see her friends, and also Sarah Kite, with her little boy in her armes, a very pretty little boy. The child I like very well, and could wish it my own. My wife being all unready, did not appear. I made as much of them as I could such ordinary company; and yet my heart was glad to see them, though their condition was a little below my present state, to be familiar with. She tells me how the lifeguard, which we thought a little while since was sent down into the country about some insurrection, was sent to Winchcombe, to spoil the tobacco there, which it seems the people there do plant contrary to law, and have always done, and still been under force and danger of having it spoiled, as it hath been oftentimes, and yet they will continue to plant it. The place, she says, is a miserable poor place. They gone, I to the office, where all the afternoon very busy, and at night, when my eyes were weary of the light, I and my wife to walk in the garden, and then home to supper and pipe, and then to bed.

I howl in her arms
like a heart condition

familiar as tobacco
which people plant to be miserable

eyes weary of the light
in a pipe

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Thursday 19 September 1667.

Infrastructure

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up betimes and to Captain Cocke, in his coach which he sent for me, and he not being ready I walked in the Exchange, which is now made pretty, by having windows and doors before all their shops, to keep out the cold. By and by to him, and he being ready, he and I out in his coach to my Lord Chancellor’s; there to Mr. Wren’s chamber, who did tell us the whole of Sir W. Pen’s having the order for this ship of ours, and we went with him to St. James’s, and there I did see the copy of it, which is built upon a suggestion of his having given the King a ship of his, “The Prosperous,” wherein is such a cheat as I have the best advantage in the world over him, and will make him do reason, or lay him on his back. This I was very glad of, and having done as far as I could in it we returned, and I home, and there at the office all the morning, and at noon with my Lord Bruncker to the Treasurer’s office to look over the clerks who are there making up the books, but in such a manner as it is a shame to see. Then home to dinner, and after dinner, my mind mighty full of this business of Sir W. Pen’s, to the office, and there busy all the afternoon. This evening Sir W. Batten and W. Pen and I met at W. Batten’s house, and there I took an opportunity to break the business, at which W. Pen is much disturbed, and would excuse it the most he can, but do it so basely, that though he do offer to let go his pretence to her, and resign up his order for her, and come in only to ask his share of her (which do very well please me, and give me present satisfaction), yet I shall remember him for a knave while I live. But thus my mind is quieted for the present more than I thought I should be, and am glad that I shall have no need of bidding him open defiance, which I would otherwise have done, and made a perpetual war between us. So to the office, and there busy pretty late, and so home and to supper with my wife, and so to bed.

I made a window
to keep out the cold

and the wren built
her home there

all morning I look in books
for a share of quiet

more than I thought I should
open up to

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Wednesday 18 September 1667.

Hazy

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and at the office all the morning, where Mr. Wren come to us and sat with us, only to learn, and do intend to come once or twice a week and sit with us. In the afternoon walked to the Old Swan, the way mighty dirty, and there called at Michell’s, and there had opportunity para kiss su moher, but elle did receive it with a great deal of seeming regret, which did vex me. But however I do not doubt overcoming her as I did the moher of the monsieur at Deptford. So thence by water to Westminster, to Burgess, and there did receive my orders for 1500l. more for Tangier. Thence to the Hall, and there talked a little with Mrs. Michell, and so to Mrs. Martin’s to pay for my cuffs and drink with her, and did hazer la cosa with her. And by and by away by coach and met with Sir H. Cholmly, and with him to the Temple, and there in Playford’s shop did give him some of my Exchequer orders and took his receipts, and so parted and home, and there to my business hard at the office, and then home, my wife being at Mrs. Turner’s, who and her husband come home with her, and here staid and talked and staid late, and then went away and we to bed.
But that which vexed me much this evening is that Captain Cocke and Sir W. Batten did come to me, and sat, and drank a bottle of wine, and told me how Sir W. Pen hath got an order for the “Flying Greyhound” for himself, which is so false a thing, and the part of a knave, as nothing almost can be more. This vexed me; but I resolve to bring it before the Duke, and try a pull for it.

where we sit in the dirt
and kiss

I see so
little haze

but a bottle of wine
and I fly

so false a part
of nothing more

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 17 September 1667.

Poetry Blog Digest 2020, Week 41

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 the poetry blogosphere was a bit quieter that it had been the preceding week, but Louise Glück’s selection for the Nobel Prize certainly created a stir. I’ve scattered reactions to her win throughout what I’d hoped might seem a rather miscellaneous gathering, trying for once just to post things at random and not impose too much order. Of course I failed miserably.


where will they scatter the blue dust of earth

Grant Hackett [no title]

These days I’ve no interest in writing memoir. I have kept a journal since I was ten years old, and that constitutes enough self-indulgent scribbling on its own. I treasure, however, the practice all that writing gave me: practice in constructing sentences, employing vocabulary words, creating metaphors, using punctuation in various ways, expressing abstract ideas and describing concrete objects. Writing, learning to write, critique, and revision have been immensely valuable to me.

I’m not sure who I would be if I hadn’t been constantly writing (and reading). Maybe I’d have been a contemplative.

~~

All of which is to report to my readers, who may be experiencing their own obstacles to their art, that –yes– the writing continues in the face of loss and grief, anxiety, and the work of the body in the world, in the mundane spaces of daily grind and in the wakeful hours, and in the containers of dreamwork and consciousness. Right now, the writing is not “good,” not crafted, aware of itself, ready to speak to others than the self. It is, at present, more akin to what the Buddhists call practice.

Ann E. Michael, Practicing

Gluck was something from the past, and definitely an influence on the work I was writing then and probably for the next four years.   It was unfashionable to say, particularly in my program, that you loved Gluck, and yet, I regularly found poets out in the wild who professed their love for her work and would continue to. I feel like, stylistics aside, the experimental poetry world (i.e. the male poetry world if we’re getting specific) has a particular vitriol toward Gluck, which I never really understood, and now, as the news spreads of the Nobel, are rustling restlessly with their keyboards.  Admittedly, I was surprised they’d chosen a poet so very white in the current world where everyone else is making strides in recognizing POC, but I don’t think that’s the angle these criticisms stem from.  I once heard a male poet dismiss Gluck as a “flower poet” and fumed for days. My chief criticism is the poems are a little too tidy and heavy handed.  Constantly moving the reader toward epiphany tied neatly with a bow. She wields this more adeptly than other poets of her generation (particularly male) but she still wields it. 

I do not write those sorts of poems–not anymore–but I can see the value in work–the strands that are still woven in how I learned to make poems.  

Kristy Bowen, not the moon | gluck and poetic foremothers

squirrels in the roof
sloe gin in my cupboard
the most terrible quarrels

a cull of the poets
we are drowning
in the quagmire of online art

Ama Bolton, ABCD October 2020

My new chapbook, Tropospheric Clouds is now out from Adjunct Press, of Milwaukee (who have done a wonderful job of it).

Info: Tropospheric Clouds gives fragmented images that seem to be dispatched from a larger and elaborate narrative world. The poet is a multiplied character separated from the world. Rather than being presented in the Romantic cringe mysticism, here the separation of the poet is seen as a cloistering or perhaps a sense of imprisonment by vocation. The poet-as-seer image is cut again when the legitimacy-creating obscurity is saved only by publication. Tropospheric Clouds uses the unseen narrative to show the idea of the poet vocation within the reality of profession.

Michael Begnal, New Chapbook: Tropospheric Clouds

I go further and further into it, broken and silent, ‘struggling to keep hold’ of memories, words, phrases from the funeral. Did we do a good job, did I do a good job? Was she pleased with what I said?

The new term hurtles on. Already we have finished week 3, week 4 comes crashing towards us like a train. Where is the breathing space? Where can I find a moment to sit and just be?

My desk looks like a bomb site. There are at least four important letters I need to reply to. I sit down to make a list of what needs remembering for the but my mind just blinks at the page.

No one warned me that grief would be like this, its lonely lack of focus. Its unmemory. I think ‘How can a body withstand this?’ I cup her face between my hands. Her laughter. Her smile. I will love again.

Anthony Wilson, The Thing Is

The calendar I picked for 2020 offers beautiful tree-themed art for each month. And like everyone else’s calendar, it lies. I no longer even cross off what’s cancelled. Why bother, when there’s nothing to add in its place? Looking at it I imagine another me, in a parallel universe, doing those scheduled things. My other self doesn’t appreciate them nearly enough. She complains about being rushed, about traffic, about long lines. She vows to slow down and appreciate the moment. When she does she notices new things while stuck in traffic, enjoys the faces of people standing in line, savors more fully the pleasure of a porch chair after a long day. But she’s not always so mindful.

None of us could have imagined the year we’re in. Time takes on a different dimension when so many people have died and so many are suffering. We can’t help but sink more deeply into these hours of ours.

My calendar hangs by my desk, beautiful and useless. Time’s measure no longer fits on its pages. 

Laura Grace Weldon, Empty Calendar

conflagration 
the promises of summer
in falling leaves

Jim Young [no title]

I was up at 5:30 this morning, fretting about the political scene, finally getting out of bed and stumbling to my writing desk.

I finished the review I’ve been trying to write for months, revised a poem, and queried one more agent, regarding my mystery novel. I was typing today’s date, 10.8.20, when I remembered that today is my mother’s birthday. Or, as we say when someone has passed, today is the anniversary of her birth.

Since Mom’s death, on October 12, 2018, I’ve written a lot of poems that seem to be about her. Even this week, writing about two great blue herons on a dock, I was drawing from the memory of a walk I took after visiting Mom at her skilled-nursing facility. The poem felt shot-through with her presence.

Mom and I had a lot of differences. Setting up her apartment after she moved from the farmhouse, I would set out her knick knacks and pictures so they were asymmetrical. I like triangles, staggered lines, angles. She would come behind me and straighten everything to be evenly balanced and straight across.

Mom was proud of  me, I think, but she didn’t understand my choice to become educated and we could never talk about it. She thought being a teacher was a good thing. But I had overdone it, getting a Ph.D. in literature. It seemed like a waste of money to her that we were saving for our daughters’ higher education. “College has ruined your mind,” she said to me once.

Bethany Reid, Happy Birthday, Mom

–We had a debate with vice presidential candidates, a debate which was better than the presidential debate, but many of us will most remember that fly on Mike Pence’s head.  I will remember Kamala Harris saying variations of this phrase, “Mr. Vice President, I’m speaking.”  It made me want to assemble a directory of womanist separatist communes–or maybe start such a commune.  And you might think it’s abnormal for a woman happily married to a man to feel that way, but I am fairly sure it isn’t.

–When I create my ideal womanist/feminist separatist commune, will I allow men?  Perhaps.  I’m using separatist fairly generally–I want to separate from many things in our patriarchal culture.  But that’s a subject for another day.

–It’s been a week of good news when it comes to recognizing women.  The Nobel Prizes went to women:  for Chemistry, for Physics, for Literature.  The MacArthur Fellows were announced, and I was so happy to see Tressie McMillan Cottom, N. K. Jemisin, and Jacqueline Woodson on the list.  You can “meet” all the Fellows here.

–I’ve also been happy to see attention given to Maggie Smith’s new book Keep Moving (see NPR radio interview here and Slate article here).  I keep expecting to feel jealous, but I don’t.  On the contrary, I’m happy to see a poet like her succeed.  I am also not jealous of Louise Gluck, our newest Nobel Laureate.  Both women have been more focused than I have of late.  Both women write poetry I love–so I’m happy to see them get success.  And even if Maggie Smith is getting publicity for her newest book, which is not a poetry book, I’m happy.  I like to see the many ways we could succeed as writers.  I like the reminder that all is not lost.

Kristin Berkey-Abbott, A Week of Womanist/Feminist Challenges and Triumphs

I was interested to read Jonathan Jones’s Guardian review of the Artemisia Gentileschi exhibition at the National Gallery. It’s an important show, which rightly seeks to claim Gentileschi’s ‘greatness’, as Jones calls it, as a woman artist among the traditional pantheon of almost exclusively male painters.

The physicality of her painting of ‘Judith Beheading Holofernes’ reminds me of another rendering of the same story, by another great artist, the poet Vicki Feaver: her Forward-Prize-winning poem ‘Judith’, from her essential 1994 collection The Handless Maiden, which strikes a perfect balance between the sensuality and calculated violence of this tale from the Apocrypha.

As a poet, Feaver has the advantage of including a back-story of motive for the murder; Gentileschi, of course, is unable to do that, but her own motivation, outlined by Jones, clearly informs the unflinching manner of her depiction. Ultimately, the result is more-or-less the same: Gentileschi shows us blood dripping from Holofernes’s neck and a look of terror on his face, and Feaver likewise ends her poem, in an half-rhymed couplet, with the brutal truth:

                      And I bring my blade
down on his neck – and it’s easy
like slicing through fish.
And I bring it down again,
cleaving the bone.

Matthew Paul, Judith

I can’t leave Montreal, at least until the end of the month, because a new lockdown was imposed on October 1, so there is no question of driving out into the country to see the fall foliage, visiting a natural area, or going apple picking, let alone visiting Vermont or the Adirondacks. I’m fortunate to be able to see trees and fall color from my window, and to have begonias, geraniums, nasturtiums and sweet peas blooming on our terrace, but I still have a persistent sense of being trapped — as so many of us do.

It helps to turn to images of places I love. A couple of weeks ago I re-explored a garden we visited at the Ex Convento del Carmen (former Carmelite convent) in the Mexico City suburb of San Angel, and made a few drawings and watercolor sketches. […]

As you can probably see, these watercolors are getting looser, less realistic, and more expressive — but often I still do a fairly realistic black-and-white drawing first to work out the shapes and compositional relationships — plus, I just like to draw. There are few activities that feel more absorbing, and even though I’ve done it all my life, it always feels like magic to start with a blank sheet of paper and end up with a representation of something observed and a record of that particular time and place and state of mind.

Drawing, more than any other art activity, also connects me to all the artists who’ve filled sketchbooks and made drawings. I feel my eyes travel from the object to the paper and back again, without much conscious thinking, as my hand somehow — I don’t pretend to understand it — translates that seeing into lines and forms. Even when the drawing doesn’t come out particularly well, it still seems like a little quiet miracle that human beings try to do this, and have always done it: “I sat here, I was still, I looked, I used my hands and eyes and made this.” Maybe there’s some hope for us after all.

Beth Adams, Hermit Diary 41. Searching the Landscape

I think my cat was perplexed. He has grown accustomed to me leading services from the dining room table: the laptop, my microphone, perhaps a pair of Shabbat or festival candles lit on the table beside me, lots of singing.

These days when I daven from the table, he looks up briefly from his favorite perch on the cat tree and then returns to napping. But he has never seen me dance around the room holding a big metal-bound Tanakh encrusted with gems. 

I don’t have a Torah scroll at home, so I danced with the big metal-bound Tanakh that used to belong to my parents. I waltzed with it; I spun around in circles with it; I danced with it in a circumnambulation of the room; I cradled it like a baby in my arms. 

Seven songs, seven poems, seven hakafot. Evoking the seven days of the first week, and the seven “lower sefirot” or qualities that we share with our Creator from lovingkindness to boundaries and strength all the way to presence and Shechinah.

I thrilled to the secret heart revealed when we go from the end of Torah directly to her beginning, from loss to starting over, from lamed to bet. I opened my Tanakh to a random word and from that word I gave myself a blessing.

And then I went to bed, and I slept the sleep of the overtired rabbi and elementary school parent who could finally relax into knowing that the work of this long, challenging (and this year, pandemic-unprecedented) holy season was done.

Rachel Barenblat, A Simchat Torah like no other

I have an uneasy relationship with prompts. I can’t trust the whole set-up, because sometimes they work: I drop into some strange space of utterance and up bubbles things strange and fantastic; and sometimes they don’t, and I’m clutching my pen and strangling the empty page with grabby fingers of text.

It has something to do with breathing. No. It has something to do with attention. No. Is it in the set of my jaw? Should I squint my eyes? The whole enterprise seems impossible. Except when it’s glorious.

If the effort toward writing from a prompt seems too effort-full, the only thing to do is walk away. Go yank weeds or walk or lately I’ve been taking objects and slathering them with blue paint and dragging them across paper. A bottle cap. The red mesh that onions come in. A stick. Good fun.

Marilyn McCabe, All the noise noise noise; or, On Writing from Prompts

There is an interview on On Being with Jericho Brown where he says, “Poems have to make our lives clear. Poems have to make our lives real on the page. And nobody’s living an easy life. Nobody’s living a life that is anything other than complex. And there are things about our lives that TV’s not going to give us, that movies, even, are not going to give us. And poems are where I go for that. That’s where I go for the complexity, the thing in us that we don’t really understand.” What I want is the complexity and powerful possibilities that a poem or poetic language can give us. What we know right now is as Brown says, “Nobody’s living a life that is anything other than complex.” So I want to give thanks for that thought, and acknowledge how complex life is for so many people. And I also want to give thanks for the space of a poem, how full it can be, even when it seems thinned out, spare, careful. How wild a poem can be in and of itself, and how it can surprise us and delight us and guide us to a wholeness in ourselves.

It’s Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, and it feels more important than ever to acknowledge the complicated history of the holiday. A lot of us have cancelled get-togethers due to Covid-19 concerns which feels like a small sacrifice. I’m asking myself, what do I have to share, who can I donate to, since we won’t be spending money making a big meal. So that’s one place to start on a day where we give thanks.

Shawna Lemay, Poems for Giving Thanks, Praise, and Comfort

Los Angeles poet Tanya Holtland’s stunning full-length poetry debut is Requisite (England: Platypus Press, 2020), a lyric suite constructed as a quartet on, as she writes in her preface, “spiritual ecology,” and the ways in which we are interconnected to the physical and natural world. There is a meditative precision to Holtland’s lyrics, finely-honed with the ease of a quick sketch, but one that also knows how to pull apart the minutae of an idea, to stretch it across an expansive canvas. There are elements of Holtland’s ability to accumulate poems into sections and sections into a full-length whole that provide comparisons to the work of her partner, the poet Hailey Higdon. In Holtland’s 2019 essay for “my (small press) writing day,” she hinted at such a cross-influence between the two, a pair of writers occupying similar physical and emotional space: “To say that we influence each other as writers is understated only by what we influence in the larger field of each other’s lives.” Whereas I’ve long understood Higdon’s poems to exist in groupings that slowly reveal their interconnectedness (such as through the publication of her 2019 debut full-length collection Hard Some [see my review of such here]), Holtland’s work through this collection, as well, exists as a detailed suite of individual poems that, together, pattern to reveal their larger coherence. […]

Holtland’s ecopoetic exists in start contrast to many other examples I’ve seen in the same vein: there is a reverence, but her lyric exists simultaneously at the level of the sequence, the fragment, the word. Even the smallest unit contains the whole in a way that is reminiscent of, say, Fanny Howe or Sylvia Legris. Her poems fragment and fractal, and accumulate in a singular direction. “If the impulse to expand comes to fight a hard rain,” she writes, as part of “Fated,” “remember // the curve of the earth / comes to meet you, / to the smallest / portion of the soul.” 

There is such a wonderful, careful complexity to Holtland’s lyric meditations, setting pause against pause. She holds, she halts, she slowly pieces together. For Holtland, place is not simply being or landscape but an all-encompassing entity of which we are an important part, and even moreso, given the incredible amount of damage we have inflicted upon it. Holtland holds her distances against ours, and our distances against the ether.

rob mclennan, Tanya Holtland, Requisite

I was pleased to hear that Louise Glück has won the Nobel Prize, as the championing of her work can only encourage non-readers of contemporary poetry to realise that the genre offers multiple interpretations beyond their preconceived expectations. However, I was struck by a quote from Anders Olsson, chair of the Nobel committee, which read as follows:

Even if her autobiographical background is significant in her works, she is not to be regarded as a confessional poet. She seeks universality…

The above statement is unfortunate, to say the least. It perpetuates numerous fallacies. For a start, no poem can ever be fully defined as autobiographical or confessional, even if the poet in question were to claim such a status or label. This is because role playing always becomes a factor once the creative process is set in motion.

And then there’s the absurd implication (beyond reference to Glück herself) that a poet is somehow barred from universal appeal if their poetry is also partly autobiographical or confessional in its point of departure. How many of the greats would that rule out? Such a claim would definitely cast aspersions over certain previous winners of the same award!

All in all, Glúck’s win is excellent news, but its annoucement was couched in terms that could at the very least be interpreted as critical shortcuts. Her poetry and the genre in general both deserve a more nuanced understanding of the role of autobiography in any and every poem.

Matthew Stewart, Universality (on Louise Glück and the Nobel Prize)

The pure clarity of certain dreams, how they drive us across night’s dark distances, change fury into feathers, the unbloomed into overbrimming wonder.

Myrrh, melody, wings, waterwheels.

Those dreams carousel and uncrush, motor and unmurder.

They crystallize doubt into diamond, leave our fingerprints on the wind as we drift down highways of after-midnight sleep.

Rich Ferguson, When Hitchhiking Dream’s Highway

The pine smelled so sweet and sharp this morning. Somewhere near my solar plexus I felt a heaviness like guilt. I know it must smell this pronounced because the trees have been freshly cut. It’s not the smell of death – but of wounds. I’ve had wounds myself before that have wept, clear and sticky. I should have enough compassion for the trees not to be drawn to this smell. But I inhaled so deeply I had to stop running.

I exhale melancholy.

Someone had raked together all the long, dead branches and placed them around the bases of individual trees. E. told me that it’s a kind of slow fertilizing process. But I think the trees look as vulnerable as martyrs waiting for the flames.

I exhale anxiety.

My mind wanders on these forest runs and it isn’t always easy to sort what to take, and what to leave in the forest. Today I took home four fallen leaves home to make paste paper for chapbook covers. I took home a photo of an abandoned boot someone placed on a tree stump. I took home the reminder that this body is aging and mortal, that each day is made more precious with that knowledge.

I wonder what I leave after these runs? Footprints, certainly. Carbon dioxide.

I wonder if we shed dark matter in our wake, just as we shed bits of DNA.

I wonder if the blackbirds that overwinter here are disturbed by my having been present with them.

*

We talk about breath being life: inhaling, exhaling. But the pauses between – the effortless moments of waiting – without a glottal stop – are as integral to the flow of life, as death. Or is death, rather, is the hum of existence beyond this constellation of atoms.

These breathless, lifeless pauses are where we touch the dark matter of the universe – these are what is expressed in the leaps in our poetry.

Ren Powell, What You Find in the Forest

Don’t think I don’t
see you, trees,

talking with the stars
all night, the stars

telling you how to
say steady

against this
sadness. The wind

has nothing
it wishes to add.

Tom Montag, DON’T THINK I DON’T

I never put my hoses away, lazy man,
They lay wherever I drop them.
I never bother to remember where either.
I have spent my life walking around
Looking for the far end of hoses.
I imagine finches watching me, or raccoons,
All of them thinking me a fool —
Stupid man! He should put the hoses away!
Well, to hell with them all.
I don’t have feathers or fur,
And I don’t go around judging people
With poems on their minds.

James Lee Jobe, Looking for the far end of hoses.

Only the 16th woman EVER to win the Nobel in Literature, and an American Poet at that, this can be nothing but good news for American Poetry. Of course, I’ve been a fan every since I saw her read in my twenties in Cincinnati from Meadowlands. I took my little brother, then 17, and a few of his scruffier friends to the reading, and to my surprise, they all enjoyed it. My little brother went up to her after the reading and complimented her shoes. She must have been about the age I am now, 47, at the time, and she just lit up.

Also, think of this what you will, but Louise Glück taught me, along with Margaret Atwood and Lucille Clifton, what it meant to write the villainess. I will always owe them a debt, in my writing and my life.

Jeannine Hall Gailey, Good News: A Poem in Boulevard, Louise Glück Wins the Nobel Prize, Our Book Giveaway Winner, and an October of Uncertainty

Before she dies, her offerings
slip into pockets called galls.
When it’s time,

these pods will release
her children so they can start
the cycle all over again: the males,
wingless and blind, will mate with
their sisters before carving for them

a path out of the garden. Most males
die before they themselves reach the gate.
But the females who make it out follow
the wind’s warm scent, tracking down
the next tree with fruit

that must be nudged to full ripeness
by these small offerings of death.

Luisa A. Igloria, The Apple May Not Have Been the Forbidden Fruit

I’ve been learning that grieving can be a long time coming. Or maybe that it’s a thing that’s never really done.

I have a recurring dream in which I’ve lost a season. It’s usually a spring dream, and–somehow, impossibly–it’s the end of summer. But, wait, I’ll think in the dream. It can’t be time to go back to school. Where did the summer go? I’ll think of all the things I wanted and didn’t get to do, and I feel panicky and cheated. Then I’ll realize I’m dreaming, and that I have not, in fact, lost the summer, and relief washes over me. One day in Grace’s last week here, I got disoriented about where I was in time, the way I do in the dream. For a moment, I lost what season we are in. Something made me feel like it was still summer, and I had to tell myself: No, it’s October. It’s not summer any more. But then it felt like it couldn’t be October, because I hadn’t really had summer, just like in the dream.

I understand my confusion. The whole summer felt like a bubble in which we were all suspended in some time out of time. Having my daughter back in the ways I did, after having earlier let her go, while we both prepared ourselves for what’s coming next, felt like simultaneously living in the past, present, and future. Where were we in time? Who were we? Everywhere and nowhere. Everyone we’ve ever been and no one we’ve ever been and everyone we’ll someday be.

The day she left was unseasonably warm. After returning from the airport, I pulled spent tomato plants from their box and filled the compost bin with cedar branches Cane had trimmed from the tree that overhangs my shed, sweating in the sun. That evening, I sat on a front porch with friends and we talked how we might continue to safely meet when the nights turn cold. It felt like a summer night.

But, the next morning I woke to rain and dark skies. The patio furniture was soaked when I put the dogs out to pee, and they stepped gingerly on the wet pavement. The power flickered off and then on again, while I worked on these words, and just like that, the season had undeniably changed.

I hated to let it go. I knew I had no choice.

Rita Ott Ramstad, A rambling meditation on time, grief, impermanence, children, love, etc.

Unsafe lex

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

Up, and several come to me, among others Mr. Yeabsly of Plymouth, to discourse about their matters touching Tangier, and by and by Sir H. Cholmly, who was with me a good while; who tells me that the Duke of York’s child is christened, the Duke of Albemarle and the Marquis of Worcester godfathers, and my Lady Suffolke godmother; and they have named it Edgar, which is a brave name. But it seems they are more joyful in the Chancellor’s family, at the birth of this Prince, than in wisdom they should, for fear it should give the King cause of jealousy. Sir H. Cholmly do not seem to think there is any such thing can be in the King’s intention as that of raising the Duke of Monmouth to the Crowne, though he thinks there may possibly be some persons that would, and others that would be glad to have the Queen removed to some monastery, or somewhere or other, to make room for a new wife; for they will all be unsafe under the Duke of York. He says the King and Parliament will agree; that is, that the King will do any thing that they will have him. We together to the Exchequer about our Tangier orders, and so parted at the New Exchange, where I staid reading Mrs. Phillips’s poems till my wife and Mercer called me to Mrs. Pierces, by invitation to dinner, where I find her painted, which makes me loathe her, and the nastiest poor dinner that made me sick, only here I met with a Fourth Advice to the Painter upon the coming in of the Dutch to the River and end of the war, that made my heart ake to read, it being too sharp, and so true. Here I also saw a printed account of the examinations taken, touching the burning of the City of London, shewing the plot of the Papists therein; which, it seems, hath been ordered and to have been burnt by the hands of the hangman, in Westminster Palace. I will try to get one of them. After dinner she showed us her closet, which is pretty, with her James’s picture done by Hales, but with a mighty bad hand, which is his great fault that he do do negligently, and the drapery also not very good. Being tired of being here, and sick of their damned sluttish dinner, my wife and Mercer and I away to the King’s play-house, to see the “Scornfull Lady;” but it being now three o’clock there was not one soul in the pit; whereupon, for shame, we would not go in, but, against our wills, went all to see “Tu Quoque” again, where there is a pretty store of company, and going with a prejudice the play appeared better to us. Here we saw Madam Morland, who is grown mighty fat, but is very comely. But one of the best arts of our sport was a mighty pretty lady that sat behind, that did laugh so heartily and constantly, that it did me good to hear her. Thence to the King’s house, upon a wager of mine with my wife, that there would be no acting there today, there being no company: so I went in and found a pretty good company there, and saw their dance at the end of the play, and so to the coach again, and to the Cock ale house, and there drank in our coach, and so home, and my wife read to me as last night, and so to bed vexed with our dinner to-day, and myself more with being convinced that Mrs. Pierce paints, so that henceforth to be sure I shall loathe her.

mouth to mouth
some unsafe poem
made me sick

a heart examination
by a hangman
with a bad hand

my soul grown fat on the arts
it did me good
to be vexed

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 16 September 1667.

Polyphony

holloway overhung with ancient trees n Cornwall

(Lord’s day). Up to my chamber, there to set some papers to rights. By and by to church, where I stood, in continual fear of Mrs. Markham’s coming to church, and offering to come into our pew, to prevent which, soon as ever I heard the great door open, I did step back, and clap my breech to our pew-door, that she might be forced to shove me to come in; but as God would have it, she did not come. Mr. Mills preached, and after sermon, by invitation, he and his wife come to dine with me, which is the first time they have been in my house; I think, these five years, I thinking it not amiss, because of their acquaintance in our country, to shew them some respect. Mr. Turner and his wife, and their son the Captain, dined with me, and I had a very good dinner for them, and very merry, and after dinner, he was forced to go, though it rained, to Stepney, to preach. We also to church, and then home, and there comes Mr. Pelling, with two men, by promise, one Wallington and Piggott, the former whereof, being a very little fellow, did sing a most excellent bass, and yet a poor fellow, a working goldsmith, that goes without gloves to his hands. Here we sung several good things, but I am more and more confirmed that singing with many voices is not singing, but a sort of instrumental musique, the sense of the words being lost by not being heard, and especially as they set them with Fuges of words, one after another, whereas singing properly, I think, should be but with one or two voices at most and the counterpoint. They supped with me, and so broke, up, and then my wife and I to my chamber, where, through the badness of my eyes, she was forced to read to me, which she do very well, and was Mr. Boyle’s discourse upon the style of the Scripture, which is a very fine piece, and so to bed.

church might have
an acquaintance with rain

for singing with many voices
is not singing
but a sort of instrumental music

words lost by being heard
in the style of scripture

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 15 September 1667.

Missing the small picture

Up, and to the office, where all the morning busy. At noon comes Mr. Pierce and dined with me to advise about several matters of his relating to the office and his purse, and here he told me that the King and Duke of York and the whole Court is mighty joyful at the Duchesse of York’s being brought to bed this day, or yesterday, of a son; which will settle men’s minds mightily. And he tells me that he do think that what the King do, of giving the Duke of Monmouth the command of his Guards, and giving my Lord Gerard 12,000l. for it, is merely to find an employment for him upon which he may live, and not out of any design to bring him into any title to the Crowne; which Mr. Moore did the other day put me into great fear of. After dinner, he gone, my wife to the King’s play-house to see “The Northerne Lasse,” which I think I never did see before. Knipp acted in it, and did her part very extraordinary well; but the play is but a mean, sorry play; but the house very full of gallants. It seems, it hath not been acted a good while. Thence to the Exchange for something for my wife, and then home and to the office, and then home to our flageolet, and so to bed, being mightily troubled in mind at the liberty I give myself of going to plays upon pretence of the weakness of my eyes, that cannot continue so long together at work at my office, but I must remedy it.

joy will settle
for any crow

which I think
I never did see

for all the liberty I give
my weak eyes

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 14 September 1667.

Ways and means

screenshot of erasure poem

Called up by people come to deliver in ten chaldron of coals, brought in one of our prizes from Newcastle. The rest we intend to sell, we having above ten chaldron between us. They sell at about 28s. or 29s. per chaldron; but Sir W. Batten hath sworn that he was a cuckold that sells under 30s., and that makes us lay up all but what we have for our own spending, which is very pleasant; for I believe we shall be glad to sell them for less. To the office, and there despatched business till ten o’clock, and then with Sir W. Batten and my wife and Mrs. Turner by hackney-coach to Walthamstow, to Mrs. Shipman’s to dinner, where Sir W. Pen and my Lady and Mrs. Lowther (the latter of which hath got a sore nose, given her, I believe, from her husband, which made me I could not look upon her with any pleasure), and here a very good and plentifull wholesome dinner, and, above all thing, such plenty of milk meats, she keeping a great dairy, and so good as I never met with. The afternoon proved very foul weather, the morning fair. We staid talking till evening, and then home, and there to my flageolet with my wife, and so to bed without any supper, my belly being full and dinner not digested. It vexed me to hear how Sir W. Pen, who come alone from London, being to send his coachman for his wife and daughter, and bidding his coachman in much anger to go for them (he being vexed, like a rogue, to do anything to please his wife), his coachman Tom was heard to say a pox, or God rot her, can she walk hither? These words do so mad me that I could find in my heart to give him or my Lady notice of them.

o to live on coal
and our own thin milk

foul weather in my belly
anger like a rot in my heart

Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 13 September 1667.