Saturday, March 15, 2003

Flying revision's flag
via the Academy of American Poets --

The poet Donald Hall (b. 1928) on the need for poets to take second, third, and even eighty-third looks, at their work. On the inauthenticity of spontaneity. On revising into the direction of truth.

Most poets don't revise enough. Most poems that I see--in the mail and in print--have not been gone over thoroughly enough, and include dead metaphors and redundancies and other errors that ought to expose themselves to the inquiring or depressive intellect. I've said it before: You should stare at a poem long enough so that you have one hundred reasons for using every comma, one hundred reasons for every linebreak, one hundred reasons for every and and or. Reasons include rhythm, the emphasis that rhythm bestows, consonants and vowels, and the mouth-joy or dance-movement that enforces a line or activates the metaphorical workings of the brain. Reasons can be visual, how the poem looks on the page; reasons can be semantic or formal or the two together. The point is: Try to be every bit as conscious as you can possibly be.
What she said
when she found out I hadn't yet seen Amélie

"Oh, you have to see it! You hella hella do."
Wishes, Lies, and Dreams : Teaching Children to Write Poetry
from the "Lies" section

I am in New York in a cow's head.
I am still in New York in a cow's head.
I am still in New York in a cow's head.
Now I'm in New York in a flower.
I'm now in New York in a cow's head.
Now I'm in Spain taking a bath.
Now I'm in Spain taking a bath tub.
Now I'm in New England eating my friend in the bathroom.
Now I'm still in the bathroom eating my friend but I'm on a cow.
Now I'm in New York in a cow's head.

Marion Mackles, 4th grade


I am grass as green as can be.
I am in a tree on a leaf.
I am in New York on a flying blueberry.
Mud is pretty.
Rain is ugly.
I am on a vine.
I am snow.
I am snow in Spain.
I am rain in Spain.
I am the sun in Spain.
I am a cloud in Spain
I am in Spain
I am Spain

Marion Mackles, 4th grade


from the "I Used to/But Now" section

Last Time and This Time

When I was a baby I had no pets.
Now I have three pets.
When I was a baby I couldn't swim, I couldn't even play.
When I was a baby I wore baby clothes but little clothes.
And now I wear big clothes like size 12½.
When I was a baby I went to bed early.
And now I go to bed at 10:00 in the night.
When I was a baby my mother and father loved me,
But now love and hate me sometimes.
I just like both? Do you? I just like both.
When I was a baby I looked so pretty,
But now just forget me.
When I was a baby I couldn't play,
I couldn't play because somebody might get hurt and you know who.
But now I am strong, and I am glad I am me. Are you? I'm just glad.

Tomas Torres, 4th grade


Kenneth Koch & the students of PS 61, op. cit. (Vintage, 1971), MM poems p. 193, TT poem p. 170
via dappled & flos

I'm exceptionally artistic!

Find your soul type

Apostasy of Love

When I wrote "Apostasy," it was December of 1985. The first draft had thirty lines. I was still at 43 Merritt St., in the small cozy quiet room with the purple carpet and the scenic back alley. Plenty of Smiths cassettes. Plenty of John Irving novels. And I had Dylan Thomas and those Oscar Williams anthologies as boon companions. I was learning how to make stanzas, iambic and aggressive, sinewy and lush, like a slam-dance collision between Baudelaire and Hopkins. It was the first of my two senior years. I wrote it on math paper, those big yellow-beige pads of perishable stuff. The ode was immortal. I had never been older than sixteen, at least, not to that point. I was ignorant of Strunk & White, but did well enough without them. Zac Beaulac was my friendly archrival. I liked "Original Sin" by INXS. I had no pets. The Breakfast Club was a quotidian obligation -- well, perhaps that was months before. I couldn't be persuaded to read Persuasion. (Thought of re-trying Trollope recently!) I wonder what Gillian thought of the poem. I gave the world a cup of explicit lilacs, and this in December, just before Christmas. I hadn't yet met Heather. (Or maybe I had! But we hadn't yet become best friends.) I recited "Be My Girl, Sally" with J. Chan in the crowded cafeteria. And the stars of Hamilton were far in the future. I wasn't going to church. I was seeing French movies with Lewis, who was to become a physicist, a word I can scarcely type. And Jim was only 23, and not yet a teacher. Seamus Heaney, who had signed my copy of Station Island the previous spring, was still a decade away from his Nobel. I wouldn't touch the Beats with a yardstick. I idolized Rimbaud, but that was on the wane. I met Michelle the following September. She was pregnant then. We don't talk anymore. I carried The Colossus in my pocket, even to weddings. Certainly, I had read a little Robert Lowell -- The Dolphin, most likely. Still rode the ten-speed to Winthrop and back. Bragdon still existed. At least, that's what he called himself. Sam existed, too (he was Mr. D back then -- an evangelist of addenda Catullana, the parts too racy, too earthy, too alive for the textbook). Deb existed, but I didn't know her yet (She was twelve! And she'll be thirty in the summer!). The Harvard Book Store certainly existed (with its capacious basement full of paperback classics bon marché), as did Reading International and the Caffè Avventura. Always there was pizza before Newbury Comics -- Zac and Ben added Mountain Dew, which I thought strange. Mr. Willoughby was still making puns as an English teacher at Number 78. That's an aloe plant. Speak to it. Say "aloe!" Tall fellow, conservative, Catholic, impeccable wit. Didn't like gay books, but didn't hector. Would gently admonish : "I don't think André Gide's the most salubrious reading." Hated La Nausée for being so damn depressing. He liked Eliot, Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Debussy, jazz, and atrocious puns. May he rest in peace. The Celtics still had the Big Three (Bird, Parish, McHale), plus Dennis Johnson and Danny Ainge. Ronald Reagan was president. Michael Dukakis was governor. Ray Flynn was mayor, and only halfway through his first term. The Pope was 65. Venus was five, Serena was four. The world was a wee bit younger than it is today. I have to find that poem. Where did I put it?

Friday, March 14, 2003

And they call this an Irish movie list?
via O'Rama

The USCCB recommends ... these films for 3/17.

Where, for St Patrick's sake, is The Nephew (1998), with Hill Harper, Donal McCann, Aislin McGuckin, Sinead Cusack, and Pierce Brosnan???? Where, where, said Mrs O'Hare??
Don't tell anyone I said so

Let's just keep this between you, me and the venetian blinds, but listening to Stevie Nicks sing is a sensation much like violating the innocence of a box of Brillo pads.

And when you combine that with the iconically luminous, inefffably splendid (NOT!!!) Tom Petty in "Stop Dragging My Heart Around," you have what I believe is a foretaste of veriest hell.
by Theodore Roethke (1908-1963)

I think the dead are tender. Shall we kiss? --
My lady laughs, delighting in what is.
If she but sighs, a bird puts out its tongue.
She makes space lonely with a lovely song.
She lilts a low soft language, and I hear
Down long sea-chambers of the inner ear.

We sing together; we sing mouth to mouth.
The garden is a river flowing south.
She cried out loud the soul's own secret joy;
She dances, and the ground bears her away.
She knows the speech of light, and makes it plain
A lively thing can come to life again.

I feel her presence in the common day,
In that slow dark that widens every eye.
She moves as water moves, and comes to me,
Stayed by what was, and pulled by what would be.

from The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke (Anchor Books, 1975), p. 124
And more poetry

at Flos Carmeli, poems which Mr Riddle describes as inchoate, but in which this reader finds considerable splendor and magnitude.

The last two or three days, especially. Just start with the most recent posts & scroll down. Don't miss the excerpt of 31 Poems for 31 Days.
Wishes, Lies, and Dreams : Teaching Children to Write Poetry

Run Appalosa Run!

The plants are the shadow of the Jolly Green Giant
Mr. Koch is a very well-dressed poetry book walking around in shining shoes.

Tara Housman, 4th grade


The light is a seagull
Mrs. Wiener is a pretzel she is worth two cents
The dog is a door opening and closing
The book is a written reindeer
The yellow letter is a moon

Anthony Gomes, 4th grade


Blank is a Blank

The snow is a snowflake.
The blue sky is an ocean.
The blackboard is a black notebook.
An apple is a red rose.
A bat is a big fat stick.
Mrs. Wiener is a lovely flower which shouts.

Tomas Torres, 4th grade


I used to be a fish
But now I am a nurse
I used to read My City
But now I am up to Round the Corner
I used to be as silly as David
But now I am sillier than David

Andrea Dockery, 1st grade


Kenneth Koch & the students of PS 61, op. cit. (Vintage, 1971), pp. 144-5, 156.
and oh the harvard book store

was good to me yesterday. They took a quartet of books off my hands (Ferlinghetti, Lamott [I apostatize from the state religion on Bird by Bird], a New Jerusalem Bible [dreadful translation, esp. the Psalms], & an underinspiring book called "Praying with the Church") & gave me $8.20 credit, so I browsed for books & came up with these three, that cost me only $3.35 more than my credit.

-- The Metaphysical Poets (ed. Dame Helen Gardner, Penguin Classics)

-- The Pocket Book of Modern Verse, ed. Oscar Williams, 3rd rev. ed. by Hyman Sobiloff (1972). I used to have the 50s version -- also bought at Hvd Bk Store -- but the 70s version has (in addition to just about everybody from Walt Whitman to Dylan Thomas) a lot of the 60s folks : Dugan, Logan, Creeley, Bly, Ginsberg, O'Hara, and an excerpt from a mammoth whimsical colorful poem called "Faces" by Kenneth Koch! -- a finer book that the earlier editions, livelier, more capacious. Begins with the Dong with a Luminous Nose.

And last but greatestly :

-- 84, Charing Cross Road by Helene Hanff. Saw the film 16 years ago & many times since. Borrowed the book from the lye-berry a few times. But now I own it, under circumstances (bookbartering! a famous old New England custom!) that must please miss hanff's ghost.

You might be seeing excerpts of 84 hereabouts. Yes, in addition to the Wishes, Lies & Dreams, and the promised-but-not-proffered Anselm of Canterbury, and the dylanpoems, and the kitchen sink.

Thursday, March 13, 2003


Ah, used bookstores! Quite the trio I found today. Trio of books, that is, not of stores.

And so to bed, to read them, by the light of the bedside lamp ... buona notte a tutti !!
Sam Pepys gives us a chuckle

The recentest entry begins in this wise :

This day the wench rose at two in the morning to wash, and my wife and I lay talking a great while.

And from March 10th, this delightful sentence :

He went with me to my office, whither also Mr. Madge comes half foxed and played the fool upon the violin that made me weary.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

A swan of bees
continuing with Kenneth Koch's Wishes, Lies, and Dreams : Teaching Children to Write Poetry

A chapter in WL&D is called "A Swan of Bees." Koch got the idea from a third-grade poem which mentioned a swarm of bees, but spelled it "a swan of bees." And so he had the kids imagine if one thing were made of something else : a window of ice, a teacher of freckles, a blackboard of nightmares, a pencil of lightning, and so on.

Sort of the same idea that goes behind the group-names for animals : An exaltation of larks, a kindle of kittens, a convocation of eagles, a grunt of dylans ...

Here are two of the students' poems :

I Would Like To Have

I would like to have a door of hearts
I would like to have a room of roses
I would like to have a window of flowers
I would like to have a book of stripes
I would like to have a desk of red strawberries
I would like to have a boat of kittens
I would like to have a surfboard of daisies
I would like to have a pocketful of bows
I would like to have a pillow full of air
I would like to have a brush full of spots
I would like to have a name full of designs
I would like to have a tree full of money.

Ilona Baburka, 3rd grade


Strange Things

A blackboard of moons
A window of kisses
A flag of boxes
A swimming pool of doorknobs
A shirt made of tulips
A heart of squares
A teacher made of hearts
A man made out of balloons
A girl made out of popcorn
A boat made out of clocks
A girl made out of kittens.

Jeannie Turner, 3rd grade


I'm thinking we could do this, for fun. Come up with about six or seven of these combinations, and put them in the comment box. Make them outlandish, ironic, apt, musical, whimsical -- and yes, add colors if you like.

A quibble of pebbles
A generosity of thieves
A calculation of skeptics
An ebullience of Drew Barrymores
A magnificence of deep blue sleepers
A hustle of charlatans
An intimacy of whisperings
A spool of buttons
A syrup of homilies
A perfection of bishops
A wrinkle of senators
A brace of barmaids
A divinity of troubadours

For the Cherub Cat is a term of the Angel Tiger

Eve Tushnet gives us Kit Smart's tribute to his cat Jeoffry.
millisecond epic

'twixt sky and snow
flies the delicate knife
of a bluejay

ceci-cela surréaliste

1. Married or single?
2. Knit or crochet?
3. Homebody or world traveller?
4. Star Search or American Idol?
5. Dancing or karaoke?
6. Elvis Presley or Elvis Costello?
7. Bus or train?
8. Batman or Superman?
9. Chocolate or vanilla?
10. Which came first...the chicken or the egg?

1. Single
2. Crotchety. Darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there. What does he care?
3. Worldbody home-travel.
4. Star Search & Billy Idol.
5. Karaoke.
6. Every day. Every day. Every day. Every day I write the book.
7. Train.
8. Regis!
9. Hoodsies.
10. Paramecium! Big paramecium! All over the place.
your name

your name
is a white

a bright

the sleeping


your name
is a psalm

is a warm

is a dark



is coronation
and consolation


your name
is a silent

singing canticles
of tumultuous


Tuesday, March 11, 2003


Added links to a bunch of silly and solemn, serious and surreal, comic and tragic, experimental and old-fashioned, radical and reactionary, rhymed and unrhymed, versed and unversed poems in the left margin. Am thinking of adding links to the famous poetry found here, but ere long I'll have links to every post in the blog! Oh, well, maybe a few.

Hope every one had a good day. I think I did. Am too tired to know at the moment.
Cal Ripken

Have to put something here today. Can't leave a day blank. Wouldn't be right.

Wouldn't be prudent. Break my streak.

Monday, March 10, 2003

And the rocks melt wi' the sun

My love is a purple snowflake that's newly tumbled in January, earthward from the æther;

My love is a timorous groundhog that blesses its own shadow in the flinchings of February;

My love is a sun-porch, homey and embracing, blazing with glacial light in the middle of March;

My love is a boon, an unexpected windfall, my true love embodies the spendless treasures of April;

My love is a mint julep, a winning wager, a blue blossom with yellow streaks, a silver sky with tracks of teal, in most adventurous Maytime;

My love is a splendid saint, a candid apparition, a white-robed roisín dubh in the secret places of June;

My love is a forest of fireworks (out-bursting politely : drastically glowing) in the luminous night skies of July;

My love is an unexpected cool spell, a Saint Lawrence autumn, arriving timely in August;

My love is the impatience of scholars, the vehemence of evangelists, the sharp first frost in the suburbs of September;

My love is a scientist (not unlike a scientist), circumambulating the cloistergarth of a ruddy blushing October;

My love is a bastion of withered foliage, a glorious cadence, a crisp epigram, a blind and desperate bluster in November;

And as for December -- well, what of it? Take your bewitching solstices, and your bright red-green eternities. And add a spark-and-a-half of miracle and glory. Plus hope, plus faith. And laughter for good measure.

She's the thirteenth month of the year, with a billion birthdays of grace, every minute, every second, every sleeping millisecond, every lively wakeful thousand dreaming hours.
by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

I have reached, alas, the long shadow
and short day of whitening hills
when color is lost in the grass.
My longing, all the same, keeps green
it is so hooked in the hard stone
that speaks and hears like a woman.

In that same way this new woman
stands as cold as snow in shadow,
less touched than if she had been stone
by the sweet time that warms the hills
and brings them back from white to green,
dressing them in flowers and grass.

Who, when she wreathes her hair with grass,
thinks of any other woman?
The golden waves so mix with green
that Love himself seeks its shadow
that has me fixed between small hills
more strongly than cemented stone.

More potent than a precious stone,
her beauty wounds, and healing grass
cannot help; across plains and hills
I fled this radiant woman.
From her light I found no shadow
of mountain, wall, or living green.

I have seen her pass, dressed in green,
and thought the sight would make a stone
love, as I, even her shadow.
And I have walked with her on grass,
speaking like a lovesick woman,
enclosed within the highest hills.

But streams will flow back to their hills
before this branch, sappy and green,
catches fire (as does a woman)
from me, who would bed down on stone
and gladly for his food crop grass
just to see her gown cast shadow.

The heavy shadow cast by hills
this woman's light can change to green,
as one might hide a stone in grass.

(trans. James Schuyler)
Article on the rosary

by Carol Zaleski, writing in Christian Century. Link spotted chez Serafin.
Anselm of Canterbury
from "Prayer to St Mary (1)" -- when the mind is weighed down with heaviness

Mary, holy Mary,
among the holy ones the most holy after God.
Mother with virginity to be wondered at,
Virgin with fertility to be cherished,
you bore the Son of the most High,
and brought forth the Saviour of the lost human race.
Lady, shining before all others with such sanctity,
pre-eminent with such dignity,
it is very sure that you are not least in power and in honour.
Life-bearer, mother of salvation,
shrine of goodness and mercy,
I long to come before you in my misery,
sick with the sickness of vice,
in pain from the wounds of crimes,
putrid with the ulcers of sin.
However near I am to death, I reach out to you,
and I long to ask that by your powerful merits
and your loving prayers,
you will deign to heal me.
Good Lady,
a huge dullness is between you and me,
so that I am scarcely aware of the extent of my sickness.
I am so filthy and stinking
that I am afraid you will turn your merciful face from me.
So I look to you to convert me,
but I am held back by despair,
and even my lips are shut against prayer.

The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm with the Proslogion, trans. with intro. by Sister Benedicta Ward, SLG (Penguin Classics, 1986), p. 107
Thomas Carew

When we began, we were convinced
Of literature's innocence.

Lord Herbert of Cherbury

When we adored these vestiges, we knew great joy.

Caught between

Rules, the ebony star.

Spenser, or Spender

Philomel's brink, the setting of façades.


Sailing alone above around about. How these sloops, these sleeps, meander.


Fourteenth anniversary of a single sestina.

Marginalia, or the words you use should be your own

A sarabande the wind mowed on the mead.
The missing diaeresis

Zoë found it.
Ah, yes!

The archbishop. Due back in the library on Thursday. And fifty-odd, sixty-odd pages to go.

Good night, all.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Spent the 10 to 11 hour

watching a show that started promising and turned rancid. I need mouthwash for the mind, to get the taste of the last ten minutes out. And to add insult (almost typed "inslut") to injury, there was a wonderfully correct message about the death penalty. And of course, the timeworn device of the criminal who's done a lot of bad stuff, but just might be innocent of the one thing that got him a date with the lethal-injection gurney. The coda of the show was a ten-minute rap video, which made my heart rejoice.

But now I'm awake, and rather fully awake, whereas at 9.30 or so, I was more than half asleep.
Memoranda to self

1. Add that Herbert index to the Poetry & Culture part of Places Oft. (Okay, did that. Now what about the Plath page?)

2. Start the Anselm of Canterbury tomorrow !! (Hm. Maybe not. Can't decide what, or how much, to excerpt.)

3. Climb Mount Everest. (Nah.)

4. What about the haiku?

5. Ah, forget about the haiku. (A haiku-writing contest, with first line given, might be fun.)

6. Hope those captions keep coming. (Haloscan, mon amour !!)

7. Remember, man, that thou art dust; and unto dust shalt thou return.

Wishes, Lies, and Dreams : Teaching Children to Write Poetry

My dress is as pink as a rose
The color red is like blood
The zoo is like Africa
The light is as bright as a star
Cecilia's socks are as bright as a sun shining

Magaly Rotgers, 5th grade


Venice reminds me of a model of an ant hill.

The eraser is like a dusty old book.

A glass reminds me of the Atlantic Ocean.

Roberto Marcilla, 6th grade


The letter Z is like a moon, almost gone.

Ruth Cobrinik, 6th grade


The Things I Hear in the City

I hear traffic
I hear the Bronx bridge
When I ride on it
I hear cats go mew
I hear yelling.

Andrea Dockery, 1st grade


a cat goes mewmew mewmew

Valerie Chassé, 1st grade


I hear the car go honk-honk.
The dog went to the hog and said you little dog and the hog said you are a dog not me.
I hear the people go quark-quark.
I hear the drum go bum-bum.
I hear the piano go be-be.
I hear the mice go squeak-squeak.
The cat sat on the mat and the cat said meor-meor.
I heard a bird go go-go.
The Monkees sound like donkeys.

Ruby Johnson, 4th grade


Kenneth Koch and the students of PS 61, NYC, op. cit. (Vintage, 1971), pp. 100-113, passim

These poems, from the two sections entitled "Comparisons" and "Noises."

Worth noting : When he read poetry to the children, he didn't read "children's poetry." He read Walt Whitman, William Carlos Williams ("This is just to say" and "Between walls" among others), Dylan Thomas, Wallace Stevens (the "Bantams in Pine-woods" poem) and García Lorca in Spanish and in English!

He did compile another book of children's poems, which take direct inspiration from the famous poets of the past and of modernity, called Rose, where did you get that red? in which he juxtaposed the students' poems with the classics by which they were inspired. When one thinks of elementary and middle-school students reading Thomas Carew, William Blake, and the other poets mentioned above !!
Raymond Arroyo on Mel Gibson's Passion

In opinionjournal. Link spotted at Fructus Ventris.
February 37th

Winter has been bitchy of late, vexing the insomniac with its dolorous crooning, afflicting the pedestrian with its lachrymific sting, at almost all hours of the day. Or more than all. Twenty-five eight.

The snowdrifts, what's left of them, appeal to the imagiste bailiff to extend freezing temperatures through April, or May, or next May.

And just the other day, the wee sleekit shivering daystar was bouncing up and down in the heavens, just to keep itself warm.

It's 600 degrees below the IQ of a Belgian waffle. The spiral-bound notebooks require fuel assistance. The flatlanders pay steep heating bills, as do the barnacles on their uncozy pierstakes.

"It's been one hell of a season, I tell you," said the oldtimer in red flannel, hashing it out with the greenhorn in plaid. He sipped steam from from his coffee, or what passes for coffee in this epoch, and groaned, impervious, or at best, hemidemisemipervious, to the particulars of God's great plan. "But spring impends, you hear me? And when it comes, you don't want to be caught unawares, nodding off, asleep at the wheel, woolgathering or even lintgathering, twiddling your clichés -- in short, less than fully prepared. Best take the miscellanies out of the toolshed, just in case."

The shepherd's calendar (not to be confused with the goatherd's calendar) turns its prosaic faccia bella toward the abbreviated breviary. In between the celebrity gossip, the radio intones "...falling through the teens." Just the way we like it. The tobogganing this year has been splendid, even uphill.
Ah, second-hand bookstores !!

Found the Ashbery book mentioned below ... and also (a drumroll might be fitting) ...

... the Penguin Classics edition of The Prayers and Meditations of Saint Anselm [of Canterbury], with the Proslogion, translated and with an introduction by Benedicta Ward, SLG. This volume, three dollars! Huzzah!

Might, someday soon, begin excerpting some of the prayers at this page.

Today might be surrealist poetry day.

As opposed to, you know, all the previous days that weren't surrealist poetry days.
John Ashbery

Sailboat of the Luxembourg! Vibrations of crisp mornings ripple ever closer, the joiner joins, the ostler ostles, the seducer seduces, nor stirs far from his crimson hammock. Delphic squibs caparison the bleak afternoon and the critics love it ...

from "Theme Park Days" in Chinese Whispers (FSG, 2002), p. 9