Thursday, March 31, 2005

I was reading Laozi last night, and thought this passage was one worth holding against what most people call history, or at least the evening news (excerpted from Jonathan Star's translation of verse 38):

The highest virtue is to act without sense of self
The highest kindness is to give without condition
The highest justice is to see without preference

When Tao is lost one must learn the rules of virtue
When virtue is lost, the rules of kindness
When kindness is lost, the rules of justice
When justice is lost, the rules of conduct
And when the high-blown rules of conduct are not followed people are seized by the arm and it is forced on them
The rules of conduct
are just an outer show of devotion and loyalty--
quite confusing to the heart
And when men rely on these rules for guidance--
Oh what ignorance abounds!

Nothing, it seems to me (again, watching the evening news), Hawthorne didn't know. So, prophecy isn't telling the future, it's telling the present. Over and over and over again.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Sorry to have been so absent (minded). I've been playing a new d & d computer game ("Temple of Elemental Evil") and it's kind of engrossing. Something about good immersive games which supplants 'normal' social desires . . . it does something to your 'care', because it takes so much care and attention. If you like that sort of thing, I suggest it. But I really can't keep buried in it too too long, I have a life too! But I'm enjoying it, more than I expected.

So I'm trying to balance my behavior. And go to bed when I should. At the same time, I've been reading more, the result of spring coming on is already more attention and energy, which I'm so tremendously grateful for I don't know where to begin the song. So the reading posts here, which kind of slacked off around December, should start picking up naturally. I had a lot I wanted to say about Heidi Lynn Staples' book, which I forget now, but god is it good. Too intelligent for surreal effects, is my sense of it so far. Incredibly straightforward, in its own way (regarding its concerns, that is--though she definitely torques her words for maximum valence). Here I go, assuming you've read it already. I'll get around to posting exerpts etc. sometime in the next week or so.

Enjoy AWP, all you people going to AWP. If you want to visit a truly beautiful place while visiting Seattle, take the ferry out of West Seattle (the Fauntleroy ferry, I think) to Vashon Island. There's also a foot ferry out of downtown, just below the Pike Place Market, but it's not really the kind of place where you can see a lot walking--drive to some remote beach. This is the island where Berke Breathed drew "Bloom County" from, btw. And is a lovely place to live. Or just be on the lookout for orcas and sea lions for an afternoon. Or find an art gallery in the middle of nowhere. There's a surprising number of those, too.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005


Jonah Posted by Hello

Whiskey Bar, again.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Stuck, with the stick.

(When I was on track, in school, I was on the 4 x 400 meter hurdle relay. My job was not to lose too much ground, so the three good hurdlers could win it for us. As long as I didn't drop horrendously far behind, I was golden. Usually I tossed my cookies afterwards, but that was ok.) Here goes:

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451, which book do you want to be? The Tempest. It's hopeful.

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character? Eve, from Paradise Lost.

The last book you bought is: Guess Can Gallop, Heidi Lynn Staples (nee Peppermint).

The last book you read: Confessions of Zeno, Italo Svevo.

What are you currently reading? Go Down, Moses, by Faulkner; Paradise Lost (still); and the Collected Poems of Marianne Moore.

Five books you would take to a deserted island: Bible; Riverside Shakespeare; collected Joyce; collected Homer; Dante.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why? Robin Reagler, Josh Hanson, Jim Behrle. Why? Because I was told to, and I do what I'm told. Oh, why them? Interesting, witty, desert-island-pondering types. And Jim might make a cartoon out of it. If they don't want it though, I won't insist.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Wicked poem;

Wicked satire;

Wicked criticism.

And, sigh, Jonah didn't get any financial aid to the Friends' school. Which we are very confused by, since they seemed so sincere in their assurance he had a great chance of getting a great deal. It may be for the best (he says, after spending a week stewing about it), because now we are back to thinking about homeschooling part time. He wants to, he loves it, he wears us out with it. "C'mon Jonah, lets take a break." "No, I want to do more homeschooling!"

I am not exaggerating for comic effect, either. Today, he came home with a 'book fair wish list', and his was for a math book, so he could, in his words, 'use it for home schooling.' We're pretty into it, maybe one or two days a week we'll keep him home. It kind of makes sense, since I have so much, and so much desire, to teach and I'm still mostly housebound, and he has so much desire to learn and he is already complaining about how boring what he does in school is. We'll see what is possible, and how it goes.

But still. Dumb Friends' school. What changed?

Monday, March 14, 2005

Here's what speech is: a person sitting still who, for as long as it takes to break their silence and yell "I have to stop shaking," shakes.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

When I was still an mfa student in New York, Charles Wright's "The World of the Ten Thousand Things" was, for a while, the text I looked to. Returning to it, though, I feel like something is wanting (not for all the poems, certainly: certain ones are still ravishing) overall. Maybe that which seemed mysterious is clear now, and cleared of the need for attention, it doesn't continue to draw it. Is that how it is with all familiarity? I don't think so. Though, maybe for overexposure (that is, it is not uncommon to read Wright ventriloquized, signed by whatever name. I've been guilty, for sure.).

But, picking up earlier Wright is a revelation. It is less mannered and more precise. Like Pound wanted, I suppose, poetry to be, each sound to mean something and also something else. And, what provided motion through Wright's later work is still the major concern, and not one of many. There are less looks for pats-on-the-back in these poems, too.

Check this poem out, from Hard Freight:


The Holston lolls like a tongue here, its banks
Gummy and ill at ease; across the state line,
Moccasin Gap declines in a leafy sneer.
Darkness, the old voyeur, moistens his chapped lips.

Unnoticed by you, of course, your mind
Elsewhere and groping: the stuck clasp, her knees,
The circle around the moon, O anything . . .
--Black boat you step from, the wet's slow sift.

Then Nothing, sleek fish, nuzzles the surface calm.
The fireflies drag and relight.
The wound is unwound, the flash is tipped on the fuse,
And on the long, long waters of What's Left.

Thursday, March 10, 2005


Sharp, sick man,
each day as little
as you can, much more
you must until
fate buries
its palsied self in each
and curb your line
of sight: it is,
though moving still,
a tomb.
:what you see
is not what is
but what you were
is how you saw.
sharp, to heal yourself
cut off
your cutting;
become uncarved,
not yet
what was.

What I love about "The Book of Job" (yes, the one from the bible) is that Job complains. His friends tell him he'd better repent his sins, obviously he did something bad to deserve what has been visited on him. Job says you hypocrite, I've done nothing to deserve this. And he's right, he is righteous (remember, that's why he was chosen for tribulation). Part of his integrity is not pretending to be guilty so as to receive absolution. This sucks, he is perfectly willing to say.

And then god expands this already profound drama (well, he's god, that is what he's supposed to do) by saying who the hell are you to even think you know what the real rules are?

But what I love about it is that Job doesn't back down and pretend he's sorry for what he hasn't done, and says what is unfair is unfair (well, I mean, he’s suitably awed before the whirlwind, but before). He doesn't feel sorry for himself, either, I don't think. That's pretty profound.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Follow the link to TBFKAGC for this one:

Chaotic good elf druid-ranger

str: 9
int: 17
wis: 14
dex: 9
con: 4
cha: 17

On the asshole/bitch test, the html didn't want to cooperate, so reporting: I was tagged "12% Asshole/Bitch.You are not an asshole or a bitch, more like an asshole and bitch target. You have no backbone, and fold at even a slightly insincere look. Stop crying, you wuss."

Back to Sharp Sand for this one, the near-at-hand page 123, 5th sentence is: "Through the vacant window and door openings of a cafe one could see two men quite at the back drinking their wine." (from Parables and Paradoxes by Franz Kafka, Schocken Books 1963) (The rules to this one are: 1. Grab the nearest book; 2. Open the book to page 123.3. Find the fifth sentence; 4. Post the text of the sentence in your journal along with these instructions; 5. Don’t search around and look for the “coolest” book you can find. Do what’s actually next to you.)

And I'm adding a fourteenth poem to my list, Yeats' "After Long Silence." Maybe a more interesting list would be what your second ten most important poems are. Though I'd probably try and cram in twenty.

Am I avoiding getting to work, or what?

Sunday, March 06, 2005

And I'm adding one more, Galway Kinnell's "The Porcupine." Consider these thirteen tied for the top ten, like when two skaters are tied for a bronze, they both get it, and therefore that event has four medalists. I think I can do that.

And following the citation of such poems, and the quoting of the Kafka, what can I do but say, here's a spring poem, extempore? Gettin' warmer.


What will the flowers do
tomorrow, sun higher, the river showing
full its flow to the town
and its banks moistening?
Easy to feel a crocus, any of us,
and I'm sure their fragiler kin do,
as I do. A one-day Spring,
maybe, but who can resist
a green stretch out of that long
coiled retreat beneath, self-dry
so freeze passed through
without us bursting? The sun is bursting,
and see, the river rises--the clouds are high,
tomorrow. What calendar but buds?
Mustn't we begin?

Saturday, March 05, 2005

As far as the 10 poems list goes, I'd like to add Merwin's "On the Anniversary of my Death" and Herbert's "Church Monuments." Even though that breaks the rules. Sue me. Or, better yet, call it a poet's dozen.

On Parables
by Franz Kafka

Many complain that the words of the wise are always merely parables and of no use in daily life, which is the only life we have. When the sage says "Go over," he does not mean that we should cross to some actual place, which we could do anyhow if the labor were worth it; he means some fabulous yonder, something unknown to us, something too that he cannot designate more precisely, and therefore cannot help us here in the very least. All these parables really set out to say merely that the incomprehensible is incomprehensible, and we know that already. But the cares we have to struggle with every day: that is a different matter.

Concerning this a man once said: Why such reluctance? If you only followed the parables you yourself would become parables and with that rid of all your daily cares.

Another said: I bet that is also a parable.

The first said: You have won.

The second said: But unfortunately only in parable.

The first said: No, in reality: in parable you have lost.

Ok, my next poems are:

Auden's In Praise of Limestone
Moore's A Grave
Charles Wright's Homage to Cezanne
Wordsworth's Ode: Intimations of Immortality

So that makes ten.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Between sniffly noses and snow days, it's been a while. So I'll start back in light.

I like the idea of choosing ten necessary poems for a desert island (honestly, I like the idea of just a desert island. Where can I get a ticket?). And my first thought is, does Dante's Commedia count? How about Leaves of Grass, or do I have to specify a single (singular?) poem, which I suppose might be "As I Ebb'd With the Ocean of Life." But then, I think to myself, I can remember the short necessary ones, like "Kubla Khan," right? Maybe I want to take poems I don't know so perfectly, to this desert island. Like, how long will I be isolated? Maybe I want Dante in the original Italian, to keep me occupied for a while.

But that seems to step out of the question's purpose with an overliterality. So here goes, I'll not list book-long poems like Dante's, or Spenser's. Or non-english writers, so no Rilke, either.

Somehow Paradise Lost feels like I don't have to isolate it as a super-long project (i.e. Dante), but I'm not going to include it anyhow.

10 poems that have meant the world to me, one way or another.


Whitman's As I Ebb'd with the Ocean of Life
Coleridge's Kubla Khan
Ashbery's Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror
Stevens' Auroras of Autumn
Shakespeare's Sonnet 113
Keats' Ode to Melancholy

I think I'll leave it at those six for now, and sort out what to name in the final four slots. I'm bound to have a few "how could I have forgotten that!" moments. And leave with this:

When asked what one author he would bring to a desert island, if he could bring only one, Joyce thought and replied something along the lines of "I'd like to say Dante, but the Englishman is [broader]." And the final word is bracketed because I forget the word he used, so I'll have to sort that out and fill it in tomorrow, as well.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe with Bloglines