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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pheasants in the Face of Impermanence



People die in car crashes all the time, I know. Good people. Fit people. Men and women who have no idea, prior, they're living out their last moments, breathing their final breaths. Cars or trucks come out of nowhere and plow into them. Or the road is slippery and they skid into a ditch, a lake. They overturn and are ejected.

It was not forecasted. There was no lump, no chemo, no prognosis. She had no heart murmur, no lupus, no congenital condition. In fact, she was in top shape, having spent most of her 29 years hiking, backpacking, river guiding, and skiing. She was getting ready to move to Portland to start her new life studying Chinese medicine.

For three days she was my guide. Literally: she rowed the boat I sat in through 25 miles of the Gunnison River canyon. Figuratively: she guided me in salmon fly wonder, in the dance of the Class IV rapid, in aiming my fly for the dark pockets, in getting my tough-girl on.

Her name was Hilary Fitzgerald, and she is gone. I knew her only a short time, and my sadness is great. I say this only because it gives pause how those who actually knew her well must be grieving and hurting.

So today I visited the bird conservatory to have a look at these large, garish, avian things, with their silly plumes and their glisteny feathers. The Great Argus. Blyth's Trogopan.

These creatures of impossible beauty.





Wednesday, August 19, 2009

How did I live on this planet


almost 48 years without knowing Juan Felipe Herrera's work? I mean, he was all grown up and writing poetry in 1970, when I was most ready, at age nine, to receive his wisdom and wit.

I was looking all over for a poem to start my English 101 class with the food sustainability theme (a course I am currently designing). My books are going to be Peter Singer and James Mason's The Ethics of What We Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter and Jennifer 8. Lee's The Fortune Cookie Chronicles, but I wanted to start off with at least one poem that shows how food can not only be grown sustainably but sustain our heritage, our culture, and our imaginations (for if we cannot imagine such a thing as world unity, how can we ever achieve it?). SO, although I was (rather guiltily) reading Herrera instead of finalizing my syllabus, I ended up finding the poem I've been looking for--hurrah!

How to
Make World
Unity Salsa

Mash the pulp
Mash the pulp
Mash the pulp
Add a burned tomato & a rock of garlic
Add a burned tomato & a rock of garlic
Mash the pulp
In the black stone bowl
Mash the pulp
In the black stone bowl
Put your hand into it
Put your wrist into it
Put your shoulders into it
Mash the pulp in the black stone bowl
Mash the pulp in the black stone bowl
Put your hips into it
Put your hips into it
Char another chile
Char another chile
Mash the pulp
In the molcajete
Mash the pulp
In the molcajete
Just a pinch of salt
Just a pinch of salt
Pour the soup from the tomato heart
Pour the soup from the tomato heart
Now throw your head back twice
Now throw your head back twice
Mash the pulp in the molcajete
Mash the pulp in the molcajete
Mash the pulp in the molcajete
Yellow chile
Red chile
Green chile
Black chile
Brown chile wrinkled
White garlic
Black chile
Green chile
Red chile
Brown chile wrinkled
Yellow chile
Now throw your head back twice
Now throw your head back twice
Breathe baby
Breathe baby
Breathe baby
Breathe baby
Your fingers on the rock
Your palm on the stone
Your eyes on the inside
Your bones on the soul

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Hoogs is a Hoot!


Seattle poet Rebecca Hoogs is blogging very, very smartly and spiffily over at The Kenyon Review. Hoogs is not taking her post lightly (or lite-ly). For instance, her "Sub-Loves" piece, with the parking strip refrigerator complete with instructions about how to hook it up--beautifully woven with found objects, noticings, and musings about Wharton and the names of things --is priceless. All she writes is very much NOT a pile of dead seaweed only the sand flea could love.

Rants & Raves

A new collection of Wendell Berry's essays, Bringing it to the Table, arrived in the mail yesterday, along with a prose collection (Real Sofisticashun) by Tony Hoagland, and a lovely hard copy of Stealing Buddha's Dinner, this one from a second-hand seller for way, way cheap.

Tom Hunley has a lovely poem in the current issue of the North American Review called "Moonhandled." Adrian C. Louis and Julie Moulds also have poems, and Dan Pinkerton has a story.

Book Slut pissed me off this past week with her negative comments about Women Poets. In her assessment of us, she neglects to consider Cate Marvin, Sandra Simonds, Mattea Harvey, Kary Wayson, B.T. Shaw, Kim Addonizio, Denise Duhamel, Dorianne Laux, and a score of others who askew the "quiet, easy epiphany." These are tough-ass gals who are not always nice, who do not care who they piss off, who do not have moons and foxes and wind in every one of their poems. But by the way, what is so bad about being nice? Is the goal to be not-nice, or is that a male-centric ideal? My suggestion to Book Slut: cast a wider net into the world of women's poetry before shooting off your mouth about how we all suck.

What's wrong with a grocery bag tax? Don't forget to vote today (um, and vote YES).

P.S. Still thinking poetry-n-me do not go together, but warming to the idea of writing a very not nice poem using every one of the nouns slutty-slut says we womens should not use in our work: fruit, foxes, moonlight, wind, autumn, waves, birds, gardens, etc. Especially a lot of etc.s

Are you, too, up for the challenge?




Monday, August 17, 2009

Un Petite Freakout

I need to be writing essays, but I am scared of prose because, well, it's much longer than a poem, thereby making it much more difficult to tie up all the loose ends, sustain a theme, keep the language fresh, and be interesting syntactically and to the ear while swinging from the monkey bars.

And I'm afraid of it not being very good.

But I feel like I need to put my poetry away for a little while.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Ekphrasis



or How I Started to Get Interested in Trying to Write Poems about Visual Art:

(1) I won a one-year membership to Seattle Art Museum at my daughter's pre-school auction;

(2) I spent a morning with Seattle visual artist David George talking about the two of us collaborating on book of poems about his pictures. 

(3) Barbara Crooker and Mary Jo Salter's fine ekphrasis poems, plus the ones I've been reading at the poets.org:


(4) I started feeling like I needed more art in my life again; I grew up outside NYC and used to play hooky from school and hop on the train to Manhattan so I could wander all day through the Whitney, the Guggenheim, or the Met, or MOMA. It was the days of the old MOMA. 1978. I could sit quietly in front of Guernica or one of Cornell's boxes for half an hour and hardly anyone would pass by. I used my babysitting money for train fare; because the sign at the Met said "pay what you wish," I often handed the disparaging cashier a nickel; otherwise, I visited on free admission days. I'd eat my sack lunch in the cafeteria. 

So here's my first attempt at an Ekphrasis poem. I started it in May and have been revising it since, but I doubt it's done. I will post it for a week or so, then remove it. Oh, and if I could figure out how to do it, I would move the photo of "Untitled" down here where the poem is. 

The Man

After Richard Prince’s “Untitled (four single men with interchangeable backgrounds looking to the right) [deleted 8-14-09]



Sunday, August 9, 2009

Can't See Them, But Thinking About Stars . . .


like Sirius, the Dog Star. I used to think the dog days of summer referred to various canids lying around panting in the summer heat. Too hot and humid to get much done, so might as well lie down with them. But, noooooooo. It's actually when Sirius, the dog star (the brightest star in our sky), is most visible. 

For the Greeks the Dog Star's presence heralded the hot, dry summer, caused men to weaken, and apparently made women horny. It also brought on "a malign influence:" astrololetos, also known as being star-struck (this makes no sense to me as there were no celebrities back then, or were they swooning over Apollo and Zeus?). Or maybe they were star-struck over Sirius. I understand they even had a coin imprinted with their lauded dog, rays emanating out from its visage. 

Ironically, it's very much NOT feeling the anything close to flower-wilting August where I live. It feels like serious back to school and time to dig out your sweaters. Already I am nostalgic for that heat wave of yesteryear. How quickly we forget . . .