Dressed for fall

Just before the rain, I finished weeding, chopping and slashing, and used straw to outline the labyrinth paths.  It looks a little swallowed by straw at the moment, but it will all calm down with a little rain and time.

As I was doing this, I was thinking about Rumpelstiltskin, and his spinning straw into gold–clearly a daunting task. Why is it that so many fairy tales have questionable morals? I mean, really, we’re teaching children that it’s fine to back out on your promise if the person who helped you is less than human? Or if his demands now seem too great?

Anyway, the rest of the definitely-not-gold-but-straw bale will make paths in the vegetable garden and what’s leftover will get added to the chickens’ hay.  They happily dig through and manure it for use as garden mulch.

Another poem at least partially about poetry…ekphrastic?

I know it’s been almost a week, but here’s another poem as part of the ekphrastic series, assuming a poem about a poem can be in that category. This one is by Jack Spicer, one of the poets Larry first introduced me to when I came to the West Coast decades ago. Like Lew Welch, Philip Whalen, Gary Snyder, his work was different than anything I’d seen before.

Any fool can get into an ocean…

Any fool can get into an ocean
But it takes a Goddess
To get out of one. Continue reading “Another poem at least partially about poetry…ekphrastic?”

Ekphrastics, take two

In the comments to yesterday’s post on ekphrastic poetry, a reader asked if I’d ever written a poem about a poem. Self-referential creatures that we are, poets often write about poems, and I’m no exception. So here in order, are the poem and the poem referencing the poem:


Now that I reread this poem, I don’t want to put mine in the same post.  You can read mine here, and if you like, you can go read (or listen to) the amazing Tony Hoagland poem it references from its more illustrious home on the web, where it deserves to be.

Stuck in the Middle

When we get back from the reading,
I look for the poem
Tony Hoagland didn’t read
and go in to read it to Larry

but he’s watching the scene with the knife
and the duct tape from Reservoir Dogs,
grinning and eating pistachios.
I have to look away. Continue reading “Ekphrastics, take two”


No, they’re not acrostics–ekphrastics (sometimes spelled ecphrastics–but doesn’t it seem more Greek with the k?) are written descriptions of a graphic work of art. Perhaps the most famous ekphrastic poem is Auden’s “Musee des Beaux Arts,” about Breughel’s painting, The Fall of Icarus, in which you can just see his leg to the right of the boat as he falls into the water, but no one is paying particular attention:

Musee des Beaux Arts

About suffering they were never wrong,
The old Masters: how well they understood
Its human position: how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
Continue reading “Ekphrastics”

What was she thinking?

is the title of a novel by Zoë Heller that I just finished. The fictionalized story of a 40-year old female teacher at a London high school who has a sexual relationship with a 15-year old boy, it’s told from the point of view of an acerbic, older woman teacher, in the school. Barbara’s observations are unsparing. For example, her description of the school:

“St. George’s is the holding pen for Archway’s pubescent proles–the children of the council estates who must fidget and scrap here for a minimum of five years until they can embrace their fates as plumbers and shop assistants….  Many of the younger reachers harbour secret hopes of ‘making a difference.’ They have all seen their American films in which lovely young women tame innercity thugs with recitations of Dylan Thomas. They, too, want to conquer their little charges’ hearts with poetry and compassion.”

Continue reading “What was she thinking?”

We’re back

After a long plane ride (this one was 11+ hours!), it often feels to me like I am still trailing molecules of myself along the flight path, and it takes awhile to feel reassembled in one place. Today, three days at home, I finally feel here. I celebrated by working on a poem and making a real breakfast from the garden enhanced with salt from the Camargue.

Both the literary and the culinary work were satisfying, with the hens still contributing a few eggs. Continue reading “We’re back”

Camus in Provence

I’ve been reading a copy of Camus’ Notebooks, 1935-1942, while we tootle around Provence.He was in his early 20’s when he wrote these. I came across this passage on travel:

20121010-211929.jpg“What gives value to travel is fear. It is the fact that, at a certain moment, when we are so far from our own country…we are seized by a vague fear, and an instinctive desire to go back to the protection of old habits… This is why we should not say that we travel for pleasure.”

There’s more, but this was the part that struck me, and I talked about it with Larry over coffee at one of the numberless outdoor cafes, under the warm sun of Provence. It’s true that travel produces some anxiety. You don’t know how to do the simplest thing, or get anywhere. In some cases, you don’t know the very words you need to ask for something.

As Larry said, travel lets you separate what is human from what is cultural. The lulling protection of cultural habituation is stripped. But the intense pleasure of unfiltered experience is the reward. In any case, home tomorrow, and back to the welcoming arms of habit!

Choir of angels

The little hill towns of Provence, with their tile roves and stone streets and buildings can’t help but seem picturesque. The plumbing and electricity may have been frightfully hard to install, and they may be damp and cold in winter, but as you drive through the hills, their charm is irresistible.

20121007-082901.jpgYesterday we visited several. The protocol seems to be that you leave your car somewhere at the bottom and start to climb up cobbled streets and stairs.

20121007-083056.jpg Continue reading “Choir of angels”

Huichol VW

It was raining hard our last day in Paris, so instead of wandering around Montmartre, we decided on Musée Quai Brainly. This museum houses primitive art from all over the world. Its design was very controversial–there is a long ramp up with nothing to see, and then you are in dimly lit halls with many small, box-like rooms. But the content of the halls is so stunning that I forgot the strangeness of the museum. Paintings, totems, sculptures, clothing, ornaments…it is all there and all amazing. But one of the most stunning exhibits was right at the entrance, a VW bug covered with Huichol beading. Almost anyone who has seen Mexican crafts has seen little bowls or figurines with thousands of colorful beads pressed into wax. This was a whole car, mirrors, hubcaps and all, decorated with the rivers, serpents and birds of Huichol artisans. 20121006-100524.jpg Continue reading “Huichol VW”

In search of an almond croissant


We’ve been in Paris for almost a week seeing extended family, drinking cafés crèmes and looking at the amazing art. I mentioned to my cousin yesterday that the last time I was in Paris, almond croissants were everywhere, but this time I’d yet to find one. That evening I finally came across some at the Boulanger, bought one for each of us and brought them home for breakfast. My cousin had found them, too, right around the corner, and this morning we had an embarrassment of croissants aux almondes.

We took a couple for the train. But really, one a day is rich enough. I told Larry if we met a beggar, of which Paris has it’s share, I’d offer a croissant. We barely sat down when a man approached asking for change for food. I produced the bag with almonds croissants, but he declined. He would prefer a Euro for a sandwich. Tant pis!

As for art, I’d like to post some photos, but it will have to wait. My computer was stolen from the hotel the first day, and I have no way to upload photos at the moment.