A Brief History of Happiness

Screenshot 2014-07-27 07.15.26Today, we’re leaving for camping, so I’m posting Monday’s poem early. This is from a book called The Mansion of Happiness, by Robin Ekiss. There are many intriguing poems in the book, but here’s one I particularly like:

A Brief History of Happiness

In the beginning, there was nothing–
xxxx or rather,
nowhere else to start.

Continue reading

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For my brilliant friend

Screenshot 2014-07-21 16.55.21This weekend I was lucky to work with two brilliant poets, and in our conversation I referred to this poem by Marie Howe. I couldn’t remember the title, and I had just lent my copy of What the Living Do to another poet friend (I’ve posted the title poem before). But today I was visiting yet another poet friend for a civilized latte and scone moment, and she lent me her copy, so I can print this wonderful poem here:

For Three Days

For three days now I’ve been trying to think of another word for gratitude
because my brother could have died and didn’t,

because for a week we stood in the intensive care unit trying not to imagine
how it would be then, afterwards.

My youngest brother, Andy, said: This is so weird. I don’t know if I’ll be
talking with John today, or buying a pair of pants for his funeral. Continue reading

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That man can write!

Larry read me an article by John le Carré in the NY Times Suday about Philip Semour Hoffman in the film “A Most Wanted Man,” a remembrance more than an obituary. It was beautifully written.  Here are a few excerpts:

20HOFFMAN-master675Philip took vivid stock of everything, all the time. It was painful and exhausting work, and probably in the end his undoing. The world was too bright for him to handle. He had to screw up his eyes or be dazzled to death. Like Chatterton, he went seven times round the moon to your one, and every time he set off, you were never sure he’d come back, which is what I believe somebody said about the German poet Hölderlin: Whenever he left the room, you were afraid you’d seen the last of him. And if that sounds like wisdom after the event, it isn’t. Philip was burning himself out before your eyes.”

It’s hard now to write with detachment about Philip’s performance as a desperate middle-aged man going amok, or the way he fashioned the arc of his character’s self-destruction…  Philip had to have that dialogue with himself, and it must have been a pretty morbid one, filled with questions like: At which point exactly do I lose all sense of moderation? Or, why do I insist on going through with this whole thing when deep down I know it can only end in tragedy? But tragedy lured Bachmann like a wrecker’s lamp, and it lured Philip, too.” Continue reading

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Houdini

milk-CanMy Hamburg hen, Houdini, gets out daily to lay her egg in the garden. I’ve checked all the places I think she could get out, and blocked them, yet she still manages to get out.

Houdinni

 

 

 

 

This morning, watching her stroll around the garden, Larry said, “Harry Houdini said he could get out of any place he could put his head through. If you look at the size of Houdini’s head…”

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From another time

Norman_DubieI’ve been taking an free online poetry course from the Iowa Writer’s workshop. I like parts of it, and because it’s at my own discretion I can ignore the the parts I don’t like. One of the speakers was talking about images. Poets hardly ever use bare similes anymore (my love is like a red, red rose), more likely to use “as” or “the way that.” But this poem by Norman Dubie (mentioned in that session) takes the simile and throws it at you in the final line like a 97-MPH fast ball over the plate–no ducking.

The Funeral

It felt like the zero in brook ice.
She was my youngest aunt, the summer before
We had stood naked
While she stiffened and giggled, letting the minnows
Nibble at her toes.  I was almost four—
That evening she took me
To the springhouse where on the scoured planks
There were rows of butter in small bricks, a mold
Like ermine on the cheese,
And cut onions to rinse the air
Of the black, sickly-sweet meats of rotting pecans.

She said butter was colored with marigolds
Plucked down by the marsh
With its tall grass and miner’s-candles. Continue reading

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Zombie spacecraft and geeks

Larry read me a full article yesterday from the NY Times about a bunch of space enthusiasts who are attempting to contact and reawaken a spacecraft abandoned by NASA 17 years ago.

ZOMBIE-master675The  International Sun-Earth Explorer-3 (ISEE-3) was launched in 1978 and used to measure solar wind. NASA “retired” this ship in 1997, and just left it out there, dismantling the transmitters that communicated with it. Now three million miles away, it’s heading back towards the Earth, and next month will pass close to our moon.

“A shoestring group of civilians headquartered in a decommissioned McDonald’s have reached out and made contact with it — a long-distance handshake that was the first step toward snaring it back into Earth’s orbit.” The team hopes to shift the course of the craft so that the pull of the moon’s gravity will sling it into orbit around the earth where it may possibly have a new mission. Continue reading

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Jamaal May

MayI have been reading, Hum, Jamaal May’s intriguing book of poems, and finding what he does with language very inspiring. He’s a great performer, too, you can hear him recite on Youtube. I think this poem works best if you don’t try to make too much sense of it as it goes along; just take the images in as they come.

How to Disappear Completely

You are quarter ghost on your mother’s side.
Your heart is a flayed peach in a bone box.
Your hair comes away in clumps like cheap fabric wet.
A reflecting pool gathers around your altar
of plywood subflooring and split wooden slats.
You are a rag doll, prone, contort,
angle and arc. Rot. Here you are Continue reading

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To order or not to order…

images-2What is seductive about Amazon, is that they have made it so very easy to order from them. From the beginning, they took the lead in smart, user friendly customer interface design. Free shipping? No problem, you and your whole family can have that for less than $100 a year. Arcane products? They carry almost everything. No more going to the store searching for something they don’t have.  And now Amazon even supports your favorite charity with fractional amounts from each purchase–their “smile” program.

Of course, the more Amazon dominates the market, the fewer stores there will be. So I feel a twinge every time I place an order. But perhaps this is just social Darwinism at work. I wonder.  I know the same concerns exist about box stores.

Maybe the world will be ok without unique retail? Or with a few specialty retail stores only? What do you think?

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Monday again

aliThis past week was the week of the poetry workshop at Squaw Valley, and here at my house, a poetry weekend following that format.  It was a wonderful weekend. I’m sure I’ll be posting something from the weekend soon–the work was exhilarating.  Meanwhile, here’s a poem from a poet who has been part of the staff at Squaw Valley in years past:

Zehra Begum

your ribs are thick ridges
but you do not eat.

your eyes are so tired
but you do not sleep.

you say you want to feel belief
but you do not pray.

Kazim, listen:

fruit out of dirt
is your proof.

folding into sleep
is the miracle. Continue reading

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And in keeping with “New Music”…

cageToday’s poem is by John Cage, who certainly would have appreciated the Solstice event at Chapel of the Chimes, and who has captured the essence of the creative process in this little poem:

When you start working
Everybody is in your studio
The Past,
Your friends,
Enemies,
The Art World,
And above all, your own ideas—
All are there.
But as you continue,
They start leaving,
One by one,
And you are left completely alone.
Then, if you are lucky, even you leave.

John Cage

 

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