Sunday, November 30, 2008

McCartney Cuts-Up Burroughs (& Ginzie)

So, Sir Paul has just simply lead a life of willful irony, no? For fans, he can do no wrong; for everybody else, he hardly gets anything right. Working his avant side project, The Fireman, he's headed into decidedly looser territory. Interviewed recently about what it is, he had this to say about how the lyrics were written:

How we do it on The Fireman is we just sit down and I can be talking to Youth about this that and the other. He sometimes will carry around a few of these poetry books. I might say, ‘Let me have that book’, and I’ll look through it and choose a couple of words at random.

Like ‘use this approach’. And we start working on the word ‘approach’. So I’d nick two words off [Allen] Ginsberg, two words of [William] Burroughs, and it was like Burroughs’ technique, the cut-up. So it was a very random process but it is very liberating.

"this that and the other"? "use this approach"?

Yes, I suppose we have once again entered the irony-free zone with Macca, bless his always lyrical soul. Meanwhile 'Down Under', Burroughs' worship of the Dark Side is paying off better dividends than Wall Street, Main Street, or any other paved with (fill or sketch in your adjective of choice here or here) intentions street.

Here's your chance for a preview of what really gives: amazon's free mp3 download of The Fireman's Nothing Too Much Just Out of Sight.

The jury will be right back.

Hopefully, they'll be bringing the poems.


Saturday, November 29, 2008

ESP Experiment

Ok, I don't get it, but here it is, courtesy Ron Silliman:

The ESP Experiment

Really, I don't get it ...

Let me know how you do ... meanwhile, here's one from our patron.

My old age--
even facing a scarecrow
Issa translated by David Lanoue


Friday, November 28, 2008

Charles Laughton Reads Jack Kerouac

Here's a little something for the holiday weekend, from a blog entitled Hootsbuddy's Place:

Charles Laughton Reading Jack Kerouac

Per instruction, you'll need to slide the bar to the 35 minute mark to pick up the Laughton reading of a scene from Kerouac's Dharma Bums, which, though brief, is quite good. Also Laughton tells stories about the sculptor Henry Moore, modern art, Chartres Cathedral, Psalm 104, and so much more. He categorizes all as religious experiences which indeed they are.

Happy Black Friday.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Little Message for All

There will be no regular Thursday post this week, but a little message for those who happen to stop by is in order:

And, so, yes, the holidays have arrived and maybe you need to escape from the mass aviary slaughter or Uncle Phil or endless football games, so here's a little something to help you out (hint: click on the right side and drag to fold over). Note, fold-ins are listed by subject along the left sidebar.


PS If you've never seen it (or even if you have), there is always the best holiday movie ever for those from dysfunctional families: Home for the Holidays. And, yes, it is specifically a Thanksgiving movie.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Recommended Net Reading (& Listening)

Here's some recommended reading (& listening) from around the net:

Mary Karr highlights two Kabir translations by Robert Bly

An absolutely brilliant article by Jeanette Winterson on the importance of poetry

Kay Ryan interviewed, with James Billington, by Charlie Rose (now Charlie, if you'd only stop referring to her in the 3rd person as if she wasn't there ...)

Nikki Giovanni reading her epic "Ego Tripping"


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Gary Snyder & Allen Ginsberg:
Selected Letters

Snyder and Ginsberg, Walking Not Talking

A spring night in Shokoku-ji
Eight years ago this May
We walked under cherry blossoms
At night in an orchard in Oregon.
All that I wanted then
Is forgotten now, but you.
Here in the night
In a garden of the old capital
I feel the trembling ghost of Yugao
I remember your cool body
Naked under a summer cotton dress.
Gary Snyder

Allen Ginsberg - Father Death Blues

For those interested in all things Beat, a little something to brighten up a day: The Selected Letters of Gary Snyder and Allen Ginsberg, as reviewed by Jeff Baker at The Oregonian.

Here's the publisher Counterpoint's blurb:

One of the central relationships in the Beat scene was the long-lasting friendship of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder. Ginsberg ventured west in 1956 and was introduced to Snyder by Kenneth Rexroth, a mentor to the Beats and the man who knew everyone. Snyder, a graduate student in the department of East Asian languages at the University of California, was living in a tiny cottage in Berkeley, sitting zazen, making tea, and writing poems. He had already spent some time as a merchant mariner and as a solitary fire lookout in the Cascades. Ginsberg introduced Snyder to the East Coast Beat writers, including Jack Kerouac, while Snyder himself became the model for the serious poet that Ginsberg so wanted to become. Snyder encouraged Ginsberg to explore the beauty of the West Coast and, even more lastingly, introduced Ginsberg to Buddhism, the subject of so many long letter exchanges between them. Beginning in 1956 and continuing through 1991, the two men exchanged more than 850 letters. Bill Morgan, Ginsberg's biographer and an important editor of his papers, has selected the most significant correspondence from this long friendship. The letters themselves paint the biographical and poetic portraits of two of America's most important--and most fascinating--poets. Robert Hass's insightful introduction discusses the lives of these two major poets and their enriching and moving relationship.

As Snyder more succinctly observed of their relationship: "I made him walk more, he made me talk more."

Yes, many an old fart's holiday list is now complete.


Monday, November 24, 2008

Hieronymus Bosch, the Logo, and the Haiga of Max Verhart

Over the years, I've received lots of questions about the Lilliput Review "logo" or the Hieronymous Bosch birdman as I think of him. Most recently, Gary Hotham sent along an email inquiry that was precipitated by his friend and fellow poet, Max Verhart. Max had been struck by the fact that both Gary's book Missed Appointment and his own only the white (which Max tells me is still available - send inquires to "max at verhart dot org") both contained the image. The image is in a photo haiga, from only the white. Here are some details from Max's email:

As it happens, I am living in the Netherlands in Den Bosch, the town that gave Jheronimus Bosch his family name. He lived and worked here. Last year I found some statuettes after some images from his paintings were being shown on pedestals in the small river that runs through (or even mostly under) the town. I made pictures of them that I later combined for use in the haiga.

And here is his haiga:

And here's a little closer look at what he is talking about:

It has been so long since I started using the Bosch art as a logo, almost 20 years, that I mistakenly thought it came from the work he is most famous for, The Garden of Earthly Delights. However it actually comes from his The Temptation of St. Anthony (it can be seen at the bottom of the left hand panel of the triptych). The net, being the amazing, er, thing that it is, yielded up this interesting artistic take. And, well, here.

In fact, the little guy seems to be all over the place.

I was initially intrigued by the fact that, whatever it is, it seems to be carrying a letter of some sort. What could be more perfect as a logo for a small press magazine starting out in the late 80's? I believe I ran across a nice high-quality reproduction of it in a Dover clip art book. A number of years back, a good friend of mine sent a nice blowup of the original which, though it crops the top, gives an idea of the kind of glorious detail with which Bosch rendered his work. The sheer scale of his work obscures its minute complexity:

And, you know, ya just have to love those old school ice skates ...


Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Sunday Poem: Early Richard Brautigan

Here's Richard Brautigan's title poem from The Galilee Hitchhiker:

The Galilee Hitchhiker, Part I

Baudelaire was
driving a Model A
across Galilee.
He picked up a
hitch-hiker named
Jesus who had
been standing among
a school of fish
feeding them
pieces of bread.
"Where are you
going?" asked
Jesus, getting
into the front
"Anywhere, anywhere
out of this world!"
"I'll go with you
as far as
said Jesus.
"I have a
at the carnival
there, and
I must be

Richard Brautigan

Consider your Sunday obligations fulfilled.


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Issa for the Twitter Generation

Folks are thinking up lots of ways to use the new technologies to serve classic content. The latest is David S. Lanoue's world famous Issa Archive for folks Twitter addicted (and perhaps poetry deficient).

Old school as I am, I get my daily dose of David's Issa via email. Now you can get that same daily dose while immersed in daily doses of, well, a million other things. Here's a look at the Twitter version.

Calls to mind the thousand petaled lotus or a field full of morning glories.

Here's a little Issa the old fashioned way:


voice of the bell--
the morning-glories are the first
to stir
translated by David S. Lanoue



Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Jam: Buddy Guy and Carlos Santana

Here's a little something to cruise into the weekend with. It is a slow, slow burn, as all the best things in life are.

As a lifelong fan of Carlos Santana, we're talking 1969 from the very beginning, I have never, never, heard Carlos play like this. I'm talking style now. I love Buddy Guy, too, always have; one of his things is to come out and play every imaginable style possible and literally blow anybody on the stage off if they can't stand downwind of his immense power, intelligence, and subtlety. In this clip it is like Santana decided to come out and play Buddy's style and the result is, well, see for yourself. The smile on Buddy's face says it all.



Thursday, November 20, 2008

William Wharton and Sharon Olds

It's come to my attention that one of my favorite writers, William Wharton, has died recently. Wharton is best known for his first novel Birdy (possible spoiler alert), an eccentric, moving, emotionally charged novel about the relationship of two young men growing up in the 50's and 60's. Birdy is obsessed with birds, his love at times going beyond what can be safely described as psychologically healthy. Al, his best friend, recounts his life and the story of his attempt to bring him back from the brink when he is damaged
seemingly beyond repair during war .

Even more relevant for me personally was his second book Dad, which I read while my own father was going through a long, painful process of dying. It was a comfort and revelation, as sometimes only a book can be. A novel doesn't have to be by a Tolstoy or Proust to move us to the point of changing our world. This book did that and it's impossible to say how grateful I was.

Wharton himself lived a wonderful, tragic, eccentric life. I intend to post about him in some depth at the blog, Eleventh Stack, that I contribute to at my job and so will notify folks when that goes up. Though all the obituaries internationally praised him (oddly, he was beloved in Poland, having a number of works recently translated from English to Polish, including a sort of sequel to Birdy entitled Al, without ever having been published in English), he is one of those authors I believe will rapidly slip into obscurity.

I'd like to deliver one blow against the darkness for him before it finally descends.

This week is the birthday of Sharon Olds, one of the best mainstream poets writing in America today. Much of her work is intensely personal but, like all great authors, she manages to universalize the details so they resonant powerfully for her readers. Here is a poem that at once contains elements representative of her work and yet takes a somewhat different stylistic approach. Here the particular seems literally universal and there is a humor on display more overtly than is usually the case.


After we flew across the country we
got into bed, laid our bodies
delicately together, like maps laid
face to face, East to West, my
San Francisco against your New York, your
Fire Island against my Sonoma, my
New Orleans deep in your Texas, your Idaho
bright on my Great Lakes, my Kansas
burning against your Kansas your Kansas
burning against my Kansas, your Eastern
Standard Time pressing into my
Pacific Time, my Mountain Time
beating against your Central Time, your
sun rising swiftly from the right my
sun rising swiftly from the left your
moon rising slowly from the left my
moon rising slowly from the right until
all four bodies of the sky
burn above us, sealing us together,
all our cities twin cities,
all our states united, one
nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all.
Sharon Olds

Cover Art by Harland Ristau

This week's issue from the Lilliput archives is #65, from February 1995. To put things in gentle perspective, on February 23rd, 1995, the Dow Jones average closed at 4003.33, the first time it ever closed over 4000. Poetry, at that time, may also have been a tad more innocent, though I'm not sure if you can tell from the following. Enjoy.



And I saw it through the barred
window, your hand with bits
of light in it. I licked them like a horse
and grew wings no sun can kill.
Ali Kress



Gregory Vincent S. Thomasino


Paint Sadness

down a

on tree

Suzanne Bowers



He would have to tell this one to Dad.
He started to pick up the phone
and dial the number,
smiling all the while.

Then he remembered.
When everyone asked him
who he was going to call
he was afraid to answer.
Daniel J. McCaffrey


Guardrail Graffiti (A Found Poem)

Bart Solarcyzk


Bird Haiku #14

Wings extended across the ground
a dead sparrow
flies into eternity.
David Rhine


In memory of Suzanne Bowers and Harland Ristau.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Richard Brautigan: Complicated Banking Problem

Here's a short story/flash fiction piece by Richard Brautigan, entitled "Complicated Banking Problem." The young woman who reads it does a great job, though she is forced to look off center a bit too much (get that copy closer to the camera, folks!).

God, could we use Brautigan today ...

Hope you enjoy it.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Electronic Poetry Network

The Electronic Poetry Network is a project of the Shreve Memorial Library of Shreveport, LA. I'll let Carlos Colon, the editor, explain what it is:

The Electronic Poetry Network (EPN), founded in 1997 and edited by Carlos Colon, uses the work of poets from around the world. In addition to being featured on this web site, the poetry is displayed all day or all weekend long on an electronic message board located on the first floor of the Main (Downtown) Branch of our library. If you wish to have your poems considered for the EPN, please send 5-10 short poems (no longer than about 50 words each) to The poems do not need to be haiku. They just need to be short and suitable for the general public. Previously published poems are acceptable.

This week the network is featuring 5 short poems of my own. There is no online archiving function, so after this week, poof, they are gone. Click the above link to see them. The entire week's worth may be viewed by clicking each individual day.

The no-archiving function got me to thinking about a retrospective exhibition of Roy Lichtenstein that was done in New York back in the 80's. It was put together in a loft space downtown in the Village and Lichtenstein recreated some of his most famous paintings on the loft walls. I believe the exhibition lasted the standard month or so. After it was over they simply painted over the art.

They painted over the art.

A little like the great Buddhist mandala creators. Poof.

Which triggers another memory, this one of a story Gail Levin told in the introduction to her book Hopper's Places, a book about studying place (probably the central character in Hopper's work) in the work of the great American painter, Edward Hopper. The research for her book consisted of going out to the various locales she could find, whether homes, buildings, landscapes etc., that Hopper painted and photographing them. She then compared how Hopper had visualized his subject with its actual appearance, taking into account that things change. She recounts the tale of how she had been searching for quite sometime in a particular neighborhood when she spotted the home she had been looking for. Jumping out of the car, she went up to the house and encountered a house painter. In her excitement she said, " Do you realize that Edward Hopper painted this house?" And the painter replied:

"Lady, I don't care who painted it before. I'm painting it now."


Monday, November 17, 2008

Dew on the Grass, Part 2

Continuing the posting of an occasional poem from Dew on the Grass: the Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa by
Makoto Ueda, take a look at this one:

the clamorous world
late cherry blossoms

I've written a number of poems about late cherry blossoms because there is a grove of cherry trees behind the museum next to where I work and they blossom two, sometimes, three times a year. Right now, there are a handful of the trees, positioned just so and protected from the merciless wind and chill of autumn, that have blossomed even though it has been in the 40's and 30's here in Pittsburgh recently. Here is one poem that resulted:

the older you are,
the nobler the truth

fall, cherry blossom.


Sunday, November 16, 2008

Short Poem Sunday

Here's an Issa haiku from Dew on the Grass: the Life and Poetry of Kobayashi Issa by Makoto Ueda:

this loneliness—
whichever way I look
wild violets

This Issa book is going for almost a hundred dollars on amazon, so I will be featuring haiku from it occasionally in future posts.

About time for a reprint, I'd say.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mitch Mitchell, R.I.P

One of the great understated and under appreciated rock drummers from the golden age, Mitch Mitchell, has died.

Along with B. J. Wilson of the first incarnation of Procol Harum, he is one of my personal favorites . Wrap your head around the following clip; I can assure you that when the first Hendrix lp, Are You Experienced, came out in '67 and my best friend put it on the stereo in his basement, the world was transformed. Mitch Mitchell was a big part of that transformation.

Here he is live, surely at one of the creative peaks of his career. The drumming is simply incredible.

Rest in peace,

Friday, November 14, 2008

Two Lyric Geniuses

It's Friday. Time to watch somebody else work for a change, pun intended. First, the incomparable John Coltrane, with Eric Dolphy:

Plus, Derek Walcott's sublime Forty Acres.


Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Turning Year, WCW, & a Free 6 Issue Subscription to Lilliput Review

The first batch of new issues for subscibers went out this week and I am hopeful that the rest will follow over the next few weeks. Also announced is the publication of chapbook Number 19 in the Modest Proposal series, entitled The Turning Year: Japanese Nature Poems, translated by Dennis Maloney and Hide Oshiro.

The Turning Year is a companion volume to Unending Night: Japanese Love Poems, both of which are drawn from the classic 100 Poems by 100 Poets (Hyakunin Isshu). Both of these collections take a unique subject approach to a Japanese poetic classic and allow the reader to contemplate both the individual poems and their cultural milieu from distinctly unique perspectives. Those familiar with Dennis's translations of Yosano Akiko and others, both from this blog and as published in Lilliput Review, know that he stays true to the original while bridging the gaps from both classical and modern Japanese to modern English. His smooth, imagistic style is at once lyrical and economic, admirable qualities perfectly suited to the source material. Along with Hide Oshiro, they have put together a fine collection of nature poems that should entice anyone with even a casual interest in Eastern verse. Here are a few examples:

Beyond sight my thoughts
turn to Kasuga temple
near my home
where above Mt. Mikasa
the same moon shines.
Abe-no Nakamaro

At this place along the road,
the known and unknown
come and go,
meet and part again,
passing through the Osaka gate.

On this sudden trip to Takuke shrine
I bring no prayer offering;
God of the mountain path
please accept the brocade
of maple leaves surrounding us.

The Turning Year is a 19 page chapbook and sells for $3.00, postpaid. In a web-only publication launch, I'm offering the two volumes, The Turning Year and Unending Night, for $5.00 postpaid. For further information, email me at "lilliput review at gmail dot com".

In poetry info this week, it is Anne Sexton's birthday. She is a modern American favorite of mine and here she is reading her poem "Her Kind." This week the Best American Poetry Blog featured a posting on another personal favorite, Richard Brautigan. I'm not sure I agree with their contention that his poetry was not successful in his lifetime; I can't think of too many poets at the time who were more read than Brautigan but hey, maybe, all those funny mood altering whatzits beclouded me already fuzzy noggin. In any case, the posting reprints his "Your Catfish Friend," which seems to be hands down one of his most popular poems circa Internet 2008.

In small press news, a place called "The Shop" is featuring Vox Audio for sale, which includes readings by small press giants Todd Moore and Albert Huffstickler. I'm curious about the Huff reading, which is listed as taking place in Austin and Bisbee, Arizona. If anybody knows anything about this one, drop me a line. Another poetic favorite, Miriam Sagan, was recently interviewed by Patricia Prime for Haibun Today. Miriam has published frequently in Lilliput and is the author of The Future Tense of Ash, another Modest Proposal Chapbook. Congratulations are in order for Alan Catlin, whose book Effects of Sunlight in the Fog, is number 20 on the Small Press Distribution Poetry Bestseller list, eking out the fashionably happening Tao Lin.

Finally in poetic news, William Carlos Williams' granddaughter has put out and appeal for folks to vote for WCW for the New Jersey Hall of Fame. Bruce is in already, so maybe it's time for someone a tad more lyrical. Williams is listed under the general category (Walt Whitman is listed under history - I'm wondering if there isn't going to be some nasty vote splitting there). You don't have to be politically minded or even from Jersey to vote and though they ask for your name, you can always dust off your old nom de plume if need be. Nobody is checking. If you are strategizing, you may want to tone down the Abbott and Costello vote - only two folks get in across all the categories so if you vote for other famous folks ... well, you get the idea.

Art by Bobo

This week's tour of the Lillie archive brings us to issue #67 from April 1995. Ah, that simpler time of the Contract of America, the Oklahoma City bombing, and the seemingly ubiquitous Unabomber. Ya know, come to think of it, the 90's had a kind of 80's feel without all that hair. Here's what was happening in this little world of the short poem.


old fishing village
---------in morning mist
Patrick Sweeney

A Woman

A woman standing
under the pier with her
back to me, staring
out at the ocean.

The water that slides
up the beachface stops
at her feet. I fall
in love every day.
Andy Fogle

One Idea

The music of the night
Calls me to come out
Where insect voices sing
Of universal peace
And annihilation as one idea.
B. Kim Meyer


The rope that ties
its own knots.
H. Edgar Hix


Finally, here is Brobdingnag Feature Poem #27 by Mark Sonnenfeld. I'll give a free 6 issue subscription to Lilliput
(or a 6 issue extension to your current subscription) to the first person who can tell me what he's talking about:

lawrence, KS

what I think about
is old bridgeboards
revving car engines
that drag-race their dust
to the rivers
eerie current
with all the mud + sand
so high as now this river is
a church
organist plays the daytime
workmen listening
from then her window
in the land ladys
rooming house sometime
the boards pop
at night
a part of her
left alone walking
the old deserted pavilion
she is drawn
Mark Sonnenfeld

For those who are not all that familiar with Lillie, the magazine features short poems, ten lines and under. Very occasionally, I will publish something longer under the heading Brobdingnag Feature poem. Hence, the above.

And, oh yeah, I do know what he's talking about ...


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Ed Baker: Life as Poem, Poem as Life

Readers of Lilliput Review and this blog have at least a passing familiarity with the work and musings of Ed Baker, poet/artist extraordinaire. Geof Huth, at his blog dbqp: visualizing poetics, has done a fantastic feature on Ed which gives a glimpse at the full length and breadth of this amazing artist.

A tip o' the hat to Ed ...


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Basho's New Robe


Via snail mail, one of my favorite small press poets, Bart Solarczyk, shared one his favorite Basho haiku

In my new robe
this morning --
someone else.
Basho translated by Lucien Stryk


Too good not to share ... thanks, Bart.

Oh, and about that family resemblance ...


Monday, November 10, 2008

Jack Gilbert, Risking Delight

Jack Gilbert is one of America's finest living poets. Mary Karr highlights his work in her Poet's Choice column this week, which is laudable.

However, though the excerpt from "A Brief for the Defense" she chose is salient if brief (in part the same excerpt that appears on the Gilbert page at, overall it really does not do proud an under-appreciated poet like Gilbert. Here is the poem in its entirety:

A Brief for the Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving

somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.

But we enjoy our loves because that's what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not be made so fine. The -----Bengal tiger-would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit that there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafes and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come.
Jack Gilbert

One can empathize with Karr and her limited number of column inches, yet still ...

For those unfamiliar with Gilbert, here's a few more.


Sunday, November 9, 2008

Taciturn Noir for a Sunday Afternoon, by Richard Brautigan

Taciturn Noir for a Sunday Afternoon

The Scarlatti Tilt by Richard Brautigan

from the novel, The Revenge of the Lawn

I guess this one needs to be nominated for the flash fiction hall of fame, the classic category.


Saturday, November 8, 2008

Masoka Shiki and the Cosmic Baseball Association

Following Thursday's post, I got an email from the intrepid Ed Baker, pointing out that Masoka Shiki was such a great fan of baseball that he was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Here's the link Ed sent along.

Which got me to thinking about a great site that's been around quite sometime: the Cosmic Baseball Association. I've linked here to the All-Time rosters page as the homepage has a little political flavor right now that might be confusing (though it is non-partisan) to start out with.

In fact, the whole site may seem a bit confusing, but I urge you to feel it first and think about it later. I recommend you just choose a team in the right hand column and follow the links try (try "Beats" first - actual team name: Dharma Beats). Once you get the flavor (and your mind starts drifting away like you were playing right field on a bright August afternoon with your ace on the mound), click back to the homepage and check out the links along the left hand side.

Finally, to put all this in proper perspective, Ed also sent along a link to an archive of Shiki's work from the University of Virginia that is well worth checking out.

Thanks, Ed, for stoking the cerebral furnace early on a Saturday morning ...


Friday, November 7, 2008

Gary Dop's On Swearing

This week's post from American Life in Poetry has a moving poem about World War II veterans. I thought I'd pass it along ...

American Life in Poetry: Column 189


In celebration of Veteran's Day, here is a telling poem by Gary Dop, a Minnesota poet. The veterans of World War II, now old, are dying by the thousands. Here's one still with us, standing at Normandy, remembering.

On Swearing

In Normandy, at Point Du Hoc,
where some Rangers died,
Dad pointed to an old man
20 feet closer to the edge than us,
asking if I could see
the medal the man held
like a rosary.
As we approached the cliff
the man's swearing, each bulleted
syllable, sifted back
toward us in the ocean wind.
I turned away,
but my shoulder was held still
by my father's hand,
and I looked up at him
as he looked at the man.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright (c) 2007 by Gary Dop. Reprinted from "Whistling Shade," Summer, 2007, by permission of Gary Dop. Introduction copyright (c) 2008 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Celebrating Veteran's Day to me almost seems an oxymoron. Perhaps it is technically correct, but commemorating I believe is the finer term.

The moment captured in those last 5 lines ...


Thursday, November 6, 2008

Masaoka Shiki and the World When You Were Looking the Other Way

This past week at the library, I picked up and read Selected Poems by Masaoka Shiki. Shiki is one of the 4 cornerstone's of classic haiku (aka one of the 4 master poets), the others being Basho, Issa, and Buson. In the past, I've enjoyed Shiki's work in anthologies but had not run across a collection I was enticed by until this one, so I thought I'd give it a try. This collection is translated by the always fine purveyor of Eastern literature Burton Watson.

Shiki is the most recent of the big four haikuists, born in 1867 and dying in 1902. In his succinct introduction, Watson sketches out the life, the work, and its historical importance without ever deviating into the academic. As some folks may know, haiku (or hokku) was originally the first verse of the longer renga form. According to Watson, what Shiki did

"... first of all was to establish the haiku as completely separate from the renga, a poetic form fully capable of standing on its own. To emphasize this step he rejected the older term hokku, as well as haikai, another term by which the form was known in earlier times, and replaced them with the designation haiku.

It was thought that 17 syllables was to0 brief a form to be considered seriously, but Shiki maintained and went on to prove that its very brevity was its strength. Though haiku up to this time was generally thought to be the first verse of the linked renga form, of course Basho, Buson, and Issa had used it independently and helped establish its individual predominance. Shiki helped to codify its importance and almost single-handedly revived haiku, which has since become one of the world's most predominant forms. We have Shiki to thank for this reformation and the resultant burgeoning of haiku.

One of the things I found most appealing about Shiki's own work is that he, for the most part, rejected literary allusions, puns, and wordplay, as Watson points out. Some of the cultural difficulty that I experienced in the work of Basho falls away as a result and, so, in my view, the work overall connects more easily for modern, non-Japanese readers. This is not to say I like Shiki better than Basho per se, just that his work is on the whole more accessible.

Watson translates Shiki's work in three forms: haiku, tanka, and kanshi. Watson translates 144 of the over 20,000 haiku he wrote. I marked 16 down of special interest and found enough that grabbed me that I will seek out other collections (there must be others worth reading of the 19,800 plus that Watson didn't translate). 2 of the 33 tanka he translated were enjoyable and I didn't connect with any of the 4 kanshi, though they all had things to recommend them. Here's a brief selection from the 16 haiku.


A carp leaps up,
the autumn moonlight

Poppies open,
and the same day
shatter in the wind

To ears
muddied with sermons,
a cuckoo

After I squashed
the spider -
lonely night chill

For me, who go,
for you, who stay behind -
two autumns

Year-end housecleaning -
gods and buddhas
sitting out on the grass

Working All Day and into the Night to Clear Out My Haiku Box
I checked
three thousand haiku
on two persimmons

Crickets -
in the corner of the garden
where we buried the dog

They've cut down the willow -
the kingfishers
don't come anymore


Also this week, there are lots of tidbits of interest, gathered from here and there. Here's a poem from Albert Huffstickler, from somewhere that no doubt would have bemused him.

As noted recently by Ron Silliman, The Outlaw Book of American Poetry is on google books almost in its entirety. In my capacity as a standard mucky-muck at my place of employment, I have to note that a ton of google book previews seem to contain nearly the entire book, with a few pages blocked here and there. Amazing, scary, and exhilaritating all at once. One way to kick that Robitussin jones, I guess.

At The Ultra-Mundane, a gentlemen by the name of R. Alan is reading In Watermelon Sugar by Richard Brautigan, chapter by chapter. I haven't gotten used to his voice, but here it is if you'd like to give it a try.

Here's an extended take on Thomas Hardy's early novel Under the Greenwood Tree that I put together for a post at my day job for those so inclined. Regular readers of The Hut will remember I briefly mentioned when I was reading this in a previous post.

Courtesy of Poetry and Poets in Rags here is a timely posting of "Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes at World Changing. Powerful as well as timely.

Mary Karr's Poet's Choice column this week has a very resonant poem on dying sparrows by Brenda Hillman entitled "
Partita for Sparrows." I haven't connected as often with Karr as with her predecessors at the Poet's Choice column, but I'm warming to her and think she's found a diamond (or, at least, a shiny, tinsely thing to start a nest with) in the post-modern poetry rough with this one.

This week's sampling of poems from Lilliput Review comes from #68 (replete with the nifty title "Geomorphology for Poets" - what was I thinking, you may ask), from April 1995. Enjoy.



winter's intricate crystal calculus

Earl Grey tea. Good fire in the stove

Out-of-season fly
lights on poster of the Milky Way.
Mark Blaeuer

Tel Aviv

They are sitting next to each other
at the bus stop.
The old woman who in Germany
was 897876421
and the young girl with a blue butterfly
on her bare shoulder.

We are witnesses, my daughter and I.
Karen Alkalay-Gut

At the Hoh River

The river slides by like a column of bells.
Our marriage is now a week old.
You smile and ask me to guess
in which hand you hide the moon!
Scott King

from the mountaintop

if a monday evening
drive home from work
in traffic is no
place for a sudden
fuck you,
neither is this place.
Andrew Urbanus


----even -if all the others
are running, if you walk to heaven
----you'll still be there in time.
Harland Ristau

¶ and the homeless, the truly homeless
-are we
-who separate ourselves
-from the rest of it
-w/ walls


The new issues, #'s 165 and 166, should begin shipping in about a week. Also, a new Modest Proposal Chapbook, #19, entitled The Turning Year: Japanese Nature Poems, translated by Dennis Maloney and Hide Oshiro from 100 Poems by 100 Poets, and a companion volume to Unending Night, will be forthcoming very soon.