Monday, June 30, 2008

Thank You from John Palen

John Palen is one of my neighbors in Midland, Michigan. While he continues to teach journalism at nearby Central Michigan University in Mt. Pleasant, he writes poetry and remains active in what goes on in Midland. Lois, his wife, is an accomplished cellist and actively promotes musicianship and music performances in Midland.
Mr. Palen graciously agreed to join our group at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Saginaw, Michigan on his birthday in the Spring of 2007. On March 8, a group of eight people met at the bookstore on Tittabawassee Road to enjoy a few of John's poems and to get to know something of the poet they came from. This man, origianlly from Missouri, is now working with a retired engineer and poet from China to translate poems from Chinese into English. Many of the poems they work on are hundreds of years old.
His own poems have been in magazines and journals since the early 1970s, including Poetry Northwest, Kansas Quarterly and Passages North. In 2005, Mr. Palen joined forces with Mayapple Press to publish Open Communion, a collection of more than twenty new poems and a selection of poems from his four previous books. Here is one of the new ones:

The Elderly Man
in the library reading room
keeps the cold away
with a jacket over a sweatshirt,
its hood bunched at his neck
like a scarf. He has placed
his cap at one edge of the table,
a folded overcoat at the other.
Together they prop a thin
newspaper, whose pages he
turns like a finicky eater -
accepting one story, rejecting
another, stubbornly choosing
among his meager options.
On his birthday, our group presented John with a birthday card and a store flier which contains an announcement about the event we held in his honor. It was an enjoyable evening for all of us. A few days later I received a Thank You note from John in the mail:

Dear Friends,
Thank you so much for the birthday reading. It was an honor, and I had a wonderful time.
Warmest best wishes to you all, [signed] John Palen

Mr. Palen has our warmest best wishes for his continued success.
If you would like to get Poets Birthday Readings started in your area, jump right in. We've been hosting events since June 2005 and it has been a wonderfully rewarding experience.

Thank You from Jayne Jaudon Ferrer

Jayne Jaudon Ferrer is a poet who lives and works in Greenville, South Carolina. Happily married, she is the proud mother of three sons, has a vast array of friends who like herself are happy and besides all that she is a beautiful human being. She sent an e-mail to me somewhere in 2006 and we've kept in touch since then.
In Saginaw, Michigan, the River Junction Poets hosted an event in honor of her birthday on Tuesday, March 13, 2007 at the Barnes & Noble bookseller on Tittabawassee Road. We read from two of her four books: A Mother of Sons and She of the Rib: Women Unwrapped. I was surprised when the copy I ordered arrived at Barnes & Noble for me to pick up: it was a signed copy! Besides writing poems of her own, Ms. Ferrer actively promotes the appreciation of poetry. You can read more about her and her activities at her website. Meanwhile, here is a poem of hers I like from She of the Rib:

Though my life is rife with complexities,
my heart celebrates simple joys:
a forsythia's first fragile bloom,
the sun's rays splayed through a stand of pines,
Vivaldi and Merlot on a May afternoon,
sleeping babies - any species at all.
And you, my love,
with your no-frills approach to life -
your keep-it-simple,
bottom-line-kind of mind.
You are exquisite vanilla
in my too-many flavored world.
The night we met at the bookstore to read Ms. Ferrer's poems, we signed a birthday card and sent it to her in South Carolina with a store flier which had in it an announcement about our event that night. She wrote back in a Hallmark card:
Wow! You folks know how to make a girl feel good! Thanks so much for celebrating my poetry on my big day. My son & his friend were on hand when I opened your card & the B&N flyer fell out. They want to know why I'm not rich if I'm so "famous!" Indeed. [here she has drawn a smiley face] Love your work - love your levity - keep it up! [signed] Jayne

Happy Birthday, Jayne, and many more! Let us know if you'll be in Michigan; we'll have a warm welcome for you.
If you don't have Poets Birthday Readings in your area, you can get some ideas as to how to get them started here in this blog.

Thank You Note from Louise Gluck

Louise Gluck has won numerous literary awards in addition to serving as Poet Laureate to the United States. She currently teaches at Yale University. Without asking her permission, the River Junction Poets hosted a free event open to the public at the Barnes & Noble bookstore in Saginaw, Michigan in her honor near the time of her birthday. Our intent was not to arrive at a perfect or ultimate understanding of her or her poetry but rather to read and enjoy a few of her poems and to learn a bit about her and about what she believes about poetry. I found a few things online prior to our meeting on the 17th of April (2007) which I brought with me. The articles I liked best were at the Modern American Poetry website.
The night we met at the bookstore, we had nine people in our group, two of whom are actually members of the River Junction Poets (Saginaw's poetry group), three others of whom are students. You know, to the students who join our group I say "God bless you" because I am sure there is nothing or next to nothing we do at our meetings that will help you on any standardized tests or final exams. Now that I think of it, that may explain why we never see any students a second time. Anyway, the night we met, we signed a birthday card and sealed it up in an envelope along with a store flier that indicated our event that night. A few days later I received a note from Ms. Gluck in my mailbox. She sent a card of heavy stock paper with 'Louise Gluck' (with an umlat over the u in Gluck) and a little leaf curling beneath her name embossed at the top and in the center on one side. Then she has handwritten the following note:
Dear Andrew Christ & friends - Thank you for the funny card, though April 17 isn't my birthday. But my father (who wrote verse) did, with his brother-in-law, start X-acto. Your list of readings stays on my refrigerator. Many thanks - [signed] Louise Gluck
Then she has beneath that drawn the outline of a figure of a person holding a flower next to which she has printed, 'POET, RELAXING.' The card we sent said to relax on your birthday.
In case you didn't know, Ms. Gluck has a page at You might want to check it out.
If you don't have a Birthdays of Poets group near you, you can get some ideas as to how it can be done from this blog.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Yeats Night 2005

Here you have a few River Junction Poets, met on the occasion of Yeats' birthday, 2005. Pictured are, from L to R: Andy Christ, Karen Choate, Marion
Tincknell, Betty van Ochten, Sue Nearing, Colleen van Connett, Pat McNair, Robert Schade and Pat Bourdow. Thanks to Janet Marineau for taking the picture. At the time this picture was taken, all the people in the picture were members of the River Junction Poets for at least two years. Roughly nine months after this picture was taken, we lost our dear friend and fellow poet Robert Schade to an infection shortly after his surgery. May he rest in peace. Not only did he write his own witty verse, he translated poems from German into English and shared them with the group. We remember him as a gentle man, lover of life, a fellow sorrowfully missed.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Henry David Thoreau

His deepest personal longings Thoreau either concealed in his Journal or turned into poems. His most frutful poetic period dated from the time he began writing the A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers to shortly before the publication of Walden. His poems are significant utterances, both because of their intrinsic merit and because of his high conception of the role of poet. True, some of the later verses are hasty and prosaic, while some of the early ones imitate Herbert and other metaphysicals. But in between lie a considerable number which contain the essence of Thoreau's Transnecdentalism, sensitive, natural, and independent.1

The following poems are included in The Portable Thoreau:
I Am a Parcel of Vain Strivings Tied; In the Busy Streets, Domains of Trade; I Knew a Man by Sight; Lately, Alas, I Knew a Gentle Boy; Each More Melodious Note I Hear; Independence; Not Unconcerned Wachusett Rears His Head; My Friends, Why Should We Live; Low in the Eastern Sky; Great Friend; Fog; Brother Where Dost Thou Dwell; This Is My Carnac, Whose Unmeasured Dome; Love Equals Swift and Slow; Though All the Fates Should Prove Unkind; Manhood; Between the Traveler and the Setting Sun; Nature.
According to the English Web at Virginia Commonwealth University, the following poems by Thoreau were published in The Dial (1840-1844).2
Prayer ***The Moon *** Smoke ***Conscience***Rumors from an Aeolian Harp*** Low-Anchored Cloud *** Let such pure hate still underprop *** The Inward Morning ***The Summer Rain*** Sic Vita ***[My Life Has Been the Poem]***Friendship*** I Knew a Man by Sight ***Epitaph on the World ***Indeed, Indeed, I Cannot Tell***On Fields O'er Which the Reaper's Hand has Passed***Pray to What Earth***They Who Prepare my Evening Meal Below***What's the Railroad to Me?***Within the Circuit of This Plodding Life*** Inspiration
Of the eighteen poems published in 1947 and the twenty-one poems published approximately 100 years earlier, only two poems have the distinction of enjoying the favor both of the editor(s) of yesteryear and of the 20th century. Sic Vita reappears as I Am a Parcel of Vain Strivings Tied. According to the University of Notre Dame's online translation service, sic can mean any of the following: so, thus, in this way; like this, as follows; in that case, with this limitation.3
A number of questions emerge for me when I consider the selections made for each publication. Was Carl Bode aware of the poems published in The Dial? I imagine he was aware. Perhaps he wanted to call attention to poems he thought had been underappreciated. Perhaps he was swayed by his preference for poetry that seems to indicate a “high conception of the role of poet,” a preference which the editor(s) of The Dial may have shared and interpreted differently than Mr. Bode.
Did Thoreau submit the poems selected for The Portable Thoreau to The Dial? Possibly those poems had not yet been written. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers was published in 1849. Walden was published in 1854. Mr. Bode prefers the poems written during this time (1849 to 1854) to the ones published in the early 1840s, as explained above.
I'm sure our Readers can imagine their own questions as well. Here are a few poems from The Dial, followed by a few from The Portable Thoreau.


Great God, I ask for no meaner pelf
Than that I may not disappoint myself,
That in my action I may soar as high
As I can now discern with this clear eye.

And next in value, which thy kindness lends,
That I may greatly disappoint my friends,
Howe'er they think or hope that it may be,
They may not dream how thou'st distinguished me.

That my weak hand may equal my firm faith
And my life practice what my tongue saith
That my low conduct may not show
Nor my relenting lines
That I thy purpose did not know
Or overrated thy designs.


Conscience is instinct bred in the house,
Feeling and Thinking propagate the sin
By an unnatural breeding in and in.
I say, Turn it out doors,
Into the moors.
I love a life whose plot is simple,
And does not thicken with every pimple,
A soul so sound no sickly conscience binds it,
That makes the universe no worse than 't finds it.
I love an earnest soul,
Whose mighty joy and sorrow
Are not drowned in a bowl,
And brought to life to-morrow;
That lives one tragedy,
And not seventy;

A conscience worth keeping;
Laughing not weeping;
A conscience wise and steady,
And forever ready;
Not changing with events,
Dealing in compliments;
A conscience exercised about
Large things, where one may doubt.
I love a soul not all of wood,
Predestinated to be good,
But true to the backbone
Unto itself alone,
And false to none;
Born to its own affairs,
Its own joys and own cares;
By whom the work which God begun
Is finished, and not undone;
Taken up where he left off,
Whether to worship or to scoff;
If not good, why then evil,

If not good god, good devil.
Goodness! you hypocrite, come out of that,
Live your life, do your work, then take your hat.
I have no patience towards
Such conscientious cowards.
Give me simple laboring folk,
Who love their work,
Whose virtue is song
To cheer God along.

[My Life Has Been the Poem]

My life has been the poem I would have writ,
But I could not both live and utter it.

I remember this couplet from my high school English textbook. :^)

Pray to What Earth

Pray to what earth does this sweet cold belong,
Which asks no duties and no conscience?
The moon goes up by leaps, her cheerful path
In some far summer stratum of the sky,
While stars with their cold shine bedot her way.
The fields gleam mildly back upon the sky,
And far and near upon the leafless shrubs
The snow dust still emits a silver light.
Under the hedge, where drift banks are their screen,
The titmice now pursue their downy dreams,
As often in the sweltering summer nights
The bee doth drop asleep in the flower cup,
When evening overtakes him with his load.
By the brooksides, in the still, genial night,
The more adventurous wanderer may hear
The crystals shoot and form, and winter slow
Increase his rule by gentlest summer means.

Friendship (excerpt)

I think awhile of Love, and while I think,
Love is to me a world,
Sole meat and sweetest drink,
And close connecting link
Tween heaven and earth.

The following two poems were published in The Dial and also in The Portable Thoreau.

Sic Vita AKA I Am A Parcel of Vain Strivings Tied

I am a parcel of vain strivings tied
By a chance bond together,
Dangling this way and that, their links
Were made so loose and wide,
For milder weather.

A bunch of violets without their roots,
And sorrel intermixed,
Encircled by a wisp of straw
Once coiled about their shoots,
The law
By which I'm fixed.

A nosegay which Time clutched from out
Those fair Elysian fields,
With weeds and broken stems, in haste,
Doth make the rabble rout
That waste
The day he yields.

And here I bloom for a short hour unseen,
Drinking my juices up,
With no root in the land
To keep my branches green,

But stand
In a bare cup.

Some tender buds were left upon my stem
In mimicry of life,
But ah! the children will not know,
Till time has withered them,
The woe
With which they're rife.

But now I see I was not plucked for naught,
And after in life's vase
Of glass set while I might survive,
But by a kind hand brought
To a strange place.

That stock thus thinned will soon redeem its hours,
And by another year,
Such as God knows, with freer air,

More fruits and fairer flowers
Will bear,
While I droop here.

I Knew A Man By Sight (excerpt)
Late in a wilderness
I shared his mess,
For he had hardships seen,
And I a wanderer been;
He was my bosom friend, and I was his.

And as, methinks, shall all,
Both great and small,
That ever lived on earth,
Early or late their birth,
Stranger and foe, one day each other know.

The following poems are from The Portable Thoreau.

In The Busy Streets, Domains of Trade
In the busy streets, domains of trade,
Man is a surly porter, or a vain and hectoring bully,
Who can claim no nearer kindredship with me
Than brotherhood by law.

Each More Melodious Note I Hear
Each more melodious note I hear
Brings this reproach to me,
That I alone afford the ear,
Who would the music be.

Independence (excerpt)
My life more civil is and free
Than any civil polity.

Ye princes keep your realms
And circumscribed power,
Not wide as are my dreams,
Nor rich as is this hour.


The life that I aspire to live
No man proposeth me -
No trade upon the street
Wears its emblazonry.
Excerpted from comments at Poets dot org accessed 6/28/08:
Although Thoreau thought of himself primarily as a poet during his early years, he was later discouraged in this pursuit and gradually came to feel that poetry was too confining. It is as a prose writer that Thoreau made his most meaningful contributions, both as a stylist and as a philosopher. A tireless champion of the human spirit against the materialism and conformity that he saw as dominant in American culture, Thoreau's ideas about civil disobedience, as set forth in his 1849 essay, have influenced, among others, Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., and his mastery of prose style has been acknowledged by writers as disparate as Robert Louis Stevenson, Marcel Proust, Sinclair Lewis, and Henry Miller. Largely ignored in his own time, the self-styled "inspector of snowstorms and rainstorms" has emerged as one of America's greatest literary figures. Thoreau died of tuberculosis in 1862, in his native Concord.4

1. from The Portable Thoreau, 1947, p. 238. Carl Bode, editor.
4. from accessed 6/28/08.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Poet's Market

The Poet's Market is a handy reference published annually by the same people who publish Writer's Digest. I remember, in the early 1990s, the Poet's Market listed approximately 1400 magazines that publish poetry. I'm sure a number of them have since ceased publishing; the 2008 Poet's Market lists approximately 1800 literary magazines. The information available in this book is impressive. For instance, it's not unusual to read there of a literary magazine that receives approximately 500 poems per year and publishes fewer than 50 of them. That magazine might publish artwork, photography, short stories or book reviews as well. Another magazine might indicate that it receives 5000 poems in a year and publishes fewer than 500 of them. The circulation of such magazines might be 1000 where 250 to 500 of them are libraries. After reading a few of these descriptions magazine editors provide regarding their publication, it becomes clear that there are many more people writing poetry than reading poetry. Or, more accurately, there are many more people seeking publication than there are people buying literary magazines. It has been this way for the last 15 years at least.

Increasingly, poetry and literary magazines can be found easily online. Poetry slams continue to be popular. Many states in the U.S. have their own organized Poetry Society and their own Poet Laureate. If the number of Creative Writing MFAs continues to grow, perhaps we can say the audience for poetry is increasing.

Whether there are thousands of people reading poetry or only a few hundred, we want those people to read and understand poetry well. I like the notions of poetry literacy and also poetic literacy. These notions are distinguished one from the other much in the same way the notions of science literacy and scientific literacy are distinguished. A person with science literacy will know for instance that oil and water don't mix and that salt dissolves in water. Given oil with salt in it, a person with scientific literacy can tell how water may be used to separate the salt from the oil. Similarly, a person with poetry literacy will know vocabulary such as stanza, meter, rhyme, alliteration, etc. while a person with poetic literacy can give reasons why one poem is better than another.

I am including a few quotes now from the 2004 Poet's Market. Occasionally, editors include with the description of their magazine advice for novice poets. Here are a few selections:

Read journal before submitting. Beginning poets need to read what's out there, get into workshops, and work on revising. Attend writers' conferences. Listen and learn.
Common Ground Review

Study traditional and modern styles. Study poets of the past. Attend poetry readings and write. Practice on your own.
The Connecticut Poetry Review

Be honest in your writing. Work hard. Read a lot.

We like original work. Read widely.
Drexel Online Journal

Most beginning poets show little evidence of reading poetry before writing it! Join a poetry workshop . . .
Obsessed with Pipework

My advice to people starting to write poetry would be: read as many recognized modern poets as you can and don't be afraid to experiment.
Frogmore Papers

You can't do anything new until you know what's already been done. For every hour you spend writing, spend five hours reading other writers.

Read poetry, particularly contemporary poetry . . .

Follow the standard advice: know your market. Read contemporary poetry and the magazines you want to be published in. Be patient.

No matter what sort of writer you are, you should read constantly and always become familiar with publications to which you are submitting . . .
La Petite Zine

. . . we suggest you read a great number of established poets and discover social groups . . . that support poetry.
Lotus Blooms Journal

Read big. Write big. Publish small. Join the herd.
Mammoth Books

Do you read contemporary poetry? If not, you might not be doing a very good job writing it, either, no matter what your friends and relatives tell you.
Manifold Press

Read, read as much as you can . . .

. . . Read the greats over and again and study styles, grammar and what makes each unique . . .
The Society of American Poets

Read everything.
Sulphur River Literary Review

Read absolutely everything you can get your hands on, especially poetry outside your genre of choice, and ask 'What if?' . . .
Tales of the Talisman

Poets are first readers. Read and study traditional and contemporary poetry.
Tar River Poetry

Read some. Listen a lot.
The Worcester Review

Read poetry; read fiction . . .
Bright Hill Press

Read as much poetry as you can. Immerse yourself in work other than your own. Turn off your television . . .
Chantarelle's Notebook

Poets who are not avid readers of contemporary poetry will most likely not be writing anything of interest to us.
Chautaqua Literary Journal

Read a lot to see what is being done by good poets nationally . . .
Common Threads

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Spiritually Seeking

I See You
by Abhaa

I woke up to a sudden fortune

the day

the hour
the moment
You met me

To my pleasant surprise

It was you who I was searching for

the joy inexpressible!

Oh I wasted
these many years

without you
In search of vague desires

Was it not really for you my love
that I scorched in the fires of illusions

of hoping to find you someday?

Yes my love, my life, my self
its none but You
the Sun that you are
without who I can now
never imagine me see the Self

Meditating upon your words

your speech, your voice
in the melody of my songs
I see you

Now that I have clear definitions of

my wants
my desires
my possessions
and that's you you and you alone

Here we have a poem from a contemporary Hindi poet and friend of mine named Abhaa. In this poem, the speaker is addressing her spiritual master, Swami Vivekananda, who is in some respects identified with the universal god consciousness. The speaker is port
rayed as one who has been spiritually seeking and realizes her oneness with her spiritual master. The chief sense of this poem is one of achievement, of having achieved. I like this poem because it is a simple reminder that spirituality and faith can bring joy and peace to oneself and can then possibly result in bringing inspiration to others. Such a vision is easy to lose sight of in our busy lives of appointments, posturing and expectations. I am grateful to Abhaa for sharing her love in this way. It is a most generous kindness.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Philosophy of Poetry

According to Wikipedia, the Philosophy of Art is part of Aesthetics. So a Philosophy of Poetry would also be a part of Aesthetics, apparently.

Aesthetics (also spelled esthetics and æsthetics) is commonly known as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste.[cite this quote]art, culture and nature."[1][2] Aesthetics is a subdiscipline of axiology, a branch of philosophy, and is closely associated with the philosophy of art.[cite this quote] Aesthetics studies new ways of seeing and of perceiving the world.[3] More broadly, scholars in the field define aesthetics as "critical reflection on
from Wikipedia: Aesthetics accessed 6/19/08.

Someone will want to argue that poetry is a performance art and that is where the sensory aspect is. okay. Also, according to a brief Wikipedia entry, axiology is the study of quality or value. Funny that word never shows up in Robert M. Pirsig's The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I read that book for a class when I was a freshman at The University of Akron in Ohio. That would have been in the Spring of 1986. A great searching book, I've read it twice. I wonder what Harold Bloom and Clement Greenberg think of the Philosophy of Art/aesthetics. And Roland Barthes and Jacques Derrida and the Russian literary critic - can't think of his name just now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Create a Poetry Calendar

The National Education Association has a lesson plan that features this blog! Apparently the plan is based on the lesson found at Education World dot com. The plan is to "Create a Poetry Calendar," and it is recommended for students in grades 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12. The NEA lesson includes a link to this blog in its Materials section. The Education World lesson includes links to the Waterboro Public Library (which I used when I started this blog), to the wonderful The Writer's Almanac and also to Books and Writers which is a site I am only now learning of. Another good site for birthdays of literary figures is the Library Booklists which is done by Molly Williams who used to compile the literary birthdays for the Waterboro Library site. The following is a selection from the (NEA) lesson plan:
Students will:
  • research print and online resources to learn about five famous poets born in a particular month;
  • read 1-2 poems by each of the five poets;
  • create a school-year calendar based on the work of famous poets; and,
  • work together to choose a cover design for the calendar.
From accessed 6/17/08.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

One from India, One from Britain, One from Russia

I Am Restless
by: Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)
I am restless. I am athirst for far-away things.
My soul goes out in a longing to touch the skirt of the dim distance.
O Great Beyond, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget, that I have no wings to fly, that I am bound in this spot evermore.

I am eager and wakeful, I am a stranger in a strange land.
Thy breath comes to me whispering an impossible hope.
Thy tongue is known to my heart as its very own.
O Far-to-seek, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget, that I know not the way, that I have not the winged horse.

I am listless, I am a wanderer in my heart.
In the sunny haze of the languid hours, what vast vision of thine takes shape in the blue of the sky!
O Farthest end, O the keen call of thy flute!
I forget, I ever forget, that the gates are shut everywhere in the house where I dwell alone!
"I am restless" is reprinted from The Gardener. Rabindranath Tagore. New York: The Macmillan Company, 1913.
From the poetry archive accessed 6/15/08.


by: Alfred Tennyson (1809 - 1892)

It little profits that an idle king,
By this still hearth, among these barren crags,

Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole
Unequal laws unto a savage race,
That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.
I cannot rest from travel; I will drink
Life to the lees. All times I have enjoy'd
Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those
That loved me, and alone; on shore, and when
Thro' scudding drifts the rainy Hyades
Vext the dim sea. I am become a name;
For always roaming with a hungry heart
Much have I seen and known,-- cities of men

And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honor'd of them all,--
And drunk delight of battle with my peers,
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am a part of all that I have met;
Yet all experience is an arch wherethro'

Gleams that untravell'd world whose margin fades
For ever and for ever when I move.
How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish'd, not to shine in use!
As tho' to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little, and of one to me
Little remains; but every hour is saved
From that eternal silence, something more,
A bringer of new things; and vile it were
For some three suns to store and hoard myself,
And this gray spirit yearning in desire
To follow knowledge like a sinking star,
Beyond the utmost bound of human thought.
This is my son, mine own Telemachus,
to whom I leave the sceptre and the isle,--
Well-loved of me, discerning to fulfill
This labor, by slow prudence to make mild
A rugged people, and thro' soft degrees
Subdue them to the useful and the good.
Most blameless is he, centred in the sphere
Of common duties, decent not to fail
In offices of tenderness, and pay
Meet adoration to my household gods,
When I am gone. He works his work, I mine.
There lies the port; the vessel puffs her sail;
There gloom the dark, broad seas. My mariners,
Souls that have toil'd, and wrought, and thought with me,--
That ever with a frolic welcome took
The thunder and the sunshine, and opposed
Free hearts, free foreheads,-- you and I are old;
Old age hath yet his honor and his toil.
Death closes all; but something ere the end,
Some work of noble note, may yet be done,
Not unbecoming men that strove with Gods.
The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks;
The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends.
'T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are,--
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
From the elite skills website accessed 6/15/08.

Brothers, Let Us Glorify Freedom's Twilight

by: Osip Mandelshtam (1891 - 1938)

Brothers, let us glorify freedom's twilight -
the great, darkening year.
Into the seething waters of the night
heavy forests of nets disappear.

O Sun, judge, people, your light
is rising over sombre years
Let us glorify the deadly weight
the people's leader lifts with tears.

Let us glorify the dark burden of fate,
power's unbearable yoke of fears.

How your ship is sinking, straight,

he who has a heart, Time, hears.

We have bound swallows
into battle legions - and we,
we cannot see the sun: nature's boughs

are living, twittering, moving, totally:

through the nets -the thick twilight - now
we cannot see the sun, and Earth floats free.

Let's try: a huge, clumsy, turn then
of the creaking helm, and, see -

Earth floats free. Take heart, O men.

Slicing like a plough through the sea,

Earth, to us, we know, even in Lethe's icy fen,
has been worth a dozen heavens' eternity.

From Poems MD accessed 6/15/08.
Where today is poetry with such a tone as these men had in theirs? Where today is the healthy poet with type A personality? Where today is poetry that includes the notions of eternity, God and striving? When will we have had our fill of the elegy? Can we expect ever to find such things as joy, love, hope, and faith in poetry?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Language Poetry

Notes For Echo Lake - 4

Who did he talk to

Did she trust what she saw

Who does the talking

Whose words formed awkward curves

Did the lion finally talk

Did the sleeping lion talk

Did you trust a north window

What made the dog bark

What causes a grey dog to bark

What does the juggler tell us

What does the juggler’s redness tell us

Is she standing in an image

Were they lost in the forest

Were they walking through a forest

Has anything been forgotten

Did you find it in the dark

Is that one of them new atomic-powered wristwatches

Was it called a talking song

Is that an oblong poem

Was poetry the object

Was there once a road here ending at a door

Thus from bridge to bridge we came along

Did the machine seem to talk

Did he read from an empty book

Did the book grow empty in the dark, grey felt hat blowing down the street, arms pumping back and forth, legs slightly bowed

Are there fewer ears than songs

Did he trust a broken window

Did he wake beneath a tree in the recent snow

Whose words formed difficult curves

Have the exaggerations quieted down

The light is lovely in trees which are not large

My logic is all in the melting-pot

My life now is very economical

I can say nothing of my feelings about space

Nothing could be clearer than what you see on this wall

Must we give each one a name

Is it true they all have names

Would it not have been simpler

Would it not have been simpler to begin

Were there ever such buildings

I must remember to mention the trees

I must remember to invent some trees

Who told you these things

Who taught you how to speak

Who taught you not to speak

Whose is the voice that empties

Palmer is frequently associated with Language Poetry, a connection which he responded to in a recent interview in Jubilat by saying: "It goes back to an organic period when I had a closer association with some of those writers than I do now, when we were a generation in San Francisco with lots of poetic and theoretical energy and desperately trying to escape from the assumptions of poetic production that were largely dominant in our culture. My own hesitancy comes when you try to create, let's say, a fixed theoretical matrix and begin to work from an ideology of prohibitions about expressivity and the self—there I depart quite dramatically from a few of the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets."
From the poets dot org website accessed 6/14/08.
What is L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry? I got what seems to be a nice introduction from the Poetry Previews website:
L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E P=O=E=T=R=Y was born in 1971 with the release of a new magazine titled This, which culminated in the release seven years later of the magazine titled L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E. The early 1970s was an ideal time for a new movement in poetry. Early challenges to mainstream poetry had already begun, thanks in large part to the Projectivist poets of Charles Olson, a Black Mountain poet.
L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E P=O=E=T=R=Y was not simply a movement to bring renewed interest to language, but to the structures and codes of language: how ideas are represented and formulated to transmit ideas, thoughts, and meaning. Jerome McGann writes of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E P=O=E=T=R=Y in his essay "Contemporary Poetry, Another Route":
Here a conscious attempt has been made to marry the work of the New American Poetry of the fifties with the poststructural work of the late sixties and seventies. As Frost, Yeats, Auden, and Stevens are the "precursors" of the poets of accommodation, Pound, Stein, and Zukofsky stand behind the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E writers. Oppositional politics are a paramount concern, and the work stands in the sharpest relief, stylistically, to the poetry of accommodation.
L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E P=O=E=T=R=Y also recognized that language is political. In the same way that American farmers hid behind tree trunks and took pop shots at British soldiers who stood in formation in open fields during the revolutionary war, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E P=O=E=T=S fractured the language in an attempt to wage their own rebellious assault against the social and political structure inherent in the Imperial force of the English language.
A difficulty for many readers of L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E P=O=E=T=R=Y is its preoccupation with fragments, nonsense, and unmeaning; as well its rejection of the narrative model that has been the basis of nearly all types of literature. The traditional mode of reading for referential meaning does not work, as writers of this type of poetry attempt to unlock meaning by first unlocking our preconceptions (and preoccupations) of meaning.
Whether L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E P=O=E=T=R=Y succeeds to gain a large audience is irrelevent. The movement has brought together a dedicated and insular community that thrives on each other's ideas and perceptions. Many poets who are not L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E P=O=E=T=S have gained a new sense of their "poetic" place and understanding from simply exploring the movement's aesthetic. Ironically perhaps, many writers considered L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E P=O=E=T=S resist the label and attempts to define themselves within it. Despite similarities between the work of John Ashbery and L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E P=O=E=T=R=Y, Ashberry has said he doesn't align himself with these poets because he believes language should ultimately depend on references to meanings generated outside language.
More on this is available at the Poetry Previews website., Wikipedia, Poets dot org, Electronic Poetry Center, and UBUWEB, among others.

It seems to me that I need something like a Philosophy of Poetry in order to understand this aesthetic. For some poets, poetry is their way of understanding the world, much like science is a scientist's way of understanding the world. Take science away from a scientist and we have a person who seems lost and looking for a way to understand the world and himself/herself in it. The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets are not interested in taking poetry away from anyone; they want the poet to be aware of the political nature of language itself, and to consider that a word means what we agree on it to mean. As a teacher, I'm all for metacognition. The metacognition that results from the type of awareness recommended by the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets seems to me a special type of awareness that is made possible by literary critics generally. It's another means of refining one's aesthetic.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Intro: Paul Muldoon

The Mixed Marriage,” in his second collection, Mules (London and Winston-Salem, NC, 1977), concerns the opposed educational and class backgrounds of his parents: his mother’s cosmopolitan literariness and his father’s rural knowledge and Republican sympathies. His poetry, which frequently returns to his parents (particularly his father), itself conducts mixed marriages of various kinds. It brings his own family and rural background into a strangely dislocating relationship with an astonishing range of sophisticated literary, historical, and cultural allusion; it crosses contemporary Irish experience with Amerindian Trickster mythology; it joins early Irish legend to the thrillers of Raymond Chandler; it performs some radical formal experiments with that most traditional of poetic means, the sonnet. Wily and mischievous, these conjunctions are energetic displays of a subtle, learned, and ironic intelligence, placing the reader in a constant state of interpretative alertness and insecurity. In his influential longer poems, such as “Immram” in Why Brownlee Left (London and Winston-Salem, NC, 1980) and “The More a Man Has the More a Man Wants” in Quoof (London and Winston-Salem, 1983), he employs oblique, intermittent narratives of conspiracy, quest, and pursuit whose slippery air of giving nothing away, at once cajoling and unaccommodating, gracefully testifies to that most bedrock marriage of all in his work: that of a Northern Irish Catholic sensibility and the English poetic tradition.
from The Oxford Companion to Twentieth-century Poetry in English. Ed. Ian Hamilton. Oxford: Oxford UP. Copyright © Oxford UP.
Forty years in the wilderness
of Antrim and Fermanagh
where the rime would deliquesce
like tamarisk-borne manna

and the small-shot of hail
was de-somethinged. Defrosted.
This is to say nothing of the flocks of quail
now completely exhausted

from having so long entertained an
inordinately soft spot for the hard man
like Redmond O'Hanlon or Roaring Hanna

who delivers himself up only under duress
after forty years in the wilderness
of Antrim and Fermanagh.

From accessed 6/10/08.
In September 2007, [Muldoon] was hired as poetry editor of The New Yorker.
Muldoon has contributed the librettos for four operas by Daron Hagen: Shining Brow (1992), Vera of Las Vegas (1996), Bandanna (1998), and The Antient Concert (2005). His interests have not only included libretto, but the rock lyric as well, penning lines for the Handsome Family as well as the late Warren Zevon whose titular track "My Ride's Here" belongs to a Muldoon collaboration. Muldoon also writes lyrics for (and plays "rudimentary rhythm" guitar in) his own Princeton-based rock band, Rackett.
From accessed 6/10/08.
PAUL MULDOON is primarily the lyric writer for RACKETT, though he seems more and more to be getting the hang of a reissue 1952 butterscotch Telecaster.
From accessed 6/10/08.
Muldoon has written more than ten smaller volumes of poetry, has edited more than ten poetry anthologies and has won nearly ten major literary awards.
From accessed 6/10/08.


by Paul Muldoon

As naught gives way to aught
and oxhide gives way to chain mail
and byrnie gives way to battle-ax
and Cavalier gives way to Roundhead
and Cromwell Road gives way to the Connaught
and I Am Curious (Yellow) gives way to I Am Curious (Blue)
and barrelhouse gives way to Frank’N’Stein
and a pint of Shelley plain to a pint of India Pale Ale
I give way to you.

As bass gives way to baritone
and hammock gives way to hummock
and Hoboken gives way to Hackensack
and bread gives way to reed bed
and bald eagle gives way to Theobald Wolfe Tone
and the Undertones give way to Siouxsie Sioux
and DeLorean, John, gives way to Deloria, Vine,
and Pierced Nose to Big Stomach
I give way to you.

As vent gives way to Ventry
and the King of the World gives way to Finn MacCool
and phone gives way to fax
and send gives way to sned
and Dagenham gives way to Coventry
and Covenanter gives way to caribou
and the caribou gives way to the carbine
and Boulud’s cackamamie to the cock-a-leekie of Boole
I give way to you.

As transhumance gives way to trance
and shaman gives way to Santa
and butcher’s string gives way to vacuum pack
and the ineffable gives way to the unsaid
and pyx gives way to monstrance
and treasure aisle gives way to need-blind pew
and Calvin gives way to Calvin Klein
and Town and Country Mice to Hanta
I give way to you.

As Hopi gives way to Navaho
and rug gives way to rag
and Pax Vobiscum gives way to Tampax
and Tampa gives way to the water bed
and The Water Babies gives way to Worstward Ho
and crapper gives way to loo
and spruce gives way to pine
and the carpet of pine needles to the carpetbag
I give way to you.

As gombeen-man gives way to not-for-profit
and soft soap gives way to Lynn C. Doyle
and tick gives way to tack
and Balaam’s Ass gives way to Mister Ed
and Songs of Innocence gives way to The Prophet
and single-prop Bar-B-Q gives way to twin-screw
and the Salt Lick gives way to the County Line
and “Mending Wall” gives way to “Build Soil”
I give way to you.

As your hummus gives way to your foul madams
and your coy mistress gives way to “The Flea”
and flax gives way to W. D. Flackes
and the living give way to the dead
and John Hume gives way to Gerry Adams
and Television gives way to U2
and Lake Constance gives way to the Rhine
and the Rhine to the Zuider Zee
I give way to you.

As dutch treat gives way to french leave
and spanish fly gives way to Viagra
and slick gives way to slack
and the local fuzz give way to the Feds
and Machiavelli gives way to make-believe
and Howards End gives way to A Room with a View
and Wordsworth gives way to “Woodbine
Willie” and stereo Nagra to quad Niagara
I give way to you.

As cathedral gives way to cavern
and cookie cutter gives way to cookie
and the rookies give way to the All-Blacks
and the shad give way to the smoke shed
and the roughshod give way to the Black Horse avern
that still rings true
despite that T being missing from its sign
where a little nook gives way to a little nookie
when I give way to you.

That Nanook of the North should give way to Man of Aran
as ling gives way to cod
and cod gives way to kayak
and Camp Moosilauke gives way to Club Med
and catamite gives way to catamaran
and catamaran to aluminum canoe
is symptomatic of a more general decline
whereby a cloud succumbs to a clod
and I give way to you.
For as Monet gives way to Juan Gris
and Juan Gris gives way to Joan Miró
and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer gives way to Miramax
and the Volta gives way to Travolta, swinging the red-hot lead,
and Saturday Night Fever gives way to Grease
and the Greeks give way to you know who
and the Roman IX gives way to the Arabic 9
and nine gives way, as ever, to zero
I give way to you.
From accessed 6/10/08


by Paul Muldoon

Small wonder
he’s not been sighted all winter;
this old brock’s
been to Normandy and back

through the tunnels and trenches
of his subconscious.
I 1 is father fell victim
to mustard-gas at the Somme;

one of his sons lost a paw
to a gin-trap at Lisbellaw:
another drills
on the Antrim hills’
still-molten lava
in a moth-eaten Balaclava.
An elaborate
system of foxholes and duckboards

leads to the terminal moraine
of an ex-linen baron’s
where he’s part-time groundsman.
I would find it somewhat infra dig
to dismiss him simply as a pig
or heed Gerald of Wales’
tall tales

of badgers keeping badger-slaves.
For when he shuffles
across the esker
I glimpse my grandfather’s whiskers
stained with tobacco-pollen.
When he piddles against a bullaun
I know he carries bovine TB
but what I see

is my father in his Sunday suit’s
bespoke lime and lignite,
patrolling his now-diminished estate
and taking stock of this and that.
From accessed 6/10/08.
About Horse Latitudes, Muldoon's tenth collection of poetry:
No poet is as wicked, as stylish or as fun. (Richard Sanger, Toronto Star)
Muldoon's wit and wordplay can be seen as that, a mask. Is he really serious? Yes indeed, but readers will keep asking the question, as they still do of Jonathan Swift and James Joyce. (Langdon Hammer, New York Times Book Review)
Horse Latitudes is, as we would expect, a brilliant performance; it also offers us an unusually direct insight into some of the passions with which this supposedly detached and manipulative poet burns. (Fran Brearton, Tower Poetry)
Muldoon, whose penchant for weird rhymes, startling juxtapositions and occasional mystification is on full display here, is widely regarded as "difficult", even perverse. Yet Horse Latitudes is the volume I would give to introduce someone to his work. (Gregory Feeley, Philadelphia Inquirer)
When Muldoon is at his best he is one of the most exhilarating of all living poets. (Brian Phillips, Poetry)
This is Muldoon's tenth collection of poems and, as usual, an event. (James Fenton, The Guardian)
Paul Muldoon's Horse Latitudes contains some of his best work, including a wonderful long poem, 'The Old Country', in which every Irish cliché ever heard is both sent up and made magical. (Colm Toibin, Observer Books of the Year)
The most haunting poetry I read this year was in
Horse Latitudes, where Paul Muldoon is as often elegiac as playful, but in either mood an artist of consummate judgement. (Roy Foster, TLS Books of the Year)