Sunday, April 30, 2006

Fire & Ice

"You are ice and fire the touch of you burns my hands like snow." ~ Amy Lowell

I chose this quote for today simply because it is such a powerful phrase and quite precise in the image it presents to me personally. These are the kinds of lines that produce poetry that leaps from the page rather than just existing as ink in one dimensional form.

On another note, I'd like to suggest to readers that they might consider going to the Squeet box in the left column of this blog and sign up to receive the blog postings via e-mail. I previously used another service which seems not to be defunct of at least not working more that it is. In the short time I have been exposed to Squeet, I have been impressed. This will allow you to receive syndicated feeds of this blog in your e-mail and you can choose from live, daily or weekly feeds.

I have not written much in the past week. I need to integrate a little more time into the coming week for this. I have a number of home projects I am working on and they are coming along but I know there is an endless cycle of them. I had planned to do a more extensive blog post today on a topic but I am forgoing that for now.

Here's to what's left of the weekend!


Saturday, April 29, 2006

Accuracy & Clarity

"Good writers are those who keep the language efficient. That is to say, keep it accurate, keep it clear." ~ Ezra Pound

This is a most interesting statement in that to me I want to split down the middle falling on both sides. On one hand I heartily agree. And if we are speaking literally of language itself, yes! But just as we should strive for efficiency and clarity in language usage, I don't believe that mean we have to be so ridged with our poetry as Ted Koozer would have us all be.

I myself like a little mysticism left between the lines. I like to have to read a poem over and over. That is where discovery comes. If I read a poem once and can say, "Oh, that was nice. I understand completely," then I quite often feel cheated. There is no stretching of the mind. No room for revelation or discovery. Sure concise language is important, but not everything has to be written as though it were for remedial consumption.

Yes, there are exceptions. There are poems that are straight forward that I like very much and some of my own have been written in a fashion the Koozer's of the world would feel much more comfortable with. But these poems must say something all the more exceptional.


Friday, April 28, 2006

Gee Really?

You Should Be A Poet
You craft words well, in creative and unexpected ways.And you have a great talent for evoking beautiful imagery...Or describing the most intense heartbreak ever.You're already naturally a poet, even if you've never written a poem.
What Type of Writer Should You Be?

I have to give credit to Cindy at Quotidian Light for this site. Admittedly I was fearful that it would tell me I should write obituaries or greeting cards.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

A Poet's Moments

"I prefer to explore the most intimate moments, the smaller, crystallized details we all hinge our lives on." ~Rita Dove


The concept of a moment I believe means so much to poetry. We often hold onto, whatever it is we capture, within the framework of some indefinite period of time, but it is generally considered to be a small segment.

A noun, I see a moment as both a place and a thing. As a place it is some point within a continuum. As a thing, it is an arbitrary period of time.

What I believe gives particular meaning to moment or moments within the context of poetry is that they are so often characterized by some quality.

If you consider a poem to be a snapshot (and I often feel it is) of sorts, then that very word picture that we strive to recreate is very often predicated on some moment. A loving touch, a dying breath, an intimate kiss, that first cry after coming into the world, the hawk in mid-flight, a moment of terror in the midst of a war.

I like to think that as poets what we are often doing is taking into account some moment and saying about it, "hold that thought!"


Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The World As We Know It

"When it aims to express a love of the world it refuses to conceal the many reasons why the world is hard to love, though we must love it because we have no other, and to fail to love it is not to exist at all." ~ Mark Van Doren

Last night, I took my daughter to hear Lois Lowry speak on The Life of A Writer.
Lowry wrote one of Meghan's favorite books, The Giver. (second only to To Kill A Mockingbird)

Lowry's story takes us through her life and brings us to the inspiration behind The Giver, a book which is highly acclaimed and at the same time has sparked controversy by many parents who I will assume are well meaning if not somewhat ignorant.

Lowry's personal story underscores her belief that those things in life (which we all have) that are sad or painful, do in fact serve a significant purpose, without which, the good, the happy and joyful times would soon become mundane and of lesser value without such tribulations to measure against.

I agree that this is an important aspect of our lives. One which is very often hard for us to keep in perspective. It certainly isn't going the make the sad or painful any easier to endure, but I think it can give greater legitimacy to the upside of life.

Mark Van Doren's quote above is an excellent example how poetry and poets themselves can server the greater good of man. People often ask, "Why do poets so often write of death, or war?" The answer is simple... because it is there. It is real and it is before us. The same is true of love, and so many other things. In a very real way, poets are historians, recording what we see and what we feel in such a way as to give it greater meaning to others and to other generations. While all poetry is not necessarily 100% factual, it will address truths that we see and feel. Sometimes I think of how awesome a snapshot can be and the whole "a picture is worth a thousand words" thing. But when a poet reaches deep within himself or herself, and pulls out what he or she feels and put them, not into lengthy prose, but in very precise words in a very special order to grasp what was internalized, how awesome is that?


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Collecting Thoughts in Journal

I've decided today I will keep my journal close at hand and record bits and pieces of any variety of thoughts that come together in a semblance of phrase. Not wanting any particular issue, theme, agenda but merely allowing the collection of these random particles of thought. At the end of the day, or perhaps tomorrow I'll visit these and see what has substantive value. From this, I'll see what I can write.

The concept is of course not at all novel. I do write little bits of verbiage from time to time and some become the basis of later work. But I am going to try to be more prolific in that process throughout the day. This is where this process differs from my past experiences.

On another note, I picked up a couple of good books over the weekend. My wife has the uncanny ability to walk into a book store and find really good material on poetry. This would not be so surprising if she were more attune to the craft. She is highly creative and artistic, but poetry is not her thing. (though she is highly supportive of my poetry)


Anne Bradstreet Quote

"Iron till it be thoroughly heated is incapable to be wrought; so God sees good to cast some men into the furnace of affliction, and then beats them on his anvil into what frame he pleases." ~Anne Bradstreet

Monday, April 24, 2006

High Fives All-Around!

"Each word bears its weight, so you have to read my poems quite slowly." ~ Anne Stevenson

I like this quote because it reminds me of the whole matter of word economy in poetry. I often need to remind myself the importance of this to poetry. It is not so much that I have a struggle with it as it is that it just needs to remain on the forefront of my mind.

It has occurred to me that this is a concept that really goes against the grain of my normal mode of communication. With ADD the tendency is to verbalize everything that is going through your mind. Hence, I will often give a person more information than needed in the course of a conversation. As I write this, I'm thinking my wife would likely ask me, "then how come I can write poems with less wordage and not do the same in our conversations?" It is a good question and I suspect the major factor is that we speak in conversations much faster than we write. Writing slows us and of course besides taking more time to choose the best words, we have the ability to re-write.

I do have some good news. Last week I was flipping through the mail and there is one of my self-addressed envelopes.

So I'm reading along... " We are pleased to inform you that your work has been accepted for publication in the 2006 issue..."
and all of a sudden, I realize this is not a rejection letter! I could get into the joy of receiving these much better than the other variety.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Free Speech & Poetry

"In our period, they say there is free speech. They say there is no penalty for poets, There is no penalty for writing poems. They say this. This is the penalty."~ Muriel Rukeyser

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

April 18th Poet's Quote

I'll love you, dear, I'll love you till China and Africa meet and the river jumps over the mountain and the salmon sing in the street. ~ W. H. Auden

* Happy Birthday to my wife Cathy Jean

The Way You Carry Yourself

The Way You Carry Yourself
For Cathy Jean

You wear your flannelness
in that laid back way
that fits you pleasantly.

Conformity seems unimportant
and you prove it like you would
work a math problem backwards.

I swear, you give it utmost validity;
a blossoming art hung out of self-assurance
in an off the path gallery-

If two people find it appealing,
you are satisfied. An if no one sees it,
it's all just the same.

But I would hold you in any fabric,
just as you are, and I would press
your nakedness to mine

in nothing at all,
as the creator herself
has become a treasure of art.

Monday, April 17, 2006

A search for order

"For me, poetry is always a search for order." ~ Elizabeth Jennings

It seems that as we go through life, the very process of living is in itself a natural disordering process. We read the paper, it ends up with sections missing or A between E and D and the Movie section folded inside out. Or we get up in the morning and the bed covering is all out of kelter. And so life moves through the day being lived, being sort of misshapen if you will. We stop at various points to re-order our lives. But we know full well these are temporary shifts in the sand of life, and like the wheat in a Kansas field, it will again move with each breeze.

Elizabeth Jennings has touched upon a most human instinctive facet of poetry. Poetry often speaks to my own need to pause and get things right. To find and reorder life. To find that emotion that resides deep within. You know it is there and cannot begin tell or explain it, even to the one you are closest to in life, for want of words. For perfect description. Your mind and soul searches for that ordering and until you find it - until a poem speaks it to you and you have that ah-ha! realization - it remains locked deep within.

Sometimes it's through my own writing that these things come about. Still, at other times it is the words of another poet that provide a key to this ordering, this finding the right words or image to complete the emotional translation. And so it is that we become better aware and in that greater awareness, now have the ability to put our deepest fears or longing desires, or greater joys and utmost delights into the right words and best order to achieve most precise meaning.


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Friday, April 14, 2006

From a work in progress

One more morning sunrise
strained through a gauze wrapped sky-
One more day forcing itself into my squinting eyes.

Student can recite poem with profanity

Student can recite poem with profanity

U.S. District Court Judge Brian Sandoval gave the ok for a 14 year old student to recite a poem in competition with the words "hell" and "damn" in it. Stickpoet recently reported on this in an earlier blog.

A school official, Steven West, at Coral Academy of Science in Reno, NV told 14 year old Jacob Behymer-Smith, that he could not recite the poem in competition again after using W.H. Auden's "The More Loving One" and then reprimanded the student's English teacher. West said the Auden then work contained profanity.

It is sad that this matter had to rise to the level of taking up time on a federal court docket and the school's decision blows my mind. Of course you may go here and judge for yourself just how profane this poem about love is.

I have to say, based on the poor the judgment used by the school in this instance, I don't know that I would trust these people with greater issues of education for a child of mine.

This kid is a freshman in high school for Christ's sake. The academy's attorney said this was not about free speech (the court bagged to differ) but about the schools' ability to set educational standards. That is scary given the prominence of W. H. Auden in modern poetry and how benign the usage of the words in question.

Jacob intends to recite the poem on April 22 during Poetry Out Loud, a contest sponsored by the National Endowment of the Arts and the Poetry Foundation.


New frost place director wants to put poetry in motion

New frost place director wants to put poetry in motion

He is on just about everybody's short list of best known poets. New director of The Frost Place, a museum and arts center, talks about his plans.

Chicago Tribune | Just the thought of poetry

Chicago Tribune Just the thought of poetry

All this fuss about poetry this month... Diane Cameron asks what's it all about?

Poet's Quote - Sharon Olds

"This creature of the poem may assemble itself into a being with its own centrifugal force." ~ Sharon Olds


Thursday, April 13, 2006


A phrase that has raised from the ink and is making quite a splash throughout the blogisphere is MAUREEN DOWD's catch phrase from her Op-ed piece yesterday titled: WAG THE CAMEL. Dowd writes in a New York Times Op-ed piece: "Iran was whipping up real uranium while America was whipped up by fake uranium." [source]

I think this pretty much says it all.


Thursday Mix

The moon was luminous last night and hung in the sky like one of those globes at a dance that reflect lights. The drive into to work was pleasant, with remarkably little traffic and I noticed the greening that is occurring all about us. It felt safe and comforting.

On the west cost, the San Francisco Giants, my absolute favorite baseball team suffered consecutive days of rainouts for only the
second time since the team moved to San Fran in 1958. Tell me there isn't something screwy going on with the weather. Tuesday's series opener was already rescheduled as a split doubleheader for Thursday.

Tuesday night, the KC Metro Verse met at the Writer House. I filled in for our President who was ill. The meeting was mostly read-arounds. We were short several other members.

I see
Christine over at This is All Your Fault has been experimenting with e.e. cummings - I kind of like it, but it seems so different from what we usually see from her. I guess that is where the experimental part comes in. Anyway I liked it! Note: her book The Salt Daughter is now available on

The past few days - I seem to have lost track how many now, I have been following Eileen Tabios'
posts on her blog - she have captured the last days with her father. Her words have been painfully beautiful.

I finished reading Bitter Fame - A Life of Sylvia Plath this week. I've read numerous biographical books on Plath. This on is worth the read. I'll tell you more about why I feel this way in a later post.


Poet's Quote - Robert Bly

"The beginning of love is a horror of emptiness." ~ Robert Bly

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

My Point

I have something to say
and I want your attention-
Your focus to the point these lines
ride the whiteness of this page.

I want you to read me and taste
the acidic black words,
question what this all means.

Bore yourself, in search
of some higher purpose,
that these have
some vaulted meaning
that springs forth.

Look between these lines
or beneath the page in hope
of more clarity. Some special
clue to my agenda
in all these words.

Take me apart,
line by line
with a paring knife.
There has to be an agenda.

Add these to your vocab

My wife sent me the following yesterday in an e-mail and I must admit it cracked me up. I believe my favorites are numbers 3, 7 and 18.

The Washington Post's Mensa Invitational once again asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. .....Here are this year's winners:

1. Intaxication: Euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: Coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.): The substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign of breaking down in the near future.

4 . Foreploy: Any misrepresentation about yourself for the purpose of getting laid.

5. Cashtration (n.): The act of buying a house, which renders the subject financially impotent for an indefinite period.

6. Giraffiti: Vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

7. Sarchasm: The gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person who doesn't get it.

8. Inoculatte: To take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

9. Hipatitis: Terminal coolness.

10. Osteopornosis: A degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

11. Karmageddon: It's like, when everybody is sending off all these really bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's like, a serious bummer.

12. Decafalon (n.): The grueling event of getting through the day consuming only things that are good for you.

13. Glibido: All talk and no action.

14. Dopeler effect: The tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they come at you rapidly.

15. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): The frantic dance performed just after you've accidentally walked through a spider web.

16. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

17. Caterpallor (n.): The color you turn after finding half a worm in the fruit you're eating.
And the pick of the literature:

18. Ignoranus: A person who's both stupid and an arsehole.

Poet's Quote - Richard Wilbur

"It is true that the poet does not directly address his neighbors; but he does address a great congress of persons who dwell at the back of his mind, a congress of all those who have taught him and whom he has admired; they constitute his ideal audience and his better self." ~ Richard Wilbur

Yes, who is the poet's audience? Sometimes, I write with absolutely no audience in mind. I have been known to think more about audience in rewrites, but I'll admit, sometimes I believe it is my own soul that is the audience. I think perhaps this is the very audience Wilbur is addressing.

Monday, April 10, 2006

NPR : Caroline Kennedy: 'My Favorite Poetry for Children'

NPR : Caroline Kennedy: 'My Favorite Poetry for Children'

I featured a piece on this in one of my blog posts in the past but I thought since NPR did a segment on morning edition, it was worth mentioning it during National Poetry Month.


Mondays Can Be Such A Bitch

So today is Monday. It is also my oldest daughters birthday. What a contrast. I recall Cathy Ann's birth like it was yesterday, though sadly, it was eons ago. Yet, today is Monday and I'd like to forget it already. The day started with the realization that all out CD's were stolen from the car. Then, my wife's very favorite winter hat was damaged. To add insult to injury, she locked herself out of work this morning, on my account. Monday is not normally a kind day anyway, but today especially.

So back to my oldest daughter. She lives out of the area, so we rarely see her. I am quite proud of her, as I am all our kids, but she is the only one who has moved out of the city and her mother and I miss her very much!

I did not write much this weekend but, for what time I attempted, I was back to trying to force a round peg into a square hole. Of course the results were not worthy of salvage. So much in contrast to last week when stuff just rolled out of the pen to the page.

I suppose it is time to shake this Monday thing and try to get things moving. My body seems to be moving at the speed of a slug and that is just not going to help me get through this day. I guess I need to get a little more positive passion about the day.

Here is the poet's quote for the day:

"The voice of passion is better than the voice of reason. The passionless cannot change history." ~ Czeslaw Milosz

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Poet's Quote for Sunday April 9

"A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul." ~ Franz Kafka

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Poet's Quote - Sautuday April 8th

"Yet there are times when a deeper need enters, when we want the poem to be not only pleasurably right but compellingly wise, not only a surprising variation played upon the world, but a re-tuning of the world itself." ~ Seamus Heaney

Friday, April 07, 2006

Hearing again the life-altering, haunting words of poet Sexton

Hearing again the life-altering, haunting words of poet Sexton -

On October 1st, 1974, Anne Sexton appeared at Goucher College and gave her last lecture. With her usual props - a glass of water, a sheaf of papers, a pack of cigarettes, she delivered a bracing, spirited 90 minute performance that ended with a prolonged standing ovation. Looking back at this address, were there signs of what was to come?


Friday Smiles!

My selected Poet Quote of the day is great advice. It comes from Christina Rossetti

"Better by far you should forget and smile that you should remember and be sad."


Thursday, April 06, 2006

Art in Words

I was reading an article about Laura McCullough and her book The Dancing Bear. For her, writing poetry is about discovery and she says that her poetry helps her explore her obsessions. [source] I have thought about this in the context of the confessional school but even as I write more and more stream of conscinence material to begin first drafts, I believe there is a lot of discover to be had even in more abstract work. Sometimes this produces the most surprising imagry in this art. We are not intentionally driving a piece in a certain direction trying to hammer some specific idea, meaning or image into the poem. To me, this, perhaps more than anything else, is justification for the free verse form.

Select lines from Robert Lowell's Epilogue:
I hear the noise of my own voice: / The painter's vision is not
a lens, / it trembles to caress the light. / But sometimes everything I write
with the threadbare art of my eyes / seems a snapshot, /

Poet's Quote of the Day:
"The more articulate one is, the more dangerous words become." ~ May Sarton

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Ted Hughes project given boost

Local News - Yorkshire Post Today: News, Sport, Jobs, Property, Cars, Entertainments & More: LB6

Story generated from local news source in Yorkshire on state of the Ted Hughes Project by locals.

Upcoming Events

The new Busch Stadium in St. Louis - View of the home plate side.

Poet Quote for today....

"Baseball will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism. Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set. Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us." ~ Walt Whitman

Poetry Events:

John Ashbery Festival

• From April 6 - April 8 the New School in New York City will sponsor a festival honoring John Ashbery, the author of more than twenty books of poetry and the recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and fellowships from the MacArthur and Guggenheim foundations.

Readers at the festival will include: Mark Bibbins, Billy Collins, Daniel Halpern, Bob Holman, Ann Lauterbach, Ron Padgett, James Tate, Susan Wheeler, and, Ashbery himself. Click here for more information.

Kansas City, Missouri at The Writers Place:

Friday, April 7, 7:30pm- Michelle Boisseau and Michael Waters will read from their poetry. (click here)

Writers Place - 3607 Pennsylvania - Kansas City, MO 64111


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Poetry is about discovering, not dissecting

The Herald-Mail ONLINE: "Poetry is about discovering, not dissecting"

Nice piece written by Lydia Hadfield - great for poetry month. I could not have said it better.

More is More

I've been fairly free wheeling with my poetry drafts these past few days. I'm not sure that I've
produced much that I am happy with, but I have been spilling the ink quite well. In the long run, this is a good thing. It means for instance, that I am gravitating away from trying to force something to happen. I am not suffering delusions that I have kicked that habit, only that for the time being, I've moved beyond that.

I'm looking forward to being able to cull some material from what has been flowing on the page. It just hasn't hit me yet, but with greater volume comes greater opportunity. This is kind of a weird thought in some respects because most of us are accustomed to challenging the assumption that somehow, more is better. In this case, I think it has the greater potential, but in terms of raw material, it is not in itself necessarily better. The reality is that more is simply more to cull from. If I go fishing in a lake with 200 fish in it, I am not going to always catch more than down the road where there are only 100 fish in the lake, but the possibilities are better. I view this the same as creating material for poems. It is good to initially spill out your treasure troff of musings. Then see where that leads.

Poet Quote for Today

"If we lose love and self respect for each other, this is how we finally die." ~ Maya Angelou

Monday, April 03, 2006

The ordinary

Morning view of Arch from our hotel room

I was in St Louis this weekend - weather was nice. Saw the new Busch Stadium which is nearing completion for the Cardinals home opener. It certainly felt like spring time was itching to get underway.

I had a bit of an epiphany about what we see in life. An too, perhaps what we miss and I found a wonderful link between that and my view of poetry. It seems that sometimes when you look with a great deal of focus you can find the most unique and beautiful things among the ordinary.

I saw for example, in downtown St. Louis, an area richly green with ivy spread across the ground and amid it was planted the bright red on/off valve on a stem. Here was a man made flower so to speak in the midst of natures lush foliage. Some would perhaps discount this as an intrusion into nature and it could be viewed that way. I chose to look beyond that.

While waiting for my wife who was in the city on business, I happened upon a bead shop. I can't tell you how excited I was about this. I don't bead, but I have been in enough shops with my wife to know that she would have found this one exciting. Unfortunately they were closing before she was to be finished with her meetings, but I picked up a very small item for her there and she seemed delighted by it.

It has occurred to me that sometimes the ordinary is only ordinary if we allow it it be. Yes, there are many extraordinary things in this world that we can marvel at, but it is important to not overlook the beauty around us in the ordinary course of life.

I found a poet's quote for today that sort of fit into what I am saying...

"For sure I once thought of myself as the poet who would save the ordinary from oblivion." ~ Philip Levine

When I saw this quote, I thought that perhaps Levine was on to something. I have always found poetry about the simplest things to be so enjoyable. If we can find ourselves within the ordinary, certainly the objective of saving the ordinary from oblivion is a noble cause for any poet to take on.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Poet's Quote for April 2nd

"I write with experiences in mind, but I don't write about them, I write out of them." ~ John Ashbery

Don't Forget to move your clocks forward an hour. It may be later than you think. ;)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

April 1st - Out of the poet's mouth

"I've read some of your modern free verse and wonder who set it free." ~ John Barrymore