Friday 28 August 2015

Forrest Gander's Core Samples from the World (New Directions, 2011), second selection

More favourite passages:

To be defiled is to be recognizable to yourself, she thought.

last line of "Evaporation 3"

Where do you think you come by your pattern?

from "Moving Around for the Light, a Madrigal"

Smoking is the Bosnian national sport. Everywhere the poets meet to read or discuss poetics, we look across the room at each other through soiled gauze.

from "Bosnia-Herzegovina: Life Is Waiting"

Hospitality's other face, hostility
And then stepped back, measuring him for a haymaker.


Each a stranger to the other's strangeness
And she strokes her horned toad in the direction of its spines.

from "Evaporation 4"

...a meadow softly-furred
as a bumble-bee....


        A song sparrow stops

                                                 anting its wing to fulfill

what silence wants, and look: the child's face,

                                                                her wet lips, her even teeth--

 from "Lovegreen"

...a languorous sine curve of a journey that ends with the brake-smoking descent into an abyss where the beleaguered town of Andacollo has been flung.


He started to imagine fighting sadistic force with poems as insubstantial as contrails over a city.

from "Chile: Pigs of Gold"

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Red squirrels, Wallington, Northumberland, August 2015

Scotland and Northern England have the largest populations of red squirrels, so during our trip to Northumberland, Trev and I made two attempts to see them: first, at Woodhorn, with their dedicated feeders; and two days later, at Wallington, with a secluded animal hide and feeders every which way around it. At Woodhorn, no success. At Wallington, I suspected it would be the same again, but after just over ten minutes in the hide, we saw first one, then two red squirrels--chasing one another, in two nearby feeders simultaneously, etc. We watched them for over ten minutes before they went on their way. As I forgot my camera in the car, here are a few of Trevor's photos of the squirrels:


The one photo that shows both the squirrels at once--


I've got to get . . . more . . . food . . . .

Whenever I return to Northumbria, I'll want to time my visit to see the puffins at the Farne Islands and make an early-morning visit to Wallington's animal hide....

Monday 24 August 2015

Forrest Gander's Core Samples from the World (New Directions, 2011), first selection

Some favourite passages:

From the seat behind her, the boy pokes his sister's head with a plastic fork
And getting no response, tests it on his own head.


It sounded like the chimmuck of a rock dropped into a stream
And the piston-driven breathing of sex.

from "Evaporation 1"

What does it mean, a cauterized topography?


The sense of epoch loosened, unstrung.
Each one thinking it is the other who recedes like a horizon. 


In the open pit at noon, men waning in brightness.


The air burnished, almost mineral, like a thin peel of mica.


The distance flat as horsehair plaster, all depth sponged away.

from "A Clearing"

What is taken as evident wafts away.


(Here, as everywhere, male bonding is acted out as a kind of coalitionary self-destruction.)


The riders have not given up, but the storm is barreling theatrically toward them, their clothes snapping in wind like a fire.

from "Xinjiang: The Pamirs Poetry Journey"

And who was it the surgeons narcotized

before excising a chunk of muscle and cancerous

flesh over my shoulder

blade and grafting the hollow

with a sheet of my own skin the breadth

of a paperback, assuring me later

the wound will fill in with blood and

flux so now,

twenty years later, this salsa de chile de arbol

makes my scar throb?


To welcome the

strangeness of


not versions

simply of

my own



Synthesized with a common

helplessness. Fined-down

by the exorbitant demand of work,

surrounded, inundated with chatter

as the zócalo is

when grackles descend en masse

whirring, wheedling, scrawking.


The world shifts

on a hairline crack. All last summer

you and I met for lunch in a clearing

we didn't know the locals call

The Girl's Grave.


Returning again

to the ever-iterated assertion

of myself.



is only what continues

to be entered into. 

from "The Tinajera Notebook"

The band is striking up another standard nightclub number and a fifteen-man choral group in tuxedos tries once again to croon and gesticulate their way into the audience's tequila-tinged susceptibility to schmaltz.


Just once a year it blooms. In a few hours, at dawn, the flower will be wilted on that tendril like a tossed pair of panties.


And Mexican time seems to have a different rhythm, flexibility, and capaciousness that time in the United States. Here, we continually feel time slipping away, we throw ourselves into work to get something done before time passes, the hours evaporate, we don't know where the day has gone. But in Mexico, some quality derived from the realities of Mexican life provides for an intuition of temporal layers, of one thing touching on another, of reflections and shifts in perspective, the interplay of presence and possibility, a dimension both quotidian and hallowed, the anguine twining of the visible and the invisible.


But in Mexico, what is erotic is the transition, the ongoing slide form one strand of presence to another, approach and access, never the arrival. Mexican time is another form of curiosity--   

Friday 21 August 2015

Seals on the Farne Islands, Northumbria, August 2015

We saw many seal heads just above the water--a couple dozen in a glance, and apparently they sleep like this!

Sunday 16 August 2015

Fountains Abbey, August 2015, first selection

I was awed by Fountains Abbey. You can learn more about it here

I'll post a second selection of photos, to give you a better sense of the Abbey's breadth, in a couple days.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

Lee Harwood's The Orchid Boat (Enitharmon, 2014)

Some favourite passages from Lee's last book:

Without thinking
I step aboard the orchid boat,
the feel of silk
carrying me beyond all mirrors.

last stanza of "Departures"

A wall of dense fog ahead
--blocked, all knowledge denied.
'The flying bird brings the message.'
What message from out there?
('Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep' doesn't help much.)

opening stanza of "Ornithology"

She climbed down from the tree a queen.
As we all do, and then set out
across golden stubble to the river.

from "The Books"

But the night not that frightening,
the landscape well known despite the strangeness.
Been-here-before one way or another.
To push on past weariness, but with so much baggage. 

from "Paleontology"

Through the mirror that other world,
almost like this? The colours maybe softer?
the world there harsher? The strangeness,

both sides, of a face, a scene.
What's there before and beyond the glass,
but somehow outside. Beyond the fear.

from "Ben's Photo"

Centuries ago the sages plod up the ivory mountain,
up rock-cut steps, past battered pines,
to the summit shrine to pay their respects, 
mist in the valley below, a soft breeze. 


What's to be seen in the old woman's curio cabinet?
Ivory carvings, plates, cups, and a blue glass sugar-shaker. 
We just don't know the full story.

from "Sailing Westwards"