Wendell Berry, “2008, XII” …

•March 21, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Wendell Berry
“2008, XII”

        My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge…
               Hosea 4:6

We forget the land we stand on
and live from. We set ourselves
free in an economy founded
on nothing, on greed verified
by fantasy, on which we entirely
depend. We depend on fire
that consumes the world without
lighting it. To this dark blaze
driving the inert metal
of our most high desire
we offer our land as fuel,
thus offering ourselves at last
to be burned. This is our riddle
to which the answer is a life
that none of us has lived.

Ezra Pound, Canto CXX

•March 7, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Ezra Pound

…a writer with many problems [I’m thinking of points in Louis Menand’s “The Pound Error,” an article published in The New Yorker, June 2008] … Pound was influential, ridiculed, hated…a fascist, a bigot, brilliant editor, anti-Semitic, poet who made things “New” by using the “Old,” a tireless supporter of writers and artists, radio propagandist, prisoner in an Amercian camp in Italy, winner of the Bollingen Prize, disgraced, a terrible judge of character, both a follower of Imagism & one who abandoned the same, mad, sane, an inmate at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital (1946-1958), free, a great talker, and, as Menand writers, one who in “his last years…did not speak.”

Canto CXX

I have tried to write Paradise
Do not move
      Let the wind speak
that is paradise.

Let the Gods forgive what I
      have made
Let those I love try to forgive
      what I have made.

James Wright, “Beginning” …

•February 13, 2017 • 1 Comment

Moon, November 2016

Supermoon, November 2016

James Wright

The moon drops one or two feathers into the field.
The dark wheat listens.
Be still.
There they are, the moon’s young, trying
Their wings.
Between trees, a slender woman lifts up the lovely shadow
Of her face, and now she steps into the air, now she is gone
Wholly, into the air.
I stand alone by an elder tree, I do not dare breathe
Or move.
I listen.
The wheat leans back toward its own darkness,
And I lean toward mine.
Note: “The November full moon … is at its closest position to Earth since Jan. 26, 1948, about 30,000 miles nearer than it typically is.” – Real-Time News


Ono no Komachi, [Hana no iro wa] … “The flowers withered” …

•January 27, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Painting by Totoya Hokkei

Ono no Komachi and Cherry Blossoms by Totoya Hokkei

Ono no Komachi

[Hana no iro wa]

The flowers withered
Their color faded away
While meaninglessly
I spent my days in the world
And the long rains were falling

       [Trans. Donald Keene]

Paul Celan, “A Leaf” … a poem of our times…

•January 20, 2017 • 2 Comments

paul-celan-2Paul Celan

– a poem from Schneepart

A Leaf, treeless
For Bertolt Brecht:

What times are these
when a conversation
is almost a crime
because it includes
so much made explicit?

       [Trans. Michael Hamburger]

Mark Johnston, “War Movie in Reverse” …

•January 9, 2017 • Leave a Comment

aerial-view-of-the-aftermath-of-first-trinity-testA powerful poem from Writing in a Nuclear Age, an anthology, edited by Jim Schley (New England Review / Bread Loaf Quarterly, 1983) [Photo: aerial view of the aftermath of first Trinity test, New Mexico]

Mark Johnston

“War Movie in Reverse”

Holes close to smooth skin
when the shrapnel flashes out.
The shores of burns recede,
and flames leap with their hot metal
back into the bomb that rises,
whole and air-borne again,
with its gathered blast.
Leading the plane perfectly,
the bomb arc back slowly
through the open gates
and disappears into the waiting belly.
The bombardier lifts
his peering eye from the sight.
Swallowing its wake,
the plane returns to base
with its countermanded mission.
The pilot, irresolute now, faces
his commandant, who marches,
brisk and backward
to the general’s lair.
The general takes back the orders.
But into what deep and good and hidden
recess of the will
go his thoughts of not bombing?

William Stafford, “Thinking for Berky” … drafts & recording

•December 30, 2016 • Leave a Comment

stafford-writingI’ve never concealed the fact that William Stafford is one my favorite writers – a go-to poet for me if there ever were one. One of his strongest poems – in his subtle ease with complexity – is “Thinking for Berky”.

Here’s a link to the William Stafford Archives, which presents drafts and reading copies of Stafford’s poem. An audio file of Stafford reading the piece is included.

“Thinking for Berky”

In the late night listening from bed
I have joined the ambulance or the patrol
screaming toward some drama, the kind of end
that Berky must have some day, if she isn’t dead.

The wildest of all, her father and mother cruel,
farming out there beyond the old stone quarry
where high school lovers parked their lurching cars,
Berky learned to love in that dark school.

Early her face was turned away from home
toward any hardworking place; but still her soul,
with terrible things to do, was alive, looking out
for the rescue that–surely, some day–would have to come.

Windiest nights, Berky, I have thought for you,
and no matter how lucky I’ve been I’ve touched wood.
There are things not solved in our town though tomorrow came:
there are things time passing can never make come true.

We live in an occupied country, misunderstood;
justice will take us millions of intricate moves.
Sirens will hunt down Berky, you survivors in your beds
listening through the night, so far and good.