28 February 2007

Donald Justice

[from Donald Justice’s Collected Poems]

“There is a gold light in certain old paintings”

There is a gold light in certain old paintings
That represents a diffusion of sunlight.
It is like happiness, when we are happy.
It comes from everywhere and from nowhere at once, this light,
        And the poor soldiers sprawled at the foot of the cross
        Share in its charity equally with the cross.

Orpheus hesitated beside the black river.
With so much to look forward to he looked back.
We think he sang then, but the song is lost.
        I say the song went this way: O prolong
        Now the sorrow if that is all there is to prolong.

The world is very dusty, uncle. Let us work.
One day the sickness shall pass from the earth for good.
The orchard will bloom; someone will play the guitar.
Our work will be seen as strong and clean and good.
        And all that we suffered through having existed
        Shall be forgotten as though it had never existed.

25 February 2007

Carol Peters

[from Muddy Prints, Water Shine]

The Blues Lift

(or melt)
in the night

the fish I tracked
below the bridge

at the reservoir
the flights of juncos

         -> next

Carol Peters

[from Muddy Prints, Water Shine]

Plain Sinking

The bright red shoes
the bio-geared soles
rock me cheerily along a paved surface

a boat bucking seas
a hey a nonny the path
aha a pond draws me across green

to smutty white
my blunder my slide
an audience of young brown frogs cheeping

ten now thirty
spring and plash down
at my red boats commandeering

[originally published in Cairn]

         -> next

Carol Peters

[from Muddy Prints, Water Shine]

Morning Fog

A deer down
in a ditch, ears high

with listening,
turns away from the road

toward woods
she might leap for

were her legs folded,
not broken

by the wheels of a car
like ours.

Gardens she grazed
are safe from her visits.

A thicket’s flattened bed
begins to freshen.

         -> next

Carol Peters

[from Muddy Prints, Water Shine]

Hawk Watch

The fog that shrouds Pilot Mountain
dims our chance to see hawks kettle,
so we hike around Big Pinnacle on trails
where brown signs mark beginnings
and red-lettered signs suggest
the possibilities of injury or death.

Trails bracketed by rail fence
descend by steps of orange stone
to sandy windings, rocky ground
where twigs extend from pitch,
where long-haired caterpillars inch
across the leaves of laurel, and where webs
the shape of shallow sacks hang down
from water-spangled threads.

Sudden gusts shake drops from trees —
chestnut, oak, persimmon.
Rainbow lichens cover quartzite,
a towering dome,
climbing the rocks is forbidden
while ravens nest.
Red, white, yellow mushrooms
speckle the forest floor,
fungus grows in staggered layers
(childishly stacked plates).

When the fog begins to lift
we climb to stand for hours
amid the whirling swifts and monarch flutter.
Vultures — turkey and black —
converge and circle
gnarled and blasted trees.
Through glasses we spy warblers
in a leafy tangle — tseeta tseeta rising
from ribbed, spotted, pure throats.

Finally the heavens clear.
One by one the broad-winged hawks —
white stripes on their tails,
black bands on their wings —
remind us of what we may mourn
as they soar out of the north
toward winter.

         -> next

Alexander Pope

[from Canto II of Alexander Pope's "The Rape of the Lock"]

“Whatever spirit, careless of his charge,
His post neglects, or leaves the fair at large,
Shall feel sharp vengeance soon o’ertake his sins,
Be stopped in vials, or transfixed with pins,
Or plunged in lakes of bitter washes lie,
Or wedged whole ages in a bodkin’s eye;
Gums and pomatums shall his flight restrain,
While clogged he beats his silken wings in vain,
Or alum styptics with contracting power
Shrink his thin essence like a riveled flower:
Or, as Ixion fixed, the wretch shall feel
The giddy motion of the whirling mill,
In fumes of burning chocolate shall glow,
And tremble at the sea that froths below!”

Scott Snyder

[Scott Snyder's "Blue Yodel" from Voodoo Heart]

Pres was now deeply in love with her. He wanted to tell her so, but he refused to say anything until he could compose an adequate description of his feelings, which, frustratingly, he never felt able to do. The best comparison he’d come up with involved an exhibit on hydroelectricity he’d seen at a fair downtown when he was a child. The exhibit’s main attraction was a clear, life-size figure, a glass man filled with miniature wheels and paddles and belts hung with tiny wooden buckets. When water was poured through a hole at the top of th eman’s head, the machinery inside him whirred to life and one by one a series of bulbs strung through his legs and arms and head lit up like the points of a constellation until, finally, a large heart-shaped bauble of glass in the man’s chest flickered on and shined brighter than the other lights, so bright that Pres was forced to shield his eyes. Best he could figure, that was how he felt for Claire, how he would always feel, aglow.

24 February 2007

Rick Bass

[Rick Bass, "Pagans" from The Lives of Rocks, 2006]

Richard and Kirby bought an old diving bell in an army-navy surplus store for fifty dollars — they had to cut a new rubber gasket for the hatch’s seal — and after that they were able to give each other crane rides into the poison river.

For each of them it was the same, whether lowering or being lowered: the crane’s operator swinging the globe out over moonlit water the color of mercuty, then lowering the globe, with his friend in it, into that netherworld — the passenger possessing only a flashlight, which dimmed quickly upon submersion and then disappeared — the globe tumbling with the current then and the passenger within not knowing whether or not the cable was still attached, bumping and tumbling, spotlight probing the black depths thinly, with brief, bright glimpses of fish eyes, gold-rimmed and wild in fright, and the pale turning-away bellies of wallowing things flashing past, darting left and right to get out of the way of the tumbling iron ball of the bathysphere.

The cable stretching taut, then, and shuddering against the relentless current: swaying and shimmering in place but traveling no more.

Then the emergence, back up out of total darkness and into the night. The gas flares still flickering all around them. Why, again, was the rest of the world asleep? The boys took comfort in the knowledge that they would never sleep: never.

22 February 2007

Andre Gide

As soon as an emotion decreases, the pen should stop; when it continues to run on just the same — and it runs on all the more easily — writing becomes detestable. . . . The wonderful thing on this earth is that we are forced to feel more than to think.

20 February 2007

W. H. Auden

[from W. H. Auden's Dichtung and Wahrheit]


Of any poem written by someone else, my first demand is that it be good (who wrote it is of secondary importance); of any poem written by myself, my first demand is that it be genuine, recognizable, like my handwriting, as having been written, for better or worse, by me. (When it comes to his own poems, a poet’s preferences and those of his readers often overlap but seldom coincide.)


If I were a composer, I believe I could produce a piece of music which would express to a listener what I mean when I think the word love, but it would be impossible for me to compose it in such a way that he would know that this love was felt for You (not for God, or my mother, or the decimal system). The language of music is, as it were, intransitive, and it is just this intransivity which makes it meaningless for a listener to ask: — “Does the composer really mean what he says, or is he only pretending?”


If I were a painter, I believe I could paint a portrait that would express to an onlooker what I mean when I think the word You (beautiful, loveable, etc.), but it would be impossible for me to paint it in such a way that he would know that I loved You. the language of painting lacks, as it were, the Active Voice, and it is just this objectivity which makes it meaningless for an onlooker to ask: — “Is this really a portrait of N (not of a young boy, a judge or a locomotive in disguise)?”

19 February 2007

via Louise Bogan and Donald Hall

William Butler Yeats

I have had to learn how hard is that purification from insincerity, vanity, malignance, arrogance, which is the discovery of style.

artists . . . servants . . . of mere naked life

Only that which does not teach, does not cry out, does not persuade, does not condescend, does not explain, is irresistible.

T. S. Eliot

My early vers libre, of course, was started under the endeavor to practice the same form as Laforgue. This meant merely rhyming lines of irregular length, with the rhymes coming in irregular places.

obscurity comes when the poet is still at the stage of learning how to use language. You have to say the thing the difficult way. The only alternative is not saying it at all.

Marianne Moore

the most difficult thing for me is to be satisfactorily lucid, yet have enough implication in it to suit myself

I am governed by the pull of the sentence as the pull of a fabric is governed by gravity.

words cluster like chromosomes, determining the procedure

Ezra Pound

a continuous curiosity . . . a persistent energy

17 February 2007

Marianne Moore on submissions

I have a little curio, a little wee book about two by three inches, or two and a half by three inches, in which I systematically entered everything sent out, when I got it back, if they took it, and how much I got for it. That lasted about a year, I think. I can't care as much as all that. I don't know that I submitted anything that wasn't extorted from me.

16 February 2007

Marianne Moore

[from Marianne Moore's "Camellia Sabina"]

    The food of a wild
mouse in some countries is wild parsnip- or sunflower- or
morning-glory-seed, with an occasional
grape. Underneath the vines of the Bolzano
grape of Italy, the Prince of Tails
might stroll. Does yonder mouse with a
    grape in its hand and its child
in its mouth not portray
    the Spanish fleece suspended by the neck? In that well-piled

    larder above your
head, the picture of what you will eat is
looked at from the end of the avenue. The wire cage is
locked, but by bending down and studying the
roof, it is possible to see the
pantomime of Persian thought: the
    gilded, too tight undemure
coat of gems unruined
    by the rain — each small pebble of jade that refused to mature,

    plucked delicately
off. Off jewelry not meant to keep Tom
Thumb, the cavalry cadet, on his Italian upland
meadow-mouse, from looking at the grapes beneath
the interrupted light from them, and
dashing round the concours hippique
    of the tent, in flurry
of eels, scallops, serpents,
    and other shadows from the blue of the green canopy.

15 February 2007

John Dryden

[from Dryden’s “Mac Flecknoe," ca 1680]

. . .
This ag├Ęd prince, now flourishing in peace,
And blest with issue of a large increase,
Worn out with business, did at length debate
To settle the succession of the state;
And, pondering which of all his sons was fit
To reign, and wage immortal war with wit,
Cried: “ ’Tis resolved; for Nature pleads that he
Should only rule, who most resembles me.
Sh —— alone my perfect image bears,
Mature in dullness from his tender years:
Sh —— alone, of all my sons, is he
Who stands confirmed in full stupidity.
The rest to some faint meaning make pretense,
But Sh —— never deviates into sense.
Some beams of wit on other souls may fall,
Strike through, and make a lucid interval;
But Sh ——‘s genuine night admits no ray,
His rising fogs prevail upon the day.
Besides, his goodly fabric fills the eye,
And seems designed for thoughtless majesty:
Thoughtless as monarch oaks that shade the plain,
And, spread in solemn state, supinely reign.
. . .

Donald Hall

I am awfully glad Donald Hall (and not I) wrote this (from Their Ancient Glittering Eyes):

Eliot married poetry knowing that poetry was unstable. Because the form of poetry connects it to the crib, poetry is often the mother, and Eliot’s mother Charlotte was a poet. Vivien was as much unlike Eliot’s mother as could be, yet she was poetry. To marry the mother is at the same time wholly forbidden and wholly desirable. It is clear from Eliot’s poems that impotence, or at least sexual incompetence and coldness, obsessed him during his marriage to Vivien. Maybe Eliot married Vivien in order to be impotent, to suffer, and to write poems.

14 February 2007

Andrew Marvell

A Dialogue Between the Soul and Body
by Andrew Marvell


Oh, who shall from this dungeon raise
A soul enslaved so many ways?
With bolts of bones that fettered stands
In feet, and manacled in hands;
Here blinded with an eye, and there
Deaf with the drumming of an ear;
A soul hung up, as ‘twere, in chains
Of nerves and arteries and veins;
Tortured, besides each other part,
In a vain head and double heart.


Oh, who shall me deliver whole
From bonds of this tyrannic soul?
Which stretched upright, impales me so
That mine own precipice I go,
And warms and moves this needless frame —
A fever could but do the same —
And, wanting where its spite to try,
Has made me live to let me die:
A body that could never rest,
Since this ill spirit it possessed.


What magic could me thus confine
Within another’s grief to pine?
Where whatsoever it complain,
I feel, that cannot feel, the pain,
And all my care itself employs
That to preserve which me destroys,
Constrained not only to endure
Diseases, but, what’s worse, the cure;
And ready oft the port to gain,
And shipwrecked into health again.


But physic yet could never reach
The maladies thou me dost teach:
Whom first the cramp of hope does tear,
And then the palsy shakes of fear;
The pestilence of love does heat,
Or hatred’s hidden ulcer eat;
Joy’s cheerful madness does perplex,
Or sorrow’s other madness vex;
Which knowledge forces me to know,
And memory will not forgo.
What but a soul could have the wit
To build me up for sin so fit?
So architects do square and hew
Green trees that in the forest grew.

11 February 2007

Peter Orner

[from Peter Orner's The Second Coming of Mavala Shikongo, 2006 — brilliant brilliant novel, thank you Sally Keith for the recommendation]

75 Intoxicationists in a Datsun

Bottle of Zorba on the dash, long since emptied. Obadiah and Kaplansk. All that’s left are their voices, their bodies are gone, floated up, poofed.

Obadiah: I understand that many Talmudic blessings require repetition as a way of ritualizing one’s contact with God.

Kaplansk: Really?

Obadiah: In other words, God not as a bolt of thunder but there in the simple everyday moments, in the tying and retying of one’s shoes. In a belch, if you will.

Kaplansk: Interesting, I hadn’t —

Obadiah: I myself believe in absolutely nothing. At least not today. This of course is the paradox. One never knows when faith — like love — will wander back like an old dog you thought was dead. It would all be easier if it stayed away for good. Don’t you think?

Kaplansk: Probably, but —

Obadiah: Would you like a mint?

Kaplansk: Please.

76 Antoinette

For her, it’s nearly a love story. She tells it as she beats a carpet she’s hung off the mapone in her garden. She beats the carpet with a wooden spoon the size of a small child’s head. At her feet the wash towels are boiling. Her apron is tight around her chest like body armor.

Thump. Dust waffles up.

There was once a man who stuck his wife’s hand with a fork to prove he loved her, and she walked around with this scar, proudly showing it to people. Then one morning she hacked off his legs with a panga and he bled to death in bed.

Thump. Dust waffles up.

But even after that, she showed her hand with pride. Four little valleys pronged in the flesh. Thy will be done. On earth as it is in heaven.

Thump. Thump. Dust waffles up.

77 Magnus Axahoes

He runs barefoot in the limp sand of the riverbed. He loves the feel of it between his toes. That sound, that shish shish, of sand being thrown behind him. There are days it is the sound alone that keeps his feet moving. That beautiful grinding. One day he’ll run as fast as Rubrecht Kanhala. To run with a pucker thorn in your foot is better, because then you feel no fatigue in the muscles, only the wound in your foot. The pain builds more than endurance. It creates forgetting — and if you can forget, that’s all that matters. He’s read this in a runners’ magazine. A Kenyan said it and it’s the truth.

78 Pohamba

And the goats snoofing each other’s asses and us sprawled, dunking buttermilk rusks in cold tea, and Pohamba’s got another brother.

“God have mercy,” Festus howls. “Spread-leg woman gave birth to an army.”

Pohamba’s on his stomach. A Standard Two he’s hired to do some chiropractic work walks up and down on his back as he talks.

“Abner, my fourth brother. He worked at the Budget on Peter Mueller Strasse. My other Windhoek brother. He cleaned the cars when the tourists brought them back from a week of chasing elephants at Etosha. Dirty dirty cars, and my brother Abner washed them like babies’ arses. . . .

10 February 2007

scholar says . . .

[from Michael Schmidt's Lives of the Poets]

Figurative language is not Dryden’s forte. Often it is not integrated with the argument but runs alongside, decorating and heightening but not collaborating with it at a deeper level. Milton exemplifies another mode. In “lik’ning spiritual to corporeal forms” Milton begins with figure and metaphor and attempts a realization that itself carries moral significance; Dryden teases prose meanings into metaphor. In each case a partial process is enacted. Pope, by contrast, thinks in shapes and forms, exploits reversals, contains his meanings in the figures themselves but works as it were with atomized forms and metaphors, divorced from the expected context and releasing new meanings in an original context. His poetry tends to fragment into brilliant shards. Milton’s procedure comes closest to the “organic” concept of poetic form enunciated by Coleridge and exploited by the Romantics. Dryden’s procedure is remote from this. He distrusts antithesis, paradox and disjunction and is wary of placing excessive confidence in plain narrative, at least for didactic purposes.

09 February 2007


[from Garrett Hongo's The River of Heaven, 1988]

Eruption: Pu'u O'o

We woke near midnight,
flicking on the coat closet's bulb,
the rainforest chilled with mist,
a yellow swirl of gas
in the spill of light outside.
Stars paling, tucked high
in the sky's blue jade,
we saw, through the back windows
and tops of ohia trees,
silhouettes and red showers
as if from Blake's fires,
magenta and billows of black volleying.
Then, a burbling underground,
like rice steaming in the pot,

shook through chandeliers of fern
and the A-frame's tambourine floor,
stirring the cats and chickens
from the crawl-space and their furled sleep.
The fountain rose to 900 feet that night,
without us near it, smoking white,
spitting from the cone 6 miles away,
a geyser of flame, pyramids and gyres of ash.

Novices, we dressed and drove out,
first to the crater rim, Uwekahuna
a canyon and sea of ash and moonstone,
the hardened, grey back of Leviathan
steaming and venting, dormant under cloud-cover.
And then next down Volcano Road past the villages
to Hirano Store on Kilauea's long plateau.
There, over canefield and the hardened lava land,
all we saw was in each other's eyes —
the mind's fear and the heart's delight,
running us this way and that.

Crossing Ka'u Desert

from under the harpstring shade of tree ferns
and the blue trumpets of morning glories
      beside the slick road,
the green creep of davallia and club moss
      (their tiny hammers
                                    staffed quarter-notes
                and fiddlenecks on the forest floor),
spider lilies and ginger flowers like paper cranes
      furling in the tongues of overgrowth,
                in the sapphired arpeggios of rain

to the frozen, shale-colored sea,
      froth, swirls, bleak dithyrambs of glass,
a blizzard of cinderrock and singed amulets,
warty spires and pipelines,
      threnodies of surf whirling on the lava land —

our blue car the last note of color
driving a black channel
                                    through hymnless ground

06 February 2007

Theodore Roethke

[from Straw from the Fire: From the Notebooks of Theodore Roethke 1943-63, selected and arranged by David Wagoner]

Give me at least the harsh light, the serene imbecilic gaze
Of my groping animal fathers.
It's true enough I come from an ape, and at least twice a day return,
Chasing my tail, dizzy with intuition . . .

more Louise Bogan


The M[abel] Dodges of the world take everything they want, surround themselves with objects, people, and movements (analysis, thinking with the stomach or glands, Lawrence, Jeffers and the like). . . . These women do not weep, or harden up in order to endure, or accuse endlessly, or become frightened. They want what they want from youth on. They take color only from what they have or where they live, or from the kind of fashionable idea that is current at some particular time or other. They work hard; they have no real sympathies (only “interests”); they early become unalterably set as themselves, so that other people have to attach themselves to them, like limpets, or revolve around them, like satellites — no real communion possible. When they are rich they have permanent secretaries. . . .

The lechery of men of middle age is as hard as a stone. They kiss as though they threw their faces against one; they do not wait and draw in passion as young men do; they strike out at a woman in a kind of frenzy, give embraces in a cold scuffle. They are afraid of being pitiful themselves, so they cannot give out that pity which a woman waits for in any embrace. They make love usually when they are drunk. They speak of golf, their sons and daughters, sometimes of their wives, in the intervals of throwing against a woman that hard face, those cold eyes, those hands tightened up like fists, that dreadful cold, half-open mouth with its licking tongue. . . .

“My time will come,” you say to yourself, but how can you know whether or not your time has not already come and gone? Perhaps one afternoon on the veranda in Panama, with the Barbadians whetting their sickles on the hill below, the Chinese garden green, the noise of breakers from beyond the hill, the crochet in your lap, and the cool room shuttered and the sheeted bed, perhaps that was your time. (But it was too early.) Or mornings in the sunny room in Boston, when the children cried loudly from the public school across the way, “A prairie is a grassy plain,” and you sat on the low couch with your books and papers about you, happy and salfe and calm: perhaps your time was then. (But you didn’t see it at all.) Perhaps it has been spent, all spent, squandered out, in taking of streetcars, drinking gin, smoking cigarettes, — in connubial love, in thousands of books devoured by the eye, in eating, sewing, in suspicions, tears, jealousy, hatred, and fear. Perhaps it is now, on a dark day in October, in the bedroom where you sit with emptiness in your body and heart; beside the small fire, drying your hair, — older, more tired, desperately silent, unhappily alone, with faith and daydreams (perhaps luckily) broken and disappearng with the dreadful pain in your shoulder which presages dissolution, infection, and age. Perhaps this very instant is your time — pretty late — but still your own, your peculiar, your promised and presaged moment, out of all moments forever.

05 February 2007

Louise Bogan

[from Louise Bogan's "Self-Portrait, with Politics"]

This is the place, perhaps, to state my belief that the true sincerity and compassion which humane detachment alone can give, are necessary before the writer can pass judgment upon the ills of his time. To sink oneself into a party is fatal, no matter how noble the tenets of that party may be. For all tenets tend to harden into dogma, and all dogma breeds hatred and bigotry, and is therefore stultifying. And the condescension of the political party toward the artist is always clear, however well disguised. The artist will be "given" his freedom: as though it were not the artist who "gives" freedom to the world, and not only "gives" it, but is the only person capable of enduring it, or of understanding what it costs.

[from Louise Bogan's "Self-Questionnaire"]

How did you occupy your energy and your leisure?

     Mostly in suffering. I suffered mindlessly, without reference to events, to reality, to time, then as now.
You did not note architecture, or the weather?
     Yes, I noted these always. I saw the afternoon shadows deeply strike through the baroque windows, as I had seen them fall, in my childhood, deeply slant and fall, drawing the eye inward into unimagined interiors, through the wooden joints and the wooden sashes that interrupted, in crass squares, the lines of clapboards (under which, at that hour, the shadow deepened). I noted the excesses of plaster and the beautiful horizontal reticences of wooden shutters. I saw the shadows lengthen to such a degree that the ground had no more place for them; they reached the walls, and spread upward, flat and definite, like unfruited espaliered trees.
You never sought God?
What was it you sought?
     I sought love.

02 February 2007

Bob Marcacci's podcast at MiPoRadio

I hope you'll find time to listen to Bob Marcacci's latest podcast:

Episode 19 of THE COUNTDOWN at MiPoRadio

Bob says,

"The podcast highlights the poetry of William Allegrezza, and also stars these poets and bloggers from around the world: Jill Chan, Peter Ciccariello, Del Ray Cross, AnnMarie Eldon, Juan Jose Martinez, Shin Yu Pai, Carol Peters, Rachel Phillips, Larry Sawyer & Mark Young.

If you like what you hear and you would like me to consider your own blog's offspring for future shows, send me a message and I'll add you to THE COUNTDOWN's blogroll. Comments and conversay appreciated."

01 February 2007

Christopher Marlowe

[from Christopher Marlowe's Hero and Leander, ca 1580]

Ham’s story . . .

So lovely fair was Hero, Venus’ nun,
As Nature wept, thinking she was undone,
Because she took more from her than she left
And of such wondrous beauty her bereft;
Therefore, in sign her treasure suffered wrack,
Since Hero’s time hath half the world been black.

no fish no bicycle . . .

Like untuned golden strings all women are,
Which long time lie untouched, will harshly jar.
Vessels of brass, oft handled, brightly shine;
What difference betwixt the richest mine
And basest mold, but use? for both, not used
Are of like worth. . . .
Ah, simple Hero, learn thyself to cherish!
Lone women, like to empty houses, perish. . . .
One is no number; maids are nothing, then,
Without the sweet society of men.

appendix . . .

Above our life we love a steadfast friend,
Yet when a token of great worth we send,
We often kiss it, often look thereon,
And stay the messenger that would be gone;
No marvel then that Hero would not yield
So soon to part from that she dearly held;
Jewels being lost are found again, this never;
’Tis lost but once, and once lost, lost forever.