Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rehn Kovacic & Kevin Connelly: Wednesday Haiku, #126

Image via The Library of Congress

  after moment—
           a different mountain.

          Rehn Kovacic

 Photo by Waugsberg

before the butterfly,
we must first consider
the caterpillar

Kevin Connelly

Art by Hokusai

in the lake
heading for the mountain...
the flea swims
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Friday, July 26, 2013

Hermann Hesse: Poem for a Friday Afternoon

Photo by 8#X

The First Flowers
Beside the brook
Toward the willows,
During these days
So many yellow flowers have opened
Their eyes into gold.
I have long since lost my innocence, yet a memory
Touches my depth, the golden hours of morning, 

And gazes brilliantly upon me out of the eyes of flowers.
I was going to pick flowers;
Now I leave them all standing
And walk home, an old man.

- Hermann Hesse 
  translated by James Wright

This poem comes from a collection selected and translated by esteemed American poet, James Wright. Though a relatively brief selection of his works (and a selection from that selection may be found here), the poems all center around one of Hesse's, and James Wright's, important themes: the concept of home. 

Coincidentally, something I'm reading for a bookclub I'm in deals with the spatial aspects of the house and the broader concept of home. 

Or, maybe not so coincidentally.

The Hesse volume has been around and in print since the early 70s and is available both in inexpensive used copies from abebooks and new copies from the same source (priced lower than that big box website). And, though this is not a small press item, shopping at abe supports independent booksellers, used, rare, and new, which is a nice thought to end the week on.


 Photo by Tanaka Juuyoh

in a village of people
they grow crooked...
field chrysanthemums
translated by David G. Lanoue



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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 171 songs 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Patrick Sweeney & Angele Ellis: Wednesday Haiku, #125

 Woodblock by Hasui

Sleepless night
the extraordinary algebra
of the teeming rain

Patrick Sweeney


 Photo by Rosemary*

unclose to us

Angele Ellis

Woodblock by Kuson

in cold water
sipping the stars...
Milky Way
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 171 songs

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ship of Fools: Issa's Sunday Service, #171

Ship of Fools by The Doors on Grooveshark
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I ran across a deep cut in the Doors catalog, The Ship of Fools (a live version of which is linked above), and was intrigued. I remembered the novel by Katherine Anne Porter (and the movie that followed) and did a little background legwork. The original source appears to be a 15th century allegory that became something of a cultural touchstone at the time.

Pictured above is the Hieronymus Bosch depiction of the allegory, also titled Ship of Fools. As with all things Bosch, even when depicting a relatively tame scene, there is always something curious to contemplate in his work. Another 15th century rendering may be seen in the University of Houston's online digital library.

Of course, this allegory has legs, persisting all these centuries later, in the Porter novel and in songs by such diverse performers as the Doors, the Dead, Robert Plant, World Party, and John Cale, among quite a few others.

As to what the allegory was all about, Wikipedia has a nice little summary of what it is all about:

The allegory depicts a vessel populated by human inhabitants who are deranged, frivolous, or oblivious passengers aboard a ship without a pilot, and seemingly ignorant of their own direction. 

Sound familiar?

Imagine my surprise then, and delight, to find a Christian humor site that takes its title from this insightful observation of the human condition: Ship of Fools. It may not be The Onion but, hell, this crew is laughing while they row, and at themselves, yet. There is an article on Holy Host dispensers, which have a kind of Steely Dan (not the band) quality about them, an hysterical 'caption this photo contest' depicting a particularly, um, earnest looking Tennessee Ernie Ford and a rather nifty exposé of a pseudo-evangelist

I have to say that the decidedly secular Issa's Sunday Service gives a thumbs up to this Christian humor site for, well, having a lark now and again. After all, it's a bit of a relief from the run-of-the-mill these days.

Since Tennessee Ernie Ford was known for other things than gospel recordings - such as shilling for Ford Motor Company, as well as a number of country and pop hits - rather than leaving you laughing at him, I thought it might be best to give the devil his due and present what he was best known for:


 Photo from "Ship of Fools" caption contest (titled holy quiff)

short summer night--
foolish flowers, clever flowers
translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature. Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 171 songs

Friday, July 19, 2013

Carl Mayfield's All the Way Up: Modest Proposal Chapbook, #24

Carl Mayfield is a small press icon and, as with many an old school icon, you will find very few electronic footprints in his wake. Back in the threadbare 80s, he published a small press poetry magazine called Margarine Maypole Orangutan Express. And by magazine, I mean a single sheet of 8.5 x 11" paper, folded once, and slipped into an envelope, with an average of 10 or so brief, sparkling shards of poetry.

It was one of a handful of publications that were an inspiration for Lilliput Review

As happens on occasion, a small press editor doubles as a poet in another, slightly askew, but parallel universe. And so we arrive at chapbook #24 in the Modest Proposal Chapbook series (by the by, all chapbooks in the series are $3 postpaid in the US, $5 everywhere else), entitled All The Way Up by Carl Mayfield.

I've been publishing Carl for many years in Lilliput Review and I knew that one of these days we'd get around to doing a collection. All the Way Up is 20 pages of succinct shards of awareness from one of the finer observers, lyrically speaking, of the human experience. Since this is not a review but a notice of publication, I'll simply slip three of those poems into this post to give you a taste. See what you think.  

If you are taken with these three, there are more where they came from. Do a little slipping of your own - a check (made out to 'Don Wentworth') into an envelope or 3 discreetly secreted dollars - and mail it to Lilliput Review 282 Main Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15201. 

Or, if you are in more of a modern mode (or mood), at the top of the right hand sidebar you will find a Paypal 'Buy Now' button for your relatively instant gratification.

20 poems for 3 bucks and you can say you did your small press duty for the week. Give it a go.

You'll be happy you did.


Photo by Shaggy 359

stirred by people's voices
the greening
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 170 songs

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Shir Haberman & Judy Robinson: Wednesday Haiku, #124

 Snow at Tsukishima by Hasui

snowflake world
never the same

Shir Haberman

 Photo by H. Koppdelaney

even lovers
own nothing
but the moment

Judy Robinson

Photo by Cuatrok77


the kitten holds it down
just a moment...
fallen leaf
translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature. Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 170 songs

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Burroughs: Issa's Sunday Service, #170

Burroughs by Chelsea Light Moving on Grooveshark 
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A number of weeks back, I promised a return to the new, self-titled debut album, Chelsea Light Moving, so here we are. The CD arrived in the mail, it's over on the Samsung now and it is quite remarkable. 

"Burroughs" was the song promised and it can be heard above and 'seen' below. The clip contains some historic footage, presented with quick cut and paste ('cut up style') lyric whimsy, and so is historic on its own terms. 
And, a little confirmation that Chelsea Light Moving is the real deal, try this live rendition on for size - it seriously rocks: 

Reputedly, or at least in the last entry in Last Words: The Final Journals, here is Bill Burroughs final words:
“There is no final enough of wisdom, experience- any fucking thing. No Holy Grail, No Final Satori, no solution. Just conflict.

Only thing that can resolve conflict is love, like I felt for Fletch and Ruski, Spooner, and Calico. Pure love. What I feel for my cats past and present.

Love? What is it?
Most natural painkiller what there is.

Photo by storrao

cats yowling
separated by a wall--
tragic lovers
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 170 songs

Friday, July 12, 2013

Old Pajamas - Drenched Through at Old Age: Small Press Friday

The small press is one of those ideas, one those concepts, that seems to have as many definitions as there are people involved with it.

And, in my estimation, that's a good thing.  A very good thing.

The focus here at Small Press Friday is a narrow one, indeed: generally, it is poetry, frequently it is brief poetry (10 lines or less), and often if is specifically about Eastern forms, such as haiku, tanka, haibun, and haiga (or Eastern influenced forms).

Sometimes, the small press can be one person. One person on a mission. One person dedicated to a particular purpose.

Old Pajamas, this post's subject, is that kind of person. 

Drenched Through At Old Age was printed by the author himself. There'll be no shilling books this time - 25 were printed, in a solid recessed hardcover binding, with a beautiful dust jacket, pictured above. They are all gone, there are none for sale.

There is just the work. And, of course, I think a lot about the work.

With every new book of poetry I come across, I expect disappointment. My hopes are high, but history is more telling - so often there are one or two, or at best 5 or 6 poems in a collection that I connect with.  I want them all to be great, but that's just not how it is.

I've learned, however, to turn that logic upside down (Pee Wee) and realize, my god, this poet wrote four very good poems, indeed. Maybe there is the next Matthew Arnold in our midst. 

But OP is different - there are almost 20 poems in this collection that grabbed me and held on tight. So what am I going to do - grouse about the ones that didn't?

No, indeed. So, let's begin:

in utero there are twenty-seven verbs for clinging 

We've plunged right into the mystery, the deep end of the pool, so to speak. Even before we have words we have verbs, or clinging ...

Or life.

     afforded a choice of smooth or rough, fat or thin,
     I've taken the path that makes moonlight
     most difficult to collect, to bear, to believe in

You have to pause and think: no one else could have written this, or everyone else, it's that simple. It's your choice.

As I find myself often doing when I encounter work of this quality, I think, damn, I wish I'd written that.

Yes, mystery is at the heart of things. Here's two more that speak, or don't speak, to that:

    vagabond on fire   //   offering his hat for free

    what separated our lips   //   the dead butterfly we tear halfway

What, oh, whatever, can the poet mean? This first feels close to Rumi, whom I've been reading a lot of lately for a future project, the second David Lynch, or Nietzsche, or some lapsed agnostic.

The 30 Sorrows of False Spring Mountain
       lick each poem free from bone to bone  //
            as you old man caught blind in sudden snow
                will feel tongues scraping this endless night

I may be wrong, but I don't believe it will be the endless night that feels those tongues scrapping. Han-Shan knows what this is about. How about you?

    from what cheerless thicket ruptures this agent of Love?

It would seem this monostitch turns on the word Love, but, no, that's just the subject. It turns, or, perhaps, re-turns on cheerless

My, how very high that word 'cheerless' lifts my heart.

        my grief on the wings of geese returning

Speaking of returning, the poet here has turned the cliché on its ear.  We are in the presence of a formidable poet here - do you feel it?

what blush there was when peonies wheeled the barrow with I abloom inside

If you were resisting before, your resolve must be melting now. Could this poet's heart be any larger? Might we ask, Mr. Whitman?

     so near the forest's end I'll stay until art decays me

And this:

         how one poem wakes ten thousand skies!

Positively dizzying, the poems come at the reader with a rat-a-tat-tat that's undeniable - I had to put the volume down time after time to catch a breath, it is so packed with pure poetry.


impassive impressive
your face
a bronze bowl
catching petaled tears

Is it my father, or your father, Mr. Segal's father ... or is it wily old Allen Ginsberg's father, Father Death

That's right, it's all fathers, whose petaled tears simply break our hearts.

whet the blade
in Basho's pond
sharp old water


There's no more to say - all that's left is the words of old pajamas, Alan Segal; take us out of here ....

planting the gaps
between this barren
poetry babble
dressing myself
for a betrothal of bloom

my age in crows

counting my age 
in crows, at sixty-six
they slip away,
the black of them
near end of day

     are you as aware of me plum blossoms

Am I

I Am surrendered 
to the sea-claws;
I Am demoted
to being human;
I Am resigned
to be a clothed creature
wading in the tide rising
I Am drowning perfectly.

So, there you are - this barely breaches the surface of this fine, unobtainable book. It isn't so much as mentioned anywhere on the internets ... what to do, what to do?

Well, my best guess, what I'd say, is this. Somebody, some small press publisher, needs to come along and make old pajamas and offer he can't refuse. And I haven't even talked to him about it, so, who knows, maybe he'd say no. The book just came out in 2013 and, like morning dew, as it appeared, so it is gone.

But, really, shouldn't this be in print, somewhere, available to people who read this, amazed, and said, where can I get more? 

Small press Friday, indeed.


Photo by Aftab

pond snails sing
they're in the kettle
but don't know it
translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature. Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 169 songs

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Chen-ou Liu & Rehn Kovacic: Wednesday Haiku, #123

Photo by Mr. Wood

blinds flapping
out of the spring sky
a raven's caw
Chen-ou Liu

 Photo by Lady Dragonfly CC


  on a hot summer evening—

Rehn Kovacic

in a dewdrop world
singing of dewdrops...
summer cicada
translated by David G. Lanoue


Send a single haiku for the Wednesday Haiku feature. Here's how.

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 169 songs

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Waka of the Meiji Era - Empress Dowager Shoken: Lyric for a Sunday Afternoon

 Emperor & Empress in Western Style Dress by Yoshu Chikanobu

Recently, I ran across an older volume of tanka entitled Imperial Japanese Poems of the Meiji Era. Published in 1914 in English and translated by Frank Alanson Lombard, the volume contains the work of Emperor Meiji and the Empress Dowager Shoken. The Emperor was said to have written over 100,000 waka and the Empress over 30,000.

I opened the volume to the following poem, pg. 83, and was greatly taken:

     Easily we brush  
The fallen dust from garments
    Gleaming white and fair;
But from the mind beclouded
How hard to sweep the shadows!
   Empress Dowager Shoken

I continued to look through the collection and yet nothing came close to this initial randomly selected piece, by either the Emperor or the Empress Dowager. Perhaps it is the translations by Lombard; the poems found here by both are fairly interesting. I'll continue to page through the 1914 volume and read the work of both poets, but, well, sometimes serendipity is all.


Greed by Scabeater

our shameful shadows!
in the long night walking
in vain
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 169 songs