29 June 2008

A. R. Ammons

[from A. R. Ammons's Collected Poems: 1951-1971, 1972]

excerpt from "Essay on Poetics"

. . . I like the order that allows, say, when
a thousand cows are on a thousand acres,
clusters to flow out in single file down a gully,

encirclings of drink holes, concentrations in a green
bottom, spread-outs, but identifiable, across
a broad rise or scape: I like that just as I

like tracings converging into major paths,
untracings of widening out beyond a clump of
trees or small pass:

those configurations, rendered by aerial photography,
would interest me endlessly
in the precision of their topographical relations:

the interests of cows and the possibilities of
the landscape could be read (not a single actual cow)
there well: and nothing be as a consequence known and

yet everything in a sense known, the widest paths
the controlling symbols, with lesser resemblances of
motion: after a while I could account for the motions of

the whole herd and make interesting statements:
for example, with experience, I bet I could tell
from the wear under a copse

whether a lot of hot sunny days in a year
or windy days come: I could tell something obvious already
from the copse whether it constitutes a meaningful

windbreak in a cold wind, sand or snow storm, and then
that, though obvious, would tell about cows:
I'll bet in warm climates with heavy, maybe daily, rains

there'd be little wear under trees, for the cows
would enjoy being out in the showers:
anyway, there's a time when loose speech has to give in,

come up to the corral, run through the planked alleys,
accept the brand, the medication, surrender to the
identity of age, sex, weight, and bear its relationship

to the market: there's no market for most speech, specially
good, and none for loose: that's why I don't care
how far I wander off;

I wouldn't care if I found a whole year gone by and myself
not called for: the way I think is
I think what I see: the designs are there: I use

words to draw them out -- also because I can't
draw at all: I don't think: I see: and I see
the motions of cowpaths . . .

Collected Poems 1951-1971

26 June 2008

Tomaz Salamun

[from Tomaz Salamun's Four Questions of Melancholy: New and Selected Poems, 1996]

Photograph with a Quote from Yazoo:
Deep in Each Other’s Dream

Christ is my sex object, therefore I am
not an ethical problem. I lead him to the meadows.
Like a little shepherd, I force him to graze.

I root him out and clean his glands. Shall we
rinse ourselves under the tree? And when
we stretch out on the earth and watch the sky,

what moves? Will we have enough heat
for winter? Will we peel potatoes? Will
we make soldiers out of molten lead? Are we

going to the cows with our arms in their muzzles?
Will we bite the horsetail? Watch Mount Nanos.
We’ll hide in the moss, under sheets of glass.

When you took the picture of the tree, did you
take care of the explosion? What do you mean exactly?
The white milk traveling through the veins

into eternity, glazing the dark? I am a little stone
falling into your flesh. I made you twitch
and tied you up. We crucified you.

Four Questions of Melancholy: New & Selected Poems (Terra Incognita Series)

William Meredith

[from William Meredith's The Open Sea and Other Poems, 1958]

The Illiterate

Touching your goodness, I am like a man
Who turns a letter over in his hand
And you might think this was because the hand
Was unfamiliar but, truth is, the man
Has never had a letter from anyone;
And now he is both afraid of what it means
And ashamed because he has no other means
To find out what it says than to ask someone.

His uncle could have left the farm to him,
Or his parents died before he sent them word,
Or the dark girl changed and want him for beloved.
Afraid and letter-proud, he keeps it with him.
What would you call his feeling for the words
That keep him rich and orphaned and beloved?

Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems

Edwin Arlington Robinson

[from Edwin Arlington Robinson's Dionysius in Doubt, 1925]

New England

Here where the wind is always north-north-east
And children learn to walk on frozen toes,
Wonder begets an envy of all those
Who boil elsewhere with such a lyric yeast
Of love that you will hear them at a feast
Where demons would appeal for some repose,
Still clamoring where the chalice overflows
And crying wildest who have drunk the least.

Passion here is a soilure of the wits,
We're told, and Love a cross for them to bear;
Joy shivers in the corner where she knits
And Conscience always has the rocking-chair,
Cheerful as when she tortured into fits
The first cat that was ever killed by Care.

24 June 2008

Seamus Heaney

[from Seamus Heaney's Electric Light, 2001]

Ballynahinch Lake

Godi, fanciullo mio; stato soave,
Stagion lieta e cotesta

     Leopardi, “Il Sabato del Villaggio’

         for Eamon Grennan

So we stopped and parked in the spring-cleaning light
Of Connemara on a Sunday morning
As a captivating brightness held and opened
And the utter mountain mirrored in the lake
Entered us like a wedge knocked sweetly home
Into core timber.
                         Not too far away
But far enough for their rumpus not to carry,
A pair of waterbirds splashed up and down
And on and on. Next thing their strong white flex
That could have been excitement or the death-throes
Turned into lift-off, big sure sweeps and dips
Above the water — no rafter skimming souls
Translating in and out of the house of life
But air-heavers, far heavier than the air.

Yet something in us had unhoused itself
At the sight of them, so that when she bent
To turn the key she only half-turned it
And spoke, as it were, directly to the windscreen,
In profile and in thought, the wheel at arm’s length,
Averring that this time, yes, it had indeed
Been useful to stop; then inclined her driver’s brow
Which shook a little as the ignition fired.

Electric Light: Poems

23 June 2008

Les Murray

[from Les Murray's The Biplane Houses, 2006]

Ripe in the Arbours of the Nose

Even rippled with sun
the greens of a citrus grove darken
like ocean deepening from shore.
Each tree is full of shade.

A shadowy fast spiral through
and a crow's transfixed an orange
to carry off and mine
its latitudes and longitudes
till they're a parched void scrotum.

Al-Andalus has an orange grove
planted in rows and shaven above
to form an unwalkable dream lawn
viewed from loggias.
                               One level down,
radiance in a fruit-roofed ambulatory.

Mandarin, if I didn't eat you
how could you ever see the sun?
(Even I will never see it
except in blue translation).

Shedding its spiral pith helmet
an orange is an irrigation
of rupture and bouquet
rocking the lower head about;

one of the milder borders
of the just endurable
is the squint taste of a lemon,

and it was limes, of dark tooled green
which forgave the barefoot sailors
bringing citrus to new dry lands.

Cumquat, you bitter quip,
let a rat make jam of you
in her beardy house.

Blood oranges, children!
raspberry blood in the glass:
look for the five o'clock shadow
on their cheeks.
                        Those are full of blood,
and easy; only pick the ones that
relax off in your hand.

Below Hollywood, as everywhere
the trees of each grove appear
as fantastically open
treasure sacks, tied only at the ground.

The Biplane Houses: Poems

18 June 2008

Carol Peters


[Spanish, from chaparro, evergreen oak, from Basque txapar, diminutive of saphar, thicket]

a biome characterized by hot dry summers and cool moist winters and dominated by a dense growth of mostly small-leaved evergreen shrubs

a short-range low-altitude surface-to-air missile consisting of a turret mounted on a tracked vehicle carrying four ready-to-fire missiles

William Stafford

[William Stafford's first poem, from Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford 1937-1947, edited by Fred Marchant]

White Pigeons

What’s that —
The trumpet call, the haunting cry of aching land —
A wild goose passing?
From down what violet sky —
The looming winter night now edging frozen land —
Come circling home
White pigeons?

This is the aching land,
The bleak and desolate.
This is the plains.
On this blank loneliness in huddled clump
A house, a barn, and fences.
A boy, foreshortened, small, wind-buffeted,
His pigeons watched come home.
Hard sky, hard earth.
Soft pigeons.
Grateful pigeons, rustling, sleepy cluttering.
Soft pigeons.

What’s that —
The trumpet call, the haunting cry of aching land —
A wild goose passing?
From down what violet sky —
The looming winter night now edging frozen land —
Come circling home
White pigeons?

Lawrence, Kansas
Spring 1937

Another World Instead: The Early Poems of William Stafford, 1937-1947

13 June 2008

Laura Riding

[from Laura Riding's The Poems of Laura Riding, editor Mark Jacobs, 2001]

The Wind, The Clock, The We

The wind has at last got into the clock –
Every minute for itself.
There’s no more sixty,
There’s no more twelve,
It’s as late as it’s early.

The rain has washed out the numbers.
The trees don’t care what happens.
Time has become a landscape
Of suicidal leaves and stoic branches –
Unpainted as fast as painted.
Or perhaps that’s too much to say,
With the clock devouring itself
And the minutes given leave to die.

The sea’s no picture at all.
To sea, then: that’s time now,
And every mortal heart’s a sailor
Sworn to vengeance on the wind,
To hurl life back into the thin teeth
Out of which first it whistled,
An idiotic defiance of it knew not what
Screeching round the studying clock.

Now there’s neither ticking nor blowing.
The ship has gone down with its men,
The sea with the ship, the wind with the sea.
The wind at last got into the clock,
The clock at last got into the wind,
The world at last got out of myself.

At last we can make sense, you and I,
You lone survivors on paper,
The wind’s boldness and the clock’s care
Become a voiceless language,
And I the story hushed in it –
Is more to say of me?
Do I say more than self-choked falsity
Can repeat word for word after me,
The script not altered by a breath
Of perhaps meaning otherwise?

The Poems of Laura Riding: A Newly Revised Edition of the 1938/1980 Collection, Revised Edition

12 June 2008

William Carlos Williams

[from William Carlos Williams's Collected Poems: Volume II 1939-1962]

The Bitter World of Spring

On a wet pavement the white sky recedes
mottled black by the inverted
pillars of the red elms,
in perspective, that lift the tangled

net of their desires hard into
the falling rain. And brown smoke
is driven down, running like
water over the roof of the bridge-

keeper's cubicle. And, as usual,
the fight as to the nature of poetry
— Shall the philosophers capture it? —
is on. And, casting an eye

down into the water, there, announced
by the silence of a white
bush in flower, close
under the bridge, the shad ascend,

midway between the surface and the mud,
and you can see their bodies
red-finned in the dark
water headed, unrelenting, upstream.

The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, 2 Volume Set

11 June 2008

Charles Simic

[from Charles Simic's Sixty Poems, 2007]


The machines were gone, and so were those who worked them.
A single high-backed chair stood like a throne
In all that empty space.
I was on the floor making myself comfortable
For a long night of little sleep and much thinking.

An empty birdcage hung from a steam pipe.
In it I kept an apple and a small paring knife.
I placed newspapers all around me on the floor
So I could jump at the slightest rustle.
It was like the scratching of a pen,
The silence of the night writing in its diary.

Of rats who came to pay me a visit
I had the highest opinion.
They’d stand on two feet
As if about to make a polite request
On a matter of great importance.

Many other strange things came to pass.
Once a naked woman climbed on the chair
To reach the apple in the cage.
I was on the floor watching her go on tiptoe,
Her hand fluttering in the cage like a bird.

On other days, the sun peeked through dusty windowpanes
To see what time it was. But there was no clock,
Only the knife in the cage, glinting like a mirror,
And the chair in the far corner
Where someone once sat facing the brick wall.

Sixty Poems

07 June 2008

Muddy Prints, Water Shine

Buy Muddy Prints, Water Shine at Amazon.

Read Muddy Prints, Water Shine, here.

Carol Peters

[from Muddy Prints, Water Shine]


Fresh lava creeps, wrinkling
through rockpiles and hapu fern,

past purple backs of hands,
tree frogs smaller than thumbs.

Long nights are fractured
with screaming.

Behind the healer's house
a yellow schoolbus, weed-festooned,

bumpered to a tanker-truck.
Pink plumes of cane drop seed

on stainless steel. She places
her hands on flesh's clamor —

one touch erases,
another creates.

         -> next

Carol Peters

[from Muddy Prints, Water Shine]

The Scent of Skunk

gasp and sweetness
atmosphere a proof
of time passing

air displaced
by what bristles at

let the owl
swoop down
barred wings batter

what passes
gasp and sweetness
we breathe

         -> next

Carol Peters

[from Muddy Prints, Water Shine]

Along the Shore of Lake Pinewild

Fish fan in the man's shadow.
He squats and huffs

at the white geese

The stone in his shoe
is evidence.

A gander paddlewheels
on jeweled legs.

[originally published in Realpoetik]

         -> next

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who came to my readings Thursday and Friday in Charleston.

I began both readings with an excerpt from A. R. Ammons's poem, "Identity," and I highly recommend that you read his poem "Nelly Myers" on pages 14-17 of this downloadable PDF file from Ohio State University.

02 June 2008

Pattiann Rogers

[from Pattiann Rogers's Wayfare, 2008]

Portrait During the Creation of Sleep

Like the elm's shadow
disappearing at noon
into the trunk, branch,
and full leaf of its presence,
so Lila disappears in sleep,
becoming the fully bountiful
body of her body.

I say sleep is a place, the very
being of place, tangible,
alive. It is the suffocation
of the void from which breath
rises, the progenitor of sleep.

Lila closes her eyes, lays
her head on her pillow, moves
willingly, easily, as if to a lover,
toward the being of sleep.
She knows the way.

Like the power of the god
of absence, sleep transfigures
its creator.

No strumming wind, no surf,
no chitter or hum, no angelic
chorus — sleep, without sound
of itself, is the engendering
space of sound.

I say sleep is not faith
but all the atoms of faith
not yet united.

Lila lays her head
on the pillow, closes
the god of her eyes, lifts
like a shadow and disappears
into the full and boundless
forest of the sleep she sleeps.


01 June 2008

A. R. Ammons

[excerpted from A. R. Ammons's "Identity" from Collected Poems: 1951:1971, 1972]

it is
       how things work: I will tell you
                   about it

it is interesting
and because whatever is
moves in weeds
       and stars and spider webs
and known
                   is loved:
             in that love,
             each of us knowing it,
             I love you

Collected Poems 1951-1971