Snowy

Sam Pepys and me

This morning the judge Advocate Fowler came to see me, and he and I sat talking till it was time to go to the office. To the office and there staid till past 12 o’clock, and so I left the Comptroller and Surveyor and went to Whitehall to my Lord’s, where I found my Lord gone this morning to Huntingdon, as he told me yesterday he would. I staid and dined with my Lady, there being Laud the page’s mother there, and dined also with us, and seemed to have been a very pretty woman and of good discourse.
Before dinner I examined Laud in his Latin and found him a very pretty boy and gone a great way in Latin.
After dinner I took a box of some things of value that my Lord had left for me to carry to the Exchequer, which I did, and left them with my Brother Spicer, who also had this morning paid 1000l. for me by appointment to Sir R. Parkhurst. So to the Privy Seal, where I signed a deadly number of pardons, which do trouble me to get nothing by. Home by water, and there was much pleased to see that my little room is likely to come to be finished soon.
I fell a-reading Fuller’s History of Abbys, and my wife in Great Cyrus till twelve at night, and so to bed.

owl as white
as a moth in a mine

a pretty thing
with the dead in it

like a full history
of night


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 7 December 1660.

Psalm 2.0: the movie

river in November light between bare woods and mountain

This new film, the result of a collaboration with two of my favorite poetry filmmakers, Janet Lees and Marc Neys, was the highlight of my week.

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Here’s how Janet introduced it on Facebook:

A collaboration between Dave Bonta, Marc Neys and me. Dave wrote the poem in response to a film clip I shared on Instagram, a mirrored image of a pebble I’d thrown in the river, and Marc composed several pieces of music to the clip. This is one of the pieces, all brilliant, that we think works really well with Dave’s incredible poem.

It’s fun to collaborate with fellow loners, each of us kind of doing our own thing in response to the others.

If you missed the plain-text version of Psalm 2.0, I posted it back on October 3rd.

New videohaiku: the future…

river in November light between bare woods and mountain

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What does it mean to look forward to something any more, in a world hurtling toward ecological collapse if not thermonuclear destruction? There was a bestseller back in the 1970s called Future Shock about the social and psychological damage incurred by modern society’s relentless drive toward progress… or so I imagine, having never actually read it. But it’s been on my mind lately despite that minor detail. I’ve also been thinking a lot about ignorance, both in epistemological and sociological terms, and not coming to any firm conclusions because I rarely do. That’s a poet thing, I suppose. Not knowing the future, though, seems essential to mere survival, let along progress, as the Rene Char quote in the sidebar here says: “How can we live without the unknown before us?”

This has been a horrific summer in many parts of North America, but here in central Pennsylvania we went from a severe spring drought to a very wet but relatively cool summer. Trees went from nearly dropping their leaves at the beginning of June to massive growth spurts in July—aided, I’m sure, by all the extra CO2 in the atmosphere. And part of what kept things cool for us was the haze from burning forests elsewhere, as I’ve mentioned in various poems. But one of the pleasures of haiku is being liberated from having to explain things. They can just lurk in the background, mostly inaudible to the reader. Distant flashes that can mean whatever you want them to.

The fireflies, who had been scarce early on, had their highest numbers toward the end of the season. I shot this 30-second clip of them on my phone at dusk last week, just as the weather was turning from muggy to cool. Three nights ago the katydids started up; in a week or so, their throb will be all we hear. I look forward to weeks of good sleep.

Song Dogs

white blossoms of blavk locust floating on a stream
This entry is part 39 of 40 in the series Pandemic Year

 

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It’s not that you’re chasing a white moth through the forest; it’s just that she happens to be flying ahead of you, right? It’s just that things come to you when you’re walking. And you to them.

An ephemeral forest pool, fed by spring rains. Here at the top of the watershed the rain doesn’t quite know where to go, so it sits for a while. Ripples on the surface show how any point can be the center of an expanding universe. I love watching them intersect and cancel each other out.

song dogs
on the trail of some
ripe panic

Ephemeroptera

still from Ephemeroptera
This entry is part 38 of 40 in the series Pandemic Year

 

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Driving home along the river, I have to turn on the windshield wipers every mile or two because of all the mayflies, the off-white inkblots of their anonymous deaths. Imagine living one’s life in a state of arrested development, and only on your last day undergoing not one, but two radical transformations, one after the other: growing wings, breathing air, and mating just once, having gained reproductive parts in exchange for the loss of a mouth.

spring again
scheduling my first
Covid shot


Process notes

Placing two things in close proximity: that’s a poem. The shadbush and hepatica footage here came from a single walk down the hollow and back. But if only I’d had a dash cam on that drive home…

Will this be the final post in the Pandemic Year series? Probably not, but it feels as if it could be.

Pedants may think that COVID should still be written in all caps but that doesn’t seem to be how common usage has gone. In time, even the initial capital letter will come to seem too much, and it’ll end up like scuba or ok, just another word.

Exclusive

This entry is part 37 of 40 in the series Pandemic Year

 

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I’m beginning to resent the camera for what it excludes. If I had money, I could get one of those fancy 360° cameras and greatly expand the frontiers of my frustration. If I were rich, I could give up on photography altogether and turn my poems into place-specific holograms. The words could hang in the air like contrails and brew their own bad weather.

for the maples’
flaming sexual parts
this breeze

***

Process notes

After I drafted this I remembered I had an AR app on my phone called Weird Type. Good to finally have a use for it. Also, I’m not sure whether filming that rock pile directly influenced what I wrote a little later, but it was fun to juxtapose two products of the same walk and ultimately the same train of thought.

I’m not sure how many people are aware of what flowers are, or even that trees are flowering plants, so I suppose the haiku might just seem weird and creepy. Oh well. Maples are wind-pollinated, which from a human perspective seems slightly less perverse than relying on insects to get off.

Sproing

still from Sproing
This entry is part 40 of 40 in the series Pandemic Year

 

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File under Nonessential Life Skills: On the day before the vernal equinox, I learn the sound a dead Norway spruce limb makes when a red-tailed hawk takes off from it: a soft, wooden sproing! A little later, I listen to two ravens muttering back and forth: first about me, then about another hawk—or possibly the same one—landing in a nearby tree. The raven chasing it off makes little grunts with each labored wingbeat.

include me in your parenthesis day moon

On the equinox, I go for a hike in the Seven Mountains. There’s ice still on some of the state forest roads, and snow on north-facing slopes. I pass through a grove of one of the southern-most populations of black spruce, here where a microglacier sat during the last ice age. The trail around the bog runs with meltwater from a dozen springs, and hikers encountering each other have to step carefully as we turn away or cover our faces, saying our obligatory hellos.

unlost again the spring

***

Process notes

The problem with paying attention is that it’s somewhat incompatible with remembering to shoot video. Fortunately I remembered this great anonymous home movie, which has plenty of spruce-looking confers in it as well as other areas of overlap with the text. I looped a section of a track from one-man industrial music project ROZKOL, and for the haiku, hit upon a font called Strawberry Blossom, which I love, at least in this context.

I’m conscious of the fact that, in a series with the working title Pandemic Year, I haven’t explicitly marked the one-year anniversary of the first lockdown, but I’m inclined to think that’s not really necessary — very few viewers or readers will miss the significance of this second spring with Covid-19 and the possibility of re-opening on the horizon.

Animist

still from Animist
This entry is part 36 of 40 in the series Pandemic Year

 

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I don’t know whether I am really an animist or simply play one in my poems. Does it matter? The poems represent reality as best as I can intuit it: every object a subject, every subject sovereign. Relationships of mutual regard.

The main thing is I like to go for long walks and write short things. And occasionally I come part-way out of myself to take a look around, like an emerging cicada stuck in its larval exoskeleton. Failed ecdysis: this is the sad state of human consciousness these days. Perhaps if we each had a spirit guide…

spring thaw
trees retrieving their reflections
from the ice

***

Process notes

I had just finished drafting the prose portion of this haibun when I shot the video, which then prompted the haiku immediately afterwards. The vulture drifting through my shot was pure serendipity.

Considering what a simple, haiga-style videopoem I had in mind, I flirted with the idea of making the whole thing on my phone before I got back from my walk, but decided it wasn’t worth sacrificing audio quality for. Also, it turns out the way I’d been pronouncing “ecdysis” was completely wrong. Good thing I thought to check an online dictionary before recording!