Denise Levertov’s son went to my high school–he was a year younger than I, and I remember Denise Levertov coming to speak at some event–a graduation? a festival? and being impressed by her air of brooding inaccessibility. This seems to me how she looked then. That’s when I first read O Taste and See, still one of my favorites of her books. It was a revelation to me. I had been reading Hart Crane, Wordsworth, Yeats–poems with a strong sense of rhyme and meter. Levertov’s spare, intense poems were something completely new.
She has said of the line break that it should read as “half a comma.” I love how this poem opens, seems to detour, and resolves. And this may be the only poem I know that includes vomiting and diarrhea and still remains a poem:
At Delphi I prayed
that he maintain me
in the flame of the poem Continue reading
I am lucky to have read three excellent books in a row, Monsieur Monde Vanishes, by Georges Simenon in a new translation by Jean Stewart, My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (translated by Ann Goldstein), and The Other Language, a book of stories by Francesca Marciano.
The stories in the The Other Language are sharply observed vignettes from Italy, Africa, Paris, New York. Almost all have a middle-aged female protagonist. Here are a few lines from “The Presence of Men,” about a very gentle yoga-teacher’s reaction to a husband’s affair:
“Lara stood up from the kitchen table, where they were eating a spinach and beluga lentil salad, and hurled the plate across the room. She saw the crumbled feta scatter in slow motion, then land on his shirt like snowflakes.
She detected a flash of terror in his eyes and knew that at last she’d gained some power over him. She immediately furthered the opportunity and slapped him in the face. Continue reading
I know I’ve been neglecting posts about the urban farm. This time of year is really demanding–I’ve been spending a good part of each day with the garden and chickens. The silkies have grown into puffballs, the Polish hens have both turned out to be roosters, the plants are yielding lots of produce and everything needs to be pruned, harvested, trimmed, readied for fall planting.
Here are the Silkies:
The Polish roosters, some produce.
and the various garden areas.
Chinese Foot Chart
Every part of us
alerts another part.
Press a spot in
the tender arch and
feel the scalp
twitch. We are no
match for ourselves
but our own release.
remote lock. Look,
boats of mercy
our heart at the
Thanks to Simone who showed me this poem:
Not Waving but Drowning
Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.
Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.
Making the coffee this morning, Larry picked up my new Dean Young book and said, “You know, reading a poem takes just about the right amount of time to brew a cup of coffee.” I responded that our daughter recently told me that People Magazine is designed so that the articles are can be read “in the time it takes the average person to take a dump” so that Larry’s remark was a sort of corollary.
He came back a few minutes later, coffee in hand and said, “With that logic, doctors’ offices should have copies of Foreign Affairs Quarterly.”
So starts another day back in foggy Berkeley.
Today, 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.
This 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
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:
“Philip 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
My 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.
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…”