Monday, December 31, 2012

What December Said to January


Today I would like to send a special public thanks to Annie Wyndham for sharing my poem, “What December Said to January,” on this, for me, cold and quiet New Year’s Eve.

Annie: Thank you. And thanks, too, for your beautiful Salamander.

Happy New Year, one and all. Praise and thanks for your good work. You will forgive, I hope, my many shortcomings. May love erase any hurt I’ve caused.


Friday, December 28, 2012

Pushkin’s Button


Here is a list of the books I read this year, presented in the order of their completion dates. Some are monumental multi-volume projects. I began Elbert Hubbard’s Little Journeys in the latter part of 2011. Similarly, I will likely finish with Shakespeare in January. I doubt very much, though, that he will be finished with me.

I should also note that this list would be much longer if it included books I read but didn’t finish. I browse several every day, sampling passages and pages at random, taking in chapters here and there. Just yesterday, for instance, I read the first two chapters of Pushkin’s Button, a book about the last four months of the poet’s life, leading up to the time he was killed in a duel.

And so it goes: the more I read, the more I want to read; the more crowded my library, the more books I need.




This dimly lit room full of old books
is my “parlor and workspace.”

(Photo: December 28, 2012)

~

Rambles with Anatole France
by Itóka Margaret Juliet Marchisiu de Bölöni

The Gods Are A-Thirst
by Anatole France

The Vicar of Wakefield
by Oliver Goldsmith

Avowals
by George Moore

Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides
James Boswell

Little Journeys to the Homes of the Great
(fourteen volumes)
by Elbert Hubbard

Letters of James Whitcomb Reilly
by James Whitcomb Reilly

A Magnificent Farce and Other Diversions of a Book Collector
by Edward A. Newton

The Life of Samuel Johnson
(three volumes)
by James Boswell

Comfort Found in Good Old Books
by George Hamlin Fitch

A Family
by Carl Larsson and Lennart Rudström

Abraham Lincoln
(six volumes)
by Carl Sandburg

Thread of the Real
by Joseph Hutchison

Journey to Virginland: Epistle 1
by Armen Melikian

Balzac in Slippers
by Léon Gazlan

Juliette Drouet’s Love Letters to Victor Hugo
by Juliette Drouet

The Satyricon
by Petronius

François Villon: A Documented Survey
by D.B. Wyndham Lewis

Ulysses
(Armenian translation)
by James Joyce

Rasselas: Prince of Abyssinia
by Samuel Johnson

Anatole France Himself: A Boswellian Record
by Jacques Brousson

The Works of Rabelais
by François Rabelais

The Works of Molière
(six volumes)
by Molière

The Earth-Boat
by Joseph Hutchison

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
(ten volumes)
by William Shakespeare


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Joseph Hutchison: The Earth-Boat



The Earth-Boat

from Folded Word

Rocklin, California

(2012)



A Taste of Mexico

Three tequilas: / mind lucid . . . tongue / thick with strange words.


“The eighteen poems in this collection take an arc-like journey through western North America. Colorado, Mexico, California—regardless of place, Joseph Hutchison finds a way to commune with nature and communicate with people. These poems simultaneously describe focused moments and broad narratives in language infused with the inhabitants and sensations of each place. Crows. Comets. Mountains. Oceans. Joseph’s description of this earth-boat we all share is so engaging that ‘for a few breaths [you may] feel it drifting.’”


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Apology


Words are shadows cast by meaning.
My intent? Aye, there’s the rub.

The sun is understanding:
it leaves me blind, strands me in the wood.


Saturday, December 15, 2012

As in each and every day


Today, as in each and every day, thinking, loving people know that they must respond to life by making something beautiful. Give a gift, sing a song, open a door, feed a child. Bear responsibility. Accept the fact that you had, and still do have, a hand in that which brings grief to this world. Understand, too, that you have just as much power to bring light. As a fire dies when it runs out of fuel, outrage is quickly spent. Anger is smoke. Who can breathe and see clearly when they are angry? Set your ego aside. Don’t assume superiority. Don’t claim helplessness. Don’t expect criminals to legislate on your behalf. Be your own legislator. Each and every day, make something beautiful. Your time is short. Tell the truth. Admit that you’ve been blind. Rejoice. Walk down to the graves.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Pieces


Yesterday, while revisiting “William’s Law,” I had certain pieces in mind. One is directly related to my relative silence this past year. Early on, this was noticed by some, and I was touched by their concern. I did my best to explain: that, frankly, after the release of the tenth anniversary edition of my novel, A Listening Thing, I was tired of listening to myself.

In any and every commercial light, I am the world’s worst salesman. I don’t travel, I don’t do readings, I don’t sit on panels — as, in fact, I shy away from anything in life that feels unnatural or false, to me. Let it satisfy and work for others in whatever degree; I have learned the hard way to heed that warning in my chest. As a writer working in this shallow, glib, self-centered age, I feel my responsibility ends with faithful completion of the work at hand, and telling others in my own way that the work exists. And that’s exactly what I did, with the unfortunate result that, on some days, I still felt like a beggar or a clown. But that feeling is gone now.

In the entire year that is and has been the year two thousand and twelve, two copies of my novel were sold, and one copy of The Painting of You. I’ve been quiet through it all, reading, studying, making notes. Where once a dream seemed whole, I found pieces. And they are beautiful. A handful of friends, people I’ve yet to behold in ripe and animated flesh, still stand by me. Most of the pretenders have flown — those who, for whatever barren reason, feigned interest in me and what I do — elsewhere to pose. Such are the gifts.

Not long ago, I mentioned the new revised edition of the Armenian translation of my book, The Old Language. Since the print edition was released in 2005, several later poems were added, taking the volume from about eighty pages up to 100. This online edition, so generously presented and gracefully designed by the translator, is being given a most kind reception. And so, where little effort on my part was involved, the stories and poems to which my name is signed have gained more readers in three weeks, in another language, than they did in the last year or more. Such are the gifts.

I remain full of heart and full of work. If I tell you things that make you smile or make you cringe, I do so because it is necessary if we are to move forward together. Love is strong. It does not mince words.

I’ll close for now with something Shakespeare said: All things that are, are with more spirit chased than enjoy’d.

To which I’ll add: If you would love your life, then you must embrace your pain.

Thanks again for reading.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

William’s Law, revisited


Grief in finding it broken, joy in the beauty of each new piece.


There is, perhaps, no poem of mine that speaks
so simply to my own pressing need

to raise scripture out of verse
and in the act be freed

to live by what
I preach.


“William’s Law,” Poems, Slightly Used, May 19, 2010.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Alan Semerdjian: In the Architecture of Bone



This beautiful volume arrives as part of a book exchange
with poet-musician Alan Semerdjian.



In the Architecture of Bone
Poems by Alan Semerdjian


2009

131 Pages

ISBN: 9780982359402

Cover design incorporates a painting by the poet’s grandfather, Simon Samsonian.



Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Old Language



And the old man wept, for there was no better language to explain his loss.




The Old Language
A New Revised Edition

Short Stories. Poems. A Memoir.
by William Michaelian

Translated by Samvel Mkrtchyan




[First published in Armenian as a paperback in 2005 in Yerevan, Armenia.]


See also:




Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Samvel Mkrtchyan: Armenian Translations


In addition to my treasured copy of Selected Armenian Poets, I am also in receipt of a sturdy, tastefully done two-volume set of Armenian translations by Samvel Mkrtchyan, whose gifted, tireless effort is making English and American literature accessible to readers of the Armenian language. His powerful, musical rendering of Joyce’s Ulysses alone is enough to earn him the status of Giant in Armenian letters. In reading it, one almost forgets the book was written in Joyce’s own lunatic English — the Armenian is that effective. And I expect a similar result as I slowly make my way through his rendering of voices as diverse as Spenser and Poe, Faulkner and Eliot, Shakespeare, Whitman, Sandburg, Melville, Williams, Yeats, Thomas, and Pound. Will I understand it all? No. But my understanding will grow, and I relish the revelations the process of reading in another alphabet and language involves. The fact is, for me, even when reading English, literal meaning is only part of the equation, and often not the largest part. Words and the spaces between them are inspiring and disturbing, and I wonder and wander among them as I would maps and pillars and towns. A book is an ancient pyramid or temple in ruins: beware the scorpion within, the sudden hand on the shoulder, the unexpected breath, the veil, the whisper, the call. And yes — that is your name written on the wall.










From the Translator

Samvel Mkrtchyan:
Armenian Translations from English and American Literature



Monday, November 12, 2012

Selected Armenian Poets



Selected Armenian Poets
Second Edition, Revised and Enlarged

In English, Compiled and Edited

Armenia


2012

Contents arranged by birth date, beginning with the year 348



Warm thanks to the editor† for including five poems from my books,
Another Song I Know (Cosmopsis Books, 2007)
and The Painting of You (Author’s Press Series, Vol. 1, 2009).



Thursday, November 1, 2012

The other hand clapping


We met in the library lobby outside the Friends store. “Bless you,” he said, “for all of your hair. It’s beautiful. It shows you are full of spirit.”

He told me his name. Asked me mine. Said he still plays the drums. He’s sixty-seven. Gray stubble on his face. Wearing second-hand clothes.

“Bless you,” he said again, clasping my hand and looking into my eyes, “for still being here with us, alive in the world. I’m so glad we met.”

“Me, too,” I said.

“We’ll meet again, I’m sure. Yes... this is no accident.”

He left the library. I entered the store.





Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Elsewhere


For those new to this blog, and as a reminder to regular visitors who might have forgotten about the Archive page on my main website, “My Old Black Sport Coat,” a poem written in 2007 shortly after my first grandson was born, is the current offering there. I hope you like it, and of course you’re always welcome to browse the other pages, which are also “likeable” and “shareable” in the social media sense. Thank you.


Monday, October 15, 2012

The Clown


One intriguing aspect of my life is that even now, at the ripe and reasoned age of fifty-six, I don’t know if I’ve made a single major decision — that is, the kind of decision we generally associate with a change in direction, the advent of deeper understanding, or memorable accomplishment. I don’t say that decisions weren’t made. I simply can’t say with any certainty that I’m the one who made them; for I think it’s every bit as possible, if not likely, that the important decisions in my life were made by life, and that I am here expressly to abide by them and do its will.

Now, a peculiar part of all this is that I still feel responsible for the outcome. And yet I’m here by a force beyond my control, imprinted with characteristics I had no say in acquiring. Only in growing up, only in being taught that some characteristics are useful and good and that others are best subdued, was I able to find a place first in my family, and then in the world around me. In other words, I was taught honesty and survival.

It’s a hard thing, survival. One reason it’s hard is that honesty is lacking in so many. And remember, honesty isn’t really honesty if it has limits, and is reduced to a matter of expediency.

Are human beings capable of complete honesty? If our religions, philosophies, and political systems are any indication, it would appear that we have our serious doubts, or, at the extreme, are willing to believe we aren’t — a big difference; the difference. But it must also be remembered that vast numbers of us, in our deadly grace and poetic ignorance, sincerely mean well. So maybe we do believe, but are afraid of the consequences.

It’s quite possible that you are in control of your life; whether you are or not isn’t for me to say. I only know that I’m not in control of mine. I’m proud of some of the things I’ve done, and embarrassed by others. I’ve written poems and books, but I hope my best is yet to come. If any or all of this has come about through decisions I’ve consciously or unconsciously made, I own up to them. If they’re the result of decisions made for me, then I hope to better understand that process.

I don’t believe what countless others are willing and content to believe. I don’t believe what they are afraid not to believe. I don’t believe in me. I just act accordingly. The hand I hold out, the blood within that gives it warmth, the image of this aging mind and body reflected by the mirror, the memories I recall, the timeless sense of flight I feel, are as so many leaves in the wind. Of this, I’m glad. I don’t know how not to be. Should this deem me laughable to some, I join in your laughter. For it is just such a tragedy that I love.


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Percy Anecdotes



Two volumes in one,
under the pseudonyms of Reuben and Shelto Percy,
Brothers of the Benedictine Monastery,
Mont Benger










New York : Richard Scott


(Book measures approximately 3½ x 5¾ inches)


Monday, October 1, 2012

Vanillo Gonzales




Another old book — and, as always,
the inhaling, and the quickening of the pulse.


“Doctor, is there hope for him?”

“Little, alas, as he heeds not my art at all.”





The turning of pages untrimmed,
unopened, unread.


“What course would you prescribe?”

“Stringent diet; painful exercise; subservience; a well-paid bill.”

“And should that fail?”

“We’ll see him at his funeral.”


(Such a novel exposition — as if they were not here willy-nilly, created on a whim.)



The History of Vanillo Gonzales,
Surnamed the Merry Bachelor

(Estevanille Gonzalez, 1732)



London : J.C. Nimmo and Bain



Only 100 Copies of this Edition on laid paper, medium 8vo,
with proof Etchings on Whatham paper, have been printed,
and are numbered consecutively as issued. No 69.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Little Leather Library




(some even given away in cereal boxes)











Authors included in these twenty-six* miniature volumes:

James Allen, Honoré de Balzac, James Barrie, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Robert Browning, Robert Burns, Guy de Maupassant, A. Conan Doyle, Henry Drummond, Alexandre Dumas, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edward FitzGerald, Elbert Hubbard, Washington Irving,
Charles Lamb, Maurice Maeterlinck, Thomas Moore, George Bernard Shaw,
Henry David Thoreau, Ivan Turgenev, Walt Whitman,
John Greenleaf Whittier, W.B. Yeats

* the complete set contains many more titles


Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thinking of Puccini


When I first saw this magnificent photograph by Stasja Voluti last year online, and before I was aware of the name she had given it, my immediate response was, Beethoven. But Puccini, I think, is more accurate, as these birds, so gracefully assembled, look like they might well be listening to Che gelida manina from La bohème. Besides, Beethoven’s notation was nowhere near this elegant.



Thinking of Puccini

Titled, Signed, and Numbered C-Print
by Stasja Voluti

(Print 3 of 4)


Stasja’s Blog


Such a lovely gift. Thank you, Stasja, for this tangible evidence of your vision, and of the heart that guides it. It is an honor to be counted among your friends.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Works of Rabelais




faithfully translated from the French,
with variorum notes, and numerous illustrations by Gustave Doré,
privately printed with twenty new additional illustrations


In a routine search online, I could find little information on this volume, some of which was contradictory. A few sources are under the impression that this was a pirated edition, and it is generally agreed (guessed) that it was published sometime during the first quarter of the twentieth century. The book measures approximately 7 x 10 ¾ inches, and contains numerous illustrations by Gustave Doré, which are also found in many other editions. This particular volume differs in that it also contains illustrations by one William Siegel. The translation is by Thomas Urquhart (a fascinating character in his own right) and Peter Anthony Motteux. What got me started in this direction were engaging essays on Urquhart and François Villon in a collection by Charles Whibley called Studies in Frankness (1912). And so as soon as I finish François Villon: A Documented Survey, by D.B. Wyndham-Lewis, I’ll move ahead one century to Rabelais; and then, from there yet another century forward, I’ll wade into the recently acquired Molière volumes. Yes, I know how fascinating this all must sound. But this is the way I go about my life.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Joseph Auslander: Cyclops’ Eye



Cyclops’ Eye

Harper & Brothers



Stated first edition, with the following privately printed note laid in: “This book is from the library of Roland and Donna Baughman. Roland joined the Huntington Library in 1924 and became Associate Curator of Rare Books. In 1927, he formed Grey Bow Press, collaborating with Gregg Anderson. In 1946, he left California to become Curator of Special Collections at Columbia University, where he remained until his death in 1967. He was considered an expert on the forgeries of Thomas Wise, discovering two additional forgeries not in Carter/Pollard’s Enquiry. He was also one of the leading authorities on L. Frank Baum, and Arthur Rackham in this country, producing landmark catalogues of their work.”


Charity of Frost

Love came to me as came to me
The cool clear meaning of your hands:
So quietly——as quietly
As water when it stands.

It cannot end as all things end,
Grow old and sicken and be lost;
Like water it will comprehend
The charity of frost.

[Page 29]


Saturday, September 1, 2012

Writ in water


Even after all these years, I feel that way when I publish a piece of writing online. Oh, it looks real enough, but when I turn away from the screen and back to my workroom full of books, some of them hundreds of years old, I swear I can hear the beating of wings.

Back home, my great-grandparents’ barn was a cathedral of light and sense and sound. I’ll never forget, as a child looking up, the fleeing of pigeons into the sunlight through holes in the roof. Little did I know, the living image of that experience would come to symbolize an act I’d repeat thousands of times as I commit poem after poem, note after note, story after story, to a world I can imagine and magically traverse, and even love, but never really see — except that I do see it, because this electronic experiment is but another facet of ourselves, our activity and yearning in another dimension.

I do not know what will become of the work I publish online. I do not know what will become of the books I have published. I do not expect ever to know. I do not try to know. I am too busy listening, and then rising to answer the call.

Do you know? Not about mine, but about your own. Do you worry? Do you care? Or do you simply let it go?

Each time I ask myself when I became a writer, I give a different answer. I was writing notes to myself and hiding them when I was ten. Once on the farm, when I was twelve, I wrote something on a small piece of scrap paper, and then tore it up and buried it. I remember it so clearly that, if it were possible for us to go there, I could show you exactly where to dig. And it would still be there. And I would be embarrassed by what it says.

When I was fifteen, I wrote a poem for my father that made him cry — my father, strong as a bull, more than two hundred pounds with hairy chest and arms, fierce, good, honest, and a proud descendant of the heroes of yore. What did that moment do to us? I have been trying to understand it ever since.

And where is that piece of writing? Like him, gone, gone, gone.

Here, too.


Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Algernon Charles Swinburne



And here we have Volumes X through XX
of The Complete Works of Algernon Charles Swinburne,
as published in 1925, 1926, and 1927
in the Bonchurch Edition,
limited to 780 sets,
of which 750
were for
sale

.







The Life of Algernon Charles Swinburne


A Bibliography in Prose and Verse of Algernon Charles Swinburne

“literary forgeries and stolen documents” — that rascal.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

One year ago today, we gave you



The White Mountain woman and her homemade ice cream.
The hummingbirds in Uncle Leo’s mustache.
The wise old oaks at Shepherd’s Point.
Apples, crows, and pancakes.
A dream about George.
A man and his son.
A life undone.
And Mary.

All

in




A Listening Thing

Tenth Anniversary
Authorized Print Edition


Paperback Original
232 pages, $18.00

[Front cover: click to enlarge]


And now, to celebrate, for one week only,
Cosmopsis Books is again offering this beautiful edition
at the special price of $14.00, plus shipping.

To order from anywhere in the world, click here
or on one of the Cosmopsis Books links in this entry.
For more about the book, click on the back cover image below.
For comments and reviews, click here.




[Back cover: click to enlarge]



~ Note ~

At this time I’d like to thank, once again, each and every one of you
who has welcomed A Listening Thing into your home.

It’s my belief that a book lives and grows (or wilts and dies) one reader at a time.
What does the future hold for Stephen Monroe? No one really knows,
but if we were to ask him, he’d probably say that the answer
is most readily found in the mirror.

In the interim, I point to the reviews and comments
his urgent acerbic-poetic narration has received,
and which are highlighted on my website.

To those new to the book who are courageous enough to take the plunge,
I say welcome.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Heroines of Fiction


The feeling of my fingers on the keys, prior to any distinct or identifiable thought, is enough to set writing in motion. The sense of touch and the urge to create are natural companions. I feel it now, and I feel it when I take up, hold, and examine these old worn volumes.





















Heroines of Fiction

First Edition, Illustrated, In Two Volumes

Harper & Brothers Publishers

1901


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Book Spine Poetry



Stone cottage — identity in crisis along the riverrun


by James Longenbach

by Alan Durant

by Richard Ellmann


In all likelihood, if not for friend and fellow blogger Jonathan Chant, I wouldn’t have seen this notice for the book spine poetry contest being held on LibraryThing. The idea is to create a poem using book spines. Since most of my books are old worn hardcovers (a form of poetry in and of itself), I thought I’d have a hard time coming up with an entry. But, as it so happens, there’s a stack of books slightly behind my desk and to my left, at about half an arm’s length, many with dust jackets. It took only five seconds or so to identify the “poem” above. All three books are part of a much larger gift of books (173 in all!) from another friend and fellow blogger, Gerry Boyd. All I have to do now is read them.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The One True Art


I love so much what I do that it has quite nearly been my undoing. In fact, I might already be undone and not know it. I call this hopeful state my apprenticeship — that prolonged period during which my foolish plans have been dashed justifiably against the rocks, leaving me shaggy and unemployable, too young to retire, too old to care or know better, and full of daring and vinegar and a healthy stock of four-letter words. Since this period began when I was about fifteen, that means I’ve been flailing now for more than forty-one years. Should I live on, who knows what the future will bring. More writing? That seems likely. Fame, money, or even a measure of financial security? I haven’t the slightest idea. I have only ever worked for an honest living — nothing else concerns me. The notion that I might be an artist, as distinguished from other walks of life, is enticing but ultimately useless to me. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Living is the one true art. The greatest contribution we can make is to better know ourselves. What we do as a result will inevitably be art, because it will spring from life’s very urge to create and rejoice in itself — the entire movement and consummation of which, is love.


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Santa Rosa Song


Two weeks later, my last entry looks like the shell of a barn in the dusk in a rear-view mirror. The blue’s gone gray and I’m miles from there.

My father used to say that as a kid on the farm during the Depression, summer seemed an eternity to him. But nowadays, perhaps due to the absence of gravity and dust, two weeks in cyberspace seems longer. Or maybe it’s the abundance of manure — our need to say something, even and especially when nothing is sure.

If childhood frames us, the myth of mine is as ripe as a star. Never lonely, yet ever alone. Searching, yes, and finding, always, the sweet melancholy of more.

Our neighbor to the north had Santa Rosa plums. There, among trunks and limbs like gnarled old men and the ancient rasp of lizards’ breath, I learned the art of sparrowsong. I know, because the little birds answered me.

Thus was I formed.

And oh, how I loved my mother’s plum jelly.