Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Longish Poem Thing

I've been working on this woodpecker poem for years now and it is all I can seem to work on. I tell myself I need to write and all I can do is write in some way toward this poem. It started in a class called Collage and Collaboration. We would do cut-ups and well, all kinds of things. I'm not really a fan of collage or collaboration in general, but it was fun to get out of my normal way of writing. So for my final project in this class I found many different quotes and bits of other poems that had something to do with extinction and interwove them with stuff I had written. I had a few poems already, but I mostly wrote from the quotes.

About this time there were reports of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker in Arkansas so much of the poem was geared toward the IBWO. I had always been intrigued with the IBWO and hearing that it might be back excited me. But that was about it. The class ended. I titled the poem "Notes On Extinction" and went about my business.

But then I got a call from a friend, a world class birder, who had taken a trip down the Choctawhatchee River and had seen an IBWO. Now, if it had been anyone else I would have laughed in their face, but instead I started planning a trip to the Florida panhandle. So I get down there, camp, kayak, listen, watch, camp, kayak, so on and on and out of nowhere I hear a double knock, and then another and that's it (A double-knock should be distinct to IBWO). I drove home to Chicago and have had that double-knock knocking in my skull ever since. So now I have about a thousand different thoughts for this poem and I can't seem to make it work.

I keep thinking that maybe I need to go back, that I need to see the place again to gain some kind of perspective. I think that where I want to go with this poem is where I want to go with my poetry. I feel like if I can break through all of these ideas into something bigger I will have done something, but the chances are actually pretty slim for that happening. Which is ok with me. I enjoy writing this so it isn't like it is all for nothing.

Here are some quotes I have interspersed throughout the poem-thing.

"The sense impressions of one-celled animals are not edited for the brain. This is philosophically interesting in a rather mournful way, since it means that only the simplest animals perceive the universe as it is." --Annie Dillard from Pilgrim

Eastward and over the cypress swamp, the dawn,
Redder than meat, break;
And the large bird,

Long neck outthrust, wings crooked to scull air, moved
In a slow calligraphy, crank, flat, and black against
The color of God’s blood spilt . .
--Robert Penn Warren

". . . men came to Funk Island to kill auks solely for their feathers.
The crews built stone corrals into which they herded hapless Great Auks. Each summer, men boiled vats of water and threw the live birds in to loosen the feathers for plucking; that accomplished, the corpses were either thrown to the wayside or used as oily fuel for the fires. . ." from Hope is a Thing with Feathers

Behind the nothing & number of what
We are, the billboards’ blank amnesias,
That wake of all we were still trembles:
First nakedness & summer & that hush,
Its hymen no more than a cuticle
Of cattails bordering a marsh,
And beyond it, the hem of the darkest wood.
--Larry Levis

“Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let him have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” -- Yahweh

and so on and on

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Lake Powell, AZ

Ian Harris has an Ed Abbey inspired poem up at Verse Daily. Congrats Ian!


Saturday, January 10, 2009

Robert Wrigley

I usually write using the language of the natural world. I think I am often prematurely labeled as a "nature poet," but I don't care because I probably am too quick to label other poets as well. I will continue to write using the images and language that excite me, but what writers use the language and imagery found in the natural world and have transcended that dreaded "Nature Writer" tag?

I have had some amazing examples to learn from; Roethke's "North American Sequence", Keats' "Ode To Autumn" (and others), many James Wright poems, James Dickey's Drowning With Others, Larry Levis' The Widening Spell of the Leaves, Robert Penn Warren's Audubon: A Vision, Robert Olmstead's Stay Here With Me: A Memoir, and many sections of Cormac McCarthy's novels, especially the first part of The Crossing. Their work seems to rise organically and bridge the gap between human and other. That connection or that investigation into that connection is what I feel most great writing contains. But each of these writers evoke in me a visceral response that comes from something else. Is it just the writer saying something true for me? Is it me connecting with another? Is it the music? I want to believe it is something spiritual, magical, what have you, and I think I do. It seems corny to say it like that, but I think going to the edge of corny, sentimental, whatever, is something every writer must do and if you are too afraid to do that you are probably too afraid of what readers think of your writing (like we all are at times).

Recently I've added a new poet, Robert Wrigley, to my list, specifically a sequence in Reign of Snakes called "Earthly Meditations." I just saw that the first section of this work is at the Poetry Foundation's website. This poem is alive with crazy music. It truly is a meditation on the earth. I think if this poem were to accidentally show up in a workshop it would be torn apart. Someone would say, "cut every other word." It is adrift and if it were an essay in my Writing & Rhetoric class I would say it needs to be grounded (Well, really I would be blown away and say you get an A). This poem dares to be torn apart! That is the trouble with how we learn in MFA programs! OK, I won't go there.

I am very happy I found this poem.

Earthly Meditations

The Afterlife


Spring, and the first full crop of dandelions gone
to smoke, the lawn lumpish with goldfinches,
hunched in their fluffs, fattened by seed,
alight in the wind-bared peduncular forest.
Little bells, they loop and dive, bend
the delicate birch branches down.
I would enter the sky through the soil
myself, sing up the snail bowers
and go on the lam with the roots.
Licked by filaments, I would lie,
a billion love-mouths to suckle and feed.
Where the river will be next week,
a puddle two trout go savagely dying in.
Notice the bland, Darwinian sand: bone wrack
and tree skin, the ground down moon bowls
of mussels, viral stones dividing like mold.
At twelve, I buried the frog because it was dead
and dug it up because I'd been dreaming—
a fish belly light, a lowly chirruped chorus
of amens. I thought my nights might smell of hell.
Bland, hum-drum, quotidian guilt—
if I've killed one frog, I've killed two.
Saint Rot and the sacraments of maggots:
knowing is humus and sustenance is sex.
It accrues and accrues, it stews
tumorous with delight. Tomorrow's
a shovelful, the spit of the cosmos, one day
the baby's breath is no longer a rose.

More snow pics

The grill in the more protected area in the backyard showed 12.5 inches and the compost bin showed nine inches where there is a little more wind.

Snow, Snow, Snow

The snow is finally tapering off. Not sure how much, but I'd say 8-10 inches.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Gynandromorph Cardinal

Check out this half male, half female cardinal that was found in Rock Island Illinois.

Watch Walmart Spread

Click here

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Depressing Poem O' The Day

Miller Williams (Lucinda's pa)

The Old Professor Deals with Death and Dying

Talking around the block with no one near
but me, my sometime friend,
I think of events that punctuate our lives
and how, as a kindness deep in the nature of things,
death brings the sentence to an end.

How many of us, though,
when vessels break and minds misconstrue,
will say inside ourselves that we'd rather be dead
except that we're scared to die?
More than a few,
hardly disturbing the bedsheets, have said—
telling not quite the truth, not quite a lie—
"Lord, I don't want to die. I just want to be dead."

They'd leave living behind and go back to what
they were before they were born. Who can recall
a lot of discomfort in that? Like as not,
we're all of us going to no place at all,
a nowhere with nothing to pay, nothing to do,
no one to do it with and no one to care.
What a crock to have to suffer through
a damned initiation to get only there.

Still we stand at the beds of those who leave us
and cherish the seconds. Still our best dramas
depend on the death scenes, which all the religious
tell us are not periods but commas.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Philip Seymour Hoffman: A Filmography

Paging Mr. Salinger

Paging Mr. Salinger

So what has Mr. Salinger been doing for the last 40 years? The question obsesses Salingerologists, of whom there are still a great many, and there are all kinds of theories. He hasn’t written a word. Or he writes all the time and, like Gogol at the end of his life, burns the manuscripts. Or he has volumes and volumes just waiting to be published posthumously.

Joyce Maynard, who lived with Mr. Salinger in the early ’70s, wrote in a 1998 memoir that she had seen shelves of notebooks devoted to the Glass family and believed there were at least two new novels locked away in a safe.