Resuming…

I have been too dispirited for my normal blog posts, but life goes on, inexorably.  Here is a poem about this particular time:

limeMediation in an Election Year, 2016

When the house she and her husband
built by hand went up in flames
just after they finished
the intricate panes of the central rose window,
Margaret Sanger, sixth of eleven
children, gave up on things material
and devoted herself to what we call
(because of her) birth control. Antique
methods: the pessary,
a little boric acid, the douche,
imported from Europe. She was jailed
just for saying the words, the idea
“un-American.”

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxWhat is it to be
“American”? Is it sitting among lime trees
at the garden table of a house borrowed
from a wealthy friend
who summers at Martha’s Vineyard? Continue reading

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Post election

Casa-del-MarWe’ve been in Baja all week; it was supposed to be a rest and celebration. Of course, it hasn’t been that. While it’s been weird to be in a tropical non-USA paradise, the indifferent, perfect ocean has been some consolation.

And Larry, ever that man for black humor in a bleak hour, this morning came up with: “I hope I haven’t gotten too tan to get back into the United States.”

That will have to do for now. Though I did sign a petition to revoke the electoral college.

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Dismantling the labyrinth

IMG_3009No, it’s not because of political chaos, it’s just that the labyrinth has become too labor intensive. I decided to have a little pond and rock garden instead. The first step is digging up plants I want to save–easy to do after the rain–and pot them for the short term, to replant after the stonework and pond are done.

It’s looking a bit trashed at the moment, but I made a discovery in the process–not a giant asparagus, but a flowering of aloe: Continue reading

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Pinsky

PinskyI took Robert Pinsky’s new book of poems with me on a trip this weekend, but when I came back, I opened his Selected Poems to this, which has the flavor of the cantor in the Jewish service, the singing, incantatory lines that I love:

Biography

Stone wheel that sharpens the blade that mows the grain.
Wheel of the sunflower turning, wheel that turns
The spiral press that squeezes the oil expressed
From grain or olives. Particles turned to mud
On the potter’s wheel that whirls to form the vessel
That holds the oil that drips to cool the blade. Continue reading

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First rain

rainIn Japan, they have festivals for the cherry blossoms each spring. Here in California, it doesn’t rain for months and then, suddenly, does. So I think we need a First Rain Festival. We could have hot food and umbrella dances, boot splash puddles, green drinks, sing rain songs and recite poems about rain. And even though this poem is about 100 years old and about summer rain, it seems relevant:

Summer Rain

All night our room was outer-walled with rain.
Drops fell and flattened on the tin roof,
And rang like little disks of metal.
Ping!—Ping!—and there was not a pin-point of silence between
them.
The rain rattled and clashed,
And the slats of the shutters danced and glittered.
But to me the darkness was red-gold and crocus-colored
With your brightness,
And the words you whispered to me
Sprang up and flamed—orange torches against the rain.
Torches against the wall of cool, silver rain!

 Amy Lowell

 

 

 

 

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Clive James, master of the exemplary sentence

Sentence DiagramIt’s always a thrill when someone I’ve just discovered, and therefore think must be obscure, turns out to be well known. This happened recently with Clive James, a poet, critic, and essayist whose latest book on DVD collections was recently reviewed in the NY Times.

I’ve been enjoying his Poetry Notebook 2006-2014. It’s full of lines like this in any essay about the strange idea that art should be somehow completely spontaneous, without any rigorous training in the craft of it:

“Even though nobody can expect to master, without years of practice, a performing art such as playing the piano, there will still be the wish that music itself might be composed by an ignoramous.”

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Wendell Berry

Given the incessant clamor of news, this poem seems appropriate.

The Peace Of Wild Things

When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

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The Yacon

yaconflowerMy neighbor gave me a few Yacon rhizomes a couple of years ago, and now I have a Yacon forest. This Peruvian vegetable looks a lot like a sunflower, with long stalks and heavy green leaves, but the flowers are smaller. Underground, it grows huge tubers.

Continue reading

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Hiding the brush strokes

 

mad menA friend forwarded an article from Matthew Weiner  (the creator of the TV series Mad Men)  on writing. He makes the point that writers often pretend there’s little work involved in creating their final piece, but that the process is slow, full of visions and revisions, false starts, painful changes.

Anyone who has ever sat down to write is faced with the gap between what they feel is good writing and what is happening on the page at that moment. I occasionally look back at old drafts of my best poems, sometimes 12 or 19 of them, which I shove in a folder called “Prev.” I am almost always shocked by how truly awful they are. One’s taste evolves, and one’s work rarely can keep pace.

The article is worth a read, but here is my favorite quote: Continue reading

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My one day as a poetry teacher

E.-E.-Cummings-150x150In tenth grade, I convinced my teacher to let me do a unit on poetry.  I started with this poem by e. e. cummings, which is labeled simply “20” in his 100 selected poems, which I still have.

It is battered and dogeared. I was very fond of it for many years, although it has now been more years since I have opened it.

20

she being Brand

-new;and you
know consequently a
little stiff I was
careful of her and (having

thoroughly oiled the universal
joint tested my gas felt of
her radiator made sure her springs were O.

K.)i went right to it flooded-the-carburetor cranked her

up,slipped the
clutch (and then somehow got into reverse she
kicked what
the hell) next
minute i was back in neutral tried and

again slo-wly;bare,ly nudg.       ing(my

lev-er Right-
oh and her gears being in
A 1 shape passed
from low through
second-in-to-high like
greasedlightning) just as we turned the corner of Divinity

avenue i touched the accelerator and give

her the juice,good

                              (it
was the first ride and believe I we was
happy to see how nice and acted right up to
the last minute coming back down by the Public
Gardens I slammed on
the Continue reading

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