Wednesday, April 29, 2009

C. P. Cavafy: State of the Art Website

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the birth of the great Greek poet, C. P. Cavafy. Two new volumes of his work have just been published: a new Collected Poems and a volume entitled The Unfinished Poems. Online the official Cavafy website is a state of the art wonder, collecting a variety of translations (sometimes up to 4 for an individual poem) into 5 distinct categories: "The Canon," "Repudiated," "Hidden," "Unfinished (titles only)," and "Prose Poems." There are also sections of his prose, as well as biographical, critical material, and a bibliography of his work. In addition there is an archival section that has notes, images, manuscripts, and more.

The respect accorded to the poet here should be a model for website development of all major poets, it is that good. All the major works, as translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard are available to read, with many alternate translations as alluded to above. As an example, here are two translations of a short poem of interest:

Long Ago

I’d like to speak of this memory...
but it’s so faded now... as though nothing is left—
because it was so long ago, in my early adolescent years.

A skin as though of jasmine...
that August evening—was it August?—
I can still just recall the eyes: blue, I think they were...
Ah yes, blue: a sapphire blue.
C. P. Cavafy
translated by Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard

Far Back
I should like to tell you of this reminiscence....
But it has faded so.... it is as though nothing now remained —
because far back, in my first adolescent years it lies.

A skin that was suggestive of the jasmine....
That August evening — Was it the month of August?....
Hardly do I remember now the eyes; they were blue, I think....
Ah, yes! I can recall their blue — a sapphire blue.
C. P. Cavafy
translated by John Cavafy

Placing a variety of translations of individual poems side by side like this helps greatly in attempting to evoke the poet's original execution and intent. Even the lesser translations provide a wealth of suggestion for healthy speculation. Another poem I was taken with, "Candles," has three variations as well as the original Greek. It just doesn't get much better than this. It's well worth checking out while Cavafy is in mind.

Tomorrow is also the birthday of Yusef Komunyakaa: here is nice selection of his work at the Internet Poetry Archive.


Cover by Bobo

This visit to the Lilliput Review archive takes a look at issue #37 from October 1992. Issues #1 through the 30's were in the original Lillie format, approx. 3.6 x 4.25", as opposed to the layout it eventually morphed into, 4.25 x 3.5." Whats the diff, you might ask. Well, the current format has 16 pages, as opposed to 12 pages, and is taller than it is wide, the reverse of the original. Thus more pages and more poems per page. The old format averaged between 10 to 15 poems, the new 20 to 26 or so.

Just in case you were wondering.

As a result, from here out through issue #1, there are less poems to choose from so, as a result, there will probably be a few less sample poems per issue. Here are 3 from October 1992:

like a smile
engulfing a white bird
a single motion
gaining the swooping speeed
of a voice
stretching across the land,
a sheet of sound
that might blanket
the living birth
within your throat
Ben Tremillo

Second Chance
In your dream you return
to the place where you went
wrong, and given this chance
to change things you go on
the way you went before.
Even in sleep you know
there is only one go --
and it went well the first time.
Where it didn't -- well, it will
be good to see you again.
Louis McKee

Gone Forever
the sky, flat and infinite blue
with coos of a mourning dove
bouncing off its page

who would call you back
when even the smallest cries
are erased

Finally, happy birthday to Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth:

the distant mountain
reflected in his eyes...
translated by David Lanoue


Monday, April 27, 2009

Toi Derricotte

I subscribed this National Poetry Month to's Poem-A-Day service and it has been very ho-hum. In recent days, finally, something with spark: you can always count on Toi Derricotte. Among her many powerful volumes are Natural Birth, Tender, and Captivity.

In Knowledge of Young Boys

i knew you before you had a mother,
when you were newtlike, swimming,
a horrible brain in water.
i knew you when your connections
belonged only to yourself,
when you had no history
to hook on to,
when you had no sustenance of metal
when you had no boat to travel
when you stayed in the same
place, treading the question;
i knew you when you were all
eyes and a cocktail,
blank as the sky of a mind,
a root, neither ground nor placental;
not yet
red with the cut nor astonished
by pain, one terrible eye
open in the center of your head
to night, turning, and the stars
blinked like a cat. we swam
in the last trickle of champagne
before we knew breastmilk—we
shared the night of the closet,
the parasitic
closing on our thumbprint,
we were smudged in a yellow book.

son, we were oak without
mouth, uncut, we were
brave before memory.
Toi Derricotte

Toi Derricotte is a formidable poet, who mixes grit with beauty; her metal was forged in rebellion, the principles and sensibilities of which she has always been dedicated to and which serve as the foundation for what she does. Her work has yet to receive the universal recognition it deserves, but those in the poetry community know, respect, and admire her. I saw her read in a small setting back in New Jersey over 20 years ago from her powerful prose/prose poetry volume Natural Birth. She teaches here in Pittsburgh and was the co-founder of the poetry collective Cave Canem. I deal with Pitt poetry students regularly and the word from that quarter is always good.

Of course, it is, with Toi Derricotte there isn't any other way.

A poet with heart and fire and skill; now there's something you don't see everyday, eh,

at the back window
the same person...
translated by David Lanoue


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Issa's Sunday Service

Welcome to Issa's Sunday Service, a little experiment from Issa's Untidy Hut in music and poetry.

Above, you will find one of my favorite songs, Van Morrison's Summertime in England from the album Common One. Hope you enjoy it. Though the album itself was not much of a success, it remains my favorite.

Along with a literary-themed piece of music on Sunday, there will also be a poem. Those of you who follow The Hut regularly know that for going on two years now I've been posting once a week, in countdown form, some sample poems from back issues of Lilliput Review. Recently I added another feature, a Monday through Friday posting of one poem from Lillie on Twitter. Poems there are limited to 140 characters, including spaces, so that service really highlights the short poem. Again, I started with the latest issues and am currently posting a poem a day in countdown form (right now I'm in the early 150's).

With these Sunday posts, I'm going to feature one poem from each issue of Lilliput Review, this time counting up from #1, which was a limited "test run" issue (initially 10 copies, later expanded out to 20) to see if the concept of a tiny mag was practical and doable for someone who'd never attempted it before. As such, it contained 7 short poems and the issue is from March 1989.

Future Sunday posts will simply feature a song and a poem, with little or no commentary. Since this was the first of a series, I thought some explanation was appropriate. From issue #1 of Lilliput Review:

When Religion Invents Man
trees shimmer, leaves curl
up, in, tiny balls into tight
buds, bud through branches,
into thick trunks, down &
down, the earth opening,
thin crust, unsplitting,
fine white threads, a
single hard kernal &
this new beginning.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Mary Oliver: Evidence

It's been said that every great poet (or artist, or novelist etc.) is simply writing the same great poem over again and again. The poet herself first and foremost understands this deeply, deeply - it runs to the source, the unexplainable essence from which it springs.

Have you not heard the sparrow, singing?

Most critics have written off Mary Oliver a long time ago. They may acknowledge that she has written a number of very good, if not great, poems (& who among them can say the same, eh, William Logan?) but now, they say, she just repeats past glories, retreads the same old tropes.

And the waves, do they not repeat past glories, retread old tropes?

Imagine, in your life as a poet, toiling day in and day out, for a lifetime, how ever long, imagine having written a handful of poems that deeply touched the lives of others, some who have devoted their lives to the word, others who have not.


Mary Oliver has touched the lives of many and she has done it by tapping deep into the well-spring not only of what makes us human, but also into what it is to live. She shares the great subjects and themes of no less than Whitman and Emerson and Snyder and Berry and Wordsworth and Thoreau. She is formidable, in her way.

If you are a Mary Oliver fan, as I am, you will enjoy very much her new book, Evidence. If you are not, perhaps there is nothing here that will win you over. But there are a handful of poems in this collection which revisit that well and it is pure and it is cold and it is deep.

You will find no workshop Evian here, friends.

And who among us can say the same, a handful of poems, pure and cold and deep?

Yes, there are poems that are working through the same images, the same thoughts, the same themes. Some are light, very light, indeed. But they are true: true to her vision, true to her thought, true to herself. True to the world.

When she gifts another with a cherished possession (a bone from the ear of a whale, found deposited on the beach at the edge of the Atlantic) the significance of which she has written about previously, I felt, in fact, she was gifting her heart.

Imagine giving away the object that inspired a poem that tens of thousands of people read and loved. And the gift she receives in return is even more beautiful, one that Yeats and Lawrence would have admired, indeed.

Here are 3 poems from Evidence that work for me; the are distinctly the Mary Oliver of my mind, not all pretty nature and beautiful this and lovely that. They are the Mary Oliver that senses death, right here, right now, all the time, and its power and its strength are its beauty, the beauty of life.

The beauty of death.

Li Po and the Moon

There is the story of the old Chinese poet:
at night in his boat he went drinking and dreaming
--and singing

then drowned as he reached for the moon's reflection.
Well, probably each of us, at some time, has been
--as desperate.

Not the moon, though.
Mary Oliver

Thinking of Swirler
One day I went out
--into a wonderful
----ongoing afternoon,
------it was fall,

the pine trees were brushing themselves
--against the sky
---as though they were painting it,
----and Swirler,

who was alive then,
--was walking slowly
---through the green bog,
----his neck

as thick as an ox,
--his antlers
----brushing against the trees,
-- -- his three good feet tapping

the softness beneath him
--and the fourth, from an old wound,
------I know he saw me

for he gave me a long look
--which was as precious as a few
----good words,
------since his eyes

were without terror.
--What do the creatures know?
----What in this world can we be certain about?
------How did he know I was nothing

but a harmless mumbler of words,
--some of which would be about him
----and this wind-whipped day?
------In a week he would be dead,

arrowed down by a man I like,
--though with some difficulty.
----In my house there are a hundred half-done poems.
------Each of us leaves an unfinished life.
Mary Oliver

He takes such small steps
to express our longings.
Thank you, Schubert.

How many hours
do I sit here
aching to do

what I do not do
when, suddenly,
he throws a single note

higher than the others
so that I feel
the green field of hope,

and then, descending,
all this world's sorrow,
so deadly, so beautiful.
Mary Oliver


This Sunday, I am going to start a new occasional series, entitled Issa's Sunday Service, which will include a song and a poem.

Because, well, there is just not enough going on around here ...

if my father were here--
dawn colors
over green fields
translated by David Lanoue


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Miscellany: Jackley, Gilbert, Gregg, Merwin & the Lilliput Archive

Cover by Harland Ristau

Mark Jackley, who has contributed some great work to Lilliput Review, has a new collection of poems out, entitled Cracks and Slats, from Amsterdam Press, part of the pertly named Gob Pile Chapbook Series. Here's a neat little poem from that collection, one of the endless variations in poetry on immortalizing a loved one:

Poet and Daughter
I am my words,
ink and pixels,

you my link
to eternity,

the bright and vast

of the
empty page.
Mark Jackley


I can't remember where I ran across this enjoyable reading from the 90's by a Lilliput favorite, Jack Gilbert, along with Linda Gregg:


Just now, while reading over some of W. S. Merwin's latest from The Shadow of Sirius, have learned that he has won the Pulitzer Prize, much deserved I think. The following is from that collection, from which I've featured two other poems previously:

Lake Shore in Half Light
There is a question I want to ask
and I can't remember it
I keep trying to
I know it is the same question
it has always been
in fact I seem to know
almost everything about it
leading me to the lake shore
at daybreak or twilight
and to whatever is standing
next to the question
as a body stands next to its shadow
but the question is not a shadow
if I knew who discovered
zero I might ask
what there was before
W. S. Merwin

If you bought one book of poetry this year, you probably couldn't do much better than this fine collection continuing a remarkable poetic journey.


2009 is the 20th anniversary of Lilliput Review and the archive countdown to issue #1 will, if it continues on its current one-posting-per-week pace, finish up sometime in early 2010. This week's feature issue is #38 from October 1992, with a cover by the late great Harland Ristau. Themed as duos and trios, each page contained poems related in groups of two or threes. Here's a couple of poems that grab me today, 17 years later:

chimney smoke
mingling with mist and snow
Jonas Winet

A light wet snow
waters the back yard.
I watch from the sofa.
I miss your small hands.
Bart Solarczyk

learn to love/ then learn to
lose what you love/ learn to
lose love/ learn to love/ to
lose/ learn/ love
Coral Hull

she comes home
still pissed
lets in a fly
William Hart

swatting a fly
looking at
a mountain
translated by David Lanoue


Monday, April 20, 2009

Etheridge Knight and Louise Glück

Sunday, April 19th was the birthday of the great African American poet, Etheridge Knight. Here's his spot-on poem on the funeral of Martin Luther King from his excellent book, The Essential Etheridge Knight:

On Watching Politicans Perform At Martin Luther King's Funeral
Hypocrites shed tears
like shiny snake skins

words rolling
thru the southern air

the scent of flowers
mingles with Jack Daniels
and Cutty Sark

the last snake skin slithers
to the floor where
black baptist feet
have danced in ecstasy

they turn
to begin

manicured fingers shuffling
the same stacked deck
with the ante
Etheridge Knight

Here's is a video cast of a Knight reading from the Library of Congress. (RealPlayer)


Saturday April 18th was the birthday of one of our finest contemporary poets, Louise Glück. Her work is at once lyrical, elegaic, and powerful in a combination rarely found in today's poetry. "Memo From The Cave" is from the early collection Firstborn, which has been reprinted with three other volumes in The First Four Books of Poems. If you had to own only one book of American poetry from the later part of the 20th century, you could do worse than The First Four Books of Poems:

Memo From The Cave
O love, you airtight bird,
My mouse-brown
Alibis hand upside-down
Above the pegboard
With its dangled pots
I don't have chickens for;
My lies are crawling on the floor
Like families but their larvae will not
Leave this nest. I've let
Despair bed
Down in your stead
And wet
Our quilted cover
So the rot-
scent of its pussy-foot-
fingers lingers, when its over.
Louise Glück

And here's a video cast of Louise Glück, also from the Library of Congress. (RealPlayer)

mosquito larvae too
keep the sutra's
translated by David Lanoue


Friday, April 17, 2009

Tanka Twitter: Miriam Sagan

Busy dealing with a computer problem, so check out today's Lilliput Review Twitter poem by Miriam Sagan, from issue #130, a broadside entitled Fish Ladder: 19 Tanka.

A regular post will be back Monday ...

under the fallen leaves
my ancestors
translated by David Lanoue


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka,
2008 Anthology

I just received notification via Curtis Dunlap at Blogging Along Tobacco Road of the release of the new Modern Tanka Press publication Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, 2008 Anthology. I contacted the folks at Modern English Tanka Press and they sent me their press release, which I'm running below (followed by the usual weekly Lilliput archive post). These folks help set the standard for English language tanka so if you are interested great poetry in the short form in general and/or tanka as a form in particular you should get a hold of this volume.


TANKA NEWS & HAIKU HEADLINES published a new entry entitled "Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, 2008 Anthology, Published by Modern English Tanka Press" on 4/9/2009 3:07:30 PM, written by DMG.

Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, 2008 Anthology, Published by Modern English Tanka Press


For Immediate Release

Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, 2008 Anthology, Published by Modern English Tanka Press

Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka is edited by M. Kei, Sanford Goldstein, Pamela A. Babusci, Patricia Prime, Bob Lucky, Kala Ramesh. This editorial team set out to read the entire field of tanka publication for a single year, regardless of source, without any dogma regarding definition, form or content. Over the course of fourteen months, they read over fourteen thousand poems. The results are gathered in one of the best new poetry anthologies.

Baltimore, Maryland – April 7, 2009 – Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka, edited by M. Kei, Sanford Goldstein, Pamela A. Babusci, Patricia Prime, Bob Lucky, Kala Ramesh, has been published in trade paperback by Modern English Tanka Press. Original cover art by Pamela A. Babusci.

Tanka, the ancient Japanese poetic form, has been am important source for modernists for more than a hundred years, but never relegated itself to the position of dusty relic. It is alive and vital and producing some of the most eloquent and insightful poetry published in English today. Anthologies, contests, journals, and web sites publish thousands upon thousands of tanka poems every year—but which ones are the most rewarding for the readers?

The editorial team of Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka set out to read the entire field of tanka publication for a single year, regardless of source, without any dogma regarding definition, form or content. Over the course of fourteen months, they read over fourteen thousand poems. The results are gathered in one of the best new poetry anthologies. Famous names and unknown poets from around the world appear side by side in 321 single poems and several tanka sequences and tanka prose pieces. A List of Venues consulted and complete publishing credits are included, along with an introduction that covers the history of tanka and the project itself.

The poets included are: Hortensia Anderson, Susan Antolin, Aurora Antonovic, An’ya, Harue Aoki, Megan Arkenberg, Pamela A. Babusci, Dave Bacharach, Marty Baird, Jon Baldwin, Collin Barber, John Barlow, Frederick Bassett, Roberta Beary, Janick Belleau, Cathy Drinkwater Better, Randy Brooks, Marjorie Buettner, Owen Bullock, David Caruso, James Chessing, Bell Gale Chevigny, Margaret Chula, Tom Clausen, ªerban Codrin, Norman Darlington, Janet Lynn Davis, Cherie Hunter Day, Andrew Detheridge, Melissa Dixon, Jim Doss, Curtis Dunlap, Jeanne Emrich, Margarita Engle, Michael Evans, Amelia Fielden, Trish Fong, Sylvia Forges-Ryan, Stanford M. Forrester, Bernard Gadd, Linda Galloway, Denis M. Garrison, Beverley George, Sanford Goldstein, Tom Gomes, M. L. Grace, Andrea Grillo, David Gross, William Hart, M. L. Harvey, C. W. Hawes, Peggy Heinrich, Lorne Henry, William J. Higginson, Ruth Holzer, Elizabeth Howard, Roger Jones, Jim Kacian, Kirsty Karkow, M. Kei, Susan Lee Kerr, Michael Ketchek, Larry Kimmel, Mariko Kitakubo, Kathy Kituai, Deborah P. Kolodji, Robert Kusch, Lynne Leach, Gary LeBel, Angela Leuck, Darrel Lindsey, Bob Lucky, Jeanne Lupton, Carole MacRury, Laura Maffei, Mary Mageau, A. A. Marcoff, Thelma Mariano, Francis Masat, Karen McClintock, Michael McClintock, Tyrone McDonald, Jo McInerney, Dorothy McLaughlin, Paul Mercken, Annette Mineo, Vasile Moldovan, Mike Montreuil, Jim Moore, June Moreau, Joan Murphy, H. Gene Murtha, Peter Newton, Linda Papanicolaou, Patrick M. Pilarski, Jack Prewitt, Patricia Prime, Carol Purington, John Quinnett, Claudia Coutu Radmore, David Rice, Andrew Riutta, Barbara Robidoux, James Rohrer, Alexis Rotella, Miriam Sagan, Fujiko Sato, Grant D. Savage, Philip Schofield, Billy Simms, Guy Simser, Paul Smith, John Soules, Art Stein, John Stevenson, Richard Stevenson, Maria Steyn, John Stone, André Surridge, George Swede, Noriko Tanaka, Frans Terryn, Carolyn Thomas, Marc Thompson, Tony A. Thompson, Michael Thorley, Julie Thorndyke, Kozue Uzawa, Geert Verbeke, Ella Wagemakers, Linda Jeannette Ward, Michael Dylan Welch, Liam Wilkinson, Robert D. Wilson, Jeffrey Woodward, An Xiao, Peter Yovu, and Aya Yuhki.

"Take Five is like Dave Brubeck’s famous long jazz piece of the same name: both simple and complex, with varied rhythms that can make fingers snap and hips sway. Beguiling for the beginner and expert alike." — George Swede

"It seems that with every turn—whether it be picking up the latest tanka journal, navigating your way to tanka sites across the web or checking out a new entry from one of the ever-growing number of tanka bloggers—that these small but perfectly formed poems continue to offer us some of the most breathtaking moments in contemporary poetry. It’s nothing short of spellbinding to behold a new tanka, its five-lines engraved in the granite of an ancient form of literature but with all the freshness of a green leaf showing. Today, writers are leaving their tanka ajar—in these brief moments of poetry, anything is possible and everything is welcome—and, as a result, tanka is able to thrive across the globe. As writers of tanka embrace the modern world, the modern world embraces tanka.

Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka succeeds in providing a comprehensive illustration of the state of modern tanka. Here we have a veritable feast of the finest individual tanka, tanka sequences and tanka prose published over the last year, handpicked from every nook and cranny by an editorial board that consists of some of the most highly respected figures in the field. Take Five is, at once, a satisfying digest of quality tanka and an indispensable tanka handbook for new and experienced writers of the form. With an extensive and absorbing introduction from the chief editor of the anthology, M. Kei, the book is not only a literary treat but an essential addition to the poetry shelf of reader and writer alike." —Liam Wilkinson, Editor, 3 Lights Gallery

"Powerful short stories written in five lines—that’s what Take Five is all about. This anthology is not just your tanka wallpaper variety; nearly every piece is a jumpstart for the heart that tells the truth about that four-letter word called ‘Life.’ M. Kei and his team of editors are to be commended—when I was done readingTake Five, for a moment, I didn’t know if I was a woman, a monk or a pelican." —Alexis Rotella, Ed., Prune Juice: Journal of Senryu and Kyoka

About Editors:

M. Kei crews aboard a skipjack, a traditional wooden sailboat used to dredge for oysters in the Chesapeake Bay, the last vessel in North America to fish commercially under sail. Sadly, it is not a profitable way to make a living anymore. The vessel serves as a museum on the water and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Kei has published over 1100 tanka and 300 other short poems during the last few years. His first book was the anthology Fire Pearls: Short Masterpieces of the Human Heart (2006), which he edited. An instant classic, it was followed by Heron Sea, Short Poems of the Chesapeake (2007) andSlow Motion: The Log of a Chesapeake Bay Skipjack (2008), the log he kept in poetic form while making extended cruises aboard a skipjack. He is editor-in-chief of Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka.

Sanford Goldstein writes: "As for my own work, I have been a tanka poet for about fifty years. I am called a co-translator of six collections of famous Japanese tanka poets. Even with years of study of Japanese, I could do nothing alone. Two books took five years each, though it was still enjoyable to do the translations. I know what it means to be rejected quite often these 65 years as a writer. So I join in sympathy with those whose tanka have not appeared in our edition."

Pamela A. Babusci is an award winning poet and artist. Some of her awards include: Museum of Haiku Literature Award, Tanka Splendor Awards, First Place Yellow Moon Tanka Competition, First Place Kokako Tanka Competition, Basho Festival Haiku Contest, and HM Suruga Baika Literary Festival. Pamela has illustrated several books, including: Full Moon Tide: The Best of Tanka Splendor Awards, Taboo Haiku, Take Five: Best Contemporary Tanka and the forthcoming haiku chapbook, Chasing The Sun. She was the logo artist for Haiku North America in NYC in 2003 and Haiku North America in Winston-Salem, NC in 2007. She says poetry & art have been an integral part of her existence since her early teenage years & will continue to be a driving force until she meets her creator.

Patricia Prime retired from teaching pre-school a couple of years ago, but is still involved in relief teaching and working with children at her local school with English as a second language. She is the co-editor of the NZ haiku magazine Kokako, reviews editor of Takahe and Stylus, and assistant editor of Haibun Today. Patricia’s tanka has been published in Modern English Tanka, Atlas Poetica, Eucalypt, Ribbons, moonset, Gusts, 3 Lights Gallery, Kokako, Time Haiku, Presence and Blithe Spirit. Her haiku have been published in several magazines and her haibun have been published in Contemporary Haibun Online andHaibun Today. She has been published, with three other poets, in the haibun collaboration Quartet and is currently working on a tanka prose collaboration with three other poets. Patricia also writes articles, mainstream poetry, annually judges a formal poetry contest, is one of the nominees for the tanka for Gusts, and is on the panel of judges for the Presence Seashell Game.

Bob Lucky holds degrees from Dartmouth College and the University of Washington. He is currently in the online MFA program through the University of Texas at El Paso. His work has appeared in various international journals. He has spent stretches of his adult life living and working throughout Asia. Currently, he lives with his wife and son in Hangzhou, China, where he teaches history and makes noise on an assortment of ukuleles.

Kala Ramesh is a musician and haiku poet. Her work, consisting of more than 200 haiku, tanka, senryu, haibun, renku and one-line haiku, have appeared in leading e-zines and anthologies. _kala heads the World Haiku Club in India. As director, she organised the World Haiku Club Meet in Pune in 2006. The four-day 9th World Haiku Festival she organized at Bangalore in February 2008 was sponsored jointly by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Ji and Sri Ratan Tata Trust. Deputy Editor-in-Chief of The World Haiku Review, also she is an in-house editor of poetry in Katha, a leading publishing house in India. _kala is an exponent of both Carnatic and Hindustani Classical Music styles. She has performed professionally in major cities in India.

For media inquiries or to arrange an interview with the author, contact editor-in-chief M. Kei by e-mail at Publisher information

This book is available from and from the publisher. Complete information and mail/email order forms are available online Price: $16.95 USD. ISBN 978-1-935398-08-0. Trade paperback. 240 pages, 6.00" x 9.00", perfect binding, 60# cream interior paper, black and white interior ink, 100# exterior paper, full-color exterior ink.

About Modern English Tanka Press:

Modern English Tanka Press (MET Press) is an independent publishing house in Baltimore, Maryland, dedicated to producing books and periodicals of lasting literary value, especially poetry. A family business, we treat our customers and partners in publishing like family. We use modern print-on-demand production and distribution methods. Our special mission is to promote the tanka form of poetry and to educate newcomers about this most ancient poetic form.


Denis M. Garrison, owner
Modern English Tanka Press
Email to


Finally today, a dip into the archive for some samples from Lilliput Review #39, from December 1992 (stop me when I get to a time before you were born):

My feet aren't working.
The clock is dead.
There's a new world coming:
beauty's headlights
blind us
from a distance.
Bart Solarczyk

Just Friends
There wasn't enough rhythm
in their eyes when they met
to account for the lack of
slow-dance appeal.

They were destined to be friends
in the same way a sparrow
hugs a branch with its feet

we move in time with the wind's hands
swaying the greendesire ashleaf branches
the way our two bodies sway moonnaked
with the breeze rhythm learned
from watching the wind seduce the ash
christien gholson

I Guess
I guess that, from what I
hear, lots of editors at those
starchy little literary magazines
there, they mostly like only
long puffery poems, one with broad
right- and left-margin-justified lines
filled with imminent predilections
and sigh-heavy forebodings. They
won't much like this one I guess.
Wayne Hogan

wake up! wake up!
sparrows, butterflies
are dancing
translated by David Lanoue


Tuesday, April 14, 2009

200 Near Perfect Books of Poetry

Back in August of last year, the Near Perfect Books of Poetry hit 100. 8 months later, another milestone has been achieved: 200 near perfect books of poetry.

The list has gradually grown, reader by reader, over that time. During the past 8 months, I've offered free copies of the current two issues to new readers (and a two-issue extension to subscribers) for accepted suggestions for the list. And, so, 8 months later, here we are. You may find the list at the Lilliput Review homepage at:

And the list will continue. The two-free issue offer still stands. Details may be found at the above link. My most sincere thanks to all who have made suggestions and I'll look forward to more in the coming weeks and months.

a long day--
his account book serves
as a pillow
Translated by David Lanoue


Monday, April 13, 2009

W.S. Merwin:
The Whole Grammar of Waiting

A few weeks back, I posted a poem from W. S. Merwin's most recentvolume, The Shadow of Sirius. Well, I've spent the last two weeks going over this book and it is one of the very best books of American poetry I've read in quite sometime.

I haven't caught up with Merwin recently so perhaps I've missed some important changes in his verse. This volume contains relatively short poems (most are less than one page) in extremely plain language, without any punctuation at all. The later forces the reader to slow down, big-time: gleaning sense here takes imposing pacing and syntax that isn't always obvious in the reading.

Much of what is addressed has to do with memory and the past, not surprising as Merwin is into his 80's. Yet it is hardly a trip down Nostalgia Boulevard. There is a bittersweet tone to some of the pieces, but there is also a constant working and reworking of thought, a feeling through words for sense and something just beyond. There is some powerful, powerful verse here in an almost elegiac mode.

Here's another from this fine collection:

A Codex
It was a late book given up for lost
again and again with its sentences

bare at last and phrase that seemed transparent
revealing what had been there the whole way

the poems of daylight after the day
lying open at last on the table

without explanation or emphasis
like sounds left when the syllables have gone

clarifying the whole grammar of waiting
not removing one question from the air

or closing the story although single lights
were beginning by then above and below

while the long twilight deepened its silence
from sapphire through opal to Athena's iris

until shadow covered the gray pages
the comet words the book of presences

after which there was little left to say
but then it was night and everything was known
W. S. Merwin

And this brilliant piece:

Worn Words
The late poems are the ones
I turn to first now
following a hope that keeps
beckoning me
waiting somewhere in the lines
almost in plain sight

it is the late poems
that are made of words
that have come the whole way
they have been there
W. S. Merwin


Finally, today is the birthday of Jack Cassady, bassist from Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. Here's a little plea for chemical understanding. Happy B-day, Jack. Enjoy.

dancing butterflies--
my journey is forgotten
for a while
translated by David Lanoue


Friday, April 10, 2009

Alan Catlin: Effects of Sunlight in the Fog

A new book has come across my desk at work by an old friend of Lilliput Review and renowned small press poet, Alan Catlin. Over the years I've published a few dozen of his poems, which is saying a lot considering my reputation for fussy. A handful of the poems that have appeared in Lilliput have dealt with the subject of art or more precisely have used it as a springboard for exploration, including poems dealing with Magritte, Hokusai, and Thomas Cole.

His new volume, Effects of Sunlight in the Fog, published by Bright Hill Press, is literally brilliant, pun intended. Gathering these works on art together
in one place (I know it isn't all of them as the ones published in Lillie, mentioned above, are not in the collection) has brought into sharp relief Alan's approach and technique; for me, it is very reminiscent of a particular style of haiku. Catlin does not give us answers so much as, with the image conjured, describe and evoke. Here is Janet McCann's take from the Bright Hill website:

"A poetic mediatation on the relationship of the artist to his Art, on the variant conditions that temper seeing; how we see and what is seen. Through consideration on works of artists a series of individual poetic images evolves. Art and poetry as one, on the page. "The spare, image-laden lines of this collection of ekphrastic poetry make it a memorable treat. Alan Catlin evokes Monet, Whistler, Bonnard, and others in skilled sketches that evoke the paintings and interpret them at once. His precise diction carves word-pictures that mirror the painting, calling forth and naming their shadows. 'Effects of Sunlight in the Fog' is a delight to read and ponder." - Janet McCann.

Poem after poem in this does exactly what she describes. I'll confess for a fondness for poetry about art and, obviously, for Alan's work in general, but I'd be lying if I didn't say that this collection as a whole took me completely, delightfully by surprise. His evocation of light alone is worth the price of the book for anyone who has ever wondered: how did that magician do that trick? Here he sketches the point where paint and lines may not go:

A Voice from the Cliffs
-– Winslow Homer, 1882
The three young
women have all

heard the same
sounds, something

ethereal from well–
beyond the cliffs,

this beach they
walk every day

carrying their wares
in hand woven

wicker baskets;
what they see is

something the wind
has suggested, some-

thing that cannot
be easily described

by words or brush
but they all know

exactly what it is
and what it means for them
Alan Catlin

The haiku element I mentioned above is in the so-perfect capturing of nature that associations are created in the mind of the reader; the whole is so much greater than its parts. Here's the poem from which the collection title comes:

Waterloo Bridge: Effects of Sunlight in the Fog
--Claude Monet, 1903
Dull blue
grey night

in the after
noon; a

ripple of

water colored
by sun;

in the mist
human shadows

formed remain
Alan Catlin

Poem after poem explores otherness, otherness of both place and identity. Perhaps, one truth here is that they are one and the same: a thought that would not be foreign to Eastern poets and should not be for us. Another truly remarkable aspect of this collection is that one need not know or look at the original art to appreciate the poems; they are fully realized, in and of themselves. This is a book to buy and cherish as one does the precious paintings it so sparingly yet lovingly describes. It is diminutive only in size (4 x 6") and price ($8.00).

Support the small press; order this volume direct from Bright Hill. Just page down a bit from this link. I guarantee you'll enjoy it.


Speaking of the other, yesterday was the birthday of the ultimate other, Charles Baudelaire. He is, frankly, one of my very favorite vices. Some of the greatest enjoyment I've gotten from his work is the reading of the myriad translations that have been done into English. Though I tend to like the work of old-schooler Wallace Fowlie, all the others seem to bring something to the table, another interesting angle. Taken altogether, the translations get closest to a realization of the actual Charles Baudelaire; reading them all evokes another ideal translation, one that only exists in the mind of the reader.

I suppose this is true for any great poet whose work has been translated many times. Baudelaire, for me, is the one that I've felt this with most powerfully. Here's one I enjoy that doesn't come from the deep shadows:

Evening Harmony
Now comes the time when quivering on its stem
Each flower exhales like a censer;
Sounds and perfumes turn in the evening air;
Melancholy waltz and languorous vertigo.

Each flower exhales like a censer;
The violin sobs like an afflicted heart;
Melancholy waltz and languorous vertigo!
The sky is as sad and and beautiful as a great altar of rest.

The violin sobs like an afflicted heart,
A tender heart, which hates the huge black void!
The sky is as sad and and beautiful as a great altar of rest.
The sun drowned in its blood as it coagulates.

A tender heart, which hates the huge black void,
Welcomes every vestige of a luminous past!
The sun drowned in its blood as it coagulates ...
Your memory shines in me like a monstrance.
Charles Baudelaire (tr. by Wallace Fowlie)

in scattering blossoms
holding out his bowl...
holy man
translated by David Lanoue


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Thoughts on Poetry for Lifelong Learners

Cover by Bobo

I'm still in the process of getting the new issues out, with about half the run in the mail so far. I've been a bit bogged (should that read: "blogged"?) down with a variety of projects all seeming to come together at once, including another introduction to poetry class next week, this time for Oasis lifelong learners. So, the rest of the run will be going out during April before I start it all over again with two new issues.

Meanwhile, Curtis Dunlap over at Blogging Along Tobacco Road has put together a blurb/review, with a few poems from each issue of #167 & 168. It's a nice little sampler; hats off to you, Curtis.

I'm mixing things up a bit for this introductory poetry session ("How to Read Poetry [& Why]" is the session title), adding a few new poems, both less and more challenging. In the past I've used Billy Collins's "Introduction to Poetry" in my preliminary remarks to help assuage any lyrical apprehension, as well as opening with James Wright's "The Jewel" and 4 or 5 poems by Issa. To ease folks into the poem section, this time I'll be opening with "The Lanyard" by Collins, a poem many non-poetry reading people respond to positively in an emotional way, which is the exact point where I try to make a connection for them to the world of poetry. Next I ramp it up with "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver, a decidedly better poem that provokes a similar reaction, so the easing in continues. I thought it might be good to show folks that they can "get" Shakespeare, so I'll be using three poems in tandem: Sonnet 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day"), Howard Moss's modern take "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day," and Sonnet 130 ("My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun"). This may be a bit risky; in the past, my primary intent was to provoke discussion. Since I've had only partial success with that, this time I thought exposure to work might be a good approach. Since it's a bit of gamble that I might lose them with the bard, I'm hoping the bridge of Moss's poem will do the trick:

Howard Moss's "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day"
Who says you're like one of the dog days?
You're nicer. And better.
Even in May, the weather can be gray,
And a summer sub-let doesn't last forever.
Sometimes the sun's too hot;
Sometimes it is not.
Who can stay young forever?
People break their necks or just drop dead!
But you? Never!
If there's just one condensed reader left
Who can figure out the abridged alphabet,
-----After you're dead and gone,
-----In this poem you'll live on!

We'll see how that goes; the trick I think is in the recitation and I'm planning to use my best Jersey accent to get this one over. I'll be rounding the class out with "Never Again Would Birds' Song Be the Same" by Robert Frost (a big favorite of mine), "Filling Station" by Elizabeth Bishop and, if there is time, "Let Evening Come" by Jane Kenyon, and "maggie and milly and molly and may" by E. E. Cummings.

This week's taste from the Lilliput Review archive goes back to March 1993. I've noticed that the past three issues have the Royal portable typeface, so we are into the pre-computer era. At this time, I would type each poem up individually, cut it out into tiny pieces and place them carefully on blue lined graph sheets. If line lengths were problematic, I'd need to reduce the size via the copy store, bumping the darkness so everything more or less matched. Once the art and words were laid out to my satisfaction (this was simultaneously painstaking and pain-inducing, kneeling on the floor with glue sticks or elmer's etc.), it was off to the copy shop to get it all printed up. The lack of control at this point was really an issue. I'd run off 200 double-sided copies and sometimes they would be too dark or too light, depending if the underpaid copy shop person gave a shit that day. Then there were the inevitable typos, misalignments etc, not as instantly corrected as today.

I'm down with the PC era, though some of the quaintness and required skill-set have disappeared. Well, enough with the nostalgia, here's three poems from #41:

Lucky Life
you know how the
dead never plant their faces
against the windows you look out of
and how even when
you're up high
you don't think about gravity
John Grey

3/27/92 - a brief interlude
my shadow. . .
pinned to the wall

with knives
of skin
Bill Shields

at the nursing home
-----wound around the alarm clock
---------the dusty cord
Patrick Sweeney

Finally, yesterday was the birthday of a long-time sentimental favorite of mine, William Wordsworth. Since my favorite Wordsworth is a little too long for here, let's let Issa have the final word: this one's for you, William -

there's a house!
a field full
of daffodils
translated by David Lanoue


Monday, April 6, 2009

Steve Richmond: Gagaku Meat

Where does one begin? For those of you relatively recent to the small press scene, the name of Steve Richmond may be unfamiliar. Steve was, in his day, one of the small press giants; a close friend of Bukowski, published by da levy of Cleveland among many, many others, Steve was part of the original mimeograph small press revolution of the 60's which grew out of the Beats into one of the great counterculture movements in US history.

Steve Richmond was a haunted man. He choose to make his demons manifest and they weren't nearly metaphoric enough; somehow, they were real. Most famous for his "gagaku poems," which often portrayed nastily-clawed creatures that tormented and hounded and delighted him, they were all composed to the strains of the form of ancient Japanese court music known as gagaku. There are precious few of these poems around, though there are still a collection or two to be found for purchase. I published four gagaku poems in the early 90's. In the interest of the spirit of the mimeograph revolution, here they are:


-------------------they're driving
----------around their neck with the bully
---------------------------------part of the knapsack
hanging over the back of their
----------------------front seat
-----------------and swinging at rear seat ass level

they are not so easy to describe

--try describing your own

Steve Richmond


he's writing too much
---------but everyone leaves him alone
with his fine obsession

any obsession where one human
leaves all other humans
------------at peace
--------------is a fine art

Steve Richmond


-------accused of
-------------self indulgent narcissism
----------------admit it

demons clap
they like me honest
Steve Richmond


the music is

Steve Richmond

These examples only give you the merest hint of the power of his work. It was mesmerizing, enthralling, and hypnotic. All of this is by way of an introduction to a brand new book about Richmond (pictured above) by the publisher, novelist and poet Mike Daily, entitled Gagaku Meat: The Steve Richmond Story.

Last year, Mike contacted me asking me if I could share any remiscenses of Steve since I had published him in the early issues of Lilliput Review [pdf file] (I just discovered on amazon an issue of Lillie going for $48.00 because Steve was in it - I quickly listed it at the going rate around here, $1.00) and I was happy to oblige. All in all, the book serves not only as an inquiry into a talented, tortured soul, but as a distinctive chapter in the history of the small press underground movement of the later part of the 20th century. Many fellow poets and publishers are quoted at length here. Mike recounts the history his own friendship with Steve, as well as Steve's relationships with Jim Morrison and Charles Bukowski, and his ungodly descent into a drug addled hell that would have even demons scurrying for safety. It is at once a sad, horrific and beautiful account, much like the man himself.

Here is the blurb for the book that Mike Daily sent along. If you have even a faint interest in Richmond and small press history, I highly recommend it. It is riveting.


Gagaku Meat Press Release (April 4, 2009)

Gagaku Meat: The Steve Richmond Story is a 32-page, 19,000-word journalism piece written about poet Steve Richmond. The feature article was produced for buk scene 1, a new Charles Bukowski-influenced magazine from Holland. Gagaku Meat is now available as an 8-1/2" x 11" format small press zine.

Santa Monica abstract artist and close friend of Richmond, David Garcia, was interviewed for Gagaku Meat, as well as 20 poets, writers and publishers: Gerald Locklin, FrancEyE (Frances Smith, mother of Bukowski's daughter, Marina), Al Berlinski, John Martin, A.D. Winans, Kurt Nimmo, Linda King, Nila NorthSun, Richard Peabody, Mat Gleason, Ron Androla, S.A. Griffin, Alan Kaufman, Jeffrey Weinberg, Don Wentworth, Ed Smith, Alan Catlin, Billy Childish, Pat deTurk, Ben Pleasants.

Three poets contributed exclusive sidebar poems about Richmond: Jim Chandler, Todd Moore and Neeli Cherkovski (Cherkovski's is titled, "You Were Angry").

Two weeks ago, Steve Richmond told David Garcia he is "enthralled" about Gagaku Meat.

Available for $6 postage-paid direct from Mike Daily on the multi-media Steve Richmond tribute site, Mr. Viced Honest:
Available now from Powell's Books:
Preview video of Gagaku Meat on YouTube:

Mike Daily


Finally to cap off this post about Steve, here's a link to a recent interview with him done at 3 AM. Also a post by the always great Dennis Cooper with material by Ben Pleasants, an edited version of the interview, and some of Steve's poems, and lots of his attitude. Fittingly, Steve's work can be found in The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. He is still alive and evidently writing again. Here's hoping things are going well for him.
For those interested in his method of composition, something that enthralled me and that I mentioned to Mike Daily, here is an example of gagaku music:

If you do have the opportunity to read Gagaku Meat, you'll learn the well-known story of Steve's bust for obscenity when he published some anti-war material in his magazine, Earth Rose. The cover image may seem quaint now, but the message was and still remains powerful in the iconic way so typical of the counter culture:


Friday, April 3, 2009

Muddy Waters and Kurt Weill

You know you may have lived a good life when there is room for Muddy Waters (born 4/4/1913) and Kurt Weill (died 4/3/1950). I have been very fortunate, indeed.

Muddy, born McKinley Morganfield, has been a part of my musical experience for over 40 years, discovered in high school, along with Willie Dixon, while studying the record sleeves of, among others, the Rolling Stones. Muddy was the key that opened the door; with Muddy came Willie, and James Cotton, Buddy Guy, Otis Spann, Jimmie Rogers, Pinetop Perkins, Lafayette Leake, Little Walter and back, back to Lightnin' Hopkins and Robert Johnson, and Son House.

It's safe to say that the world would have been a bleaker, more hostile place for me, without these amazing musicians who could touch the soul with a single, aching, sustained note.

Kurt Weill came later, though Bobby Darin's "Mack the Knife" had captured the popular imagination early on. I'm sure that I was really first captivated with his music via Judy Collins' recording of "Pirate Jenny" on her seminal In My Life album. His collaborations with Bertolt Brecht are the stuff of legend and certainly what catapulted him into the public eye. The music, however, sustains those lyrics and has been hugely influential, even with someone as seemingly removed as the composer Tom Waits. There have been anthologies of popular interpretations of Weill's music over the years, which can give someone without a classical background an easy way in (it did me). I highly recommend both collections.

So, on this musical Friday, first here's Muddy, with "Crawlin' King Snake" followed by audio of the classic "Got My Mojo Workin':"

Here are three songs by Weill/Brecht sung by Lotte Lenya from a 1962 (or 1958 - I found conflicting dates) episode of the television series "Monitor" filmed by Ken Russell, followed by the scathing contemporary interpretation of "What Keeps Man Alive" by Tom Waits:

making a duet
with my flute...
cry of a deer
translated by David Lanoue