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Monday, January 31, 2011

Sundry on Monday

I am liking Dave Bonta's wildflower poems at Via Negativa. These are responses to photographs by Jennifer Schlick. Some of Dave's poems have interesting responses in turn from Luisa Igloria. At left is Schlick's unusual photograph of False Solomon's Seal; I think this is the one that most surprised me.

THE BIRTHDAY ROSES & WIELDING THE TREE FINDER To my surprise, people are still commenting on "The Birthday Roses" and "Wielding the Tree Finder." I find that I am still such an innocent about how to get the word out about poetry that I feel out-of-the-ordinary pleased when people respond on 'zines that allow comments. Perhaps, given the state of poetry publishing, we are innocents together.

Last year an editor of an interesting publishing house (mid-size, select) told me that they weren't going to do poetry anymore--than none of their copies broke 300 in sales. Isn't that bemusing, in a big country like ours? And there's a cost, isn't there, to not supporting poetry? Now a house that published good poets will publish no more. I hope those poets have found a new home...

If any bloggers or others would like press release material for The Throne of Psyche, let me know here or at facebook or by email. I will be bundling what I get from Mercer with some other things soon, and I've started to collect a list. Meanwhile the paperback is up for pre-order at Amazon, but not the hardcover. Soon, I hope.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Poems at qarrtsiluni

Update 1/27: Thanks for all the grand comments at qarrtsiluni! Great to see discussion . . . "Wielding the Tree Finder" and "The Birthday Roses" (the latter from The Book of the Red King): here. Podcasts as well. Please comment there, not here--as a former q-editor, I'd rather qarrtsiluni get any love!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Throne Jacket, goodreads, etcetera


See that? That, my dear friends and well wishers and passers-by, is the design for the hardcover jacket and the paperback cover of The Throne of Psyche (Mercer University Press, April 2011.) The smashingly lovely image is by my friend (more about books with him in an upcoming post) Clive Hicks-Jenkins. The designers seem to have manipulated it--the image is flipped, which we suggested, but it also seems to have pulled the layers apart slightly to create more of a 3-D effect. In the process, the sunflowers go softer and the levels of image separate. Interesting. (Graphic design: Burt & Burt Studio of Macon, Georgia.)


The paperback is already listed at Amazon, and I found the cover first at Speaking of goodreads, I joined today because my friend, the bookstore manager extraordinaire and author Erica Eisdorfer. She twisted my arm (note arm-twisting motif continued from cover.) Not sure why I avoided it earlier. Fear of trolls? Fear of even more shredding of time? Don't know. But I shall try it. See you there, maybe.


Be sure and buy several (or several dozen or more!) copies if you wish to save me from anxiety! Six books forthcoming: I can't figure out if that's bad or that's good in terms of getting them out in the world. It's a little intimidating.


Speaking of social media and books . . . I had come to the conclusion that facebook was a place mostly for utter frivolity and silliness (and not so much for bookishness) when I asked a question of poets about 1:00 a.m. this morning. I was working on my galleys for The Throne of Psyche. Tiny question: 145 comments. So maybe facebook is more bookish than you would think. Than I would think! However, somehow a blue paisley garter belt and a pink slip crept in before we were done. So maybe it has an insane and irretrievable bent toward the frivolous


I am making some podcasts for six poems due out at The Flea and qarrtsiluni. And am wondering: to what degree is multi-media the way to market poetry books. I hate to be thinking so much about marketing . . . and yet three poetry books will need a certain amount of push to fly off into the world, won't they? My friend Paul Tree (who is not really a Tree) tells me that multi-media is the way to go.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Mercer Book Award Winners, 2010


Congratulations to Kathy Bradley and Seaborn Jones! Award listing for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, plus remarks from each judge . . .


for A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage by Marly Youmans

“Ms. Youmans gives us a beautifully written and exceptionally satisfying novel with rich language and lovely turns of phrase that invite the reader to linger on every page.”

Update, Jan 21: pub date will be spring/summer 2012.


for Just Breathing and Walking Around by Kathy Bradley

“Ms. Bradley’s essays attempt to catch, if not to keep, beauty, friendship, the unscrolling of the world of weather and animal and human life. Her voice is one of contemplation and broad and broadening reverence.”


for Going Farther Into the Woods Than the Woods Go by Seaborn Jones

“Unlike any poet writing in the South, Seaborn Jones maintains a figurative connection to surrealism, one of the essential pathways of subjectivity in American Art.”

All three books will appear in the next eighteen months...

Monday, January 17, 2011

Precious Wentletrap

Wentletrap for a poem in the last post, by Robbi-request. Slide down for a poem or to comment. See why the Fool's Wentletrap is linked to moons and winding stairs? Zephyr left a link to an x-ray view of the shell in comments on that post. (Image: here. Find your own Precious Wentletrap at Vina Seashells?)

Friday, January 14, 2011

"The Book of the Red King" at "Mezzo Cammin"

Eight poems from The Book of the Red King, a sequence I began in mid-October and for which I am still writing new poems, are up at the Mezzo Cammin fifth-anniversary issue. I have never written so many poems so quickly, and I find that these are in some mysterious, subterranean way very close to my heart. Perhaps it is because I am a secretly a courtly Fool . . .

Somehow I have a desire for my Red King and the Fool and Precious Wentletrap and the Tarot Witch and the Flower Queen and all the other characters from this sequence to wander out in the world and meet people. I want them to make friends.

Thanks to editor-poet Kim Bridgford, and confetti-with-fish to all the other contributors!

Here's title and opening lines from each of my poems:

About the Red Book

What does it mean to be a king?

To have the birds flock to your arms?
Gather flocks of men or cattle?

The Starry Fool

In a shivering of bells
The Fool comes shining, shimmering
Unseen along the moonshine way.

The King and the Fool

American Skittles, Jeu de Roi, Toptafel

The royal toymaker brings in a game
And sets it on the table by the king.
As wide and long as a coffin for a dwarf,

The Two Tables

The King sets a table for the Fool,
Arranging the cloth and the whittled spool

That's wound with gilt and silver thread,

The Moon of Precious Wentletrap

The moon is ripe, and so the Fool will dream
His moon-round dream of Precious Wentletrap:
Each moon she climbs the staircase of his dream,

The Birthday Cap

It is the Fool's birthday, so the Red King
Gives him another birthday cap: this time
It is yellow, as yellow as a ring

The Turret Stairs

Some nights the Red King climbs the twisted stair
That narrows like a precious wentletrap,
And at the top he pauses to admire

Directions for a Birthday Hat

Take willow peelings, stained to black, and steam
Them in fresh water from a running stream:
Weave into the shape desired--the tea

Now take my hand and jump to, where if you click on Poetry, you can find many wonders--and me, down at the bottom with XYZ.

From the snow cottage

I’m still catching up on straightening my little world in the wake of flood and Christmas and company. More FAFSA and post-flood work and snow-shoveling (when will these flittering, glittering stars give us a rest?) and other things-that-simply-must-be-done lie ahead. Meanwhile I am still writing with much pleasure on my The Book of the Red King. But I need to be reading other manuscripts and galleys and revising the book I’ve promised to send out this month—and the month is almost half over without a start. Being a Southerner among the Yanks means that I get a lot of work done in winter, but I may have too much this year, even for the obsessed.

When I’m not busy and snow plows are not jingling past, I’m recording poems for magazines and for the 60th birthday retrospective of Clive Hicks-Jenkins with my new microphone—thank you, Paul Digby! Poems will be up soon in various places.

With three books of poetry and three books of fiction coming out, I feel that I grasp less than ever—given how fast marketing and promotion are changing with the death of tours and increase of online shenanigans—how to serve my books once they are published. I’m trying to think and plan in my little bits of empty time. Getting the word out: peddlerdom does not come naturally to me, and in the face of public events, such private efforts often feel like ashes, frail and insignificant.

I have made my gigantic author questionnaire for my next book, The Throne of Psyche, and I have collected review outlets and blurbers and so on. But I’m open to any bright new thoughts or to requests from bloggers and writers who want to mention the book or receive information about it (leave a note or email me.)

Off I whirl to rebound away my TMJ and Christmas cookies, to sort the mounds of household refuse, and best of all to write.

Peace to you!

Photograph: The snow igloo is courtesy of Michael Faes and Thank you, Michael! He's in Switzerland, but his house of snow could be here in the low hills by the lake. I like its funny touque-shape and little, secretive door.

Monday, January 10, 2011

David Bee vs. Goliath Pharma

Bees vs. Big Pharma. Petition to ban neonicotinoids, strongly linked to honeybee colony collapse and already banned elsewhere. - AMERICAN BEE EMERGENCY -- ACT NOW!

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Castle of Work

Upcoming: eight poems from the manuscript I began in mid-October, The Book of the Red King, will soon be out in Mezzo Cammin; three more will be out in The Flea; and one in qarrtsiluni, along with a poem called "Wielding the Tree Finder." These are the only poems I've sent out from the manuscript, and they were all accepted at first submission, so I'm pleased about that--I am liking this mad dance between the Red King and the Fool, and I'm glad other people do as well.

Pub date for The Throne of Psyche turns out to be April (Mercer University Press). Galleys are in. The interior has tiny leaves (as well as big leaves of paper) that sprinkle down from the painting detail on the cover (by Clive Hicks-Jenkins). I'll wait to post that image.

Writing plans for January: write more Red King poems; reread A Death at the White Camellia Orphanage (just accepted by Mercer); check to see if it is just the way I want it; tinker with part one of the 3-in-1 novel I wrote for my youngest and then send it out by the end of the month (maybe); start reading the manuscripts of other forthcoming books, not because I must but because I am obsessive.; do some collaboration with Graham Ward; send out some poems. Graham Ward's painting, "Angel Entering a City" is the image at post top, and you can see more of Graham at here.
These next few years will be busy. In rather short order, I shall go from the author of seven books to the author of thirteen--four books of poetry, seven novels, two Southern fantasies. Only two of my seven books are in print right now, the Godine hardcover of Little Jordan, my very first book here and the most recent P. S. Publishing book, Val/Orson, here (search on my name), available as a hardcover with or without jacket. My LSU poetry book and my four Farrar, Straus & Giroux books are at the mercy of the used book market, and now and then I notice people posting something about one or another. I hope that my new books can find their way to their readers, even in an world captured by the commercial.

Wishes: readers, maids, private secretaries! I won't get the second or third, but I hope for the first, as always. Sending-wish: I hope you have good wishes granted and that no birds fall from your private sky.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Readings for the 12 Days of Christmas: Lucid Rhythms at Epiphany

It’s Epiphany and the end of Readings for the 12 Days of Christmas. I entirely missed posting yesterday because it was a child-ferrying day, and I had a round trip to make to Annandale-on-Hudson. This trip is always curious and full of missed-road risks because it is a patchwork: West Kurley Corners and Lowe Road at Seward (which I missed this time) and River and all sorts of tinies out in the boondocks. But I must say that I always see the most fabulous sunsets on my way back from Dutchess County. Since I was still a bit under the weather, I read a bit and then toppled into bed when I came home without giving more than an “eh” to the Readings for the 12 Days. But today I shall toss in an extra poem or two to make up for it. I’m featuring another online magazine.

David W. Landrum is editor of Lucid Rhythms, an online ‘zine out of Grand Rapids, Michigan. David is a writer and “a professor of Humanities at Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has published poetry and short stories in many magazines and journals, including Web Del Sol, The Barefoot Muse, Driftwood Review, Small Brushes, and many others. He is currently at work on a series of poems about 16th Century English poet Robert Herrick.”

Here’s a poem of his that’s not from Lucid Rhythms but from Web del Sol:


Shoved side-to-side
by someone's hands—
God's, I'd have to say—
but my own too, since sometimes
I am hardly me—
loving out of pity, camel-considerate,
bearing the burdens of
someone else's soul.
No matter how they bunch
on one side or the other—
I mean the beads—
balance operates—my lacquered frame—
you understand—yes, it keeps me stable—
an equation—your gestures
adding, subtracting—
changing me at your finger's beck.

Ann Drysdale is invariably smart and amusing, and a grand wielder of British slang. She is an interesting poet to follow. This poem is sweeter than most I’ve seen by her, but it’s playful.

Ann Drysdale

Nuns, Skating
Nuns fret not at their convent’s narrow room
Because their spirits can escape beyond
The place that holds them in respectful gloom
To seek the Lord beside the frozen pond.
There He will make their laughter into bells
And turn their breath to incense. He will show
Shadows of magi on the distant hills
And flights of angels shining in the snow.
He will make rushes sing and grasses dance
To the intrusive music of their chatter,
Whispering in their ears that, just this once,
They too can walk as He did, on the water.
Oh, may the year to come be full of these
Small serendipitous epiphanies.

Forgotten your Wordsworth? Here’s the first “Nuns fret not”:

Nuns Fret Not at Their Convent's Narrow Room

Nuns fret not at their convent's narrow room;
And hermits are contented with their cells;
And students with their pensive citadels;
Maids at the wheel, the weaver at his loom,
Sit blithe and happy; bees that soar for bloom,
High as the highest Peak of Furness-fells,
Will murmur by the hour in foxglove bells:
In truth the prison, unto which we doom
Ourselves, no prison is: and hence for me,
In sundry moods, 'twas pastime to be bound
Within the Sonnet's scanty plot of ground;
Pleased if some Souls (for such there needs must be)
Who have felt the weight of too much liberty,
Should find brief solace there, as I have found.

Ann Drysdale is a British poet, born near Manchester, raised in London, married in Birmingham, ran a small holding and brought up three children on the North York Moors and now lives in South Wales. She was a journalist for many years, writing, among other things, the longest-running by-line column in the Yorkshire Evening Post, which she later made into a series of books. Her recent publications have included two memoirs, Three-three, Two-two, Five-six and Discussing Wittgenstein, both from Cinnamon Press, and a quirky guidebook in the Real Wales series - Real Newport, from Seren. Of her four volumes of poetry from Peterloo, the most recent, Between Dryden and Duffy, appeared in 2005. A fifth collection, Quaintness and Other Offences, was recently published by Cinnamon. She is also the current holder of the Dylan Thomas prize for Poetry in Performance.

Here’s a triolet by Marybeth Rua-Larsen.

Hanging the Wreath
I nail it to the door; it doesn't swing
or fall or blow away; I make it stick,
unlike our holidays, your latest fling,
I nail it to the door. It doesn't swing,
like you, proposing with a diamond ring --
and then surprised by No; I've learned the trick:
I nail it to the door; it doesn't swing
or fall or blow away; I make it stick.

Marybeth Rua-Larsen has had poetry published or forthcoming in The Paterson Literary Review, Concho River Review, kaleidowhirl, Blue Unicorn and The Worcester Review, among others, as well as the anthology Stories from Where We Live: The North Atlantic Coast. She was a semi-finalist in the 1999 Discovery/The Nation poetry contest and a finalist for the 2007 Philbrick Poetry Award.

I mentioned Paul Stevens earlier because he edits that imaginative ‘zine, The Flea. Caractacus has many moods, of which this is one:

Australian Christmas Carol

The bushfire's scorching the Santa display,
As the westerly blows the cinders through –
So give me a dozen cold, cleansing ales!
Give me a dozen, do!

Let's go to the beach, play backyard cricket,
Try out new games on the X-box too –
As long as I'm drinking some premium lagers!
Give me a dozen, do!

The temperature's hitting forty degrees,
The blowflies are eating the barbeque –
So give me another dozen cold ales!
Give me a dozen, do!

Paul Christian Stevens teaches literature and historiography to senior high school students, and has widely published verse and prose in both print and pixel. He was born in Yorkshire, lives in Australia, and dreams of Catalunya.

Corey Mesler is productive and widely published:

Again to the Mountain

I asked the mountain my secret name.
I asked it to show me its mouth.
The day was hot like Easter.
Slowly, the clouds began to form a
story, one I had heard many
years ago and discounted. I raised my
hand as if to shade my eyes.
I raised it as if I knew the answer.
The mountain knew my wretched perfidy.

Corey Mesler has published prose and/or poetry in Turnrow, Adirondack Review, American Poetry Journal, Paumanok Review, Blood Orange, Barnwood, Yankee Pot Roast, Monday Night, Elimae, H_NGM_N, Center, Poet Lore, Forklift OH, Euphony, Rattle, Jabberwock Review, Dicey Brown, Cordite, Smartish Pace, others. . His first full-length collection of poems, Some Identity Problems, is just out from Foothills Publishing. His poem, “Sweet Annie Divine,” was chosen for Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac. He has been a book reviewer, fiction editor, university press sales rep, grant committee judge, father and son. "With my wife I own Burke’s Book Store, one of the country’s oldest (1875) and best independent bookstores. I can be found at"

John Milbury-Steen

Incarnate Print

The empty space in space excelsus high
is safe but getting down to earth is nigh
impossible, so when they take a dive,
of all the stars that shoot their inner gem
to try to make it down to Bethlehem,
few falling rocks of ice or gods survive
intact, but fall while flaming forth as tinder
and hit the ground, reduced to smoking cinder.
Into the manger of incarnate print
have I here fallen hoping that I might
be beautiful or pleasing in your sight.
Give me your blessing and I shall not want,
else this blood in ink will then have yet
another incarnation to regret.

John Milbury-Steen has poems published or forthcoming in 14 by 14, 32 Poems, Able Muse, The Anglican Theological Review, The Beloit Poetry Journal, Best Poem, Blue Unicorn, Bumbershoot, The Centrifugal Eye, Chimaera, Christianity and Literature, Contemporary Sonnet, Dark Horse, The Deronda Review (Neovictorian/Cochlea), The Evansville Review, Kayak, Hellas, The Innisfree Poetry Journal, The Listening Eye, The Piedmont Literary Review, Scholia Satyrica, Shenandoah, Shattercolors, the Shit Creek Review and Umbrella. He served in the Peace Corps in Liberia, West Africa and did a Master's in Creative Writing with Ruth Stone at Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. He currently teach English as a Second Language at Temple University, Philadelphia.

Want more?

Try the flying trapeze: you may fly here with the greatest of ease

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Readings for the 12 Days of Christmas: samplers

Once upon a time there was a brilliant and lovely young woman named Marsha Parker who wrote a novel called Ghosts. You might recall a movie by the same name with many things in common with the book, but if you thought she got rich off that movie, you thought wrong: nobody in the movie business ever admitted that the two things might possibly be related. Marsha Parker did not particularly like the book business for various reasons having to do with New York and business (and probably with Hollywood as well, I should imagine.) Being a forthright and determined young woman, she kicked the dust from her heels and left that life forever. Well, sometimes I think she might write another novel when she quits moving quite so fast.

Now Marsha runs a wondrous needlework site called The Scarlet Letter. She sells books and supplies and museum reproduction kits that she makes herself; she sells wonderful antique samplers.

And that means that she is still involved with words, though in a very different way. I thought of her today because she sent me some fragmentary lines from an English sampler. One set turned out to be from "Enthusiasm," a portion of "Poetical Frenzy, a Venture in Rhyme" (Author unknown, I believe.)

Sweet religion, cheerful, mild,
Pleasure's course, and reason's child,
Come, array'd in heavenly sheen,
Come and cheer the dismal scene;
Hope, bright beaming in thy eye,
Bid despair and horror fly;
Let us see thy beauteous face,
Come and dwell with human race;
Be but thou our helpmate dear,
We'll begin our heaven here.

The other lines proved not to be a compliment to a particular friend, as the fragments suggested, but the words of Isaac Watts: "thanks to my friends for their care in my breeding, / who taught me betimes to love working and reading."

I thought for today I might offer some of the words from some of Marsha's samplers; they have great charm and come to us from a distance that may appear at first uncrossable (in the ways of both cross-stitches and crosses.) And if you want more of her own words, you might dig up a copy of Ghosts or jump to The Scarlet Letter, where you can also see her lovely farm, many English and American antique samplers, books, reproduction kits, and much more.

Here's the text from the sampler pictured above:

ANN HOW 1794

English sampler worked with silk threads on finely woven tammy (wool) cloth with alphabets and pious verses over a lower register featuring a small flock of sheep, facing stags, and a brick cottage. Stitches used are cross, eyelet and petit point, in shades of green, gold, black, blue, rose, brown and ivory. There is some damage to the background but it does not interfere with the design. The frame is possibly original. The verses read:

Favour is deceitful and Beauty is vain but a
Woman that feareth the Lord she shall be praised.

Virtue the Brightest Gem a maid can Whear nor
can the Indies boast of one so fair all Jewels
far beneath its worth We find they but adorn
the Body not the Mind. Ann How July the 21

Fear God and Keep his Commandments

Love the Lord and he will be a tender Father unto thee. Ann How.

And here is a positively Polonial young lady:

'PROCEED not to speak or to act before
thou hast weigh'd thy words and examin'd
the tendancy of every step thou shalt take.
The thoughtless man bridleth not his tongue
he speaketh at random and is entangled in the
foolishness of his own words.
The first step towards being wise is to
know that thou art Ignorant.
A plain garment beat adorneth a beautifull
woman and a modest behaviour is the great
est ornament of wisdom.
Behold the vain man and observe the aro
gant, he cloatheth himself in rich attire he
walketh in the publick street he casteth round
his eyes and courteth observation.'.

Signed and dated 'Susey Oliver's work finish'd Dec. ye 14th 17?4 Taught by Maryan Robinson of Bradford'


While I hoped to read and post something about the remainder of the books that friends have published this year during the 12 Days, I'm not going to make it--I still have books by Robert Freeman Wexler (who designed Val/Orson) and Philip Lee Williams and a few more to go, but I have college runs and house repairs and much else. I will do them, however, later in the year.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Readings for the 12 Days of Christmas: Gioia on Donne

These early poems changed the course of English poetry.

Excerpt from Dana Gioia, Introduction to Sacred & Profane Love. The Poetry of John Donne. The Trinity Form Reading (McLean, Virginia: The Trinity Forum, 2010).

Donne is conventionally categorized as the central figure of Metaphysical Poetry, a seventeenth-century literary movement that also includes Andrew Marvell, Richard Crashaw, George Herbert, Thomas Traherne, and Henry Vaughan. The works of these writers tend to employ elaborately extended metaphors, argumentative rhetorical structure, and intellectual language. Donne himself would not have understood the label "Metaphysical Poetry," or imagined himself as part of a poetic fraternity. Originally coined by Samuel Johnson, the term "metaphysical poets" was not intended to be complimentary. Johnson considered the group intellectually pretentious and emotionally inert--too much wit and not enough genuine feeling. For the three centuries after Donne's death, his poems were generally considered overly intellectual and elaborate, when they were considered at all.

One reason that Donne's verse perplexed many early readers was the sheer novelty of his approach. No one had ever written love poems (or later religious poems) quite like Donne did. His work fascinated some early readers--there were probably never many readers since his poems circulated only in manuscript until after his death. It would have been unseemly for a gentleman to publish his poetry. During Donne's lifetime only seven of his poems were published, and only two of those publications--his long, elaborate Anniversaries written in memory of an aristocratic girl he had never met--were authorized by him. Younger poets such as Herbert and later Marvell were deeply influenced by his example, but their admiration seems to have been a minority reaction. There was little in Elizabethan literature, not even Shakespeare, that would have prepared a reader for Donne.

Donne's chief innovation was to create a dense and dynamic style charged with an intellectual energy far in excess of the period style. His language is intimate and colloquial, but never plain or simple. His colloquialism is the passionate speech of a learned and inventive man speaking to his equals. This quality of colloquial energy is demonstrated nowhere better than in the abrupt and unforgettable first lines that launch his poems in a burst of emotional and dramatic energy:

For Godsake hold your tongue, and let me love . . .

When by thy scorn, O murd'ress, I am dead . . .

Now thou hast loved me one whole day . . .

What if this present were the world's last night?

One might make the case that Donne's colloquial style was merely an extension of Shakespeare's intimate if slightly more formal manner in the Sonnets, which were probably written about the same time as Donne's love poems. But Donne added another quality, his most significant innovation--a relentlessly argumentative organization. Donne began writing love poetry as if it were a theological debate. Before Donne, English poetry tended to be elegantly linear. The poet introduced an engaging line of thought and developed it by elaborating the basic notion. There might be a single turn of mood or perspective, as in many of Shakespeare's sonnets, but elegantly sustaining an idea rather than dialectically transforming it defined a successful poetic performance. In musical terms, one might say that Donne took the song-like form of the Renaissance English lyric and changed it into a symphonic movement.

Donne's poems progress by passionately sustained and ingeniously argued logic (or at least apparent logic). When he introduces an idea, he will most likely modify, overturn, or expand it in the next stanza. In so doing, Donne developed a formal procedure that gradually transformed the possibilities of English poetry--the notion that each stanza represent a new stage of a progressive argument. A single short lyric could now unfold a dramatic narrative as emotionally varied as a sonnet sequence. Reading the opening of a poem, one could no longer predict where it might end.

In addition to complex colloquial language and dynamic argumentative structure, Donne developed a third signature innovation, the so-called "metaphysical conceit" that so annoyed John Dryden and Samuel Johnson. A conceit is essentially a fanciful image or analogy that is elaborately developed to point out a striking parallel between two seemingly dissimilar objects. It is a sort of virtuoso metaphor or analogy sustained with bravado--like a tenor holding a high C. An example of a conceit is the title creature in Donne's "The Flea," a tiny insect who eventually carries a large number of meanings. The flea is, by turns, a conquering lover, a pampered child, a symbol of matrimony, a martyr to love, and finally just a dead insect. Donne expertly uses mock logic and sly humor to create a charming argument for seduction, though the reader probably feels that the poet's objective is less to bed the lady than amuse her.

In these early love poems, Donne created the modern lyric poem. Until Donne (and to a lesser extent his contemporary Ben Johnson), English lyric poetry had consisted mostly of songs or long sequences of interrelated short poems such as sonnets. Lyric poetry was a minor mode compared to the more commodious forms of epic or dramatic verse, and the idea of a complex, independent lyric poem did not fully exist. (Nor did lyric poems even have titles before Donne, Jonson, and Herbert; they were known only by their first lines or some generic heading such as "sonnet" or "song.") Basing his work more on classical Latin models, especially Horace and Ovid, than on English ones, Donne developed a lyric poem that presented a powerful human drama of high intensity and significance. These early poems changed the course of English poetry.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Readings for the 12 Days of Christmas: qarrtsiluni

Well, I am falling behind--I planned to read some novels-0f-friends that I haven't read yet and talk about them. But I have galleys due tomorrow, and I'm only on page 82 of The Throne of Psyche. And that means 24 pages to go with lots of little spacing issues to note. So I shall recommend a 'zine: qarrtsiluni. I also recommend its managing editors, Dave Bonta and Elizabeth Adams--if you look to the right at my blog roll, you'll find Dave's Via Negativa and Beth's the cassandra pages.

I like the way qarrtsiluni is run and its daily format. I like the fact that the topics and the guest editors are so varied. I like how Beth and Dave edit now and then and have great taste. And I once had a grand time editing the Insecta issue with Tasmanian-poet-in-Wales, Ivy Alvarez.

The photograph? That's Vicki Johnson's bug on a banana leaf...

Here's a bite from a college classmate of mine:

Salamba Sirsasana 1 — Headstand
by Robbi Nester

The moon swells like a seedpod.
Inside the quiet studio, I take
my aching head into my hands,
fingers web to web. A breath,
and then this awkward frame
ascends, becomes an aspen
flexing in a nonexistent breeze.
Grounded in air, movement merges
with stillness, my ear a vehicle
for surging tides, the galaxies’
faint hum. Everywhere
and nowhere, the worlds
fall away, balanced
on these two arms.

And here's Ivy!


morning’s beauty has wrinkled
into cloud glower

snow shower

dark eyed
with the threat

of sharp stars
cold night

Oh, and here's "Blue Morphos," which Ivy and I made Katherine of the stately name (Katherine Durham Oldmixon) tweak because we liked it...

Blue Morphos

This summer morning, two languorous butterflies suckled
the hummingbird feeder; wings unfolded and folded now

and then as if they dreamed they were flying, the way
a dog asleep in a sunny spot of yard runs a meadow.

Where does a butterfly sail in her red nectar reverie?
I have seen them exult in the winds of the Caribbean;

sheer wings glisten with sea spray, tremble in currents
with that wild insect certainty that inspired Icarus.

On the road to Cobá, they drifted in clouds like spring
sun motes swirling before the windshield, slight and pale

Mexican Yellows, Orange Fritillaries; iridescent Morphos
imbricate paths in my memory through crumbling ruins.

That day we couldn’t move for fear of crushing them;
tiptoeing across a quivering sea of shimmering wings,

we urged them to fly: what could they be thinking?
Suicide, to sojourn in the parking lot of a tourist stop.

I thought of my grandmother’s tray, gift from a traveling
relative, fine wood framing amputated wings—

dust to dust under glass, keepsake of a time when
someone flew over an ocean, someone wingless arrived home.

There's Carey Wallace, who just published her first novel! Clare Dudman, who recently published another book. I wonder who else among the Lunians has a new book? And there's Richard Nester, who is married to Robbi and should have had a book long ago... There's the Insecta crew and Laura Frankstone of Laurelines and the marvelous glassman Paul Stankard and lots of other names I know, a whole cloud of qarrtsilunians, a glad looney bunch:

Greta Aart – Katherine Abbott – Beth Adams – Mary Alexandra Agner – Adam Aitken – C. Albert – Lisa Alden – Stacey Allam – Gwendolyn Alley – Maureen Alsop – Reed Altemus – Celia Lisset Alvarez – Ivy Alvarez – Amba – Andy Anderson – Emily May Anderson – Holly Anderson – Khadija Anderson – Arlene Ang – Elizabeth Angell – Anne-Mieke – Anonymous – Tiel Aisha Ansari – D.S. Apfelbaum – Lana Hechtman Ayers – Carrie Ann Baade – Tricia Anne Baar – Glenda Bailey-Mershon – Emilie Zoey Baker – Janet Baker – Josephine Balakrishnan – Norman Ball – Rachel Barenblat – Stuart Barnes – Boe Barnett – Dax Bayard-Murray – Jeffery Beam – Caroline Beasley-Baker – Kimberly L. Becker – Kate Bernadette Benedict – Maria Benet – John M. Bennett – Carol Berg – F. J. Bergmann – Kristin Berkey-Abbott – Judith Bernal – Nicolette Bethel – Clive Birnie – Polly Blackley – Maroula Blades – Kelsey Blair – Danielle Blasko – Sarah R. Bloom – Nathalie Boisard-Beudin – Dave Bonta – Bryan Borland – Patricia Bralley – Helen Brandenburg – Paul Brandt – Therese L. Broderick – Dustin Brookshire – Harriet Brown – Irene Brown – Richard Brown – Darcy Bruce – James Brush – Will Buckingham – Eric Burke – Sarah Burke – Rick Bursky – Sarah Busse – Nick Carbó – Isabelle Carbonell – Jenna Cardinale – Joyce Carter – Maciej Cegłowski – Tina Celio – C. E. Chaffin – Sherry Chandler – Cecelia Chapman – Robin Chapman – Peter Cherches – O Thiam Chin – Alex Cigale – Lisa J. Cihlar – Ross Clark – Chris Clarke – Maggie Cleveland – Brenda Clews – Cathryn Cofell – Robert Elzy Cogswell – K. Cohen – Richard Lawrence Cohen – Joerg Colberg – John Colburn – Teju Cole – Anne Connolly – Thomas Cook – Kay McKenzie Cooke – Chella Courington – Bruce Covey – Cynthia Cox – Colleen Coyne – Beth Coyote – Jason Crane – Jeff Crouch – Carrie Crow – Michael Aanji Crowley – Claire Crowther – Henrietta Cullinan – Wray Cummings – Nathan Curnow - Ron Czerwien – Stacey Elaine Dacheux – Rachel Dacus – steve d. dalachinsky – Karen d’Amico – Pat Daneman – Natalie d’Arbeloff – Eric Darton – Robin Davidson – Todd Davis – Charles Dayton – Heather Dearmon – Martha Deed – Mikey Delgado – Michael Brant DeMaria – Paul Dickey – Anna Dickie – Danika Dinsmore – Diogenes – Lorianne DiSabato – Susan Donnelly – William Doreski – Tyler Flynn Dorholt – Morgan Downie – Greer DuBois – Clare Dudman – Denise Duhamel – Lisken Van Pelt Dus – R.A. Dusenberry – Peg Duthie – E.A.P. – Catherine Ednie – Maureen Egan – Karyn Eisler – Susan Elbe – Karl Elder – Rebecca Ellis – Tori Ellison – Daniela Elza – Dethe Elza – Camilla Engman – Kelly Madigan Erlandson – Justin Evans – Susan V. Facknitz – Failboat – Dale Favier – Eileen Favorite - Thomas Ferrella – Alec Finlay – Jeff Fioravanti – Fred First – Allen C. Fischer – Ann Fisher-Wirth – Brent Fisk – Adam Ford – Rachel Fox – Valerie Fox – Jessica Fox-Wilson – Angela France – Patry Francis – Laura Frankstone – Vernon Frazer – Dick Freeman – Elisa Gabbert – Michaela A. Gabriel – Diane Gage – Jeannine Hall Gailey – Liz Gallagher – Nancy Gandhi – James Gapinski – Fred Garber – Richard Garcia – Delbert R. Gardner – Arturo Lomas Garza – Laura Genz – Alice George – Susie Ghahremani – RJ Gibson – Caitlin Gildrien – Teresa Gilman – Alan Girling – Ellen Goldstein – Howie Good – Brent Goodman – Nancy Gott – Uma Gowrishankar – David Graham – Clare Grant – Suzanne Grazyna – Chris Green – Karen Greenbaum-Maya – Ira Joel Haber – Barbara Hagerty – Daniel Hales – Joy Harjo – Joseph Harker – Wendy Harrison – Heidi Hart - Pamela Hart – Penny Harter – Farideh Hassanzadeh-Mostafavi – Stu Hatton – Mary Hawley – Alan Hayes – Chris Hayes – Caren Heft – Russell Helms – Jo Hemmant – Sonia Hendy-Isaac – Christopher Hennessy – Joaquin Ramon Herrera – Matt Hetherington – Clive Hicks-Jenkins – Ed Higgins – Nellie Hill – Matthew Hittinger – Tammy Ho Lai-ming – Juleigh Howard Hobson – Tama Hochbaum – Ryan Hoke – W. Joe Hoppe – Nathan Horowitz – Ian House – Joanne Hudson – Marc Hudson – Diana Hunt – Karla Huston – Joe Hyam – Una Nichols Hynum – Luisa A. Igloria – Donald Illich – Kate Irving – Catherine Jagoe – Clarissa Jakobsons – Judy Jensen – Kathleen Jesme – Maureen Jivani – Jill McCabe Johnson - Vicki Johnson – Dick Jones – Ian Jones – Lisa Jones – Lynnel L. Jones – Colette Jonopulos – LaToya Jordan – Richard Jordan – Angela Just – Muriel Karr – Debbie Cotter Kaspari – Priya Keefe – Penn Kemp – Lucy Kempton – Diane Kendig – Jukka-Pekka Kervinen – Emma Kidd – Mark W. Kidd – Lissa Kiernan – Alan King – The King Canutes – Bobbi Kirk – Jeff Klooger – Andrea Kneeland – Bill Knight – Angela Koh – Jee Leong Koh – Jennifer Konig – Christi Krug – Terence Kuch – Donna Kuhn – Matthew Lafferty – Ken Lamberton – Melissa Lamberton – Barbara LaMorticella – Dorothee Lang – Susanna Lang – Dorianne Laux – Nancy Lazar – Dan Lear – Jim Leftwich – Amy Lemmon – Leslee – Anne-Marie Levine – Thomas P. Levy – Mike Libby – Tao Lin – Tim Lockridge – Kit Loney – Jason Erik Lundberg – Bobbi Lurie – Genevieve Lyons – Aditi Machado – Rob A. Mackenzie – Amy MacLennan - Kristin Maffei – Charlotte Mandel – Dawn Manning – Dana Guthrie Martin – Julia Martin – Maya Massar – Kasturi Mattern – Lori A. May – Andrew McCallum – Janet McCann – Wanda McCollar – Tod McCoy – Marion McCready – Gill McEvoy – Robert McGowan – Michelle McGrane – Kristen McHenry – Patricia McInroy – Colleen McKee – Edith McKlveen – Steve Meador – David Meischen – Maria Melendez – Robert Mellin – Gary Dubola Memi – Sarah Menkedick – Samantha Meyers – Susan Meyers – Neila Mezynski – Ann E. Michael – Clayton T. Michaels – James Midgley – Leslie F. Miller – Michael Milligan – Paul Millington – Mara Mills – Mario Milosevic – Leslie Ann Minot – Reid Mitchell – Ron Mohring – Moira – Sally Molini – Tom Montag – M.V. Montgomery – Nathan Moore – Esther Morgan – Jean Morris – Lucy Morris – Erika Moya – Peter E. Murphy – Jed Myers – June Nandy – David Need – Paul Nelson – Richard Nester – Robbi Nester – Michael Nickels-Wisdom – Millie Niss – Alistair Noon – Edith Oberley – Koranteng Ofosu-Amaah – Katherine Durham Oldmixon – Oriana – Jessica Otto – Scott Owens – P. – Christina Pacosz – C. H. Paquette – Janice Pariat – Harvey E. Parker – Pamela Johnson Parker – Parmanu – Sara Parrell – bl pawelek – Fernando Payaguaje – Peter – Danny Pelletier – Amy Pence – Lynda Fleet Perry – Allan Peterson – Evan J. Peterson – K. Alma Peterson – Betsy Phillips – Ruth Phillips – Pica – Brian Pike – Bethany Pinegar – Cecilia Pinto – Andy Pokel – Zoe Polach – Polyxena – Cati Porter – Tony Press – Ernesto Priego – Samuel Prince – Mike Puican – Jayne Pupek – Claire Quigley – Steve Rago – D’Arcy Randall – Ann Rapstoff – Erika Rathje – Marja-Leena Rathje – Francis Raven – Rachel Rawlins – Monica Raymond – Katie Raynes – Heather Reid – Cynthia Reynolds – Christine Rhein – Harold Rhenisch – Daniel Ribar – Jane Rice – Susanna Rich – Moira Richards – Eve Rifkah – Laura Ring – Fiona Robyn – Susan Roney-O’Brien – Kathleen Rooney – Rebecca Rose – Marjorie Stamm Rosenfeld – Jonathan Sa’adah – Marjorie Saiser – cin salach – Ayesha Saldanha – SB – Aine Scannell – Sig Bang Schmidt – Peter Schwartz – Deb Scott – Deborah Lawson Scott – Nancy Scott – William Sea – Stephen W. Searfoss – Nic Sebastian – Spencer Selby – Paul Selig – Christina Shah – Ravi Shankar – Lynne Shapiro – Ray Sharp – Claire Sharpe – Rachel D. Shaw – Kate Sheckler – Tom Sheehan – Shem – Carolee Sherwood – Andrew Shields – Ian Singleton – Suzanne Sirenic – SJ – Jeffrey Skemp – Don Skiles – Robert Skiles – Sarah J. Sloat – Barbara Smith – Gordon Smith – Anne Morrison Smyth – Jessamyn Smyth – Luigi Solamito – Soen Joon – Robin Sontheimer – Aline Soules – Merry Speece – Richard Spuler – Paul J. Stankard – Rosemary Starace – Gregory Stapp – Paul Stevens – Odarka Polanskyj Stockert – Jeneva Stone – Jon Stone – Hannah Stephenson – Miles Storey – Adelle Stripe – Karen Stromberg – Ray Succre – Robin Susanto – Kaz Sussman – susurradeluz – Christine Swint – Elizabeth Kate Switaj – George Szirtes – Pia Taavila – Eileen R. Tabios – Tall Girl – Barbara A. Taylor – Maggie Taylor – Marilyn L. Taylor – Rob Taylor – Ray Templeton – Judith Terzi – Vicki Foley Theriault – Andrew Topel – James Toupin – Alison Townsend – Davide Trame – Meredith Trede – Jerry Uelsmann – Linda Umans – Susan Utting – Wendy Vardaman – Nico Vassilakis – John Vick – Donna Vorreyer – Jared Wahlgren – Diane Wakoski – Jarrett Walker – Carey Wallace – Amy Watkins – Andrea L. Watson – Julene Tripp Weaver – Loren Webster – Holly Wehmeyer – Mary Wehner – Gabriel Welsch – Trix Whipple – Whiskey River – MB Whitaker – Jill Crammond Wickham – Scott Wiggerman – Bev Wigney – Laura Wilkinson – Colin Will – Katherine Williams – Tony Williams – Martin Willitts, Jr. – Juliet Wilson – Melinda Wilson – Steve Wing – Lori Witzel – Nicholas Y.B. Wong – Jonathan Wonham – Rodney Wood – Christopher Woods – Rachel Woolf – Gerard Wozek – Marly Youmans – Barbara Young – Susan Yount – Janet Yung – Zhoen – Joe Zealberg

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Readings for the 12 Days of Christmas: New Year's Lists

Photograph: Frost Patterns 3 courtesy of and Vladimir Fofanov of Moscow.


Forthcoming books of poetry and fiction:
1. First up: THE THRONE OF PSYCHE (Mercer University Press, March 2011) poetry collection. I’m getting the galleys in on Wednesday, and I can tell you that they look pretty! The leaves on the jacket detail by Clive Hicks-Jenkins keep falling inside the book…

2. GLIMMERGLASS ( UK: P. S. Publishing), a sort of dream vision novel involving pursuit of the muse, love, floods, labyrinths, and murder, all set in an alternative Cooperstown.

3. THE FOLIATE HEAD (UK: Stanza Press) is the leafiest book on record and will green your head with wild formal poems.

4. MAZE OF BLOOD (UK: P. S. Publishing) was inspired by the life of that intriguing pulp writer, Robert Howard. I’d add the “E.” but he’s under copyright! I had a blast writing the pieces “by” the protagonist.

5. THALIAD (Montreal: Phoenicia Publishing, late 2011). Post-apocalyptic epic in blank verse, centered on a group of children.

6. A DEATH AT THE WHITE CAMELLIA ORPHANAGE (Mercer University Press). The Ferrol Sams Award for Fiction. (Outside judge.) Depression-era story that was inspired by my father’s youth and adventures on the rails. (Several times he ran away from the cotton fields and rode the rails; later on he became a teenage tailgunner on a B-17 in World War II and then a PhD in analytical chemistry. Hurrah for the G. I. bill! Sharecropper’s boy to full professor: that’s an American tale.)

Looking at that list, you may possible be impelled to recall and take to heart the immortal words of poet Kenneth Patchen: “People who say they love poetry and never buy any are cheap sons-of-bitches!” Pithy, huh? We could extend it to novels by poets, no?

Other happy things here or coming:

1. My composer-photographer-and-much-else friend, Paul Digby, is working on two tiny films for my poetry books that are collections of short poems.

2. I’m going to Wales to attend the 60th birthday retrospective of Clive Hicks-Jenkins at the National Library of Wales. Clive did the jacket painting for Val/Orson, and we’re making plans about covers for four of the forthcoming books. The Foliate Head will have not just a cover by him but three gorgeous division pages.

3. Two books will be coming out in honor of Clive's 60th birthday. I have poems in one and what can only loosely be called an essay in the other—actually it’s a batch of semi-fictional pieces. More about those two later on.

4. I’m still working on The Book of the Red King and finding in it a great deal of pleasure.

5. What I’m especially grateful for: I am very pleased that I’ve gotten so many requests for books, given the state of publishing and the tighter focus in New York on the commercial. Moral of this for writers: It really is just fine to pursue your muse wherever he wanders and not be anxious about success or publishing. You may not always be on the list of a major NYC publisher with this way of writing, but you will hew close to the things that are important and write the books you were meant to write.

Writing-related resolutions for 2011:

1. Hit the deadlines on galleys, read-throughs, etc.

2. Add events because, well, that’s a lot of books.

3. And travel more—I’m already planning trips to Wales, NYC, and North Carolina for events, but I’m open to ideas.

4. Submit two manuscripts by the end of the year.

Other hopes for 2011:

1. I hope that TSA shows more transparency and has more oversight because right now I don’t want my daughter of 19 to fly—it is becoming clear that in many places they are targeting attractive young women for pictures and gropage. Let TSA be honest about how it proceeds and what its purposes-in-looking are.

2. I hope that my childhood region (where I still go at least twice a year) of western North Carolina will finally discover the wonder of zoning and quit allowing people who don’t love the place to carve up or bulldoze mountains for Walmart and Lowe’s and other businesses, destroying its beauty for an ugly buck.

3. I hope the “free and open” Western press will wake up to the rapidly increasing number of Christian minorities who are being murdered with impunity around the world—sometimes targeted in or near their churches. The press seldom discusses such unfashionable things as Christians, and it is alarming that these people are simply abandoned to violence and death with very little notice in the West aside from website coverage.

4. I hope that peace increases, little light by little light.

5. I hope Paul “Tree” is a seer when he says that 2011 is going to be a great year!