Friday, August 31, 2007

I've been reading Natasha Trethewey's Native Guard, winner of this year's Pulitzer Prize, and and Troy Jollimore's Tom Thomson in Purgatory, winner of this years National Book Critics Circle Award. They are both good books, a delight to read. But what is fascinating to me is that they both contain sonnet sequences at their core.

Trethewey's sonnets are a narrative about a regiment of black soldiers fighting in the American the civil war. They are linked by the last line of one sonnet being echoed closely in the first line of the next (not an exact repeat, but a variation). Jollimore's sonnets are all spoken in the voice of a character named Tom Thomson (with a syntax like that of Obi Wan Kinobi: really, try to say them in that voice, and you will not be able to stop!), about his various adventures (mostly all described in internal monologue). Both of their sonnets have standard meter/syllable count, and length of 14 lines, but are unrhymed.

However, to be honest with you, my favorite parts of both of these books were *not* the sonnets. The first section of Tom Thomson in Purgatory is titled "From the Boy Scout Manual" and it is stunning, a wonderful lyric investigation of the nature of nature and our place in it, that would do Thoreau proud. Here is the opening poem:

Mockingbird and Whippoorwill

In July it occurs to the mockingbird
that many a human would love to lay
a rough, unfeathered hand upon
its faculty of flight;
and so it takes to the ground, grows round
and mothlike, and becomes,
so far as any human eye can tell,
a whippoorwill.

In August it befalls the whippoorwill
to wonder whether, given its love
for the tip-topped tree, its peculiar penchant
for singsong, those disturbing dreams
in which it swoops and careens as if
aflame, its actual name
might not be of an altogether different feather:
in a word, mockingbird.


And Trethewey's poems about the life of her parents, the death of her mother, are very moving and well-wrought. I much preferred these poems to the historical sonnets (even though they are so thematically linked). And she has a palindrome poem! (ah, my heart goes pitter-pat) that I think I first saw in New England Review a while back:


I was asleep while you were dying.
It’s as if you slipped through some rift, a hollow
I make between my slumber and my waking,

the Erebus I keep you in, still trying
not to let go. You’ll be dead again tomorrow,
but in dreams you live. So I try taking

you back into morning. Sleep-heavy, turning,
my eyes open, I find you do not follow.
Again and again, this constant forsaking.


Again and again, this constant forsaking:
my eyes open, I find you do not follow.
You back into morning, sleep-heavy, turning.

But in dreams you live. So I try taking,
not to let go. You’ll be dead again tomorrow.
The Erebus I keep you in--still, trying--

I make between my slumber and my waking.
It’s as if you slipped through some rift, a hollow.
I was asleep while you were dying


Happy reading!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

For T, who has many a fine nest poem herself, from today's ALP column:


I walked out, and the nest
was already there by the step. Woven basket
of a saint
sent back to life as a bird
who proceeded to make
a mess of things. Wind
right through it, and any eggs
long vanished. But in my hand it was
intricate pleasure, even the thorny reeds
softened in the weave. And the fading
leaf mold, hardly
itself anymore, merely a trick
of light, if light
can be tricked. Deep in a life
is another life. I walked out, the nest
already by the step.

Poem copyright (c) 1996 by Marianne Boruch, whose most recent book of poetry is "Poems: New and Selected," Oberlin College Press, 2004. Reprinted from "A Stick That Breaks And Breaks," Oberlin College Press, 1997, with permission of the author. First published in the journal "Field."


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Quidquid latine dictum sit, altum videtur

Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound

amantes sunt amentes
lovers are lunatics

Carpe carpum
Seize the fish

Nihil curo de ista tua stulta superstitione
I'm not interested in your dopey religious cult

Vacca foeda. Fac ut vivas
Stupid cow. Get a life

Non sum pisces
I am not a fish

Nucleo predicus dispella conducticus
Remove foil before microwaving

Sempre ubi, sub ubi
Always wear underwear

cave quid dicis, quando, et cui
beware what you say, when, and to whom

Monday, August 27, 2007

Another Rat Abandons Bush's Sinking Ship

It makes me very happy to see this lying sack of sh*t go.

Now, if there were just a way to make sure he doesn't get a penny of his government pension. Or at least prosecute him for perjury (an Attorney General who lies!) and disbar him.


And now, another poem from BAP 2007, by Seattleite, Jeanette Allee:

Crimble of Staines

You're back in motherbickered
England dumb with brick
— viper typists.
Such organized fear: rigidity as fetish
Sphincter sphunct filthiness in wainscoted ways.

Jolly 'ol brims with againstness
"Anti-clockwise" — "Ante-natal" if you will —
The crumbling masonry of
Your "anti-relationship structure" you once called it before
You went away. Such negativity in names:
Wormwood Scrubs as prison, animal park Whipsnade
The motorshop Crimble of Staines
Kidney pie tastes like potty
Cheat never equals cheated upon.

After you left me, I bought a barrister
Besotted — blotto — up to my rooms
Is this how they do it I kept wondering,
Dull as cotton batting, without love?
In his garden variety serpentry he left
On our bodgy bed — a wrunkled skin — still crawling, crawling.

— from FIELD

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Here's another fun one from BAP 2007. I want to copy this form — but she has already filched the best letter.

-- Natasha Saje

Firethorn: a trope for
Fucking, which people talk entirely too much about, the
Flurry of phonemes a substitute,
Foucault would say. I’m beginning to be
Free of it. Reading
Feldenkrais makes me blush, how much it mattered. I’d rather swim than
Fornicate. Laura asks, how often? It depends what you mean by sex, I say. I never
Fetishized, was never caught in
Flagrante delicto.
Forget the times I’d pull to the side of the road
For some, heating up at 30
Farenheit outside. It’s a
Falcon honing in on a nest of mice, a venomous
Fang, a
Farce in Braille and Esperanto. And
Freud, was he ever wrong! About inversion, envy, and hysteria. O
Faucet I’ve turned to a trickle, O
Fracas muffled in silk, I don’t give a
Fig—your furor and fuss have
passed, o bittersweet.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

I received my contributor's copies of BAP 2007 in the mail yesterday. One paperback and one hardbound. I *love* the cover image. Dean and I took turns reading poems to each other after dinner last night. This volume really has Heather McHugh's sensibility all over it. There is word-play galore, humor, intelligence, and singeing wit, as well as a little bit of politics & social-issues, and a dash of history & theory. I feel honored to be included.

Here is a sample, I believe it is from fellow blogger Cam Larios!? (aka Sculpin):

What Bee Did

Bee not only buzzed.
When swatted at, Bee deviled,
Bee smirched. And when fuddled,
like many of us, Bee labored, Bee reaved.
He behaved as well as any bee can have.

Bee never lied. Bee never lated.
And despite the fact Bee took, Bee also stowed.
In love, Bee sieged. Bee seeched.
Bee moaned, Bee sighed himself,
Bee gat with his Beloved.

And because Bee tokened summer
(the one season we all, like Bee, must lieve)
Bee also dazzled.

-- Julie Larios
from The Courtland Review


Thursday, August 23, 2007

Saw this on the Kenyon Review website today. Very apropos for the miners in Utah.

The Miner
-- W. S. Merwin

With a mountain on top of him from
The first day, he learns not to think
Impractically about the place
His life depends on. Three hundred feet
Down in the dark with its faults and slides,
With only a little lamp strapped
To his forehead, he gets by heart
The shafts lightless as sleeves, the dripping
Piles stacked like trestles of cards
To hold up the dead weight of stone, and
Concentrates on those veins of the dark
That can be used. Even his dreams soon
Are untroubled by the oppressive
Weight of the earth, and it comes to close
Over him every morning like a habit.
It may not crush him, but its damps
And the long hours cramped in the low seams
Will bow him in the end. He learns
To recognize his shaft-mates under
Their blackened faces, as he must, for
Even if he lives to retire
And sit in his doorway, bathed
By the innocent sun, what he does
All his life to keep alive gets into
The grain of him, and at last cannot
Be washed out, all of it, in this world.

Had a lovely dinner out last night with our friends Kevin and Bob, to celebrate Kevin (belated) and Dean's birthdays. Cocktails at Oliver's and then dinner at Andaluca. Dean enjoyed his gifts of a cream and sugar set (to match the Denby stoneware we have), a digital cooking timer, and some extra special balsamic vinegar. Hmmmm: all food related. I guess the way to a man's heart *is* through his stomach.


Looks like Jim B has an advance copy of BAP 2007. Looking forward to the comics!


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What the World Eats

This is the most fascinating photo-documentary. Check out a preview of it here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Danskin Triathlon Seattle

My sister Colleen, who is a two-year breast cancer survivor, completing her first triathlon yesterday, at the Danskin event in Seattle. Doesn't she look great!?

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Fun with Yogurt

Dean and I had a lovely dinner last night with our friends L and S. There was a concert by a jazz quintet in the park across the street, so we had live music playing as we ate, and then after dinner we took a big blanket over and sat out on the grass and listened to the rest of the show. It was just beginning to get dark by then, and the Japanese lanterns around the stage and along the garden paths made a warm light (we needed it, as it was a little gray and cool, with a few drops of drizzle now and then). Very relaxing.

For dinner, I made lamb kabobs for the first time, and I think they turned out pretty well. The secret (actually there are two secrets):

1) For the lamb marinade I used plain yogurt, with cumin and coriander, garlic, salt, pepper, and put the 1 inch cubes of lamb in it for about 8 hours. Apparently the yogurt tenderizes the lamb. It almost melts in your mouth! You can marinate it for up to three days in advance. But that might make the lamb so tender as to be sinful.

2) Pre-cook the veggies: since the lamb cooks very quickly on the hot grill (2-4 minutes), the veggies (mushroom, onion, yellow squash, zucchini, orange bell pepper, etc) need to be pre-cooked about halfway, or they won't be done enough. I sauteed them in advance (about 5-6 minutes), with all their spices, then put them in a glass pan in the refrigerator, to steep in their juices. When it was time to load skewers, they were cool and firm enough to handle. When they were grilled with the lamb, so yummy!

We have these neat metal skewers from Greece, made with decorative handles that look like old coins or symbols from mythology, that a friend gave to us years ago (thank you Aspa). They are much better than wood because they don't burn, or break. But they are a little hot to handle when they first come off the grill. Fortunately, there were no burns inflicted last night.


On call this week, but it has been quiet (knock on wood). Worked on a few poems yesterday, but have not touched the novel in over a week now. I hope that is not a bad sign.


Tonight we go to see the David Wagoner play about Roethke, "First Class," at ACT. I'm really looking forward to it. Wheeee!


Dean is so proud to have a hurricane named after him. And for his birthday, no less. But he hopes it is kind to Jamaica and the rest of the Carribean. And that it levels a certain ranch in Crawford, Texas, instead.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

I was shopping for Dean's birthday present and took a detour into Barnes & Noble and saw this new book of poems, and opened to this poem. I bought the book on the spot.

Water Cure

Before drowning, after the gasp
when firefly lights pop and sputter
around the prisoner's eyes:
this is the line to recognize.
The manual recommends a pause
to let the man confess.
If there is no water and you must press on,
then strip him naked. After the shock,
watch him watch the fake-out clock and realize
the hours are yours to stretch against him.
Shock, or better, dunk again.
Try self-inflicted pain.


And what did I get Dean for his birthday?
Well, that is a surprise.
Let's just say it involves sugar, cream and time.


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Imagining the World Without Us

I saw this in the Seattle PI Tuesday morning, and thought it was pretty fascinating. It did not seem morbid to me at all, but somehow comforting.

Timeline for a world without people, from The World Without Us, by Alan Weisman

After two days: With no one to run the pumps, New York subways flood.

Seven days: Generators that cool nuclear reactor cores run out of fuel.

One year: Human head and body lice grow extinct. Wildlife returns to sites of melted-down nuclear reactors.

Three years: In colder climes, walls and roofs start to separate, pipes burst, roaches die.

20 years: Panama Canal closes up. Garden vegetables revert to wild strains.

100 years: Feral housecats devastate populations of small predators. Elephant population grows 20-fold as ivory trade ceases.

300 years: New York bridges fall, dams fail worldwide, cities built in river deltas, such as Houston, wash away.

500 years: Forests overtake suburbs in temperate climes, but plastic and metal debris remain.

Thousands of years: Underground structures such as the Chunnel across the English Channel are the last intact human-made structures.

35,000 years: Lead deposited by smokestacks finally is cleansed from the soil.

100,000 years: Carbon dioxide returns to prehuman levels -- maybe.

Hundreds of thousands of years: Microbes evolve to eat plastic.

7.2 million years: Traces of Mount Rushmore images remain. PCBs and other toxins remain but are buried.

10.2 million years: Bronze sculptures are still recognizable.

3 billion years: Life still thrives on Earth, in new forms.

4.5 billion years: Depleted Uranium-238 reaches its half-life. Earth begins to warm as sun expands.

5-plus billion years: Earth burns as dying sun swells to envelop inner planets.

Forever: Our radio and TV broadcasts travel through space.


Wow. There is a poem in here I think.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Ding Dong the Witch is Dead

Karl Rove , President Bush's close friend and chief political strategist, announced Monday he will leave the White House at the end of August, joining a lengthening line of senior officials heading for the exits in the final 1 1/2 years of the administration.

This makes me so happy. But I fear it is too late. Rove's divisive and deceptive policies have already screwed the country up so badly. It's going to take years to recover. His parting pot-shot about Hillary Clinton having a "fatal flaw" is just another example of his venom. All I can say is good riddance and don't let the door slam your ass on the way out. We need to start looking at what brings us together, rather than what brings us apart.


Several new poems drafts coming the past few weeks. It's weird to be going back and forth between prose (the novel draft) and poems.


A week of on-call coming up. It's been a busy summer. Where are all these new patients coming from?


Monday, August 13, 2007

Dean and I sat out in the park across the street for about half an hour last night, but it was too cloudy to see anything. Damn this summer weather!


They are doing construction on I-5 for the next two weeks, shoring up the bridges and viaducts and elevated parts south of downtown (image of bridge collapse in Minneapolis here). There will be only two lanes open (out of 4-5 usually in use). Commuting is going to be a f***ing nightmare. Thank god I don't have to get on I-5 to go to work, but I may get spill-over. One of the detours uses the West Seattle viaduct to Fourth Ave S. We'll see.


Reminder: Never reach for a falling knife.


Sunday, August 12, 2007

Spectacular Show in the Sky Tonight

This year the new moon of August comes on Sunday, the 12th, perfectly timed to bring dark, moonless nights around the peak of the Perseid meteor shower. Moreover, Earth should pass through the shower's richest part around 1AM ET on August 13th -- so North Americans and western Europeans should have the best seats in the house.

Dean and I are going to sit out back on the deck, and have a glass of wine, and watch for falling stars tonight. Sound romantic?

(I know, they are not stars, but stardust, meteoroids to be exact, but falling stars sounds better to the poet in me).
From yesterday's Poetry Daily, this amazing found/list/abecedarian/political poem. It's fascinating, really. Why no antlers in Azerbaijan? No almanacs in Denmark, no umbrellas in Brazil? And in Iraq: no binoculars allowed, while in Iran it's no fashion magazines. Peru wants no underwear or communist propaganda. Sri Lanka wants no volleyballs, while Vatican City refuses live animals or human remains (interesting combo). It's by Deborah Golub, and originally appeared in jubilat Number 13.

Entry Forbidden
[Selections from the International Mail Manual, "Country
Conditions for Mailing," May 2005, U.S. Postal Service]

Extravagant clothes and other articles contrary to Albanians' taste.
Items sent by political emigres.

Funeral urns.

Cutting and stabbing arms, knuckledusters, stiletto blades, balls of
paralyzing fluid.
Antlers, and the horns of the species Cervidae.

Radioactive materials.
Skimmed milk in tins.

Quinine, colored pink.

Metallized yarn made with or made of gold thread.

Honey and preparations of honey including royal jelly, preserves
sweetened with honey, and flypaper.
Prison-made goods.

Cigarettes, cigarillos, cigars.
Umbrellas, or any other articles containing swords, daggers, or guns.
Primary educational books not written in Portuguese.

"Musical" cards (cards that play a sound recording when opened).

All goods manufactured outside Her Majesty's dominions and bearing
the British Royal Arms or imitations thereof; or bearing as a mark
or label a portrait of any member of the Royal Family of England.
Toy pistols.

An issue of a publication that contains an advertisement primarily
directed to a Canadian market is a prohibited import if that
advertisement does not appear in identical form in all editions of the
issue distributed in the country of origin.
Secondhand hives.

Dual-graduation feeding bottles.

Almanacs (except for single copies) that do not bear the university
almanac stamp.
Fine-cut tobacco in small packages to which cigarette papers are

Books addressed to bookshops in care of banking institutions.

All maps showing the territory of Ecuador with incorrect boundaries.
So-called "Panama" hats.
Bits and mouthpieces made of copper.

Articles bearing political or religious notations on the address side.
Playing cards, except in complete decks properly wrapped.
Pulverized coca beans.

Horror comics and matrices.

Gardenia plants and seeds.
Police whistles.


Toys made of lead.

Arms and military equipment, except for the Indian government.

Fashion newspapers.


Peat moss litter except under license.

Artificial flowers.
Ribbons for typewriters.

Games of chance.
Soil and sand.

Advertisements concerning treatment of venereal diseases or medicinal
preparations intended to serve as preventatives against those

Deer hooves.
Nuclear materials.

Artificial butters.

Eau de cologne.
Military uniforms.
Printed matter relating to football pools.

Mini-spies (miniature wireless transmitters).

Postcards embellished with fabrics, embroidery, spangles, except in
sealed envelopes.

Correspondence concerning fortune telling.


Weapons of war.
Statues used for worship.
Pornographic material.

Arms, ammunition except when sent on behalf of the government.


Tomato juices.
Socks except those made of jersey.

Communist propaganda.
Contraceptive products.
Waxes and creams for shoes.

Albums of any kind (of photographs, postcards, postage stamps, etc.).

Shaving brushes made in Japan.

Chain letter items.
Sheets of music, etc., contrary to the State public order.


Human remains.
Live animals.

Invisible ink, codes, ciphers, symbols or other types of secret
correspondence, and shorthand notes.
Used mosquito nets.

Friday, August 10, 2007

"Matinee" from ALP 124

There are many ways to react to a bad diagnosis, or bad news. I like the one described in this poem by Patrick Phillips, which is featured in this week's American Life in Poetry.


After the biopsy,
after the bone scan,
after the consult and the crying,

for a few hours no one could find them,
not even my sister,
because it turns out

they'd gone to the movies.
Something tragic was playing,
something epic,

and so they went to the comedy
with their popcorn
and their cokes,

the old wife whispering everything twice,
the old husband
cupping a palm to his ear,

as the late sun lit up an orchard
behind the strip mall,
and they sat in the dark holding hands.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Congratulations John!

Seattle poet J.W. Marshall is the 2007 winner of the prestigious Field Poetry Prize from Oberlin College.

Marshall, 55, will receive $1,000 as well as publication of his first full-length collection. Oberlin University Press has scheduled March for release of his volume, titled "Meaning a Cloud."

Word of the award arrived the day after his longtime dog, Sandy, died. "There were a lot of emotions those two days," Marshall said, co-proprietor of Open Books, the poetry-only bookstore in Wallingford, with his wife and fellow poet, Christine Deavel.


This is wonderful news, and well-deserved. (Though so sad about the dog!)


Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Your Poetry Radio

Listen to Kathleen Flenniken read "Lost Coat, Pls Call," "Elisabeth Reads Poetry," and "What I Saw," from her Prairie Schooner Prize-winning book Famous, and then to KUOW/NPR hosts Megan Sukys and Elizabeth Austen discuss the poems here. (Her segment begins at the 2:07 minute mark.)


Or listen to Wedding/Marriage poems here. The segment begins at the 2:05 minute mark.

"The wedding ceremony is one of the few modern rituals that touch all of us at some point, whether as participant or as witness. It's also one of the rare moments when poetry is pressed into service for a public gathering. Today, three western Washington poets bring us poems written for that very public, deeply personal ritual: the wedding. Jim Bertolino, author of nine collections of poetry, reads "A Wedding Toast". Susan Rich, author of The Cartographer's Tongue and Cures Include Travel reads "Navigating Delight". Dana Elkun, a poet and dancer who teaches in the Writers in the Schools program, reads "Possibilities for a Wedding Poem"." (from the KUOW/NPR archives).

Saturday, August 04, 2007

High Summer is here. Seafair is underway and the Blue Angels are ripping across the sky, practicing their routines for the show Sunday. (I hate them with a passion: big waste of fuel, and glorifies war). Dean and I finally got the decks re-sealed. In time to have some old friends over for dinner last night. We had a caprese appetizer and a cocktail on the front deck, then we grilled halibut and veggies and sat out on the back deck, then as it was beginning to get dark out we came inside to the dining room for a lovely nectarine pan dowdy (sp?) that J made. I joked that it was a movable feast: we had eaten at three different tables.


Still trying to find time to work on the novel. I might just have to go away again.


I think I got a new poem the other day, about cleaning a patient's glasses. We'll see if it pans out.


I have a poem, "Quad," in the inaugural issue of Hospital Drive, out of the University of Virginia. Poet Arthur Ginsberg and essayist Emily Transue (both of Seattle) are featured as well.


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Prelude and Fugue-o-rama

I've been reading H. L. Hix's Chromatic, which was a finalist for the 2006 NBA, and enjoying it. It has three sections: an opening long-poem called "Remarks on Color;" followed by "Eighteen Maniacs;" and then a third section (which is my favorite part) called "The Well-Tempered Clavier" (after JS Bach, of course). The titles of the 24 poems in this section are all music: "Prelude and Fugue No. 1 in C," " . . . No. 2 in C Minor," " . . . No 3. in C Sharp" etc. Each poem has a prose-like paragraph at the top (the prelude?), which explores in a lyric way some idea, emotion, or desire (there is a love relationship gone wrong, or a loss due to death, in some of this, I think). This is followed by an asterisk break, and a second poem that is a series of rhetorical comments or questions, many of them repeated in various permutations, in response or opposition to, or as an investigation of, the previous (the fugue?). I found many of these delightful (but I know nothing about classical music (maybe Rebecca could help here). One of my favorite "fugue" lines: "If not why not if so why" -- I could just turn it over and over in my head for hours like a smooth pebble. Perfect.

Here is a sample:

Prelude and Fugue No. 2 in C minor

My cold dark salty desire: schools of krill spilled silver from light to light: whales jailing krill in bubbles before bursting on them from below: invisible algae and plankton suffusing the whole: seaweed waving goodbye goodbye: jellyfish these floating moons morsing your name here where it cannot be spoken: sperm whale fighting squid to the death far below any light: penguins sliding off ice into might as well be: elephant seals swimming deeper than radio signals can sink goodbye goodbye: orcas close to ice cruising for antarctic cod: cephalopods signalling complex codes of color and gesture: crinoids fanning for algae in eerie light beneath the ice: swollen tubeworms swaying over volcanic vents: luminous fish as far below day as stars stay above it: orcas bobbing up to peer across the ice then sending signals with their intricate exhalations.

he asked me and I said no which was a half-truth
half a truth was all I had all love left me
I am myself a half-truth now whatever I was before
whatever I was when I thought I never lied
before I learned I always had lied to him and to myself
before I learned love itself is only half a truth
before I learned there are no whole truths
nothing that guileful god flaw has not fondled
of our ascertainings our words our bodies
before I knew I didn’t want the truth
not because I couldn’t bear it I can’t bear what I am now
but because the me who thought she was telling the truth
also thought she could be satisfied
and this me can’t bear the half-self love left me
after it asked what it asked and I said no

(pg 43)


Happy reading . . .