Poets in translation

jimenezThe other day at lunch a friend and I were talking about the wealth of wonderful poems in translation. Here is one, for which we are indebted to Robert Bly:

I have a feeling that my boat
has struck, down there in the depths,
against a great thing.
And nothing
happens! Nothing….Silence….Waves….

—Nothing happens? Or has everything happened,
and are we standing now, quietly, in the new life?

Juan Ramón Jiménez
translated by Robert Bly

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Phil Woods

Optimized.philwoodIt seems to me I first heard of Phil Woods while in college. Now he’s gone, and Larry read me portions of his obituary over breakfast yesterday. According to Larry, who has seen him in person, he was a great story teller.

A story Larry told me was that Phil was playing his first paid gig at a burlesque show and at the break he felt there was something wrong with his saxophone, he wasn’t getting the sound he wanted–the mouthpiece wasn’t right, or the reed was too hard, or the action of keys wasn’t quite right. Continue reading

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Tomatoes, tomatoes

Romas, Early Girls, Heirlooms, they’re all at their peak. When I see them glistening in their red and orange and gold skins, I can’t resist them! I spent a whole day elbow deep in roasting, saucing, canning about 40 pounds of tomatoes, a lug of Romas, and about 8 pounds each of Early Girls and Heirlooms. I like to roast the Romas first with onion, garlic and basil. I spread the onion, garlic and basil on a cookie sheet, cover with Romas, and sprinkle with salt and olive oil.

readytoroastThen into the oven at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes, till the tomatoes just start tot char.  I roasted some Heirlooms, too, but sliced them into regular slices instead of halves, like the Romas. Once roasted, you can eat them on toast, blend them up up into sauce, or add other types to the mix for a more complex flavor.

One new wrinkle: I read on Serious Eats that you can peel some of your best, ripest tomatoes and dry and crush the skins to add to sauce in the winter, so I did a bunch of that, too.

Here are the results. Continue reading

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From the past

goldfarbReading through old letters I found that in 1968 I went to a reading and was impressed by the poems of Sidney Goldfarb, who was also at Harvard then and probably looked like this.

I requested a book of his from storage at UC Berkeley to see what I thought was a good poem when I was 20.I was impressed by the easy humor of this kind of poem then, so new to me. I was studying Milton, Swinburne, Tennyson. I think I might have heard this poem that night:

Moving Breakfast

I get out of bed without breaking anything
I give my daughter Cheerios and bananas for breakfast
First I let her stand on the table
Then I let her put her foot into the cereal
I look into the mirror and say, “Sidney, you’re no criminal.”
I put on a necktie because I have one
I go outside and find myself in Chicago
I say, “Boston, you faker, cut that out!”
Then I see Lake Michigan boiling up at me like a billion white birds
And clouds of soot talking to one another above the skyscrapers
So I yell up to my daughter,
“Sara! Take your foot out of the cereal, you’re in Chicago now!”
And she answers back,
“Cher-i-ooos!” Continue reading

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Who designed that sign?

frutigerWhile I was gone, Larry saved a couple of obituaries for me. My favorite was for a man I’d never heard of, Adrian Frutiger. If you’ve ever followed an airport sign at JFK or Charles deGaulle Airports, used the Paris Metro or the London Underground, you’ve seen his exceptionally readable Univers or Frutiger fonts.

Born in Switzerland, he developed more than 40 unique typefaces, including the one at the bottom of checks that can be read by both people and machines. He focused on making the type itself inconspicuous, and his innovation was the square dot over the i in signage fonts, which made it more readable at a distance.fruit 1450

Here’s a quote: Continue reading

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Making apple cider

imageThis weekend I picked apples and made cider with my granddaughter, and then found this poem, a little darker than our thoughts, which were full of the fun of the process and the delicious sweetness of the fresh cider.


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From the 16th century

In these late summer, early fall days when it hasn’t rained for months, this old verse often sings in my mind:

O western wind when wilt thou blow
That the small rain down can rain?
Christ that my love were in my arms
And I in my bed again.

Yesterday, we had a few tantalizing drops, but no rain.

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Out in the world

2015. I decided to try a new Vietnamese restaurant for lunch. It just happened to be on my route. I had one of the wonderful Vietnamese egg pancakes full of shrimp and bean sprouts on which you pile lettuce and basil and other wonderful things. My Thai Ice Tea came with a little umbrella and a maraschino cherry! Do you suppose that’s the French influence?

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In for a Pound

poundI have never posted a poem by Ezra Pound here, though he is an important figure in American poetry with a life and an impact too complex to report here. You can look him up. Here’s a little taste:

And the days are not full enough

And the days are not full enough
And the nights are not full enough
And life slips by like a field mouse
Not shaking the grass.

Ezra Pound

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Net zero

messy-closet-jpgA friend told me that she has a net zero policy when it comes to clothing purchases–for every new thing she buys, something must go: net zero. In my case, this has turned out to be pretty easy to follow. I buy most of my clothes at thrift stores because I hate spending money on clothes and because I’m always running out to the garden or chickens or cooking something, getting stains on whatever I’m wearing.

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