29 September 2007

Susan Ludvigson

[from "Letters Back: God Responds to Emily Dickinson," the middle section of Susan Ludvigson's Trinity, 1994]

Consider how the moment enters itself
when you're not looking, scarcely
paying attention, imagination
trusting what comes
on the surrounding air, sweet
or cool, whatever wafts
through. Your whole body
participates, yet, as in dream,
hardly moves, nearly
paralyzed with pleasure.
How you are taken into and out of
yourself at once, language
a braid, unbraiding, so that
what the fairy tales call tresses
loosen in your hands, brushing
your eyes back to time,
that slow surprise.

. . .

To a new friend you write,
"To multiply the harbors
does not reduce the sea."
Why do you not find
the only harbor there is?
No, you're perverse, inclined
to let your words
scatter like bread
over the waters,
and then to think
they'll transform themselves
to inlets and coves
the heart of anyone
might row to.
No, I am not jealous.
I want, simply, for you
to be original and mine,
not turn to me late
as to any port.

Trinity: Poems

26 September 2007

reading in New York

[from an editor of RealPoetik]

Next week, on October 4, Sharon Dolin - Tao Lin - Niels Hav - Elisa Gabbert - Sampson Starkweather - Carol Peters read for RealPoetik!!!

25 September 2007


[my friend Sally Rosenthal sent me this email]

If you haven't seen this farewell lecture by Randy Pausch, 46-year-old professor at Carnegie Mellon, i think you'll agree it's well worth the time to watch it. Randy is dying of pancreatic cancer - hard to fathom when you see how healthy he is. The talk is upbeat, with lots of humor, remarkable.

24 September 2007

John Milton

[from John Milton's "Of Education"]

I deem it to be an old errour of universities not yet well recover'd from the Scholastick grosness of barbarous ages, that in stead of beginning with Arts most easie, and those be such as are most obvious to the sence, they present their young unmatriculated novices at first comming with the most intellective abstractions of Logick & metaphysicks: So that they having but newly left those Grammatick flats & shallows where they stuck unreasonably to learn a few words with lamentable construction, and now on the sudden transported under another climat to be tost and turmoild with their unballasted wits in fadomles and unquiet deeps of controversie, do for the most part grow into hatred and contempt of learning, mockt and deluded all this while with ragged notions and babblements, while they expected worthy and delightfull knowledge . . .

23 September 2007

B. T. Shaw

If you're into ducks (I am)
then you know about their mating
about which here is a great poem.

19 September 2007

17th century musick

[from King's College London]

Jeremiah Clarke (1673?-1707) was himself a noted composer, best remembered today for his popular Trumpet Voluntary. He received his musical education at the Chapel Royal under John Blow and later became its organist, as well as Vicar Choral of St. Paul's. Found dead in his lodgings with a bullet in his brain, he was believed to have committed suicide as a result of a failed love affair. His death caused the poet Edward Ward, author of The London spy, to observe:

Let us not therefore wonder at his fall,
Since 'twas not so unnatural
For him who liv'd by Canon to expire by Ball.

14 September 2007

Linda Annas Ferguson & Rick Mulkey

Please come to the Poetry Society of South Carolina meeting tonight, 7 PM, at the Second Presbyterian Church in Charleston to hear Linda Annas Ferguson and Rick Mulkey read from their new books.

12 September 2007

Peter Sacks

[from Peter Sacks's "Milton: 'Lycidas'" in The English Elegy: Studies in the Genre from Spenser to Yeats, 1985]

What is the real significance and function of Saint Peter's opening words? I do not think that the purpose of his "How well could I have spard thee . . . Enough of such" has been adequately noted. He is making an equation, and it is important in the light of what follows to recognize this as the essential equation of the revenger. One Lycidas is worth enough of such, and it is against that number -- that tally -- that the entire speech unrolls like a single act of vengeance. Here is the controlled release of rage that we have seen to be so crucial to the work of mourning. Once again, it involves the locating of a target for a wrath that must be turned outward; the shifting of the burden of pain; the reversal from the passive suffering of hurt to the active causing of it; and above all, the assumption of the power to hurt, a power that we have studied in its relation to the totemic force associated with a metaphoric sexual immortality.

The English Elegy: Studies in the Genre from Spenser to Yeats

10 September 2007

Grace Simpson

[from Grace Simpson's Dancing the Bones, 2001]

Trying on His Body

I dragged the cane-bottomed
wheelchair down from the attic
and sat, right arm dead,
hand curled shut.
I crammed my foot
into his built-up shoe
and braced against the footrest,
even screwed my mouth
like his. Not enough.
I had to go
to the high oak bed,
crawl into his hulled-out shape
and become a paralyzed father
begging for the urinal,
while the little girl patted her doll,
pretending not to hear — until
he turned his face away
and wept, and she did
that indecent thing:
grabbed the chipped
white pitcher and shoved it tight
between his naked legs,
not looking, while the shuddering
rush of pee splattered
the sheets and the loose
enamel handle wobbled
in her grip.

It all came back:
the sharp ammonia smell,
my red shame,
his hand on my head,
drawn mouth slurring
Bless you, Daughter.

Father, I still hear
those garbled words.
Now, after fifty years of need,
I accept your absolution.

Dancing the bones: Poems

09 September 2007

Basil Bunting

[from Basil Bunting's Complete Poems, 2000]

excerpt from Villon, III

How can I sing with love in my bosom?
Unclean, immature and unseasonable salmon.

Complete Poems

08 September 2007

William Meredith

[from William Meredith's Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems, 1997]

A View of the Brooklyn Bridge

The growing need to be moving around it to see it,
To prevent its freezing, as with sculpture and metaphor,
Finds now skeins, now strokes of the sun in a dark
Crucifixion etching, until you end by caring
What the man's name was who made it,
The way old people care about names and are
Forever seeing resemblances to people now dead.

Of stone and two metals drawn out so
That at every time of day
They speak out of strong resemblances, as:
Wings whirring so that you see only where
Their strokes finish, or: spokes of dissynchronous wheels.

Its pictures and poems could accurately be signed
With the engineer's name, whatever he meant.
These might be called: Tines inflecting a river, justly,
Or (thinking how its cables owe each something
To the horizontal and something to the vertical):
A graph of the odds against
Any one man's producing a masterpiece.

Yet far from his, the engineer's, at sunrise
And again at sunset when,
Like the likenesses the old see,
Loveliness besets it as haphazard as genes:
Fortunate accidents take the form of cities
At either end; the cities give their poor edges
To the river, the buildings there
The fair color that things have to be.
Oh the paper reeds by a brook
Or the lakes that lie on bayous like a leopard
Are not at more seeming random, or more certain
In their sheen how to stand, than these towns are.

And of the rivering vessels so and so
Where the shadow of the bridge rakes them once,
The best you can think is that, come there,
A pilot will know what he's done
When his ship is fingered

Like that Greek boy whose name I now forget
Whose youth was one long study to cut stone;
One day his mallet slipped, some goddess willing
Who only meant to take his afternoon,
So that the marble opened on a girl
Seated at music and wonderfully fleshed
And sinewed under linen, riffling a harp;
At which he knew not that delight alone
The impatient muse intended, but, coupled with it, grief —
The harp-strings in particular were so light —
And put his chisel down for marvelling on that stone.

Effort at Speech: New and Selected Poems

07 September 2007

Thom Gunn

[from Thom Gunn's The Man with Night Sweats, 1992]

Odysseus on Hermes
   his afterthought

I was seduced by innocence
— beard scarcely visible on his chin —
by the god within.
The incompletion of youth
like the new limb of the cactus growing
— soft-green — not fully formed
the spines still soft and living,
potent in potential,
in process and so
still open to the god.
             When complete and settled
             then closed to the god.
So sensing it in him
I was seduced by the god,
becoming in my thick maturity
suddenly unsettled
still being formed —
in the vulnerability, edges flowing,
myself open to the god.

I took his drug
and all came out right in the story.
Still thinking back
I seek to renew that power
so easily got
seek to find again that knack
of opening my settled features,
creased on themselves,
to the astonishing kiss and gift
of the wily god to the wily man.

The Man with Night Sweats: Poems

Ellen Doré Watson

[from Ellen Doré Watson's We Live in Bodies, 1997]

On the Seventh Anniversary of the Conception of My First Child

I look to the world. I ponder the possibility of number two.
     Out the window fresh nubs of dead wood suggest
putting on some lullabies and sitting on the front stoop
     to blow bubbles. The chickens with the wounds of winter
on their backs have tired of walking tiptoe in the mud.
     They long to do the cross-stitch in the grass; they’re
dreaming of getting into real estate. It’s a Spring thing.
     There’s an attic full of baby clothes that want to get out.
They sigh and whisper with the rafters, sell all your roadmaps —
     hell, forget how to drive.
I try to see myself as the eager
young poppy in the corner of the garden, always the first
     to wave her red hanky at each passing cloud. I rise like
dough on that childlike thought. I can shut out the checkbook
     crying me a river, and the bellyaching rooms, too full
to cough. What needles is this craving for another someone,
     for the pain and beauty of something tugging day and night,
something needy that has no words. Most days it’s words I want.
     My eyes do their searching thing, but no skywriting in the high
thin air, no runes in the compost. The weather-beaten chicken shed
     is looking awfully sullen, playing it close to the vest. Soon darts
of green will gather at its ankles. We believe this on the flimsiest
     of evidence. Just as we know the scanty remains of the woodpile
and cluttered gutters will take a back seat to the question of those
     small boulders in the garden: are they saying goodbye, sucked
down under glacial mud, or rising up in the moonlight with a whiff
     of sour milk on their breath?

We Live in Bodies: Poems

05 September 2007

mountain scenery

In her book Mountain Gloom and Mountain Glory: The Development of the Aesthetics of the Infinite [New York, Norton, 1959], Marjorie Hope Nicholson documents the change in taste that occurred in the eighteenth century with regard to mountain scenery. While seventeenth-century poets and theologians conceived of mountains as "warts, wens, and blisters" that mar the earth, travelers in the eighteenth century sought them out as sources of the sublime.


A Country so deform´d, the Traveller
Would swear those parts Nature´s pudenda were:
Like Warts and Wens hills on the one side swell,
To all but natives inaccessible;
Th´other a blue scrofulous scum defiles
Flowing from th´earths impostumated boyles (...)

[Charles Cotton, The Wonders of the Peake (London 1681), 1-2]

[these tidbits found here and here]

John Milton

[from John Milton's L'Allegro, 1645]

There on Beds of Violets blew,
And fresh-blown Roses washt in dew . . .

To hear the Lark begin his flight,
And singing startle the dull night,
From his watch-towre in the skies,
Till the dappled dawn doth rise;
Then to come in spight of sorrow,
And at my window bid good morrow . . .

Mountains on whose barren brest
The labouring clouds do often rest;
Meadows trim with Daisies pide,
Shallow Brooks, and Rivers wide.
Towers, and Battlements it sees
Boosom'd high in tufted Trees,
Wher perhaps some beauty lies . . .

Such sights as youthfull Poets dream
On Summer eeves by haunted stream. . . .

These delights, if thou canst give,
Mirth with thee, I mean to live.

02 September 2007

David Wagoner

This Is a Wonderful Poem

John Milton

[from Anonymous Life of Milton]

He rendred his Studies and various Works more easy & pleasant by allotting them thir several portions of the day. Of these the time friendly to the Muses fell to his Poetry; And hee waking early (as is the use of temperate men) had commonly a good Stock of Verses ready against his Amanuensis came; which if it happend to bee later than ordinary, hee would complain, saying hee wanted to bee milkd.

The Riverside Milton

01 September 2007

David Ferry

[from David Ferry's Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations, 1999]

Mary in Old Age

. . .


Of Others Who Were There

There was: the old lady in the nursing home
Who kept coming up to me and standing much too close
To me, sniffing at my body or my soul
As if it were something deliciously stinking,

Thrilling to her, or else a flowering bush,
Nourishment for a ravenous questioning;
Staring into my ear the way the child
In the comic routine long ago in the movies

Stared silently into the coils of the ear
Of the man sitting there next to the child,
Trying to watch the movie on the screen,
Driven wild inside by the child's relentless gaze:

As if the ear could speak its secrets back.

Of No Country I Know: New and Selected Poems and Translations (Phoenix Poets Series)