Settler’s quandary

Good friends in the morning and up to the office, where sitting all the morning, and while at table we were mightily joyed with newes brought by Sir J. Minnes and Sir W. Batten of the death of De Ruyter, but when Sir W. Coventry come, he told us there was no such thing, which quite dashed me again, though, God forgive me! I was a little sorry in my heart before lest it might give occasion of too much glory to the Duke of Albemarle.
Great bandying this day between Sir W. Coventry and my Lord Bruncker about Captain Cocke, which I am well pleased with, while I keepe from any open relyance on either side, but rather on Sir W. Coventry’s.
At noon had a haunch of venison boiled and a very good dinner besides, there dining with me on a sudden invitation the two mayden sisters, Bateliers, and their elder brother, a pretty man, understanding and well discoursed, much pleased with his company.
Having dined myself I rose to go to a Committee of Tangier, and did come thither time enough to meet Povy and Creed and none else. The Court being empty, the King being gone to Tunbridge, and the Duke of Yorke a-hunting. I had some discourse with Povy, who is mightily discontented, I find, about his disappointments at Court; and says, of all places, if there be hell, it is here. No faith, no truth, no love, nor any agreement between man and wife, nor friends. He would have spoke broader, but I put it off to another time; and so parted.
Then with Creed and read over with him the narrative of the late [fight], which he makes a very poor thing of, as it is indeed, and speaks most slightingly of the whole matter.
Povy discoursed with me about my Lord Peterborough’s 50l. which his man did give me from him, the last year’s salary I paid him, which he would have Povy pay him again; but I have not taken it to myself yet, and therefore will most heartily return him, and mark him out for a coxcomb.
Povy went down to Mr. Williamson’s, and brought me up this extract out of the Flanders’ letters to-day come: That Admiral Everson, and the Admiral and Vice-Admiral of Freezeland, with many captains and men, are slain; that De Ruyter is safe, but lost 250 men out of his own ship; but that he is in great disgrace, and Trump in better favour; that Bankert’s ship is burned, himself hardly escaping with a few men on board De Haes; that fifteen captains are to be tried the seventh of August; and that the hangman was sent from Flushing to assist the Council of Warr. How much of this is true, time will shew.
Thence to Westminster Hall and walked an hour with Creed talking of the late fight, and observing the ridiculous management thereof and success of the Duke of Albemarle.
Thence parted and to Mrs. Martin’s lodgings, and sat with her a while, and then by water home, all the way reading the Narrative of the late fight in order, it may be, to the making some marginal notes upon it.
At the Old Swan found my Betty Michell at the doore, where I staid talking with her a pretty while, it being dusky, and kissed her and so away home and writ my letters, and then home to supper, where the, brother and Mary Batelier are still and Mercer’s two sisters. They have spent the time dancing this afternoon, and we were very merry, and then after supper into the garden and there walked, and then home with them and then back again, my wife and I and the girls, and sang in the garden and then to bed.
Colville was with me this morning, and to my great joy I could now have all my money in, that I have in the world. But the times being open again, I thinke it is best to keepe some of it abroad.
Mighty well, and end this month in content of mind and body. The publique matters looking more safe for the present than they did, and we having a victory over the Dutch just such as I could have wished, and as the kingdom was fit to bear, enough to give us the name of conquerors, and leave us masters of the sea, but without any such great matters done as should give the Duke of Albemarle any honour at all, or give him cause to rise to his former insolence.

were there no such thing as hell here
no faith no truth no love
would it matter
would I have taken it to heart

how much of this is true
the marginal swan
the dancing girls
this open road of a body

is it enough to give us
the name of conquerors


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Tuesday 31 July 1666.

Unmake

Whose idea was that: You made 
your bed,
you lie in it? Isn't it

rather the bed's unmade in order
for anyone to lie in it? You reap

what you sow, you dig your own grave
and sleep in a field forever. Such

bitterness, yellow as a plot of tansy
ragwort, toxic as yew: a single mouthful

would stop the heart of a horse
in minutes. Therefore give me back

the flax before the weave, the seed
ahead of the furrow, the animal

need before the yoke, the hairline
tremor before lightning stroke.





 

In response to Via Negativa: Reader's Remorse.

Reader’s remorse

Up, and did some business in my chamber, then by and by comes my boy’s Lute-Master, and I did direct him hereafter to begin to teach him to play his part on the Theorbo, which he will do, and that in a little time I believe. So to the office, and there with Sir W. Warren, with whom I have spent no time a good while. We set right our business of the Lighters, wherein I thinke I shall get 100l.. At noon home to dinner and there did practise with Mercer one of my new tunes that I have got Dr. Childe to set me a base to and it goes prettily. Thence abroad to pay several debts at the end of the month, and so to Sir W. Coventry, at St. James’s, where I find him in his new closett, which is very fine, and well supplied with handsome books. I find him speak very slightly of the late victory: dislikes their staying with the fleete up their coast, believing that the Dutch will come out in fourteen days, and then we with our unready fleete, by reason of some of the ships being maymed, shall be in bad condition to fight them upon their owne coast: is much dissatisfied with the great number of men, and their fresh demands of twenty-four victualling ships, they going out but the other day as full as they could stow. I asked him whether he did never desire an account of the number of supernumeraries, as I have done several ways, without which we shall be in great errour about the victuals; he says he has done it again and again, and if any mistake should happen they must thanke themselves. He spoke slightly of the Duke of Albemarle, saying, when De Ruyter come to give him a broadside — “Now,” says he, chewing of tobacco the while, “will this fellow come and give, me two broadsides, and then he will run;” but it seems he held him to it two hours, till the Duke himself was forced to retreat to refit, and was towed off, and De Ruyter staid for him till he come back again to fight. One in the ship saying to the Duke, “Sir, methinks De Ruyter hath given us more: than two broadsides;” — “Well,” says the Duke, “but you shall find him run by and by,” and so he did, says Sir W. Coventry; but after the Duke himself had been first made to fall off.
The Resolution had all brass guns, being the same that Sir J. Lawson had in her in the Straights.
It is observed that the two fleetes were even in number to one ship.
Thence home; and to sing with my wife and Mercer in the garden; and coming in I find my wife plainly dissatisfied with me, that I can spend so much time with Mercer, teaching her to sing and could never take the pains with her. Which I acknowledge; but it is because that the girl do take musique mighty readily, and she do not, and musique is the thing of the world that I love most, and all the pleasure almost that I can now take. So to bed in some little discontent, but no words from me.

books like ships with fresh
stowaway selves

give me back
my plain words


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Monday 30 July 1666.

Landscape, with Sunset and Wings

Before fading, light paints the sky the shade of a ripe papaya, the swollen hip of a mango. Who will help me peel away their shawls so I can pluck the seeds out of their flesh? The wind whips my hair into a basket of twigs. My bones don’t fold as easily as they used to, but my mind is still my sharpest knife. What voice are you using today, asks one of my daughters; is it the one with the blade, the one with the wing, or the one that sings to the roses? There are many more lights to dapple the afternoons between those scores: sandpaper pink, steely grey, white coral. I want to know how to fashion a bridge that fixes one continent to another, a garment that velvets widows begging for alms on the streets.  But I am not a falcon cast off from the gauntlet, plummeting down without error to bind to its quarry. I am not even a dove on the balcony of heaven. With every climb, the bells around my ankles ring their green warnings. The sea plays overture upon overture of scales. None of this means I have no love for you. None of this delivers us from our sorrows, from the flock of our migratory desires. 

 

 

In response to Via Negativa: Sublimation.

Scribal

(Lord’s day). Up and all the morning in my chamber making up my accounts in my book with my father and brother and stating them. Towards noon before sermon was done at church comes newes by a letter to Sir W. Batten, to my hand, of the late fight, which I sent to his house, he at church. But, Lord! with what impatience I staid till sermon was done, to know the issue of the fight, with a thousand hopes and fears and thoughts about the consequences of either. At last sermon is done and he come home, and the bells immediately rung soon as the church was done. But coming to Sir W. Batten to know the newes, his letter said nothing of it; but all the towne is full of a victory. By and by a letter from Sir W. Coventry tells me that we have the victory. Beat them into the Weelings; had taken two of their great ships; but by the orders of the Generalls they are burned. This being, methought, but a poor result after the fighting of two so great fleetes, and four days having no tidings of them, I was still impatient; but could know no more. So away home to dinner, where Mr. Spong and Reeves dined with me by invitation. And after dinner to our business of my microscope to be shown some of the observables of that, and then down to my office to looke in a darke room with my glasses and tube, and most excellently things appeared indeed beyond imagination. This was our worke all the afternoon trying the several glasses and several objects, among others, one of my plates, where the lines appeared so very plain that it is not possible to thinke how plain it was done.
Thence satisfied exceedingly with all this we home and to discourse many pretty things, and so staid out the afternoon till it began to be dark, and then they away and I to Sir W. Batten, where the Lieutenant of the Tower was, and Sir John Minnes, and the newes I find is no more or less than what I had heard before; only that our Blue squadron, it seems, was pursued the most of the time, having more ships, a great many, than its number allotted to her share. Young Seamour is killed, the only captain slain. The Resolution burned; but, as they say, most of her [crew] and commander saved. This is all, only we keep the sea, which denotes a victory, or at least that we are not beaten; but no great matters to brag of, God knows. So home to supper and to bed.

making a book by hand
with what patience I know

a thousand bells rung
as the church burned

or in a microscope how things appear
beyond imagination

I work all afternoon
on one line

no ink as dark
as the blue I pursue


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Sunday 29 July 1666.

Self-portrait, with Out-of-Body Experience

"Everything has two handles: one
by which it may be carried, the other
by which it can't." ~ Epictetus


On a day of continuous rain, I start
again to make inventory: the shirt

that no longer buttons in the middle,
the trousers with broken zippers.

But I would rather try to bring shine
back to the scuffed hardwood floor

than put things in either of two bags
marked donation or trash; would rather

sweep up the dust and wipe last night's
cooking stains off the counter. We're almost

out of rice but the fig tree in the yard
has showered us daily with fruit. All

the money I earned in summer is gone,
but work starts again in three weeks.

We have possibly more books than I
could finish in one lifetime,

but since I've started slowly reading
through them, perhaps this doesn't strictly

qualify as tsundoku. My horoscope says
memories weigh down my thoughts; and so

I might find myself overreacting, discarding
items from the past without remembering

how much they mean to me. Sometimes
the moment between one effort and the next

is loud as the alarm triggered by a trip-
wire. Sometimes, it is the briefest

shimmer of quiet when I feel my ghost
unlatches: it walks around the kitchen

island without picking up a knife to slice
tomatoes, without gathering into its arms

a warm new load of laundry with that faint
human smell which soap can't quite dispel.

Cravings

Up, and to the office, where no more newes of the fleete than was yesterday. Here we sat and at noon to dinner to the Pope’s Head, where my Lord Bruncker and his mistresse dined and Commissioner Pett, Dr. Charleton, and myself, entertained with a venison pasty by Sir W. Warren. Here very pretty discourse of Dr. Charleton’s, concerning Nature’s fashioning every creature’s teeth according to the food she intends them; and that men’s, it is plain, was not for flesh, but for fruit, and that he can at any time tell the food of a beast unknown by the teeth. My Lord Bruncker made one or two objections to it that creatures find their food proper for their teeth rather than that the teeth were fitted for the food, but the Doctor, I think, did well observe that creatures do naturally and from the first, before they have had experience to try, do love such a food rather than another, and that all children love fruit, and none brought to flesh, but against their wills at first.
Thence with my Lord Bruncker to White Hall, where no news. So to St. James’s to Sir W. Coventry, and there hear only of the Bredah’s being come in and gives the same small account that the other did yesterday, so that we know not what is done by the body of the fleete at all, but conceive great reason to hope well.
Thence with my Lord to his coach-house, and there put in his six horses into his coach, and he and I alone to Highgate. All the way going and coming I learning of him the principles of Optickes, and what it is that makes an object seem less or bigger and how much distance do lessen an object, and that it is not the eye at all, or any rule in optiques, that can tell distance, but it is only an act of reason comparing of one mark with another, which did both please and inform me mightily. Being come thither we went to my Lord Lauderdale’s house to speake with him, about getting a man at Leith to joyne with one we employ to buy some prize goods for the King; we find [him] and his lady and some Scotch people at supper. Pretty odd company; though my Lord Bruncker tells me, my Lord Lauderdale is a man of mighty good reason and judgement. But at supper there played one of their servants upon the viallin some Scotch tunes only; several, and the best of their country, as they seemed to esteem them, by their praising and admiring them: but, Lord! the strangest ayre that ever I heard in my life, and all of one cast. But strange to hear my Lord Lauderdale say himself that he had rather hear a cat mew, than the best musique in the world; and the better the musique, the more sicke it makes him; and that of all instruments, he hates the lute most, and next to that, the baggpipe.
Thence back with my Lord to his house, all the way good discourse, informing of myself about optiques still, and there left him and by a hackney home, and after writing three or four letters, home to supper and to bed.

nature fashioning teeth for flesh
teeth for teeth
teeth for love

white horses
going and coming

lessen the distance
to joy
or the odd scotch


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Saturday 28 July 1666.

Poetry Blog Digest 2019: Week 31

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, lamentation and celebration—like every week, I suppose, only thrown into sharper relief by current events. But mostly the joy of reading and writing poems.


America is now a map of lies, a map of bigotry. Perhaps it always was, and I just didn’t see it. It is easier to buy a gun than it is to find a safe place to live. If you hate the right people, the bulk of the population will love you; your hatred will be admirable, like an achievement. If you hate the right people, the brown ones, the map of lies will unfold at your feet. At last you will have a place to go where hate is love, where servitude is equality. The collective hatred and bigotry will take on the shape of hot air balloon to lift the true believers up to their make-believe heaven.

James Lee Jobe, prose poem – ‘America is now a map of lies’

I’ve curated a new prayer for Tisha b’Av that interweaves quotes from Lamentations with quotes from migrants and refugees on the United States’ southern border today. In reading the prayer aloud, we put the words of refugees — parents separated from their children; children separated from their parents; human beings suffering in atrocious conditions — into our own mouths. May hearing ourselves speak these words galvanize us to action.

Here’s a taste:

They told me, ‘you don’t have any rights here,
and you don’t have any rights to stay with your son.’

I died at that moment. They ripped my heart out of me.
For me, it would have been better if I had dropped dead.

For me, the world ended at that point.
How can a mother not have the right to be with her son?…

The prayer is online (and also available as a downloadable PDF) at Bayit‘s Builders Blog, and you can find it here: Lamentations (Then and Now).

Rachel Barenblat, A new prayer for Tisha b’Av

This poem [“Your Body” by Ann Gray] confronts and unnerves because, unlike the Victorians, we have removed ourselves from physical contact with the dead. Some of their customs persisted into the 1950s. As a child I was shocked when a classmate of mine in Primary School, Geoffrey Brooke, died of meningitis (none of us knew what that was; just that it was frightening, that it could visit any of us). More shocked when his mother invited us, his 8 and 9 year old classmates, to come and see him laid out in his coffin in the single downstairs room of their terrace house. When it came to it, I stayed outside. Some of my friends went in, and when they came out they would say nothing about it. Not then, and not later.

When my dad died, and years later, my mother, they were whisked away before I could see them. They vanished.

I wonder what I ever made of Sassoon’s line from The Dugout
You are too young to fall asleep forever;
And when you sleep you remind me of the dead.

It was just an idea, a notion. I think we too often persuade ourselves we understand. Unlike Hamlet, we are happy to conflate sleep and death and leave it there.

Which is why I need poems like Your body. One of my sons committed suicide by jumping from a high rise block of flats. The police told me that I wouldn’t want to see him, and I was too stunned to argue. I have no idea who identified him, or how, but it wasn’t his mother, or me. We couldn’t have a funeral until a long-postponed inquest was over, and his body was released. In his coffin, only his face was visible. His face was like the death mask of a beautiful stranger. It was unmarked, and he really did seem unnaturally asleep. I kissed him, but he didn’t wake.

Years later I had to go with my partner to identify the body of her ex-husband in the morgue in Wakefield. It was so bizarre, so unreal, like a piece of theatrical still life. I thought I would never find words for it and maybe I shouldn’t try. Now I know I was wrong in that, as in so many things, because of this lovely, tender, terrible, astonishing poem. 

John Foggin, Poetry that really matters: Ann Gray [Part One]

We text. She sends me Poké gifts,
and I say thank you. She says for what, and I flash
my phone so she can see we’re both in the same app.
We roll our eyes at the same time. We drip. We drift.
We cheered the drag queens, hot sun on glitter and sequins.
Drag queens still dance, music pounds, but us? We are done.

PF Anderson, After Performing at Pride

There are so many magazine and literary journals out there, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and to not know where to start. For me, Twitter is a great place to discover new poems, poets, and journals I want to follow. Here are a few poems I read recently and loved. And yes, I discovered all of them via Twitter.

“People call her Bride of. The Bride of. Of this broken man
who made a broken man from parts of broken men.”
~ from The Bride of Frankenstein Considers Her Options by Meghan Phillips, published by Strange Horizons

” —& so i am learning to call unpleasant histories by their real names—such as what i demand of love—and that i used to be a boy—to think that if this body was a prison what happened when i escaped”
~ from If the Body is a Prison-House Where is the Warden I Have Some Complaints About the Plumbing by Danielle Rose, published by Third Point Press

” In other news, this is the top. Weep for what little things
would make them jealous. I publish a poem”
~ from In Which I Am Accused of Sleeping My Way to the Top by Jill McDonough, published by The Threepenny Review

Courtney LeBlanc, A Few More Poems I Love

Away from my normal routines for ten days in Portugal, I looked at Twitter occasionally and kept seeing references to “that essay” by poet Bob Hicok. I’ll scout it out later, I thought, first busy with the MLA International Symposium in Lisbon; then laid up in my hotel room with a stomach bug; and finally traipsing around Porto, making up for lost time and calories. I arrived home late this Thursday, and catching up with other people and tasks seemed more important. Scrolling through social media Saturday morning, though, I saw a smart set of questions Paisley Rekdal had posted in response to the piece, along with a link to the essay itself (which had been a little hard to find–people clearly don’t want to promote it). Okay, okay, FINE, I grumbled, brewed another pot of chai, and read it.

The essay isn’t good, no matter what you think of the argument. It belabors its point, which is basically that Hicok is “dying as a poet” (meaning, apparently, not attracting as many readers as he used to), and while it’s good, he concedes, that writers who are not “straight white men” like him are now getting attention, and he’s grateful to have had a good run, he’s sad to lose the limelight. If a writer-friend had told me this privately, over drinks, I would have felt embarrassed for him–listen to yourself, dude! Literature is not a zero-sum game, and nobody has taken your micro-celebrity away from you! I suppose it’s useful, though, that someone has voiced all this in print. I know other people think similarly: I’ve heard the asides, and seen the facial expressions, by white writers of various ages and genders, although whenever I’ve sensed a lament like this emerging in my company, I’ve either cut it short or walked away. […]

It is certainly true that while there are more presses and contests than ever before, there’s now a larger pool of people competing for them, as well as a real hunger from readers for stories and poems from less-familiar perspectives. I’m one of those readers, and I’m very glad publishing is more inclusive than it used to be–I hope the trend continues, and as poetry editor of Shenandoah, I try to help it along. Such richness benefits everyone who cares about literature. It’s also true that I’m striving, meanwhile, for my own foothold in the scene, and I get sad about the difficulty of that sometimes. What I keep coming back to: the only way to stay sane is to make sure your writing is urgent, well-crafted stuff, and to use whatever space and advantages you have to help others do good work, too, and feel some love for it. Then, whether or not you earn a lucky spot on the stage yourself one day, you’ll feel okay about how you’ve spent your hours.

Lesley Wheeler, Sharing space in poetry (“that essay”)

So, I posted a couple of observations on that Utne reader Bob Hicok essay on Facebook (if you are interested, you can read the threads here) and thought I might develop further here. This is not just to pile on to Bob’s racist/sexist/privilege issues but to discuss other issues his essay brings up. I think he’s missing a few larger issues in publishing, book sales, and mindset.

  • Bob has won two (!!) NEA fellowships and a Guggenheim, as well as a pretty cushy teaching gig, and has published ten books. I just, sorry, don’t feel like weeping for him because I (and most of my friends) have never had any of those things. Never been in Poetry or the New Yorker either. So, you know, he needs to check his privilege before he gets whine-y. Lots of poets have never been the flavor of the month, but Bob has had a lot of time in the sun. So it was an insensitive essay in more than one way.
  • My friend Kelli is always talking about “scarcity mentality” in poetry – the feeling that because someone else gets something, you get less. She points out that it is not true, even if it feels true, and not only that, it’s destructive. I wrote a little last week about poets cheering on other poets and how important that is. It definitely makes being the poetry world more rewarding. Helping others – by mentoring or reviewing or publishing – will increase your happiness, I guarantee. Everyone feels hurt when their book doesn’t sell or get reviewed or their book or grant gets rejected – but that hurt can be mitigated.
  • What Bob is lamenting – that his books sell less, that he gets fewer reviews – has nothing to do with poets of color, LGBTQ writers, or women getting more air time. It has to do with the landscape of publishing. The print book market is very fragmented, and I’d bet that most poets are selling fewer books and getting fewer reviews because there are so many books out there now. Gen Z have their own book buying tastes and habits – very different than his generation. Instagram poets, for instance. It’s not bad, just different, than it used to be. I’m sure, say, Billy Collins is still doing fine. Book publishing in general is changing. Book reviewing is in flux, too.
  • Also, it seems strange to talk about how all these troublesome non-white-male poets are taking up space when most of the prestige poetry presses and journals ARE STILL RUN BY WHITE MEN. I was trying to name the poetry presses run by women and people of color – can you help me? Are they the ones most poets want to be published by with, or get good distribution? (People have mentioned: University of Akron Press, Mayapple Press, Alice James Books, Sundress, Two Sylvias Press. as presses led by women..I’d love to hear more (especially presses run by people of color?)
  • Most tenure track teaching jobs are still given to men. In academia in general, women have much less chance of being offered tenure, and I’m sure poets of color and poets with disabilities could talk more about their experience with this. You’ve already lucked out if you’re an older poet with a tenured teaching job.
  • I don’t know about other reviewers, but there’s a reason I like to shine a spotlight when I do reviews of poets of color, women, LGBTQ poets, and poets with disabilities. In general, these poets are more vulnerable to prejudice, so I think it’s more important that their voices are heard above the crowd.
  • What am I missing? Anything else to add to the discussion?
Jeannine Hall Gailey, Taking the Fall, A Few Thoughts on that Utne Poetry Essay, and Poetry Reviews, Sales, and Empowerment

Ammons’s poetry is a poetry of open-endedness, rather than of closed forms.  In line 121 [of “Corson’s Inlet’], he eschews the “easy victory” of traditional formal poetry (identified in the “narrow orders, limited tightness” of line 120), knowing that the deeper nature of the world is anything other than such “narrowness” of form might imply.

In some sense, poetry, of course, is inescapably form.  So Ammons admits in his conclusion to “Corson’s Inlet” that he has no choice but to try
     to fasten into order enlarging grasps of disorder, widening
scope, but enjoying the freedom that
Scope eludes my grasp, that there is no finality of vision,
that I have perceived nothing completely,
     that tomorrow a new walk is a new walk.

This statement suggests that, at least in Ammons’ view, a new poem must also create poetry itself anew, that a poet cannot simply rely on the predictable patterns of form but must allow the poem to find its own form in response to nature and the changing world it grapples with.  Ammons asserts that that world is necessarily disordered and in a state of ongoing change and that, therefore, instead of trying to show one’s poetic mastery by imposing a predetermined form over it, the poet must listen to nature, must listen to language itself, and allow him- or herself to “go with the flow” of that flux: “I have perceived nothing completely” — a nor can one ever, for all is mediated by the particular dynamics of the mind.

It is interesting to compare this poem with another Ammons piece, which is overtly an ars poetica, being titled “Poetics” (pp. 26-27).  It does very similar things.  Where, in “Corson’s Inlet,” the poem runs “like a stream,” here it is “spiralling from a center” (line 3).  Ammons opens himself to “the shape / things will take to come forth in” (4-5), yet when they do, as the birch tree in lines 6-10, it is merely or even “totally its apparent self.”  The poem, for Ammons, is not only the shape of the poem as written down, “but the / uninterfering means on paper” (17-18) — and more important is that the poet be
     available
to any shape that may be
summoning itself
through me
from the self not mine but ours. (20-24)

In other words, it is not about the individual poet, the supposedly autonomous individual artist (as “great,” or what have you) but in fact more about forgetting the self, the ego, and opening up outwardly to — let’s call it the “cosmos,” at the risk of sounding over-serious and for lack of a less grandiose word.

Mike Begnal, On A. R. Ammons, “Corson’s Inlet” & “Poetics”

The last few months, I’ve been working on a more meta project, spawned by some less coherent thoughts I had when I was working on my actual artist statement. How to convey a whole world–a whole aesthetic framework, without delving into something a little more creative when it feels like you are supposed to be more expository somehow.  What wound up resulting was a lot of fun.  How to write about the endeavor of writing poems (and I use “poetry” loosely since most of my stuff takes the form of prose lately).

The subject matter of the pieces take a lot from my experience writing as a woman, of subject matter, of the academic-poetry complex.  Of desire and sex and writing.  The closest thing I can compare it to in my past writings would be this poem, which opens major characters in minor films, which touches on some of the similar ideas, but in a less specific way. Some of the artist statement pieces are coming soon in an issue of TYPEHOUSE, so watch for that to get a sampling. 

Kristy Bowen, artist statements

So I have some news. It’s kind of stellar and I just can’t stop smiling. It’s been almost a week and the effect hasn’t worn off yet. I am beyond thrilled and mega excited to announce that my book, GALLERY of POSTCARDS and MAPS: NEW and SELECTED, will be published by Salmon Press of Ireland (with US distribution). This makes this getting older thing not so hard to take. 

Over the past 20 years I’ve published four books of poetry starting with THE CARTOGRAPHER’S TONGUE / POEMS of the WORLD which focused on my time in the Peace Corps in West Africa, my Fulbright in South Africa and the death of both my parents. This book won both the PEN USA Award and the Peace Corps Writers Award. Next was CURES INCLUDE TRAVEL and then THE ALCHEMIST’s KITCHEN and CLOUD PHARMACY, all published by White Pine Press. You might notice they all seem to be on sale at the moment!

There are so many people to thank for helping make this book and its publication a reality (well, it’s not going to be out for a little while) but let me start with the main inspirations: Ilya Kaminsky, Geraldine Mills, Sandy Yaonne, and of course, the amazing Jessie Lendennie.  Sometimes the stars really do align. Or as my dear friend, the poet Kelli Russell Agodon says, maybe it was the chipmunk that came out of nowhere to stare at me for a good long while on a summer morning.

Susan Rich, Announcing a Forthcoming Miracle from Salmon Press: GALLERY OF POSTCARDS AND MAPS

One of my favorite poems in the collection – since I also mine pop culture for images and inspiration – is “Mission Dolores.” That’s the church in Vertigo where Jimmy Stewart follows Kim Novak when she leaves flowers on the grave of Carlotta Valdez. The poem not only summons up Hitchcock and Novak, but Dusty Springfield, Pet Shop Boys and Bridget Bardot, while noting that the 80s have become reminiscent of the 50s for the fearmongering and dread. Let’s not forget that it was nearly a  decade into the plague before President Reagan even uttered the word AIDS.

The mythology derived from the symbol might be an illusion
but not the reality in the fact that Thank God and thank you
General Motors Cadillacs are getting bigger again
so that this dreadful era becomes reminiscent of the ’50s
as if escape were indeed possible
as I walk by the Mission’s garden and all at once a stiff breeze
affects even my pompadour stiff with pomade 
and from out of the fog a long black Cadillac passes me by
and I needn’t wonder if inside the body is still alive. 


That poem was written on my birthday, Sept. 17, in 1989. It’s just another incident of synchronicity and a sign from the other side as I begin compiling my next manuscript, which focuses on my late uncle, Terry Graves, his time in San Francisco and his death from AIDS just a year before Karl. Terry and Karl were in San Francisco at the same time, and I can’t help but wonder if they encountered each other. Maybe in a poem they will.

I have a love//hate relationship with San Francisco, but I’ve been feeling the need to return. Urgently. And Karl’s poems only solidified that. It’s amazing when poetry can move and motivate you enough to want to travel across a continent. That’s what Karl Tierney’s will do for you.

Thank you, Sibling Rivarly, for bringing this book [Have You Seen This Man? The Castro Poems of Karl Tierney] into the world and making Karl Tierney immortal.

Collin Kelley, In the Castro with Karl Tierney

I love breaking words apart, especially words in foreign languages, and learning their etymology and usage. The idea of having a word warehouse in my head feels like the perfect analogy. The words all stored in various boxes and filing cabinents. I’m sure the organisation is an absolute mess, like most of my real-life storage. Items organised by need, use and more random connections rather than some systematic method. When I lived with my parents I kept my library card in a laundry basket in the basement. If someone moved it, I could never think where it should sensibly be, but I could always find it with my way. Our own systems work.

So when I look for the word ‘door’ in Finnish, I know I’d be shuffling through files of Scottish Gaelic to find it. I was just watching a video of the Scottish Poet Laureate Jackie Kay reciting her poem ‘Threshold’ to the opening of the Scottish Parliament in 2016. She mentioned that in Gaelic they say ‘dùin an doras‘ for ‘shut the door’ and that took me back to learning Gaelic in Glasgow, so many years ago. ‘Don’t shut the door’ was also one of the first phrases I learned in Finnish when my son shouted it over and over at nursery when it was time for me leave. These memories pile up on top of the word ‘door’ in a wonderful scrapbook.

It’s also how my writing works, I start with a prompt, specific or more general and I just follow it where it leads me, jumping from one image or connection to the next. I might look at crafting a poem from the idea of shutting the door in several languages just from writing that paragraph. My poems have begun to cross over into Finnish and other languages more and more as I shuffle through the collected images and memories in my brain while I write. 

Gerry Stewart, Scattershot

And then the door swung wide
and the music bloomed like a tin flower:
John McCormack singing The Rose of Tralee.
And a four-square farmer’s wife came stepping
high over the tussocks, scarved and booted,
ringing a bucket like a broken bell.

And she’s singing too, singing in a wild
soprano, keen as the edge of a spinning
slate, plaiting her voice around McCormack’s
skinny tenor, scattering the gulls and lifting
a fishing heron out of the shallows
and into the all-accommodating sky.

Dick Jones, Looking for U2…

Slow talk

Up and to the office, where all the morning busy. At noon dined at home and then to the office again, and there walking in the garden with Captain Cocke till 5 o’clock. No newes yet of the fleete. His great bargaine of Hempe with us by his unknown proposition is disliked by the King, and so is quite off; of which he is glad, by this means being rid of his obligation to my Lord Bruncker, which he was tired with, and especially his mistresse, Mrs. Williams, and so will fall into another way about it, wherein he will advise only with myself, which do not displease me, and will be better for him and the King too.
Much common talke of publique business, the want of money, the uneasinesse that Parliament will find in raising any, and the ill condition we shall be in if they do not, and his confidence that the Swede is true to us, but poor, but would be glad to do us all manner of service in the world.
He gone, I away by water from the Old Swan to White Hall. The waterman tells me that newes is come that our ship Resolution is burnt, and that we had sunke four or five of the enemy’s ships. When I come to White Hall I met with Creed, and he tells me the same news, and walking with him to the Park I to Sir W. Coventry’s lodging, and there he showed me Captain Talbot’s letter, wherein he says that the fight begun on the 25th; that our White squadron begun with one of the Dutch squadrons, and then the Red with another so hot that we put them both to giving way, and so they continued in pursuit all the day, and as long as he stayed with them: that the Blue fell to the Zealand squadron; and after a long dispute, he against two or three great ships, he received eight or nine dangerous shots, and so come away; and says, he saw the Resolution burned by one of their fire-ships, and four or five of the enemy’s. But says that two or three of our great ships were in danger of being fired by our owne fire-ships, which Sir W. Coventry, nor I, cannot understand. But upon the whole, he and I walked two or three turns in the Parke under the great trees, and do doubt that this gallant is come away a little too soon, having lost never a mast nor sayle. And then we did begin to discourse of the young gentlemen captains, which he was very free with me in speaking his mind of the unruliness of them; and what a losse the King hath of his old men, and now of this Hannam, of the Resolution, if he be dead, and that there is but few old sober men in the fleete, and if these few of the Flags that are so should die, he fears some other gentlemen captains will get in, and then what a council we shall have, God knows. He told me how he is disturbed to hear the commanders at sea called cowards here on shore, and that he was yesterday concerned publiquely at a dinner to defend them, against somebody that said that not above twenty of them fought as they should do, and indeed it is derived from the Duke of Albemarle himself, who wrote so to the King and Duke, and that he told them how they fought four days, two of them with great disadvantage. The Count de Guiche, who was on board De Ruyter, writing his narrative home in French of the fight, do lay all the honour that may be upon the English courage above the Dutch, and that he himself was sent down from the King and Duke of Yorke after the fight, to pray them to spare none that they thought had not done their parts, and that they had removed but four, whereof Du Tell is one, of whom he would say nothing; but, it seems, the Duke of Yorke hath been much displeased at his removal, and hath now taken him into his service, which is a plain affront to the Duke of Albemarle; and two of the others, Sir W. Coventry did speake very slenderly of their faults. Only the last, which was old Teddiman, he says, is in fault, and hath little to excuse himself with; and that, therefore, we should not be forward in condemning men of want of courage, when the Generalls, who are both men of metal, and hate cowards, and had the sense of our ill successe upon them (and by the way must either let the world thinke it was the miscarriage of the Captains or their owne conduct), have thought fit to remove no more of them, when desired by the King and Duke of Yorke to do it, without respect to any favour any of them can pretend to in either of them.
At last we concluded that we never can hope to beat the Dutch with such advantage as now in number and force and a fleete in want of nothing, and he hath often repeated now and at other times industriously that many of the Captains have: declared that they want nothing, and again, that they did lie ten days together at the Nore without demanding of any thing in the world but men, and of them they afterward, when they went away, the generalls themselves acknowledge that they have permitted several ships to carry supernumeraries.
But that if we do not speede well, we must then play small games and spoile their trade in small parties.
And so we parted, and I, meeting Creed in the Parke again, did take him by coach and to Islington, thinking to have met my Lady Pen and wife, but they were gone, so we eat and drank and away back, setting him down in Cheapside and I home, and there after a little while making of my tune to “It is decreed,” to bed.

where the clock
is unknown it is like
another world

sunk in the blue
the trees speak
sober as old metal

when we have nothing
together but knowledge
we do not speed

small games spoil
small parties
I take my own tune to bed


Erasure poem derived from The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Friday 27 July 1666.

Instructions for Passage

There, that one: and fingers point 
at this body. It doesn't know
itself except for how it occupies
space and is anxious about time.
How is it responsible for the lamp
that didn't shine in the room,
for the clothes shredded under
the weight of neglect or bread
that the crow stole from the sill?
A roach climbs out of the drain
and flees at the strike of a match.
This body traces the grooves
of its ruefulness and lo
and behold, canals spring up
overnight, littered with flat-
bottomed craft and boatmen
calling out their one-way
fares. Don't feed the monkeys.
Don't look over your shoulder.
The sun that rose in the east
will set in the west.