Sunday, September 30, 2012

Every Year I Support Banned Book Week. And Every Year the Top Comment I See is, "They haven't banned books for years."

This was dated May 9, 2012.
Fifty Shades of Grey banned from Florida libraries: Bestselling erotic novel removed from shelves in Brevard County as other US libraries make the most of title's popularity

The American Library Association, (ALA), has released the top ten most frequently challenged books of 2011.
You can see the full list here.

1. ttyl; ttfn; l8r, g8r (series), by Lauren Myracle
2. The Color of Earth (series), by Kim Dong Hwa
3. The Hunger Games trilogy, by Suzanne Collins
4. My Mom’s Having A Baby! A Kid’s Month-by-Month Guide to Pregnancy, by Dori Hillestad Butler
5. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
6. Alice (series), by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
7. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley
8. What My Mother Doesn’t Know, by Sonya Sones
9. Gossip Girl (series), by Cecily Von Ziegesar
10. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Banned Book Week on Facebook.


Saturday, September 29, 2012

Coming Tomorrow . . .


It can be amusing, exasperating, or just plain maddening.

Browse on over to this site, and maybe you'll find something to read this week.

11 Most Ironically Banned Books Of All Time

"I had a running compiler and nobody would touch it. ... they carefully told me, computers could only do arithmetic; they could not do programs."

black and white poster of a moth with the name Grace Hopper underneath it

Computer scientist Grace Hopper was instrumental in developing the first computer, the Harvard Mark I, and the first computer programming language, COBOL. 

Here a a couple of entirely appropriate, computer generated haiku:

chair plunder to you
you challenged and approved more
I went estrogen

leaving my target
I considered my fingers
into my sugar

Have some fun and generate your own:  Random Haiku OR Poetry CreatOR 2
For more information on Grace Hopper, try: linky, linky, linky, & linky.
Poster by: HYDROGENE

Friday, September 28, 2012

Gratitude to Old Teachers

old black and white picture of five girls in skates on a frozen pond smiling for the camera
- Robert Bly

When we stride or stroll across the frozen lake,
We place our feet where they have never been.
We walk upon the unwalked. But we are uneasy.
Who is down there but our old teachers?
Water that once could take no human weight
We were students then-holds up our feet,
And goes on ahead of us for a mile.
Beneath us the teachers, and around us the stillness.

from: Eating the Honey of Words. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Be Yourself . . . With Gusto

Goody! Goody!

Guess what the mail lady brought today.  Go ahead. Guess.

I got a killer deal on two books that I've wanted for years. These are not books that will be read quickly, reviewed, and shelved. They will be providing much wonderful material for this humble blog (and pleasure for me) for a long time to come.

          They are:

Nice and thick and loaded with beauty.                                       

Filled with many voices I've never heard. I am so excited!

Here is a selection from my new Anthology. It's a bit long, but well worth the read, and goes to the political / personal dilemma. Some of you might remember my mention of this book in my What Does a Poet Laureate Do? post on Rita Dove. As editor, her choices for inclusion were considered controversial.

Personally, I wonder why you would even bother to publish a new anthology if you are going to include the same material as each one before. You can't keep making them bigger to include all the newer poets. Think of all the students whose lives are at risk! Then you have groups of folks who think that certain other groups should be excluded altogether - quite a few of them actually. If your goal is to create a representation of the face of the entire country, they'll never be happy. I wouldn't want the job of editing a poetry anthology for anything in the world!

My hat is off to Rita Dove. And I intend to enjoy the old friends she has included in this volume, explore the new ones she has seen fit to bring to me, and try to understand the messages that make me uncomfortable. I won't like every poet in the anthology. I never do. And that is OK.

Poem about My Rights
Even tonight and I need to take a walk and clear   
my head about this poem about why I can’t   
go out without changing my clothes my shoes   
my body posture my gender identity my age
my status as a woman alone in the evening/   
alone on the streets/alone not being the point/
the point being that I can’t do what I want   
to do with my own body because I am the wrong   
sex the wrong age the wrong skin and   
suppose it was not here in the city but down on the beach/   
or far into the woods and I wanted to go   
there by myself thinking about God/or thinking   
about children or thinking about the world/all of it   
disclosed by the stars and the silence:   
I could not go and I could not think and I could not   
stay there   
as I need to be   
alone because I can’t do what I want to do with my own   
body and   
who in the hell set things up   
like this   
and in France they say if the guy penetrates   
but does not ejaculate then he did not rape me   
and if after stabbing him if after screams if   
after begging the bastard and if even after smashing   
a hammer to his head if even after that if he   
and his buddies fuck me after that   
then I consented and there was   
no rape because finally you understand finally   
they fucked me over because I was wrong I was   
wrong again to be me being me where I was/wrong
to be who I am   
which is exactly like South Africa   
penetrating into Namibia penetrating into
Angola and does that mean I mean how do you know if
Pretoria ejaculates what will the evidence look like the
proof of the monster jackboot ejaculation on Blackland
and if
after Namibia and if after Angola and if after Zimbabwe
and if after all of my kinsmen and women resist even to
self-immolation of the villages and if after that
we lose nevertheless what will the big boys say will they
claim my consent:
Do You Follow Me: We are the wrong people of
the wrong skin on the wrong continent and what
in the hell is everybody being reasonable about
and according to the Times this week
back in 1966 the C.I.A. decided that they had this problem
and the problem was a man named Nkrumah so they
killed him and before that it was Patrice Lumumba
and before that it was my father on the campus
of my Ivy League school and my father afraid
to walk into the cafeteria because he said he
was wrong the wrong age the wrong skin the wrong
gender identity and he was paying my tuition and
before that
it was my father saying I was wrong saying that   
I should have been a boy because he wanted one/a
boy and that I should have been lighter skinned and
that I should have had straighter hair and that
I should not be so boy crazy but instead I should
just be one/a boy and before that         
it was my mother pleading plastic surgery for
my nose and braces for my teeth and telling me
to let the books loose to let them loose in other
I am very familiar with the problems of the C.I.A.
and the problems of South Africa and the problems
of Exxon Corporation and the problems of white
America in general and the problems of the teachers
and the preachers and the F.B.I. and the social
workers and my particular Mom and Dad/I am very
familiar with the problems because the problems   
turn out to be   
I am the history of rape   
I am the history of the rejection of who I am   
I am the history of the terrorized incarceration of   
I am the history of battery assault and limitless   
armies against whatever I want to do with my mind   
and my body and my soul and   
whether it’s about walking out at night   
or whether it’s about the love that I feel or   
whether it’s about the sanctity of my vagina or   
the sanctity of my national boundaries   
or the sanctity of my leaders or the sanctity   
of each and every desire   
that I know from my personal and idiosyncratic   
and indisputably single and singular heart   
I have been raped   
cause I have been wrong the wrong sex the wrong age   
the wrong skin the wrong nose the wrong hair the   
wrong need the wrong dream the wrong geographic   
the wrong sartorial I   
I have been the meaning of rape   
I have been the problem everyone seeks to   
eliminate by forced   
penetration with or without the evidence of slime and/   
but let this be unmistakable this poem   
is not consent I do not consent   
to my mother to my father to the teachers to   
the F.B.I. to South Africa to Bedford-Stuy   
to Park Avenue to American Airlines to the hardon   
idlers on the corners to the sneaky creeps in   
I am not wrong: Wrong is not my name
My name is my own my own my own   
and I can’t tell you who the hell set things up like this
but I can tell you that from now on my resistance   
my simple and daily and nightly self-determination   
may very well cost you your life

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Monday, September 24, 2012

Kilt Monday!

Because let's face it, Mondays are hard rough difficult. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

O Black and Unknown Bards

  by James Weldon Johnson

O black and unknown bards of long ago,
How came your lips to touch the sacred fire?
How, in your darkness, did you come to know
The power and beauty of the minstrel's lyre?
Who first from midst his bonds lifted his eyes?
Who first from out the still watch, lone and long,
Feeling the ancient faith of prophets rise
Within his dark-kept soul, burst into song? 
Heart of what slave poured out such melody
As "Steal away to Jesus"? On its strains
His spirit must have nightly floated free,
Though still about his hands he felt his chains.
Who heard great "Jordan roll"? Whose starward eye
Saw chariot "swing low"? And who was he
That breathed that comforting, melodic sigh,
"Nobody knows de trouble I see"? 
What merely living clod, what captive thing,
Could up toward God through all its darkness grope,
And find within its deadened heart to sing
These songs of sorrow, love and faith, and hope?
How did it catch that subtle undertone,
That note in music heard not with the ears?
How sound the elusive reed so seldom blown,
Which stirs the soul or melts the heart to tears. 
Not that great German master in his dream
Of harmonies that thundered amongst the stars
At the creation, ever heard a theme
Nobler than "Go down, Moses." Mark its bars
How like a mighty trumpet-call they stir
The blood. Such are the notes that men have sung
Going to valorous deeds; such tones there were
That helped make history when Time was young. 
There is a wide, wide wonder in it all,
That from degraded rest and servile toil
The fiery spirit of the seer should call
These simple children of the sun and soil.
O black slave singers, gone, forgot, unfamed,
You—you alone, of all the long, long line
Of those who've sung untaught, unknown, unnamed,
Have stretched out upward, seeking the divine. 
You sang not deeds of heroes or of kings;
No chant of bloody war, no exulting pean
Of arms-won triumphs; but your humble strings
You touched in chord with music empyrean.
You sang far better than you knew; the songs
That for your listeners' hungry hearts sufficed
Still live,—but more than this to you belongs:
You sang a race from wood and stone to Christ. 

From: The Book of American Negro Poetry, 1922.

Friday, September 21, 2012

And the Beat Goes On . . .

Quote of the Day

Who is more humble? The scientist who looks at the universe with an open mind and accepts whatever the universe has to teach us, or somebody who says everything in this book must be considered the literal truth and never mind the fallibility of all the human beings involved?
 ― Carl Sagan


Gorrill's Orchard - Jeanne E. Clark 

There is a special enjoyment that comes with reading the poetry of poets I know, and this book was no exception.

A small sample:


Were she mine I would call her Petunia,
a girl entering the creek's clear chill one
eager step at a time. Her grasp,

arms high over her head, then settling
on the water like sunlight. Her gap-toothed smile,
too large for her face and too
small for her joy as she moves farther out,

her hands and arms sweeping like a strong broom.
Then stopping she calls back:

The water here is warm. Oh, come in everyone!
And for a moment my fallow heart wades out.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012


. . .  Happy Talk Like a Pirate Day.

Happy Belated Birthday Voyager I

I can't believe it has been 35 years!
 Where has the time gone?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Do We Miss These Days Yet?

Another 'Should Read' List . . . and a Query

The Telegraph offers what it considers "the essential fiction library." We run into this type of list all over the internet, the end of the year being prime 'list season' for some reason. Although everyone and their grandmother has no trouble in telling us what we "should" read, they rarely give an explanation of why we should read each revered offering. 

That is my question, "Why."

I'm interested in what you think is important to read. But I want to know why you think it is important.

What has it done for mankind, society? More importantly, what did it do for you? And believe me, "It proved to me just how much pain I could bear," is just as valid a response as any other.

row of old leather bound books

100 novels everyone should read

100. The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkein - WH Auden thought this tale of fantastic creatures looking for lost jewellery was a “masterpiece”.

99. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - A child’s-eye view of racial prejudice and freaky neighbours in Thirties Alabama.

98. The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore - A rich Bengali noble lives happily until a radical revolutionary appears.

97. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams - Earth is demolished to make way for a Hyperspatial Express Route. Don’t panic.

96. One Thousand and One Nights Anon - A Persian king’s new bride tells tales to stall post-coital execution.

95. The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - Werther loves Charlotte, but she’s already engaged. Woe is he!

94. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie - The children of poor Hindus and wealthy Muslims are switched at birth.

93. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré - Nursery rhyme provides the code names for British spies suspected of treason.

92. Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons - Hilarious satire on doom-laden rural romances. “Something nasty” has been observed in the woodshed.

91. The Tale of Genji by Lady Murasaki - The life and loves of an emperor’s son. And the world’s first novel?

There is Much More,

Monday, September 17, 2012

Kilt Monday!

Because let's face it, Mondays are hard rough difficult. 


I ran across this gem by accident, in our local used book store. (the only type of book store we have left)

Yuba City is a diverse community boasting the largest Indian population outside of India and its immigrant history mirrors that of the nation at large, a nation that has often been unkind to the very groups which helped to build it. (an unhappy reality)

Ms Divakaruni pulls no punches about the culture her subjects left or the one they found waiting for them. This book is about people, their pleasures and their pain. Powerful and passionate, it gives us a glimpse into a place we've never been.
The theme for this month is 'classics,' and it occured to me that what I had just read deserves to become a member of that society. After all, what makes a poem a classic? Does it evoke a feeling more profound than you expected? Does it illuminate a piece of history or society? Does it bring the entire world into its snapshot of a moment? This collection took me to a time and place very much outside my realm of experience and understanding and made me feel profoundly.

Did I mention I sort of liked it?

It's a powerful little book and I had a difficult time choosing a poem to share with you.

The Geography Lesson

Look, says Sister Seraphina, here is
the earth.
And holds up, by its base, the metal globe
dented from that time when Ratna, not looking,
knocked it off its stand and was sent
to Mother Superior. And here

the axis on which it revolves, tilted
around the sun. Like this,
the globe a blur now,
land and water sloshed
into one muddy grey with the thick jab
of her finger.

Ratna returned to class with weal-streaked
palms, the left one bleeding slightly. She held it curled

in her lap so it wouldn’t
stain her uniform as she wrote out,
one hundred times, I will not damage
school property again.

Now each girl sits with her silent laced shoes
flat on the classroom floor. I grip
my chair-edge. I know, were it not for the Grace
of the Holy Ghost, we would all

be swept off this madly spinning world
into perdition. Sometimes I feel it
at morning mass, six a.m. and the ground
under my knees sliding away, hot press
of air on the eardrum and the blue sleeves
of the Virgin opening
into tunnels.

Ratna didn’t cry, so Sister Seraphina

pinned to her chest a placard that said,
in large black letters, WICKED. She
was to wear it till she repented, and no one
could speak to her.

This is the way the moon
travels around the earth,
says, her fist circling the globe, solid,

tight-knuckled, pink nails
clipped back to the skin. I know
the moon, dense stone
suspended in the sky’s chest,
which makes flood and madness happen and has
no light of its own. As our heathen souls
unless redeemed by Christ’s blood.

That night in the moon-flecked dormitory

we woke to Ratna thrashing around in bed,
calling for Sultan, her dog back home. She
would not quiet when told,
and when the night nun tried
to give her water, she knocked the glass
away with a swollen hand. All
over that floor, shards, glittering
like broken eyes, and against the bed-rail
the flailing sound of her bones. Until they took her

somewhere downstairs.

On this chart, points Sister, you see
the major planets of the Solar System.
Copy them carefully into your notebooks. Smudges,
and you’ll do them over.
I outline
small school house globe on a standred Mars, ringed Saturn, the far cold gleam

of Uranus, their perfect, captive turning
around a blank center which flames out
like the face of God in dreams. I will my hand
not to shake. We never saw Ratna again, and knew
not to ask.
Tomorrow we will be tested
on the various properties of the heavenly bodies,
their distance, in light years, from the sun.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Night Funeral in Harlem

  by Langston Hughes

black and white photo of a leafless tree
Night funeral
     In Harlem:

     Where did they get
     Them two fine cars?

Insurance man, he did not pay--
His insurance lapsed the other day--
Yet they got a satin box
for his head to lay.

     Night funeral
     In Harlem:

     Who was it sent
     That wreath of flowers?

Them flowers came
from that poor boy's friends--
They'll want flowers, too,
When they meet their ends.

     Night funeral 
     in Harlem:

     Who preached that
     Black boy to his grave?

Old preacher man
Preached that boy away--
Charged Five Dollars
His girl friend had to pay.

     Night funeral
     In Harlem:

When it was all over
And the lid shut on his head
and the organ had done played 
and the last prayers been said 
and six pallbearers
Carried him out for dead
And off down Lenox Avenue
That long black hearse done sped,
     The street light 
     At his corner
     Shined just like a tear--
That boy that they was mournin'
Was so dear, so dear
To them folks that brought the flowers,
To that girl who paid the preacher man--
It was all their tears that made
     That poor boy's
     Funeral grand.

     Night funeral
     In Harlem.

From: The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes. Copyright 1994. 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Ever Have One of These?

A Book Of Music

  by Jack Spicer

Coming at an end, the lovers
Are exhausted like two swimmers.  Where
Did it end?  There is no telling.  No love is
Like an ocean with the dizzy procession of the waves' boundaries
From which two can emerge exhausted, nor long goodbye
Like death.
Coming at an end.  Rather, I would say, like a length
Of coiled rope
Which does not disguise in the final twists of its lengths
Its endings.
But, you will say, we loved
And some parts of us loved
And the rest of us will remain
Two persons.  Yes,
Poetry ends like a rope.

from: A Book of Music by Jack Spicer. 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Must History Continue to Repeat Itself?

Families in the Pakistani city of Karachi have buried their dead after a fire engulfed a garment factory with workers trapped inside, killing at least 264 people.

Please spare a thought for the victims and their loved ones in this devastating time.

Robert Pinsky

The back, the yoke, the yardage. Lapped seams,
The nearly invisible stitches along the collar
Turned in a sweatshop by Koreans or Malaysians

Gossiping over tea and noodles on their break
Or talking money or politics while one fitted
This armpiece with its overseam to the band

Of cuff I button at my wrist. The presser, the cutter,
The wringer, the mangle. The needle, the union,
The treadle, the bobbin. The code. The infamous blaze

At the Triangle Factory in nineteen-eleven.
One hundred and forty-six died in the flames
On the ninth floor, no hydrants, no fire escapes--

The witness in a building across the street
Who watched how a young man helped a girl to step
Up to the windowsill, then held her out

Away from the masonry wall and let her drop.
And then another. As if he were helping them up
To enter a streetcar, and not eternity.

A third before he dropped her put her arms
Around his neck and kissed him. Then he held
Her into space, and dropped her. Almost at once

He stepped up to the sill himself, his jacket flared
And fluttered up from his shirt as he came down,
Air filling up the legs of his gray trousers--
Like Hart Crane's Bedlamite, "shrill shirt ballooning."
Wonderful how the patern matches perfectly
Across the placket and over the twin bar-tacked

Corners of both pockets, like a strict rhyme
Or a major chord. Prints, plaids, checks,
Houndstooth, Tattersall, Madras. The clan tartans

Invented by mill-owners inspired by the hoax of Ossian,
To control their savage Scottish workers, tamed
By a fabricated heraldry: MacGregor,

Bailey, MacMartin. The kilt, devised for workers
to wear among the dusty clattering looms.
Weavers, carders, spinners. The loader,

The docker, the navvy. The planter, the picker, the sorter
Sweating at her machine in a litter of cotton
As slaves in calico headrags sweated in fields:

George Herbert, your descendant is a Black
Lady in South Carolina, her name is Irma
And she inspected my shirt. Its color and fit

And feel and its clean smell have satisfied
both her and me. We have culled its cost and quality
Down to the buttons of simulated bone,

The buttonholes, the sizing, the facing, the characters
Printed in black on neckband and tail. The shape,
The label, the labor, the color, the shade. The shirt.


In a wonderful set piece called "Shirt," Pinsky broods over his purchase of a shirt. The technical terms for shirt-making in their turn evoke Korean sweatshops, the Triangle Factory fire, Scottish mills, and a black South Carolina shirt "inspector" named Irma, along with planters and pickers and sorters, weavers, carders, and loaders. 

By the end of the poem, the plain sportshirt has become a mythological shirt of flame, a history laid on the poet’s back.
- J.D. McClatchy, New Republic.

We are use to having a vast selection of consumer goods at low prices, but we are insulated from the real prices of the things we buy. 

Our industries send our jobs overseas because the labor is cheaper. The labor is cheaper because those workers do not have the protections afforded our own workers. Without those protections these workers often subsidize our purchases with their very lives.

Any Questions?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Why Read?

Lullaby in Blue

  by Betsy Sholl

a royal blue butterfly with white edges sitting on a stickThe child takes her first journey
through the inner blue world of her mother's body,
   blue veins, blue eyes, frail petal lids.

   Beyond that unborn brackish world so deep
it will be felt forever as longing, a dream
   of blue notes plucked from memory's guitar,

   the wind blows indigo shadows under streetlights,
clouds crowd the moon and bear down on the limbs
   of a blue spruce. The child's head appears—

   midnight pond, weedy and glistening—
draws back, reluctant to leave that first home.  
   Blue catch in the mother's throat,

   ferocious bruise of a growl, and out slides
the iridescent body—fish-slippery
   in her father's hands, plucked from water

   into such thin densities of air,
her arms and tiny hands stutter and flail,
   till he places her on her mother's body,

   then cuts the smoky cord, releasing her
into this world, its cold harbor below
   where a blue caul of shrink-wrap covers

   each boat gestating on the winter shore.
Child, the world comes in twos, above and below,
   visible and unseen. Inside your mother's croon

   there's the hum of an old man tapping his foot
on a porch floor, his instrument made from one
   string nailed to a wall, as if anything

   can be turned into song, always what is
and what is longed for. Against the window
   the electric blue of cop lights signals

   somebody's bad news, and a lone man walks
through the street, his guitar sealed in dark plush.
   Child, from this world now you will draw your breath

   and let out your moth flutter of blue sighs.
Now your mother will listen for each one,
   alert enough to hear snow starting to flake

   from the sky, bay water beginning to freeze.
Sleep now, little shadow, as your first world
   still flickers across your face, that other side

   where all was given and nothing desired.
Soon enough you'll want milk, want faces, hands,
   heartbeats and voices singing in your ear.

   Soon the world will amaze you, and you
will give back its bird-warble, its dove call,
   singing that blue note which deepens the song,

   that longing for what no one can recall,
your small night cry roused from the wholeness
   you carry into this broken world.

from: Rough Cradle. Copyright © 2009.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Some Ways to CELEBRATE a Memorial

one candle burning in the darkness

Do something positive for your community and register your good deed at 9/11 Day,  
"A community remembering through positive action."

Visit Search For Common Ground to support programs in conflict resolution.

Check out Americans for Informed Democracy to support tomorrows problem solvers.

Give money to relief or emergency operations or your local women’s shelter.

Practice tolerance. . . .

If you are in doubt about giving to charity. Which to choose? Are they trustworthy? Charity Navigator has data and ratings on nearly 6,000 charities worldwide.

These are just a few of the ways to honor those gone before, by reaching out to those still with us.

If you have any other ideas, please share them in the comments.

If we light enough candles, we can brighten the darkness.

many candles burning in the darkness and making it light

In Flight

white bird in flight
  by Jennifer K. Sweeney

The Himalayan legend says
there are beautiful white birds
that live completely in flight.
They are born in the air,

must learn to fly before falling
and die also in their flying.
Maybe you have been born
into such a life

with the bottom dropping out.
Maybe gravity is claiming you
and you feel

For the one who lives inside the fall,
the sky beneath the sky of all.

from: How to Live on Bread and Music. Copyright © 2009.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Kilt Monday!

Because let's face it, Mondays are hard rough difficult.

Guess Who I Ran Into. Sort Of.

Wedged in among all the classes I had to take in college (I'm sure you know how that goes) was one class I took because it was what I wanted - a class on poetry writing. Professor Jeanne E. Clark, a published poet herself, diligently filled our reading list with many wonderful contemporary poets and brought several of them to speak with us in class.

As I was wandering around the interwebs the other day, (a seeming non sequitur) I ran across the title to an article that rang a bell way in the back of my head. (Does that ever happen to you?) The article was entitled, The Solipsist in Purgatory: Jollimore’s AT LAKE SCUCOG, and it should have sounded familiar. I knew the poet (sort of) to whom it was referring.

Troy Jollimore (the poet at the core of the article and this post) was one of the poets we read in class that semester. Once I made the connection, memories came flooding back. He was also one of the poets who came to speak with us. And notice I said "with," not "to." The class was very much a fun, friendly discussion among people who loved poetry.

That day he read from his first book of poetry, Tom Thomson in Purgatory, which won the 2006 National Book Critics Circle Award and was, of course, our assigned reading. I remember him as a pleasant man with an enjoyable sense of humor.

Currently he is a professor in the philosophy department at California State University, Chico, and has written books of both poetry and philosophy.

Here is a poem that caught my breath when I first read it. I truly recognize the feeling of regret at too much caution, and the desperate desire to undo that which cannot be undone.


I’d like to take back my not saying to you
those things that, out of politeness, or caution,
I kept to myself. And, if I may —
though this might perhaps stretch the rules —I’d like
to take back your not saying some of the things
that you never said, like “I love you” and “Won’t you
come home with me,” or telling me, which
you in fact never did, perhaps in the newly
refurbished café at the Vancouver Art
Gallery as fresh drops of the downpour from which
we’d sought shelter glinted in your hair like jewels,
or windshields of cars as seen from a plane
that has just taken off or is just coming in
for a landing, when the sun is at just the right angle,
that try as you might, you could not imagine
a life without me. The passionate spark
that would have flared up in your eye as you said this —
if you had said this —I dream of it often.
I won’t take those back, those dreams, though I would,
if I could, take back your not kissing me, openly,
extravagantly, not caring who saw,
or those looks of anonymous animal longing
you’d throw everyone else in the room. I’d like
to retract my retracting, just before I grabbed you,
my grabbing you on the steps of the New York
Public Library (our failure to visit
which I would also like to recall)
and shouting for all to hear, “You, you
and only you!” Yes, I’d like to take back
my not frightening the pigeons that day with my wild
protestations of uncontrolled love, my not scaring
them off into orbit, frantic and mad,
even as I now sit alone, frantic and mad,
racing to unread the book of our love
before you can finish unwriting it.

from: the December 2008 magazine The Walrus.

     Chapbook, The Solipsist. 2008.
     His second book, At Lake Scugog. 2011.

     Friendship and Agent-Relative Morality. Garland Publishing. 2001.
     Love's Vision. Princeton University Press. 2011.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Quote of the Day

Prediction is always difficult, 
especially about the future.

 - Yoggi Berra. 

It's That Time of Year

Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Composition of the Text

  by Adriano Spatola
translated by Paul Vangelisti

an adjective breathing the window open
the insertion's exact dimension in the rustling of pages
or see maybe how the text uses the body
see how the work is cosmic and biological and logical
in nocturnal voices in auroral explosions
in the croaking scratching scraping setting fire
here under the soft sky sticking all over the fingers
words that speak

he turns to the night cries out to it from the window
to slow down or existence is the circle is the space
is rhythmic swinging harpoon that brushes the lips
bronze gestures darkroom a stain left by the water
framed frozen hypocritical face dust hypnosis
see but how negation modifies the text
with possible words with impossible words

but the text is a living object furnished with keys
the crude resection its effect the incredible osmosis
this is the moment you wait for start cutting
see how it stretches and swells it's ready to burst
it's the young anaconda biting its own tail dragging 
odor of marshes odor coined from the breath of swamps
a book a notebook a pen a painless desire
without words

tired now he becomes aware of his own purposes
it's not difficult to try various tests various experiments
improbable preparations for a voyage by now certain
you too let yourself become sterile don't throw open the door
untreatable eczema the stamped meat the ruins the slaughterhouse
in the text everything accumulates everything melts into vapor
remember it's late remember it's time to go to say goodbye
with a few careful innocuous words

after the first beats the material becomes insensible
or sensible uncertain private risky privileged declension
in terms of organic functions or malfunctions
or in terms of chipped awkward monodical alternatives
see at this point how the text begins to miss the beat
the refusal is to b lame you begin with the same refusal as before
but you will accept whatever other duty entrusted to you
that has no need of words

it's incoherent it's undetermined his sickness has no purpose
now that we are in the text the fixtures appear to subside
a noun is an excess of coughing the beginning of hysteria
the vulgar embellishment the shears dripping with blood
without falcons without promises without hunting horns without catharsis
the woods are full of fragile docile stupid victims
the woods are full of love and how it hates love 
this word

before long in the text the final part will have begun
catalog of mannerisms and of rapes song and narcoses
marking on the calendar with a pencil the delivery date
a verb is the parasite the narcissus the rage beneath the skin
but see how the machine masticates and bubbles and heats up
the music rises the hand corrects the lights go down low
the head even lower open your arms wide don't shut your eyes
cancel that word

from: The Position of Things: Collected Poems 1961-1992. Copyright 2008. 

Why Grammar Is Important . . .

Friday, September 7, 2012

Wow! Just Wow!

... As Americans, we believe we are endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights – rights that no man or government can take away.  

We insist on personal responsibility and we celebrate individual initiative.  We’re not entitled to success.  We have to earn it.  We honor the strivers, the dreamers, the risk-takers who have always been the driving force behind our free enterprise system – the greatest engine of growth and prosperity the world has ever known.

But we also believe in something called citizenship – a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generations. ...

There were so many great quotes in his speech tonight, it was difficult to choose. 
Read the complete text of the President' speech at Salon. Or watch the complete video below.

He blew the doors off the country tonight!
(As always, the opinions of the management are her own, delusional or not, and she cares not a whit whether anyone else agrees.)

The Truth is Out There . . .

Blue or Green

  by James Galvin

We don't belong to each other.
            We belong together.
                                                                   Some poems 
belong together to prove the intentionality of subatomic particles.
Some poems eat with scissors.
                                                     Some poems are like kissing a 
                   God, by the way, is disappointed in some of your recent 
               Some poems swoop.
                                                   When she said my eyes were 
definitely blue, I said, How can you see that in the dark?
          How can
you not? she said, and that was like some poems.
                                                                                  Some poems are 
blinded three times.
                                   Some poems go like death before dishonor.
Some poems go like the time she brought cherries to the movies; 
later a heedless picnic in her bed.
                   Never revered I crumbs so
            Some poems have perfect posture, as if hanging by 
filaments from the sky. 
                                        Those poems walk like dancers, 
                      All poems are love poems.  
                                                                   Some poems are better off 
           Right now I want something I don't believe in.

from: As Is. Copyright 2009. 
Photo source.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Quote of the Day

cartoon of two heads yelling into a two sided megaphone at the same time without listening
In a healthy political climate, people from different political parties or different sides of the debate will argue about how best to respond to the facts. Liberals and conservatives will disagree about that response. Such disagreement may be partisan, heated, angry, vicious and unyielding. It may get personal and uncivil, with red-faced partisans screaming at one another, employing profanity, hyperbole and insult. It may get really nasty.

And all of that is OK.

Such nastiness may be a sub-optimal expression of healthy democracy, but it’s still an expression of healthy democracy. No matter how heated the argument over how best to respond to the facts, that argument is evidence of a people still capable of self-government.

But when the argument shifts from how to respond to the facts to become an argument over the existence of the facts themselves, then self-government is no longer possible.

- Fred Clark, Slacktivist.

The Weigh

  by Linda Gregg
two chestnut colored horses nuzzling each other
Two horses were put together in the same paddock.
Night and day. In the night and in the day
wet from heat and the chill of the wind
on it. Muzzle to water, snorting, head swinging
and the taste of bay in the shadowed air.
The dignity of being. They slept that way,
knowing each other always.
Withers quivering for a moment,
fetlock and the proud rise at the base of the tail,
width of back. The volume of them, and each other's weight.
Fences were nothing compared to that.
People were nothing. They slept standing,
their throats curved against the other's rump.
They breathed against each other,
whinnied and stomped.
There are things they did that I do not know.
The privacy of them had a river in it.
Had our universe in it. And the way
its border looks back at us with its light.
This was finally their freedom.
The freedom an oak tree knows.
That is built at night by stars.

from: All of It Singing: New and Selected Poems. Copyright 2009. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Classic Poem

fallen brown maple leaf
Falling leaves. A slight nip in the air. Well, in my imagination anyway. Around this time of year I begin to feel the imminent change of seasons (9/22/12) even as the summer weather lingers.

Autumn in our house has always revolved around preparations for Halloween, our favorite holiday. When the kids were home it was an all out assault on the senses. Now it's more of an artistic exercise in imagination and creativity. The neighbors still look forward to the surprise each year though.


Oh, sorry. 
Poetry. Right?

When you think of writers and Halloween, what is the first name that comes to mind?    Stephen King

OK, the second?   Right, Edgar Allen Poe.

He made me shiver while reading him as an adolescent - and he still haunts me today. His poetry has a subtlety that stays with me long after I've read it, kind of like a phantom breath on my neck in the dark. This poem has always been one of my favorites and it reminds me of a question that comes up repeatedly in Philip K. Dick's work, "what is really real." I've questioned reality, myself, a few times over the years.

How about you? Have you ever asked yourself that question?

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow-
You are not wrong, who deem
abstract painting in blues with clouds, moons, a white bird, and branch with red berriesThat my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand-
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep- while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

Illustration: A Dream Within a Dream, Barry Howard Studio.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Kilt Monday!

Because let's face it, Mondays are hard rough difficult.