Monday, June 30, 2008

Magazine Review: Barbaric Yawp


Barbaric Yawp
April 2008
Volume 12, Number 2
52 pages

BoneWorld Publishing
Russell, New York
Editors: John and Nancy Berbrich
Cover Artist: Neal A. Zirn

Note: The artwork, right (click to enlarge), appears on the last page of each issue; it’s by Anita Carrano, I believe.

It sounds amazing, but with only a few brief misses here and there, John Berbrich and I have been in daily contact for the past five years. Even more amazing is that every word of our conversation — which runs the gamut of the literary, philosophical, and the absurd — has been spoken in public, and is recorded and preserved on my website. It might not be War and Peace, but if it were printed it would be almost as thick. And we’re still at it.

Aside from what this says about our mental condition — and readers are always welcome to post their own conclusions — it does show that we’re in it for the long haul where reading, writing, and literature are concerned. Despite this vast common ground, however, our likes and dislikes vary greatly, as do our backgrounds and personal outlooks. For one thing, John is generally more cheerful and optimistic than I am; for another, he’s more widely read. I also gather that he’s a heck of a lot easier to be around. I only hope he doesn’t take it out on his lovely wife and indispensable co-editor, Nancy.

That, of course, is really none of our business. Our “business,” if I may use such a crass term, lies in appreciating John and Nancy’s brain-child, the literary quarterly Barbaric Yawp. As with its predecessors, their current issue is greater than the sum of its parts. After the task of selecting the pieces they publish, John and Nancy always spend a lot of time putting them into their most readable order. This means poetry and fiction are interspersed, one piece informing the next, which somehow leads to the next — and on we go through the magazine as if we’re on a kind of journey. Along the way, mini-themes arise: for a time, readers might dwell in a certain city or locale; or they might find themselves in an otherworldly dimension where minds flicker like candles in the dark catacombs of the disturbed — and then, all of a sudden, as if serendipity has willed it, we emerge into the light of a short poetic gem, such as J.L. Kubicek’s “Kitchen Field Forces”:

The field of poesy—wide
wide as your kitchen table;
toil, love and belief
sets the setting.
On occasion
it happens—inexplicable
there! upon the table
unnamable flowers.

While such a poem has special meaning for a poet, every reader experiences moments like this in daily life — moments when the everyday seems charged with magic. And its appearance relatively late in the issue, on Page 41 — after stories and poems that range from acerbic to nostalgic to troubling to socially outraged to questioning that which is commonly held sacred — makes the poem a perfect example itself.

Now, one thing I refuse to do is pretend that I like every piece John and Nancy publish. As I said, our tastes do vary. And yet, what they publish always has integrity. I might not like the way the material is presented; I might find the line-breaks in a certain poem at odds with the poem’s message; I might think a poem should or could have been an essay or story; but only rarely do I think, “Why on earth did they publish that?” And when I do, I’m usually able to go back, and after a more patient reading, see why.

John and I were talking just the other day about how each issue has its own character. He and Nancy are not the kind of editors who will hang onto a piece for months or years on end, waiting for the right place to put it. When they find something they like, it goes in. And because unsolicited submissions are the backbone of their publication, each issue of the Yawp has a freshness that’s hard to find in bigger, more widely known literary publications. But unsolicited submissions aren’t the only reason. The biggest reason is that each time out, the editors eagerly start from scratch, and approach each individual piece with an open mind. They want to be surprised.

The current issue also contains the staples of John’s insightful introduction, which this time springs from a talk he attended by Christopher Hitchens; the short reviews in his small press “Book Beat”; and “Essays and Observations,” which in this issue consist of book reviews written by Charles P. Ries and J.P. Lowe.

The small press is a crazy, beautiful place. It does have its marshes and its dead wood. Large portions of it should probably be burned to the ground. But in its ten-plus years of publication, Barbaric Yawp has been a great example of its enduring importance and vitality. Like anything, it’s as good as we make it — as good as the work we’re willing to put in, the effort we’re willing to make, the amount of sleep we’re willing to do without — and John and Nancy, with their magazine and growing catalog of chapbooks, are as adept and hardworking as they come.


Contributors:

John Berbrich, Bryan Henery, Catherine Ennis, Ben Warburton, David A. Barnitz Kime, Nick Thomas, Stephen Galiani, Francine Witte, Deborah Maxey, Nathan Hahs, Stephanie Hiteshew, John Kristofco, William Michaelian, Charles Rammelkamp, Michael Kriesel, Nicole Glikman, Romella Kitchens, Neal A. Zirn, Ann L. Kieffer, Michael A. Flanagan, Alan Catlin, Phil Gruis, Sara Dailey, Cathy Porter, J.L. Kubicek, Greg Moglia, Charles P. Ries, J.P. Lowe.



* * *

Updates:

“I Find Him Eating Butterflies,” a poem which first appeared in this entry, added to Collected Poems, with a brief introduction.

Twenty-three words added to the Robert Burns Glossary. Spurtle: a stick which porridge, broth &c. are stirred while boiling.

In the Forum: a cure for the common colon.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

In the Vernacular


Talk about a crazy religion —
they greet each other with flowers,
not words. Why, they’re children,
that’s what they are.

Added to Songs and Letters, Sunday, June 29, 2008.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sacred Space, the Temple Secular


References to the old Carnegie library in my hometown and its sad demise are scattered all over my website. Having been practically raised there by my mother, I especially appreciate Paul L. Martin’s insightful but disturbing review of Quiet, Please: Dispatches from a Public Librarian, by Scott Douglas. Martin’s closing paragraph voices concerns I’ve had for a long, long time:

“Indeed, like the classroom, the library is changing. What disturbs is not just the lack of books, the limited funding of libraries by the city, the disrespect patrons show towards books, learning and the life of the mind. These are the fault lines in the rupturing American culture, but it is deeply disappointing that those whose job it is to promote learning, reading and writing, the librarians, have such poor attitudes and insufficient maturity to redefine and invigorate sacred space, the temple secular, the holy library. Front and center, that is the message clearly offered in Scott Douglas’ memoir.”


* * *

The Poem My Hometown Wrote

The poem my hometown wrote
tried suicide when the old city library
was torn down, but it was saved
by the water tower.

From Songs and Letters, Volume 17, originally published December 23, 2007.


* * *

Updates:
Nineteen more words beginning with the letter S added to the Burns Glossary. Spleuchan: a tobacco-pouch.

A note on 12th-century Provençal troubadour Guillaume de Cabestaing added to You Don’t Say. Also mentioned: English poet Richard Aldington, who penned a related poem titled “The Eaten Heart.”

More blabbing in the Forum.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Barbaric Yawp, April 2008


Recently Received:

Barbaric Yawp
April 2008
Volume 12, Number 2
52 pages

BoneWorld Publishing
Russell, New York
Editors: John and Nancy Berbrich
Cover Artist: Neal A. Zirn

Contributors:
John Berbrich, Bryan Henery, Catherine Ennis, Ben Warburton, David A. Barnitz Kime, Nick Thomas, Stephen Galiani, Francine Witte, Deborah Maxey, Nathan Hahs, Stephanie Hiteshew, John Kristofco, William Michaelian, Charles Rammelkamp, Michael Kriesel, Nicole Glikman, Romella Kitchens, Neal A. Zirn, Ann L. Kieffer, Michael A. Flanagan, Alan Catlin, Phil Gruis, Sara Dailey, Cathy Porter, J.L. Kubicek, Greg Moglia, Charles P. Ries, J.P. Lowe.

Note: For a complete review of this issue, go here.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Mark Twain: Watermelons and Simblins


I know how a prize watermelon looks when it is sunning its fat rotundity among pumpkin vines and “simblins”; I know how to tell when it is ripe without “plugging” it; I know how inviting it looks when it is cooling itself in a tub of water under the bed, waiting; I know how it looks when it lies on the table in the sheltered great floor space between house and kitchen, and the children gathered for the sacrifice and their mouths watering; I know the crackling sound it makes when the carving knife enters its end, and I can see the split fly along in front if the blade as the knife cleaves its way to the other end; I can see its halves fall apart and display the rich red meat and the black seeds, and the heart standing up, a luxury fit for the elect; I know how a boy looks behind a yard-long slice of that melon, and I know how he feels; for I have been there. I know the taste of the watermelon which has been honestly come by, and I know the taste of the watermelon which has been acquired by art. Both taste good, but the experienced know which tastes best.

From Mark Twain’s Autobiography (Charles Neider edition, Ch. 4).

Farm boy that I am, I was delighted to find the above quote in Joseph Hutchison’s blog. For the archived page, go here.

Three Google results that include the word “simblins”:

. . . rhubarb, celery, simblins, cabbage, mint, parsley and radishes . . .

. . . To ask for “snaps” or “simblins” brought stares as much as to say, “Where did this one come from?” . . .

. . . The men that went with Captain Clark found among the Indians at this village corn, beans, simblins, and many kinds of garden vegetables. . . .


Updates:
A new short poem, “God’s Calendar,” added to Songs and Letters.

Another fourteen words added to the Burns Glossary.

The latest gathering of the St. Lawrence Area Poets mentioned as the conversation continues.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A Little Girl, Blunt Trauma


A little girl, blunt trauma
to the head. We handle her
as tenderly as we can.

Take pictures of what her
father did. Assemble evidence.

Put her in again. Zip up the body bag.

Go home to kids, who for all the world
look like flowers about to bloom.

And later, sleepless,
beg outside their rooms.

For an old friend who works in Radiology.
(first publication)

Update:
A note on James Joyce’s The Day of the Rabblement added to You Don’t Say.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

James Joyce: Ecce Puer


Of the dark past
A child is born
With joy and grief
My heart is torn

Calm in his cradle
The living lies.
May love and mercy
Unclose his eyes!

Young life is breathed
On the glass;
The world that was not
Comes to pass.

A child is sleeping:
An old man gone.
O, father forsaken,
Forgive your son!

On the birth of his grandson and death of his father, by James Joyce, from The Works of James Joyce, with an Introduction by Michael Patrick Gillespie, and Bibliography, Wordsworth Editions Ltd., UK (1995).


Updates:
Thirty-nine words added to the Burns Glossary. Snaw broo: melted snow. Sneeshin-mill: a snuff-box.

In the Forum: A Farrago-Gesundheit Film.

Monday, June 23, 2008

This Entry Cost Me Three Dollars


On our way home from the used bookstore yesterday afternoon, my son found it quite amusing when I read aloud the Index of First Lines from this book of Joyce’s poems. But he agreed, they really do work as their own poem. Well, almost.

A birdless heaven, seadusk, one lone star
Again!
All day I hear the noise of waters
At that hour when all things have repose

Be not sad because all men
Because your voice was at my side
Bid adieu, adieu, adieu
Bright cap and streamers

Dear heart, why will you use me so?

Frail and white rose and frail are
From dewy dreams, my soul, arise

Gaunt in gloom
Gentle lady, do not sing
Go seek her out all courteously
Goldbrown upon the sated flood

He travels after a winter sun
He who hath glory lost, nor hath

I hear an army charging upon the land
I heard their young hearts crying
I would in that sweet bosom be
In the dark pine-wood

Lean out of the window
Lightly come or lightly go
Love came to us in time gone by

My dove my beautiful one
My love is in a light attire

Now, O now, in this brown land

O cool is the valley now
O, it was out by Donnycarney
O Sweetheart, hear you
Of cool sweet dew and radiance mild
Of that so sweet imprisonment
Of the dark past

Rain has fallen all the day
Rain on Rahoon falls softly, softly falling

Silently she’s combing
Sleep now, O sleep now
Strings in the earth and air

The eyes that mock me sign the way
The moon’s greygolden meshes make
The twilight turns from amethyst
They mouth love’s language. Gnash
This heart that flutters near my heart
Thou leanest to the shell of night
Though I thy Mithridates were

What counsel has the hooded moon
When the shy star goes forth in heaven
Who goes amid the green wood
Wind whines and whines the shingle
Winds of May, that dance on the sea


Recently Acquired:
The Works of James Joyce, with an Introduction by Michael Patrick Gillespie, and Bibliography, Wordsworth Editions Ltd., UK (1995)

Updates:
A note on Guido Gezelle, the “mystical poet of Flanders,” added to You Don’t Say, my “compendium of odd words and literary references.”

In the Forum: Rabbi Yaakov Gesundheit and Advanced Sneeze Theory.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Common Words


Lay me in a bed of common words,
The kind oftspoken, raked into piles, and burned.

Send the children door to door
With the news that I am gone.
Give the dog a bone.
Put on your Saturday clothes.
Remember me to the stars,
The one who never reached them.

Carve my name in common stone,
Then sweep the dust across the floor.

Carry out my shadow on the bottoms of your shoes.
Take it into the street, past the churches, stores, and schools.
Let it fade away with an errand or a kiss, a deed or revelation.
Then go home and use the stone to build a garden wall.

Rejoice where common flowers grow and sweet rain finds them.
The best things in life are never sown, or bought, or owned.

Before they sprout, some seeds must pass through fire.
For them to thrive, meadows die and graceful limbs must fall.
So do faces bear the scars of madness and upheaval.
Husbands and wives. Mothers, fathers, friends.

Common words and common stones, uncommon to the end.

From Songs and Letters, originally published January 13, 2006.


Updates:

A new poem, “The Sacrifice,” added to Songs and Letters. Volume 19 now contains twenty-seven entries.

Another twenty words added to the Burns Glossary. Still a lot of S’s to go.

Old-fashioned print is nothing to sneeze at, as the blabbing marathon continues.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A Poem at the Kitchen Window


Our human wiring is such that we’re moved, disturbed, by a great many intangible things: the changing seasons, scents, sounds, the memories they evoke. This little poem happened last night at the kitchen window. Now it’s morning, it’s still happening, and I’m as disturbed as ever.

The summer scent of fields —
as if a body, fully ripe
and newly bathed,
has joined me in this room.


Update:
My Blake-inspired “book within a book,” The Annotated Proverbs of Hell, is discussed briefly in the Forum.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Poetry Behind the Barn


A new Notebook entry begins with my impressions of an online discussion on contemporary poetry and poetics, then moves on to the discovery of my grandmother’s W-2 form from 1951, which is followed by a tribute, of sorts, to an old and faithful friend.


* * *

     When she was seventy-six,
     my mother’s mother sat at my aunt’s dining table,
     a pale child behind a serving platter of succulent ham.
     Mother, do you want some carrots?
     She said yes, as if she were defined by them.

From “Bridge Across the Bay,” part of Songs and Letters, originally published June 4, 2005.


* * *

Updates:
The definition of kenning, a figure of speech used in Anglo-Saxon poetry, added to You Don’t Say.

In the Forum: the foot, the colon, and William Blake’s disturbed orbits.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

One Scratched Necklace


It’s really sort of an amber color, and there are some tiny bubbles suspended inside. The necklace belonged to one of my “crazy” relatives. To read about her house in Fresno’s old “Armenian Town” and her poetic life there among Old Country treasures and cockroaches, go here.

(Note: the simple wooden chair she was sitting on when she died is now in my mother’s house, beside a small table near the front entry.)


* * *

Updates:
A new short poem, “Why Noah Drank,” added to Songs and Letters.

Thirty-two more S-words added to the Robert Burns Glossary. Skellum: a worthless fellow, a scamp.

The dark side of editing is revealed as the conversation continues.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Afanasy Fet


I have come to you with greeting, to tell you that the sun has risen, and that its hot light has started to quiver in the leaves;

to tell you that the whole forest is awake in its every branch and full of the thirst of spring, and that every bird within it has stirred;

to tell you that I have come again with the same passion which filled me yesterday, and that my soul is as ready as before to serve happiness and you;

to tell you that a breath of joy comes to me from everywhere, and that I do not know what I shall sing; I only know that a song is ripening.

By Afanasy Fet, from The Penguin Book of Russian Verse, introduced and edited by Dimitri Obolensky, with plain prose translations of each poem. Penguin Books (1962).

Portrait of Fet by Ilya Repin.


Recently Acquired:
Don Juan, by George Gordon, Lord Byron, illustrated by Hugo Steiner-Prag, Heritage Press, New York (1943).

Update:
In the Forum, an accident here leads to a brutal revision here.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Aleksandr Blok: Night


Night, a street, a lamp, a chemist’s shop, a meaningless and dim light. Even if you go on living for another quarter of a century, everything will be like this. There is no way out.

You will die — and start all over again, and everything will be repeated, as of old: the night, the icy ripples on the canal, the chemist’s shop, the street, the lamp.

By Aleksandr Blok, from The Penguin Book of Russian Verse, introduced and edited by Dimitri Obolensky, with plain prose translations of each poem. Penguin Books (1962).


Recently Acquired:
The Divine Comedy, by Dante Alighieri, translated by Melville Best Anderson; with notes and elucidations by the translator, an introduction by Arthur Livingston, and thirty-two drawings by William Blake. The Heritage Press, New York (1944).


Updates:
Another twenty-two terms added to the Burns Glossary. Sheep-shank, wha thinks himsel nae sheep-shank bane: who thinks himself no unimportant personage.

A line acknowledging Victor Bérard, translator of the Odyssey, added to You Don’t Say.

Monday, June 16, 2008

That which survives is cleansed


Molly Martin’s reviews of Winter Poems and Another Song I Know were added yesterday to The Compulsive Reader, a vast literary archive that contains reviews, interviews, literary news, and criticism. My thanks to Molly, and to Magdalena Ball for posting them on her site.

Here’s a brief excerpt from Molly’s piece on Winter Poems:

He addresses those quiet, often overlooked, compelling elements found in everyday life that are the very best moments of our being. Michaelian touches upon thoughts filled with analysis, insight and stirring: “not a single leaf remains: a reminder that winter kills, while that which survives is cleansed.”


Updates:
A note about the aforementioned reviews added to News and Reviews.

Excerpts from both reviews added to Cosmopsis Print Editions.

Fifteen more words beginning with the letter S added to the Burns Glossary. Scroggie: covered with stunted shrubs.

As the exploration of our silverware drawer continues, we learn to consider each utensil in a Darwinian sense.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Epiphany


In the old orthodox manner,
she wore a bit of lace upon her hair;
and Jesus wept to see her there,
a maiden unaware she’d
become a flower.

And the priest intoned,
Take, eat, this is my body . . .

From Songs and Letters, originally published June 14, 2008.


Recently Acquired:
The Penguin Book of Russian Verse, introduced and edited by Dimitri Obolensky, with plain prose translations of each poem. Penguin Books (1962).

Update:
In the Forum: the death of nouns.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Confessions of a Demented Monk

The Confessions of a Demented Monk would be a good title for a story, poem, book, or treatise.

Tortoise. Thrombosis.
Pterodactylosis. Fragilosis.
Twittledumdeosis.

Afflicted with twittledumdeosis, the monk sallied forth. “Today,” he said, “I will cultivate my garden with a spoon. That is sure to please the bishop.” But, alas, the bishop was not pleased. The bishop was preoccupied with pastry. While in Vienna to attend the Great Council of Religious Magazines, one tart in particular had caught his eye. She was coquettish-brunettish, and worked in the ad department. But she didn’t care for bishops — indeed she found them bland, unless they had been thoroughly dusted with powdered sugar. Moreover, the bishop suffered from a severe case of fragilosis. Everything he touched went to pieces in his hands. While reciting psalms and combing his beard, the clumsy oaf had ruined many a gilded mirror and tea set. The monk knew none of this. He was demented. In other words, he lived inside his imagination. He cultivated his garden with a spoon (as I have said) and listened to the learned mice discussing theology in the monastery’s barn. Because of this, he knew more about theology than all the other monks combined. Theology was very simple: so much like other ologies.

Polydoctrinology. Flopodopolology.
Biscuitology. Tormentology.
Persimmonology. Ribbitology (the study of frogs).

When a child lives inside his imagination, he is not considered demented. But an adult: watch out: stay away: unsafe he is, in the grip of evil spirits. We find it in the Book of Boredomology, and hear it quoted by the sane.

“The Confessions of a Demented Monk” was first published as the November 2, 2005, entry of Common Objects, Hidden Dreams: A Daily Journal, and is part of Songs and Letters.


Update:
In the Forum: a utilitarian old maid with four teeth.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Faces


I’ve seen this photo of Whitman many times, but when I chanced upon it again yesterday, it seemed as large and familiar as some of the black-and-whites in our old family albums. That, of course, started me thinking about faces and the works of art they inevitably become.


In the half-lit damp I see a face

In the half-lit damp I see a face —
that which remains after storm and smoke
have passed its way, then drifted on.

What becomes a man,
are the little things he does;
what defines him,
is all he loves.

In the half-lit damp I see a face —
so much older than it was,
an archeology of thoughts and dreams.

Beyond my touch, it records
the evening cry of birds,
the scent of dusk,
the beating of wings.

(first publication)


* * *

Updates:
Another sixteen words added to the Burns Glossary.

In the Forum: “God is in the sequels.”

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Best Poems

Sensate creatures that we are, it’s no wonder we grow weary of poems that rely too heavily on the intellect in their construction and for their understanding. The best poems — those that seem to register deeply somewhere other than in the mind — are poems that to a large musical degree feed the senses, and then invite the intellect to the feast.


* * *

The William Michaelian Papers:
Three postcards from Armenia, Christmas, 1983.


* * *

Updates:
A new poem, “Jasmine,” added to Songs and Letters.

A brief note on Fionnuala, the daughter of Lir in old Irish legend, added to You Don’t Say.

As the unscripted blather continues, we try hard to remember what it was we were talking about.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Now You’re Home



Now you’re home, but the changes
have you scared: the trees sprouted
in the sitting room, the hunters’ horns
and rolling fields of winter grain,
the still pond frozen at the edge,
axes ringing down the hall.

I should apologize, I know.
I see you waiting for some word,
a reason, perhaps, the freezer is warm
and full of books, the oven a home
for muddy shoes. Don’t worry.
I can explain it all.

You were away so long: an hour,
maybe more. I remember what you said:
I am leaving now. You even wore a coat.
And then the door, irrevocable,
frightful barrier beyond my command,
your footsteps on the walk, leading away,
to the emptiest silence I have ever known.

See how old I’ve grown. And yet you are
the same, only better — a rare breeze
bearing woodsmoke and far-damp earth,
unaccountable violets, orange blossoms,
a veil of longing I can’t describe.

I feel like the last man on earth,
revived from his curse to stay alive.

From Songs and Letters, originally published November 15, 2005. Also appeared in Barnwood Magazine (2007).


Updates:
Twenty more words added to the Burns Glossary, as we venture into the S’s.

In the Forum: the rise and fall of civilizations, the whisper of cedars, unidentifiable sonic waves, and a napping uncle.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Donald Justice: Counting the Mad


This one was put in a jacket,
This one was sent home,
This one was given bread and meat
But would eat none,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one looked at the window
As though it were a wall,
This one saw things that were not there,
This one things that were,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one thought himself a bird,
This one a dog,
And this one thought himself a man,
An ordinary man,
And cried and cried No No No No
All day long.

By Donald Justice, from Contemporary American Poetry, Penguin Books, Baltimore (1969, seventh printing).


Recently Acquired:
Contemporary American Poetry, Penguin Books, Baltimore (1969, seventh printing). Selected and introduced by Donald Hall.

The Courtship of Miles Standish and other Poems, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Henry Altemus Company, Philadelphia (no date given).


Updates:
A new poem, “Conscience,” added to Songs and Letters.

What really happens on Page 3 of Remembrance of Things Past, as the snoring continues.

Monday, June 9, 2008

One Lamb Bone


One lamb bone, given by a friend and former schoolmate who was working as a butcher at the time in our hometown, ca. 1980.

(Amazing, the things you can scan: rocks, socks, memories.)


* * *

The Poet’s Glasses


Washed, dried,
returned to their place
halfway down his nose —
to find bright flowers
blooming madly
in the sink.

(first publication)


* * *

Updates:
Thirty-six words added to the Burns Glossary, thus finishing the R’s.

In the Forum: note to book buyers — when Volume I is missing, you can always write it yourself.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Ask Any Poet


Time and again, while writing a poem, regardless of its length or subject matter, I’m amazed at the amount of remembering that goes on during the process. Even in the space of a few minutes — for many poems come quickly — I travel great distances through time, family, places, and events. A spontaneous, present-tense haiku is no exception — unless I’m mistaken, and memory enters immediately after the poem’s arrival. Of course there’s no real need to sort it out. Besides, how could memory not play a significant role? Ask any poet on the street: he will smile and say, “Yes, it is so, it is so.” And then he’ll want to know, “What gave me away? My untied shoes? Or the way I looked at you?” Well — however it happens, be kind. Next time, the poet could be you.


The William Michaelian Papers:
One black sock, left behind by my nephew, Easter 2008.

Updates:
“After Church,” a new poem of twenty-four words, added to Songs and Letters.

Twelve more words added to the Robert Burns Glossary. Reif randies: thieving beggars. Rickles: small stacks of grain in the fields.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sidney Lanier: Struggle


My Soul is like the oar that momently
Dies in a desperate stress beneath the wave,
Then glitters out again and sweeps the sea:
Each second I’m new-born from some new
     grave.



By Sidney Lanier, from The Oxford Book of American Verse, Oxford University Press, New York (third printing, 1952).


* * *

Updates:

Some more poetic mining leads to the inclusion of an informative paragraph about Stéphane Mallarmé and his work and influences in You Don’t Say. For the long version and related links, go here.

An overdue entry on The Oxford Book of American Verse added to And I Quote.

What does a mime do when he answers the phone? Find out in the Forum.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Knowledge


A ripe apple,
inhabited by a worm.

From Songs and Letters, originally published June 4, 2008.


Updates:

A $420.50 review copy of my novel, A Listening Thing, is the subject of a short note added to News and Reviews.

Twenty-five more conversation-enriching words (amaze your friends) added to the Burns Glossary. Ramfeezl’d: fatigued. Ramgunshock: harsh, ill-tempered, surly.

In the Forum: Hang in there — we’re bound to make sense eventually.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Madness of Knowing


A wonderful little review of Winter Poems was posted by Irene Koronas yesterday in the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene blog. I especially love the way it ends:

As a city dweller I welcome these poems. This honest straight forward book, like a warm fire glows, and has embers. Michaelians’ madness is about what is happening around him. It is not the madness of a saint or a sinner, it is the madness of knowing.

Thank you, Irene.


Updates:
A note about the aforementioned review added to News and Reviews.

Irene’s “madness of knowing” quote added to Cosmopsis Print Editions.

There is silent laughter as the mime-com continues.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

I Find Him Eating Butterflies


I find him eating butterflies. They’re beautiful, he says.
If I eat enough of them, I’ll be beautiful too.

He stuffs a monarch in his mouth,
fuzz clinging to his lips.

I hear the flowers weep.

He begins to eat them too,
stray petals on his shoes.

A hummingbird arrives —
dips her bill into his eye,
takes a long, melancholy drink.

What to think — is he crazy,
or is he wise? Does beauty mind? Should I?

(first publication)


Photo: As imagined by Russ Loar.


Updates:
The first six words beginning with the letter R added to the Robert Burns Glossary. Raibles: rattles, recites by rote, gabbles. Rair: to roar. Wad rair’t: would have roared.

In the Forum: The meek shall inherit a link.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

What is a failed poet?


A poor soul who finally, tragically, goes sane.

Question posed by Doug Holder, founder of Ibbeston Street Press, to poets of his acquaintance. For their answers (you have mine), visit this page of the Boston Area Small Press and Poetry Scene blog.


Updates:
All six words beginning with the letter Q added to the Burns Glossary, thus continuing the pleasant illusion of progress.

A note on “The Soul of Pedro Garcias” added to You Don’t Say.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Vachel Lindsay’s “Gospel of Beauty”


In a nation of one hundred fine, mob-hearted, lynching, relenting, repenting millions, / There are plenty of sweeping, swinging, stinging, gorgeous things to shout about, / And knock your old blue devils out.

From “Bryan, Bryan, Bryan, Bryan — The Campaign of Eighteen Ninety-six, as Viewed at the Time by a Sixteen-Year-Old, etc.,” by Vachel Lindsay (1879-1931), from The Oxford Book of American Verse, Oxford University Press, New York (third printing, 1952).

To read more about and by Lindsay, start at this page of the Modern American Poetry site.


Updates:

A new short poem, “Custom,” added to Songs and Letters.

The legendary Funk Monkeys meet the Failed Mimes, as the psychological stress test continues.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Where Have You Gone, Richard Brautigan?



Although (and perhaps because) we never met, I think often about this melancholy fellow and his wonderful melancholy books. The photo, taken in San Francisco in 1967, is from The Brautigan Archives.


Not a Romance, 1974

When I was hanging around at the college, there was a girl with very long hair and pale white skin. We met in passing many times, but we never spoke. She was beautiful in a simple way, like clean sheets drying on a clothesline beside a garden where tomatoes are getting ripe.

I have no idea what she thought of me. She might have wondered what I meant by having so many patches on my jeans. One of them even looked like a face. Had she asked, I don’t know what I would have said. But she didn’t ask. Instead, she always seemed ready to smile, as if the idea of something pleasant had suggested itself in her mind and would soon turn into a flower, or perhaps a ripe apple or a bird.

Then one day I never saw her again. But I don’t know if she vanished from my life, or if I vanished from hers, or both. It all depends on whether or not she remembers me, I guess. She’s probably a grandmother with short gray hair by now. Ah, if those beautiful little babies only knew.

From Songs and Letters, originally published January 4, 2008.


Thanks:
To the very nice people who have reviewed my website on StumbleUpon.

Updates:
“Beans Impromptu,” a flavorful four-bean variation on my trusty recipe for pinto beans, is now a part of Let’s Eat, my “writer's guide to cooking.”

Thirty-eight words added to the Burns Glossary, thus completing the P section. Puddock-stools are mushrooms or toadstools.

In the Forum: Punctual Dr. Uncle Funk.