7.28.2009

many tongued within one

The dream of being polyglot within one language.

7.27.2009

different planet or new word

“Wait,” Usnelli said, “wait.”

“Wait for what?” she said. “What could be more beautiful than this?”

He, distrustful (by nature and through his literary education) of emotions and words already the property of others, accustomed more to discovering hidden and spurious beauties than those that were evident and indisputable, was still nervous and tense. Happiness, for Usnelli, was a suspended condition, to be lived holding your breath. Ever since he began loving Delia, he had seen his cautious, sparing relationship with the world endangered; but he wished to renounce nothing, either of himself or of the happiness that opened before him. Now he was on guard, as if every degree of perfection that nature achieved around him—a decanting of the blue of the water, a languishing of the coast’s green into gray, the glint of a fish’s fin at the very spot where the sea’s expanse was smoothest—were only heralding another, higher, degree, and so on to the point where the invisible line of the horizon would part like an oyster revealing all of a sudden a different planet or a new word.


She slipped over the side of the dinghy, let go, swam in that underground lake, and her body at times seemed white (as if that light stripped it of any color of its own) and at times blue as that screen of water.

Usnelli had stopped rowing; he was still holding his breath. For him, being in love with Delia had always been like this, as in the mirror of this cavern: in a world beyond words. For that matter, in all his poems he had never written a verse of love: not one.

“Come closer,” Delia said. As she swam, she had taken off the scrap of clothing covering her bosom; she threw it into the dinghy. “Just a minute.” She also undid the piece of cloth tied at her hips and handed it to Usnelli.

Now she was naked. The whiter skin of her bosom and hips was hardly distinct, because her whole person gave off that pale-blue glow…


Usnelli, in the boat, was all eyes. He understood that what life was now giving him was something not everyone has the privilege of looking at open-eyed, as if at the most dazzling core of the sun. And in the core of this sun was silence. Nothing that was there at this moment could be translated into anything else, perhaps not even into a memory.

—Italo Calvino, “The Adventure of a Poet,” Difficult Loves (Harcourt Brace & Co., 1984)translated from the Italian by William Weaver, Archibald Colquhoun and Peggy Wright.

7.26.2009

without clangor or flash

A poem that arrested attention effortlessly.

7.25.2009

word hoarder

I collect words, long lists of words that delight me, or words that might be useful, words of interest harvested from the writings of others, collected into an idiosyncratic lexicon.

7.24.2009

precipitous

From the title the poem fell off quickly.

7.23.2009

against entropy

A poem is language organized to resist entropy.

7.22.2009

through the palace wall

There is a hole in the palace wall.
A good poem is like that!

You never know what you might see.


—Tukaram (11th C., India)
Quoted in Robert McDowell’s Poetry As Spiritual Practice

7.21.2009

my loss

The languages I don’t know laugh at me. I would crawl on hands and knees to be in their company. (In today’s mail arrived a book I'd ordered. It carried the English title MODERN FRENCH POETS ON POETRY. Beautifully organized, but replete with great swaths of the untranslated French from many renowned French poets. I felt like putting my head down in the book and weeping for my loss.

7.20.2009

against guidebooks

Do we need another guidebook to tell poets what blank verse is or how many stresses are in a pentameter line? Because most poets can’t access the sources of their art, they write books that lapse into nomenclature and technical know-how. The best books about poetry, however strained and inarticulate, are those that try to explain what it takes to create a poem from the experiences of one’s life within the world in which one lives.

7.16.2009

low-responsibility MFA

The low-responsibility MFA program

In these stressful times for young adults there is a need for a new kind of MFA program. The low-responsibility MFA program puts the student in control his/her MFA experience. Students are encouraged but not required to fall into a curriculum that involves any or none of the following pursuits—
  • Getting a Tattoo: A Life-Long Accomplishment & Balancing One’s Piercings for Less Neck Pain

  • The Tardy Muse: Strategies for Killing Time While Waiting for Inspiration

  • Couch-Surfing Across America in the Kerouac Style

  • Libraries Are Labyrinths: Getting Lost in the Stacks for Fun (Bring a Snack)

  • Thrift-Store Safari: Developing A Good Eye for Bargains in Black

  • Go Green Ghost: No Car, No House, Means Minimal Environmental Impact (Carbon in Pencils is Okay)

  • Portrait of An Artist: Mastering the Slouch, the Pout, and the Ability to Stare Into Space for Hours on End

  • Weekly Playshops: The antiWorkshop for Playing With Words (Location & Time to Be Announced When The Spirit Moves)
Teachers and assigned mentors will keep their distance so as not to stifle the free-wheeling creativity of their students. Students will self-report their progress toward a degree and upon completion of their variable terms of study will optionally present ‘some ideas that they had for poems’ to the director. The director is authorized to grant degrees liberally and without prejudice in respect of the diversity of student experiences and the efforts they have not undertaken.

Tuition will be billed directly to a parental or guardian credit card. Sorry no refunds for early withdrawal or student’s inability to attend because there is no way to tell whether any student is around or not. Note: This school complies fully with ‘non-interference policy’ of The Federation.

7.15.2009

reckless

Always something reckless in the language of a great poem.

7.14.2009

poetry invented

If there were no poetry on any day in the world, poetry would be invented that day. For there would be an intolerable hunger. And from that need, from the relationships within ourselves and among ourselves as we went on living, and from every other expression of man’s nature, poetry would be—I cannot say invented or discovered—poetry would be derived.

—Muriel Rukeyser, The Life of Poetry (Wm. Morrow & Co., 1974)

7.13.2009

weight of the pieces

One should be able to infer from the fragments an important whole. Like the Elgin Marbles, one can sense the grandeur of the greater whole from which the pieces came.

7.09.2009

like water into light

The poem as osmosis mosaic.

7.08.2009

arguments with the masters

Mr. Wordsworth, I’m less interested in emotion recollected in tranquility and more inclined to emotion collected into a full ecstatic trance.

7.07.2009

no favor to the reader

One of those breathless hyperbolic introductions that no poet could or should have to read up to.

7.05.2009

bodying forth

We body forth our ideals in personal acts, either alone or with others in society. We body forth felt experience in a poem’s image and sound. We body forth our inner residence in the architecture of our homes and common buildings. We body forth our struggles and our revelations in the space of theatre. That is what form is: the bodying forth. The bodying forth of the living vessel in the shapes of clay.

—M.C. Richards, Centering: in Pottery, Poetry, and the Person (Wesleyan U. Press, 1969) [n.b.: M.C. stands for 'Mary Caroline']

7.01.2009

second generation

His poems were like Frank O’Hara’s except he didn’t work for MOMA and hang out with cool, cutting-edge artists in one of the most dynamic cities in the world.