Friday, July 09, 2010

Far From Kiltartans Poor He Died

William Butler Yeats poems in memory of Major William Robert Gregory celebrate him as an Irish airman, not giving the fact that he was a lover of the empire and stood against everything the poor of Kiltartan loved or wanted.

This poem explored that aspect of Lady Gregorys son, who did not share his mothers politics.

He died far from Kiltartans poor being shot down by friendly fire in Italy, and far from for them in fighting for Crown and Country.

----------------- The Poem -------------------------

Far from Kiltartans poor he died
As to fight for his dream he tried
To outdo his enemy he vied
Only by his own to be shot down

And a poet who of the war vowed not to write
As it was no a writers war to fight
Nor a fit subject for verse in his sight
Wrote of an allied airman who fought for the crown

For far from the cause of liberty
So for Serbia and Belgium to be free
And Ireland too - far from that he
Wore uniform among the clouds

It was for empire to remain great
To be the worlds most powerful state
White, English, of the Reformed faith
He died, far from Kiltartans crowds

For it was far from fighting for Kiltartans poor
He died far from Kiltartan it is sure
He desired to keep them so, his heart was pure
British, to the very bone.

And the Kaiser, whose forces he faced
Whose Empire his own displaced
Was no more Kiltartans enemy disgraced
Than was the Hero from among their own.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

"Paris, 7 A.M." by Elizabeth Bishop

Paris, 7 A.M.

I make a trip to each clock in the apartment:
some hands point histrionically one way
and some point others, from the ignorant faces.
Time is an Etoile; the hours diverge
so much that days are journeys round the suburbs,
circles surrounding stars, overlapping circles.
The short, half-tone scale of winter weathers
is a spread pigeon's wing.
Winter lives under a pigeon's wing, a dead wing with damp feathers.

Look down into the courtyard. All the houses
are built that way, with ornamental urns
set on the mansard roof-tops where the pigeons
take their walks. It is like introspection
to stare inside, or retrospection,
a star inside a rectangle, a recollection:
this hollow square could easily have been there.
    The childish snow forts, built in flashier winters,
could have reached these proportions and been houses;
the mighty snow-forts, four, five, stories high,
withstanding spring as sand-forts do the tide,
their walls, their shape, could not dissolve and die,
only be overlapping in a strong chain, turned to stone,
and grayed and yellowed now like these.

Where is the ammunition, the piled-up balls
with the star-splintered hearts of ice?
This sky is no carrier-warrior-pigeon
escaping endless intersecting circles.
It is a dead one, or the sky from which a dead one fell.
The urns have caught his ashes or his feathers.
When did the star dissolve, or was it captured
by the sequence of squares and squares and circles, circles?
Can the clocks say; is it there below,
about to tumble in snow?

In Bishop's first book of poems, North & South (1946, Houghton Mifflin), this poem is the sixteenth of thirty. It is preceded by poems which are more well-known, including “Wading at Wellfleet”, “The Man-Moth”, and “The Unbeliever”. The poems following this one in her first book are anthologized even less often than this one, although The Poetry Foundation has posted “Roosters” online here.

The scene of “Paris, 7 A.M.” is a dreamlike state of consciousness in which one observes but does nothing. The speaking persona goes anxiously from clock to clock within “the apartment”, and then goes to the window and looks down at the courtyard and up at the sky, but there is no leaving the apartment or other action within it. The sense of stasis is bolstered by the notion of deadness in the absence of death:
Winter lives under a pigeon's wing, a dead wing with damp feathers. (lines 9 to 10)
The childish snow-forts...could not dissolve and die... (lines 18 to 22)
This a dead one, or the sky from which a dead one fell. (lines 27 to 29)

What can we say about why this person is anxious? We get a clue early in the poem: “days are journeys round the suburbs” (line five). Using Surrealism to conflate a cosmological perspective with that of a domestic one in these early lines, we are left with the question: “What is the urban?” The poem provides no answer, and a memory of “flashier winters” provides no solace, no re-invigoration. This poem does not clarify, elaborate or affirm but disorients and troubles. The “I” is casting about, attending first to this, then to that, and not finding a place to feel at ease.

Another clue as to this anxiety comes in lines 14 to 17:
… It is like introspection
to stare inside, or retrospection,
a star inside a rectangle, a recollection:
this hollow square could easily have been there.

Usually, retrospection and introspection are expected to be separate, even mutually exclusive, territories. But here the speaking persona seeks to collapse these territories into one. The “It” of line 14 is the scene in the courtyard; the “I” would like her interior and her exterior weathers to be the same. But they are not, and this disappoints her, causing her some anxiety.

After looking down into the lifeless courtyard and reflecting on a childhood memory that doesn't seem to help, this person wants to know where the signs of life are (“Where is the ammunition...?”). With no one else to turn to, she wants to know if the clocks can tell her what she wants to know. The “it” of the line next to last includes the pigeon, the Etoile (i.e., the star) and the sky, and the final question of the poem asks, “Is a catastrophe about to happen?”

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Steig Larrson and me

Steig Larrson, the man behind the stories that gave him his name fame glory posthumously led a fascinating life. Larrson could be one of the characters he became famous for writing about in his millennium series. Fighting to right Nazi wrongs in Sweden, he was a well known journalist who founded Expo, an antifascist magazine. Here in the states people don't usually think much about the Nazis but in Europe people give more importance to World War II and the havoc it created in history. In Sweden, its importance is even more meaningful. According to Lev Grossman in Time Magazine, "Fascism is a live issue in Sweden, and fascist groups have been known to attack reporters who investigate them." Larrson was a known target as the founder of Expo, the antifascist magazine he published. Larrson had built himself quite a reputation as a dragon slayer and his daily life and that of his life-long companion, Eva Gabrielsson, were affected by the backlash. Now there's an inheritance issue because Gabrielsson and Larrson never married in spite of being together over thirty years, so his family controls all. What deepens the suspense is Eva has a copy of the number 4 book on his computer in her possession. I watched her speak about this in a recorded television interview. Apparently they worked together and she edited most of his work.
I first felt compelled to read the girl with the dragon tattoo because of the colorful cover plus all I'd heard and read about it, but when I sat down and read through it, I became enthralled. He's gone and passed on but I love his shit!
Larrson wrote fiction to relax and he loved detective stories. I guess it gave him a break from the harsh reality he faced daily. Strangely even the aftermath of his life reminds us how life is often as strange as fiction.
Larrson proves that writers can create anything. Like my friend Anthony Whyte recently said over coffee, you can take a usual situation where people are sitting at a table drinking coffee and all you need to do is put a gun on the table and boom - the center of attention changes drastically and you can do what you want with your characters. All one has to do is let things fall into place and put things where they should be to add a little drama and spice.
Hooked on Lisbeth, the heroine whose intelligence and resourcefulness never fails her, I sped read the entire book submerged in the characters and events. Little Lisbeth, my heroine, is barely 4 feet two and 94 pounds soaking wet, is an exceptionally skilled computer hacker who survives impossible circumstances. She is lithe, super strong and can kick karate ass as well as Sarah Michelle Geller plus can defeat any enemy intellectually as well. I also love "Kalle fucking Blomkvist" another main character in the trilogy who could be Larrson's alter ego. Together he and Lisbeth could solve any mystery.
The wording is sometimes a bit dry but according to Grossman, that may be due to the translators facility with subtleties but it didn't damage my attention span or interfere with the excitement. This fast paced thriller kept me spellbound like a movie playing in my head.
After this I was compelled to read number two of the Millennium trilogy, The Girl Who Played With Fire, the perfect mix of action and expository to drive its thrust. Now I'm going to read number three next.
It is writers like Mr. Larrson who excite me to write. His characters are so finely tuned and defined that we know them as intimately as our closest friends. For those who don't know the series, I wasn't surprised to see Lisbeth buried alive in the end of part two of the trilogy. Lucky for me the first chapter of part three is included at the end of part two. I can't wait. I'll keep you updated!

Monday, January 04, 2010

Saturday, January 02, 2010


Hello everyone -- I'm working on a new poetry project, which Andy Christ has given me permission to share with you here:

The idea is basically to publish a bi-monthly poetry newsletter highlighting new and recently published work by Michigan writers (or writers with connections to Michigan). The publishing method will be threefold:

1. Emailed newsletter in PDF format
2. Archived newsletter in PDF format on a site/blog
3. Mailed newsletter to everyone who can't stand reading things online or prefers this method of delivery for whatever other reason.

This pretty much keeps costs at a minimum while still enforcing the need to stay connected and "up" on what projects others are working on, have had published recently, etc. It is also a pretty "green" way to go publication-wise, without wholly sacrificing the print option entirely.

If you're interested in learning more about the project, check out I'm going to publish and archive the newsletter there at first. Snail mail and email subscribers will also receive the PDF in those formats.

In the meanwhile, if you have a recently published or unpublished poem you're working on to share, please send it along to I'm gathering goods for the February issue.

Thanks for thinking on it. And Happy New Year!