Thursday, November 15, 2012

Water (Sea and River)

Currently reading, "Sea and Fog" by Etel Adnan. This made me think of Roni Horn, and her series "Some Thames," repeating photographs of that river. Both are slippery, but sparkling. Adnan's poetry strikes watery, beautiful notes over and over again:
Sea, made of instants chained. Where to shelter impermanence 
within its defenses? A threat, for sure. What about the permanent
affinity between light and mind, both a processing machine, of
particles, of thoughts? p. 12
Impermanence, floating. Like how the body is weightless in water. Or that instant when an elevator jumps, and you are momentarily suspended in the air. Adnan continues:
Death drove fast through a black forest. Signs pointed to disaster.  
 Destiny behaved soft, terrified. Waves got transformed into
 decapitated gelatinous bodies. In the shallows, temperatures fell.
 Growths are curtailing the daylight. Despair is running free. p. 13
In an interview here Roni Horn says, "Some people live in a virtual, in a headspace; I don't. I like to keep my feet in moving water."She also says, "The Thames is the urban river with the highest appeal to foreign suiciders."

Monday, April 9, 2012

3 Poems, for 3 Days

Alas, the experiment was doomed to failure, of course. Missed the last two days. So, here we have 3 poems for 3 days. Three imposing women poets, presented in reverse alphabetical order.

OMENS by Louise Glück

I rode to meet you: dreams
like living beings swarmed around me
and the moon on my right side
followed me, burning.

I rode back: everything changed.
My soul in love was sad
and the moon on my left side
trailed me without hope.

To such endless impressions
we poets give ourselves absolutely,
making, in silence, omen of mere event,
until the world reflects the deepest needs of the soul.

after Alexander Pushkin

* * * * * * * * * * 


It is February. Ice is general. One notices different degrees of ice.
Its colours -- blue white brown greyblack silver -- vary.
Some ice has core bits of gravel or shadows inside. 
Some is smooth as a flank, you cannot stand on it.
Standing on it the wind goes thin, to shreds.
All we wished for, shreds.
The little ones cannot stand on it.
Not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, can stand.
Blindingly -- what came through the world there -- burns.
It is February. Ice is general. One notices different degrees of ice.

* * * * * * * * * *

SCUMBLE by Rae Armantrout 

What if I were turned on by seemingly innocent words
such as "scumble," "pinky," or "extrapolate?"

What if I maneuvered conversation in the hope that 
others would pronounce these words? 

Perhaps the excitement would come from the way the 
other person touched them lightly and carelessly with 
his tongue.

What if "of" were such a hot button?

"Scumble of bushes."

What if there were a hidden pleasure
in calling one thing
by another's name?

Friday, April 6, 2012

Day/Poem #6: T.S. Eliot

Of course, I would love to give you all a little taste of The Waste Land. But also, of course, that would be much too much and much too long, here at this time. Maybe towards the end of the month...?! So, instead, another piece by Eliot, this one much shorter but just as well written, and still one of my favorites. How could I post poems for Poetry Month without including something by Eliot?


As she laughed I was aware of becoming involved in her
laughter and being part of it, until her teeth were only 
accidental stars with a talent for squad-drill. I was drawn in
by short gasps, inhaled at each momentary recovery, lost
finally in the dark caverns of her throat, bruised by the ripple
of unseen muscles. An elderly waiter with trembling hands
was hurriedly spreading a pink and white checked cloth over
the rusty green iron table, saying: "If the lady and gentleman
wish to take their tea in the garden, if the lady and 
gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden..." I decided 
that if the shaking of her breasts could be stopped, some of
the fragments of the afternoon might be collected, and I 
concentrated my attention with careful subtlety to this end. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Day/Poem #5: The Waters of Marah

Excerpts from SOUTH LONDON MIX By David Miller, from his collection "The Waters of Marah," first published in 2003. Prose poems. And why not? I especially love his use of color.

There are rooms,
rooms leading to further rooms,
joined together
like an endless road.
You could lose yourself
in these interiors...

I sit with a woman
in a room at night.
We talk
about poetry. As the night progresses
the room darkens about us,
the air cools. Inside:
there are windows and pianos.
Outside: distances manifest themselves
in roads like black tape
interrupted by the occurrence of ponds.

I am haunted by the absence of meetings. - Meetings made impossible by deaths - such as those of Godfrey Miller and Roy de Maistre. Or the cessation of meetings, either by ruptured friendship, by the intervention of distance, or again by death. There are interiorsI will never sit in, and interiors I will never know again.
Aeolian harp, or chimes of some sort (as we had in the room I first slept in, for a few weeks, in South London), that the wind sounds when a window is open.

Imagine the exterior of a house as being sensitive as someone's skin.

The "outside" penetrates what's "inside", if not physically, then in one's sense of a human environment.

What I am saying is obvious. And essential.


String unwound from her mouth. Or clouds. Floating out.
Drinking. Cups. Blue Smoke.
And earth; and light:


Kitchen door open
to the possibility of rain.
Walking out into the garden,
the house open to this possibility,
I think of concepts, abstract
paintings, soundings of a pond.
I think of death. The luminous
edge of life/death - the oblique -
appears more readily, at times,
at times of rain. The house
takes on other colours.


The task is not even to get a sense of mystery into commonplace things again. I think the job is to reassert the value (and value is not mysterious exactly, nor magical, but intangible), of ordinary things. And in doing so, find the place where tangible and intangible meet, and concrete and abstract do likewise.

Again, about simple things: someone once said that a certain line in a poem of min, 'Briar-Cup', was very beautiful. The line was: Birds flew over the river.


Between black and white, and colour - or rather black and white at the beginning of change, - or would it be the other way, that the colours were at the penultimate stage of disappearing? - It was neither (or both), the image suggesting tints which never quite became evident, mainly a red washed out to a sharp faintness.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Day/Poem #4: One of my favorites

OK, so all of the poems I'm going to post here are some of my favorites -- or else I wouldn't be posting them. But, this is one I return to again and again. I picked up Richard Siken's first book of poetry when I was browsing Kramerbooks, in Dupont Circle, Washington DC a number of years ago. His collection, "Crush," won the Yale Series of Younger Poets prize in 2004. This excerpt strikes me every single time.


     The blond boy in the red trunks is holding your head underwater
because he is trying to kill you,
               and you deserve it, you do, and you know this,
     because you wanted to touch his hands and lips and this means
                                                         your life is over anyway.
                      You're in the eighth grade. You know these things.
     You know how to ride a dirt bike, and you know how to do
               long division,
and you know that a boy who likes boys is a dead boy, unless
                                    he keeps his mouth shut, which is what you
                                                                                 didn't do,
     because you are weak and hollow and it doesn't matter anymore.


Go check out the whole poem!

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Day/Poem #3: A Child Said

As I said yesterday, I think that translators, especially of poetry, are an incredible breed. To be able to balance the literal meaning of words with the overall feeling of a poem is really incredible. That being said, here is a poem in French. "A Child Says," by Raymond Queneau, captures the best moments of poetry.

Un enfant a dit
je sais des poèmes
un enfant a dit
chsais des poésies

Un enfant a dit

mon coeur est plein d'elles
un enfant a dit
par coeur ça suffit

Un enfant a dit
ils en savent des choses 

un enfant a dit 

et tout par écrit

Si l'poète pouvait
s'enfuir à tir-d'aile 
les enfants voudraient 
partir avec lui

Raymond Queneau

Monday, April 2, 2012

#2: St. Petersburg, Repeating

I attended the Summer Literary Seminars, in St. Petersburg, Russia, for two years. This was, unfortunately, a few years ago now, but I always think about those times and about going back. I loved Petersburg; the darkness, the mystery, something about the culture and not speaking the language. I fell in love with the work of Mandelstam at that time. I also feel that one is usually most attached to the first translation of the work she reads, and, even though it's not the original writing, treats that reading as the most significant. I first read Mandelstam's poems in translation by Clarence Brown and W.S. Merwin. This poem has followed me since I visited Petersburg, and reminds me of the time I spend there and the people I spent that time with.


We shall meet again, in Petersburg,
as though we had buried the sun there,
and then we shall pronounce for the first time
the blessed word with no meaning.
In the Soviet night, in the velvet dark,
in the black velvet Void, the loved eyes
of blessed women are still singing,
flowers are blooming that will never die.

The capital hunches like a wild cat,
a patrol is stationed on the bridge,
a single car rushes past in the dark,
snarling, hooting like a cuckoo.
For this night I need no pass.
I'm not afraid of the sentries.
I will pray in the Soviet night
for the blessed word with no meaning.

A rustling, as in a theater,
and a girl suddenly crying out,
and the arms of Cypris are weighed down
with roses that will never fall.
For something to do we warm ourselves at a bonfire,
maybe the ages will die away
and the loved hands of blessed women
will brush the light ashes together.

Somewhere audiences of red flowers exist,
and the fat sofas of the loges,
and a clockwork officer
looking down on the world.
Never mind if our candles go out
in the velvet, in the black Void. The bowed shoulders
of the blessed women are still singing.
You'll never notice the night's sun.

- Osip Mandelstam, tr. Clarence Brown and W.S. Merwin