Talking with another poet about the discouraging series of rejections, the endless worry that one’s work is really good–how can one know? I remembered this wonderful little poem by Robert Hass, from Time and Materials.
Envy of Other People’s Poems
In one version of the legend the sirens couldn’t sing. Continue reading “Envy of Other People’s Poems” →
Lately I have been enjoying the Saturday “Review” section of the Wall Street Journal a lot more than the NY Times “Book Review.” This is an excerpt of a Polish author, Marek Hlasko, from a review by Nathaniel Popkin. It’s from Beautiful Twentysomethings, Hlasko’s autobiography. I’m going to have to read the book:
“There are few nations who have so many chances for good literature as we, the Poles, do. We’ve got everything: misfortune, political assassinations, eternal occupation, informers, mystery, despair, drunkenness. By God, what else could you ask for? When I was in Israel, I lived with the scum of the earth, but still I never met people as desperate, detestable, and unhappy as in Poland.”
Continue reading “An exemplary sentence” →
On my way home from Chico, I saw this:
Also saw lots of ducks! I suppose the plucking goes with the guided hunt. And of course, such a great phrase can’t go without its tongue twister:
I’m not the duck plucker or the duck plucker’s son but I pluck the ducks till the duck plucker comes.
Of course, it’s Tuesday. Monday slipped by again, busy with spring planting, new baby chicks, and miscellaneous garden chores–they are endless. But for today I thought I’d share two famous poets words on poetry. Philip Levine and Marianne Moore:
A Theory of Prosody
When Nellie, my old pussy
cat, was still in her prime,
she would sit behind me
as I wrote, and when the line
got too long she’d reach
one sudden black foreleg down
and paw at the moving hand, Continue reading “Poets on Poetry” →
For those of you who follow the chicken saga, I wrote about my attempts to incubate or have my broody hen hatch some chicks. I have to report failure on both counts. Nothing in my homemade incubator hatched. I wasn’t so surprised at this, as I had some initial problems regulating the temperature. But for whatever reason, the eggs under the broody hen also failed to hatch. After 23 days, I took them out. Three had complete chicken embryos inside, but not alive. I don’t’ have any idea why, as she was a very diligent setter. I slipped seven day-old chicks from the feed store under her the night I took away the eggs, a mix of Rhode Island Red and Americana chicks.
Two of the Americanas are black, as is the mother. For whatever reason, she rejected the two black chicks. She refused to let them be, but pecked at and chased them around the cage. A self-loathing racist hen? In any case, I had to take the black chicks out and foster them inside. Continue reading “The failed hatch” →
Sometimes it seems to me that poets, especially American poets, got derailed by the confessional poems of Lowell and Plath, and there is just too much self-absorption. Of course, everything experienced is filtered through the lense of self, but a little perspective is the mark of a fine mind. Galway Kinnell gave a craft talk at Squaw Valley Community of Writers, in which he suggested taking the words “I” or “me” or the various forms of these out of your work. And Sharon Olds, who was also there, wrote a beautiful poem about how she loved the I-beam I, “Take the I Out.” But I did write for a year without an “I” poem. It was a good exercise. And it’s hard to beat this poem, with no I in it:
Saint Francis and the Sow
stands for all things,
even for those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing; Continue reading “Too much I…” →
In my post on Graham Greene’s analysis of Shirley Temple’s charms, I mentioned how Greene had to flee to Mexico to avoid libel charges. The other day, Girl Scouts were selling cookies by the Farmers’ Market.
“With an epidemic of childhood obesity,” I remarked to Larry, “you’d think the Girl Scouts could find something else to sell, like dried fruit and nuts.”
“I bet they’re glad they didn’t hire you as their marketing consultant,” Larry replied. “You’d have them sell dried seaweed. Of course, it wouldn’t really matter what they sold if they just dressed like Shirley Temple.”
I hope that by repeating this here, we won’t be forced into an unplanned trip to South America–I don’t think either Larry or I have a novel in us!
Once in awhile a sentence in a newspaper article startles me with its inventiveness, like this one by Natalie Angier from an article on Trilobites in the Tuesday Science Times.
The scientist points to “a flawless specimen of Walliserops, a five-inch trilobite that swam the Devonian seas around what is now Morocco some 150 million years before the first dinosaurs hatched. With its elongated, triple-tined head horn and a bristle brush of spines encircling its lower body, the trilobite could be a kitchen utensil for Salvador Dali.” Continue reading “An exemplary sentence” →
Maxine Kumin died last month. Right until a month before her death, we carried on a sporadic correspondence. She was extremely gracious and generous to me, and I think somewhat under- recognized as a poet. Here’s one of my favorites of hers:
Afterward, the compromise.
Bodies resume their boundaries.
These legs, for instance, mine.
Your arms take you back in. Continue reading “In Memoriam” →
I’m making scones. Larry is reading me snatches from the NY Times, including this from the Book Review: “When Shirley Temple Black died at 85 on Feb. 10, The Times’s obituary made brief note of her connection to Graham Greene. In a review of the 1937 film ‘Wee Willie Winkie,’ Greene wrote that Temple’s ‘infancy is her disguise, her appeal is more secret and more adult. ‘He unwisely continued: ‘Her admirers — middle-aged men and clergymen — respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire.’
In his memoirs, the film director Alberto Cavalcanti said Greene fled to Mexico, where he wrote “The Power and the Glory,” rather than face a possible prison sentence in a libel case inspired by the review. Cavalcanti wrote: “Very likely Shirley Temple never learned that it was partly thanks to her that, during his exile, Graham Greene wrote one of his best books.”
Continue reading “Living with Larry” →
The NY Times this morning had an article about chickens on the front page, “Wishing They All Could Be California Hens.” The article discussed a California law that requires cages for chickens “roomy enough to stand up, lie down — even extend their wings fully without touching another bird.” This law requires importers of eggs to meet these same generous standards, which has inspired potential lawsuits from out-of-state hen jailers. These larger California cages mean that you have about 60 hens in a cage the size of the back of a large pickup truck. In other states, farmers can continue to house chickens “in battery cages about as big as a filing-cabinet drawer.” The article compared this to “sitting in an airplane seat in the economy section all your life.” Continue reading “My chickens fly first class” →
It’s not quite Monday, but I’ve been reading Forrest Gander’s splendid translations of Coral Bracho, a Mexican poet. The book is worth reading just for the introduction, but the poems are, well, rapturous might be the adjective I’m looking for. Here’s a short sample, in Spanish and English:
En la entraña del tiempo
El tiempo cede
su delicada profundidad. (puertas
que unas a otras se protegen; que unas en otras entran;
rastro de mar.) Un otoño
de leños y hojarascas. En su fondo: Continue reading “Coral Bracho” →