Tuesday, November 20, 2012

. . . . . Walter Never Spoke


Walter never spoke
Never moved from his bed
A stretched out farmer
Dying in an 1820’s farmhouse

Was it a stroke? 
Was he tired down to the ground?
Did he believe his dying room held already
the words that would fit?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

91, In Hospice

91, In Hospice

Awake, she ate with unexpected haste

Hands flying over the tray spilling nothing

Coffee is stone cold, she said to the room

Ignoring the gloved hand, caressing her hair

91, In Hospice,

That's What I'm Talking About, Collected Essays and Reviews (Nativa, LLC, 2008) p. 44 - Available at Amazon.com and elsewhere

Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Lightening Bug is not the Beacon

A poetic sensibility ought not be mistaken for a lens through which life may be understood. 

The insight of the poet is akin to the light of the firefly, seen across the lawn. Beautiful, fleeting, personally and therefore irrationally reassuring, a sound poem provides this flash, this arresting but momentary and faint illumination. 

But you are likely to trip over the lawn furniture if you guide yourself by the light of the firefly.

Thoughts which occur on the second and third reading of Isaiah Berlin's The Hedgehog and the Fox. 

Berlin identifies Tolstoy's "deeply skeptical and pessimistic view of the strength of the non-rational in human behavior, which at once dominate human beings and deceive them about themselves." 

Tolstoy harbored a deep suspicion of the romantic notion that "true knowledge cannot be obtained by the use of reason but only by a kind of imaginative self-identification with the central principle of the universe - the soul of the world - such as do artists and thinkers in moments of divine inspiration."

Monday, July 2, 2012

For David Urias - Murdered in El Salvador June 29 2012

El dió con senderos conocidos
Mostraba confianza su paso
Ilusiones real no presumidos
Varonil su aspecto leve acaso

Dió David con camino familiar
Bajaba en parada habitual
Jamás piensa en sangre bautizar
Ir a hogar humilde y natal

Proyectos bien de paz y comunal
Guardaba en su mente inocente 
Camina alegre pero el Mal
lo rodea atrás y en el frente

Lastimaron al muchacho sin perdón
Y también sin razón a perdonar
Libre de actos malos, fue el don
a todos; pues su reta fue amar

David! Quitarte todo! Bien feo!
al comienzo de tu mero apogeo

*************   translation   **************

He followed well worn paths
His foot fall confident
His dreams modest not presumptuous
His a masculine essence yet gentle

David chose the familiar route
Getting off at the usual bus stop
Never imagining a baptism in blood
Headed for his mother’s humble home

Full of notions of communal harmony
Were his innocent ideas
He walked joyfully but Evil
fully had surrounded him

Mercilessly they wounded this boy
a child needing no show of mercy
Free of evil in himself, he was a gift
to all - his striving: learn to love

Oh David! They took everything from you!
Just as you had begun your ascent

Sunday, June 10, 2012


A snippet from William Carlos Williams'  "It Is a Small Plant"

It is a small plant
delicately branched and
tapering conically
to a point, each branch
and the peak a wire for
green pods, blind lanterns
starting upward from
the stalk each way to
a pair of prickly edged blue
flowerets: it is her regard,
a little plant without leaves,
a finished thing guarding
its secret.

My question, raised before, why is this a poem and not simply a well done paragraph, broken up so as to fly the flag of verse?

Here is the same "sentence" but laid out without line breaks. What is lost and what is gained by breaking up the sentence into arbitrary (?) bits, as Williams did?

It is a small plant delicately branched and tapering conically to a point, each branch and the peak a wire for green pods, blind lanterns starting upward from the stalk each way to a pair of prickly edged blue flowerets: it is her regard, a little plant without leaves, a finished thing guarding its secret.

Source & Background:

Poets.org - Happy Birthday June 10, 2012

On the "Imagist Movement" you can visit:

Poets.org A Brief Guide to Imagism

Tuesday, June 5, 2012


JUNE 5 - Birthday of Federico Garcia Lorca (1898), poet, dramatist and artist, who was murdered on Aug 19, 1936, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. His works were banned in Franco's Spain. G L's body has never been recovered. His poetry and plays have been. Here's a cutting from the poem, with my translation following:

Arbolé, arbolé,
seco y verdí.

La niña del bello rostro
está cogiendo aceituna.
el viento, galán de torres,
la prende por la cintura.
Pasaron cuatro jinetes
sobre jacas andaluzas,
con trajes de azul y verde,
con largas capas oscuras.
'Vente a Córdoba, muchacha.'
La niña no los escucha.
[. . .]

Stemma O Stemma
both dry and green

A lovely girl
out picking olives.
The wind, rigid lover,
grabs at her waist.
As four riders passed
on Andalusian ponies,
wearing outfits of blue and green
and long dark capes,
they said 'Come to Cordoba, little lady.'
She paid no attention to them.
[. . .]

(Translation by RBC)

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Restless Simulacra

The restless simulacra in my mind,
The piquant and horrific mix and meet.
Kaleidoscopic images unwind,
Make loves of losses, victories defeat.

With slight adjustments, just the merest twist,
My brain creates the past I would review.
The sum of spent events comes down to this:
What’s said and done I constantly renew.

Kaleidoscopic colors can enchant,
The reds, the greens, the yellows do enthrall.
More somber hues, though true, I can recant,
Since truth is true if willingly recalled.

The present from the past - a common view.
Our memories we invent - more likely true.


This poem was first published on-line in Syndic #6, where a reading by the writer may also be found:

Three by RBC

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Remorse by Siegfried Sassoon

Now here is a poem with legs, not necessarily the best by Siegfried Sassoon, but a poem with limitations - pace, meter, rhyme - something of the essential features that mark out a poem from a paragraph.

Sasson was one of the famous WWI British poets, who fought, was wounded, sent home to recover, then back to fight some more and yet survive:

Remorse *
by Siegfried Sassoon
Lost in the swamp and welter of the pit,
He flounders off the duck-boards; only he knows
Each flash and spouting crash,--each instant lit
When gloom reveals the streaming rain. He goes
Heavily, blindly on. And, while he blunders,
"Could anything be worse than this?"--he wonders,
Remembering how he saw those Germans run,
Screaming for mercy among the stumps of trees:
Green-faced, they dodged and darted: there was one
Livid with terror, clutching at his knees. . .
Our chaps were sticking 'em like pigs . . . "O hell!"
He thought--"there's things in war one dare not tell
Poor father sitting safe at home, who reads
Of dying heroes and their deathless deeds."

* Counter-Attack and Other Poems, by Siegfried Sassoon (Dutton and Co. 1918, p. 54) 

Monday, April 16, 2012

What's the Diff Xween Free Verse & a Pungent Paragraph or Two?

This excellent poem by Marie Howe has been floating around on the web for a couple of years. (See Sources below)

Does it answer the question:  What's the difference beween free verse and a pungent paragraph or two?

I want to write a love poem for the girls I kissed in seventh grade,
a song for what we did on the floor in the basement
of somebody’s parents’ house, a hymn for what we didn’t say but thought:
That feels good or I like that, when we learned how to open each others’ mouths
how to move our tongues to make somebody moan. We called it practicing, and
one was the boy, and we paired off – maybe six or eight girls – and turned out
the lights and kissed and kissed until we were stoned on kisses, and lifted our
nightgowns or let the straps drop, and Now you be the boy.
Concrete floor, sleeping bag or couch, playroom, game room, train room, laundry.
Linda’s basement was like a boat with booths and portholes
instead of windows. Gloria’s father had a bar downstairs with stools that spun,
plush carpeting. We kissed each other’s throats. 
We sucked each others’ breasts, and we left marks, and never spoke of it upstairs
outdoors, in daylight, not once. We did it, and it was
practicing, and slept, sprawled so our legs still locked or crossed, a hand still lost
in someone’s hair … and we grew up and hardly mentioned who
the first kiss really was — a girl like us, still sticky with the moisturizer we’d
shared in the bathroom. I want to write a song 
for that thick silence in the dark, and the first pure thrill of unreluctant desire
just before we made ourselves stop.


Sunday, March 18, 2012

One of the killed young British poets of WW I.

March 18 Birthday of Wilfred Owen (1893 - Nov 4, 1918), one of the young, British, killed poets of WW I.

. . .
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,---
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Three bright and lovely children is enough

Three bright and lovely children is enough

for effacing and unassuming me

well nearly since life can be quite rough

be nice to have a bit of sound money

a big house too couple of friendly dogs
a yard and garden two cars on the street
or better a garage don't think us hogs
bad weather makes them rust under your feet

plazma telly three compu’s a great room
not grand just great so we can all enjoy
view of the woods land quiet as a tomb
essential as we read on download toys

three children lovely completed life I boast
that other stuff? no - ’xcuse off to the Coast

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

What is the purpose of poetry?

What is the purpose of poetry? Not that hard to figure out. Is it?

"When criticism becomes a pursuit separate from poetry, those who follow it are apt to forget that the legitimate ends of the art for which they lay down rules are instruction and delight, and these points being obtained by what road soever, entitled the poet to claim the prize of successful merit."

Walter Scott
The Dramatic Work of John Dryden

Scott was a literary heavyweight, much neglected these days.

Monday, February 20, 2012



I make a pact with you, Walt Whitman - 

I have detested you long enough.
I come to you as a grown child
Who has had a pig-headed father;
I am old enough now to make friends.
It was you that broke the new wood,
Now is a time for carving.
We have one sap and one root - 
Let there be commerce between us. 


Why did Pound ever "detest" Whitman?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Ezra Pound, "A Retrospect" 1913

"It is better to present one Image in a lifetime 
than to produce voluminous works."

"Pay no attention to the criticism of men who have 
never themselves written a notable work."

"The scientist does not expect to be acclaimed as a great scientist until he has discovered something. He begins by learning what has been discovered already. He goes from that point onward. He does not bank on being a charming fellow personally. He does not expect his friends to applaud the results of his freshman class work. Freshmen in poetry are unfortunately not confined to a definite and recognizable class room. They are 'all over the shop'. Is it any wonder 'the public is indifferent to poetry?"

"A rhyme must have in it some slight element of surprise 
if it is to give pleasure, it need not be bizarre or curious, 
but it must be well used if used at all."

"That part of your poetry which strikes upon the imaginative eye 
of the reader will lose nothing by translation 
into a foreign tongue; 
that which appeals to the ear can reach 
only those who take it in the original."

"Consider the definiteness of Dante's presentation, 
as compared with Milton's rhetoric."

"Read as much of Wordsworth as does not 
seem too unutterably dull."

"Don't mess up the perception of one sense 
by trying to define it in terms of another. 
This is usually only the result of being 
too lazy to find the exact word."

"Rhythm. - I believe in an 'absolute rhythm', 
a rhythm, that is, in poetry which corresponds exactly 
to the emotion or shade of emotion to be expressed."

"Symbols. - I believe that the proper and perfect 
symbol is the natural object . . ."

"Technique. - I believe in technique as 
the test of a man's sincerity . . ."

"Form. - I think there is a 'fluid' as well as a 'solid' content, 
that some poems may have form as a tree has form, 
some as water poured into a vase."

" . . . a vast number of subjects cannot be precisely, 
and therefore not properly rendered 
in symmetrical forms."

 "I am constantly contending that it took two centuries 
of Provence and one of Tuscany to develop 
the media of Dante's masterwork, 
that it took the latinists of the Renaissance, Pleiade, 
and his own age of painted speech to prepare 
Shakespeare his tools."

"It is tremendously important that great poetry be written, 
it makes no jot of difference who writes it." 

" . . . no one produces much that is final . . ."

"As for 'adaptations'; one finds that all the old masters 
of painting recommend to their pupils that 
they begin by copying masterwork, 
and proceed to their own composition."

"As for 'Every man his own poet', the more every man knows 
about poetry the better. I believe in every one writing poetry 
who wants to; most do."

"I believe in every man knowing enough of music 
to play 'God bless our home' on the harmonium, 
but I do not believe in every man giving concerts 
and printing his sin."

"The mastery of any art is the work of a lifetime. 
I should not discriminate between the 'amateur' 
and the 'professional' [. . .] but I should discriminate 
between the amateur and the expert."

"If a certain thing was said once for all in Atlantis or Arcadia, 
in 450 Before Christ or in 1290 after, it is not for us moderns 
to go saying it over, or to go obscuring the memory of the dead 
by saying the same thing with less skill and less conviction."

"All that the critic can do for the reader or audience 
or spectator is to focus his gaze or audition."

 "Surely it is better for me to name over the few 
beautiful poems that still ring in my head than 
for me to search my flat for back numbers of periodicals 
and rearrange all that I have said about 
friendly and hostile writers."



Monday, February 6, 2012

The guy who brought the boar’s head to the queen

The guy who brought the boar’s head to the queen,
Her hunter, trusted for ferocity.
Bring me Snow White’s heart on a platter clean.
Your Highness’ wish is my precosity.

The hunter found the virgin in the glen.
In this account, not spoil her on the spot.
At hazard, brought a boar back to her den,
Where Queeny ate its heart straight from the pot.

A prince and seven munchkins lace this tale,
Which proves the risk of women to their sex.
Until the guys end feminine betrayal,
And rich boy gets to poke her b’low the plex.

Our culture is of course the best can be,
And brothers Grimm assure us, she needs he.

On Not Questioning My Grandmother

Now questions break like spray in grand cascade.
How could they not? Blanche died before I asked
Of James and Arabelle, the pair her made.
Distracted, young, my declarations fast.

Now old, slow, I’d give years to here her voice.
Were your folks sweet to you, dear Blanche? I’d say
When you picked Cecil, they approve your choice?
James wore the Blue, Cec’ dad boasted the Gray.

When Arabelle died, you blame God or fate?
You go with Cecil just to get away?
You knew James’ mother? Simple not ornate.
At least the one picture we have would state.

Drenched in old age and ignorance, I fret,
Loosed from this moil, might I get answers yet?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Time for one of Emily's

After great pain a formal feeling comes--
The nerves sit ceremonious like tombs;
The stiff Heart questions--was it He that bore?
And yesterday--or centuries before?
The feet, mechanical, go round
A wooden way
Of ground, or air, or ought,
Regardless grown,
A quartz contentment, like a stone.
This is the hour of lead
Remembered if outlived,
As freezing persons recollect the snow--
First chill, then stupor, then the letting go.

Emily Dickinson