Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Susan Meyers

Her work has appeared in Crazyhorse, the Southern Review, and Tar River Poetry, and at Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. She holds an MFA from Queens University of Charlotte.

Still Water

More than marginal,
a gloss its striders depend on.

Prefaced by duckweed. Argument
with the merely clever,
philosophy of sunrise and lily.

Marked by the day's drift of pollen,
turning page of a sky
that keeps two secrets: daylight

and night--all this, fully indexed,
leaf by floating leaf.


Friday, May 19, 2006

Blogging erratic until May 30

Blogging will be erratic and perhaps non-existent until May 30, when the blog will emerge from its burrow and amble to the keyboard.

The poem from yesterday, Bone Soup by Carol Moldaw, was from the current issue of FIELD, Number 74, Spring 2006.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Carol Moldaw


Three years, still dead
but alive inside me:
in a dream, talking to him
on the phone, spooning
soup from his bones.

Carol Moldaw's publication credits include The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Agni, Triquarterly and other journals. Her books are The Lightning Field, Chalkmarks on Stone, Taken From the River, and Through the Window. She has won a Pushcart and received an NEA grant, and lives in New Mexico.


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Sylvia Plath 1932-1963


I'm a riddle in nine syllables,
An elephant, a ponderous house,
A melon strolling on two tendrils,
O red fruit, ivory, fine timbers!
This loaf's big, with its yeasty rising.
Money's new-minted in this fat purse.
I'm a means, a stage, a cow in calf.
I've eaten a bag of green apples,
Boarded the train there's no getting off.


Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Annie Dillard

"It takes years to write a book - between two and ten years...

Out of a human population on earth of four and a half billion, perhaps twenty poeple can write a book in a year. Some people lift cars, too. Some people enter week-long sleddog races, go over Niagara Falls in barrels, fly planes through the Arc de Triomphe. Some people feel no pain in childbirth. Some people eat cars. There is no call to take human extremes as norms."

--Annie Dillard, The Writing Life


Monday, May 15, 2006

Stanley Kunitz 1905-2006


Here in caterpillar country
I learned how to survive
by pretending to be a dragon.
See me put on that look
of slow and fierce surprise
when I lift my bulbous head
and glare at an intruder.
Nobody seems to guess
how gentle I really am,
content most of the time
simply to disappear
by melting into the scenery.
Smooth and fatty and long,
with seven white stripes
painted on either side
and a sharp little horn for a tail,
I lie stretched out on a leaf,
pale green on my bed of green,
munching, munching.


Sunday, May 14, 2006

Rosellen Brown

from her essay "You Are Not Here Long" in Letters to a Fiction Writer

Probably the most important thing I've learned, after the fragmented years of child-raising were past (and even then I did my best and usually succeeded) was to arrange my available time in order of "quality" (as one does, in fact, with children).

I asked myself which were my best hours for concentration, which less useful, which the dispensable ones when I could do all the things that don't take purity of attention. This seems self-evident but it is not. If you order your time this way, you don't clean up the house first thing in the morning, as an astonishing number of women do: you fit it in when you've got your pages done...

You don't attend noontime lectures. In the end, in fact, you renounce a lot of minor pleasures...Much of the time such discipline feels indefensibly rigid; with tedious regularity I've had to aplogize to others and to myself for being such a stick-in-the-mud.

But when people say "Whoo, you've published nine books, you've raised children, you've taught. Wow, how'd you manage that?"

I can only reply, with whatever misgivings, "I said no a lot."


Saturday, May 13, 2006

Linda Pastan

A Glass of Cold Water

Poetry is not a code
to be broken
but a way of seeing
with the eyes shut,
of short-
circuiting the usual
connections until
lioness and
knee become
the same thing.

Though not a cure
it can console,
the way cool sheets
the dying flesh,
the way a glass of cold
water can be
a way station
on the unswerving
road to thirst.


Friday, May 12, 2006

Anne Porter


At three in the morning the village is all in silence
But the silence is afloat on the roar of the sea
And all the streets are bathed in the roar of the sea
The waves are at their labors
Cresting and flooding all along the shore
Tumbling and spinning the kelp and the devils-apron
Threshing to meal the morsels and crumbs of stone
And the light seashells with their storm-blue linings.

This is the time of day when I remember
That down at the end of the street there is an ocean
A Nation of fishes and whales
A sky-colored country stretching from here to Spain
A liquid kingdom dragged about by the moon.


Thursday, May 11, 2006

Jiri Orten 1919-1941

A Small Elegy

My friends have left. Far away, my darling is asleep.
Outside, it's as dark as pitch.
I'm saying words to myself, words that are white
in the lamplight and when I'm half-asleep I begin
to think about my mother. Autumnal recollection.
Really, under the cover of winter, it's as if I know
everything - even what my mother is doing now.
She's at home, in the kitchen. She has a small child's stove
toward which the wooden rocking horse can trot,
she has a small child's stove, the sort nobody uses today, but
she basks in its heat. Mother. My diminutive mom.
She sits quietly, hands folded, and thinks about
my father , who died years ago.
And then she is skinning fruit for me. I am in
the room. Sitting right next to her. You've got to see us,
God, you bully, who took so much. How
dark it is outside! What was I going to say?
Oh, yes, now I remember. Because
of all those hours I slept soundly, through calm
nights, because of all the loved ones who are deep
in dreams - Now, when everything's running short,
I can't stand being here by myself. The lamplight's too strong.
I will not live long.

- - - - - - -
This was translated by Lyn Coffin and is from a book entitled Elegies, long out of print. Jiri Orten died not long after writing this poem.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Elizabeth Bowen 1899-1973

"Often intimacies between women go backwards, beginning with revelations and ending up in small talk without loss of esteem."

--The Death of the Heart (1938)

Her spare style and crisp characterization make her novels a bracing and addictive pleasure. Try one as a tonic, when you are weary of fashionable fiction.


Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Wislawa Szymborska


In my dreams
I paint like Vermeer van Delft.

I speak fluent Greek
and not just with the living.

I drive a car
that does what I want it to.

I am gifted
and write mighty epics.

I hear voices
as clearly as any venerable saint.

My brilliance as a pianist
would stun you.

I fly the way we ought to,
i.e., on my own.

Falling from the roof,
I tumble gently to the grass.

I've got no problem
breathing under water.

I can't complain:
I've been able to locate Atlantis.

It's gratifying that I can always
wake up before dying.

As soon as war breaks out,
I roll over on my other side.

I'm a child of my age,
but I don't have to be.

A few years ago
I saw two suns.

And the night before last a penguin,
clear as day.


Monday, May 08, 2006

Allegra Goodman's new novel INTUITION

Intuition is a superb novel. The characters are complex, fully realized, and completely understood by the author. The plot is gripping, the scientific world of research well-described, and the political underpinnings clearly delineated. And the ending! Earned, tough, bitter, sweet, and with the shock of surprise that feels inevitable. A darn good read.

Here's a sample (p. 57.) Marion and Sandy run the lab together and are close friends. This is from Jacob's point of view, he is Marion's husband.

"He did not begrudge Marion her friendhsip. When Sandy had first approached Marion, Jacob had encouraged her to collaborate with him. He had immediately appreciated the money and publicity that the doctor would bring in. Nor did Jacob resent Marion's loyalty to Sandy, and her increasing closeness to him over the past ten years. Perhaps some husbands would be jealous, but Jacob found nothing interesting in the idea that jealousy is a natural counterpart to love, or that when men and women work together there inevitably are sexual undercurrents. These sentimental notions--reductive, cliched, ingrained in the cultural fantasies of romance--were utterly foreign to him, and had no relevance, as far as Jacob saw, to anyone offscreen, or offstage, or outside the pages of books."


Sunday, May 07, 2006

Willa Cather 1876-1947

"Most of the basic material a writer works with is acquired before the age of fifteen."
---from Rene Rapin (1940)

"Art, it seems to me, should simplify. That, indeed, is very nearly the whole of the higher artistic process; finding what conventions of form and what detail one can do without and yet preserve the spirit of the whole-- so that all that one has suppressed and cut away is there to the reader's consciousness as much as if it were in type on the page."
---from On the Art of Fiction (1920)

I think her best novels are O Pioneers! The Song of the Lark, and My Antonia.

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Friday, May 05, 2006

A. E. Stallings

(from Poetry, April 2005, p. 15.)

The Song Rehearsal

Degas, National Gallery of Scotland

It seems familiar somehow, though it's set
In a parlor in New Orleans - another age.
It's summer - the furniture is draped in white.
A shadowed man looks up from the piano.
Two women are rehearsing a duet -
One is striding down an imagined stage
In full-throated aria, the other,
Turning her face away, holds up her right
Hand against the blast of shrill soprano.

But reading the little plaque, I understand -
The casual scene from life begins to change
To genre. The woman with the lifted hand,
Turning away, as if half-terrified,
With loose, high-waisted skirt, will be a mother.
The singer bearing down on her, mouth wide,
Is the angel trumpeting the news so strange,
So ordinary, it's difficult to believe -
And greater than anything she could conceive.


Thursday, May 04, 2006

Pattiann Rogers

The Creation of Sin

Gordon wants to commit a sin
Never committed before. He says he is bored
By the lascivious; he has slept through
A thousand adulteries. He calls theft
And murder and greed embarrassingly unimaginative.

He spends an hour each clear afternoon
On the lawn beneath the alders, grooming the dogs,
Trying to imagine a sin so novel
It has not yet been forbidden.

Sometimes, in the moment just before he discerns
The fish treading in light at the bottom
Of the spring or when he studies the eye
Of the short-eared owl in the instant before it sees
The shrew, he is certain he has already committed
That peculiar sin without knowing it. In the early
As he watches himself from the icy black cedars
By the window, dreaming in his sleep, he can almost
Define it.

As the sole author of a sin,
Gordon knows he would be obligated to create
Its expiation by himself. Grace by seaside scrutiny,
He might claim, forgiveness by clam classification,
Confession by continual shell collection.
He could invent sacred vows--sworn custodian
Of conifers, promised caretaker of ambush bugs
And toad bugs. He could preach atonement by paper
And mathematices, redepmption by ritual
Guessing at the matter of stars.

Today he has recorded a unique grassland prayer
On a tape with the whooping cranes. He has gathered
Sacraments of metamorphic meal moths and
Sassafras fruit. And he knows if he could just commit
A truly original sin, it would mean the beginning
Of his only real salvation.


Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Penelope Fitzgerald 1916-2000

"I have remained true to my deepest convictions--I mean to the courage of those who are born to be defeated, the weaknesses of the strong, and the tragedy of misunderstandings and missed opportunities, which I have done my best to treat as a comedy, for otherwise, how can we manage to bear it?"
--Penelope Fitzgerald
(from the New York Times obit May 3,2000)

She won the Booker in 1979 for Offshore, which I think is her best. She grew up in a literary family,(her father edited Punch, the legendary British humor magazine) but did not publish any of her novels until she was in her sixties.


Monday, May 01, 2006

Ogden Nash 1902-1971


I like the duck-billed platypus
Because it is anomalous.
I like the way it raises its family,
Partly birdly, partly mammaly.
I like its independent attitude.
Let no one call it a duck-billed platitude.

from The Private Dining Room, Little, Brown, Boston, 1952. p. 43.