Wednesday, January 31, 2007
this time of year i’d
go to the lake and
watch them carry glowing spheres.
i never saw anything prettier –
then they’d set them free to float
( on little boats )
across the dark waters.
under the moon.
shimmers would reflect
days were strangers i’d never see.
they’d come from far away.
i take my ideas,
shape my own paper lantern, and when i’m finished
i'll go down
by the lake
to set it free.
winter becoming at ease 2
the morning falls
and still breath is seen
far beyond the rising suns heat
snow has yet to fall from the sky
to touch the green ground
seen from my window.
a fresh flame brews inside the stomach of metal walls -
though outside, a different story's told,
one with words
freezing before sought out...
yes, outside winter is becoming.
~ This is John Thompson's first appearance in Elegant Thorn.
Sunday, January 28, 2007
at last, defined solely by shadow,
I find my wings, beating
a mixture of blackness and light
arms inch into the new movement -
tired, from too many long years
and attempts at being an angel
1. How did you come to poetry, and how or when did you decide that you are a poet?
I wrote teenage angst “poetry” to start and then I wrote lost love angst “poetry” in my twenties. Of course, none of this was real poetry and, yikes, most of it rhymed, badly. I tried to read poetry during these periods of my life but there was something within me that was not yet open to really take it in. Finally, in my early thirties, I had this “opening” and found that I was able to read and experience poetry and I also found that I was able to write something that I could call poetry.
2. Who are some of your favorite poets and why?
My favorite poets always have a sense of the Divine about them, a sense of a deep interconnectedness or even a sense of longing for that connectivity. Rumi is number one. The translations of his work aren't number one because of the writing style but because of the great depth of the poems. Each of his poems have a number of stories to tell to the reader, if the reader will become devoted enough to visit with them frequently. I think it is extremely rare to ever find a poet that has this same depth. You can find some translations of Hafiz's work, like Thomas Rain Crowe's, that have that have a similar depth. Bly's translations of Kabir also have many tales to tell, but altogether, to me, this seems like a very difficult quality to find. This last summer I took a class on reading poetry and in the introduction to our main textbook it stated that I was reading poetry in the wrong way if I was looking for some deep meaning or teaching. That's all right. I'm happy to read it wrong.
I am also extremely fond of the work of Naomi Shihab Nye. Her poems are all so extremely human and, in being so, find the Divine in the most ordinary things. She also shows things from a perspective that so many Westerners are unable to because of her ties to Palestine. I met Naomi's work through a dear friend who I had been sharing my own poems with for about year. One day I was visiting with her and she handed me a book of Naomi's and said, “here is a new book poems written by my friend Naomi.” (She is actually her son's godmother) I took the book home and read a few of the poems and found that I was mortified that I had bothered my friend with my little poems when she had Naomi and, for a moment, I almost decided to stop writing altogether. I mean, what was the point of my writing when there is this beauty already in the world? I cured myself quickly by writing a poem about how she had that effect on me.
Neruda is another poet who writes in a way that makes almost everything Divine. There are so many of his poems that stop me, paralyze me for a moment, so I that I can't even breathe, just wanting to make sure that the words get a chance to sink in and make a home within me. His words tell me that he had a very special way of seeing things. I love poets with his kind of vision.
3. What is your process for writing?
I have a couple of processes. I try to write something every morning after meditation. Sometimes that yields something of worth, sometimes it doesn't. I also find that in day to day life there are phrases or moments that touch me and take me to a deeper place. It is those times that something enters me and moves around within me and later reappears and shows itself as a poem. These poems seem to birth themselves with little help at all.
4. How do you define “spiritual poetry,” or what do you look for in a spiritual poet?
Almost anything can be spiritual poem. If a poem goes to the core of anything - be it making bread, sorting the laundry, loss of a loved one, meditating, walking the dog - it can be spiritual. What I look for in a spiritual poet is the depth of someone like Naomi Shihab Nye.
Another characteristic that draws me to a poem is a sense of longing. The poems of Mirabai, St John of the Cross, Bibi Hayati, Rainer Rilke and many others cry out for the Divine and I really think those cries deliver the Presence. One of my favorite lines of Rumi is, “When you look for God, God is in the look of your eyes.”
5. What are you reading these days in the area of poetry? Any books or poets you would like to recommend?
Most recently I have been reading The Zohar, translated by Daniel Matt. I don't know if you would call it poetry, though he has translated it into a poetic style. The Zohar begins with the explanation of how to look at the Torah, which is described like a garment:
“As wine must sit in a jar,
So Torah must sit in this garment.
So look only at what is under the garment!
So all those words and all those stories -
They are garments!”
This is the way of spiritual poetry with me. The poems sit in garments like a gown on a beautiful woman and if you love them enough, devote yourself to them, they might just give you a peek at what lies underneath.
My recommendation is to find some poems like the Torah, and love them until they lift their skirts for you… and then love them some more.
~ Margaret James has appeared in Elegant Thorn several times before. You can see more of her poetry at her Zaadz blog.
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
The day started reasonably enough. I woke up,
turned on the stereo for music to dress by,
boiled water, let out the cat.
No, wait, I don’t have a cat. That was a dream.
I made the bed and opened the curtains to the sun,
reaching for the highest within,
to wrap around me like a day cloak.
(Another lie. I never make the bed.
I was trying to impress you with my neatness.)
It’s when I get to work the inner weeping begins.
My new computer password is scrawled on my desk,
a secret for the world to see.
I accidentally disconnect a conference call to France.
Everyone’s stupid it seems, including me.
I’m hungry. I eat my lunch at ten.
By noon I’m famished with a hunger food can’t reach.
The cleaning lady is upset.
Someone threw a perfectly healthy plant in the trash.
Will I save it?
I look at the plant, its roots exposed.
It too, is shocked and confused.
I repot it, trim it, give it love.
I need string to tie its branches
so I ask the Indian engineer I have karma with.
He puffs with power because I ask a favor.
He’s very polite, very obliging.
I snarl inside.
Life seems sometimes
to have a persistent theme of foolishness.
What, after all, does all this mean?
If, as they say, there is a Divine Plan
and everything is as it should be
right down to the chirping of a bird,
how can I doubt that my own insignificance
too, is part of this?
Change came to the door and because it knocked, I opened it.
Oh, Change, I said, No thanks, none today.
It tried to put its foot inside,
but I was quick.
I blocked it; sent it on its way.
Change came to the door with a bouquet of flowers
and thrust them forward for me to take.
There’s no occasion, I smiled, it’s not for me.
I pushed them back while Change
Change came to the door and I opened it.
Change smiled and I frowned.
I told you before, I said somewhat irritably,
I have no need for what you bring
I do not wish to change a thing.
The door burst open with a ferocious blast
and a thunderous crack.
The more I fought the more it blew me back.
It knocked me down, it brought me to my knees.
Change was so insistent that I finally agreed.
Change came to my door; I heard the knock.
I opened it slightly and peeked out.
Oh Change, I said, my love.
I embraced it and took it in,
I held it, I made it mine.
I married it, became its wife.
~ This is Joyce Snyder's first appearance in Elegant Thorn Review.
Monday, January 22, 2007
~ Manuel Librodo Jr. lives in Bangkok, Thailand. He says, "Life is a series of experiments. My photos are extensions of my experiments. I learn, I stumble, I succeed, I fail, but I continue. This, for me, is the essence of learning." You can see more of his work his homepage.
I saw you this morning, rising
as you will, as you have)
You dressed. I watched. Each
of us holding the world at arm’s
length, eyes searching as if
looking for silver coins.
There are days I wish
you’d stay until morning
light reaches past
our room’s blinds.
Like beauty recalled
by nature. Like this one.
And I should tell you so.
~ Tim J Brennan hails from southeastern Minnesota. His poetry continues to be a work in progress.He is a frequent contributer to Elegant Thorn Review.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
The aerial view of the neighborhood in which I used to live was photographed years ago, perhaps on a day I was out walking from our gravelly street to the barber’s place around the corner where the sunlight streaked across a mist of falling hairs, or heading to the bakery to buy more of the cakes that ate my teeth. I know I wasn’t going to the church, although it looks impressive from this height, but I could have been on my way to the river that flows at a constant pace regardless of changes already on the drawing board.
The foliage tells me it is summer, and the shadows speak of a day warm by the standards of the place, which were in all respects modest. Cars on the roads are few. So are pedestrians. There must be some birds in the tall trees around the big house whose owners were always so mysterious, who seemed to own more of the world than was justified. I have forgotten what they looked like. I have forgotten the street names. I have forgotten who lived next door and where the bus turned at the end of its route. After my departure long ago the forgetting continued: the buildings forgot why they had been built; the bowling green forgot it was rolled flat for games; the pubs forgot about social life and beer; the shops forgot what it was they had been designed to sell.
I don’t go back. I hear the language has changed. I hear the gravel wouldn’t recognize my feet. I hear it’s closing time. I hear there’s a double lock on the door to the house where I lived.
The North Pole
It is a long way to my father, across the North Pole in a plane from which I look down at the overpowering cold. I imagine such a silence that words are irrelevant. Banks of snow are sparkling as the rays of the sun climb over them. I’d like to be down there for long enough to know how it feels to be alone with the beauty of ice.
At the airport he is waiting. He won’t look up. Has nothing to say, other than to tell me that the coat I am wearing won’t be any use in this weather.
~ David Chorlton lives in Phoenix, Arizona -- his home since 1978 when he moved there from Europe. He was fortunate enough to see William Everson read in Bisbee, AZ, back in the 1980s.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Perhaps you never envisioned death as the usual cliche; a bony specter in ebony cloak arriving by gondola to ferry you across the River Styx in style. If anything, he'd come as a great white wonder and the boat, a kayak of course.
The river itself; an icy fiord crowded with floes as big as all the attachments we make in life. Or maybe death would appear as a hazy figure in a fur hooded parka, face drawn in against the cold.
He'd tap you on the shoulder, startling you out of surrounding thoughts. Perhaps he whispers "it's time to go," if he has the breath left after such a long trip.
You glance up to see the tundra you've become a part of, nod in agreement. Horrified by how easy, calmly you're accepting this.
Then you step forward into that waiting dogsled, his hand on your arm, as if to warn: "don't hurt yourself climbing in." Though he's right there beside you, you'll cross those snowfields alone. A moment in white and the wilderness swallows you. Though God only knows where.
~ G.A. Scheinoha said: Call it a prose poem, miniature, micro, what have you. But I was writing these brief narratives before anyone thought to attach labels to the form. I have other information from him.
Sunday, January 14, 2007
~ This is the second time Diana Calvario has appeared here. She lives in Luxembourg. You can see more of her work at her home page.
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Between the ponds and sloughs
the chaotic mosquitoes
the only still thing
the Great Blue Heron
lifting from the ground
as I drive near
soaring low over road
like dream upon awakening
clarity fleeing –
a man and a woman
into one life, one moment –
as I continue
my steady pace down refuge
imagine for a moment
that at our death
we hover over our loved ones
with omniscient perspective
knowing all the lies
we were told, the unexpressed desires
always far enough away
to be safe
even before I knew you
your childhood dreams never reaching
always close enough to see clearly
that it wasn’t approval you wanted
but the freedom from fear
before we understand brimstone
and shame, the embarrassment
of growing old
as memories fail and care is required
to share the proper sentiments
remaining out of reach, but connected
like entangled quantum particle
we are not infinite beings
we must pick and choose what we share
if our choices become exposed
upon our deaths
would we choose differently
look down with pity
eternity as still as a photo
would we want to come back
and sacrifice omniscience
as fleeting as mosquitoes
for another chance
~ Bradley Earle Hoge lives in Spring, TX with his wife and three children. He teaches natural science at the University of Houston – Downtown. His most recent poems appear in Chronogram, Aurora Review, Stickman Review, SubtleTea, Language and Culture, and Tar Wolf Review.
Monday, January 8, 2007
Sunday, January 7, 2007
in late evenings
from my screen porch
where i summer slept,
i could see father’s
upper floor bed light,
its tiny shards tossing
light shafts into tall
spiraled oak trees,
beams bouncing infinitely
into night black air
often times, i could hear
mother’s asthma breath
soft calling his name; i imagined
her touching his darkness
with powdered hands
from the roundhouse yard
two small town blocks
from third street east, an iron
engine coupled ferociously
with box cars; the metallic wailing,
its dark rails off east off west,
off places i was not allowed to go
as he always did, father left early
morning, disappearing around
our green garage, returning later
with stick matches, tobacco
breath; stories of Nam, house fires,
Richard Nixon, and the one picture
of his father in his back wallet pocket
years later, after mother left me
her books, her Perry Como LP’s,
her Caldwell novels; years
after she buried herself in her yellow
wicker sewing basket, carefully threaded
and locked into her cold, mausoleum niche
i stood before her marble door
as winter tried to explain itself:
white dry god flakes heaped
on stained glass sills, child licked
from small red mittens; nearby
water frozen in a gray metal pail
it has been years
since she has held me,
years since she has practiced living;
the entire scene perspective,
the vanishing point of delivery
from mother’s past,
lines of my future
~ Tim Brennan is a regular contributer here. He can be reached at his email address.
Thursday, January 4, 2007
the old orchards
the oaken bookcase you made me when we were young,
I was in my thirties
a cutaway happiness.
A long creative arc:
We do our job
by paying attention:
Canadian woman prairie painter’s jam jars lined
the stained glass light pouring thru them:
the lover who must not pretend.
the child in winter
in a moon-white suit in a second.
Trained to grow in a flat plain in symmetrical pattern
Traditionally, year begins quietly.
mirror reflection of barns, corrugated roofs
pleated copies in blue irrigation ditches.
January, though, can begin with elegance
Fire-tongs lift it from the blaze
of tragic face turned in both directions.
Tallow fire in my head
Van Gogh’s eyes were mine while we drove
post-Christmas land: (world without orgasm):
sheets of ice, folded wings
folded winding sheets over espaliered apples
earth pleated skirt:
the hurt furrows:
hedges of poplar
straight white sticks
standing by insufficient guardsmen
Champagne poured back into the bottle.
How can you be a Berliner? Hailed as next Pavlova
at age eleven at the Bolshoi, adolescent Dante?
Now, studying photography in Germany? Some ploy.
Bubble-baths on Holocaustal soil heartshaped face
peachskin, youngest niece.
Anne Frank was made into a short ballet
music by Ernst Bloch played in a ballet written expressly for you at age 13
you wear the nitty-gritty industrial air now of Berlin
who wore ethereal chiffon blue only five years ago:
Give me the candlelight, the clear understanding of crucifixion
in which to forgive
blue numbers under the skin had you been born in ‘41
now some man’s dream girl in Berlin”
will the long bleak nights clear into morning
torch held by love to painting?
~ Lynn Strongin lives in British Columbia, Canada. She has been widely published over the years. You can find out much more about her at her website.
Wednesday, January 3, 2007
. . . my dearest faith has been that this
is but a trial. I shall be changed.
~ Stanley Kunitz
It was, as I remember, three of us—
three sapling boys between childhood
and coming on to be men—riding our bikes
to Farlington Lake that day: Richard Baldwin,
someone else and myself. I don’t know
who thought first of swimming the quarter mile
from the tower to the dock then back again
but it couldn’t have been me,
I would never have considered it.
They were strong swimmers. I was not;
although we had taken swimming lessons
together and it was a deepening mystery
why their muscles developed while mine
had not, because during our games of tag
at the town pool I was perpetually doomed
to be “It,” or why they used the fifteen-foot
diving board as a good-natured redoubt
to make sport of taunting me because they
knew how hard I had to screw my nerve
to chase them there then jump off.
Richard was the first to walk the pipe
to the tower, then the other kid, then myself.
They dove straight away and struck for the dock.
I started strong—their enthusiasm pulled me along.
Perhaps this was my day, I thought, then my
arms began getting tired. There was no
lifeguard keeping watch, no nearby fisherman
in a boat, this was some serious business. So
I abandoned the Australian Crawl for less
exhausting strokes, sometimes even floating
and when I dared to check, there was
no longer any advantage to turning back.
They welcomed my arrival like seals
on a rock, clapping and waiting for me
to touch the dock, ready to dive,
ready to arc, because, such was this game
that I was “It” again and exhausted or not,
fool or not, I had no choice, our bikes
were near the tower, I flopped into their wake.
I would like to say they cheered me as heroic, but they did not.
I would like to say that day I proved myself as one of them, but I had not.
I would like to say that day a grubby worm morphed into a butterfly, but it did not.
There were to be more years of feeling myself lower caste, of thinking
a ship had sailed and I’d been left behind, of playing right field,
of being too small too shy to dare a kiss or ask for a date.
But we did grow up. All of us. Some bloom late.
Our senior year I was co-captain of the track team
and Richard Baldwin and I were one half
of a 4x440 relay team that set the league record.
Richard died last year. Oh, he was a clever boy.
He became a doctor. And how can I speak of the
other kid when I can’t remember his face or
his name, only the nut-brown sparkling sun-dripping
sheen of him and the turban he made of his t-shirt;
because I remember our swim at Farlington Lake
the way a befuddled convict broods an unjust trial.
I risked my life not because I was brave and strong but because
I feared the shame of not-swimming more, because I was
just like them, just like us all—playing tag with death, celebrating life.
~ Thomas Lisenbee retired in 2001 from a forty-two year career as a symphonic musician in New York City to devote himself to writing. His poetry has appeared on-line at Poetz.com and Roguescholars.com, in print in Chronogram, Connections, and the Literary Gazette of the River Reporter. He has published one chapbook, Dogwalking (Wild Pines Press).
Monday, January 1, 2007
BAM, YouTube, Grammys, Laureates, Chancellors, Awards & Howl’s 50th Birthday...
2006... Good year, Poetry...
Poets stormed the Brooklyn Academy of Music: Carl Hancock Rux, Sekou Sundiata, and Mike Ladd all took the Next Big Step with huge, multimedia spectaculars rooted in word-word-word utterances of sparked raucous inner poetry. YouTube lit up with poems, including some terrific animations of Billy Collins’ work, especially “Forgetfulness” with animation by Julian Grey of Headgear.
The Grammy nominations mirrored the national consciousness. “Best Spoken Word Album (includes Poetry, Audio Books and Story Telling)” nominees were Bob Newhart, Bill Maher, Jimmy Carter, Al Franken, Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee. Go to “Best Historical Album” to find the well-made Poetry on Record, 98 Poets Read their Work from Shout Factory (Rebekah Presson Mosby, compilation producer and Randy Perry, mastering engineer).
The Poet Laureate turnover from Ted Kooser, who lives on 62 acres in Garland, Nebraska, to Donald Hall, who lives on his grandfather’s farm in Wilmot, New Hampshire, kept the pastoral in U.S. poetry.... The New York Times Book Review did a “Poetry Chronicle” every six months written by Joel Brouwer and Eric McHenry. Go figure how they make their decisions: in the past two years they’ve found Noelle Kocot, Elizabeth Alexander, Adrian Castro, Juliana Spahr on the wise and wonderful tip, and 61 poets from the tenure track.... In an interview in the Times Book Review, Helen Vendler declared she isn’t interested in young poets. Surprise.... Michael Palmer, a brilliant, underrated poet, won the Academy of American Poets’ Wallace Stevens Award (we’re talking 100 g’s, “The Speed of Sound”).... And new chancellors of the Academy this year include Lyn Hejinian!, Carl Phillips and Sharon Olds....
Speaking of underrated, Samuel Menashe won the Poetry Foundation’s first “Neglected Masters” award in 2004 -- having won it, he no longer qualifies for it! -- and his new Selected came out from Library of America this year.... Nathaniel Mackey’s Splay Anthem continues his Andoumboulouous skritch twist and won the National Book Award in 2006. Mackey, much touted in these pixels, has written his most complex work yet. (We recommend starting with School of Udhra, Whatsaid Serif.... The release of Ishmael Reed’s collected poems should be a national holiday!... More and more local towns have begun to appoint Poets Laureates: Jack Hirschman in San Francisco, Brenda Connor-Bey in Greenburgh, New York, M.L. Liebler (soon to be featured on this site) in St. Clair Shores, Michigan...
“Howl”’s 50th Birthday was this year! The Poem That Changed America: “Howl” Fifty Years Later edited by Jason Shinder (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) -- go hard cover and you get the CD of the first recorded reading of “Howl.” It sounds like a remix of the one previously released in the Holy Soul Jellyroll box set, very moving pieces, all very personal, which is the way Ginsberg hits you. Anne Waldman, Mark Doty, Bob Rosenthal, Andrei Codrescu, Eileen Myles, Gordon Ball, Alicia Ostriker, Billy Collins, Philip Lopate, Eliot Katz, Marge Piercy, Robert Polito (“Howl” and Lowell, Dylan, Bidart!), Rick Moody, Robert Pinsky, David Gates and more... Bill Morgan, Ginsberg’s Boswell, has two books just out: I Celebrate Myself: The Somewhat Private Life of Allen Ginsberg (Viking), the first full-length biography, and Howl on Trial: The Battle for Free Expression (City Lights Publishers). Morgan is clear and knowledgeable -- a force.
Read the rest.