Sunday 29 July 2012

i.m. Bernadine Etter, 30 July 1945-29 July 2011

My niece Ella and my mother Bernie, April 2010

Every day since your death I carry the large hollowness around with me and suspect the best part of my life is over. You were Home, and now I linger, adrift, violently uprooted. 

Tuesday 24 July 2012

The Drunken Boat's

latest issue is up, with such good company as Jennifer K. Dick, Kit Fryatt, Jen Hofer, Rachel Lehrman, Eléna Rivera, and Scott Thurston, among many others. My four poems can be found here; "Ruby" and "Ornament" are part of what I imagine to be a pamphlet in progress, Orphan/age. Thanks to guest editor Melissa Buckheit for her interest in my work.

Thursday 19 July 2012

Two Oystercatcher pamphlets: Birds by Allen Fisher and Twelve Moons by Peter Riley (both 2009)

On my travels, if I want a book that'll fit in my backpack-style handbag, I grab a pamphlet or two, and the last two such titles I took were Birds by Allen Fisher and The Twelve Moons by Peter Riley. While I'll include some excerpts below, as both pamphlets are composed of short lyric poems, many of the poems are most successful as a whole, so I have quoted only a portion of the pamphlets' best writing here.

From Allen Fisher's Birds:

until a swan opens his wings in my head

from "17"

look out on a culture too
late for recovery to
avoid narrative traps delineations
of low blow whistles to
demonstrate sonic coherence
or some parody of fairness

second half of "18"

ashen air
beneath scratches of bright sun

end of "23"

Peter Riley's The Twelve Moons consists of his versions of Chinese poet Li Ho, also known as Li He (700-816 AD):

for hundreds of miles bright wind in the vegetation

a warm mist blown down to earth

from "3rd Moon"

Cool at dusk and dawn, all the trees

a thousand mountains, green depths beyond clouds

faint perfume in the rain falling through greenery


old red flowers on the ground, glow in tree-shade.

beginning and end of "4th Moon"

The palace walls stretch into cold daylight


Bells! this wine has waited a thousand days

we drink against the cold, to the Emperor

from "11th Moon"

Buy these pamphlets directly from the publisher: here for Birds, here for The Twelve Moons.

Tuesday 17 July 2012

Veronica Forrest-Thomson's Collected Poems (Shearsman, 2008), first selection

This first selection comes from Forrest-Thomson's collection, Identi-kit (1967).

The world is winched on an iron chain,
then whirled on a wheel of frost.


a sudden jangling skeleton of sound


the red-cold sky

from "January Morning"

Wearied with myself I want
a picture that simplifies.

from "Identi-kit"

Entering the dim air where edges
are furred like geranium leaves,
the mind blurs in sympathy,
the line dividing plant and primate,
until to think seems out of place.

opening stanza of "In the Greenhouse"

a will stalled in civilised complexity


trying to electrify the unconducive days

from "Aries"

Year's spectrum modulates 
around the centre spectre.
Each single moment's tone
appears alone, yet signals
the gradation in the air
toward the centre spectre;

opening stanza of "Ambassador of Autumn
(By Paul Klee)"

You taught me language, left me with words in hand
to spin their critical cocoon around a life
which others lead, which I can merely understand,
caught in a  web of maybe, ought, and if;


exist to exorcise by implication
the amorphous impulses of beast and bird
which, when in need of explication,
must manage without benefit of word.

first and third stanzas of
"The Sentence"

You can buy Veronica Forrest-Thomson's Collected Poems in the UK from Foyle's and in the US from Small Press Distribution. 

Wednesday 11 July 2012

The Magazine Life

I love the magazine life--that is, publishing poetry in literary magazines. There's the hopefulness of sending poems out, the lows of rejection, the giddy pleasure of acceptances, and that's just getting started. 

Today's been an unusually full day for magazine activity. It began when I opened my email this morning to find proofs for the next issue of Drunken Boat. In the afternoon, I received an email accepting a personally important poem, "My Mother's Ashes," for the autumn issue of Poetry Review, and when the post arrived, there was my contributor's copy and cheque from New Welsh Review. Opening it and seeing the other poets therein was a treat: Chinese poet Xiao Kaiyu, translated by Pascale Petit, fellow stablemate at Seren and simply lovely person; Philip Gross, whom I see at events and conferences from time to time; Harry Man, who was my MA student the first year I taught at Bath Spa; and Marianne Burton, who once took a class of mine at The Poetry School and I've seen from time to time since. I'm looking forward to reading the issue.

And here's an email from Hayden's Ferry Review in the States, asking for a bio for my poem in their next issue. It's been a splendid day of little excitements.

Monday 9 July 2012

Jennifer Militello's Flinch of Song (Tupelo, 2009)

Some favourite passages from Militello's compelling first collection follow. Spacing may be distorted by Blogger's limitations (or my limitations in using Blogger).

So you are 
another, sheltering a little flask of sorrow, with
two eyed caged in wildness.

from "Manifestation"

Its weight

strains the metronome of my heart, and what is absent
makes the world what it is.

from "History of the Always Pain"

All the petals falling from
the same clear pause. And even if it seemed
a dream coming through, it became a reality

leaving. What kept us digging but
the brilliance tangling our woodgrained hair,
opening wind, its wide convertible.

end of "History of Siblings"

I swear it was summer: I was strung through
with light.

opening of "Confusing Past with Passion"

Among the dangers of hungers of others, we are much
too thin.

from "Reunion"

I say, how beautiful
the ruined barn, the late blade of candidness.
I mistake the cathedral for a sodium light

sifting down from how it lingers, everywhere
and sometimes always, a mist of linen,
a hay-sweet night. I notice dandelions

become exact around us.

from "Taking Care"

There is a quiet I excavate

in waiting for you.

from "Manifestation"

The only identity I know is alone in the sigh's
bright wilderness, with workings one can take apart
and still not understand.

opening of "Living Where the Halyards Can Be Heard"

Once the windows open, the cure will whistle in.

last line of "One Side of the Story"

Nothing is made of wind, but wind is made
of wasps caught between the window and the screen.

opening stanza of "Azrael Speaks"

Grief unbuttoning its high-collared dress.
Change as a heron that strikes at the lake.
Death at the heels, herding.

Wind as a skin in that it passes.

from "Miserere"

Buy from independent bookstores! In the UK, you can buy Flinch of Song from Foyle's, in the US from Powell's.

Monday 2 July 2012

Bristol Zoo, 30 June 2012

Sweet little scaredy thing.

What're you looking at?

Mama with baby following close behind.

Just a big pussycat.