Thursday, December 31, 2009
To cultivate fire is to perpetually gather fuel, sometimes to reconceive what is fuel.
The context for Young's comment is the case he is building for embracing a creative recklessness, specifically in writing poetry, as opposed to remaining within our tried and perhaps tired methods of writing whether they entail our intentions, expectations, assumptions or aesthetic notions. In this instance a poem is the fire . . . not a thing, Young suggests, but "a conversion."
That's an exciting comparison, one that resonates with some of my own thinking about fuel, about what "makes the engine go," as poet Stanley Kunitz put it. Making the engine go is what life consists in, whether it's writing a poem, novel, song or doing whatever it is that makes a person unique, whole, alive. I think of fuel not only as feeding a creative act, but as energizing resistance to life's decline. Part of resistance, I'm sure, is the ability "to reconceive what fuel is," to look beyond one's usual sources. It's a liberating idea for creative expression and for continuing to renew the lives we lead.
And so I wish you fuel for the coming year in its unseen joys and challenges, fuel for the fire that is you, fuel for your work and loves, fuel from unexpected places. Adieu, 2009. Happy New Year, All.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Congratulations and good luck ladies!
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Our lives are Swiss--
So still--so Cool
Till some odd afternoon
The Alps neglect their Curtains
And we look farther on!
Italy stands the other side!
While like a guard between--
The solemn Alps--
The siren Alps
Armchair travel is the ability to look farther on beyond the curtains of an ordinary day, or over an entire mountain range that stands between here and desire. Poetry provides just such a journey for the lucky traveler, a door to another world.
Monday, November 9, 2009
So I earned C's, got A's in Spanish and Music Theory and Harmony and Life Drawing. Duh. I think I did okay in beekeeping.
The drive down 101 was amazing. If you have the chance to take it this week, do. The landscape is an unfolding miracle, ablaze with the vineyards turning colors now that the grapes are in.
It was such a pleasure to be included in the festival. Many thanks to Kevin Patrick Sullivan, most excellent and animated poetry series host. I was impressed by the SLO poetry community, its audience and its readers. Good times. Also thanks to George and Alyn Burns whose gracious hospitality and friendship made the trip.
It's about 5:30pm now, the sky already dark, fall winding down.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
On October 1, I joined fellow Bennington grad poets Marjorie Manwaring and Nicole Hardy in a reading at Hugo House entitled, "So a Magician, a Blonde, and a Donkey Walk Into a Bar..." We rocked the house, it was the first time to read Juanita from actual covers, and a good time was had by all.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
The DMQ Review is pleased to announce the release of the Summer 2009 issue featuring the poetry of Nin Andrews, Albert Baker, Greg Billingham, Michelle Bonczek, Andrea England, Betsy Johnson-Miller, Meghan L. Martin, Kate McCann, Connie Post,
In collaboration with Peter Davis, editor of Poet’s Bookshelf: Contemporary Poets On Books That Shaped Their Art, Volumes I & II, the DMQ Review is also pleased to feature the essay and new work of Sandra M. Gilbert, our Summer 2009 Featured Poet.
John Amen’s poem, “I Am Not Ready to Nail This Door Shut,” first appeared in the DMQ Review’s August 2001 issue and comprises our “From the Archives” feature.
Check it out, www.dmqreview.com
Monday, July 6, 2009
Should be. Invariably however I have a little side list going comprised of related projects--submissions, workshop proposals, unanswered emails, cleaning up the office--that I feel I must get through first. "I'll do this first and get it out of the way," is my rationale, "and then I'll be able to focus on that." I'll knock out a few hovering responsibilities, "this and this," always so pressing, and clear the way for unencumbered creative floooooow, the that.
What I've discovered is the only things that get done are the "thises." This is what's at hand. That is forever at a distance. I will always check off this item and this item from my list; as long as something remains that, it never gains the imperative required to become this thing I am doing. It remains that thing which I want to do after I get done with this.
This is not hyperbolic high-jinks. This is all there is. This is all I have. I will never have that. So the trick is, the dilemma, the necessity is I must do this now, this writing, this thinking, this composing. Then I'll get to that other stuff.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
By the time the trip was only a couple of weeks away, I hadn't done more than riffle pages and read captions under the glossy photos. No worries! We had a 10+ hour flight ahead of us. Plenty of opportunity, really an enforced stillness put to good use, to read the book cover to cover if I wanted.
The book never made it out of my carry-on. First I wanted light reading, then they put out the lights trying to get us west-coasters to believe that it was truly the night we were flying into...and out of! And then, we'd arrived and the journey was in full-swing. For this particular trip, the need to figure out what we'd do was less urgent; we were in the hands of our son for the most part and following a pretty full itinerary of people and places that we simply must meet and see before our all-too-short 2 weeks was gone--and then it was. We were back on the plane and I didn't pretend to read but wanted instead to watch every dvd in British Airways' library, which I did between intermittent attempts at sleep.
Now that I'm home, I love the travel guide, the one we brought with us (and that saved us when we were in the cinque terra without hotel reservations) as well as the couple I'd picked up along the way. The transformation actually began our last night in Italy, in the small family-run albergo in Genova we'd discovered by guide book, waiting up with the only English language literature in the lobby for Frank to return from a midnight city search for overnight parking. It was a Berlitz travel guide I believe and included a concise history of Italy...
What I found then and since I've been home is that now that I've been to Italy, I have context for the travel guides. I recognize places I've been- a town, a chapel, a region- and now I want to know more about it. I'm reading, I'm checking for more info on the internet, I'm jotting down notes from the travel guide in my journal. NEXT time I'm for sure spending more time in this city, will look out for that museum, will detour into that town. I will see the amphitheater's rose-colored walls. I will not miss Poet's Bay where Shelley drowned. Next time, maybe I'll be better guided.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
The images and impressions that remain so vivid are some consolation. The fact that we got to go at all keeps me from complaining. Too much. And for those of you who know others like me who are off on splendid adventures while your summer plans revolve around the "simple precincts of home," I thought I'd post this poem by Billy Collins. The fact that the poem ends on the word "Bologna" only endears it to me more.
ciao! ~ sally
by Billy Collins
How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,
wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hill towns.
How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,
fully grasping the meaning of every road sign and billboard
and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.
There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes or famous
domes and there is no need to memorize a succession
of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.
No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon's
little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.
How much better to command the simple precinct of home
than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.
Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?
Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyed camera
eager to eat the world one monument at a time?
Instead of slouching in a cafe ignorant of the word for ice,
I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress
known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning
paper, all language barriers down,
rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.
And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone
willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.
I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal
what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.
It is enough to climb back into the car
as if it were the great car of English itself
and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off
down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Okay, I’m here to begin a running account of our trip to
Day 1: Arrived in Milano 1am. Slept for 11 hours. If you know me, you know that’s probably the first time in my life. . .
Later that same day: 11 hours! HS! Got up, café and brioched, and trotted across the park, through the castle, to the Duomo to board a tram for Opera, a town outside Milano where our friends from Nevada City, Bill and Sue, are teaching in an English school for 2 more years. Baci e abraccio, then wine and aperitivo in the local bar, then off in Bill and Sue’s Vanagon to intercept James’ train from
Day 2: Café and brioche, and off to the Milano train station to meet James’ Italian friend Nicoló uno, not to be confused later with James’ Italian friend Nicoló due, and board the train to Varese in the lake country where Nicoló uno’s family lives. Baci! Abraccio! 2 hour train ride through remarkable and unremarkable countryside, greeted at the
Day 3: Paola and Maurizio, the wonderful parents of Nicoló uno, drive us all to Lago Maggiore where we board a boat to tour Isola Pescatori and Isola Bella, bella bella indeed. A day on the lake, fabulous lunch, home for a quick nap then off to the home of Nicoló due for candlelit dinner on the terrace. Bravo, Micaela e Fabio! They’ve been cooking all day. Che delizioso! Grazie. Grazie mille. I'm sorry the deck caught fire . . .
Day 4: Paola and Maurizio would like to take us to Lago Como, but we are expected in
Day 5: Café e brioche! (okay, and some granola and yogurt this time), and off into the beautiful countryside on the autostrada, to the Roman ruins of
Where are the photos for this portion? Frank informs me they are on his memory stick. fine. I’ll entertain you with useful Italian phrases:
Ha? . . . do you have? (formal)
Come sta? . . . How are you? Bene.
Come va? . . . Howzit going?
Che succeed? . . . What’s happening?
Vorrei . . . I’d like
Dóve? . . . where is?
No parla . . . I don’t speak
Mi chiamo . . . my name is.
That’s all for tonight kiddies. Quiz tomorrow. And off to Venezia. Woot!
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Sunday, May 24, 2009
"Milano e Varese
Sunday in Varese, getting ready to head to Udine and friends of James. Caldo. Not much time to write so here are some photos. But first, some interesting characters you don't find on a US computer. òçù§°àéè^ì£."
Monday, May 18, 2009
Here's a little "tune" a friend sent as a send-off. All together now--
by Robert Louis Stevenson
(To an air of Schubert)
GIVE to me the life I love,
Let the lave go by me,
Give the jolly heaven above
And the byway nigh me.
Bed in the bush with stars to see,
Bread I dip in the river -
There's the life for a man like me,
There's the life for ever.
Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o'er me;
Give the face of earth around
And the road before me.
Wealth I seek not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I seek, the heaven above
And the road below me.
Or let autumn fall on me
Where afield I linger,
Silencing the bird on tree,
Biting the blue finger.
White as meal the frosty field -
Warm the fireside haven -
Not to autumn will I yield,
Not to winter even!
Let the blow fall soon or late,
Let what will be o'er me;
Give the face of earth around,
And the road before me.
Wealth I ask not, hope nor love,
Nor a friend to know me;
All I ask, the heaven above
And the road below me.
Thursday, April 30, 2009
The DMQ Review is pleased to announce the release of the Spring 2009 issue featuring the poetry of Kelli Russell Agodon, Patrick Carrington, Donna Lewis Cowan, Peter Davis, Carolyn Dille, Laura Donnelly, Asya Graf, Roxane Beth Johnson, Arlene Kim, and Sarah J. Sloat with artwork by Philip Rosenthal.
In collaboration with Peter Davis, editor of Poet’s Bookshelf: Contemporary Poets On Books That Shaped Their Art, Volumes I & II, the DMQ Review is also pleased to feature the essay and new work of Bob Hicok, our Spring 2009 Featured Poet.
Sheila Black’s poem, “The Colonization of Dreams, Part I: The Border,” first appeared in the DMQ Review’s August 2005 issue and comprises our “From the Archives” feature.
Check it out, www.dmqreview.com
Sally Ashton, Editor in Chief
Associate Editors: Marjorie Manwaring, Jennifer K. Sweeney
Assistant Editor: Mary Donnelly
Poet’s Bookshelf Editor: Peter Davis
Sunday, April 19, 2009
I have been trying to drum up a new entry of greater interest, but in the interests of the beautiful at last April weather we're at last enjoying at last, I will simply leave you with a new first line, though I think the entry itself worth reading. The one below with sorrow and pain.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
From Best American Poetry Blog and the lovely pen of Megin Jimenez.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Come on down if you can!
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Sunday, March 22, 2009
It was as if she held a bee in her mouth,
as if only she knew what that buzzing was.
It was as if words had six black legs, wings, antennae,
as if thought hovered over each possibility.
It was as if she tasted what she’d waited so long to know,
as if the bee formed the first surprised syllable.
It was as if something tapped behind her teeth,
as if a music hummed itself in her throat.
It was as if she knew when to open her lips,
as if she knew when to stay completely still.
It was as if such things were entirely possible,
as if she could relish the sweet without sting.
Monday, March 16, 2009
The final chapter is called "Multiplicity." In it Calvino chiefly addresses the novel, its encyclopedic nature, its value as a vehicle for a "network of connections." Good if at times abstract reading, including excerpts from Italian, German and French authors! Then, a swift return to Ovid and Lucretius all in the matter of the first 10 pages. Then onward to more reflection, Henry James, Dante and Dostoevsky, and of course Borges. The novel considered here as a work of infinite possibilities, and Calvino seems to reach toward them all in pulling this concise yet potently expanding last chapter together. Well, go read it.
But here's the quote that stuck, last page of the book, in which Calvino defends against the notion that such movement toward multiplicity in a work of literature is an inevitable movement away from the vortex of the author's self, that the author must somehow surrender a degree of integrity in order to allow for such unbounded expression.
"But I would answer: Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combinatoria of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined? Each life is an encyclopedia, a library, an inventory of objects, a series of styles, and everything can be constantly shuffled and reordered in every way conceivable."
Who are we indeed?
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
Monday, March 2, 2009
Saturday, February 14, 2009
And I wonder whether Lente Festina is substantively different? hmmm
BUT, because if I've discovered anything in life it's that one adage calls for a counter-adage, I find I want to also speak for my darling Festina. Yes, I do adore her; she provides the fire in my life, a bit of the spirit of eros, to hew to a Valentine-appropriate theme. In fact, it is from the lines of a classic Valentine's poem that I find myself most encouraged to pursue Festina. While the beginning of Marvel's poem is such a finely crafted and constructed argument against the preservation of virginity, likely the best ever, such argument is now personally a moot point, but I do find the last stanza one that drives me onward, offered here as a reminder of the fire at our feet.
from "To His Coy Mistress"
by Andrew Marvel
Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may,
And now, like amorous birds of prey,
Rather at once our time devour
Than languish in his slow-chapped power.
Let us roll all our strength, and all
Our sweetness, up into one ball,
And tear our pleasure with rough strife
Through the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
So on Valentine's not-day we'll be reading some poems from all sorts of poets, and looking at the different layers of love, trying to get to the real labor of love, balancing one brick atop the next, pulling one's foot out of the way when one falls. . .finding another brick to take its place, to keep the balance. Hope you can come.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Friday, January 30, 2009
So, a poet's blog without a recognizable poem so far. Therefore, to rectify and exactify myself, I'm pasting in a poem of mine that appears in C&R Press' just released anthology, Breathe: 101 Contemporary Odes. I'm pleased to have this poem appear alongside so many remarkable odes; Breathe is a volume worth picking up despite the fact there's a typo in my title (doh!).
The poem is called
Remembered Lines on the Way to Stockton
My father owns the cattle on a thousand hills;
they graze among windmills scattered
along the interstate. Beneath a tinfoil moon
it’s not quite dark by nine. A silver-sided truck
roars, sucks at my passing car
flashes high beams to let me over.
Bott’s dots reflect the headlights,
comets chased by tails along an asphalt skyway.
I have traveled this road all the years of my life
a journey landscaped with exits never taken
into countryside where mown hay swells blonde
against alfalfa fields already regreening
and words rise from wild grasses
like surprised birds or flock along power lines
draped pole to pole beyond the city limit sign.
I pass the towers for a drawbridge.
It no longer raises over its river
the only ship a row boat upended on the bank.
Faded letters on a grain tower
advertise horses for sale. They died
half a century ago.
There is no map for places such as these
that recede in the rear view mirror
and await my return. It is dusk
forever here, with the scent of mowing.
Tonight I drive straight through to
My father’s mansion has many rooms,
if it were not so I would have told you.
A sudden oasis of farmyard hemmed
by walnut trees. The rising thrum of cricket.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Monday, January 19, 2009
Actually the problem with January seems to begin in December. Do you remember there used to be an entire week between Christmas and New Year's, one long, languid week with no school or little work, holiday celebrations over, and tiiiiiiiiiime to simply relax? What happened to that week? It's gone as far as I can tell. I close the door on the last guests Christmas night, blow out the candles and when I awaken, it's New Year's afternoon. It's January, when most of the boxes on the new calendar are still as empty and white as a snowfield. January, when a whole year stretches out wide, one you get to spend all over again. January a time to dream, reflect, perhaps resolve to do things differently. In any case, not much else used to happen in January. It was a long month. At least that's how I experienced it. January was a month you could count on to drag like an iceberg.
Now like the last week of December it seems January too shifts from glacier to galactic. The stillness of winter no longer exists. Stillness becomes a curiosity, something to glimpse as a blur out the window of a bullet train. Oh, look, how lovely, what were you saying? And so the year barrels ahead full-speed.
Hurry slowly. Apparently the concept isn't strictly post-modern. And it tempers the alternative, hurry hurriedly. All blurredly. Even though that's how most of life gets lived-- fast, faster. The ancients must have felt it, too. Festina lente. I guess there's some comfort in that. Festina lente. Here we go.
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Wednesday, January 14, 2009
--Guatemalan writer Augusto Monterroso
Calvino cites Monterroso's line as a favorite example of the one line story. Yes, I'm still hanging with Calvino, still proceeding slowly through this second chapter, "Quickness." Because the short prose object, be it flash fiction, prose poem or vignette, falls under consideration in this chapter I'm finding it even more difficult to leave behind. Only the promise of 3 more chapters, each considering another essential aspect of literature lures me on, the sixth memo never written down. That in itself teaches the writer something essential: for god's sake, write it!
Poet, etc, David Lehman is another advocate of the one line story. If any of you have written one, send it to comments. Here's one I've composed. See what you can do.
He forced open the door and found the pilot slumped over the controls.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
Calvino's second chapter considers "Quickness." As I said, I'm reading slowly. Even cumbersomely-ish. What has stopped me short in this 2nd memo is a generalization about literature that he forms from an ancient legend about a magic ring, a legend that reinvents itself in the mythos and legends of various cultures. He summarizes by saying that "the moment an object appears in a narrative, it is charged with a special force and becomes like the force of a magnetic field . . . We might even say that in a narrative any object is always magic." Maybe only Calvino can make such an assertion, Calvino, Borges, Marquez, but doesn't it grab your attention? Even though he tempers his assertion with "might," he is saying something crazy, something that demands a response. Don't you immediately want to come up with some exception? I might agree that my flying Vespa is magic, but the burning battleship? The war planes? What I like about Calvino's seemingly innocent but totalizing statement is that it forces the imagination to wake up and either embrace or resist the premise. Any object? Always magic? And so we begin to look deeper into a narrative, into our own assumptions, and to move more carefully over each object we encounter. What's at work here? Magic? I think so.
"Dimme, che fai . . .?"
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
What do you do there, moon, in the sky? Tell me,
what do you do, silent moon? -Leopardi
So, I'd begun re-reading Italo Calvino's Six Memos for the Next Millenium as an appropriate sort of new year's contemplation, reading slowly, musing, taking notes. I began the first chapter, "Lightness," on New Year's day, the chapter from which Leopardi's quote is taken. Last night I began the chapter's conclusion. Calvino acknowledges that he's introduced several varied ideas, or threads, in his consideration of lightness, a consideration which has to do with weight rather than illumination here. He writes, "There remains one thread, the one I first started to unwind: that of literature as an existential function, the search for lightness as a reaction to the weight of living." Wow, that's going in the blog, I thought. And so it has.
But he isn't finished and goes on to connect this existential function of literature to anthropology, ethnology and mythology. He considers how way back before literature, folktales in the oral tradition often featured "a flight to another world," and how this is also a common function in the heroic tradition, and of course here is where I am really engaged; if I ever had time for a doctorate, this is my stuff . . .but wait, he then describes Kafka's very short story, "The Knight of the Bucket," in which an empty coal bucket flies the protagonist above the impoverished town and into the night sky . . . Calvino ends "Lightness" writing, "Thus, astride our bucket, we shall face the new millenium, without hoping to find anything more in it than what we ourselves are able to bring to it."
That isn't exactly the same as being astride a flying Vespa, but close enough.