We’ve just launched the Tricycle Community Poetry Club, co-sponsored by Rattle magazine, a biannual poetry journal based in Los Angeles.
We’re kicking off with Peter Harris’s “Will Buddhism Survive.” Peter is a poet and “moonlights” as a professor of English at Colby College, where he teaches American Literature and poetry workshops. Here’s what Peter has to say about the poem:
I am currently a student at the Treetop Zen Center in Oakland, Maine. Three years ago, as part of Tokudo study, I was reading the Diamond Sutra chapter by chapter, explaining my understanding, then writing a poem. The Diamond Sutra stresses discriminating between thoughts about Buddhism and the experience of it.
In Chapter 6, the question arises whether Buddhism will survive. The early Buddhists lived in fraught times, too. I had the unoriginal thought that humans would have a better chance of surviving a while longer if we realized our original or Buddha-nature…
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Saturday, August 15, 2009
August 2nd, 2009
For the second autumn in a row, Beth Adams and I will be stepping out from behind the curtain to edit an issue of qarrtsiluni ourselves. The deadline for submissions is August 31, and publication will begin around September 15. We’re pretty excited by the theme.
This time we’re looking for words of power: curses, spells, charms, prayers, incantations, mantras, sacred scriptures, explicit performative utterances, oaths, or legal instruments. Submissions may consist entirely of such super-charged language, or may riff upon or explore such language. Submissions of visual art may of course take a more figurative approach to the topic; images of amulets and other power-objects, for example, would be welcome. But otherwise we urge contributors not to interpret the theme too broadly. Please don’t just send us a piece of writing that you think is powerful according to some subjective evaluation. We’re looking quite specifically for language freighted with mana and/or executive force, or writing about that kind of language. If you’re not sure whether something qualifies, feel free to query.
Please limit written material to no more than five items per submission, with individual pieces not exceeding 3,000 words. Please refer to the general guidelines before submitting, and note especially the recommendation to query us if we don’t acknowledge receipt within two days — occasional server hiccups and email glitches are a fact of life on the internet.
We look forward to reading your words of power with an unusual admixture of excitement and trepidation. This issue could be a real test of our editorial juju!
We’re also really pleased with the results of our first annual poetry chapbook contest. Here’s the announcement about that.
Read more: http://www.vianegativa.us/2009/08/new-qarrtsiluni-call-for-submissions-words-of-power/#ixzz0OJ3Sz9b2
Under Creative Commons License: Attribution Share Alike
Sunday, August 9, 2009
Reviews by STEPHEN BURTPublished: July 29, 2009
THE SHADOW OF SIRIUS
By W. S. Merwin.
Copper Canyon, $22.
Nostalgia, grief, fear for our planet and a subdued resolve in the face of advancing years arrive together in the Hawaii-based Merwin’s 22nd collection of new poems, which won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize. As in all of his verse since the late 1960s, Merwin does away with punctuation, letting line breaks and sense determine syntax and pace. The results suggest whispers, laments, accounts of long-ago memories, even voices from an underworld: “the dead are not separate from the living,” he says; “each has one foot in the unknown.” Looking back at old photographs and childhood houses, at horse pastures and “splintery unlit” schoolrooms, Merwin represents faint consolations, autumn and nightfall, and a parent’s dying words: “All day the stars watch from long ago / my mother said I am going now / when you are alone you will be all right.” Lines move forward almost ceremonially, confident in the simplicity of their diction, like “clear water revealing / no color but that of the gray / stone around it.” As he has before, Merwin writes gravely of species in peril, among them our own: endangered bats and departed songbirds “were singing of youth / not knowing that they were singing for us.” Yet most of the work in this capacious book considers not the earth’s mortality but Merwin’s own: poems shift from his first years to his most recent (he will turn 82 this September), from the helplessness of a young child to the profound resignations of old age.
By G. C. Waldrep.
Tupelo, paper, $16.95.
Waldrep’s title denotes an antique keyboard instrument with 24, or many more, keys per octave. Notoriously hard to play, such instruments made subtle and challenging music, with notes a conventional score could not include. Waldrep’s sometimes bewildering, often exciting prose poems make their own unconventional music, replete with slippages, repetitions, suggestions: “Every sound is tropical, every sound is perishable,” he writes. “My aunt sends one wrapped in butcher paper & string.” Most poems take quizzical titles from musical terms (“What Is a Threnody,” “What Is a Motet”), and most take rhetorical gifts from Gertrude Stein; yet Waldrep’s poems, far more than Stein’s, revel in the variety of their subjects. Some include clear scenes and characters, as when the poet helps a boy cross a cold road: “we walked slowly, because he was not yet done with being five.” The poet also leavens his intricate compositions with self-consciously playful asides: “Nothing is what it appears to be, I say. To which you reply, yes it is.” Waldrep (who studied the labor movement for his Ph.D. in American history) attends to the meaning of work, to the hardships of lives unlike his own: “Who Was Scheherazade” begins “My job was to pick rocks.” Yet his great triumphs combine such outward sympathies with self-conscious attention to inward oddities, to fleeting thoughts, to the vectors of energy in abstract words: “If I subtract sacrifice from appetite from what fierce attention do I then compromise a strict union, have I faltered, have I made an argument for grace.”
By Angie Estes.
Oberlin College, paper, $15.95.
Gleeful and gorgeous, delighted by puns and other wordplay (including words from French, Latin and Italian), Estes’s fast-paced free verse, rich with internal rhyme, takes rightful pride in the beauties it flaunts and explains. Her fourth collection finds, for recurrent motifs, saints’ lives, medieval manuscripts, gold leaf and the alphabet: “hearts bloom / out of Ds like lamb chop sleeves / in the script of the fifteenth-century / scribe”; in a gilded Book of Hours, “the letters / have fallen out of the words and lie / scattered on the ground.” Each deft poem weaves together multiple topics — some art-historical, others autobiographical — through chains of homonyms and knotty analogies: “Take Cover” skates from the French “couvre feu, cover the fire” (the origin for our word “curfew”) to disheveled bedcovers and 1950s-style duck-and-cover drills. Though Estes revels in European reference (Dante, Trieste, Greta Garbo), her matchless hunger for experience makes her indelibly American: “how the tongue / keeps lapping the world’s / loot,” she exclaims, “even in the 499th lap / of the Indy 500.” The arts — from Cimabue’s painting to haute cuisine — are for Estes never mere luxuries; rather, the arts, and our pride in them, give us the only effective countermeasures to loneliness, helplessness and serious pain. And pain — remembered or feared — is always somewhere: “So Near Yet So Far” connects a lunar eclipse, a film starring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth, a concept from high-energy plasma physics and “the necklace / of pearls my father bought my mother / for their forty-fifth wedding / anniversary, which she made him / take back.”
By Eilean Ni Chuilleanain.
Edited by Peter Fallon.
Wake Forest University, paper, $12.95.
Admired in Ireland since the 1970s, Ni Chuilleanain (pronounced knee QUILL-an-awn) deserves American attention too. Raised in the port city of Cork, drawn to visionary experience, yet alert to domestic and urban detail, she looks at once inward to things of the spirit and outward to coastlines, Continental Europe and an omnipresent sea. “Hurried exiles” disembark in Cork, “reach out for a door and find a banister, / Reach for a light and find their hands in water, / Their rooms all swamped by dreams”; the poet sees, in the grain of wooden furniture, “the long currents of a pale ocean / Softly turning itself inside out.” Poetry is for her an attitude, a kind of summoning, but also “another skill, as fine / As judging the set of milk for cheese, / A belief in the wisdom of a long view from one window.” Her visionary sentences favor soft consonants and muffled stops, without rhyme: their tones vary from celebratory to bitter, from the openly prayerful to the curtly appalled. Ni Chuilleanain’s Italy can get pious or touristy, but her Irish sites stay mysterious and credible. Poems on religious subjects pay homage to hermits, saints and nuns, sometimes with feminist undertones; poems of family life handle memories well. A mother’s sacred spot is “the place where the child / Felt sick in the car and they pulled over / And waited”; a young woman, coming home late on a bus, thinks “Nobody who knows me knows where I am now.”
~ Stephen Burt’s most recent book is “Close Calls With Nonsense: Reading New Poetry.”
Sunday, August 2, 2009
An Urgent Request
Hello and goodbye,
flour, vegetables, coffee
and orange juice.
A body, a soul, thoughts,
a moment of freedom.
Words. I am so jealous of your words.
I would like to buy some Polish grammar.
All of it.
I would like to buy a reusable bag
for the case endings.
Please segregate the genitive
from the dative well.
If war were to break out tomorrow
which of the neighbors would kill us?
How do they all know what to do?
How do my friends walk around
with all they know and feel?
Why won't they talk to each other?
It's just a question of words—
the wrong ones got delivered.
They don't fit.
We fear our words say
something about us
instead of using those damned words to speak.
We gravitate irresistibly
towards the passive.
I am furious.
Deliver those words please,
I cannot wait any longer.
I need not only the perfect
and imperfect verbs
and each separate verb-concept
but a precise dividing line
I know that will be more expensive.
I am prepared to pay postage.
Yes, the country I live in
It is called where-I-am-now
or, for short, my name.
It's even in Europe.
So, you see, it won't cost so much.
This document will most certainly
even be translated.
I know exactly where I am.
First you have to give me the words!
I’m leaning over the desk now
and my hair is falling over the forms
and I'm sweating.
Yes, I need prepositions too.
And the cases to which they attach.
I need those little joining wires.
Several thousand of them.
They'll be cheaper if I buy them
all at once.
I don't need poetry.
I already have a body.
Just give me the words.
my life is brilliant
No one I love
has died so far today.
Every single war in this world
has passed me by.
I am not starving and I haven’t stumbled
onto any terrorist’s map
or into anyone’s axis of evil
Nobody tortured me today.
No policeman shot me by accident or on purpose
No tidal wave swept my house away
I was not sentenced to death for infidelity,
or not having put enough salt in the soup.
It’s autumn, season of mooching poets, mellow
fruitfulness and death, of blazing lanterns
standing in the trees, of crunching dry gold
standing, of black skeletons poking through,
of apples, I want to straighten my spine,
eat gold leaves, rocket down
to earth scuttle across someone’s face, someone
lying naked in a field, sun bleeding through eyelids
thinking last time, defiant joy, I want to be it
and the wind that breaks up the block of blue
that fits over us today, the wind that makes
it’s sea sound in my hair the wind that rushes
over the flat stones at the door, the stones
from the riverbed, the wind that grasps
the leaves and flings them high and brightness
~ "An Urgent Request" originally appeared in The Pedestal; "my life is brilliant" and "Blaze" originally appeared in Other Voices. I am grateful to these fine magazine for the right to reprint the poems here.
Sarah is a psychotherapist. You can find her at her personal site, or at her online therapy site.