Saturday, December 29, 2007
* * *
I don't know John Vincent's work, but this evening as I was sorting through a box of old files, I found this poem in an old issue (summer '98) of the Beloit Poetry Journal:
While I was chopping
there was plenty of shade . . .
emerge, dustballs at an estate sale,
their cries are baby cries.
I forgot its name,
but it's half-otter
half-human, calls from the forest
in the voice of someone you love,
someone you love in trouble.
Amid log smell
and saw leavings puffed to oyster crackers,
in the drizzle, I hear it still.
it'll lure you into the forest.
I mean: metaphorically.
* * *
I've commandeered the dining table for the weekend, where Harry's chapbook is being assembled. Randy's loaned me his excellent paper cutter, for which I'm grateful, because it allows me to trim each folio precisely. Also his beading awl. I'm tying the books with a nice dark green fishing line--it has a slightly waxy texture and is easy to work with, threads smoothly through the needle and knots very neatly.
* * *
Friday, December 28, 2007
If you haven't checked out Adastra Press, do look them up. Each book is a labor of love.
Here's one poem from the middle of the book:
Knowing our desire for details,
the evening news tells us
how the man died, and even a little
of what he did, his work, and whom he loved.
He worked in an office downtown.
At night he rode the train home.
There’s the point of entry: the broken window.
There, the bed where he was sleeping
just as he left it when he heard the intruder.
The camera hurries through the house
like a reader skimming pages
to the place where his life
is outlined in chalk,
the knife held up to the lights.
Monday, December 24, 2007
Yesterday I got the urge to make a Sawtooth Bars mini, and after some trial-and-error piecing on the sewing machine (the triangle squares are less than one inch across and I kept getting them turned the wrong way), I finally got the hang of it and knocked this one out. It measures about 12 x 14. We made a large version two years ago in brown and indigo blue; my mom has that one now.
Meanwhile, I have been working on a small whole cloth quilt, about 14 inches square, and making good progress: it's much easier to quilt when you don't have to stitch through seams. I'll post photos of this one, too, as soon as it's finished (end of January, I'm guessing).
Friday, December 21, 2007
This week's entry is Burning the Fake Woman by Susan Yuzna, published by GreenTower Press. My copy cost $6, a first edition published in 1996. Hand-tied, 39 pages, with a two-color cover.
Here's a sample poem:
To the Moon Over the Mountain
They say you are old hat.
On TV tonight, they claim you were conquered
by the men sitting there, white-haired now,
lightly bouncing off your body
in their thick-soled boots
like boys on a trampoline.
Twenty-five years ago
and what do we know about the nature of anything?
There was a saint, once, claimed
more demons work between us and the moon
than move through the entire rest of the cosmos.
St. Jerome, I think it was.
But what I know is
when you let loose your fullness
and allow me no sleep, I must leave my house.
I must walk around and around
the door of the beloved,
for mystics have said
it is most foolish
to presume entry: a ferocious, white fire.
That shadow on the wall
was once a person
walking forward, hand outstretched.
Once a person coming toward you.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Monday, December 17, 2007
We watched a Netflix DVD last night, House of Sand and Fog, about which I knew nothing except that Ben Kingsley had been nominated for an Oscar for his role. I vaguely remembered a snippet from the movie, that little bit they play at the Academy Awards when they read the list of nominees--Kingsley's character shouting "This is our house!" Our house!" at a distraught Jennifer Connelly--but that's really all. I didn't even know that it was based on an Andre Dubus novel.
So we were a bit open-mouthed at the last few scenes, where things just keep going from bad to worse (that's all I'll say--don't like spoilers--but don't look this movie up on Wikipedia if you want to be at all surprised during the film). What a downer! It reminded me of the time I mistakenly brought home Interiors one day when David was home sick from work: I'd thought a nice Woody Allen flick would cheer us up, but by the time the masking tape came out, we were both fully in the doldrums (and yet, as with House, we couldn't tear our eyes away until the bitter end). (And it wasn't entirely my fault with the Woody Allen mistake; it was his first serious drama.)
Friday, December 14, 2007
As if thirst were not a wound.
As if the thirst for company were not a wound.
Consciousness the one shadow
from which light grows.
As if all ache flowed from the same bruise.
Near dawn. My blood caught in its circle.
I think of your body your legs opening.
And the light hairs strung along your wrists.
As if your shoulders.
As if the muscular turn of your hips.
As if I could tilt your mouth
to this dent in my chest.
So, bit by bit, it becomes unmistakable.
This not knowing how to say.
As if I had already broken
into the last room and found the words
still not English.
As if being flesh were not call enough.
Why stay here to be American?
Where what is exactly sexual has no country.
Whole words. Whole worlds slow
between us. Trying to pronounce themselves.
The body, the one sacred book.
My hand. My hands know
so little of your hands.
The names of pleasure held
in chains taken in ships.
Thursday, December 13, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
From Aleda Shirley's Silver Ending, published in 1991:
The day before Christmas it was fifteen below, and windless,
the river willows perfectly still in a light coating of snow.
Early that morning I stood on the shore and watched steam rise
off the river, mistaking its movements for the river’s, which was still,
the surface threaded with thin and delicate scratches
as if skaters had glided through an endless series of school figures
all night while we slept. Nothing moved, except the steam
which moved in one direction only—up—into a sky
smoking back at it like dry ice. Nothing was moving
except the moment, and my hectic sense that it was over,
that the moment would change even before the weather did.
But I wanted to hold this moonscape fast in my mind
where it would join other ghostly postcards, like a sunset
off Key West a year ago, as we returned from a snorkeling trip
out on the reef. Everything was painted in simple colors:
the blue water, the red sun, Mike’s yellow shirt.
And the deaf scuba diver I’d watched all day signing
to his hearing girlfriend signed something to her again
and she asked if I’d snap their picture as they posed
in the stern of the boat, the sunset behind them. It’s a picture
so vivid, even now, that I expect to happen upon it
when I leaf through the pages of my photograph album.
I used to think I understood this, the rapt attention
at which I stood during certain moments of transition:
the bright-gray color the air has in the spring, right before
it rains, when the grass and budding trees are too green,
their lushness somehow scary. I thought I knew the reason
I sometimes set the alarm for hours before I have to get up,
just so I can re-set it and linger for a little while
in the blue light of dawn and listen to the mourning doves
as they begin to grieve in the trees outside the window.
I thought it had something to do with those years of my childhood
spent in the tropics where, like any place near the equator,
the duration of dawn and dusk is so brief it’s easily missed.
There, twilight was an afterthought of day, an aside,
and the heat so relentless I moved through my life
as if I were drugged from wine. But now I wouldn’t swear
I ever noticed those twilit moments brief as rain,
that this theory isn’t just something I concocted later,
from a book I read. The Japanese call it aware,
that feeling engendered by ephemeral beauty, the way
some things are beautiful because they will change
with the passage of time. I’ve scores of other examples at hand:
just last night, driving home from work, I saw a huge
pale-yellow moon rising in a sky still pink with sunset.
It was so strange, so like the sky of another planet,
that I wouldn’t have been surprised to see other moons,
two or three of them, rising there too. But
the moon, I know, doesn’t rise, not really, nor does the sun
set: the moon moves, moves around us. And we’re turning.
Four renowned poets will each choose a winning manuscript for publication and distribution by the PSA. Each winner will receive $1000.
The Two Categories: The PSA National Chapbook Fellowships, judged by Mary Jo Bang and C. K. Williams. This contest is open to any United States resident who has not published a full-length poetry collection. The PSA New York Chapbook Fellowships, judged by Terrance Hayes and Fanny Howe. This contest is open to any New York City resident (in the five boroughs) who is 30 or under and has not published a full-length poetry collection.
Note: Winners will also have the option of teaching a single class at Purchase College for $1,000 under the sponsorship of the Royal and Shirley Durst Chair in Literature. Poets may apply to one contest only. Deadline: December 21st, 2007.
2 0 0 8 Chapbook Fellowships GUIDELINES FOR BOTH CATEGORIES:
1. Manuscript page length: between 20-30 pages. Poems must be typed on 8 1/2" x 11" paper and bound with a spring clip. No illustrations may be included. Do not include photocopies of poems from magazines or journals. Please submit only one copy of your manuscript. Manuscripts should include no more than one poem per page.
2. A complete submission should include: (a) Title page with contest name (The National Chapbook Fellowship or The New York Chapbook Fellowship), your name, address, telephone, email, and any other relevant contact information. Your name should not appear elsewhere in the manuscript. (b) A title page with just the title of the manuscript. (c) An acknowledgements page. Poems included in your manuscript may be previously published, but please include an acknowledgements page listing specific publications. Note: previous publications and/or the inclusion of published poems will not serve as a determining factor in the screening or judging of manuscripts. (d) A complete Table of Contents. (e) Payment of a $12.00 non-refundable entry fee (check or money order payable in U.S. dollars to Poetry Society of America). This fee is not waived for PSA members. Please do not send cash. While you may not submit to both The National Chapbook Fellowship and The New York Chapbook Fellowship, multiple submissions to one contest are accepted. Please note: we require separate entry fees for each manuscript you submit.(f) Self-addressed stamped post card for confirmation of receipt and a self-addressed stamped envelope for announcement of the winners.
3. Manuscripts by more than one author will not be accepted.
4. Translations will not be accepted. Entries will be accepted between October 1st and December 21st, of 2007. Entries postmarked later than December 21st, 2007 will not be accepted. Manuscripts will not be returned. Electronic and faxed submissions will not be accepted. If your manuscript is accepted for publication elsewhere, you must notify the PSA.
Monday, December 10, 2007
The Word Works announces its 28th annual Washington Prize competition, offering $1,500 and publication for a volume of original poetry by a living American writer. Previous winners of the Washington Prize include Prartho Sereno (the 2007 winner for her book Call from Paris), John Surowiecki, Richard Lyons, Carrie Bennett, Ron Mohring, Fred Marchant, and Enid Shomer.
Send manuscripts of 48 to 64 pages between Jan. 15 and March 1, 2008, inclusive. Please do not send manuscripts before Jan. 15 or after March 1. Author’s name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and signature should appear on the title page only. Please include a table of contents containing the manuscript title, as well as a cover letter containing your bio and publication acknowledgements. Biographical and publication information must not appear anywhere in the manuscript except the cover letter, which must be detachable from the rest of the manuscript. Use a binder clip to fasten the manuscript. No manuscripts will be returned, but please include a self-addressed, business-sized envelope for notification of contest results.
The winner will be selected by July 1, 2008, and all entrants will receive a copy of the winning book when it is published in January 2009. The entry fee is $25 U.S., by check drawn on a U.S. bank only and made payable to The Word Works. Mail manuscripts to:
Steven B. Rogers, Director
Word Works Washington Prize
3201 Taylor St.
Mt. Rainier, MD 20712
The Word Works is a non-profit literary organization devoted to the dissemination of the best contemporary poetry. It publishes books of poetry in collectors’ editions featuring original artwork. It also sponsors programs such as the Joaquin Miller Cabin poetry reading series in Rock Creek Park and the Cafe Muse Literary Series in Chevy Chase, Md. The Word Works celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2004, and has sponsored the Washington Prize since 1981. For more information about The Word Works and the Washington Prize, please visit http://www.wordworksdc.com/.
Saturday, December 08, 2007
Thursday, December 06, 2007
Flavorburst. Mohawk. Big Bomb. Tormenta. Tumbling Tom Yellow.
Goliath. Early Goliath. Bush Goliath.
Cluster Goliath. Sunny Goliath. Italian Goliath.
Big Zac. Carolina Gold. Big Beef. Better Boy.
Abraham Lincoln. Celebrity. Heartland. Floralina. Jet Star. Keepsake.
Lemon Boy. Pink Girl. Sun Leaper. Pilgrim.
Tomande. Kada Hybrid. Super Marzano. Quimbaya.
Sweet Cluster. Tomcat. Mountain Fresh. Tolstoi. Totem.
Amana Orange. Anna. Beefsteak. Box Car Willie.
Black Krim. Aunt Ruby's German Green.
Brandywine. Cherokee Purple. Dinner Plate. Cuore de Toro.
Caspian Pink. Druzba. German Head. Giant Belgium.
Georgia Streak. Kellogg's Breakfast. Lillian's Yellow Heirloom.
Mister Stripey. Mortgage Lifter. Old German. Omar's Lebanese.
Oxheart. Pineapple. Prudens Purple. Ponderosa Pink.
White Potato Leaf. Amish Paste. Arkansas Traveler. Black Sea Man.
Bonny Best. Wins All. Homestead. Legend. Golden Jubilee.
Mule Team. New Yorker. Nebraska Wedding. Rutgers. Opalka.
Saucey. Striped Stuffer. Taxi. Vera. Tigerella. Sunray.
Silvery Fir Tree. Garden Peach. Banana Legs.
Bloody Butcher. Green Zebra. Hard Rock. Moonglow. Porter.
Oregon Spring. Red Pear. Roman Candle. Stupice. Sub-Arctic Plenty.
Amish Salad. Brown Berry. Grapette. Cupid. Fond Red Mini.
Chocolate Cherry. Sugar Lump. Jenny. Juliet. Marcellino Hybrid.
Snowberry. Red Star. Riesenstraube. Small Fry. Micro Tom.
Tumbler. Velvet Red. Tami. Sungold. Sweet Million.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
They know it’s not death, this yellowing
shaking in sleep, the nurses and fathers,
the husbands who sit in small chairs or travel
room to room. They know that the body is healing.
They believe that it heals throughout a cold night
while the garden is blackening, wherever it is, low in a hollow.
The dark of tomato and pumpkin vines, the armfuls
of spined leaves, blink into ghost and black paper.
They say when the body is healed and walking
deliberately through green grass, and down the long hill
into the garden that’s gone, it will lift up these vines
and find for itself a tomato, some few, under leaves,
red and whole, they promise it, untouched
by any veil, or obliteration. But the body, the stubborn bride,
sends her kisses around the room, aimless, incontrovertible.
She’ll walk in her flesh until it has all but worn away.
Tuesday, December 04, 2007
How do you like this caved-in bedroom,
plaster all over the floor, wall paper hanging loose,
the onyx cuff links in their velvet box,
and how do you like the attic, Mickey Spillane novels,
shoe boxes of photos and Boy Scout knives,
and the view from the attic window
toward the torn-up railroad tracks,
and how do you like the beautiful Irish girl next door
grown old and screeching, and what was the name
of the family with the ugly pony,
how do you like the old sofa,
the hand-painted tea cups from Nova Scotia,
the dirt cellar with its spiders and rats,
always winter there, broken ax and shovel handles,
rusty nails, the bucket of pigeon bones,
how do you like this moaning and tears,
doors clicking shut, someone always leaving?
: Harry Humes, Underground Singing (2007)
Saturday, December 01, 2007
In homage to the other garden--those early lettuces and greens that never fail to grow like they're supposed to (am I the only one who dreams of pizza smothered with arugula?), here's a poem from Jody Gladding's out-of-print chapbook, Artichoke, one of the truly beautiful chaps put out by Chapiteu Press:
Thinnings from young lettuces
So bitter, to make up for their tenderness.
Don’t say green like apples, and the stems
aren’t hollow as quills.
All summer the deer wait for the night
to grow dark, for the morning fog to grow
thick in their leaves.
Tatsoi and mizuna
Spoon and fork.
Nothing is ornamental.
Crushed lightly. What it’s like
lying down with a man.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
The Tree Sweeper
Bent by snow still
falling, the young
pine called him out.
He took a broom
to sweep away
the white. Minutes
He went on
to the spruce. All
that morning saw him
brush the needles,
dusting off the crowns,
giving the slender
trunks a shake.
As he worked, only
he could tell how,
over and over, he
lifted like a branch.
With every pass
of the broom, he kept
to himself, low,
the way a snowflake
hums as it falls.
* * *
I printed a test copy of Undergound Singing today. Found five or six layout errors, went back & corrected those, printed fresh pages, cut the whole thing to size, stapled it together so I could hold it, turn the pages, get the sense of the thing as a book. Sent it off to the author, after e-mailing him a PDF of (my design for) the cover.
Anyone want to help cut and tie some books? I'm hoping to get all the copies mailed out before the holiday. I've been raiding the recycling bins on campus for good sturdy envelopes to re-use.
* * *
Miriam has been writing some wonderful poems. I just read a batch of them today, and I'm impressed! Best of luck with your applications, M.
* * *
Ack, I'm up too late again.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
* * *
It's my dad's birthday. Coincidentally, tonight the tree at Rockefeller Center is illuminated. That tradition started the year he was born. Neat coincidence.
* * *
I had student conferences all day and finally headed home a bit before 7. One meeting had me nearly banging my head on my desk. An excerpt went something like this:
Student: So I paraphrased a lot of the last two pages, do I have to cite that or can I just reference it in the bib?
Me (scanning the paragraphs in question): You say here that the Church rose in power at this time. What do you think caused that?
Student: I don't know, I couldn't really understand that sentence. Should I just cut that? Do you think I need to keep that?
Me: If you don't understand what it means, then why is it the focus of your paragraph?
Student: I don't know if I really want to write about all the Crusades. Do I have to mention all of them? Should I put that here?
Me: Maybe we should look at--
Student: Where should this question go, the one where I say "But how did all of this really get started?" Should I put that here? Or here?
Me: If you--
Student: I know that my conclusion has to repeat everything in my introduction, but does that mean I have to ask it there?
Me: You don't--
Student: Do you think I should mention the Holocaust? I can't think of any other conflicts that involve religious intolerance. Where would I put the Holocaust?
And around and around we went, to the merciless beat of an agitated artery in my left temple. . .
* * *
I'm off to bed.
Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Kyle Dargan's back in Lewisburg for a reading (tonight) and Q&A (tomorrow). Kyle was a June Poet back in 2002 (has it been five years?), part of an awesome group that included Meg Shevenock, Miriam Greenberg, Matthew Ladd, and some guy named Kevin Gonzalez (love you, Kevin).
The town’s trademarks are its streetlamps, two
Of the three orbs droop towards the earth—
Dead insects inside settle at the bottom,
In my ambling I saw the remains
Of a barn—a gentler stop along underground rail
(So reads the sign). I always stumble
Upon these things, like the slave graves
Suffocated by dorms below Mr. Jefferson’s
University. As then, I didn’t know how to be present.
Of course I crossed Tubman, but kept on—
Anxious of what I’d see if I stared too long. Right now
There’s rain, sky left ajar, and the wind slipping
Jabs of lightning splayed within the clouds.
I miss the lanky apartment buildings,
the black-lunged streets,
my sight—through which no one images me twice.
Monday, November 26, 2007
Sunday, November 25, 2007
Sunday, November 18, 2007
It was snowing when we woke up this morning--heavy, wet flakes falling fast--and it's continued throughout the day. We've taken turns going out with a broom to knock the snow from the Japanese maple in the back yard (it still has most of its leaves, and we're afraid some branches might break from the weight). A lovely sight, really, but I hope the roads are navigable in the morning.
Saturday, November 17, 2007
Behind the left leg, renegade line in the right eye.
Thursday, November 15, 2007
and goes to bed, leaving a burning light
above the bathroom mirror. Through the wall,
he hears the deaf man walking down the hall
in his squeaky shoes to see if there’s a light
under the blind man’s door, and all is right.
: Ted Kooser, Sure Signs (1980)
* * *
Meeting with poetry students all day. I dashed over to the library for a prepackaged turkey sandwich. Checked my mailbox on the way back and there were my copies of the new West Branch. Great cover art by Jeff Cohen. Four lead-off poems by Rebecca Dunham. This is the issue I edited last spring; I'll undoubtedly brag some more about it over the next couple of weeks.
* * *
I had a very nice breakfast last week with Robin Becker, the day after her reading at Bucknell. We're hatching a plan. More news soon.
* * *
Next week: Thanksgiving break. I'll be putting Harry's chapbook together and catching up on essay grading.
* * *
So nice to hear from Miriam.
[photo: boxwood shadow]
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Four times the pitch is outside the strike zone:
high, low, outside, low—four balls.
The man must be given a base, a base on balls.
But there is no base to be given,
no base unoccupied, the bases are full.
Some cannot understand this.
They believe it must be a shameful thing,
the humiliation of man-made rules and chalk boundaries.
They imagine confrontation itself has failed.
Some, even most, don’t understand the bases loaded walk,
and they proceed to hiss
or to mock their earlier earnest applause.
But I love it.
They’ve got no room to put him on.
They put him on. They put him on
and here comes the lowly run
home. Certain, uncontested,
and incomparably calm.
A home-run would have been unbelievable—
the grand slam, loveliest of moments
but it leads quickly, inevitably, away from us.
Rally as good as over.
But a walk! a walk! Bases still loaded!
Rally never at a more urgent or capable point!
This is the beauty of it.
The maintenance of a simple danger by way of a good eye.
The inning, the game itself,
hangs in the indelicate balance
of this subtlest method for staying alive,
in the casual implication of unending loss,
in the terrible patience of an anonymous victory.
* * *