Brief history lesson

I remember Frost’s fumbling at Kennedy’s inauguration–an old man then, and the first poet to be asked to read at such an event–such a different time. When asked to recite a poem, this was Frost’s response:

“If you can bear at your age the honor of being made president of the United States, I ought to be able at my age to bear the honor of taking some part in your inauguration. I may not be equal to it but I can accept it for my cause — the arts, poetry — now for the first time taken into the affairs of statesmen. … I am glad the invitation pleases your family. It will please my family to the fourth generation and my family of friends and, were they living, it would have pleased inordinately the kind of Grover Cleveland Democrats I had for parents.” Continue reading

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

Something about writing

I have been reading Randall Jarrell’s “Fifty Years of American Poetry,” an impressive essay, but it made me somehow wonder if all the books–those hours and years of work–won’t someday be winnowed down to a few kept in the basement of the cybrary, with its lightspeed wifi. A few first editions the way we now have illuminated manuscripts. Who even reads most of these people now?

The essay contained a gorgeous quote from Isaac Babel “A phrase is born into the world good and bad at the same time. The secret lies in a slight, almost invisible twist. The lever should rest in your hand, getting warm, and you can turn it once, not twice.”

 

Posted in Prose | Tagged , | Leave a comment

The exemplary sentence

One of the few fears that can really grab hold of me, especially before a long plane ride or (as was currently the case) a time of enforced inactivity, is that I’ve read all the really good books. A book that is well-written, thought provoking, and can immerse you in its reality is so rare. During this recent period, I had very little that fit this description. So I opened a book I hadn’t read in 25 years, Particle and Luck, by Louis B. Jones. Would it hold up? It does, and has snared me in the life of Mark Perdue, the archetypal absentminded physicist and his quirky journey around the Marin and the Berkeley campus.  Here are a few excerpts. Continue reading

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

Thanksgiving misgivings?

 

Talking around the table about the mixed message of Thanksgiving–my discomfort with the often phony-feeling professions of gratitude, and of course, what we did and do to native populations. A friend suggested that there should be a Jewish holiday– if there isn’t one already–called “Misgiving.”

But someone asked me what sincere gratitude would sound like. I think something like this:

Perhaps the World Ends Here

The world begins at a kitchen table. No matter what, we must eat to live.

The gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. So it has been since creation, and it will go on.

We chase chickens or dogs away from it. Babies teethe at the corners. They scrape their knees under it.

It is here that children are given instructions on what it means to be human. We make men at it, we make women.

At this table we gossip, recall enemies and the ghosts of lovers. Continue reading

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

A comic instead of a poem

Yesterday I posted Jordan Peterson’s rant on how he doesn’t believe the threat of climate change will bring us together to act for the good of the planet.

In response, my son sent this comic, which I also believe:

But to be fair, I don’t think Peterson was really saying, “do nothing,” I think he was just pointing out that we are a divisive race. There isn’t much evidence that we can join together to effect global change.

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

Stuff Larry Sends

If you’ve never heard or seen Jordan Peterson, this is a reasonable intro:

 

Posted in Stuff Larry Sez | Tagged , | 3 Comments

For Veteran’s Day

If you want a good poem about war, you never have to look further than the Polish poets, who were invaded by someone every century.

The End and the Beginning

After every war
someone has to clean up.
Things won’t
straighten themselves up, after all.

Someone has to push the rubble
to the side of the road,
so the corpse-filled wagons
can pass.

Someone has to get mired
in scum and ashes,
sofa springs,
splintered glass,
and bloody rags.

Someone has to drag in a girder
to prop up a wall.
Someone has to glaze a window,
rehang a door.

Photogenic it’s not,
and takes years.
All the cameras have left
for another war.

We’ll need the bridges back,
and new railway stations.
Sleeves will go ragged
from rolling them up.

Someone, broom in hand,
still recalls the way it was.
Someone else listens
and nods with unsevered head.
But already there are those nearby
starting to mill about
who will find it dull.

From out of the bushes
sometimes someone still unearths
rusted-out arguments
and carries them to the garbage pile.

Those who knew
what was going on here
must make way for
those who know little.
And less than little.
And finally as little as nothing.

In the grass that has overgrown
causes and effects,
someone must be stretched out
blade of grass in his mouth
gazing at the clouds.

Wislawa Szymborska
Translated by Joanna RTrzeciak

Continue reading

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

Election Day

I don’t write many overtly political poems, but this one seems to sum up my hopes and fears for today.

Equivocal Activist

It’s Friday. We pull out of the Paris climate accord
and I get my hair cut as Aretha bridges
troubled water. I could lay me down,
but I doubt that would accomplish anything.
Would anything accomplish anything?
Still, I’m uncomfortable doing nothing,
an equivocal activist, pretty sure
I can’t count on my teammates,
jumpy as a handful of BBs
dropped on stone.
Continue reading

Posted in Poetry | Tagged | 1 Comment

Words don’t come quickly to me

Yesterday I listened as my favorite spiritual leader, Margaret Holub, struggled for words of consolation after the Pittsburg shooting. She said that words didn’t come quickly to her, and I reflected that anyone to whom words came in facile way after a such a rift in the social fabric would be a charlatan. That online meeting we were a part of was faltering, baffled.

It’s hard to get in touch with grief when the fabric that binds us is stretched so taut that random attacks against schoolchildren, worshipers, politicians who don’t agree with you becomes routine. After all, the unrelenting business of life goes on; you still have to floss your teeth, eat, be somewhere on time.

I think what consoles in these moments is touch, candlelight, song—the primitive ways we come together as human animals in a world that contains darkness beyond words. Taking an extra moment to hold those you love close.

So here’s a song by Aly Halpert:

And last night, thinking about what poem might help, I came up with this:

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

Continue reading

Posted in Events, Poetry | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

A unique voice now quiet

I got the news that Tony Hoagland, a poet often featured here, lost his battle with pancreatic cancer yesterday. His partner sent out this message:

 

 

 

Tony Hoagland
November 19, 1953 – October 23, 2018
You’ll never be complete, and that’s as it should be.
Inside you one vault after another opens endlessly.
Don’t be ashamed to be a human being– be proud.

-Tomas Tranströmer

 

 

 

I’m  sad at the loss–here is a sample of why: Continue reading

Posted in Poetry | Tagged , , | 2 Comments