Tuesday, March 31, 2015

We Don't Need No Stinkin' Drawing Rooms


A partial list of writers I have enjoyed reading would include: Anne Carson, Elizabeth Bishop, Zora Neale Hurston, Virginia Woolf, Mary Shelley, Willa Cather, Maxine Kumin, Toni Morrison, Emily Dickinson, Anne Tyler, Annie Dillard, Rita Mae Brown, Terri Jenkins-Brady, Lisel Mueller, Gertrude Stein.

But right now I’m thinking about Galway Kinnell.  His tour de force poem, “The Bear,” I read at least once a year.  (Spoiler alert:  I love tours de force. Yes, I want to marry one.) 

My library is a cleanroom containing only tours de force.  Pollutants in the form of effete strains such as “Four o’clock found her in the drawing-room.” (Edith Wharton) or “When, shortly afterwards, in this lady’s vast drawing-room…” (Henry James) have been filtered out. Tours de force; we don’t need no stinkin’ drawing rooms.

As a poet, Galway Kinnell was a beast.  But he could also do the delicate work; he saw clearly and wrote clean, sweet, fine lines:  hummingbirds he described as “…those tiny, irascible,/nectar-addicted puritans…” Or, a different bird, “…think of the wren/and how little flesh is needed to make a song.” Like listening through a straw. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Random Shakespeare: Youth's Proud Livery


Youth’s proud livery
Treasure of lusty days
Not from the stars do I my judgment pluck
Summer’s lease hath all too short a date
My love shall in my verse ever live young.
Actor on the stage
With too much rage
The painter, and
The frame wherein
All the all of me
A man in hue, all hues in his controlling,
To play the watchman ever
To age’s sleepy night
The edge should blunter be than appetite.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Real McCoys




The posts from now until the new book drops in May will be—in old anthropology lingo--participant observation, with me as the participant observing this crazy little thing called life. And I’ll go meta---I’ll write about writing, directly and through analogy; for example, I take and I juxtapose something such as the sculptor Anthony Caro talking about combining pieces of metal to create a work of art, comparing the process to using notes in composing music:  “Just as a succession of these make up a melody or a sonata, so I take anonymous units and try to make them cohere in an open way into a sculptural whole.” And then I compare that process to my writing, the random words and phrases in my pieces being the same as the “notes” and the “anonymous units” in Caro’s statement.  Voila!  Writing about writing.

But to kick things off, here are excerpts and quotes from, and about, a random group of artists, writers, and religious leaders, people I call The Real McCoys.  So put your hands together for:  Helen Frankenthaler, Emily Dickinson, Fernando Pessoa, W.H. Auden, Mary Baker Eddy, Jesus Christ, Sonny Greer, Robert Olson, Virginia Woolf, Geoffrey Chaucer, Jane Austen, Gertrude Stein, William Blake and Samuel Beckett. 


Helen Frankenthaler

A really good picture looks as if it's happened at once.


Emily Dickinson

A route of evanescence
With a revolving wheel;
A resonance of emerald,
A rush of cochineal;
And every blossom on the bush
Adjusts its tumbled head,---
The mail from Tunis, probably,
An easy morning’s ride.


Fernando Pessoa

The ports with their unmoving ships,
Intensely unmoving ships,
And small boats close by, waiting…


W.H. Auden

Far off like floating seeds the ships
Diverge on urgent voluntary errands,
And this full view
Indeed may enter
And move in memory as now these clouds do,
That pass the harbor mirror
And all the summer through the water saunter.


Mary Baker Eddy

And o'er earth's troubled, angry sea
I see Christ walk,
And come to me, and tenderly,
Divinely talk.


Sonny Greer

Cast your bread upon the waters and it comes back buttered toast.


Charles Olson

INTERVIEWER:  Why have you chosen poetry as a medium of artistic creation?
OLSON:  I think I made a hell of a mistake.


Virginia Woolf

[Chaucer], it seems, has some art by which the most ordinary words and the simplest feelings when laid side by side make each other shine.

[Jane Austen], too, in her modest, everyday prose, chose the dangerous art where one slip means death…She stimulates us to supply what is not there…something that expands iin the reader’s mind and endows with the most enduring form of life scenes which are outwardly trivial.


Gertrude Stein

A tree is not lonesome just because its leaves aren’t bright.


William Blake

  • The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.
  • You never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough.
  • Exuberance is Beauty.


Samuel Beckett

I never considered the loss of consciousness that great a loss.