Neverending note mysteries

In an old notepad of mine, there’s mention of a Mary Oliver poem. I have no idea where I first heard the poem or when I wrote down a line from it, but it’s wonderful. You can read the work in full here.

You are young. So you know everything. You leap
into the boat and begin rowing. But listen to me.
Without fanfare, without embarrassment, without
any doubt, I talk directly to your soul. Listen to me.

On a different page of my notes, there’s “belted kingfisher.” I learn from research today that the bird is a wild one. “When a Belted Kingfisher catches a fish, it will fly back to its perch, bang the fish against the branch, throw it up into the air, catch it, and swallow it.”

Another page: “Catholic guilt. Never connected with it. Always saw it more as a kind of restlessness to do better. An interconnectedness.”

 

Poems for the end of the year

Ear” and “Asking the Way” by Ko Un. “How to Draw a Perfect Circle” by “Terrance Hayes. “I Wanted to Make Myself like the Ravine” by Hannah Gamble. “Dinosaurs in the Hood” by Danez Smith. And a repeat/reminder for the year ahead: Alice Fulton’s “Personally Engraved.” So: “In this spirit I force my eyes across your message, / revisiting that due diligence tone you do so well. / I’m searching for some whispered twist or shout….”

Three poems for the short days as we bide our time for the sun

Michael Homolka’s “Riposte to Ode.”

It isn’t like that   Horace   Life stresses us out
However many hundreds of decades later   we’re told
to welcome anxiety is beneficial
and to   quote   honor our imperfections

W.S. Di Piero’s “Chicago and December.”

I walk north across
the river, Christmas lights
crushed on skyscraper glass,
bling stringing Michigan Ave.,
sunlight’s last-gasp sighing
through the artless fog.

Mary Oliver’s “White-Eyes.”

In winter
all the singing is in
the tops of the trees

Poets chase fall and its opposite

I can’t describe exactly what leads to put these three links together. Two are poems, and one is an essay by a poet. They all remind me of fall. None of the three are too cold or set late in the year. But they all contain an idea of early darkness — some of them clearly and others less so — and, most importantly, consider how to push back. Or set themselves apart from it.

Vespers” by Louise Gluck.

In your extended absence, you permit me
use of earth, anticipating
some return on investment. I must report
failure in my assignment, principally
regarding the tomato plants.

Elegy for the Living” by Kathryn Simmons. “We wash up side by side / to find each other / in the speakable world, / and, lulled into sense, / inhabit our landscape….”

And an essay, “Omphalos: Returning to the troubles of a Northern Irish childhood” by poet Colette Bryce, who gives us a great word and stories.

I write about you all the time

Dan Chaisson’s review of Louise Gluck’s new book is a good piece that finds a great passage, true for just about any blogger, myself included.

My mother and father stood in the cold
on the front steps. My mother stared at me,
a daughter, a fellow female.
You never think of us, she said.

We read your books when they reach heaven.
Hardly a mention of us anymore, hardly a mention of your sister.

Then later:

I write about you all the time, I said aloud.
Every time I say “I,” it refers to you.

Leadership in poetry is making the case for poetry

The Post’s On Leadership series talks to poet Billy Collins, and he quickly swings the conversation away from himself to how a medium can lead.

Certainly one thing a poem can do is give you an imaginative pleasure by taking you places very suddenly that prose can’t take you, because poetry enjoys the broadest and deepest and highest and most thrilling level of imaginative freedom of any of the written arts.

Another thing poetry can do is connect you with the history of human emotion. That’s why at critical points in our lives, at funerals or weddings or other rituals, often a poem is read. The poem shows us that these emotions, love and grief, have been going on through the centuries; and that the emotion we’re feeling today is not just our emotion, it’s the human emotion.

Poetry is the only history we have of human emotions. Most history books, what we call history books, are stories of battles and treaties, negotiations and beheadings and coronations. But poetry is the only reminder of this very essential part of being human, which is one’s emotional life and all the dimensions it entails.

Weekend as ‘a small anti-seed’

Been off the work grid for a few days. Here’s what I’ve been reading.

Kay Ryan, “In Case of Complete Reversal,” in the new issue of Poetry.

Born into each seed
is a small anti-seed
useful in case of some
complete reversal…

Douglas Kearney, “Afrofuturism (Blanche says, “Meh”)“.

are we there yet?
are we we yet?
are we we there?
are there we there yet?
are we here yet there?
there, there.

Edward Thomas, “Lights Out.” Posted a link to this one last week, finding it a beautiful poem about the powerless and strangely desire-less feeling of falling asleep. Rereading after learning he wrote it while deep in WWI.

Danez Smith, “alternate names for black boys.” I was bummed this poem didn’t run in Poetry‘s Poem of the Day feed this month. Given the events of the month, how could the magazine not mention one of the best poems it’s published this year? But apparently I was just looking in the wrong place. Editors reran a link, with several follow-ups, on the magazine’s Twitter.

Eavan Boland, “The Lost Art of Letter Writing.” This one kills me. It will probably do the same to you. It will raise up every letter you haven’t sent, every story or emotion or interest or question you’ve wanted to share but failed to put into words, and dump them all over your slow mortal head.

The ratio of daylight to handwriting
Was the same as lacemaking to eyesight.

Poems for returning to work

The opposite of my weekend-arrival-poetry post the other day. The morning comes a little too early. The weather a little too hot. Etc.

Rodrigo Toscano, “At a Bus Stop in El Barrio.”

Tha’ vahnahnah go-een to keel joo.

Excuse me?

Tha’ vahnahnah    …    go-een to keel joo.

I’m sorry, I don’t understand.

Alexa Selph, “Market Forecast.”

Adjectives continue
their downward spiral,
with adverbs likely to follow.

Katharine Coles, “The Same Old Riddle.”

We keep trying to kill it, split it, hack
It to itsy bits. We suspend it
On the wall where we can see it
Passing. We hang it around our necks

Michael Earl Craig, “Advice for Horsemen.”

When trying to catch a horse it helps if you look away.
Eye contact just pisses them off.

Dean Young, “Romanticism 101.”

Then I realized I hadn’t secured the boat.
Then I realized my friend had lied to me.
Then I realized my dog was gone
no matter how much I called in the rain.
All was change.

Poem that stuck this summer

Because… so different, powerful, net-dropping, or all of the above.

James Baldwin, “Untitled.” Possible about the maturing of the civil rights movement. Or about celebrity. In either case, gently stunning. First lines: “Lord, / when you send the rain, / think about it, please, / a little?”

Caroline Bergvall’s “From ‘DRIFT.’ ” Part words and part images, the poem begins with pages of rough lines and slashes and builds to words blowing apart into their letters in what seems to be a storm at sea. Seems to be.

Ada Limon, “State Bird.” Metaphor breaks your heart.

Samiya Bashir, “Carnot Cycle.” Beautiful application of geology to life. Made me look up what in the world the Carnot Cycle was. Wikipedia:

The Carnot cycle is a theoretical thermodynamic cycle proposed by Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot in 1824…. It can be shown that it is the most efficient cycle for converting a given amount of thermal energy into work, or conversely, creating a temperature difference (e.g. refrigeration) by doing a given amount of work.

Gabrielle Calvocoressi, “Captain Lovell, [‘My eyes are shaky and glimmer like the stars’].” Don’t read too quickly. Opens itself on reread, research.

My eyes are shaky and glimmer like the stars.
My head turns to the left and it moves
just like a pendulum. The kids laugh and shake
it back to me, all the ways I’m stupid,
not like them. But I know how the grass sounds
when the locusts come, like a spaceship
taking off and how it makes the air shake.

It turns out Calvocoressi is writing about her nystagmus, a condition “of involuntary eye movement, acquired in infancy or later in life, that may result in reduced or limited vision.” And Calvocoressi creates this with it.

April Bernard, “Anger.”

When, during my travels along the Gulf Coast,
the intruder returned in the night
and I did not call the cops again but stood
with a butcher knife facing the door, yelling, “Come in!”
although this time it was just the wind flapping
and banging the screen door — 

Tim Seibles, “Mosaic.” One of the longest and most enrapturing Poetry‘s published this year. “In America skin was / where you belonged, a who / you were with, a reason / someone might: how — at the / parties of hands unknown — / astonishing deaths / could meet you.”

Jane Hirshfield, “My Life Was the Size of My Life.”

My life was the size of my life.
Its rooms were room-sized,
its soul was the size of a soul.

Mary Karr, “Descending Theology: The Resurrection.”