Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Haiku #190

In the pond
a lone bluegill swims
among the minnows.

Haiku #189

Wood, heavy in my arms.
By morning,
white feathers.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Haiku #188

Purple crocus blooms,
Buzzard circles above trees,
Spring morning.

Haiku #187

Day and night--
frozen water falling.
When will spring come?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Haiku #186

The zookeeper remembers
the book about insects, parents, and god.
His eyes are moist with tears.

Haiku #185

With sucess
comes all the evils
of creation

Haiku #184

The intellect is silent
Cares fall away.
All is well.

Haiku #183

It doesn't matter.
Living & dying are one.
All is one.

Haiku #182

Dogs don't understand
March thunder, hard rain--
they're used to snow.

It Isn't Enough

It isn't enough to write a good book, a beautiful book, or even a better book than most. It isn't enough even to wrote an 'original' book! One has to establish, or re-establish, a unity which has been broken and which is felt just as keenly by the reader, who is a potential artist, as by the writer, who believes himself to be an artist. The theme of separation and isolation--'atomization,' it's now called--has as many facets to it as there are unique individuals. And we are all unique. The longing to be reunited, with a common purpose and an all-embracing significance, is now universal. The writer who wants to communicate with his fellow-man, and thereby establish communion with him, has only to speak with sincerity and directness. He has not to think about literary standards--he will make them as he goes along--he has not to think about trends, vogues, markets, acceptable ideas or unacceptable ideas: he has only to deliver himself, naked and vulnerable. --Henry Miller

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Haiku #181

Asked Google relationship
between Jung & bird
Answer: do you mean young bird?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Suicide of Sylvia Plath's Son

My friend Gretchen just informed me about the death of Sylvia Plath's Son. I found two good articles about it online. Below is one of them and a link to the other:


http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/sns-ap-obit-hughes,0,547662.story
Poet Sylvia Plath's son, Nicholas Hughes, commits suicide in Alaska
By HILLEL ITALIE AP National Writer
5:14 PM CDT, March 23, 2009

Nicholas Hughes, the son of poet Sylvia Plath, hanged himself at his home March 16, 2009, Alaska State Troopers said. (AP Photo, file) (AP / October 30, 2006)

When Nicholas Hughes was in his early 20s, his father, poet Ted Hughes, advised him on the importance of living bravely."The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated," Hughes wrote to his son, who committed suicide at 47 last week at his home in Fairbanks, Alaska, 46 years after Nicholas' mother, poet Sylvia Plath, killed herself."And the only thing people regret is that they didn't live boldly enough, that they didn't invest enough heart, didn't love enough. Nothing else really counts at all."

From the time that Plath died, in 1963, Ted Hughes had tried to protect and strengthen their children, Frieda and Nicholas, from their mother's fate and fame. He burned the last volume of his wife's journals, a decision strongly criticized by scholars and fans, and waited years to tell his children the full details of Plath's suicide.

And only near the end of his own life, in his "Birthday Letters" poems, did he share his side of modern poetry's most famous and ill-starred couple."What I've been hiding all my life, from myself and everybody else, is not terrible at all. Though you didn't want to read it," he wrote to Nicholas in 1998, months before Ted Hughes died of cancer."And the effect on me, Nicky, the sense of gigantic, upheaval transformation in my mind, is quite bewildering. It's as though I have completely new different brains. I can think thoughts I never could think. I have a freedom of imagination I've not felt since 1962. Just to have got rid of all that.""But I tell you all this," Hughes added, "with a hope that it will let you understand a lot of things. ... Don't laugh it off. In 1963 you were hit even harder than me. But you will have to deal with it, just as I have had to."

Nicholas Hughes, who was not married and had no children, hanged himself March 16, Alaska State Troopers said. He was a man of science, not letters, the only member of his immediate family not to become a poet. A fisheries biologist, he spent nearly a decade on the faculty of the University of Alaska Fairbanks as a professor of fisheries and ocean sciences. He left in December 2006, according to the university's Web site.

Hughes' older sister, poet Frieda Hughes, issued a statement through the Times of London, expressing her "profound sorrow" and saying that he "had been battling depression for some time.""His lifelong fascination with fish and fishing was a strong and shared bond with our father,"

Frieda Hughes wrote. "He was a loving brother, a loyal friend to those who knew him and, despite the vagaries that life threw at him, he maintained an almost childlike innocence and enthusiasm for the next project or plan."

Nicholas Hughes graduated from the University of Oxford in 1984, and received a master's of arts degree from Oxford, in 1990, before emigrating to the United States and getting a doctorate from the University of Alaska.

Hughes' family history was an "urban legend" that was passed around from student to student. But it was a subject no one discussed with him, said Kevin Schaberg, a former student in a fish ecology class taught by Hughes.

"It was obviously something he did not want to talk about," said Schaberg, who added that he knew Hughes struggled with depression. "I never brought it (his family) up. He never brought it up."

Mark Wipfli, an aquatic ecologist at the University of Alaska and a good friend of Hughes, said that Hughes never spoke of his mother to him, but he talked warmly of his father, who sometimes visited Hughes in Alaska. Even though he had left the university, Hughes remained active in research and was a key scientist in an ongoing study of king salmon.

"I would really like to see him recognized in his own right, not just as the son of two famous people," Wipfli said. "In his own right, he was an incredibly wonderful person."

Hughes not only taught about fish, he also enjoyed fishing and other Alaska pursuits, such as skiing, boating and hunting moose and caribou. What stands out the most for Schaberg, however, is Hughes' vast knowledge of fish, his instant recall of authors, titles and journals on even the most obscure subjects."

Nick was probably one of the smartest guys I've ever met," he said. "When it came to fish, he was a walking bibliography."

Hughes was only 9 months old when his parents separated and was still an infant when his mother died in February 1963, gassing herself in a London flat as her children slept. A few months earlier, she had written of Nicholas: "You are the one/Solid the spaces lean on, envious/You are the baby in the barn."

Not widely known when she died, Plath became a cult figure through the novel "The Bell Jar," which told of a suicidal young woman, and through the prophetic "Ariel" poems — "I shall never grow old," she wrote — she had been working on near the end of her life.

The immediate cause of her breakup with Hughes was his affair with Assia Wevill. Plath's legacy haunted her husband, hounded for years by women who believed he was responsible for her suicide and by a procession of biographers and fans obsessed with the brief, impassioned and tragic marriage between the two poets.

Ted Hughes relived the tragedy not only through the constant reminders of Plath, but also through the suicide of Wevill, his second wife, who in March 1969 killed herself and their 4-year-old daughter.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/uk/article5956380.ece

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Haiku #180

Ants used to be giants
Ants were bigger than dinousaurs
Now, tiny, they are always with us

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More...

Ants used to be giants.
They were bigger than dinosaurs
& old T-Rex trembled
when ants marched.

Now ants are tiny.
They ride to work with us
in our clothes.
They fit in suitcases
& we bring them home.
They climb into our
toasters looking for bread
& at night they eat
our cookies and cakes.

When they were giants
they hid in dark forests
& caves. They were hunted
for carapace which
men used for armor
& women used for
letter openers, shoe
horns, buttons
& combs.

For a time ants were used
in farming. They pulled plows
until it was learned
they wouldn't walk
in straight lines.

Some say ants once had
human heads, like centaurs,
& reared upon hind legs
before the charge.
Some say ants had wings
& horns.
Some say they were wild
& learned both--
like us--
& fed on meat.

Now ants are always with us.
They will be here at the
end of the world, climbing
on the roses, sucking
honeysuckle stems
& clinging to our
own sweet bones.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Haiku #179

Backyard--
setting sun &
two gold-breasted robins

Come to me

I just received this poem in my inbox from poemhunter.com, and it just left me breathless.

Echo

Come to me in the silence of the night;
Come in the speaking silence of a dream;
Come with soft rounded cheeks and eyes as bright
As sunlight on a stream;
Come back in tears,
O memory, hope, love of finished years.

O dream how sweet, too sweet, too bitter sweet,
Whose wakening should have been in Paradise,
Where souls brimfull of love abide and meet;
Where thirsting longing eyes
Watch the slow door
That opening, letting in, lets out no more.

Yet come to me in dreams, that I may live
My very life again though cold in death:
Come back to me in dreams, that I may give
Pulse for pulse, breath for breath:
Speak low, lean low

As long ago, my love,
how long ago.
--Christina Georgina Rossetti

Spring Stillness

It is spring. We have many cold days ahead here, but the frogs are back, and the buzzards. I hear birds on my way to the truck to go to work.

Tonight I have been listening to a lone frog who stays by the shallow pond Allen dug years ago. The pond dries up in summer, but in spring it is filled with life. The frog sounds like the teeth of a comb being pulled across the edge of a table.

It's often windy here, so when we experience a still evening, it is special. Tonight I was reading a collection of Charles Simic's early poems. "Evening" spoke to me the most. In "Evening," Simic writes:

The snail gives off stillness.
The weed is blessed.
At the end of a long day
The man finds joy, the water peace.

I love how Simic shows how we connect to earth and therein lies a kind of peace. I also love how he addresses simplicity in the next stanza:

Let all be simple. Let all stand still
Without a final direction.
That which brings you into the world
To take you away at death
Is one and the same;
The shadow long and pointy
Is its church.

This stanza suggests that we cannot control what happens in our lives. We don't know what our "final direction" will be. In our still moments we understand the life-death cycle. Our birth and death come from the same source: when we are still we see that. Life becomes simple. In the last stanza, Simic addresses human knowledge:

At night some understand what the grass says.
The grass knows a word or two.
It is not much. It repeats the same word
Again and again, but not too loudly...

I think of Walt Whitman's poem about grass, how it symbolizes eternity (the beautiful uncut hair of graves). The grass repeats the same word again and again. What is the word? Tonight, I think the word is eternity. Eternity is experienced in the moment of stillness--it is not a feature of a hereafter.

Sing, my little frog. Sing on.

Haiku #178

Comb's teeth pulled
over table's edge--
What the frog sounds like.

Love Calls Us

A favorite poem of mine is "Love Calls Us to the Things of This World" by Richard Wilbur. I have a copy of Wilbur reciting the poem and I listen to it often.

I like poems that make an argument in favor of this earthly life. As the title suggests, the "Things of This World" are touched by our capacity for love.

Of his poem, Wilbur has said:


"You must imagine the poem as occurring at perhaps seven-thirty in the morning; the scene is a bedroom high up in a city apartment building; outside the bedroom window, the first laundry of the day is being yanked across the sky and one has been awakened by the squeaking pulleys of the laundry-line."

So the speaker awakens to the sound of laundry being hung to dry in the city, on lines between buildings:

"The eyes open to a cry of pulleys."
I like the double meaning of the eyes opening in both a physical and spiritual sense. It is that moment when we first awake and are still, for a moment, held inside the magical world of sleep:


"And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul / Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple / As false dawn."
The image of our souls hanging "bodiless and simple" like laundry is lovely and haunting.

I've often puzzled over the reference to "false dawn." Tonight I remembered seeing a false dawn when I was in Vermont, spending a particularly miserable rainy night in a leaky tent. I had no watch and kept thinking the skies were lightening. I experienced that false dawn for many hours as the wet tent flapped against my back.

Dawn means revelation. I think maybe Wilbur is saying that the laundry incident is a false revelation, but false only in the sense of not being permanent. I do believe the moment of transcendence is true, though, for as long as it lasts.

The speaker compares the laundry to angels:


"Outside the open window / The morning air is all awash with angels. / Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses, / Some are in smocks: but truly there they are. / Now they are rising together in calm swells / Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear / With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing."

The speaker is in a moment of transcendence. Now comes the time for moving back among the "things of this world." Wilbur writes:


"The soul shrinks / From all that it is about to remember, From the punctual rape of every blessed day, / And cries, 'Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry, / Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam / And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.'"

The soul wishes to remain in the ecstatic moment, but of course we fall back to earth by remembering our duties and schedules. But another pull toward earth is "bitter love," the acceptance of the body for what it is:


"Yet, as the sun acknowledges / With a warm look the world's hunks and colors, / The soul descends once more in bitter love / To accept the waking body..."

The final stanza expresses love for the lowest of creatures, thieves. It shows how the pure (lovers) become sullied and how the heavy walk light and attain balance:


"'Bring them down from their ruddy gallows; / Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves; / Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone, / And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating / Of dark habits, / Keeping their difficult balance.'"

I think the "difficult balance" is what we all must keep. We live in the body. Since our waking hours are spent more inside the body than the soul, we should learn to enjoy our earthly existence. We learn to enjoy it by loving, even when it is hard to do so. Even when our experience here proves to be bitter and hard.


Sunday, March 15, 2009

Unfortunately, Theresa

The google your own name assignments are just way too much fun. This one asks you to type Unfortunately, (your name) and to take the first ten results (weed out the repeats). Here are mine:

1. Unfortunately, Theresa has waited for months to be adopted and has been passed over time and time again.

2. Unfortunately, Theresa was keeping one more big secret--she slept with...

3. Unfortunately, Theresa lost her way when she became part of the demanding world of retail management.

4. Unfortunately, Theresa had made some bad choices through the years and was eventually placed into a more restrictive facility.

5. Unfortunately, Theresa, of Blackheath, South East London, was already pregnant.

6. Unfortunately, Theresa didn't win the big showcase, but she got to spin the wheel AND we all envy the fact that she got to be this close to Bob!

7. Unfortunately, Theresa broke her foot and has been off work for a couple of months now. I miss her.

8. Unfortunately, Theresa did not meet with me on Friday, as we had planned.

9. Unfortunately Theresa is gonna have to be involved somehow.

10. Unfortunately, Theresa lives far away, so I can’t just call her up on a Friday night and ask her if she wants to have breakfast together.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Haiku #177

Cool dark room
under heavy covers
distant sounds of TV, man & dogs

Friday, March 13, 2009

Haiku #176

I felt connected to [ ]
as if they were one entity
expressing themselves in different ways

Haiku #175

So he told me
Poetry is like a fart passing
through a rose bush

Haiku #174

At twenty I saw myself
in the rearview mirror and realized
I looked like my father

Haiku #173

I lay awake remembering
when I used to sneak past the openings
where he might see me

Haiku #172

Love, what will you say to me
when I come to bed at last--
that you have been awake all this time?

Haiku #171

Let me
stumble into a place where
I don't feel quite so helpless

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Haiku #170

The dog sits up
& lets out a low moan.
sssh, it's only the roof leaking.

Great lines of poetry (1-10)

6. To my right, / In a field of sunlight between two pines, / The droppings of last year's horses / Blaze up into golden stones. / I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on. / A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home. / I have wasted my life. (James Wright, "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota")

5. Love set you going like a fat gold watch. / The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry / Took its place among the elements. (Sylvia Plath, "Morning Song")

4. The eyes open to a cry of pulleys, / And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul / Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple / As false dawn. / Outside the open window / The morning air is all awash with angels. (Richard Wilbur, "Love Calls Us to the Things of this World")

3. All the world like a woolen lover / once did seem on Henry's side. / Then came a departure. / Thereafter nothing fell out as it might or ought. / I don't see how Henry, pried / open for all the world to see, survived. (John Berryman, From The Dream Songs -1)

2. For the mind, like Rome, contains / Catacombs, aqueducts, amphitheatres, palaces, / Churches and equestrian statues, fallen, broken or soiled. / The mind possesses and is possessed by all the ruins / Of every haunted, hunted generation's celebration. (Delmore Schwartz, "The Mind Is an Ancient and Famous Capital")

1. I stop, / gather wet wood, / cut dry shavings, / and for her, / whose face / I held in my hands / a few hours, whom I gave back / only to keep holding the space where she was, // I light / a small fire in the rain. (Galway Kinnell, "Under the Maud Moon")

Death Poems

I've been reading a very fine book called Japanese Death Poems. The book is compiled by Yoel Hoffmann. The introduction to this book includes the history of the practice of composing a death poem. One thing in the introduction gave me pause:
How is a person's poetry linked to his life? What can it tell of his
death? One poet may search in vain for a poem as long as he lives; another repeats one poem again and again; yet another lives and dies in every poem he creates.

I think I am the third kind of writer. This means that in everything I write I expect a lot of myself and want something very big to be at stake. This is good because I drive myself toward writing that, to me, matters. This can be bad, though, because my expectations of the work get too grand and I disappoint myself. Sometimes I expect to fail and this causes inaction.

The wonderful poems in this book show me there are many ways to write works that matter. Sometimes the simple way is the best way.

I need to write more and trust myself more.

I wrote another poem today.


Monday, March 09, 2009

Propelled by curiosity

I wrote another poem last night and a rough draft of another today. I have found myself, quite to my surprise, working on a collection.

I don't know where this will lead, but for now I have solved the problem I so often have during the school year of not being able to dedicate myself to writing.

At least I am producing something and not going into a long fallow period from which it takes time to recover and begin to produce again.

I really have my haiku project to thank for this. Writing each haiku without worrying over whether or not it is "good" has kept me close to my creative life.

In the past I have been stopped from writing because of personal expectations of greatness. In allowing myself to let each haiku "go" as soon as it is written, I have created a body of thoughts that seem worth working with. I feel excited about the writing, rather than dread (which I often feel when I approach my work).

I think the dread comes from fear of failure. I am trying to be more joyful in my approach to the work. Not that it means I'm writing "happy" poems, but I am enjoying the process of writing. I find myself anticipating my next move. I feel propelled forward by curiosity.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Haiku #169

Wind carries the sound
of some animal scratching
its face with a hind foot.

Haiku #168

Charred bones in trash pit--
fashion into chimes
hang in the wind.

--click, click, click--

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Writing and Memory

I was watching the news tonight. There was a story about people who are participating in a memory competition. All of the participants said they remembered abstract things, like numbers, by attaching an image to them. For example, the number 2 might be a pretty restaurant server. One man uses pretty movie stars. A minister uses imagery from the bible.

I got to thinking, this is really what fiction writers and poets are doing: attaching images to concepts.

Somehow it all seems simpler when you think about it that way.

Haiku #167

Misery, fizz & steam
rise to the sky which lays bare
the impermanence of all things

Haiku #166

My dear, dead mother,
I'd build you a horse if only
you'd come teach me how to live

Haiku #165

The first part of the death journey
leads through mountains
the second part, to the sea

Haiku #164

Summer take my hand
& lead me into the night again
among the sumac and pokeberry

Friday, March 06, 2009

Haiku #163

Praise fire, calm lakes
orchards, balconies
blindness and discovery

Haiku #162

Oh, let it happen
lift my valley up
where glaciers sit, melting

Haiku #161

One gets tired of violins.
We must not forget
the importance of coldness.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Haiku #160

I died.
The light bulb flickered
and I am made flesh again.

Haiku #159

Listen to the tin cans
rusting in the recycle bin
behind the house

Haiku #158

There are no secrets.
When we leave this world
we will know that.

Haiku #157

I can't carry a tune.
But I can still sing.
I find that remarkable.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Greatest Love of Don Juan

An image of The Greatest Love of Don Juan by Felicien Rops can be seen here.

The shape behind the naked girl is ghostly, human. The shape behind the girl in Edvard Munch's painting, Puberty, is "phallic."

Haiku #156

Because we know we will die
let's give up our habits for a day.
Let's see how we feel then.

Haiku #155

Is anybody there?
I sought to answer.
But it was too lost.

Haiku #154

I done something in Ohio.
I let it all hang out in a poem.
They're comin' to take me, boy.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Haiku #153

I just wrote a bunch of stuff
about a zookeeper: where the hell
did that come from?

Haiku #152

The zookeeper's flea now lives on a bear.
Every wild thing runs for shelter.
The zookeeper weeps: sends his love.

Haiku #151

The flea blushes,
he thinks, then leaps
away to live on a bear.

Haiku #150

Scratching under an ancient lightbulb,
the zookeeper catches the flea under
his dirty claw: it blushes, he thinks.

Haiku #149

The zookeeper takes the bones
of the dead otter and makes chimes.
Now the otter swims the wind.

Haiku #148

In the new cottonwood
is a tiny nest made
from the zookeeper's fallen hair.

Haiku #147

The zookeeper's love
is a man driving
toward distant mountains.

Haiku #146

It's winter: no boats on the lake.
The zookeeper's fleabites
beg for a long scratching.

Haiku #145

I am the zookeeper.
My flea love obsession is tragic.
Oliver Stone made films about it.

Haiku #144

I am the zookeeper.
I would make my flea my bride
or die trying.

Haiku #143

I am the zookeeper.
I've fallen in love with the flea
that lives in my most private place.

Haiku #142

I am the zookeeper.
My body smells of feces and blood.
The zookeeper sends his love.

Haiku #141

I am the zookeeper, warning you:
Bears stink on purpose
and don't want a bath.

Haiku #140

I am the zookeeper, warning you:
angry lions and tigers
will jump any fence.

Haiku #139

I am the zookeeper, warning you:
monkeys stick their fingers
where they don't belong.

Haiku #138

I am the zookeeper, warning you:
Wild animals don't belong
in domestic settings.

Haiku #137

Write prose and plays
about details of everyday lives.
Your work will be set to music.

Haiku #136

Pay close attention
to movements of the mind,
the flickering perceptions that inform it.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Haiku #135

Realized isn't the right word.
It's a thing undergone.
Feet giving way to another world.

Haiku #134

I might say I'm Odysseus
because he's cunning and wise
but that's just wishful thinking

Haiku #133

I might say I'm Siddhartha
but my bones are too old
I insist on something soft to sleep on

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Northwest Ohio, United States
"I was no better than dust, yet you cannot replace me. . . Take the soft dust in your hand--does it stir: does it sing? Has it lips and a heart? Does it open its eyes to the sun? Does it run, does it dream, does it burn with a secret, or tremble In terror of death? Or ache with tremendous decisions?. . ." --Conrad Aiken

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Fave Painting: Eden

Fave Painting:  Eden

Fave Painting: The Three Ages of Man and Death

Fave Painting:  The Three Ages of Man and Death
by Albrecht Dürer

From the First Chapter

The Secret of Hurricanes : That article in the Waterville Scout said it was Shake- spearean, all that fatalism that guides the Kennedys' lives. The likelihood of untimely death. Recently, another one died in his prime, John-John in an airplane. Not long before that, Bobby's boy. While playing football at high speeds on snow skis. Those Kennedys take some crazy chances. I prefer my own easy ways. Which isn't to say my life hasn't been Shake-spearean. By the time I was sixteen, my life was like the darkened stage at the end of Hamlet or Macbeth. All littered with corpses and treachery.

My Original Artwork: Triptych

My Original Artwork:  Triptych

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