Mike Snider's Formal Blog at the Sonnetarium :
poems, mostly metrical, and rants and raves on poets, poetry, and the po-biz



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Mike Snider's Formal Blog at the Sonnetarium

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Way too simplistic an account—it is from a newspaper—but it's about damn time. Via the always wonderful Arts & Letters Daily.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2004

I'll not only be in North Carolina, I'll be in a hotel in Asheville for a Rickie Lee Jones show and then some tourist stuff, so I likely won't post anything more until Monday. Be safe, and folks in the Northeast stay warm.


We had it figured out—pain in the ass
Or mildly amusing sorted everything
From sex to dope to Spanish class,
Guitars, Republicans, and soldiering.
We'd sing "That's What You Get for Loving Me"
Because it was amusing to be fair,
But when girls wouldn't honor lechery—
They never did—we didn't have to care.
I found him sobbing in the hall at school
And started in: "Hey, you knucklehead,
Pain in the ass, remember? This ain't cool."
"Shut up, you fucking freak! My brother's dead."
I stared. He turned and left. What could I say?
Our lottery was still two years away.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2004

I've added Bookslut to Resources and moved Wood s Lot (one of my very favorite blogs) into Culture Blogs.

This daily (well, nearly daily) sonnet business is using almost as much time as having a television did when I had one. Tomorrow's will be the 18th sonnet, and, since I'm headed for North Carolina and my family on Thursday, it will be the last sonnet this month unless the creek rises. I may not restart in February. There's too much else I want to do here.

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This is more like what I was trying to do last night. Not sure if it's good that these things are getting more independent. Uppity, even.

Too Late Now

He should have paid attention to the path,
And now he's sorry that he ran away
Because they made him do his stupid math—
The woods were so much smaller yesterday.
He stops beside what shouldn't be a creek,
Then starts to climb a tree, hoping to find
Something he knows, and something starts to speak,
A voice that's old and neither cruel nor kind—
Don't you remember what to call these trees?
What color are those flowers? Don't you know?
What news is carried on the dying breeze
That draws you to that place you shouldn't go?
How sweet to watch each finger turn to claw—
Forget the last familiar face you saw.

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Last weekend Chris Murray at tex files promised a poem for a correct guess at the name of the flower Persephone was picking when she was kidnapped. Well, I cheated, since I knew the story (it was a Narcissus), but she's written two fine poems, one for me and one for Steve Vincent, who also gave the correct answer. Both are accompanied by audblog recordings. Thanks, Chris!

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Monday, January 26, 2004

I wanted to write a scary sonnet, but jeez …

Sinner In the Hands of an Angry God

Oh, it's appropriate to be afraid,
My dear, but I'm afraid it won't suffice.
Think of the dog who eyes the mess he's made
And hears his wrathful mistress calling, once so nice.
And what a mess you've made, my pet.
Isn't it It's such a shame you couldn't get it right—
There's no excuse, no reason to forget
Your disobedience till you're contrite.
So close your eyes and let me see your back.
Empty your mind of everything but love—
And fear, of course. Now let your arms fall slack,
My sweet, my own, my precious turtledove.
Believe you've earned this pain. It won't last long,
And afterwards we'll sing our lover's song.

Update: I just couldn't stay convinced that line 6 had only 5 feet—and sometimes you gotta wear shades.

Another Update: Bandaid on line 4. I really have to learn to count.

Yet Another Update: Better bandaid on line 4.

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Sunday, January 25, 2004

I've added BirchLane to Culture Blogs and 10 new blogs to Poetry Blogs:

If I used some method to determine if and when links get added I'd tell you. I do check every site listed over there almost every day. It's exciting to find so many people passionate about poetry, and I love many of the poems and poets I've found, but you won't be surprised to find I often disagree with the critical and, especially, the theoretical opinions expressed in some of these blogs.

In fact I have little patience for most literary (and political) theory, which seems to me to be hopelessly mired in pre-scientific, pseudo-scientific, or even anti-scientific ideas of human nature. I especially include Marx and Freud and their intellectual children in all three categories. That's not to say that a truly scientific literary theory would necessarily help anyone write better poems, but a wrong theory certainly won't.

I used to get particularly exercised when people used the word "experimental" to describe their poetry or paintings or theater or whatever, partly because I thought they were illegitimately assuming the mantle of the scientific method. After all, a poem cannot be an experiment in that sense: there is no theory from which a testable hypothesis has been derived for which the poem is the test. A scientific experiment fails if afterwards there is no more evidence for or against the theory than there was before the experiment. Can a poem fail like that? Why would anyone want a poem to succeed in that way?

Some of the early modernists did think they were making poetry scientific: Pound, in ABC, describes "THE IDEOGRAMMIC METHOD OR THE METHOD OF SCIENCE." But one thing I've learned from these young bloggers (all but a couple are younger than me, anyway) is that "write an experimental poem" is more likely to mean "try something new and see if it's fun." With this, I am entirely sympathetic.

In fact, it's what I do. With sonnets.

One last thing. I really do walk around with my iPod playing poetry at me: 3 volumes of the Caedmon Poetry Collection, Robert Frost and Wallace Stevens from the Voice of the Poet series, the Hudson Review's 55th anniversary CD. The other day I heard Robert Frost's "The Oven Bird" and Gertrude Stein's "If I Told Him: A Completed Portrait of Pablo Picasso" back-to-back. They sounded exactly the same.

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One Marriage

It's harder when the bedroom doors don't lock
And teenaged children wander late at night—
Especially since we like to keep the light—
They've almost got it in their heads to knock.
It's harder still to always watch the clock
Because we've got three days, I've got to write,
You've got to work, we make the time to fight
About money, that greatest stumbling block.

Photos and mirrors on the wall attest
That we aren't what we were the day we married—
My love, I can't pretend we haven't changed,
Or been too many times too long estranged,
But oh, my sweetness till the day I'm buried,
I'll swear to everyone our days are blest.

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Saturday, January 24, 2004

Folks, this is just a poem—almost all the real numbers are better than these. It has been 11 years since I last saw my daughter, but she talked to me last year, and I believe she'll contact me again.

By the Numbers

Just nineteen days before I'm fifty-one
I weigh two-forty and a bit of change,
My diastolic pressure has begun
To pass the nineties to the moderate range,
My 20/20 vision's twelve year's gone,
I used to fit in 30-30 pants,
And I can feel it after just one song
At eighty beats per minute when I dance.
My father's heart attack at fifty-nine
Seems more real now than when on the day he fell.
I take one aspirin and one glass of wine,
Then drink more whiskeys than I care to tell.
I drink to lose my lost girl's memory
As he, for years, could not remember me.

Weird thing is, this started out to be a comic poem.

Update: Thanks to graywyvern for pointing out that, in this numerical sonnet, I failed to count the feet in line 10.

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Friday, January 23, 2004

Allan Sullivan at Fresh Bilge issued a challenge:

Legends of the Net

Pity the diver scooped up from the sea
And dumped alive into a forest fire,
But not because of fearful tragedy—
A man who's never lived cannot expire.
Although And though it's sometimes years until the neighbors
Notice their neighbors mummified remains,
No Finnish tax-collector at his labors
Is three days dead before his boss complains.
But somewhere there's a man who lost a nut
In a conveyor belt while jacking off—
After he stapled his ruptured scrotum shut
He kept on working—look it up, don't scoff.
It's useless weighing weirdness for these tales—
Sometimes there really are exploding whales.

Alan and his partner Tim Murphy (one of my favorite contemporary poets) have done an alliterative verse translation of Beowulf. I'm looking forward to reading the whole thing.

Revised 01/24/04

Update 1/29/04: I didn't expect prophecy from this, but a whale exploded on a Taiwan street today. Thanks for the pointer, Jilly.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2004

The quoted phrases are from Robert Frost's "Design" and May Swenson's "The DNA Molecule."

Walking at Lunchtime With an iPod On a Naval Air Station By the Chesapeake

The swans aren't native, either, but I'm cold,
While they swim nonchalantly past the ice
That rings this inlet's shore in manifold
Frail layers piled by waves and running tides.
My playlist's poetry, but overhead
A T-2 Buckeye trainer circles loud
Enough to drown out "like a froth, and dead ..."
Until "the DNA molecule is the nude ..."
And here, beside unswerving coon tracks, lies
A duck encased in ice. I stoop to see
What happened, but I can't. That's no surprise.
I play at death in code and poetry.
And when Stiff-kneed, I stand I and prod it with my shoe
Before returning to the work I do.

Revised 01/23/04

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Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Jilly Dybka wrote a sonnet about Art Bell, and I wanna see it!

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Born Again

A skinny boy stands waiting for the bus,
Watching a high-school couple kiss and sigh.
She notices and laughs "He's watching us!"
He thinks he knows just what it's like to die.
They walk whispering to him, hand-in-hand.
"You ever kiss a girl?" the boyfriend jeers,
And being dead already helps him stand.
"I'll let you," says the girl—the boyfriend leers.
But being since he's dead he cannot speak or move
Except that part of him she's watching grow.
"He isn't dead," she smiles, "but I can prove
He's stone." She cups him. "See ya, Romeo."
AndHow faithfully for months she comes at night
To cause his bring him resurrection to in delight!

Revised 01/21/04

Revised again 01/23/04

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Monday, January 19, 2004

In further news from the front line, Kasey Mohammad has promoted a comment from William Watkin to an entry. This remark from Watkin is particularly interesting:

These innovative poets have tried to liberate the poem from the line using prose, attenuated lines down to one word or phoneme, extended the line beyond the brain's ability to see it as a single unit, split it into two using columns, scattered lines across the page, turned them upside down, written one line on top of the other in palimpsests, renounced the page altogether in favour of performative and talk poems, and are now radically altering the limits and potentialities of lineation using html and java coding.

How "liberating the poem from the line" leads to a "golden age of lineation" in the next paragraph is problematic, to say the least. In fact, it seems rather to make my point: machine replication has enabled kinds of poetry in which the line all but disappears. And when were poems oppressed, anyway?

But I don't think, as Kasey suggests I might, that meter is "the essential index of the poem." It's a tool, certainly more important than capitalization of initial letters, but only a tool. I don't even think metrical poetry is "better" than non-metrical poetry. I don't know what the hell that might mean.

I do prefer to read metrical poetry, but certainly not exclusively. I'm interested in poetry as mimesis, as a representation of human speech and action, though of course poetry does other things. But if any of us could live long enough to know the result, I'd make a five-dollar bet: simply because metrical poetry is more memorable, any given competently made metrical poem that has been published in a "respected" venue has a better chance to be read by non-scholars a hundred years from now than any given similarly competent and similarly published non-metrical poem. That's not a bet on the "goodness" of either poem.

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Sunday, January 18, 2004

Some new (to me) poetry blogs, in no particular order:

I've moved the whole list of poetry blogs down. It's grown so long the other kinds of sites were pushed out of view.

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Up in that banner I wrote more than a year ago, I say "Your comments and verse are welcome." I didn't have a clue what would happen here, and one thing that didn't happen is anyone sending poetry—not until this weekend. Here's what I'm going to do and what I'm not going to do:

  • I'll post each and every poem here unless I want to comment, in which case I'll post it in my regular blog.
  • I usually won't comment on the poems, though I'll note they're up. There ain't enough time.
  • I won't edit the poems or write HTML to make them pretty. If you need special formatting, don't send the poem.
  • I won't post more than 5 poems in an entry.
  • I won't post two consecutive entries from the same person.
  • If and only if you ask me to, I'll include in the entry a link to your website and/or your email so that other people can comment even if I don't.
  • I won't include any other links. I don't have time to check anyone's HTML but my own.

The first poems at the new site are from Suzanne. I've set it up so that 5 entries are displayed. I don't have the disk space to maintain archives, and this protects you in case you one day want to send your poems to print publications that consider web-posting to be publishing.

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This is a comment I posted at Ron Silliman's blog:

First, l apologize. I made a flip remark and it was taken seriously in a way I didn't quite mean and the core of what I meant didn't get explained till days later and somewhere else. What I objected to was the typographical exercise demonstrating the nature of the line. I still think that was pretty silly, but I agree with the rest of the post, both now and then. I also still think it illuminates a key difference in the kinds of poetry you and I support and enjoy. The kinds of line which you find so fascinating disappear when the piece is lineated as prose, and they are problematical even across different performances, even by the same reader. I'm just not much interested in poetry which depends structurally on typography. But now we're back to taste. Maybe I should have included a smiley when I said "He's wrong, of course." I post this on my blog when band practice is over.

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It's not the TV, though that's weird when you've been away from it a while. I only get to see my family once every two weeks, and we have things to do with each other and lots of stories to hear and tell. Yesterday I found myself irritated with myself and them because the time was getting short for me to write a freaking sonnet. That's not going to happen again. Deadlines, even (maybe especially) self-imposed deadlines, are wonderful tools to make sure work gets done. But when I'm with my family, sonnets (or at least this sonnet-a-day-business) can wait.

I'll be back to Maryland and the sonnets on Tuesday.

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Friday, January 16, 2004

This is really hard where there's a TV. In Maryland I don't have one. No need after Buffy's gone.

Dirty Old Man Appetite

I like to watch her walk, this just-past girl,
Who said that she'd take care of me tonight,
Whose name is Ann, whose eyebrow sports a pearl,
Whose manner's more familiar than polite.
She asks "How are the chops?" and I say fine,
Although they're somehow overcooked and cold.
She calls me "Sweetie" as she pours my wine;
It could not be more clear she thinks I'm old.
I am, of course, I'm more than twice her age.
I slather mango chutney on the pork
And watch her walk away, stupid with rage.
What good's this appetite? What use this fork?
She brings my bill; I pay and tip too much.
Next week there's someone else I'll never touch.

Update 1/18/2004

Judy Thompson, a poet and good friend (though we've never met FTF), gave me the title.

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Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Tomorrow I'll see my wife for the first time in 10 days. Does it show?


"Philosophy," she said, "is long past dead."
I nodded. "But remember why we're here—"
"Is that a joke?" She almost smiled; the bed
Groaned as she sat and pulled off her brassiere.
"There are no secrets left." "Then tell me one,"
I whispered. "Now I know you're joking. Stop."
"Stop this?" "Just let me go until we're done."
She closed my lips with hers, then climbed on top
Of me and on to me. "No mystery
But this," her breathing quickened, "nothing lost
But this, no gods but this, no artistry
But this, no gift except this pentecost—"
When she had dressed and gone the rented room
Grew infinite. She didn't wear resolving her perfume.

In other news, the Chatelaine had her own encounter with an angel, Chris Murray interviews one of my prosodic heroes, Annie Finch, and I got a bunch of hits today after some very kind words at The Versed Baseball Blog on the Web


Chris Lott is back! And I like this poem from Shanna Compton. Tomorrow I'm on the road—see you Friday!

Another Update 1/15/04:

I think that new last line above is closer to what I originally meant, despite appearing to be a contradiction. Very well, I contradict myself.

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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Many thanks to the blogger whose name I don't know at the marvelously varied Wood s Lot, that Fool in the Forest George Wallace, and Michael Blowhard of 2Blowhards for their links to and kind words about this sonnet madness (sonnetarium indeed). And check out Slate's week-long diary from poet August Kleinzahler, much discussed a month or so ago on the New Poetry mailing list.

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This one's a rewrite of an old free verse poem. I'm not sure it's an improvement.

Some Stranger

3 beers before he'd tell me what he did,
And I just laughed. An angel? Cherub, right?
He lost those rosy cheeks—May God forbid
You meet their kind. You'd wither in that light
When I heard that the booth got smaller quick.
It made me wonder if beer was all he'd had—
So pale! I asked him was he feeling sick.
He shook himself. He grinned, Not near as bad
As some will feel
. Now that was really weird.
I played it safe and asked about his work—
Not bad to live forever, be revered,
Unless you're guardian to some wise-ass jerk…
You got it, pal. He drained his mug and stood.
I'm damned if I know how to do you good.

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Monday, January 12, 2004

Before reading tonight's sonnet it's worthwhile going here for an interview at NPR with the composer John Adams. He has interesting things to say about the formal aspects of music and about Emily Dickinson, whose poetry he's used in his most recently completed work, Harmonium.

Sonneteer in Love

There's nothing different in these lines tonight,
Nothing that someone better hasn't said
In better ways so often that a blight
Has settled on the thought and left it dead.
Like all the poets mooning over stars
I wonder whether you—a poet's love—
Could finally turn away from loud guitars
And wander wondering that the stars above
Shine on us both at once. Such sweet conceit
I think I'm like to die, except that trope
Is used so much I must concede defeat—
It's worn too thin to be a hanging rope.
I'm glad to live, since things should be much worse.
You do love me, despite this hackneyed verse.

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Sunday, January 11, 2004

  • There's an interview with Chris Murray (of TexFiles) at Luminations, and she's posted a poem of her own—a rare and, for me, enlightening glimpse into another poetic.
  • Kasey is still keeping me honest—he may be surprised that I mostly agree with him (see the comments). But the line can only exist in space when it's typeset or formatted with CSS in a standards-compliant browser. A line which depends on such visual technology has a different pathway into consciousness. I'd argue it's not the primary pathway of poetry.

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Despite slicing off the tip of my left thumb (see how I sacrifice for my art?), I've got another sonnet. When I last did this—a sonnet a day, not cut myself— I was unemployed, and it's very different this time. I couldn't do it, I think, if I was helping with homework. I wish I was.

Geek Odyssey

My cell phone, iPod, PDA, and I
Went walking when some router out there hosed
My DSL connection—time to die
Or get out a little while the world was closed.

I took the Zire since it would be nice
To see what daylight does to CCDs,
The phone in case I broke my ass on ice,
The iPod—tunes!—and went to snap some trees.

It didn't work out like I'd planned. I froze
The Pilot and the earbuds froze my ears
And ice was in the ditch, which, I suppose,
Just left my hopes no worse off than my fears.

I guess you've guessed I somehow made it back.
So did the net. That's my last outdoor hack.

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Saturday, January 10, 2004

  • Yesterday Jordan Davis passed 1000 poems in his attempt, even more quixotic than mine, to write a million poems.
  • Jilly Dybka has had an amazing week of workshops and readings. Jilly, I can't read Jorie Graham either, and I think there's good reason. Here's Adam Kirsch's final paragraph from a review of Swarm in The New Republic:
    Why, after all this, should one go to the trouble of reading Graham? Her answer is to turn the question around on the reader, asking, in effect, "How can you admit that you are unable to read these poems?" To read her is to come across the poet in the midst of an evidently profound deliberation, whose grammar and concepts we must deduce; and if we cannot or will not do so, then we risk missing out on the profundity, and it is our loss. But surely there is no important idea, metaphysical or epistemological, that is immune to the forms of art. To imply otherwise, to suggest that there are thoughts or feelings that are too big or too deep to be made meaningful or beautiful, is really to misunderstand the nature of poetry. The poet's work does not end with the opacity of the mind, it begins with it. As long as Jorie Graham asks her readers to fill in her blanks and solve for her x's, she has not realized, or even approached, poetry's greatest and truest possibilities.
  • For Ron Silliman, the poetic line exists in space, not in time. It's a curiously ahistorical and ascientific view and explains why he and I share so little in our thinking about poetry. He's wrong, of course.
  • There's been some noise (a lot, actually), starting here, about apparently negative reviews of Lorine Niedecker's Collected Works in the current Poetry. I haven't read the reviews, I don't know Meghan O'Rourke at all, and I've only read a little of Niedecker. That last is because what I have read seems accurately described by the sentences quoted from Alicia Stallings. I don't know Alicia personally, but she writes gorgeous and risky formal poetry and she is extremely generous with her time and expertise. Check out her tenure as moderator for the Musing on Mastery board at Eratosphere.
  • Several blogs have gone awfully quiet lately. I particularly miss Chris Lott's Ruminate, and I hope Kasey Mohammad won't be so busy he can't keep me in line.
  • I don't know Nada Gordon or Gary Sullivan except from their blogs, but I hope they won't mind if I wish them all the best for their life together.
  • Thanks to Laura Willey and Josh Corey, and especially to Chris Murray, for noticing my sonnet initiative.

I Forgot (CRS)

  • I have a particular fondness for Double Dactyls, and George Wallace has posted some here, here, and here.
  • Henry Gould is the poetry blogger I most depend on, and, as far as I know, he's the only one, besides me, who plays jug band music.

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I can no longer find the post, but some blogger, just before the holidays, noticed the following passage from Ted Hughes's introduction to Sylvia Plath's The Collected Poems:

To my knowledge, [Sylvia Plath] never scrapped any of her poetic efforts. With one or two exceptions, she brought every piece she worked on to some final form acceptable to her, rejecting at most the odd verse, or a false head or a false tail. Her attitude to her verse was artisan-like: if she couldn't get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair, or even a toy.

That is an extraordinary testament to her skill and to her seriousness as an artist. It makes me a little ashamed of having written about these daily sonnets, a few days ago, "[s]ome I'll make work later; some will change very little; some will be deservedly forgotten." They are necessarily written quickly and I see in them all sorts of infelicity, but come April Fools', I'll get to work on them.

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It's Hard To Cook For One

My neighbor brings me things I just can't eat—
Today some "goulash" more like glue than food,
A beany mash that smelled quite oddly sweet—
But mama taught me never to be rude.

I thanked him, took his gift, and shut the door,
Then trashed the stuff, which might have tasted fine,
And waited while I didn't eat before
I washed the bowl, which happened to be mine.

Yes, I take him food, too. I could believe
He likes my garlic-stuffed chicken served with rice
The way he claims, but that would be naive—
His mama also taught him to be nice.

Our little dance lets each of us pretend
We're thrifty, and we call each other "friend."

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Friday, January 9, 2004

I kinda sorta said it, and Laurable kinda sorta reported it, so I guess it's kinda sorta official—3 months. If I go through the end of March (to April Fools' Day!) it works out to about 75 sonnets, since I won't be writing on Thursdays when I'll be either driving back to my wife or playing music. Speaking of which:

Paradise Briefly Regained

I'm getting old and fat and stiff except
Where fat and stiff might actually do some good,
And there I'm getting old and more inept
Although I've practiced every chance I could—

Not often enough, not lately. "Often enough"
Might quickly turn to "never," since my wife
Lives many miles from here and she is tough—
An Army sergeant I've trusted with my life.

But last night in the lights, my mandolin
A dream of music, hot and sweet, and there,
Dancing so close that I could see her skin
Slipping from under her clothes into the air …

I'll take that blesséd vision back with me;
I'll share it; she will have the eyes to see.

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Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Sleepless After Ovid

The moon, just past the full, slips off the sky
Behind me while the sun's still at my feet,
And for a time that famous crowd swings high
And clear and bright, no sight so darkly sweet—
Or strangely dark. There reels Callisto, raped
And spurned and murdered, never let to rest—
And there Andromeda, who only escaped
Because a child of rape swerved from his quest—
It''s colder when the heavens clear at night,
But not so cruel as it clearly seemed
In stories told two thousand years ago
In exile by a man who couldn't know
The stars were suns far older than he dreamed
But still too young to flood the sky with light.

No sonnet tomorrow—I'm playing music.

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Tuesday, January 6, 2004

These poems are written in about 90 minutes—that's not an apology, just a context. Some I'll make work later; some will change very little; some will be deservedly forgotten. Maybe all of them.

Sic Transit

Who'd have believed I'd marry an Army girl?
Or that I'd make my living watching bombs
Falling from F-18s? What kind of world
Is this that disarms all my Yippie qualms?
Banks lend me money--thousands! I'm in debt
So deep I'll die with everything I want
And nothing but an unplayed clarinet
To leave the kids--so why no guilty taunt
Of conscience, why no wretched sleepless nights
And red-eyed dawns, no hours staring lost
Into the emptiness, suburbanites
Who've too late come to realize the cost?
I don't believe you'll let me die alone,
Nor would I you were I not old, my own.

I've not forgotten the rest of the poetry blogosphere—this weekend I'll poist a survey of appreciation and dismay.

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Monday, January 5, 2004

Last Friday Laura Willey at Laurable posted a link to an interview with Jane Yolen on NPR, about the sonnets Yolen wrote daily during her husband's radiation treatments. I'd heard the interview quite a while ago, but Laura's link sent me looking to see if The Radiation Sonnets had been published, and they have! On the way back to Maryland from North Carolina yesterday I bought a copy. I haven't yet had the chance to read it closely, but I'm excited. I once wrote a sonnet a day for about 3 months, and it was absolutely exhilarating, though none of those sonnets were as good as what I've seen so far in Yolen, and I'm going to do it again and post them here. They won't all live. Here's the first:


Nearly two years without two weeks together.
Just every other weekend and the phone
And email, driving and the endless weather,
And you and the kids alone and I'm alone.

Thank God I've cultivated inner resources!
I keep myself so busy there's no time
For pitiful poems or whiskey-fueled discourses
On life's unfairness when one's passed one's prime—

Which I, of course, have not. I'm on a diet—
Not that I'm fat, though I could lose a few—
And I look pretty good, you can't deny it,
Since I've dyed my beard brick red again for you.

And now we've got these web cams, you can see,
And so can I, just what we like to see.

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Saturday, January 3, 2004

Last October Larry Hammer recommended John Hollander's Town and Country Matters, a book I'd never read and which is out of print. So is Louise Bogan's Blue Estuaries. I mentioned to my wife how disappointed I was in this state of affairs, and she made sure Santa was real good to me—hard-bound first editions with dust jackets! Just a quick sample of each, Bogan first:

Heard by a Girl

Something said: You have nothing to fear
From those long fine bones, and that beautiful ear.

From the mouth, and the eyes set well apart,
There's nothing can come which will break your heart.

From the simple voice, the indulgent mind,
No venom breeds to defeat your kind.

And even, it said, those hands are thin
And large, well designed to clasp within

Their fingers (and O what more do you ask?)
The secret and the delicate mask.


Please love, please, Ipsithilla sweet,
Right at noon call me and we'll meet
At once; and, love, just one thing more—
Make very sure that your front door
Will be unlocked, that you won't think
You've got to dash out for a drink
Or something. Wait there for our feast
Of nine continuous fucks at least.
But ring me quickly; I'll come flying:
Breakfast is over, and I'm lying
Flat on my back now, and it shows.
Sticking out through all my clothes.

Hollander's poem is, of course, a translation of one by Catullus, and there's only enough of him in Hollander to whet my appetite. But my copy of Charles Martin's superb translation of all of Catullus is in Maryland, so when I spotted Martin's brand new Ovid (The Metamorphoses) I jumped on it even though I'd spent far too much over the holidays. It's just grand: 500 pages of swift and colloquial blank verse with occasional songs interspersed; all those tales I half remembered and more that I'd completely forgotten; an introduction by Bernard Knox and notes by Martin, both useful and both hard to take advantage of because it's so hard to leave the poem.

In fact, besides driving and raking the leaves at my mother's and failing miserably to fix a plumbing problem there, I've done nothing but read poetry the last two weeks.

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