Anyone who writes can appreciate this

from an interview with Troy Jollimore, poet and philosopher:

What lessons were most important to you as a student of writing?

I think what I most needed to learn was that the fact that I sometimes, indeed often, wrote things that weren’t very good and that did not mean that I wasn’t a good writer. I had this illusion, I think many people have it, that when you’re a good writer you have a kind of golden pen, your first drafts are wonderful, there is no struggle; the mark of genius is apparent in everything you produce. Which of course is insane! Your favorite writer, no matter who they are, produces lousy first drafts. And lousy second drafts. And slightly less lousy third drafts. Continue reading

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When Larry notices the garden

you know it has to be spectacular. Mostly, he doesn’t pay any attention to it except to ask for a handful of herbs or spinach. Right now, though, after the rainy winter and a few weeks of sun, it is so dazzling that it can’t be ignored.


 

 

 

 

 

The camera on the iPhone really doesn’t do it justice. Walking out in the morning is a glimpse of paradise. This poem comes to mind:

God’s Grandure

The world is charged with the grandeur of God.
xxIt will flame out, like shining from shook foil;
xxIt gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil
Crushed. Why do men then now not reck his rod?
Generations have trod, have trod, have trod;
xxAnd all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil;
xxAnd wears man’s smudge and shares man’s smell: the soil
Is bare now, nor can foot feel, being shod.
Continue reading

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Poems at Mill Valley Library

Last week the Marin Poetry Center cosponsored an event called “Stump the Laureate,” at which volunteers from the audience recited poems, and Dana Gioia, the California poet laureate, alternated with the audience, poem for poem. The idea was to keep going until we or he ran out of poems. But I don’t think he would have run out for a very long time. It was such fun, with many voices and many poems. Dana was going t6o recite sort of chronologically,  but wound up often echoing a poem by the same author or time period as the reciter who preceded him. Pretty nice trick!

Here’s a lovely poem by Edna St. Vincent Millay that was part of the recitation.  We all agreed she is undervalued.

 Love Is Not All

Love is not all: it is not meat nor drink
Nor slumber nor a roof against the rain;
Nor yet a floating spar to men that sink
And rise and sink and rise and sink again;
Love can not fill the thickened lung with breath,
Nor clean the blood, nor set the fractured bone;
Yet many a man is making friends with death
Even as I speak, for lack of love alone.
It well may be that in a difficult hour,
Pinned down by pain and moaning for release,
Or nagged by want past resolution’s power,
I might be driven to sell your love for peace,
Or trade the memory of this night for food.
It well may be. I do not think I would.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Continue reading

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Larry and the P40

When he was a boy, Larry lived near a vacant lot with an the chassis of an old P40 airplane that he and the other boys played on, pretending to be pilots, fighting enemies. He grew up near Camp Pendleton in southern California, and war myths were part of his boyhood. Continue reading

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Shade

It’s been a really long time since I had an invention to post, but this week, with the return of the sun came the return of my shade problem.  We have a deck with a great view. Lovely to sit out on a sunny day. But it’s hard to get shade that moves with the sun. I’ve tried several umbrellas, tilting ones, straight ones, ones with overhanging arms, Coolaroo shade triangles, sheets with bungee cords that I adjust during the day, but nothing really did the job of shading the table and chairs without blocking the  view. The sun comes from too many different angles. What works best is just a standard umbrella in a stand that I move around. But the stand is so heavy.

Then I had the brilliant idea of putting the stand on a wheeled plant stand that was just sitting around. This way, I can wheel the umbrella around the deck to follow the sun. Continue reading

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One from Szymborska

When we were in Krakow two years ago, we went to an exhibit at the National Museum called “Szymborska’s Drawer.” It was a recreation of the home office of the Polish poet, Wislawa Szymborska. It had her desk, her yellow typewriter, her bookcase, her postcard collection, many strange and delightful artifacts. You can see some photos here.

Born in 1923, Szymborska lived through the upheavals of central Europe, the invasion by Germany, control by the Soviets, constant political change and public hardship.

He poems are mostly deceptively simple and intensely moving,  as this one.

Children of Our Age

We are children of our age,
it’s a political age.

All day long, all through the night,
all affairs—yours, ours, theirs—
are political affairs.

Whether you like it or not,
your genes have a political past,
your skin, a political cast,
your eyes, a political slant.

Whatever you say reverberates,
whatever you don’t say speaks for itself.
So either way you’re talking politics.

Even when you take to the woods,
you’re taking political steps
on political grounds.

Apolitical poems are also political,
and above us shines a moon
no longer purely lunar.
To be or not to be, that is the question.
and though it troubles the digestion
it’s a question, as always, of politics.

To acquire a political meaning
you don’t even have to be human.
Raw material will do,
or protein feed, or crude oil,

or a conference table whose shape
was quarreled over for months:
Should we arbitrate life and death
at a round table or a square one.

Meanwhile, people perished,
animals died,
houses burned,
and the fields ran wild
just as in times immemorial
and less political.

Wislawa Szymborska
translated by Stanisław Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh

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Monday Poem

I’ve mentioned the Poem-a-Day from the Academy of American Poets before. Last week, I saw one by Mark Wunderlich that I liked. I didn’t know his work, so read further and found this one, my favorite of the ones on the site, which he graciously allowed me to reprint here:

The Son I’ll Never Have

The son I’ll never have is crossing the lawn. He is lying on an
imaginary bed,

the coverlet pulled up over his knees—knees I don’t dare describe.

I recoil from imagining him as meat and bone, as a mind

and hands stroking the fur of his pet rabbit.

I never gave him the accordion I used to play, my mother and I Continue reading

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Beauty

April is the cruelest month, but also, ironically?, poetry month. In any case every night this week has a poetry event I’m attending.

So far the highlight has been a spectacular reading at the North Berkeley Library by B.H. Fairchild. Fairchild has crafted narrative poems from his childhood in Texas and Kansas. He is the son of a machine shop owner, and the poems manage to capture and elevate the smoke and dust motes into light like grails of milk.

You missed the reading, but can hear a sample here. It’s a long poem; sit back and make yourself comfortable, it’s worth it! Such a treat. Continue reading

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Baby chicks

I really can’t resist them, so when my Silkie hen began sitting on eggs, I isolated her and let her think she was hatching them. Three weeks later I went to the feed store and bought six baby chicks. That night I slipped out the eggs and slipped in the chicks. I brushed a little butter on the chicks’ feathers to absorb the mother hen’s smell.

The next morning, the Silkie adopted the babies (who were several days older than newborn), and the babies bonded with the hen (even though they’d been born in a hatchery). It all worked just as if they had hatched right here.

I kept them completely caged for a few days, then let them out for a bit. The first thing the Silkie did was leave the chicks and take a prolonged dust bath, as if to say, “I’ve been cooped up for weeks–I have to take a shower!”

 

After about ten minutes of dust bath, she rejoined the chicks and herded them around, teaching them what to eat and where to look for it. She makes the sweetest little clucks when she finds something interesting, and all the chicks gather round. Of course, it also trains me to bring them treats.

Continue reading

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About the hats, and more than the hats

If you don’t get enough poetry here, you can sign up with the Academy ofAmerican Poets (www.poets.org) and get a poem every day in your email. This is one that arrived a couple of weeks ago, for all those who knit and wear the pink pussy hats, for all of us, really.

As to Why We Will Not Stop (Making the Hats)

This time it does not begin with the beaver
Instead only halfway up the mountain
Where the sheep we keep each year come through

Winter enough to answer us, enough
For us to shear, deft before the coming storm,
To take away from the body what it did not know

It grew and then astonished each spring to feel
The quickening of the lamb, the heft of
Sudden weight crossing one more patch

Of snow. All with an eye out
For the cougar or some such animal
Of which the DNA is no longer

What it might have been, the coyote now
As part dog part wolf
Already commonplace. We have come to know the truth Continue reading

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