We have a broadside by Phillip Whalen up in our bathroom of a poem called “The Elizabethan Phrase.” It’s dated 1982, and signed in 1985. I asked Larry, who knows the dates of most poets, when Phillip Whalen died.
“He’s not dead that I know of,” he said, and went to look him up.
“I was wrong. He died in 2002. And he was born in 1923.”
After a minute he added, “He’s about 10 years older and 11 years deader than I thought.”
In other news, I had culled about 30 small red onions from the discarded greens they give me for my chickens after the Sunday farmers’ market. The onions seemed way too good to compost, and I set them aside. I noted to Larry that they were just fine, just a little cosmetically challenged. ”How good does an onion have to look?” he wondered.
I’ve been listening to these Kurt Vonnegut stories on DVD after reading them many years ago. Some are cranky and clunky, but many hold up pretty well. The one I remembered was “Harrison Bergeron,” a story set in the future, where everyone is fully equal–the more extraordinary your talents, the greater the handicap you are issued by Diana Moon Glampers, the Handicapper General.
While an exaggeration, we have often invoked Diana Moon Glampers when reading about some act of extreme political correctness, and I remembered the story pretty accurately. Continue reading
Posted in Prose
Tagged All the King's Horses, Cat's Cradle, Diana Moon Glampers, Flag for Sunrise, handicapper general, Harrison Bergeron, Ken Kesey, Mating, Mortals, Norman Rush, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Robert Stone, Subtle Bodies, Vonnegut, Welcome to the Monkey House, Whites
A few weeks ago I posted a poem by Beth Ann Fennelly, I’d found in anthology of erotica. I have been looking at a couple of her books, and thought I’d post another today, a different kind of erotic.
Once I Did Kiss Her Wetly on the Mouth
Once I did kiss her wetly on the mouth
and her lips loosened, her tongue rising like a fish
to swim in my waters
because she learns the world
by tasting it, by taking it inside. Continue reading
In my world, if it bleeds, it’s skipped. Here are a few excerpts from the morning paper:
“Lorenzo Robinson, the longtime and loquacious men’s room sentry at the lofty 21 Club died. Now..the restaurant’s general manager said he expected to put a small plaque honoring him in the men’s room ‘and call it a day,’ without replacing him…
” ‘They really are a throwback to another era…like a hat check girl. Who wears a hat any more? What are you going to do–check your Yankees baseball cap?’ ” Continue reading
Thanks to a friend, I just watched an amazing video about animal communication. Then I remembered this poem:
You are nearing the land that is life.
You will recognize it by its seriousness.
Monday, and here’s another poem I found in the book of Ghazals: Ravishing Disunities
I want old-fashioned metaphor; I dress in black.
My son was murdered. I bear witness in black.
The graveyard shocks with rampant green.
In a rusted chair sits grief, enormous in black.
Died July 16, 1983.
Navy’s white headstone, christcross in black.
A cadnal falmes—sudden visitation.
Loy spirit? Surcease from black?
Grackles keen in mad falsetto.
Treeful of banshees. Fracas in black.
It should be told, of course, in small details
and with restraint (artfulness in black).
He was a sailor in summer whites in a port city.
He was walking, streets dangerous in black.
The bullet entered right shoulder, ricocheted.
In the ground his dress blues decompose to black.
I am Isabel. He was Jerry John. The dead
are listening for their names, soundless in black.
I have been reading about and playing with the poetic form called a Ghazal. The rules of the Ghazal are that it is an unspecified number of couplets. The first couplet sets out a repeating word or phrase in first line, and repeats that word or phrase at the end of every couplet. The word before the repeated words should rhyme in every couplet. And in the final couplet, the author should use their own name. The couplets should each stand alone. This form comes to us from the Arabic, and according to Agha Shahid Ali’s book, Ravishing Disunities, at poetry readings the audience participates in the form by calling out the repeated phrase as it occurs in each couplet. Here’s one by Lisa Rappoport:
When I Was a Boy
I was afraid of the girls: their cliques and all
that gossiping made me sick for them all.
Their willingness to wear dresses
showed they bought into the rhetoric and all.
Worthwhile activities like climbing trees or
were severely hampered by such icky folderol. Continue reading
I am taking a class on prosody, and yesterday, Gertrude Stein and her work came up in conjunction with form. It led me to reflect on her and my reaction against words separated from meaning.
From 1940-1944, while other Jews in France were being systematically ferreted out and deported to camps, Gertrude Stein lived in cosseted comfort. She was an apologist and translator for Marshal Pétain and his Vichy government, and had publicly supported Franco in the 30’s. No amount of revisiting of Stein and her views can change that fact that during her years in France during World War II she never distressed or disturbed herself in any way about the horrors around her. Stein was an extraordinarily privileged woman with large influence; she never raised a dime or a word in defense of the persecuted. Continue reading
Right now the garden is giving up its end-of-summer bounty. This breakfast was potato, onion, garlic, and spinach from the garden, with eggs from the chickens. Only the mushrooms and baby fennel were from the farmers’ market:
The plate below is Larry’s plate. For some reason, his food always looks better than mine!