Of course, suggestions for literature influenced rock cuts are always welcomed.
Paying forward, we arrive at Lilliput Review #8, from December 1989. Here's a surreal bit of goodness rarely found in more recent issues:
she wondered how large the man
standing beside the person
clipping hairs from walls
would ever have to be
to cover the shortest curve
of the last strand
while still being able to see himself
fit any crevice
without knocking her cold
And, finally, word:
once they turn crimson
I've spoken often of Huff here. He had a profound affect on me and Lilliput Review. It continues to be a point of delight and amazement that a small press poet, who never hit it big, continues to be revered, remembered, and discussed 7 years after his passing. For many years he was regular as rain in LR (and those of you who know his work well know, too, that the metaphor was not selected randomly); he continues to grab people via this blog and, whenever his work is posted, to be commented on. He has a popularity with regular folk that is analogous in affect, if not immensity, akin to Bukowski and Collins, without the commensurate baggage of either.
Something random in the morning air. Something not to be named. Something that starts where the music ends.
Though a bit lengthy, especially for this blog/mag's focus, I found the following poem to be of interest and, old school though it is, to be as modern, in both its subject and point of view, as can be. The title is a variation of the Latin phrase "poeta nascitur, non fit," meaning "a poet is born, not made." Carroll's reversal in his title says it all. From that title on, the playfulness for which the author of the Alice books was well-known is admirably displayed.
Poeta Fit, Non Nascitur by Lewis Carroll
"How shall I be a poet? How shall I write in rhyme? You told me once 'the very wish Partook of the sublime.' Then tell me how! Don't put me off With your 'another time'!"
The old man smiled to see him, To hear his sudden sally; He liked the lad to speak his mind Enthusiastically; And thought "There's no hum-drum in him, Nor any shilly-shally."
"And would you be a poet Before you've been to school? Ah, well! I hardly thought you So absolute a fool. First learn to be spasmodic -- A very simple rule.
"For first you write a sentence, And then you chop it small; Then mix the bits, and sort them out Just as they chance to fall: The order of the phrases makes No difference at all.
'Then, if you'd be impressive, Remember what I say, That abstract qualities begin With capitals alway: The True, the Good, the Beautiful -- Those are the things that pay!
"Next, when you are describing A shape, or sound, or tint; Don't state the matter plainly, But put it in a hint; And learn to look at all things With a sort of mental squint."
"For instance, if I wished, Sir, Of mutton-pies to tell, Should I say 'dreams of fleecy flocks Pent in a wheaten cell'?" "Why, yes," the old man said: "that phrase Would answer very well.
"Then fourthly, there are epithets That suit with any word -- As well as Harvey's Reading Sauce With fish, or flesh, or bird -- Of these, 'wild,' 'lonely,' 'weary,' 'strange,' Are much to be preferred. "
"And will it do, O will it do To take them in a lump -- As 'the wild man went his weary way To a strange and lonely pump'?" "Nay, nay! You must not hastily To such conclusions jump.
"Such epithets, like pepper, Give zest to what you write; And, if you strew them sparely, They whet the appetite: But if you lay them on too thick, You spoil the matter quite!
"Last, as to the arrangement: Your reader, you should show him, Must take what information he Can get, and look for no im- mature disclosure of the drift And purpose of your poem.
"Therefore, to test his patience -- How much he can endure -- Mention no places, names, or dates, And evermore be sure Throughout the poem to be found Consistently obscure.
"First fix upon the limit To which it shall extend: Then fill it up with 'Padding' (Beg some of any friend): Your great SENSATION-STANZA You place towards the end."
"And what is a Sensation, Grandfather, tell me, pray? I think I never heard the word So used before to-day: Be kind enough to mention one 'EXEMPLI GRATIA.'"
And the old man, looking sadly Across the garden-lawn, Where here and there a dew-drop Yet glittered in the dawn, Said "Go to the Adelphi, And see the 'Colleen Bawn.'
'The word is due to Boucicault -- The theory is his, Where Life becomes a Spasm, And History a Whiz: If that is not Sensation, I don't know what it is.
"Now try your hand, ere Fancy Have lost its present glow -- " "And then," his grandson added, "We'll publish it, you know: Green cloth-gold-lettered at the back -- In duodecimo!"
Then proudly smiled that old man To see the eager lad Rush madly for his pen and ink And for his blotting-pad -- But, when he thought of PUBLISHING, His face grew stern and sad.
Today is the anniversary of the passing of Jeff Buckley. Here he takes Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" to a place only he could.
A couple of miscellaneous notes this morning and some samples from a featured back issue of Lilliput Review. First, a call for poems from one of my long-time favorite small press publications, Chiron Review:
The editors of CHIRON REVIEW are reading submissions for an "All Punk Poetry" issue to be published Dec. 2009. Poetry, fiction, b/w line art, comics/cartoons, photos, nonfiction, whatever should be sent via snailmail with self-addressed, stamped envelope for reply/return to: Chiron Review, Attn: PUNK, 522 E. South Ave., St. John, KS 67576. Name and complete mailing address should appear on every poem, story, etc. Deadline: Sept. 1, 2009. Material is copyrighted in author's/artist's name. Payment: one contributor's copy with 50% discount on additional copies. If anyone wants to help spread the word, just copy & paste this in an e-mail. We will forward a flier for posting to anyone who asks:
Chiron Review is open for submissions year-round. Postal submissions with name, complete mailing address (on every poem), and SASE are welcome at Chiron Review, 522 E. South Ave., St. John, KS 67576-2212. Writers are invited to send up to 5 poems, 1 long poem, or 1 short-story. We're also open to reviews, interviews, black and white art and photography, and essays of interest to writers and the small press literary community. We ask writers to limit submissions to four times a year or less. We do not consider simultaneous or previously published submissions; nor do we consider e-mail submissions though exception is made for book reviews and foreign/overseas submissions. CR copyrights in author's name, all rights revert to author upon publication. Pay is one contributor's copy. We would like to exchange subscriptions with other magazines and receive review copies of small press books and magazines for review and listing in my "News, Etc." column. They can be sent to the address above.
Subscriptions and donations are welcome. A one-year/four issue subscription is $17. The "Triple S" discount is offered Seniors, Students and Starving Artists. Don't be afraid to ask. And of course, those who are able and wish to provide more support than $17 a year are most welcome to do so. Subscribers may send cash, check or money order to the address below or we can accept payment via Paypal: email@example.com. The Personal Publishing Program under Kindred Spirit Press imprint is available to poets and writers interested in self- publishing. Through arrangements with a highly specialized printer, I can offer small press runs for reasonable prices. These prices include professional typesetting, printing and shipping. Click on the Kindred Spirit Press button below for more info.
Chiron Review presents the widest possible range of contemporary creative writing -- fiction and non-fiction, traditional and off-beat -- in an attractive, professional tabloid format, including artwork and photographs of featured writers. About a quarter of each issue is devoted to news, views and reviews of interest to writers and the literary community.
Past contributors include Charles Bukowski, William Stafford, Marge Piercy, Wilma McDaniel, Edward Field, Antler, Robert Peters, Leslea Newman, Erskine Caldwell, Janice Eidus, Felice Picano, Will Inman, Richard Kostelanetz, Lorri Jackson, James Broughton, Charles Webb, Quentin Crisp & a host of others, well-known and new.
Most recent Issue: $7.00. Sample copy/back issues: $7.00 ea. Send all correspondence to : Contact Info Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Location: Chiron Review, 522 E. South Ave., St. John, KS 67576
Next, two more entire back issues are up online for free. Here's #159
And here is #157:
The purpose for putting up entire issues for free is to give poets a better idea of what the magazine is about and what types of poems are published there. Also, entire issues simply better represent the magazine as it is. Finally, it also helps those who'd prefer not going through the process of sending for (& possibly may not be able to afford) a sample copy. Issues #'s 160 and 161 may be found in this previous post.
Oh, and then there is the enjoyment for of reading poetry in its natural habitat for those who do that sort of thing. Failing that, there is usually some nifty art, by the likes of Wayne Hogan and Guy Beining, for the visually inclined.
I don't expect to be doing this as an ongoing project or archiving the entire run online (but it is an interesting thought, no) but I will now and again put up an issue when time and inclination allow. I'm also hedging against the eventual conversion of the back issue archive in the transition from google pages to google sites to something possibly untoward.
More about untoward in a bit.
This week's featured back issue is #28, from February 1992, and it seems to have a thing for butterflies.
Forging a poem is Like nothing so much as Building a butterfly Of bronze.
Surgical teams Pinned her Monarch glands To a mythical cure And she steeped out Of her body With scissors and rose.
no difference to the wind
Finally, the happy coincidence of Vincent Price, Christopher Lee, and Harlan Ellison all being born on the same day is just too good to pass without noting. Here's a trailer from one of the films Lee and Price starred in together, a tad less garish than the Scream and Scream Again trailer, another of their joint efforts (and we arrive conveniently back at untoward - faint-hearted viewers beware).
on the flower pot does the butterfly, too hear Buddha's promise?
A call for poems opens things up today from the online publication Sketchbook. Carefully read the guidelines and I would suggest you go to their website to get a feel for what they use and an idea of all the many things they do.
Sketchbook A Journal of Eastern & Western Writing Forms
Announcing May / June "Sunflower(s)" 2009 Kukai
The May / June 2009 Kukai theme is "sunflower(s)" . Use the exact words "sunflower(s)" in the haiku. No more than a total of three haiku may be submitted. Haiku submitted to the kukai should not be workshopped, appear on-line in forums, or in print.
To: email@example.com Subject:sunflower(s) kukai
Submissions: Friday, May 01, 2009 – Saturday, June 20, 2009 Midnight.
Voting: Sunday, June 21 - Sunday, June 28, 2009, Midnight.
The results will be published in the Tuesday, June 30, 2009 Sketchbook.
Recent letters to the Sketchbook editors and discussions on various forums indicate that some assumptions about a kukai must be spelled out. From now on (April 1, 2008), Haiku entered in the Sketchbook kukai must be previously unpublished; they must not be workshopped; they must not appear on any ist, forum, group, blog, or in print. In short, if the haiku has appeared on the internet or in print we consider it to have been published. The voting in a kukai is anonymous and publication anywhere voids anonymity. Any haiku found to be previously published will be disqualified.
Celebrate Theodore Roethke's birthday reading his poems here
In addition, Garrison Keillor gives an overview of Roethke and reads a great poem from Jack Gilbert's Refusing Heaven, entitled "Happily Planting the Beans Too Early" in today's Writer's Almanac. I tried embedding it without any luck, so here's the poem:
Happily Planting the Beans too Early
I waited until the sun was going down to plant the bean seedlings. I was beginning on the peas when the phone rang. It was a long conversation about what living this way in the woods might be doing to me. It was dark by the time I finished. Made tuna fish sandwiches and read the second half of a novel. Found myself out in the April moonlight putting the rest of the pea shoots into the soft earth. It was after midnight. There was a bird calling intermittently and I could hear the stream down below. She was probably right about me getting strange. After all, Basho and Tolstoy at the end were at least going somewhere.
It's also Miles Davis day and I'm unabashed fan, of all periods. So here's something newer, live in Munich in 1987, with apologies to classic fans; my feet are, however, moving now.
spring breeze-- where my feet are pointed I'm on my way
Bob Dylan's "Desolation Row" is, by request of the inimitable Ed Baker, today's feature LitRock song on Issa's Sunday Service. He didn't suggest it for today, just generally; however, today is Bob's 68th birthday, so there you go. This version is live at Royal Albert Hall in 1966 and an amazing performance. Dylan references so many literary items in this one, we could go months without having to post anymore tunes.
I'm taking suggestions for songs in the LitRock category to feature here on Sundays. Songs featured so far include Aztec Two-Step's "The Persecution and Resurrection of Dean Moriarty," Donovan's "The Way," "Rejoyce" by Jefferson Airplane, and Van Morrison's "Summertime in England." I'm especially interested in newer material; I've got quite a list of "classic" rock tunes referencing people and things literary but, being of the dinosaur generation, am lacking more modern songs. Suggestions in the comments section would be great.
This week's feature poem comes from Lilliput Review is #6, from September 1989. This is one of Lyn Lifshin's and is one of my favorite efforts of her's for LR:
Yawn Series Of Younger Poets
annual politician of
a first book of
plums by ailing
writer under 40.
Marmosets may be
and must be
a stamp, self
the bird is singing
but it ain't blooming...
Click on image to enlarge, wait a few moments, mouse over the right side of screen, click to flip pages (or simply click images at bottom), hit escape to return
I just recently rediscovered Issuu (thanks Melissa, at the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy), where you can publish your documents. It has this neat flip-the-pages feature that mimics the reading experience, sort of. Above is a scan I did - actually multiple scans - of issue #160.
Because it's Friday, here's a little bit of pure fun, coming your way Christmas Day, 2009.
And for those who just need a good old fashioned Friday afternoon dose, here is a 1 hour piece by the birthday lad, Sun Ra, on one of his terrestrial stopovers on the never ending intergalactic tour, which, of course, continues long after his translation to another plane.
awaiting the stars--
even a turtle cools
------At the morning exhibition Of the Buddhist image, ------The sparrows also are on time.
-------The flying butterfly: I feel myself -------A creature of dust.
A thousand Plovers Rise As one.
------Visiting the graves The old dog -------Leads the way
The deer Are licking The first frost From one another's coats.
All the while I pray to Buddha I keep on killing Mosquitoes.
As mentioned previously, the 3 line translations are by R. H. Blyth and the 4 liners by Nobuyuki Yuasa. It is very refreshing, indeed, to have two different approaches in one volume, not something that happens too often. Some volumes of Baudelaire do this, Dante also, but it really is lovely to have this approach with Master Issa. I've tried here to select poems not previously featured but when something is a favorite, my resistance is minimal.
Sometimes, you just have to cave.
This week's featured works are from a combination of #31 and #32 which, issued as a pair, were short and long-line issues respectively, plus two from #29 (February 1992). The countdown to #1 is beginning to feel like a free fall from a building or a very tall bridge.
--That little old lady has a purpose. --She's a cartographer completing the map of her life. --It's there on her face, --as contained, as exact as the will that lies --deep in that small, sunken breast. --She looks around her, laughs. --Another line forms, --another move toward the completion she already envisions. --There's nothing more for us here. --Let's leave her to her work.
Poem Up From Too Little Light
Was it a dark and stormy night or just a round shadow all stuffed with sound and too little light?
porch of no one's at home
backdrop of busy street sounds
lone hollow chimes
-- ---yet here is -- ---that pulse to
The further back in the run I go, now 17 years in the past, the more I encounter an earlier me, a novice editor, working toward something. Though still something of a novice today, I fancy now that I see a thread, even in this early work, of the direction thematically that the magazine was heading. For instance the first 3 poems revolved around sound (two about wind chimes, one about an ocarina), followed by two alluding to symphonies, the later symphony poem also introducing a flower motif that culminates in the last two poems of the issue, with two poems, one about breathing, the other mentioning Yogananda, sandwiched in between.
Now, through older eyes, the issue doesn't quite lift off, the whole not equal to the sum of its parts. Each poem, however, does its part and I enjoy the work, some of which is in styles that I don't necessarily gravitate toward any more. So this is a novice cutting his teeth, possibly at the expense of the poets. Let me finish this thought, however, with the poem that opened the issue, which says much more eloquently what I'm struggling with here:
last will and testament:
make a wind chime from my bones,
hang it where the poets speak.
let me be a part of the conversation,
to enlightened eyes Buddha's bones? dewdrops in the grass
A report on the Jack Gilbert Tribute reading May 12th in NYC has just been posted at the Gilbert site on Facebook, courtesy of Jason Mashak and written by Boni Joi. For those of you as taken with Jack as I am, here it is:
The reading was great! Each reader was full of energy and anecdotes about knowing or being influenced by Jack's work. Jack sat right in the front row. The readers were introduced by Alice Quinn and they were supposed to go in alphabetical order but Alice introduced Linda Gregg first, which was a nice mistake. Each poet read their favorite poems and one or two from the new book "The Dance Most of All." Deb Garrison helped Jack pick the title, it is a fragment from one of the poems in the new collection (sorry I forgot which one). Linda asked Jack how he felt that morning and he said "Grateful." Jim called Jack a famous and great walker, who would walk two miles just for a loaf of bread and some cheese. Jack loves to walk. Henry Lyman said once a neighbor asked Jack "Are you a poet?" and Jack replied "On certain lucky days." Gerald told of days in Pittsburg and a trip they took once that Gerald wrote an essay about.
I will list the readers in order and what poems they read:
Linda Gregg Angelus A Description of Happiness in Kobenhavn Going Wrong We Are the Junction
Jim Finnegan Crusoe on the Mountain Gathering Faggots Me and Capablanca The Secret
Mary Karr The Abnormal is Not Courage The Plundering of Circe Don Giovanni on His Way to Hell Don Giovanni in Trouble
Henry Lyman In Views of Jeopardy Hunger Alone Refusing Heaven Ovid in Tears
Megan O'Rourke Tear It Down The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart Married Winter in the Night Fields
Gerald Stern Love Poem The Lives of Famous Men Music is the Memory of What Never Happened Hard Wired Neglecting the Kids
The reading concluded with a taped recording of Jack reading "The Forgotten Dialect of the Heart."
To tell the truth, Storyville was brutal. The parlors of even the fancy whorehouses crawling with roaches and silverfish. The streets foul and the sex brawling. But in the shabby clapboard buildings on Franklin and Liberty and on Iberville was the invention. Throughout the District, you could hear Tony Jackson and King Oliver, Morton and Bechet, finding it night after night. Like the dream Bellocq's photographs found in the midst of Egypt Vanita and Mary Meathouse, Aunt Cora and Gold Tooth Gussie. It takes a long time to get the ruins right. The Japanese think it strange we paint our old wooden houses when it takes so long to find the wabi in them. They prefer the bonsai tree after the valiant blossoming is over, the leaves fallen. When bareness reveals a merit born in the vegetable struggling.
Jack's given it all: heart, mind, and soul. Each collection soars higher than the last. You can get Tough Heaven directly from Pond Road Press. It's probably cheaper at amazon, but why not support the small press and go direct.And there is The Dance Most of All, the best new American poetry book I've read this year so far.
Do yourself a favor: get 'em at the library, get 'em at a bookstore, just get 'em.
spring's begun-- the sky over my house too like old times
This week's segment of the ongoing Issa's Sunday Service features the LitRock song The Persecution and Resurrection of Dean Moriarty by the fine folk rock duo, Aztec Two-Step. Here's the poem from which they took their name:
See ----it was like this when ----------------------we waltz into this place
a couple of Papish cats -----------------------is doing an Aztec two-step
And I says -------------Dad let's cut it
but then this dame -----------------comes up behind me see ------------------------------and says -------------------You and me could really exist
Wow I says ---------------Only the next day -------------------she has bad teeth ---------------------------and really hates -----------------------------------------------poetry
This particular tune has a unique POV, the speaker being very suspicious and seemingly hateful of Jack Kerouac's god of the road, Dean Moriarty/Neal Cassady. One word of warning though: listen to this song 3 times and you won't be able to stop. The cut comes from their great debut album, which is available to purchase direct from the band.
This week's featured poem comes from Lilliput Review #5, from August 1989, which was the first broadside issue. The broadside consisted of 9 poems by small press poetry legend, Lyn Lifshin. Here's a little take on the ol' bait and switch:
Madonna Who Throws So Many Intimate Details Out Fast
work in pairs
a shove to
get you off
she moves in
to lift your
The new issue of Café Review, part of their 20th anniversary year, has arrived and it has been a long time in the planning. It is an all editors issue: 14 editors from a variety of small press publications, commenting on poetry. Here's what they were looking for:
The Café Review is planning a special Editors’ Issue — to be published in April, National Poetry Month — offering insights on what makes a poem publishable and examining the general health of American poetry today. The issue is part of a series of events in celebration of our 20th anniversary in 2009. The Editors’ Issue will feature essays from the editors of at least a dozen, well-respected poetry journals from across the country in which they tell readers what strikes them about a poem and of both the formal and informal criteria they use to judge submissions. In addition, the Editors’ Issue will discuss the state of American poetry. Is it still useful? Does it still have the power to move a person or change the course of public affairs? In short: Does poetry matter in the world right now? It’s an issue you definitely do not want to miss ...
You can see from the above cover, top right, that I was one of the 14 editors approached to share their thoughts and predilections. Since this is Lilliput's 20th anniversary year, it seemed an appropriate time, to both the editors and myself, to stop for a moment and take a look at the big picture.
In my allotted 1000 or so words, I chose to speak about "the poem" rather than the current state of American poetry, which I feel distinctly unqualified to comment on. All the essays serve as kind of extended guidelines and collectively give folks a deeper glimpse behind the scenes of particular mags, including what they are generally looking for (and, perhaps, what it's not). Lilliput is in some esteemed company here and I feel privileged to be included. The other mags included are Asheville Poetry Review, The Ledge, Beloit Poetry Journal, Rattle, Oak Bend Review, The Broome Review, Hunger Mountain, Measure, Calyx, Simpatico,The Spoon River Review, Free Lunch and The Café Review.
Because I hate all talk and no action, I want to slip in a few poems from a book I hope to have more to say about in a future post: A Few Flies and I: Haiku by Issa, selected by Jean Merrill and Ronni Solbert, from translations by R. H. Blyth and Nobuyuki Yuasa. Merrill is an esteemed children's author and editor, best known for her classic, The Pushcart War. This is a fine, moving selection of translations from two excellent translators and the blend of their efforts makes for an interesting collection. Blyth's renderings are in 3 lines, Nobuyuki's in 4. Though ostensibly for children, I wholeheartedly recommend it to everyone. Perhaps it is Issa's great sympathy for and love of children and his own childlike vision and attitude, but this volume works for me in a big way. Here's a couple of poems to tantalize:
------At the flower-vase, The butterfly too seems to be listening ------to the One Great Thing.
On the bridge In the thick evening fog– The horse pauses A few steps before the hole.
------The child sobs "Give it to me!" ------The bright full moon.
The Buddha Smiles And points his finger At a stink worm.
The first and last of these, by the two different translators, are stunning in their simplicity and power. The last is the perfect example of Issa's childlike vision, a poem that speaks directly on a child's level (who farted?) with humor, and a poem that succinctly captures the entire mystery of the universe in a mere 11 words.
*ATLAS POETICA : A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka* is off to an excellent start, with #'s 1 & 2 available now. Number 3 goes on sale March 1, 2009. The journal will publish an 8.5"x 11" print format (and in PDF and HTML digital edition) of tanka/waka/kyoka and its variants, as well as tanka prose, sets and sequences, two times a year. All poems will be poetry of place, in other words, poetry in which the natural or cultural place plays a role. *Atlas Poetica *aims at poetry in which the external and internal environments are connected, and which shows the diversity of the natural world and human experience. Tanka in both traditional and innovative forms are welcome, as are submissions in languages other than English as long as they are accompanied by English translation. Poets should send up to 40 poems that have never been published and which are not on consideration elsewhere. *Atlas Poetica *has the capacity to publish sequences or prose work longer than 40 verses in length, but prefers to be queried first. Non-fiction articles, book reviews, announcements, and other articles of interest to the readers of tanka poetry of place are welcome. International announcements can be in any language and need not be accompanied by English translation. For complete guidelines, visit AtlasPoetica.com. Reading windowfor Atlas Poetica 4: 1 March - 30 June, 2009.
*Atlas Poetica* is edited by M. Kei, editor-in-chief of the anthology, Take Five : Best Contemporary Tanka, and showcases previously unpublished tanka in English and English translation from around the world. The *Atlas* welcomes individual tanka, sets and sequences, and tanka prose that are deeply steeped in the human and natural landscape, reflecting the particularities of life as it is lived in all its splendid interconnections. *Atlas Poetica* believes that diversity, locality, tradition, innovation, and a keen sense of the awareness of the web that binds the internal and external environments together is the essence from which poetry springs. It is by connecting with this place, this moment, and these experiences of life that we achieve deep insight and appreciation for ourselves, our neighbors, and our world. "Sense of place is not just something that people know and feel, it is something people do."—Albert Camus
Before submitting, please carefully read the complete guidelines which are available at
along with information regarding rights sought, schedules, deadlines, and more.
Submissions and inquiries may be sent to the editor at: submissions (at)
AtlasPoetica (dot) com.
For further information contact: M. Kei, Editor, *Atlas Poetica* AtlasPoetica (at) gmail (dot) com or visit: AtlasPoetica.com
Please share widely and forward to all appropriate forums.
M. Kei Editor, *Atlas Poetica: A Journal of Poetry of Place in Modern English Tanka*
This week from the Lilliput Review archive it's issue #34, from June 1992, a place long ago and faraway. Evidently, however, in some ways, things were very much the same. Enjoy.
Black Ink Pens
--------for poems that explain truth, carefully chosen words, lines, beautiful melodies, only to be read at night when the moon has passed beyond the horizon.
t. kilgore splake
and it seems to me that before a poem stretches out invitingly on the page it has traveled along a golden fuse from genitals to heart to brain
Judith Klinger Rose
When Your Deep Fear Has Found You
A yellow sunflower will grow beside you on the dunghill. You will be astonished as it turns to face you. It will marvel as fire comes to eat from your hand.
¶blue thorn gallop rose, -why does language have to be so perfect?
I recently received a copy of called home by the haiku poet paul m, published by Red Moon Press. This compact, 90 plus page volume is a fine example of contemporary English language haiku in its scope, power, and lyricism. Though many a haiku expert contends that the form cannot be written in English, this volume belies that hoary dictum. If you don't want to call them haiku, call them whatever you want. To quote the late, great Sonny Boy Williamson, in conversation with Leonard Chess, at a recording session for his song Little Village (which they were having a hard time getting a decent take on, hence the testiness):
Leonard: Go ahead we're rolling, Take 1 What's the name-a this?
Sonny Boy: Little Village. A Little Village, Mother Fucker! A Little Village!
Leonard: There's isn't a mother fuckin' thing there about a village. You son-of-a-bitch!
Leonard: Nothin' in the song has got anything to do with a village
Sonny: Well, a small town ...
Leonard: I know what a village is!
Sonny: Well alright, goddamn it! You know, you don't need no title. You name it up, you, I got-get through with it, son-of-a-bitch. You name it what you wanna. You name it your mammy, if ya wanna.
called home is a collection that by default, and considered arrangement, roughly chronicles paul m's (pseudonym of the poet, Paul Miller) life journey from California to New England, where he began life and now once again resides. His introduction perfectly sets the table, but not just for this volume. m. succinctly captures the mileau of haiku itself, the evocativeness and universality of the form. Rather than badly translate, let me let the poet speak for himself:
In selecting poems for this collection, I was reminded of my nomadic existence of these past few years as I shuttled back and forth between California and New England while changing residences and employment. Because of their focus on the moment, and a spatial requirement for only the most essential information, haiku are a telling record of our daily participation with the world. Yet these poems are more than mere calendar entries because it is their emphasis on daily details - details that have no inherent meaning except that which we give them - that tell of our truest interior emotions.
The playwright Arthur Miller once wrote, commenting on a cornstalk's shadow, that it represented more than just itself, but also "the time of day, the position of the earth and sun, the size of our planet and its shape, and perhaps even the length of its life and ours among the stars." If this is true, it lays a tremendous burden upon language, for it implies a complete world order from the merest of words. Haiku appear to offer the most merger of objects doing the meanest of things; yet it is in those merest of words that we find what Robert Spiess described as, "creation taking place at every moment." But accessing a haiku is not an easy task. The Japanese master Ogiwara Seisensui called them unfinished poems because they require a reader to complete them. To be a reader of haiku is to be a willing particpant. It requires the faith to step into the cornfield; to pause on a slope with a plant called footsteps-of-spring; and to be willing to look for oneself in a daffodil shoot. Haiku are poems of immersion.
m. goes on to detail that home is the main theme of his collection, home which he sees and feels in the most minute, sometimes unexpected details. And then he strikes deeply in the vein:
Perhaps our truest home is the emotional state that connects us to these vivid details, an emotional state that cannot be defined intellectually, but only felt in the moment, the now of its happening ...
Here the poet has given us the greatest gift of all, a glimpse of understanding into the self, an understanding of the essentially unknowable, as good a definition of why poetry matters as any I've ever come across. The thematic territory he is mining here reminds me very much of James Wright and the poetry of Hermann Hesse.
The vision is all his own and it is illuminating.
Here are some of m's forays into the unknowable, with an open invitation for you to complete them.
cherry blossoms today the courage to speak to her
deep winter stars between the stars I know
explaining it, my life sounds frivolous– holly berries
winter light the cactus wren stays one bush ahead
spring foghorn ... cormorants spilling from an over-crowded ledge
orderly fields of an Amish farm the things I can't tell her
migratory ducks I have never kept a diary
old stone wall a single spider strand closes the gap
evening shadows not all spiders get carried outside
a woodpecker keeps the tree between us– missing you
bundled up with my beliefs I cross the pond
scattered leaves what I will leave behind
Red Moon has done a great service in the publication of this volume. It has been reviewed by Charles Trumbull over at Modern Haiku: check out his take. This is a small press publication of significant proportions. For haiku buffs, it's one to read again and again.
Today is the birthday of Eric Burdon of the Animals and later War. His vocal takes on blues, r & b, and some of the great rock songs of the 60's can't be overestimated. Along with the Stones, the Animals brought the blues back home to America via the British Isles and changed the course of music and the lives of generations to come. Here's a tune my sister and I used to scream out in our little 4 room apartment when the oppression got to be way too much.
the home village I abandoned... cherry trees in bloom
Today's edition of "Issa's Sunday Service" features a song by Donovan from his excellent, if little known, Sutras album. The album has lots of what can be called "LitRock" tracks. "The Way" is an adaptation of lines from Lao Tsu's (Tzu) Tao Te Ching, translated by Gia-fu Feng and Jane English. In fact, there are adaptations of more than a few literary works on this disk, including pieces by Edgar Allan Poe, Sappho, and Thich Nhat Hanh.
Why Donovan today - because it's his birthday. So, happy birthday to an immensely influential and under appreciated Donovan.
This week's featured poem is from Lilliput Review #4, from sometime in 1989.
the blues are red tonight
in my neighborhood bar
the foam of things to come
has taken over
the jukebox just ain't
what she used to be
and neither are you
Back at my day job, the 3 Poems by Discussion group will be reading and talking about Robert Frost. The three poems we chose are not those one thinks of first when considering Frost: "Design," "Never Again Would Birds' Song Be the Same," and "Acquainted With the Night." The reason I selected these poems is that they expose a deep, dark strain in Frost which, though often overlooked, is present even in his most famous works.
I found a dimpled spider, fat and white, On a white heal-all, holding up a moth Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth-- Assorted characters of death and blight Mixed ready to begin the morning right, Like the ingredients of a witches' broth-- A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth, And dead wings carried like a paper kite.
What had that flower to do with being white, The wayside blue and innocent heal-all? What brought the kindred spider to that height, Then steered the white moth thither in the night? What but design of darkness to appall?-- If design govern in a thing so small.
Never Again Would Birds' Song Be the Same
He would declare and could himself believe That the birds there in all the garden round From having heard the daylong voice of Eve Had added to their own an oversound, Her tone of meaning but without the words. Admittedly an eloquence so soft Could only have had an influence on birds When call or laughter carried it aloft. Be that as may be, she was in their song. Moreover her voice upon their voices crossed Had now persisted in the woods so long That probably it never would be lost. Never again would birds' song be the same. And to do that to birds was why she came.
Acquainted with the Night
I have been one acquainted with the night. I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain. I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane. I have passed by the watchman on his beat And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet When far away an interrupted cry Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye; And further still at an unearthly height, O luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right. I have been one acquainted with the night.
These are simply 3 masterful poems by a true poetic genius. All are 14 lines and sonnets to varying degrees and that is the least important thing that could be said about any of them (Frost's famed comment that writing free verse is like playing tennis without a net more than suffices in regard to his approach to form). Though all these have certain elements of the formality of an earlier era, they all, again in varying degrees, replicate the natural patterns and cadences of speech in pacing and rhythm.
Of late, I've been reading Anne Sexton's dazzling The Awful Rowing Toward God and Frost's "Design" fits in perfectly with its themes, if not its execution and conclusion. Though Sexton might be thought of as the ultimate doubter, when it comes to the Ultimate in this poem, Frost has got her beat by a mile in the pessimism department. "What but design of darkness to appall?," indeed.
The white on white on white imagery is brilliant once again in execution, and certainly in irony, when invoking the absence of the Good.
"Never Again Would Birds' Song Be the Same" is one of the finest love poems ever written in English. If this seems hyperbolic, ask yourself this question: in the big picture, what exactly has Eve in the poem done? I would posit nothing short of changing the world, but that's just me. The poem has quite a few levels of resonance (Eve and garden, anyone), seems to be written in a voice in which the speaker is attempting to convince him/herself, and yet one of the only two declarative statements in the poem says it, qualification and all: "Be that as may be, she was in their song."
In tone, "Acquainted With the Night" seems close to "Design:" one might even speculate that the poet of "Design" is the persona of "Acquainted." "Be that as may be," that person is about as far from the usual folksy, rural farmer image normally conjured when thinking of the protagonists of many of Frost's poems. This persona seems to have wandered onto the streets of some unnamed American city from Baudelaire's Paris, philosophy in tact. Besides the narrator's seeming deep ennui, the lines
I have passed by the watchman on his beat And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
strike deeply and with considerable power. Frost, too, seems unwilling to explain and yet the narrative itself more than suffices; perfectly capturing the feeling, the details become unnecessary.
We have all dropped our eyes and looked way at one time or another, so we are as readily acquainted with the unsupplied details as the narrator is the night.
Today is Gary Snyder's birthday, so least I let it go by unnoticed, here is a dandy from Gary's Songs for Gaia:
As the crickets' soft autumn hum ------------is to man, -------so is man, to the trees
-------as are they
-----------to the rocks and the hills.
And, just because things do get a bit too serious sometimes, here are the breakfast cereal follies of one poet laureate, one great 20th century Polish poet, and three astute apprentices:
he knows the meaning of the breakfast bell... baby sparrow Issa translated by David Lanoue
Jim Kacian, of Red Moon Press, has passed along the following "Call for Poems" that has a looming May 15th deadline:
Dimitar Anakiev is editing an international anthology of haiku dedicated to the topic of WAR. The editor invites all poets to submit their haiku written on the topic (particular interest: Vietnam, 9/11, Iraq . . . ). The poems may be previously published, no limitation in number of poems and style.
We are not interested in senryu. Japanese haiku is not free of human content but in fact links human with nature—in other words, it expresses the human in terms of nature. So "war" is human and nature is anything you want. Take for example famous haiku by Basho:
summer grass -
all that remains of
This poem has a natural topic (summer grass, a kigo) but its theme is human: "warrior dream" ( our theme: war!). We seek such haiku for the anthology and not senryu, which is another kind of poetry. Often Western poets confuse TOPIC with THEME. THEME in haiku is always human, and our choice is to do an anthology on human themes: WAR, DISCRIMINATION AND HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLENCE. (Like Basho above). So, please, do not send senryu. Thank you,
best wishes, Dimitar Anakiev
The poems should be sent by e-mail ASAP ( deadline: May 15) to"
haikukamesan at gmail dot com (written out to avoid bots ...)
After 4 months, I finished Anna Karenina. Don't ask. Of course, I read nearly two dozen books of poetry, plus Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book, over the same period but, still, don't ask.
Recently, the always excellent Five Branch Treewebsite featured the following video, which I thought I'd pass on. There have also been some fine postings on David Young's book, Du Fu: A Life in Poetry. Along with great translations, some of David Young's own poems have been featured on Five Branch Tree. The music video, by the way, is entitled "Chinese Translation" and is by M. Ward:
From the archives:Lilliput Review issue #35, from August 1992, was an all-women issue. Here's a handful of poems to enjoy:
It was the leaves louder than wind. It was the hand of darkness in the leaves came moving slowly and the sound of waiting in the leaves louder than the wind.
Eve La Nuit
she was a sculptress who felt eaten by men gobbled up in their world beaten licked her most famous piece was an abstract view some think of a bird hungry with a gaping mouth or else a cock split open or perhaps a serpent who could tell an apple from a woman
our hearts beat
a flesh drum, a circle cleared by washing sorrow far enough to see that
stars are round and sea rim fans to blue salt fingers curving back to earth
Mary Schooler Rooney
Finally, yesterday was the anniversary of the passing of one of the blues greats, Reverend Gary Davis. Here's a very informal, yet powerful, performance of one of his great tunes, "Death Don't Have No Mercy:"
National Poetry Month seems to have spilled over into May as I'm still getting "Poem-A-Day" emails and it's a good thing, too. Since there was, at best, a handful of poems worth writing home about, it was refreshing to see this powerful, moving, mysterious piece by Lucille Clifton, one of our finest bringers of the word:
who would believe them winged who would believe they could be
beautiful who would believe they could fall so in love with mortals
that they would attach themselves as scars attach and ride the skin
sometimes we hear them in our dreams rattling their skulls clicking
their bony fingers they have heard me beseeching
as i whispered into my own cupped hands enough not me again