I only know Rilke’s work in translation, mostly by Stephen Mitchell. Here’s a sample from Sonnets to Orpheus, about the myth of Orpheus trying to rescue his lover, Eurydice from the underworld. If you don’t know the story, here’s a summary, and below is a snippet from the much longer poem: Continue reading “Rilke for Monday”
Month: August 2015
The exemplary sentence
I don’t read much non-fiction, but somehow the biography of Eduard Limonov made it onto my reading list. Limonov is a Russian celebrity full of contradictions, poet, political antihero, bum, author–an interesting guy. The book is written by a French author, Emmanuel Carrère, and translated by John Lambert. Limonov grew up lower-middle class at the end of the Stalin era, the beginning of huge changes in Russia. This is from Carrère’s introduction:
“I live in a calm country on the decline, where social mobility is limited. Born into a bourgeois family in Paris’s Sixteenth Arrondissement, I became a bourgeois bohemian in the Tenth. The son of a senior executive and an eminent historian, I write books and screenplays and my wife is a journalist… from both a geographical and a sociocultural point of view, you can’t say life has taken me very far from my roots–and that’s true for most of my friends as well.
“Limonov, on the other hand, has been a young punk in Ukraine, the idol of the Soviet underground, a bum, and then a multimillionaire’s butler in Manhattan, a fashionable writer in Paris, a lost soldier in the Balkans, and now, in the fantastic shambles of postcommunism, the elderly but charismatic leader of a party of young desperadoes. He sees himself as a hero; you might call him a scumbag: I suspend my judgement on the matter. But…his romantic, dangerous life says something. Not just about him, Limonov, not just about Russia, but about everything that’s happened since the end of the Second World War.
“Something, yes, but what? I’m writing this book to find out.”
Thinking about poetry
Sometimes I just get tired of poetry altogether and need a break. I had a period like that this month–no writiing, reading nothing that seemed worth the trouble. Then I went to see the wonderful claymation film: Shaun the Sheep Movie. It made me laugh out loud, restored my good spirits and opened me to whatever poem might find me next, which was this one, from a sequence about the end of a long drought.
lined up inside
the barn door
in the lee
of the hill
it’s all I do
now he said–
holding the bucket
in one hand
with the other–
and I know each
one by its humid
cocking an ear–the rain’s
heaven in here
by Forrest Gander and John Kinsella
Riding the rails
As promised, this is the story of how Larry and I rode the rails on a yacht strapped to a freight car. It starts with our trying to hitchhike west from Montreal. We got a few hundred miles, but then no one was picking us up and it was starting to get late. We saw a slow moving freight, and Larry, who had worked in rail yards in his past, said we should hop on. We did, and son came to a freight yard. I waited while Larry poked around. He found a new cabin cruiser strapped to a freight car and surprisingly unlocked. It was something like this photo, only substitute a flatbed rail car for the truck bed. We hopped aboard and made ourselves comfortable. We were soon rolling. We had picked up some food and a bottle of wine at a little store and had an evening picnic on the deck, watching the woods roll by–an odd feeling from the deck of a boat. It got dark, and surprisingly cold for July. Continue reading “Riding the rails”
An industrious week–pear jam, gazpacho, chicken stock, yard cleanup… the delicious tasks of summer. Though it doesn’t say so, this seems like a summer poem to me.
A Boat In the Forest
Sixty miles from a lake,
no river or pond within forty-eight,
no ocean near,
and this rowboat, crisply painted, oarlocks
oiled, oars set and cocked,
in a small—mossy, pine needles—clearing
of sparse gray and yellow forest grass.
The light here: like joy, pain, like glass.
On its bow, in red paint, beside the anchor rope,
its name: A Joy To Be Hidden
But a Disaster Not To Be Found.
An odd place, a long name, for a boat
Thinking about stock
Yesterday, as I made stock out of my two newly butchered hens, I decided to read about stock in Serious Eats. My stock method is mostly just throw whatever scraps I have into the pot and simmer for hours. But these were special chickens–gorgeous, rich meat and fat–and I wanted to do right by them.
I’d tried J. Kenji López-Alt’s method of chopping chicken into tiny bits, but it made a total charnal house of my kitchen, so I wanted to explore what else they suggested. Daniel Gritzner had a comprehensive article, and the comments about using a pressure cooker or bringing the stock to a boil then setting it in a 225 degree oven overnight interested me. I’m also going to try adding an apple with the onions, carrots, etc. The most interesting idea to me was to use one stock as a base to make another stock, layering and enriching the flavor. I’m definitely going to try that. Continue reading “Thinking about stock”
The Halal butcher
As my chickens get beyond laying age, I’ve been giving them to my Ethiopian friend who is willing to slaughter them for fresh meat. But today I decided to try something different. I took my two oldest hens deep into industrial Oakland to the live poultry Halal butcher shop, where for $5 each, they quickly slaughtered, cleaned and plucked my hens, returning them head, feet and all in about 10 minutes.
The shop itself (at least the part I saw), is a big garage with pens of chickens, geese, pigeons, quail and ducks waiting for their end. Fortunately, the fowl seemed unaware of their status, and ate their feed happily enough. The menu listed rabbit, pheasant,veal, lamb and goat, but I didn’t see any.
While I waited, a young man from a Chinese grocery store drove up to by some quail and chickens, and a curious pigeon dropped in to eat some scattered feed, but had the sense to fly off after his snack.
The pigeon reminded me of the title poem of my current poetry ms.
What Birds Know
Always our animal companions
exist at our pleasure—
the fattened hog
roasting on the spit,
the shorn sheep in the field.
Chickens thrive on grain
we spread for them.
The birds of the air
and steer clear.
Gone to seed
Because of the drought, I did no planting this spring, and instead let existing things go to seed. As I result, I have my own fennel and coriander seeds from the garden, as well as lots of chicken food!
But here it is, poetry Monday, and despite working all day in the garden, I need to post a poem. I found a set of poems that Richard Brautigan wrote on seed packets. Here is one, and you can see more here:
This narrative poem by Elizabeth Bishop seems so plainly written, yet I think it’s pretty extraordinary.
In the Waiting Room
In Worcester, Massachusetts,
I went with Aunt Consuelo
to keep her dentist’s appointment
and sat and waited for her
in the dentist’s waiting room.
It was winter. It got dark
early. The waiting room
was full of grown-up people, Continue reading “Elizabeth Bishop”