Sunday, April 28, 2013

When You Awake: Issa's Sunday Service, #164

When You Awake by The Band on Grooveshark 
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This is the Band's 3rd appearance on the Sunday Service and I've been waiting for this one. Not the most famous of songs from arguably the best rock album ever made by an Amercian band (their 2nd, simply titled "The Band), "When You Awake" is stunning in its narrative, its execution and, well, its simple musicality, for lack of a more technical term. 

The reason it arrives on the Service is found in the last two lines, which are on a very deliberate fade out, to the point that many folks don't hear them at all:

And if I thought it would do any good
I'd stand on the rock where Moses stood.

This song is followed by another stunner, "Up on Cripple Creek", which opens with the lines 

When I get off of this mountain
You know where I want to go

A little something to keep you on your toes ... here's the lyric to "When You Awake":

When You Awake

Ollie told me I'm a fool
So I walked on down the road a mile
Went to the house that brings a smile
Sat upon my grandpa's knee
And what do you think he said to me?

When you awake you will remember ev'rything
You will be hangin' on a string from your
When you believe
You will relieve the only soul
That you were born with to grow old and never know

Ollie showed me the fork in the road
You can take to the left or go straight to the right
Use your days and save your nights
Be careful where you step, and watch wha-cha eat
Sleep with the light on and you got it beat

When you awake you will remember ev'rything
You will be hangin' on a string from your
When you believe
You will relieve the only soul
That you were born with to grow old and never know

Ollie warned me it's a mean old world

The street don't greet ya, yes, it's true
But what am I supposed to do
Read the writing on the wall
I heard it when I was very small

When you awake you will remember ev'rything
You will be hangin' on a string from your
When you believe
You will relieve the only soul
That you were born with to grow old and never know

Wash my hand in lye water
I got a date with the captains daughter
You can go and tell your brother
We sure gonna love one another, oh
You may be right and ya might be wrong
I ain't gonna worry all day long

Snow's gonna come and the frost gonna bite
My old car froze up last night
Ain't no reason to hang your head
I could wake up in the mornin' dead, oh
And if I thought it would do any good
I'd stand on the rock where Moses stood

And here is "Up on Cripple Creek" given the deluxe treatment: 


 Photo by Wolfpix

a pretty kite soars
a beggar's shack
translated by David G. Lanoue



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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 164 songs

Friday, April 26, 2013

John Martone: skeleton key - Small Press Friday

John Martone's book, a skeleton key, is a symbiotic combination of word and image. Both are by the poet himself, image every bit as stunning as word. There is much I could say about this work, but I must demure and let the work largely speak for itself.

a skeleton deer come to comfort you

This is no desku; the brilliant white bone, the whiteness of death confronting you like no other whiteness.

Confronts you?

Comforts you?

see thru


that freight 

New meaning is given here to sight, to sound - do you see it, do you hear it? 

from rest


in root

One of the great virtues of the short poem, the haiku-like poem, is its engagement with the reader, demanding that the work be completed by another - this, for me, is a novel in 8 words.

all this 

you too


Ah, now here is another layer of story, a veil seen through to an other meaning - here is the key, right before you - do you know which door it fits precisely?

seagulls circle
hominid crouches
skeleton deer

Closer, closer, closer still ... 

Still ...

winter gusting
thru skeleton deer
nothing at all


skeleton deer
   crawdad hole

skeleton deer
   muskrat lodge

skeleton deer
   beaver dam

skeleton deer
   warbler's nest
   heron nest
   redwing nest
   squirrel nest

skeleton deer
skeleton deer
& all gone home 

You can hear it now, can't you? It's singing to you, it might be a little nursery rhyme, a bit of a jump rope jingle, something of a truism deeper and more profound than words themselves?

skeleton deer
now a trillion
invisible lives

A trillion lives ... seems almost just a handful, really. Find this intriguing? Want to read the whole thing? Mr. Martone has loaded skeleton key up on scribd, so just click on through. But bring your A game ...

... not the poetry one.  The Other one.

Oh, by the way, skeleton key was shortlisted and received an Honorable Mention for this year's Haiku Foundation Touchstone Distinguished Books Award.  So, really, give it a go. 
I think Bashō would be proud.


the deer's flute playing
song in the night
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 163 songs

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Anne Curran & Michael Newell: Wednesday Haiku, #112

Photo by Patrick Q

as she turns to leave
my mother's
girlish smile

Anne Curran

Photo by Dietmar Temps


An old man slowly rocked,
the clock of his face
ticking toward midnight.

Michael L. Newell

Photo by Photo Matt 28

the baby birds' eyes
riveted on mother...
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 163 song

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Albert Huffstickler Green Dedication

The following comes from John Paul Moore: an announcement of the Huff's Corner Dedication with details, including some poems (one by David Jewell and the last known poem by the man himself). Most importantly, John conveys the feel of how loved Huff is and how dedicated the people are who have been determined, over the 11 long years since his death, to make sure that his memory remains in the collective mind. I will be there in spirit and hope to eventually make the pilgrimage myself sometime in the not too distant future.


Huffstickler Green Dedication

 The dedication of Huffstickler Green, honoring the Bard of Hyde Park, Albert Huffstickler (1929-2002), will be 10:30 Saturday morning, May 4.

The Green, already becoming known in the historic Hyde Park and Hancock neighborhoods as Huff's Corner, now freshly landscaped with a low sitting wall, oak trees and crepe myrtles, is on the prominent northeast corner of 38th and Duval, now marked with a temporary banner created by neighbor Mark Fishman.

The spot marks the convergence of the Hyde Park, Hancock and North University neighborhoods, and was created with help of neighbors in all three, working with the City of Austin Public Works Department.

With the enthusiastic participation in both the creation of the Green and the planning of the dedication event, Huff's friends and fellow poets, including an astounding number who Huff directly inspired to become poets themselves, we look forward to sharing and hearing Huff's own words as well as the poems and stories of those whose lives he touched.

Few neighborhoods have their own poet laureate. Kathy Lawrence, who is leading HPNA's dedication effort, reached out to mutual friend and Huff's one-time neighbor David Jewell, who contributed his own poem, "Huff walking to mail a poem,"* to this commemoration, one that aptly captures the image of Huff, the neighbor so many of us knew. And what did Huff think of Hyde Park? In his words, plucked from the seemingly bottomless well of verse that is Huff's legacy, this:
"Whether you are sitting in front of the bakery drinking coffee or walking the evening or standing on your front porch watching the night come in, you’re surrounded by this deep sense of place, of being in a neighborhood, of being spoken to, recognized when you walk down the street, of meeting faces that lack that closed city look that is part of so many areas as crime and distrust grow.  People still recognize and greet each other here and give each other the benefit of the doubt because we’re all part of the neighborhood.  You can’t put a price on that, not in these times."

Albert Huffstickler


*Huff walking to mail a poem

by David Jewell

he walks back and forth to the mailbox
to the store   to the post office
to the coffee shop
and he gets coffee
and he smokes and he
writes and he draws
and he doesn't really know it
or feel it   but
he is a sort of saint
or as much of a saint
as i am likely to meet
because he has no pretensions,
and compassion for everyone. . . .
not smarmy syrupy stupid
he's not afraid to mention it
if someone is acting like an idiot,
but he doesn't really blame them,
he just sort of laughs, and
he writes and he draws and people love him
in a million ways
like he has become everyone's grandfather
like he is an artistic santa claus
and he walks and walks on legs
that look at times
not so sturdy
like he is maybe being helped
by the angels


The Story of Huff's Corner

Albert Huffstickler was a familiar figure in Hyde Park.
It was a short half-block commute from his apartment at 43rd and Avenue H to his favorite table outside Quack's, under the tree that once shaded that little corner by the alley.

We all knew that our neighbor Huff was a poet. If you engaged him, he might write a verse or draw a picture for you on the spot and give it to you. It was only after his death in 2002 that some of us fully realized just how much of a poet he was. In the words of Austin Poetry Society president Elzy Cogswell, Huff was "the Willie Nelson of poetry." He may also have been the most widely published, in hundreds of the little journals and chapbooks published across the world by people more interested in poetry than money.

Just as the sculptor Elisabet Ney a century before him, Huff came to Hyde Park to live out the last days of his life and, like Ney, did some of his best work here.

His late work, written at that table at Quack's, and the others outside Dulce Vita and Julio's, often ponders the intimations of impending mortality.

"Knowing there is only so much time, / I don't rejoice less, but more," Huff wrote in "Don't Ask the Angels How They Fly" on his 69th birthday, in 1996.

In 1997, Huff was honored with a special tribute by the Austin International Poetry Festival and, though some of this recognition was growing among other poets and readers, Huff remained as open and yet self-contained as he had always been, to us, his neighbors.

After his death in 2002, there were more tributes amid the dawning recognition of his unique place among American writers. The Austin Poetry Society continues a tradition that began with Huff at open mikes for poets every fourth Thursday at NewWorld Deli and Huff's poems are often included in the Pecan Press by poetry editor Charlotte Herzele, but except for the mural on the side of Fresh Plus with a button inscribed "Long live Huff" in one corner, there was no other outward memorial to remember our own Hyde Park Poet Laureate.

Later, when Austin Energy awarded "visual mitigation" funds to make up for the towering rust-colored transmission-line posts that run along 38th street, neighbors Wanda Penn and Lindsay Nakashima walked the stretch with Judy Fowler of AE, scouting places where we could plant new trees with the funds. This was in 2006, four years after Huff's death and now seven years ago.

The northeast corner of 38th and Duval presented the best place to plant what will one day be grand trees, unthreatened by overhead wires. Better, this was city property, the remains of a single house lot that had been condemned to make room for a left-turn lane for westbound 38th Street traffic to turn south on Duval, toward the University of Texas.

They say success has many fathers and many neighbors contributed to the creation of this little green space in Huff's honor. These include Judy Fowler of Austin Energy, who on her last day before retiring, saw to the transfer of the mitigation funds to an account established for the Green; Huff's friend and neighbor, the late Joel Cryer, who recruited his own next door neighbor Michael Biechlin to design the landscape; Mary Ingle of NUNA, our own Wanda Penn and Lisa Harris, who kept the pressure on the city while leading us through the bureaucratic maze; Michael Hirsch and Carolyn Palaima of HNA; John Eastman of City Public Works who brought Biechlin's plans, largely intact, to fruition; and Elzy Cogswell.

Elzy knew both Huff and Margret Hofmann. When the proposal to name the grove of oaks across Cesar Chavez from City Hall for Hofmann, Austin's beloved "Tree Lady," came to the City Council in 2010, the APS members made a convincing case for naming it after Huff, but Elzy graciously assented to Hyde Park's proposal to name our corner for Huff, in the face of sentiment from what he referred to, tongue in cheek, as Austin's "powerful tree lobby."

Cogswell wrote at
our effort was successful, in no small part,"because poets are also tree people."

As Don Wentworth of Issa's Untidy Hut, the Lilliput Review's blog, put it, "...though the tribute is in some ways humble, a tribute it is. "

In the seven years it took to realize this tribute, the corner had become something of an eyesore, an illegal parking lot where refuse containers sat all week, where big dogs left evidence their owners cared too little about this shabby place to pick up after them.

This spring, as the fine new oak trees, crepe myrtles and grass take hold, the low limestone sitting walls will attract those who wish to muse, as Huff did, on the passing of the number 7 bus, the students walking and cycling between homes here and the University, no longer an eyesore but a point of pride for all of us.

What remains is for us to involve all who share our love of Albert Huffstickler and the work he left behind. There is much of Huff's poetry online; the trick is choosing the right words for this memorial. The Lilliput Review (linked above) is a great place to start, but be warned, it can be addictive and there is always another Huff verse to be Googled or stumbled upon, or found in boxes and file cabinets in Hyde Park as many other places.

Appropriately enough, most of the planning for the May 4 dedication that hasn't been conducted online has been accomplished at the tables outside Quack's.
Dian Donnell sat at one of Huff's favorite tables in front of Quack's, and reminisced about her longtime friend. She mentioned the table that had Huff's name on it around the corner at Dolce Vita, where the baristas would delight him by having his coffee ready when he arrived. One of his most available books is entitled Why I Write in Coffee Houses and Diners. It was at these tables that Huff spoke with and came to know so many of us.
Dian, who would go on to found the iconic Vulcan Video, knew few people when she arrived at UT in 1967. Huff was a neighbor on 22nd Street, took his coffee and talked and smoked and wrote in those days in the Chuckwagon in the UT Union.

They became friends and remained so for the rest of Huff's life. What was her strongest, most lasting impression of Huff, after all those years of friendship, 11 years after his death?
Dian replied: "Most people will let you talk and just be waiting for their turn, but Huff really listened."

As so many others, Dian would find pieces, objects, fleeting references to things she had told him among his many verses. She would not be alone in pondering these glimpses, "Was that what I mentioned to him? Was that me?

Elzy Cogswell came to Quack's to share the planning and some of his Huff stories, ones that bear repeating. On a sunny beautiful April day under the new palapas, Elzy counseled no haste to create a permanent memorial marking Huff's Corner, but to let such take shape in the minds and imagination of those who want to create something meaningful, who want to be a part of this.

For her part, Dian Donnell believes that what Huff would most want to last, more than his own name, would be his words, his work.  Dian, Elzy and others had a suggestion, and she recited lines from Huff's last poem, written in the hospital on Sunday, February 24, 2002:

"Tired of being loved,
Tired of being left alone.
Tired of being loved,
Tired of being left alone.
Gonna find myself a place
Where all I feel is at home."

Albert Huffstickler

I, for one, believe Huff would approve, but I also want to hear the thoughts and hearts of others.

John Paul Moore


Sometimes all that
memory can hold is this:
the sound a door makes
opening as someone enters,
closing as someone leaves.
Albert Huffstickler


to saintly eyes
they are bodhisattvas...
cherry blossoms
translated by David G. Lanoue


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

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 163 song

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Deborah Kolodji & Michael Newell: Wednesday Haiku, #111

Photo by MAClarke21

we promise each other
nothing will change
slack tide

   Deborah P Kolodji
   Modern Haiku, 42.1, Winter/Spring 2011

Photo by Cobalt123

A flowering rock.
Why do I insist
on questioning miracle?

Michael L. Newell

Photo by T-Miki

a village of slackers
plum blossoms
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 163 song

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Some Sunday Bits ...

Photo by John Paul Moore 

With two programs on my platter this week (one, on a small press panel, the other at the Carnegie Museum), the Sunday Service will put up its feet and take a week off (but I hear The Band and Regina Spektor rumbling in the green room).

Here's a photo update on "Huffstickler Green", above, and, since I can't resist a bit of music, a video of a couple of old guys kicking the can down the street two nights ago in Madison Square Garden at the Crossroads Festival, supplied by a long-time Jersey friend.


we start the spring
in our everyday clothes...
me and the sparrow
translated by David G. Lanoue


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Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 163 song

Friday, April 12, 2013

R. H. Blyth: Still Complaining - A Friday Idyll

Photo by Derpunk

Much of what is read in the commentary of R. H. Blyth's classic volumes on haiku might be considered as a kind of haibun, so close is he to the original, and so lyrical is his critical prose. Take this example, in which I've placed Issa's poem after the commentary which it originally preceded (to heighten the similarity to haibun) , from volume 3 of Haiku:

Issa is not grumbling at the grumbler. This verse has a prescript, "Man's desires are infinite, but his life is not." To want, to desire, is human, is thus divine, is part of our nature, is part of our Buddha nature. It is how we desire that decides whether we are a Buddha or an a ordinary man. It is not the grumbling, but how we grumble; it is the peevishness, querulousness, petulance that is 

This verse, written when Issa was fifty seven, is his considered criticism of human life. What distinguishes man from the lower animals is the very thing that degrades him below them.

This cool breeze
Through the summer room,
But still complaining
     tr. R. H. Blyth

Now, there is much to grumble about Blyth's commentary; I feel I can hear it now, so perhaps it is really coming from me and not some imaginary critic. Is being human thus, therefore, being divine? Yet, to be wrongheaded is not to be wrong. Is not this the very lesson imparted in the action taken, the thoughts penned?

Just read some D.H. Lawrence, whom Blyth greatly admired. Both perfected the art of being right via the act of being wrong. 

Something the Bard knew all about, desire that is (tricked up a bit). And then there is that other master

Or group of masters, but we are somehow beyond desire now, and returning through that wrong-headed back door.

This, this is truly human nature, truly Buddha nature.


Issa wrote some fine poems about breezes, as above.  Here are three, translated by David G. Lanoue:

in the spring breeze
already casting shadows...

the cool breeze

saying my apology
to the sacred tree...
a cool breeze 

Photo by Seemann



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

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 163 songs

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Rehn Kovacic & J. E. Stanley: Wednesday Haiku, #110

Photo by Taylor Schaldes

He wore his beauty
      so easily—
   one shoelace untied.

      Rehn Kovacic


 Photo by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos


at opposite ends of the earth
monks and rivers

      J. E. Stanley

Photo by wili-hybrid

bonfires for the dead--
soon they'll burn
for us
translated by David G. Lanoue



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

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 163 songs

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Book of Love: Issa's Sunday Service

Book Of Love by The Monotones on Grooveshark 
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Today's tune goes way down the alley, as B.B.King used to say: The Book of Love by the Monotones. Reportedly inspired by a classic toothpaste commercial. Since the Sunday Service has been dealing in weighty matters of late, it seemed to relax, kick back and just enjoy. 

The song is referenced in Don McLean's own classic, American Pie, in the line, "Did you write the Book of Love?" The great music site Songfacts notes that 

The banged drum in the first line of each verse (while that line was sung accapella) was not planned - in one of the first takes, a batted baseball struck the outer wall of the studio. When the take was played back, the group decided to keep the sound in the song. 
A fine spontaneous moment, the kind of thing that happens when the stars line up just right in the creative act. "Oh, I wonder, wonder ohm ba doo doo who -- BOOM! -- who wrote the book of love?" Boom, of course, being the baseball hitting the wall.

According to the All Music Guide, the group started at the Baxter Terrace Housing Project in Newark, NJ (demolished in 2009), where they lived. As noted there

They practiced in the project's recreation hall, inspired by acts like the Heartbeats, the Spaniels, the Moonglows, and the Cadillacs. They adopted their name from a previous group who already had it and were in the process of breaking up. The six friends and neighbors also began singing with the New Hope Baptist Choir, along with other choir members Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick, Judy Clay, Cissy Houston, Leroy Hutson (of the Impressions), and several of the Sweet Inspirations. Houston was the choir director and Dionne and Dee Dee were cousins of Jim and Charles Patrick (leader of The Monotones).

That's some incredible collection of talent, all in one church choir. 

In the category of literary rock and roll, interestingly one of the Monotones subsequent unsuccessful follow up songs was "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow", which certainly of its own accord qualifies for the LitRock list. But all that's literally another story.


Photo by Straitic

the old dog
looks as if he's listening...
earthworms sing
translated by David G. Lanoue



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

Go to the LitRock web site for a list of all 163 songs