Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Wish

Of all we’ve experienced and all we’ve learned, what of this year is worth bringing with us into the one ahead? This, I think: the understanding that we need only the barest of necessities that assure our safety and well being — food, shelter, companionship, solitude, love, and the freedom to discover and nurture the creative spark, in others and in ourselves. In a word, peace. The absence of any of these, for anyone, upsets the balance for everyone. Our precious energy, when spent in the pursuit of frivolous wants in the guise of pressing needs, is the same negative force we see at work daily in our schools and in our streets; it’s the very war we wage on what is foolishly termed “foreign soil,” when the truth is, there is no soil on this great wide earth that is foreign, just as there are no foreign cultures, hopes, or dreams, because they are all of us, and we are all of each other, and of the soil. Borders? Fences? They are all arbitrary — embarrassing symbols of our fear and greed. But still the world turns, and continues its patient journey around the sun — that very star which will itself one day die. And if something as ancient and powerful as the sun must turn to ash, what, then, of us? Do we sincerely believe we are more important than the sun? In each and every moment, we are, all of us, ripe and ready to fall. By the time you read this, I could be gone. My wish: may we be as nourishment for those who live, and those who come.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Canvas, notebook, marble, field

line by line, so much revealed


you accept this


December 27, 2011

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Monday, December 26, 2011

A Christmas Wish (complete)

For the fun of it yesterday morning, I posted several links to the following poem on Facebook. “A Christmas Wish” first appeared on my old website back in 2003, and was subsequently included in my book, Winter Poems (Cosmopsis Books, 2007). As fate would have it, it has been “borrowed” and republished online numerous times, in various formats, on scrolls, in frames, or in plain text. As is inevitable, some versions are complete, others aren’t. In this way, the Worldwide Web is like a giant refrigerator door or kitchen bulletin board, with messages overlapping and pinned down or held in place by advertising magnets. My opinion of the matter: the more fingerprints the better.

A Christmas Wish

What do I want for Christmas?
Nothing to buy, nothing to sell.
Family gatherings. Laughter. Music.
Multitudes of happy children, warm and fed.
An end to the current war, and to all wars.
Water in the well, food on the table.
Companionship for the lonely.
Solitude for those in search of calm.
Understanding for the prisoner.
Compassion for those who judge.
Strength for the belittled.
Comfort for the torn.

I want what everyone wants,
But believes can never happen.
Truth instead of lies.
Generosity instead of greed.
Knowledge instead of fear.
Modesty instead of arrogance.
An open heart, an open mind.
To follow Life where it leads,
With gratitude for hard times
And what they teach,
And, when good times come,
To pass them on for others to enjoy.

But if these things are too much to ask,
If I am silly or have somehow missed the point,
There is still one thing I would like to see.
A giant teddy bear for the wide-eyed world.

Friday, December 23, 2011

He Does Not Know

This year, I think I’ve been privileged to share in and witness more joy, pain, and accomplishment than any other: the birth of our second grandson back in early spring; the battles of friends with self-doubt, poverty, loneliness, mental instability, and terminal disease; the folly of selfishness and the subsequent harm to and tearing asunder of relationships; the tragedy of sudden, untimely death; new love; inspiring, triumphant works of art — and all, it seems, coming to pass in the blink of an eye, and just as soon to be swept on by the wind.

The question arises: What is a man to do, how is he to respond to such wealth? Most days, he begins by brushing his teeth and putting on his slippers or his shoes, then he continues by washing his grandson’s hands, or wiping the restless boy’s behind while Grandma makes lunch, and then he moves on to pretending he is a waterfall, made real by shimmering silvery hair. He cannot begin except at the beginning, but he also knows this is the precipice, the culmination of the entire history of the world, the result, the glory, the comedy, the reason, and the accidental, inevitable outcome of all that went before.

And then there is the night, which is his dream made visible to eyes other than his own, the phantom world where minds cross and bodies pass through walls. Affectionately, proudly, helplessly, he calls this his work.

He does not know — and perhaps this most defines him — where or if or how he fits into others’ lives, or even if such knowledge is desirable. He does not know where one thought ends and another begins, or if there is but one thought which encompasses and ultimately confounds all. He wonders if, in the next moment, he will be alive. He wonders if he will be missed or brushed aside. He remembers strange things at beautiful, inopportune times. He climbs a tree with his cousin just as someone passes the wild greens and rice — but at whose table, and in what far-off wreck of time? He considers, with humility, how he must once have been a donkey or a stone, and that he may well move on to river, bee, or hill. He says, almost without hearing himself, “I knew a man who was a wishing well.”

And what does he know? That fear and ignorance still bear thorns within his walls.

Outside, all around him, the gifts are piled high.

He recalls telling a priest once how much he enjoyed funerals, and the look of confusion on the poor man’s face when he tried to explain how people are at their best when they don’t know how to carry on. They were standing in a cemetery.

He is granted insight, and entrusted with despair. He is given help that chases darkness from his soul.

To know him, is to know yourself. But to love him, aye, that is the rub.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Found at Goodwill

Inscribed on the bottom in pencil

Given to me by
Linda & Lark
May 20th 1956
when I was in

(that long-ago Sunday, on which I was born)


Sunday, December 18, 2011



December 18, 2011

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Friday, December 16, 2011


1                           at the center of which is Man,
said the woman unto him, laughing, her symphony a breath of hands.

2   There were walls in those days:

3   The cotton patch on one side, impossible to mend; her father at the window,
plotting murder; her mother knitting sandwiches:

4   Bolls, half open, scratchy to retrieve; the failed blood of Adam,
crying out to Eve; street signs, curbs, and gutters; the restless night brigade:

5   All the milk in heaven
in one swollen pale breast; the whispering of leaves:

6   The preacher in his trundle bed; the plumber with his bottle;
the widow’s magazine:

7   Presbyterians; Methodists; Lutherans; Catholics; Baptists;
the Four Square; the two-square; dodge-ball; hopscotch; tops; jacks;
monkey bars; jump-ropes; braids; and of course the scaffold,

8   For not all spirits break.

9   She sighed:

10   The birth of fiction; as if yes were a word and the owl
had known; as if need were the beginning and not before;
as if he were wheat in the field of her palm,

11   Trembling:

12   Gently, she eased his body down:

13   She sang it down, praised it down,

14   Cloth to the loin and thorns above,

15   As if many were chosen and one were called:

16   And he cried unto her,

17                           I cherish the death that I have been given,

18   And explained in a breath how it had been prophesied by trees;
how he had carried a lamb through winding streets; how men had looked up
from their work and derided him; and how they had returned
to their dwellings and hung themselves,

19   Fattened,

20   On the spit of their own lives.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

It’s Still a Long Walk to Christmas

I’m hidden away
from holiday visitors,
egg from plates wiped clean,
crumbs up from counter
brushed with efficient palm,
frying pan still warm
and slick upon the stove,
potato peels filed away,
scent of navel orange,
morning paper rearranged
according to topics best ignored.

Outside, rain. Parking lots.
Bell-ringers. Car exhaust. Distant hills.
Stubbled fields. Muddy heels.
We need a dozen eggs. Bags of tea.
Remember marmalade? Local honey.
Oatmeal — mush! the winter chill.
Behold, my empty wallet.

It’s still a long walk to Christmas.
A thousand strangers yet to greet.
A thousand sorrows line the street.
A thousand angels with ragged wings.
A thousand voices softly sing.
Hark the herald, something something.
Upturned faces. Outstretched arms.
Hands held warm around the world.

[From Winter Poems, Cosmopsis Books, 2007]

Note: Through the end of the year, all three of my Cosmopsis titles are available at a 10% discount. Use the following coupon code in your Cosmopsis Bookstore shopping cart: H7E99

Here are the store links:

A Listening Thing (Novel, Tenth Anniversary Authorized Print Edition)
Winter Poems (Poetry)

Thank you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Worldwide Benefactors

What worldwide benefactors these “imprudent” men are! How prudently most men creep into nameless graves; while now and then one or two forget themselves into immortality.

Wendell Phillips, from Speech on Lovejoy

Note: “Wendell Phillips” is the last entry in Volume 7 of Elbert Hubbard’s Little Journeys.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Winter Song

Which mark, which line, which scar,
which dream would you remove?

Winter Song

December 11, 2011

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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Samvel Mkrtchyan: Ulysses in Armenian Translation

What spectacle confronted them when they, first the host, then the guest, emerged silently, doubly dark, from obscurity by a passage from the rere of the house into the penumbra of the garden?

The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit . . . .

I will go to my grave, no doubt, grateful for Joyce’s Ulysses and Finnegans Wake. I won’t say I understand them in any conventional, ordinary sense. In the presence of language of this depth, grace, and magnitude, I seek neither Reason nor reason: I listen with my life, and in my bones. Scholars have their approach. I have mine. In my mind, the books are as much music as they are literature. I embrace them as I embrace the symphonies of Beethoven.

I feel the same way about the Armenian language, which I’ve heard spoken throughout my life and have yet to master; which I taught myself to read when I was in my twenties; and which has always, in ways subtle, apparent, and obscure, informed my own writing, to the extent that what I write naturally lends itself to translation. I know this for a fact, having worked directly with Samvel Mkrtchyan, who has translated my work along with that of Faulkner, Eliot, Shakespeare, Saroyan, and now Joyce.

In terms of Ulysses, especially, I am staggered by his accomplishment. In giving this masterpiece of English literature to his native land, Mkrtchyan has also contributed immeasurably to world literature. His translation of Ulysses — a labor of many years, replete with notes, illustrations, and photographs, beautifully designed by his own hand — is truly a gift for the ages. When I think of the toil, the long nights spent with aching neck and bones, the restlessness, patience, and defiance that are part and parcel of such a task, I return to my own small life inspired and renewed.

It is, of course, logical to ask if and how I will read this book. Of the if we will quickly dispense: books live through their readers; it is my joy and responsibility to respond. And of the how: aloud, from cover to cover, in a voice that tells of my own memories and trials, almost but not quite laughing to the end.


Translated into Armenian
with a foreword and notes

“Translation of the unabridged republication
of the original Shakespeare and Company edition,
published in Paris by Sylvia Beach, 1922”

ISBN: 978-9939-53-778-8

Yerevan, Armenia


735 pages

Chronology. Forty-eight Color Plates. Pictorial Appendix. 

Monday, December 5, 2011


The power of religion on the mind,
in retirement, affliction,
and at the approach of death;
exemplified in the testimonies and experience
of persons distinguished
by their greatness, learning, or virtue.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Old man, look at my life

I’ve mentioned, of course, the nice holiday discount available on all three of my Cosmopsis Books titles: A Listening Thing; Winter Poems; and Another Song I Know. To take advantage of the offer through the end of the year, simply apply this code during checkout: H7E99. When you do, 10% will be subtracted from your total purchase.

Meanwhile, another tempting offer has come to my attention. Lulu, which handles the printing and fulfillment of my Author’s Press Series, is offering a 25% discount on the print editions of all three volumes: The Painting of You; No Time to Cut My Hair; and One Hand Clapping. This offer, which is limited to $50 in savings, is good through December 14. During checkout, you will need to apply this code: BUYMYBOOK305.

The books do come highly recommended. For comments and links to reviews, visit the Cosmopsis Books and Author’s Press Series pages of my website.

Image: Detail from an untitled painting by Glen Ragsdale (1955-1974), front cover, The Painting of You

Friday, December 2, 2011

December Sunrise

As if dawn were the print of a thumb

December 2, 2011

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Are intelligence and wisdom two different things?
I don’t know. Ask the heart.

And what of knowledge?

Is it a black cat on a moonless night,
or the visible part of a mountain?

Think long; think low;
for deep were the eyes of Maud Rudell.†

Hillsborough,1881-1900. With thanks to Robert Willson.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011


A star for a mouth? Can you imagine the vast regions beyond?
And why Correggio, if not for the sound from your tongue?


November 29, 2011

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Monday, November 28, 2011

So Much Like Now

When you find this grave in the ragged ground,
remember me to Winter.

So much like now, it was cold the day I died:
cold when a carriage rattled by,
cold in bright Missouri,
cold in Kansas and Ohio,
cold on the shores of Maine,
cold in Carolina,
cold in Wyoming and Montana,
cold upon the plain,
cold behind the woodshed,
cold inside the barn,
cold in the bright-red schoolhouse,
cold in the white-washed church,
cold in the corner store,
cold on the warehouse floor,
cold in the mines and mills,
cold on the water, cold in the factories,
cold on the rails, cold in the hills.

So much like now, it was cold the day I died:
cold in my bones,
cold inside my collar,
cold in my lungs and fingers,
cold inside my skull,
cold on the marble stone,
cold where good men
walked and talked
and smoked and listened,
cold where liars cheated
and thieves spat upon the ground,
cold at noon and in the star-filled evening,
cold where laughter waited
and grew old in the dance,
cold upon the cross,
cold at the gates of Hell,
cold when the lot was drawn,
cold when my name was called.

So much like now, it was cold the day I died:
cold but not unforgiven,
cold with beauty unrelenting,
cold with magic all around.

[From Winter Poems, Cosmopsis Books, 2007]

Note: Through the end of the year, all three of my Cosmopsis titles are available at a 10% discount. Use the following coupon code in your Cosmopsis Bookstore shopping cart: H7E99

Here are the store links:

A Listening Thing (Novel, Tenth Anniversary Authorized Print Edition)
Winter Poems (Poetry)

And here are links to some thoughtful reviews:

A Listening Thing, by Paul L. Martin

by Russ Allison Loar

And for a few of the shorter comments filed by readers here and on Facebook,
visit the Cosmopsis Books page on my website.

Thank you!

Friday, November 25, 2011


We call them monitors, screens, pads, devices. But somewhere deep inside, we know they are nothing more than old cave walls.

Dream Face

November 25, 2011

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Chosen Ones

If we cannot love everything and everyone,
can we, truly, love anything or anyone?

In choosing whom or what we love (if such choice were possible),
do we not proclaim that our judgment is larger than life itself?

Is not that choice an illusion?

If we love only what we think we love, are we not, then,
defining love and placing on it certain limitations?

Would it not be better to be defined by love,
than to try to define it?

Are we so small in our uncertainty and fear that we must love
only that which pleases us, or which we think reflects well on us,
or which loves us in return? If so, how can we call that love?

It is a grave error we make in thinking that anything exists
outside of love.

Can you, in your deepest thought and contemplation,
say which part of you loves and which does not?

If you say the mind loves, or the heart loves,
or that love is harbored in various glands and organs,
what, then, of the rest of you? Are parts of you worthy
or unworthy of love? Is love necessary to one part,
but not to another?

Is love a condition that changes with history,
time, and weather?

And what of the insane?
Are we love’s orphans, love’s abandoned step-children?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ask yourself

I, too, could take sides and share pictures of the violence. But being superior to no one and inferior to no one, I look at my own heart and behavior instead, and see the victim and perpetrator there. I also see a tragic, beautiful thing called the human race, traveling through space, one part galaxy, another part rock — dust, flesh, and sun combined. Whom shall I despise? Those who pull the trigger, or those who teach their children that there will always be guns in the world? Those who steal in large amounts, or those who steal in small? To be fair, would I not have to despise everyone, including myself? When was the last time you left food on your plate; took advantage of someone; were inattentive or cruel to loved ones or friends; accepted pay for less than your best work? Ask yourself. If you do, you will understand the repetitive cycle of human events. You will recognize yourself in those who are in positions of wealth and power, and in the whores and panhandlers it is so convenient to shun. No, I will not take sides. Because there is only one. It is either we or none.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

For better or worse

It would be a strange biography indeed,
in which we could not find or see ourselves.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Occupy Yourself

As we drift toward the holiday season — or are dragged kicking and screaming — it seems only right to announce a money-saving opportunity you might be interested in. Through the end of the year, Cosmopsis Books is offering a 10% discount on purchases store-wide. This makes the beautifully printed edition of my novel, A Listening Thing, even more of a bargain. It also means that my two poetry volumes, Winter Poems and Another Song I Know, are more affordable than they’ve ever been. Buy one, buy two, or buy all three — either way, you can’t go wrong. I’m proud of these books and stand behind them. They are also gift-worthy in every sense, so these might be just right for the readers among your family and friends. Or, simply treat yourself. I think you’ll be glad you did.

To take advantage of the discount, use the following coupon code in your Cosmopsis Bookstore shopping cart: H7E99

Here are the store links again:

And here are links to some thoughtful reviews:

A Listening Thing, by Paul L. Martin

And for a few of the shorter comments filed by readers here and on Facebook,
visit the Cosmopsis Books page on my website.

Thank you!

Friday, November 18, 2011


To know not if, when, or where it’s been,
and almost glimpse its passing


November 18, 2011

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Thursday, November 17, 2011


As happens with dreams,
I’ve lost the part between the peaceful place
where two roads crossed and soft horizon beckoned all around,
and being chased by a whale along sheer cliffs.

When I awoke, I was treading air made wet
by the whale’s breath — saved at four a.m. by the sound
of rain against the window.

I’ve been up reading ever since.

At the crossroads, my youngest son was there.

This house could be a ship.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011



November 16, 2011, 5:30 a.m.

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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

In Lieu of Content

For the time being, at least, a grainy black-and-white version of a photograph I posted here serves as a background for these entries. The change necessitated a few other minor adjustments, and perhaps one or two more are needed, although dynamite is another possibility.

Leopold Staff: Foundations

I built on the sand
And it tumbled down,
I built on a rock
And it tumbled down.
Now when I build, I shall begin
With the smoke from the chimney.

We gather insight and take our inspiration as we go. I’m no different. A lovely poem like this one crosses my path, written by a man who died the year after I was born. I make no notes, jot down no reminders to investigate further. Quite possibly I will remember: his name; that he was Polish; his modernist connection. But I won’t be able to tell you what a modernist is, or a Pole for that matter. In my mind he is another man who lived, and who tried to make sense of that experience through words. Later, if I happen on his name in a used bookstore, if I find it, perhaps, in a musty old anthology, I will take that as my cue to renew my appreciation. And I will remember once again that he was born in the same year as the poet Carl Sandburg, and the widely unknown farmer who was my mother’s father, that steady man who chopped kindling, ever wary of his hernia.

Monday, November 14, 2011

What I Know

I am not a man of knowledge. What I know is what finds me, not what I pursue. I’m organized in my work — more so, I’d wager, than most. And yet I have no systematic way of learning. In school I was a poor student. But my time there wasn’t wasted, because it was given over entirely to observation. The subjects of that observation included myself, through all kinds of foolishness and mental weather; indeed, I was present even when I tried most not to be, when oblivion called and darkness rimmed my soul. For I was the source of that darkness, just as I am the recipient of what little light I know. I am a dim lamp in a dark room; a candle burning down; and yet the candle smiles, consumed and warmed by what it knows.

What I know will not die with me; what will die will be my way of knowing it, my funny way of arriving at the truth. These lines you read and books I write, if they do survive, will be evidence that I tried. They will show how far I was willing to go, and the limits I placed on my own honesty — my self-made shackles and chains, if you will. And it’s but the rattle of those chains that you hear now. To listen well is to love the silence when I set them down. To love well is to recognize your own.

Image: Illustration from Dostoevsky’s The Idiot, by Fritz Eichenberg.

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Loneliness is not in being alone, for then ministering spirits
come to soothe and bless — loneliness is to endure
the presence of one who does not understand.

From Little Journeys, Vol. 3, by Elbert Hubbard,
on the mother of Alexander Hamilton

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Like everything I write and draw, I, too, am open to interpretation. And like you, I can only imagine, and can never quite be certain, what it is, if anything, that I withhold. And therein lies our strength and bond, which is not undone, even in its passing. Even if they remain unspoken, the disasters in our lives, the trials and despair, are all revealed in one way or another. If I say I love you, it is because I have already known love and lost everything, like so much grain in my hand to the wind. And if I share in your joy, it is because joy, too, is my teacher and companion.


November 12, 2011

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Friday, November 11, 2011

A Bright Sun-Shiny Day

Armen Karaoghlanian and William Michaelian

I really like this picture. It was taken here earlier this year on the sixteenth day of August, when I had the good fortune to meet Armen and his lovely girlfriend, Mary, who was kind enough to record the moment. Armen and I have been in touch for quite some time. We met online over a short story of mine called “I Feel Like I’m Falling.” A director with heart and a keen eye for detail, Armen plans to make a film based on the piece.

In addition to his film work, Armen also writes for Yerevan Magazine, where he’s in charge of “From the Vault,” a new cinema series in which he discusses Armenian films and filmmakers, and focuses on forgotten gems and classics.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Good Hands

Florian C.A. Czech

A special thanks to Florian Czech for sharing this photo. Florian is the winner of our recent drawing for Copy #100 of my novel, A Listening Thing. As you can see, the book arrived safely and is in good hands in its new home in Austria.

For those of you who aren’t acquainted with Florian, I heartily recommend that you visit his blog, where he shows off many of his wonderful photographs. Fisch is a recent favorite of mine, but I urge you to spend some time in his archive, and in the various departments listed near the top of his page.

Thank you, Florian!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


All the little things — I love
how they break and throw off sparks.

I was a sower once; in my pouch,
there were ten thousand suns.

In those days, I was man
and woman both.

I am still. Hold me
to the light.

Turn me gently
in your palm.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Three Poems and War

Something I will be thinking about today: my poems “Almanac” and “Traveler” alongside “In Time of ‘The Breaking of Nations’” by Thomas Hardy, placed in context with a letter by Giacomo Conserva.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

While Dynasties Pass

With thanks to Giacomo Conserva


I’m beginning to think
like this jade plant in the mist

a jeweled leaf for each
passing kingdom.

From Songs and Letters, November 16, 2008

Friday, November 4, 2011


In life he asked for bread; when dead they gave him a costly pile of stone.

From Little Journeys, Vol. 1, by Elbert Hubbard,
on visiting Kensal Green Cemetery, London

Thursday, November 3, 2011


Yesterday afternoon
I put our garden space to bed.

One rake, one shovel, and half a yard
of damp, composted dairy manure.

Sweat on my neck and arms,
back, chest, legs, brow.

Leaves from the neighbor’s dogwood tree
in my hair and beard.

Today, I am ready for anything.

Even the death
of fear.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Poet Making Scrambled Eggs

A poet making scrambled eggs
imagines chickens scratching in the yard,
warm sun upon a never-painted fence,
an old dog napping on the porch
stoically resigned to all its fleas.

He feels the breeze on his arms
as he wields his axe behind the barn
with an angry rooster looking on.

By the time the frying pan is warm,
a poet making scrambled eggs
has scattered grain on barren ground
and chopped a pile of good dry kindling.

When he beats the eggs inside a bowl,
he hears church bells ringing — looks up,
half-expects to see his great-grandfather
sitting at the table in somber Sunday clothes.

A poet making scrambled eggs
picks up a lump of cheese and sees
a meadow and a stream beyond the farm,
sad willows bending down to shield
young love’s embrace with modest hands.

When he lifts his meal from the pan,
a poet making scrambled eggs
no longer knows his name or cares.

Instead, he wonders at the years
that led him here, the folly and the pain,
and the food that tastes so good.

[From Songs and Letters, February 26, 2006]

She Intrudes

A new chapbook from Ed

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Daily Miracle

Before I announce the winner of our drawing for Copy #100 of A Listening Thing, I would like to share, with thanks, a beautiful comment left by Joseph Hutchison on an entry by Vassilis Zambaras that I’m sure many of you will remember:

William’s book is hard to describe, isn’t it? Reading it is like looking into a springtime brook: the impression is of clarity, motion, depth and reflection, with many layers of sound (a poet’s prose) — such that one looks up from the page with that pleasant sense of disorientation we get when we look up from the flowing water and try to take in the trees on the opposite bank. I like that because it reminds me that the whole Earth is flying on under our feet: the daily miracle. How does William/Stephen do it? On the one hand, I wish I knew; on the other, I don’t care to know. It’s enough that his book refreshes the healing pleasures of being and feeling alive.

Frankly, despite this generous characterization and others like it, I was surprised that so many people entered the drawing for a free signed copy of my novel. We’ve all been through it: what we offer, while important to us, often passes without comment, leaving us to wonder at its worth. It might well happen with this post. That’s why, anymore, when I entrust something to cyberspace, I simply let it go as if it were a baby bird or butterfly. I’ve done my best; now it’s time for it to fly or fail on its own.

Briefly, the statistics: twenty-nine people entered their names in the drawing; of that number, sixteen are readers new to the book; thirteen have already purchased one or more copies and have read, or are still reading, or are about to read, the words of our embattled-but-not-embittered Everyman, Stephen Monroe.

Also, since I announced the drawing more than a week ago, one more copy has been sold. This means that there are, at the moment, forty-nine copies left of the numbered first printing — something to think about, perhaps, especially as the holiday season approaches.

And now, live from the Used Book Room
at the fabulous Michaelian Club,
here are the names in my hat:

And here, after mixing and stirring and closing my eyes,
is the name of our winner:

Congratulations, Florian!
We’ll make the arrangements, and your signed copy will be in the mail soon!

In the meantime, my thanks to each and every one of you who entered the drawing and made it such a wonderful experience. I wish you all could have won!

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Book of Lamenting

On the back of every tongue in my family
there is a dove that lives and dies.”

The Book of Lamenting
by Lory Bedikian

Levine Prize in Poetry 2010

92 pages

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Songs from Robert Burns

If you should choose
to read the thots from out
this book think not of its
weight in terms of silver,
nor of gold, but rather,
in terms of Friendship,
with its words
breathing sweet
emanations of the heart
more subtle than a
summer breeze
at eventide.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Gardening Leave

Whether the writing is short, long, or in between, I’m inspired each time a reader feels compelled to say something about his or her experience with A Listening Thing. And so, in thanking Jonathan Chant, who writes thoughtfully in his new blog of a “wise and generous novel,” I’m also thanking everyone — readers, writers, thinkers, dreamers — for I see at work here an ongoing cumulative process as steady and reassuring as the changing seasons. The book grows with each mind it passes through and each observation of it that is made, and I change right along with it. Without a doubt, I’m a richer, better person for having met and listened to so many talented, spirited souls.

I’ve been following Jonathan’s blog since he started it on the seventh day of October this year. I think it’s time you joined me. This quiet, modest voice from “across the pond” speaks from a wealth of memory and experience:

My Grandfather as a boy walking through a wood with his father, walking out to see what they’ve killed. England between the wars. The wood is near Dorchester and Thomas Hardy has not long been dead. What time of year is this? I don’t know, but I keep seeing leaves. A carpet of dead leaves. Black leaves. Leather boots churning the leaves. My Great-Grandfather – Granfer – wearing his weskit over his collar-less white shirt. Their eyes scanning the ground looking for traps. Traps that they had planted. Iron teeth to catch a rabbit. But instead, something else, lying in the leaves....

Thank you, Jonathan.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

An Experiment in Public Art

The following is from my Notebook, dated August 2008. Gosh — I was sure funny back then.

Before he stepped into the shower a moment ago, my youngest son and I briefly continued a discussion that we began last night at the supper table. My idea — inspired by Jethro Tull’s Aqualung, the artwork for that album, and composer Ian Anderson’s stage antics — is to declare myself public art.

In the first phase of the experiment, I would sit on a park bench downtown in the lovely area near the State Capitol, with a little sign that says, simply, “Sitting on a park bench.” That would, in effect, be my title. In the second phase of the experiment, I would play a flute while standing in the gutter — the gutter being symbolic of how low I’ve sunk, as an artist and especially as a human being, the flute being my frantic attempt at appeasing randomly imagined gods (odd, considering I don’t play the flute). My eyes, of course, would be rolled back in my head so that only the whites show, symbolizing the long inward gaze of introspection, Zen, karma, ancient forms of plant life, the birth and death of planets, galaxies, and stars, shame, bad hygiene, etc., etc. The title of this piece would be Thick as a Brick.

Now, it should be mentioned that the police in Salem are a little skeptical of such experiments, as even young people strumming guitars on city sidewalks are viewed with suspicion and often asked to “move along,” as if the tempo of their aspirations were somehow lagging behind that of the rest of the citizenry. My son has experienced this himself, despite the general interest and approval of passersby, mothers and their little children included, some of whom have gone so far as to drop quarters, dollar bills, and baked goods in his open guitar case to show their appreciation.

And therein lies the problem. One of the most sacred, straightforward acts — the earning of honest money by working at something someone loves — is not welcome on city streets. Somehow, it is deemed to interfere with the legalized theft that goes on behind the doors of so many venerable businesses and institutions, which are themselves leech-like and rotten to the core.

For instance, let us say that I, sans flute and with all due gravity, were to recite on a busy street corner two of Walt Whitman’s best known, most loved poems about Abraham Lincoln, “O Captain! My Captain!” and “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d.” And let us say I were to do so in such a profoundly moving way that several people gathered and a few even gave me money. How would this be received by business owners in the immediate area and the police?

In this Whitman phase of the experiment, I would, perhaps, need to be handled with slightly more care — told more politely, in other words, to “move along,” or possibly even
asked to do so. And if that happened, it would be a victory for artists everywhere: the day one of our number was asked instead of told, or, as the government really prefers, ignored altogether.

Then again, what if no one realized I was reciting Whitman? A distinct possibility, I’m afraid.

There are, of course, other ways to function as public art. I might slowly walk the streets of the downtown district with a sign that says “Poet,” or “Writer,” or “Human Being.” Or one that bears this thought-provoking message: “Instead of war . . .”

Note: The drawing for a free signed copy of my novel, A Listening Thing, is open through October 31. Don’t be shy — if you’d like to enter, all you have to do is leave a comment on that post or on my Facebook page. Good luck!