Friday, October 31, 2008

Essays in the Dark


Saying we have invented language is like saying we have invented music. We might as well say we have invented the ocean, or the universe, or even love.

Do any of these things really require our presence in order to exist? Do they require our knowledge or appreciation? Will language go into mourning without us? Will rocks and trees and birds stop speaking to one another? Will the universe cease its lullaby?

When I write a poem, I am acutely aware that the poem is also writing me. And as it reveals or partly reveals who I am, it also influences what I will become. As it is written, I too am written. Through language, the strange story that is my life is thus incrementally invented and advanced.


Update:
In the Forum: a police force full of pastrami.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Ghost Poet, Li He


The October 2008 issue of Brink Magazine contains a lovely page featuring poems by the ninth century Chinese poet, Li He. Haunting, melancholy work:

O do not plant a tree
       in the garden.
A tree—
       four seasons of anguish. . . .


Translations by Austin Woerner. Calligraphy by Heidi Wang. For short biographies of all three, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Li He in Wikipedia.

Brink Magazine
Editors: Charles Gershman,
Cedrick Mendoza-Tolentino,
Sol Park, Jenny Blair.

Creative Directors: Peter Kang, Sei-Wook Kim

Note: My thanks to Lola Koundakjian for sending the “Brink link.”

* * *

Dreams: Another added this morning to the Annandale Dream Gazette.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fall Postcard


A sidewalk hidden by maple leaves,
frosted, just dry enough to crunch:
their dusty year-end smell makes me
stop and think — if I were twelve,
I’d probably try to smoke them, too.

From Songs and Letters, originally published October 28, 2008.

Note: I think my father would have liked this poem. As a kid back in the Depression, he’d smoke anything he could get his hands on. He even tried dry horse manure — once. I also recommend a small section of a fully dried, frost-cured cane from a grapevine. You’ll find it draws quite nicely, and the aroma is heavenly, while the taste is pleasantly mild.

Update:
In the Forum: Mencken’s adventures in beer-making.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cosmopsis Quarterly, Fall 2008


Recently Received:
Cosmopsis Quarterly
Issue 3, Fall 2008
Cosmopsis Books
Lowell, Massachusetts
San Francisco, California

Jason Bulger, C.K. Shade,
Daniel Freeman, Editors

Contributors:
Zachary Amendt, Aurora Brackett, Elizabeth Brooks, William Doreski, Nora Falter, Antonio Fernandez, Jonathan Hayes, Paul Hostovsky, George Jack, Timothy Kearney, Jane Levin, Joseph Lisowski, William Michaelian, Jim Nelson, Jeanette Marie Sayers, Michael Shorb, Dan Sklar.


Note: My thanks to Lynn Behrendt for adding another of my dreams to the Annandale Dream Gazette.

Updates:
A link to my Annandale Dream Gazette page added to the main page under my photo.

As the Conversation continues, melancholy aliens smoke what’s left of their celestial charts.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Pappy


At one end of a long haul,
his truck is parked
on a Fresno side street
outside an old Basque hotel.

“Leave it. A city needs its monuments.”

For an old friend, whose father has died.

(first publication)


Update:
“Pappy” added to Poems, Slightly Used.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Orange


Early morning. Against gray clouds arriving from the north, the deepening orange of the neighbor’s maple tree across the street reminds me of the orange crayons we used in grade school — how they smelled, how their wide flat surfaces felt in my hand as I rubbed them on paper to bring out the image of an autumn leaf pinned securely underneath . . .

“Time to work on our numbers.”


Updates:
Poems, Slightly Used, a new page that contains all of the poems gathered here under the label First Publication, added to Collected Poems. The addition is also mentioned in News and Reviews, and another link and brief description is provided under the Collected Poems heading in my “friendly site guide and FAQ,” Flippantly Answered Questions.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Essays in Idleness


A certain recluse, I know not who, once said that no bonds attached him to this life, and the only thing he would regret leaving was the sky.

From Essays in Idleness (Tsurezure-Gusa), by Yoshida Kenko. Translation by G.B. Sansom.

Note: The foregoing is from another recent acquisition, Anthology of Japanese Literature, compiled and edited by Donald Keene and published by Grove Press in 1955. It’s from a section titled Muromachi Period (1333-1600).


Update:
“Clue,” a new short poem with at least three possible meanings, added to Songs and Letters.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Morning Notes: Three Short Poems


Come, let us sit
beside the fire
and find out
who we really are.


* * *

The sheet I used to protect
my mother’s jade plant
from the frost

now smells like
the still autumn night.


* * *

Before my bath
I set out clean clothes —

gently, now, as if
buttons are
eyes.

(first publication)

Note: These poems were written in this order yesterday morning, between approximately six and nine, while tending to other things — a bit of correspondence, dishes in the sink, and posting the previous entry. I was also recovering from several dreams I felt sure I’d remember when I was still in bed, but which evaporated when I dozed off one last time, for no more than two or three minutes. The only image that remains is of me finally getting my turn to use a strange outdoor shower and asking someone near a doorway to a building a few feet away to tell the people inside that I’d soon be done and to please stay open so I could receive my pay. Even then, I had no idea of the work I’d done; I was just one of many who had helped complete some kind of project. It should also be noted that I traveled a great distance while writing the first poem: upon leaving a pleasant, nameless village, I followed a mountain path up to where there had been a small landslide; there I discovered a young goat, its hind legs pinned beneath the rocks; I freed the animal, then carried it back to the village. Strange? Not for me, I’m afraid. I make such journeys all the time.


Updates:
The following note on Ralph Roister Doister added to You Don’t Say: The title of the earliest English comedy, so called from the chief character. It was written by Nicholas Udall about 1533 for performance by the boys at Eton, where he was then headmaster. Ralph is a vain, thoughtless, blustering fellow, who is in pursuit of a rich widow named Custance, but he is baffled in his intention.

As the Conversation continues, we consider the possibility that we are living inside a Kurt Vonnegut novel.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Ten Thousand Leaves


These poems are from Ten Thousand Leaves, Love Poems from the Manyoshu, translated by Harold Wright. I found the book a few days ago at Goodwill. And so my “education” proceeds, willy-nilly.


      4

The flowers of the plum
      were covered with fallen snow
            which I wrapped up
But when I tried to have you see
      it was melting in my hands

Anonymous


      9

Once I did believe
      that no love could still linger
            within my heart
Yet, a love springs from somewhere
      and forces itself on me

Poem by Princess Hirokawa (eighth century), a great-granddaughter of the Emperor Temmu (reigned 673-686).


Ten Thousand Leaves
Love Poems from the Manyoshu

The Overlook Press
Woodstock, New York (1986)

Related Wikipedia Links:
The Manyoshu
Tanka

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Tenderness


From space
the earth a fishbowl

eager mouths
against the glass

a curiosity
at best

“They look so sad,” she said, “I’ll take it.”

(first publication)


* * *

Note: I’m deeply grateful for this new poem by Vassilis Zambaras. For ten days now, we’ve been friends all our lives.

Previous entry: After Heraclitus
Main page: Vazambam


Update:
As the Conversation continues, we are once again faced with elves in the closet.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

San Joaquin Valley Haiku


The wanderer knows:
dried, crushed grape leaves
are as good as fine
tobacco.

From Songs and Letters, originally published October 12, 2007.


Recently Linked:
Thanks very much to Paul L. Martin, who writes as an excellent blog called The Teacher’s View, for recommending and linking to my San Joaquin Valley remembrance, A Map of My Heart. The piece first appeared in the Winter 2001 issue of Ararat; it has also been published three times in Armenian translation (trans. Samvel Mkrtchian), and reprinted twice in English. This is the second time it has found its way into the high school classroom.

From my note in News and Reviews back in 2001:

Part reminiscence and part essay, “A Map of My Heart” gives a good idea of what life was like for Armenian farmers making their way in California’s San Joaquin Valley during the early part of the twentieth century. Following the narrow country roads in the area where I grew up, it explores the meaning of home — both in a personal sense, and within the context of an uprooted people living in a new culture.


Updates:
Part of the first paragraph of the preceding note added to News and Reviews.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Afternoon Visit


While sitting with my mother

                        I wonder if

              a leaf from the maple tree

                                                    across the street

                                would burn my hand


From Songs and Letters, originally published October 19, 2008.


Update:
In the Forum: a girl with dwarfs in her closet.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Nineteenth Day of October


From One Hand Clapping, a daily journal in two volumes:

October 19, 2003 — I have been busy all day, writing a poem without any words. So far, the work is going quite well. I have used several sheets of paper, and all are perfectly blank. Perfectly. Blank.

October 19, 2004 — What does it mean when you walk around swearing in an empty house, your voice echoing, the windows rattling, the cat running for cover? In my case, it means I am vigorously pursuing my work, and that I have chosen to add an active, physical dimension to what is a dangerously sedentary occupation. I look at it this way: I am crippled enough as it is. Long hours at the keyboard have taken their toll. Since I am in this for the long haul, I have to find a way to keep myself physically and mentally fit. With time always at a premium, what better way than to exercise and write at the same time? True, I am sitting here now, but thanks to my recent trip through the house shouting and waving my arms, my heart and lungs are sending vital messages throughout my body, which, on good days, includes my head, which in turn houses my brain pan, wherein sloshes my clump of gray, tired noodles. . . . Excuse me. What I just said made me laugh so hard that I had to get up again and walk down the hall and into the room that faces the backyard, where I laughed some more and exclaimed, again in full vocal force, “Man, you are a dumb son of a bitch.” Now, I tend to swear very little when I write, keeping four-letter words in reserve, as it were, for the right moment. But I think it’s important here for the sake of clarity and accuracy to repeat exactly what I said after I got up laughing and walked down the hall and into the other room. This information will benefit someone somewhere, I’m sure. And if doesn’t — well, I’m sorry. Like anyone else, I can do only so much.


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Time Piece


Yellowing fig tree,
how do you change
more quickly than
my mother’s
clock?

From Songs and Letters, originally published October 17, 2008.


Note: My thanks once again to Lynn Behrendt for adding another of my dreams to the Annandale Dream Gazette. The nineteen posted so far are gathered here.

Update:
In the Forum: a growing line of musical beers.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Endgame


They were smart. They had their emotions printed on little cards. She handed him one to express her doubt. He handed her one to indicate his surprise, then quickly followed it with his standard disappointment card. She read them both and was about to reply with her “Are you really that blind?” card when she decided to break with form and speak instead. When she did speak, he was so shocked by the sound of her voice that he fumbled madly amongst his cards, sifted through them, turned some of them over, and dropped others. Finally, he found the card he was looking for: his “hurt and bewildered” card. He held it out to her, but she refused to take it. And again she spoke: “I’m so tired of these cards. Can’t we just talk instead? Like normal people?” He immediately searched through his cards again — this time to no avail. He tried to move his lips, but his mouth was so dry that it felt like he’d been eating feathers. For a desperate moment, he even wondered if he should have feather cards printed. But that feather-feeling — did it really count as an emotion?

(first publication)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Train Dream


At the far end of a busy dining car, a friend I haven’t seen for twenty years is holding a pint glass of beer, his arms resting atop the dark leather cushion of his seat as he takes pleasure in the activity around him. He doesn’t see me. I start toward him, but am awakened by the movement of the train.

Added yesterday to the Annandale Dream Gazette.

Note: By some strange, magnificent coincidence, a train’s horn sounded at two nearby crossings as I was writing down this dream.


Updates:
A short note about a pricey review copy of A Listening Thing added to News and Reviews.

In the Forum, we begin our search for tubs.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Rabindranath Tagore: Fireflies


I found these short poems by Rabindranath Tagore in the Indian Literature section of Adventures in World Literature, a book I mentioned in this post. They appear in a subsection titled “Fireflies,” under this paragraph:

“This volume (1928) was a result of Tagore’s study of Japanese poetry, which fascinated him by its compressed and highly selective art. The significance of the title is explained in the first poem, and one is inclined to agree with the prophecy expressed in the second after reading this book of captivating phrases. They should be read in connection with Japanese poetry (pages 1224-1231).”


      1

My fancies are fireflies, —
   Specks of living light
      twinkling in the dark.


      2

My words that are slight
   may lightly dance upon time’s waves
      when my works heavy with import have
         gone down.


      8

My heart today smiles at its past night of tears
   like a wet tree glistening in the sun
      after the rain is over.


      9

My flower, seek not thy paradise
   in a fool’s buttonhole.


Image: Rabindranath Tagore in Kolkata, ca. 1915 (click to enlarge).


Update:
As the Conversation continues, we dedicate ourselves to saving our empties.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Sunpoison, Rumens, Isom


The adjacent image, Winter’s Day, Sewn Up, is by Singapore artist sunpoison. It incorporates my poem “Winter View,” first published here in my Collected Poems, and again in my book, Winter Poems. The poem appears without its title near the bottom of the image (click to enlarge). Thank you, sunpoison.

My thanks, also, to poet Carol Rumens for linking to my recently completed page, Robert Burns: A Glossary of Scottish Terms, in her October 13, 2008, “Poem of the Week” blog entry for The Guardian. This week’s poem: “To a Louse” by Robert Burns.

I would also like to thank artist Ronald D. Isom for linking to my entry on Asemic Writing from his blog, Metrogadfly.


Updates:
Similar mention of the foregoing links and one from this entry added to News and Reviews.

“Poet’s Lament,” a poem of ten words, added to Songs and Letters.

Monday, October 13, 2008

In Sanity Is Insanity


Insanity is when you
burn your furniture
so the ghosts will
have no place to sit.

Sanity is when you
look everywhere
and still can’t
find a match.

From Songs and Letters, originally published January 3, 2008. Also appeared in Barbaric Yawp.


Note: My thanks to Lynn Behrendt for adding another of my dreams yesterday to the Annandale Dream Gazette. My dreams posted thus far are gathered here.

Update:
In the Forum: literary beer publishers.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

You Must Remember This


The day before yesterday, I picked the season’s last red rose for my mother. I’d been watching its slow development through the cool, rainy weather, waiting for the bud to reach a point where I was sure it would continue opening after it was picked. Now I see it is opening. And it’s a lucky thing, too, because we had our first frost the very next morning.

My mother is eighty-six. I take care of her. Little of her mind remains. And yet she is still able to love a rose, and take pleasure in the fact that its name is “Ingrid Bergman.”

We watched Casablanca the other day. Mom wasn’t sure who Ingrid Bergman was, but her voice was “familiar.” Like mine, I suppose, when she wakes up at night wondering where she is.

Image: Ingrid Bergman, at the age of fourteen.


Recently Linked:
My thanks to Vassilis Zambaras for linking to Recently Banned Literature from his blog, Vazambam.


Update:
A new entry added to Notebook.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Dead


Their voices are louder this time of year.
Fall colors. Geese overhead. Winter coming.
Child that I am, if I had a cigarette,
I’d smoke it to the end.

From Songs and Letters, originally published October 10, 2008.


The William Michaelian Papers:
The PDF print-out of a commissioned poem, “A Toast,” begun October 8, 2008, completed October 9, 2008. One page, with handwritten notes in lower right-hand corner.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Okie Cottonpickers, 1963


The cotton pickers who worked in the little patch where my father eventually planted a vineyard were Okies who lived in Delft Colony. Delft was on Road 56 near the cotton gin and Conejo Avenue, the two-lane highway that led west from the foothills to the small town of Kingsburg, where my mother was born.

I went to school with the cotton pickers’ kids — the twins Jimmy and Emmy, Mike, Beverly, Billy, Jerry, and a bunch of others. They always smelled like a greasy fried supper — everything dipped and battered, bubbling out of their pores in rich, sweaty globules of dough, fat pork, chicken, sometimes even rabbit. Now and then, they came to school with pieces of corn stuck between their teeth — so different from the Japanese kids, who ate seaweed and fish at home and whose mothers trimmed the crust from their white bread peanut butter sandwiches, or the Mexican kids, whose dark mystery included the scent of cumin, or the German kids, who smelled of chickens and dairy cows, or the Armenian kids, whose eager, young bodies spoke the language of onions, garlic, and grape leaves.

No wonder the teachers left the windows and doors open. But of course that allowed the dragonflies in. As many as eight or ten of the prehistoric beasts would rumble about in the still, hot air, restless, with no need to land. Every so often, a dog wandered in and looked around the room hopefully, sniffing, tail wagging, someone’s pet, a faithful farm animal often scolded for flopping in a flower bed, or spanked with a broom for leaving mud on the front porch, puzzled by mathematics, bored by history, encouraged by the sound of one of us reading aloud to the rest of the class. Hello, boy. Nice of you to stop by. How’s the missus? Now, you be a good dog and go talk to Mr. Grass. That’s it. Go on, now.

Mr. Grass was the janitor. He kept the water fountains and bathrooms and classrooms clean, swept the corridors outside in the shade with a wide push-broom clogged with grass clippings, rubber bands, and lint, unlocked the little shack where the footballs and volleyballs were kept just in time for recess, had lunch by himself under a tree.

I was playing in Dad’s old wood-framed cotton trailer when one of the Okie pickers climbed up the ladder to empty her sack. With a fat, friendly whine, she said, “You must be the boss’s boy.” I had never thought of myself in those terms and found the title a little embarrassing. I said I was, but the conversation went no further, having arrived neatly, effortlessly at its destination. The trailer was about three-quarters full, and I was in cotton up to my thighs. The ladder creaked as the woman went back down.

A few days before, Dad had let a man run his new mechanical picker through the field. The machine was doing such a lousy job that Dad told its driver-owner to leave. The man said, “But I ain’t finished yet,” and Dad said, “Yes you are.” After the man drove his cotton picker off the property and was on his way back to wherever he came from, we got in the pickup and Dad drove us to Delft. Dad knocked on the door of one of the little houses and a woman with big fat arms came to the door and said hello. Behind her, kids were shouting and playing, and I could hear the sound of grease spattering in a frying pan. I don’t remember what Dad said, or what the woman said, but everyone seemed happy.

I didn’t know then about the Dust Bowl, or The Grapes of Wrath. All I knew is that everyone worked whether they wanted to or not, and tried to get along together, whether they felt like it or not. And even these things I didn’t know in words, only by observation. It was part of life’s rhythm where we lived, a melody that offered itself everywhere, rattled the eucalyptus leaves along the ditch banks, whispered in the ear of sane and insane alike, hugged the power poles, scared the jackrabbits and made them jump, made truck drivers spit a little farther, drive a little faster, drink a little more, made women with sore feet sigh at night.

The Okie cotton pickers puttered up in a cloud of dust and started picking the field by hand — the hard way, the way that scratches your arms and breaks your back and makes you laugh and swear and tell stories and pass out after a good fried supper bought with the sweat of your labor.

Soon, the machines got better and people didn’t pick cotton by hand in the San Joaquin Valley anymore. But we had grapes by then. Dad’s heart was never in cotton anyway. The blooms were pretty, though. I remember them, the squares, the bolls, the jungle of tall plants thriving under the hot sun. I walked down the furrows and disappeared.

From Songs and Letters, originally published March 28, 2005.

Related link: a short review of The Grapes of Wrath.


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

In the Forum: a historical beer-drinking tour.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Bath Notes


          Wiping steam from the mirror — a stranger.

Little scenes like this happen to me quite often. Engaged in a basic, everyday task, I suddenly find that I’m both participant and observer, and, in some cases, a complete stranger. By this I mean, of course, that for a brief moment I don’t quite recognize myself, or quite remember who I am. And then my imagination races ahead, or behind, to things I might be working on, or might soon be working on, or might have dreamed I was working on, or might have finished working on but which haven’t finished working on me . . .


Update:
As the Conversation continues, we discuss real versions of imagined lives.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Willie and Dad


This picture of my father (right) and his mother’s first cousin, William Saroyan, was taken in 1970 during one of Willie’s visits to our house in Dinuba, California. The window behind his back is the one that looked east from the eating area in our kitchen. The window between Willie and Dad was one of three in my brothers’ bedroom, formerly a carport. The open area in front of the bare mulberry tree is where we used to box raisins each fall, and play baseball and basketball during the summer. After a heavy winter rain (average rainfall in Dinuba is about eleven inches), the whole space would turn into a shallow lake, and the water would stand for days on end.

There is a lot more I could say about this picture, the two men in it, the house, and its farm surroundings. The fact is, I’ve written many thousands of words on the subject already.

The house and farm are no longer in the family.

Image: William Saroyan and Albert Michaelian, 1970 (click to enlarge).


Update:
In the Forum: “homesickness and something more.”

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Afternoon Nap


               Even in his sleep,

our little grandson

               is imagining

                                 the world.


(first publication)


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

In the Forum: embarrassed, shamed, ridiculed, fired, embezzled, and running behind.

Monday, October 6, 2008

A Dramatic Interlude


“Silly, you aren’t supposed to eat the flower, you’re supposed to wear it.”

All his life, it seemed, he’d been looking for the right buttonhole. There were thousands from which to choose, a staggering number of sizes and designs, and yet not one of them felt exactly right, and so he finally decided that he’d much rather eat the flower than put it in the wrong one.

“Oh, well. Come on. We’ll be late.”

Soon after they arrived, they were in the lobby when he heard a woman whisper to her, “He looks cute with those petals on his coat.” And she laughed and said, “Yes, he’s my very own flower child. I don’t know why he carries on so. But I love him. I really do.”

Later, after they were seated and the play had begun, he was surprised to find that the main character was a man who was obsessed with eating flowers. But he was surprised when he heard the audience laughing. And so without warning, he stood up, stepped past the people in the seats between his and the aisle, and followed the aisle down to the stage. Then, without hesitation, he went onto the stage and embraced the man, scattering petals everywhere. The audience erupted with applause.

In the newspaper the following morning, there was a picture of him on the stage, looking up with a puzzled smile.

“My hero,” she said — and her kiss reminded him of crushed marigolds — “that was your best performance ever.”

(first publication)

Note: This poem, or story, or whatever it is, was written not long after I awoke from a dream. About all I could remember was being in an empty lobby with a polished oak door, which opened to an outdoor museum framed by ancient Greek columns. On display was a small collection of sepia-toned portraits of distinguished looking men and women from the late nineteenth century. As the dream ended, I was wondering if I should say something to a sullen janitor working nearby, pushing a dust-mop.


Update:
A note on “dog Latin” added to You Don’t Say, in which the following definition of a kitchen is cited as an example:

As the law classically expresses it, a kitchen is “camera necessaria pro usus cookare; cum saucepannis, stewpannis, scullero, dressero, coalholo stovis, smoakjacko; pro roastandum, boilandum, fryandum et plum-pudding-mixandum. . . .” — A Law Report (Daniel v. Dishclout).

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Crickets


How strange this silence
would seem without
these crickets
here to explain.

(first publication)

Note: This haiku began as a list of silence- and cricket-related images, which I couldn’t resist finishing (from K on) after the poem was done: A) His profound silence, mocked by crickets; B) His silence celebrated by crickets; C) The crickets’ silence; D) His silence and the crickets’ silence; E) Once again, the neighbor’s volume is too high; F) The neighbor’s silence; G) Sirens in the night; H) Profound sirens; I) The crickets’ sirens; J) His sirens and the crickets’ sirens; K) Quite often, what we think of as silence is not really silence at all; L) Do not substitute “monkeys” for “crickets”; M) Oodles of silence; N) Crickets ignoring Leonard Bernstein; O) Being profound is not all it’s cracked up to be; P) Being cracked up is profound; Q) Silence is expected to arrive on the night train; R) Silence, next three exits; S) Must you be silent so loudly? T) Even crickets take a night off; U) A silent auditorium, punctuated by a cough; V) A cricket crawling up the conductor’s leg [not the railroad conductor; he forgot his leg at home]; W) An old man eating a bowl of silence while being watched by crickets; X) Silence, just before it explodes; Y) A memorable silence; Z) A silent show of hands.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Dreaming Auden


I was alone in the country, waiting for a ride in the dirt and weeds beside a narrow road under a cloudy sky, when I was approached by two very intelligent looking boys in their early teens. Their hair was dark, and the eyes of the boy closest to me were unusually bright and large. After we had exchanged greetings, they told me how much they hated school. I asked them if they would be interested in reading books together instead of going to school. They both loved the idea. I said the books could be on any subject, and that we could talk about them or not talk about them — whatever they liked, whatever they felt like doing. And then, suddenly, music began to play — something wild and raucous, with shouted lyrics that I immediately recognized. It was Auden: From bad lands, where eggs are small and dear, / Climbing to worse by a stonier / Track, when all are spent, we hear it — the right song / For the wrong time of year. And although I knew it was Auden, I told the boys it was T.S. Eliot. They had both heard of Eliot, and were quite pleased. But I was not pleased, because I had given them the wrong name. And I thought, I wonder if they will want to read poetry?

Added yesterday to the Annandale Dream Gazette. My thanks, once again, to Lynn Behrendt.

Image: W.H. Auden (Getty Images; click to enlarge).

Friday, October 3, 2008

Kitagawa Fuyuhiko: Early Spring


Midnight
A rain mixed with snow fell,
It trickled desolately on the bamboo thicket.
The dream dealt with another’s heart.
When I awoke
The pillow was cold with tears.
— What has happened to my heart?
The sun shines in mildly from tall windows,
A humming rises from the steelworks,
I got out of bed
And poked with a stick the muck in the ditch;
The turbid water slowly began to move.
A little lizard had yielded himself to the current.
In the fields
I push open black earth.
The wheat sprouts greenly grow. —
You can trust the earth.

By Kitagawa Fuyuhiko (1900-1990), from Adventures in World Literature, Harcourt, Brace & World (1936; 1958). Translated by Donald Keene, appeared previously in Modern Japanese Literature: From 1868 to Present Day, compiled and edited by Donald Keene and published by Grove Press (1956).

Note: Adventures in World Literature (1,292 pages) is divided into the following sections: French, Spanish and Portuguese, Italian, German, Scandanavian, Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, Russian, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Babylonian-Assyrian, Hebrew, Persian, Arabic, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Recent European and Latin American Poetry, Recent European Prose, and Recent Oriental Poetry.


Updates:
A new poem of seventeen words, “Guilt,” added to Songs and Letters.

In the Forum: the story behind the cover of the July 2008 issue of Barbaric Yawp.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Gray


I love this time of year,
how she marvels at the fall colors,
and then colors her hair.

“Must you always be so . . . gray?”

Yes, I must. The artist who painted me
was melancholy, and used only gray;
go ahead — take my picture.

“My god, you are gray!”

I gave her a leaf. It had turned gray in my hand;
but it was a lovely gray — a gray with veins,
a gray of ten thousand subtle shades,
a gray inside gray still becoming gray,
a deep gray well in which gray voices
echoed the glad gray eternity of our names.

“Not to mention crazy.”

(first publication)


Recently Linked:
Congress Shall Make No Laws Concerning the Banning of Books

“Speaking of sexy and Whitman, in researching banned texts I came across this blog and, I say this without irony, the writer’s picture made me envious of the ability to grow a beard. Never in my whole life, try as hard as I may, will I end up looking so wonderfully, well, composed of books on the molecular level. *sigh* One more disappointment to toss onto the pile.”


Update:
As the Conversation continues, Paul’s grandfather says, “You have sadism stamped all over your bloated British kisser.”

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Twenty Years A-Growing


Recently Acquired:
Twenty Years A-Growing
by Maurice O’Sullivan
(Muiris Ó Súilleabháin)
Oxford University Press

Rendered from the original Irish with a preface by Moya Llewelyn Davies and George Thomson.

Image: The ruins of the house in which Muiris Ó Súilleabháin grew up on the Great Blasket Island (click to enlarge).

From the copyright page:
In the original Irish (Fiche Blian ag Fás) Twenty Years A-Growing was first published in Dublin in 1933. The English translation was first published in London in the same year and (revised by the translator) was republished in The World’s Classics in 1953 and reprinted in 1955, 1957, 1960, 1962, 1966, 1968, 1970, 1972, 1975, and 1976.


Updates:
A short poem, “The Ghost in You,” added to Songs and Letters.

In the Forum: a healthy, vigorous yawp.