Sunday, March 29, 2015

tomas transtromer [1931 - 2015]

i've never met transtromer but i feel, like all of us i'm sure who have been touched by his poetry, i knew him.  of course, this has to do with his searingly lucid poems, but also, for me his devotion as a clinical psychologist.  in an interview transtromer snapped at the question, how has your job influenced your poetry?  the poet responded, why doesn't anybody ask me how my poems influence my job?  for me, a poet who lives and works outside of academe, transtromer's embrace of his dayjob was fortifying.  many of his poems deal with his work and with the role of work in our daily lives.

1998; my first trip abroad.  my first landing in stockholm.  the city was celebrating an arts festival.  rainbow flags adorned the streets in support of gay rights.  in a brochure i read about a transtromer self-guiding tour.  see the city thru the eyes and words of transtromer.  i went to the tourist bureau to find out about this tour.  i didn't manage to go.

i did pick up transtromer's collected dikter in a small paperback.  i don't read swedish.  but having the poet's book printed in his native language on my shelves -- in 2002, on another excursion to sverige, i bought the hardback collected letters between robert bly and transtromer, air mail, in swedish too -- influenced, i am convinced, my books and my poetry.

by his example, in poetry and making a living wage, i am deeply indebted to tomas transtromer.  a little piece from his poem 'guard duty' has become a mantra for me.

task: to be where i am.
even when i am in this solemn and absurd
role: i am still the place
where creation works on itself.

i copied out this section in my own goofy lower-case type for these words have become part of my mental architecture.  my physical dna.  i can't think of a better epitaph for this extraordinary poet.  in fact, i know of no higher praise.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

but always


Thursday, March 26, 2015

from notes toward an alt-lyric adagia

a difference between a poet and a person who doesn't write poetry is the poet thinks about death, a lot

reading poetry is writing and writing poetry is reading

you can measure a poet's wealth by her enthusiasm and love for her art

movies are a form of poetry

for some poetry is composed while walking

success is built upon the many failures of poetry

thank god auden claimed poetry makes nothing happen now we can simply get on with the work of reading writing living and loving

if poetry makes nothing happen poetry can still make a heart skip a beat

poetry is a form of sex

the poet composes on the tongue sometimes on the computer sometimes on paper

the world is not made of language and adam did not name the animals nevertheless it seems to the poet the world is an infinite text

speech in poetry is the same as speech in speech

the universe was not constructed for the poet and yet the poet sings the universe into creation

poetry is as common as a ripe apple falling from the tree

it doesn't matter if the poem came into being on the first draft or 100 drafts the poem does not care

poetry is a form of prayer even if there is no god

writing poetry is a form of meditation

the poet writes theories of poetry and yet poetry does not care

for some poets the writing is visual

poetry is a happiness for the poet

the poet if pressed will confess that she knows what she wants to be when she grows up

there is not one identity for the poet there are multitudes

the man in the back row has a question

when you meet someone for the first time and you are getting acquainted and looking for common ground you discover you both have a love of books then the person asks do you write how do you answer; with a simple yes; or do you demur; or do you extrapolate from that question your theories of failure and success?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

hey, rich, what kind of night is it?

why it's a
               drive in
                                  kinda night

the terrific john kinsella


Monday, March 23, 2015


another walk
another read thru the news
another dry year
another housing development in the works
another bulldozer
another shriek of crows
another dropped cigarette butt
another cell phone
another empty beer bottle on the sidewalk
another group of women released from jail
another cat pounce
another traffic jam
another time caught between the red and green light
another moment leads to the next moment
another dropped arrangement
another asks for spare change
another enters the grocery store
another long line
another ache in the knees
another spare frown
another walk ends

Saturday, March 21, 2015

who reads yevgeny yevtushenko?

can i let the first day of spring pass without remarking upon it?  lovely lovely lovely and more lovely days.  sure, one can be a realist and point out how fucked we are in this world.  oh, but then what of all this useless beauty?

i attended a reading tonight with a poet friend.  the reader published his second novel.  the reading was held at an indie bookstore in downtown davis.  a university town.  the town was jumping for a friday night.  lots of students.  lots of bicycles. 

afterward my buddy and i headed to an irish pub for a couple of pints and bites to eat.  my friend is an adjunct professor.  me, i've not been inside a classroom since i finished my MA in 2000.  we talked about the po biz.  we commiserated.  we held each other.  but we shed no tears.  this is the life we chose.  poetry.  living.  family.  careers?  that's another concern outside of poetry.

before the reading the novelist, a mutual friend and i were standing in the poetry aisle.  i was looking at the selection.  i said, almost tongue in cheek, for i had seen a volume of yevtushenko's earlier in the evening at the sac poetry center, who reads yevtushenko.  i've been watching many yevtushenko videos on youtube.  i do, said the novelist.  i do too, i replied.

in all this useless beauty we find those bits that matter most to us.  regardless of fashion, or climate.  at least in our better moments.  for me as a younger man saw yevtushenko as a product of the cold war.  as an older gent i see the russian poet as pretty damn fascinating.

a matter of perspective.  and taste.  too.  tastes do not have careers.  neither does perspective.  history will choose whom and what it wants regardless of our machinations and desires.  better to just get on with the arts of writing and living.  in the end, it does not get better than that.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

quote unquote  

happy belated st. patrick's day

I respect kindness to human beings first of all, and kindness to animals. I don't respect the law; I have a total irreverence to anything connected with society except that which makes the roads safer, the beer stronger, the food cheaper, and old men and women warmer in the winter and happier in the summer.

--brendan behan [borstal boy; avon, 1958]

[an aside. i think i was irish in a former life for the love and shared affection i have for ireland, its music and its poetry and poets. can't explain that one. i just do.]

just watched the acoustic version of 'good for me' by above & beyond feat. zoe johnston. a very beautiful song indeed. i love how this version wants to make you dance but also just wants to wash over you with a bit of icky thump.