29 September 2008

if: the future of books

If you haven't already, start reading if: book. Dan Piepenbring's cogent remarks on high school yearbooks vs Facebook.

reading in Asheville, NC

Sunday, October 5th at 3 PM I'll be reading for the Poetrio series at Malaprops Bookstore/Cafe in Asheville, NC.

25 September 2008

Martha Graham via Russell Freedman

[from Russell Freedman's Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life, Clarion Books, 1998]

According to Agnes de Mille: "I was bewildered and worried that my entire scale of values was untrustworthy. ... I confessed that I had a burning desire to be excellent, but no faith that I could be. Martha said to me, very quietly,"

" 'There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how valuable nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. ... No artist is pleased. [There is] no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.' "

Martha Graham: A Dancer's Life

24 September 2008

Oni Buchanan

[from Oni Buchanan's prize-winning Spring from The University of Illinois Press, 2008]

The Sleepers

And in the dimness of the corridor, a waking person steps
soundlessly through the rows of unseen sleepers, each
in his individual box behind a wall.

Another treads elsewhere, a parallel corridor, a carpet
of deep maroon absorbing the weight of the step,
the sound of the step, as if no one —

The gray wears a gray scarf, knitted, about its throat,
or seeps from itself, evaporating into gray, a mist, heapings of
     insulation, the itch
of material, gray swathe, stiff canvas of filament — and above,
outside the hallways (rectangular prisms of gray) (two telescopes of
     gray capped on either end):
the dull stars stuck over the earth like buttons in a dust upholstery.

And sing soft to one another, and the bodies follow from offstage,
from behind the heavy plush, where the ropes are held and the hands
     dressed in black
flit between the long, thin planes of scenery —

On the path we saw a tanager like an orange handkerchief pulled
     through the leaves.

There is always that distant tremolo in the air that rises from the
from the graves in the dell,
and the kingfisher diving over the membrane of pond.

And above all the tangle (the matted earth, the root hairs and
bundles, the barky breachings of gnarl, the bullfrogs and the
the squirrels growing fatter, and then the panoplies of
like a game of stacking hands, or canopies

where the branches arch in ribs) above:
the spots of chimney sparrows flitting like eye motes over the white
     of the sky.
The rattle of the sparrows like a handful of dice
or dried beans thrown into a toy drum

(the sound of the rattle like a hemisphere of straight pins
radiating from their cushion, the pin heads balancing each
its million spots of light, allotted, while beneath
and down to the sharpened tip, the long metal shafts
vibrate invisibly: sleep.

Sleep. Sleep. Your separate sleeps — )

Spring (National Poetry Series)

19 September 2008

Katie Ford

[from Katie Ford's Colosseum, Graywolf Press, 2008]


We drove through Wyoming passing people on horseback, noon horse shadows like those of caskets lifted up, the dead sitting up through pine boxes, looking at the strange reins in their hands. Once we were in the mountains we saw no animals, no birds. Green signs beside the granite rocks dated them back to the Triassic Age, Mississippian. On the opposing hill, the trail the goats wore down coming to water curved like a strand of hair, a single hair, unmassed. You said stop the car. Look at that, you said, pointing at the strips of ice-age rock, settling. A mountain range is simply a crease in the land is how it was taught to me. A crease is the foresight of division, you were taught. Desperate for communion, Catherine of Siena was beside herself in hills like these, eating nothing but an herb she would suck on and spit out. She scalded herself at the baths, ran away to a cave, shoved twigs into her mouth so that when the host traveled down her raw throat she would indeed feel something, even a god breaking inside her. Would you look at that, you said again near the rail of the viewpoint, where the historical marker explained the plates underneath. Beneath it, a crow's wing. Lord of confusion, Lord of great slaughter and thin birds, you could never answer all of us at once. Layer by layer I imagined pulling it apart to find the upholding musculature beneath the soot and grease of flight. Finding none — just the spinelike axis and its branching barbs, minute hooks holding them together — we continued on to the hotel parking lot in Sheridan, where at night someone scraped a key or a knife alongside the car while we slept off what we could. It was hard to tell what was used. There was nowhere to fix it. There was no talk of ever fixing it.

Colosseum: Poems

Oni Buchanan

Oni Buchanan's "maroon canoe" from Spring on Poetry Daily and her "Text Message" from Drunken Boat

17 September 2008

Alysha Wood

[excerpt from Alysha Wood's "how to peel in seven lessons" from TinFish 18, TinFish Press, 2008]

Lesson ๔


Gaw kept. Gaw kept containing. Gaw kept containers to reuse. Once something was empty she rinsed it out and saved it to hold something else. This was a kind of security. A kind of pack-rat-ness. A kind of hoarding. A kind of preparation. These small bits of condensing. Reusing. Small woven places.


It was her habit to pour her child into old containers. Old tin cans of soybeans. Plastic bowls. She poured her child into such and such a container until it became obvious that the child would not fit. She would add this sweet into another, larger container and go on with her kitchen. Stow her in a box or in a pantry for later use. She might forget, and there when she opened the door would be her daughter, spilled about the ledges, busting open in the lip, neck cramped up all in corners.

Gaw liked things of her own tidy. She swept with one broom, cut with one knife, scrubbed with one towel. The shelves were cleaned, the mess poured into a glass jar. It was strange to Gaw that her daughter had accumulated more than before, that the sum of her parts no longer added up to 60 g, net weight 2.12 oz.


Gaw took careful pains to lose weight, to fill things up to the brim, to save space. This was about economy, and she had learned this when she crossed water all those eons ago. It was a question of what could be carried. She knew she could not take any thing with her and somehow this translated to saving space. To holding as little as possible at one time.

subscribe to TinFish

15 September 2008

Reginald Shepherd

[from Itinerary, GreenTower Press, 2006]

Hesitation Theory

I drift into the sound of wind,
how small my life must be
to fit into his palm like that, holly
leaf, bluejay feather, milkweed fluff,
pine straw or sycamore pod, resembling
scraps of light. The world
slips through these fingers
so easily, there's so much
to miss: the sociable bones
linked up in supple rows, mineral
seams just under the skin. I hold
my palm against the sun and don't see
palm or sun, don't hold anything
in either hand. I look up, look
away (what's what?), I trip
and stumble (fall
again), find myself face down
in duff, a foam of fallen live oak
leaves, with only
this life, mine at times.

GreenTower Press

14 September 2008

Evie Shockley

[from Evie Shockley's a half-red sea, Carolina Wren Press, 2006]

you must walk this lonesome

say hello to moon leads you into trees as thick as folk on easter pews dark but venture through amazing was blind but now fireflies glittering dangling from evergreens like christmas oracles soon you meet the riverbank down by the riverside water bapteases your feet moon bursts back in low yellow swing low sweet chariot of cheese shines on in the river cup hands and sip what never saw inside a peace be still mix in your tears moon distills distress like yours so nobody knows the trouble it causes pull up a log and sit until your empty is full your straight is wool your death is yule moonshine will do that barter with you what you got for what you need draw from the river like it is well with my soul o moon you croon and home you go

a half-red sea (Carolina Wren Press Poetry Series)

02 September 2008

Susan Stewart

[from Susan Stewart's Red Rover, University of Chicago Press, 2008]


their tumbling joy
decanted descanting
over cobble
stones in and out
of firethorn back
and forth to gingko
who knows
who will
ever know
what net
binds them
I would not
lose them
could not lose
them know
if there's
place another
world another life
there must be wrens.

Red Rover (Phoenix Poets Series)

[from "Apple" from Columbarium, University of Chicago Press, 2003]

. . .

If you wait for the apple, you wait
for one ripe moment. And should
you sleep, or should you dream, or
should you stare too hard in the daylight
or come into the dark to see

what can't be seen, you will drop
from the edge, going over into
coarse, or rot, or damping off.
You will wake to yourself, regretful,
in a grove of papery leaves.

Columbarium (Phoenix Poets Series)