What you can do with a poem

I somehow encountered a time warp this week, and Monday is long past. Even Tuesday, and here it is Wednesday, and despite being fully “retired” I have not had the moment to sit down and put up a poem for Monday.  Time simply telescoped and disappeared.

iliadBut I have been reading a rather wonderful recreation of An Iliad by Alessandro Baricco, translated by the incomparable Anna Goldstein. Baricco had the idea of reading the entire Iliad in public, as it was done in the Homeric world. He adapted the poem for public reading, editing “to suit the patience of a modern audience.” His notes on this process are a poem in themselves, and the result was performed in fall 2004. He comments:

“For the record I’d like to say that more than ten thousand (paying) people were present at the two readings, and that Italian radio broadcast the Rome performance live, to the great satisfaction of drivers on the road and people at home. Numerous cases were confirmed of people who sat in their parked cars for hours, unwilling to turn off the radio. All right, perhaps they were sick of their families, but, anyway, this is just to say that it went very well.”

Here’s the opening, titled Chryseis: Continue reading

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Rivalry

I read Larry a line from this review of The Art of Rivalry, a study of influences a group of modernist painters had on each other: “Lucien Freud declining a wedding invitation because he found himself ‘in the unusual position of having been involved sexually not only with the bride but also the groom and the groom’s mother.'” Larry’s response:

“At least he didn’t mention the family pets.”

Posted in Stuff Larry Sez | Tagged , | Leave a comment

George Oppen

oppenGeorge Oppen is a poet who seems to have faded from view. But his sensibility is intriguing.  His focus was on simplicity–using language to point to the experience as opposed to itself. Here’s a snippet:

Pedestrian

What generations could have dreamed
This grandchild of shopping streets, her eyes

In the buyer’s light, the store lights
Brighter than the lighthouses, brighter than moonrise

From the salt harbor so rich
So bright her city

In a soil of pavement, a mesh of wires where she walks
In the new winter among enormous buildings.

George Oppen

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Discoveries

2016-08-15 07.32.59The other day I made fig jam–one of my all time favorites.

But in trying to speed up the process, I scorched the bottom of my enamel pot. I scrubbed and scrubbed, but couldn’t get the fine layer of burnt jam off the bottom. I gave up and set the pot out in the sun to dry. When I went to take it in, all the scorch had lifted from the enamel and was easy to brush off. Who knew?

In other news, I stopped at a little mom and pop (mostly mom it seemed) diner the other morning for a quick bite and saw in action this wonderful pancake batter dispenser. If I made pancakes more often, I’d definitely get one.

IMG_2925

IMG_2926

Posted in Inventions and tools | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Molly Peacock

I had a chance to look at a book of poems by Molly Peacock in a friend’s library. This one reminded me of a moment when i saw my parents sharing an apricot, by far my tenderest and most intimate memory of them:

peachCouple Sharing a Peach

It’s not the first time
we’ve bitten into a peach.
But now at the same time
it splits–half for each.
Our “then” is inside its “now,”
its halved pit unfleshed–

what was refreshed.
Two happinesses unfold
from one joy, folioed.
In a hotel room
our moment lies
with its ode inside,
a red tinge,
with a hinge.

Molly Peacock

Continue reading

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The art of the short poem

Does anyone do it better than this?

avocadoMarried

I came back from the funeral and crawled
around the apartment, crying hard,
searching for my wife’s hair.
For two months got them from the drain,
from the vacuum cleaner, under the refrigerator,
and off the clothes in the closet.
But after other Japanese women came,
there was no way to be sure which were
hers, and I stopped. A year later,
repotting Michiko’s avocado, I find
a long black hair tangled in the dirt.

Jack Gilbert

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Meal in Winter

winter

This extraordinary little book is told as if a memoir, in very straightforward, matter-or-fact prose, which makes it all the more chilling. It is translated from the French by Sam Taylor. The basic plot concerns three German soldiers who no longer want to shoot Jews. They go to the commander, who is “a reservist like we were”:

“We explained to him that we would rather do the hunting than the shootings. We told him we didn’t like the shootings: that doing it made us feel bad at the time and gave us bad dreams at night. When we woke in the morning, we felt down as soon as we started thinking about it…” Continue reading

Posted in Prose | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Olds’ Odes

If you’ve never heard Sharon Olds read, this is a good example:

or this, a poem I woke up thinking about this morning:

patz24n-5-webThe Missing Boy

(for Etan Patz)

Every time we take the bus
my son sees the picture of the missing boy.
He looks at it like a mirror–the dark
blond hair, the pale skin,
the blue eyes, the electric-blue sneakers with
slashes of jagged gold. But of course that
kid is little, only six and a half, Continue reading

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Yesterday a friend was talking about gimmicks in poetry–and here is an example she gave. The gimmick is or world seen through the eyes of a Martian. Gimmick itself is a pretty good word…

A Martian Sends a Postcard Home

Caxtons are mechanical birds with many wings
and some are treasured for their markings –

they cause the eyes to melt
or the body to shriek without pain.

I have never seen one fly, but
sometimes they perch on the hand.

Mist is when the sky is tired of flight
and rests its soft machine on ground:

then the world is dim and bookish
like engravings under tissue paper.

Rain is when the earth is television.
It has the property of making colours darker.

Model T is a room with the lock inside –
a key is turned to free the world

for movement, so quick there is a film
to watch for anything missed.

But time is tied to the wrist
or kept in a box, ticking with impatience.

In homes, a haunted apparatus sleeps,
that snores when you pick it up.

If the ghost cries, they carry it
to their lips and soothe it to sleep

with sounds. And yet, they wake it up
deliberately, by tickling with a finger.

Only the young are allowed to suffer
openly. Adults go to a punishment room

with water but nothing to eat.
They lock the door and suffer the noises

alone. No one is exempt
and everyone’s pain has a different smell.

At night, when all the colours die,
they hide in pairs

and read about themselves –
in colour, with their eyelids shut.

Craig Raine

Continue reading

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Summer recipe

Optimized-2016-07-12 18.35.54This recipe makes a soup that is like a bowlful of summer.

I adapted it from one of my favorite cookbooks, Annie Somerville’s Field of Greens. She has you make a vegetarian stock with the corn cobs (adding a potato, some celery, garlic, salt and parsley), which I do if I’m having vegetarians for dinner. But I just cook the corn cobs in a light chicken broth if I’m making it for omnivores, and it works fine. Also, she runs the soup through a food mill. I’ve never had the patience to do that, and it tastes great without. But if you want a satin smooth base, you can do that.

This recipe makes enough for about eight people. It’s yummy and keeps well. But you can easily halve it and have plenty for four. It takes about an hour from start to finish, about half of it “active time” as they say in the world of cookbooks.

Summer Corn and Red Pepper Soup

5 C light chicken stock or water (see below)
1 1/2 T unsalted butter
1 T olive oil
12 medium or 10 large ears of corn (to make 7 Cups of kernels)
2 large or 3 medium red peppers (about 2 1/2 cups, chopped)
1 giant leek or a big white or onion (about 2 cups chopped)
4 large or 8 small garlic cloves
Salt and cayenne or other pepper, toasted ground cumin, green pepper powder
fresh basil Continue reading

Posted in Recipes | Tagged , , | Leave a comment