Smitten again

She’s young and pretty with long auburn hair and writing on a yellow legal tablet as if she’s writing a poem.

At least, that’s what I’m hoping she’s doing. Then I’d be totally smitten.

Published in: on October 20, 2011 at 9:13 pm  Leave a Comment  

First step to poetry

It was in one of those “how to writer poetry books” where I read if you want to write poetry, learn to write a good sentence first.

Published in: on November 20, 2009 at 4:00 am  Leave a Comment  

On poetry

I hate to say this because it sounds small and mean spirited.  But if you have to teach someone how to read poetry, you’ve wasted your time with them.  It seems too much like explaining what a Hank Williams song means.  If poems don’t seep into your blood, you’ll never know.

Published in: on September 1, 2009 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

A poem before traveling

Why I am awake at this late hour and writing this post I cannot tell you.  Let’s just say that one can do worse than quote an ancient Chinese poem before traveling.

Evening after Rain

Sudden rain this afternoon
saved my thirsty garden.

Now sunset steams the grass
and the river softly glistens.

Who’ll organize my scattered books?
Tonight I’ll fill and fill my glass.

I know they love to talk about me.
But no one faults me for my reclusive life.

Tu Fu (712-770) from Crossing the Yellow River translated by Sam Hamill

Translations are different works of art. Yet 1300 years from the writing to the translation, sometimes, does not seem to make a damn bit of difference.

Published in: on July 10, 2009 at 2:44 am  Leave a Comment  

Silent dawn

Friday, 3 July 2009.  A holiday.  Almost 9 AM, the holiday assures the city sits silent outside my doors.  Let’s take time out for a Chinese poem.

Drinking at Crooked River

Beyond the park, at River’s Head,
the water’s calm, the palace disappears.

Peach and willow blossoms scatter
as orioles fly up together.

Drinking, I don’t care what they say–
I never cared for the court.

From my office I now see the immortals
have long since sunk into the sea.

Old and grieved, I see it’s futile
to lament the duties I evaded.

Tu Fu (712-770)

from Crossing the Yellow River, translated by Sam Hamill

This morning’s dawn laps about my feet like warm ocean waves.  The silence sedates, soothes, and calms me–even makes me feel assured.  I will devote this weekend to silently meditating on the poetry of the great Tu Fu.

New dawns break against the shore.  We weather them as best we can no matter their gentleness or violence.

Published in: on July 3, 2009 at 9:17 am  Leave a Comment  


We read the great poets.  They find the extroadinary and profound in the almost missed ordinary things–things tangled so much in our boring days we can’t see them except when the poets show us.

Published in: on June 23, 2009 at 2:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

last meeting

An Akhmatova poem.

The Song of the Last Meeting

Then helplessly my breast grew cold,
But my steps were light.
I pulled the glove for my left hand
Onto my right.

There seemed to be many steps,
But I knew–there were only three!
The whisper of autumn in the maples
Was pleading: “Die with me!

I am betrayed by my doleful,
Fickle, evil fate.”
I answered: “Darling, darling!
I too. I will die with you…”

This is the song of the last meeting.
I glanced at the dark house.
Candles were burning only in the bedroom,
With an indifferent-yellow flame.

September 29, 1911
Tsarskoye Selo

Published in: on July 25, 2008 at 1:37 pm  Leave a Comment  


I was talking to a friend one night. Naturally, we were sitting together at a bar. She was a lot younger than me. She seemed melancholy at the time. She had a volume of poetry I had given her sitting on the bar. She said she really enjoyed the book and took it everywhere to read. I was mightily glad of that, for when you give someone a book of poetry, you never know what might happen.

She asked me, because I was a much older person, whether life would get better for her. It was one of those meaning of life questions hard for me to answer because, at the time, I was in the process negotiating a despondency I knew would last for a long time. And, of course, it did.

What I wished I would have told her is that life’s meaning is something we imagine and create for ourselves. We also ought to actually do virtuous acts rather than be moral hypocrites. Saying we have behaved virtuously when all the while we have we have taken the easy road out of problems at the expense of others won’t do.

I also wished I had told her keep reading that poetry anthology. If you really like the poems in that book, let them take hold of you. You will always having something special. Which brings us to this splendid Raymond Carver poem.

The Window

A storm blew in last night and knocked out
the electricity. When I looked
through the window, the trees were translucent.
Bent and covered with rime. A vast calm
lay over the countryside.
I knew better. But at that moment
I felt I’d never in my life made any
false promises, nor committed
so much as one indecent act. My thoughts
were virtuous. Later on that morning,
of course, electricity was restored.
The sun moved from behind the clouds,
melting the hoarfrost.
And things stood as they had before.

Published in: on July 2, 2008 at 9:54 am  Leave a Comment  

The tough, poetry, and mobile blogging

My Dearest State Street Readers,

When the going gets tough and the noise from the construction sites have given the tough a migraine headache by noon, the tough take a favorite poetry anthology in hand, and get the Hell out of Dodge. And what better book to take than A Book of Luminous Things edited with commentary by Czeslaw Milosz?

Oh, I discovered WordPress mobile blogging yesterday. It ain’t fancy. Mostly suitable for postcards sent from an iPhone or such. But we don’t feel like writing, or reading for that matter, any long thing. We are just too strung out. We might be mobile blogging live for awhile at State Street.

Let’s stay in touch.



Published in: on June 25, 2008 at 12:13 pm  Comments (1)  


Alone at night watching the Cubs play the Padres in Chicago, I put one eye on a poem.

Selecting a Reader

First, I would have her be beautiful,

and walking carefully up on my poetry

at the loneliest moment of the afternoon,

her hair still damp at the neck

from washing it. She should be wearing

a raincoat, an old one, dirty

from not having money enough for the cleaners.

She will take out her glasses, and there

in the bookstore, she will thumb

over my poems, then put the book back

up on its shelf. She will say to herself,

“For that kind of money, I can get

my raincoat cleaned.” And she will.

Ted Kooser, as found in Poetry 180 edited by Billy Collins

Fuck. I’m not alone anymore.

Published in: on June 2, 2008 at 10:43 pm  Leave a Comment