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Friday, July 30, 2021

Rabbits, Tavener, Poems


Thanks to Conor Sweetman and the staff of Ekstasis, who recently accepted a couple of poems of mine; the first can be found HERE. If you want to know more about the rabbits--hares, really-- you can see a Cornish tin miner's  badge here, an Alsace puzzle plate here, a Mogao Caves temple decoration here, a Jewish tombstone here... And there are many more examples, in many cultures.

In England and Europe, the three hares appear to have been adopted as a symbol of the Trinity, and certainly they are three-in-one in an Escheresque manner! Syncretic symbol? In part because rabbits are linked to fertility, I think of the also-fertile green man motif. I've never understood the reason academics don't see why Medieval churches adopted the image of the green man, often shown as vomiting leaves. Surely he is an emblem of new life and creation. Moreover, he speaks creation like the God of Genesis, who says, "Let there be light: and there was light." The green man is a rude thing, sure, but clearly bursting with life and its enchantment. I expect the Gawain poet with his Green Knight would've understood. The three hares seem a similar borrowing, an understanding that patterns underlie the nature of the world and are meaningful, even when they seem a bit homely and countrified. The three hares remind me of what composer John Taverner called images or verse of "primordial innocence," work that is simple and beautiful and childlike. For him, that's always connected with being open to revelation, ready to receive something from beyond.


Thinking of Taverner and beauty... 

His Three Holy Sonnets (inspired by Donne's "Spit in My Face," "Death Be Not Proud," and "I am a little world") were written when he was fifteen. And I'm still thinking about how Stravinsky looked at the score and wrote "I know" on it. So many possible reasons to write such a thing!

Interesting to have good work remaining from the teen years. I regret throwing away all my poems when I was twenty and graduated from college. They were fantastical and full of youth, whatever else they were. In love with sound and enchantment. And I should never have gone on to graduate school. It was not good for my poems. Unlearning took me a long time.


Though I've been doing too much travel and have too many strenuous things to accomplish this year (not bookish things!), I'm again thinking about writing another long poem, as I mentioned before. I've been surprised by how many people have read and liked Thaliad (that is, in the smaller scale numbers of poetry), but even more years of Western cultural decay have passed by since that poem was published, so that I find that I now have some doubt of readers picking up a long formal poem.

But I still might do it, at least for myself. I have a good deal of work I've never tried to publish, and not everything has to be sent out in the world. Still pondering.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Rain-poem, rumination, Russian

Poem at NAA: 

Woman, Tree, Rain

I'd forgotten this poem by the time it appeared. I've written stories with women in trees, and wrote a whole novel once that kept a woman high in a redwood. I've written poems that were self-portraits-as-dryad, and trees often invade my lines. So it wasn't surprising to reread and find that by the close I had found it worthwhile to communicate with a tree.

Thoreau crept in, who also loves trees, and also those wandering Walden-girls who pick up radiant leaves. I suppose the whole poem is a sort of gathered leaf that "improved the time." And who I am but one of those girls, grown older? A noticing sort of girl who picks up leaves.

And what does it mean to see the a tree as the axis mundi, the center of the turning world? The tree from that mountain garden of Eden, the knowledge of good and evil, turned by legend into the cross on the hill that drips blood onto the buried skull of Adam? I hadn't remembered the poem, and so was surprised that the leaves become a series of radiant words.

Well, it was pleasant to see it again. And to remember the moment of stopping to stare at the corner of Fair St. and Church St. That rain-slicked, brilliant tree! It seems a lonelier poem than I expected when I began to read. All that saying of logoi at the end, and yet the woman is alone, alone in her invisibly-walled, rainless room. Perhaps she had to be lonely to know that all things are speaking.

* * *

I've only been writing poems of late because some parts of life demand such large chunks of time devoted to family that it seems impossible to plan a novel. But I keep thinking of an idea for another long poem like Thaliad. Though I never thought about Thaliad before I woke up with the story in my head, ready to jump out onto the page. So maybe this one is not so urgent.

And maybe I"m done with novels. Who can say? The world isn't begging for one of mine, anyway, so there's no rush. And time always does tell...

* * *

I've started studying Russian--I had a wisp of it in college and have been doing Duolingo for a couple of weeks. Today I received in the mail a pared-down grammar, a book of conversations, and a book of easy stories. We'll see how long I can stick to it!

* * *

Here's a tree-ish thought, 
a pressing thought, 
a Russian thought for the day:

"To destroy a people, you must first sever their roots." --Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Friday, July 16, 2021

Poems, bridges, signs

Bouquet for 34 years, July 16


Some poems that the late poet, editor, and professor Kim Bridgford accepted for Mezzo Cammin are up--now re-accepted by editor Anna Evans. Thanks to her and the journal!

Here are titles and first lines to entice you to fly HERE...

The Maiden-Saint of France

While still a child I was a thing men fear,
The fire-struck one who has the ears to hear

The Watering Place

We wished the stream to be alive, as rinsed
And quick as a twisting blue rill of thought.

Far Away Long Ago

The world’s as rust as blood, as white
As sperm, as black as ebony—


The crown springs from his skull to say
That all his rule is flowering

"Far Away Long Ago" and "Stellate" are from "Seven Triolets for the King of Finisterre," a series written for painter Graham Ward, a friend in the U.K.  Here is his "King of Finisterre":

Graham Ward, "King of Finisterre"


Dimitry Shvidkovsky, Director of the Moscow Architectural Institute:
Our main goal now is to connect the time in which we live, to the years when the last churches [before the revolution.—Trans.] were built. The construction of such a bridge between the two epochs is very important: The times before the 1917 revolution seem to me to be a period of one of the highest manifestations of Russian Church architecture, which by no means was in decline, but on the contrary, it was on the rise and flourishing.*

A bridge between two epochs... 

Although this quote is from an interview about Orthodox church architecture, it's something I've thought about a lot. We have the return of figurative and narrative art in recent years, in great part banished by Modernism and Postmodernism and its aftershocks. We have, indeed, the return of painting itself. Private classical studios have done the work that art schools used to do, passing on the knowledge of painting in oils. Likewise, poetry has thrown a bridge back to the past while moving onto the future. Narrative has reappeared in poetry. Book-length poems have returned. A subset of writers embraced form, and that fascination has helped to push us away from the long, long dominance of the short lyric poem. 

*from an article by Dinara Gracheva, "Church Architecture Doesn’t have to have the Same Objectives as Secular Architecture; An Interview with the Director of the Moscow Architectural Institute, Dimitry Shvidkovsky," in Orthodox Arts Journal


Here's a couple of recent tweets of my own... measures of the times in the realm of making stories and poems. What is happening in the world of books is curious but unsurprising.
13 July: Novels aren't meant to be bowdlerized by agents and publishers and "sensitivity readers" who act like bossy committee members! May your friend stand strong and maintain the book as he dreamed it to be. As he made it to be. I send him good wishes, whoever he is...

9 July: I recently used Moby Dick as an example of why writers shouldn't use "beta readers." Just think what they would have done to that book! It is great and weirdly holy in both energies and essence.
If you're a maker, don't let others warp what you make to fit into the Procrustean box of the era. You can't help being of your era--that marks your work regardless. But you can make the thing you want to make by your own lights. There's a cost to that, but it is a cost worth paying. 

After rulers and the ruling passions of an age die in time, the arts remain. Homer remains. The wee fat Venus of Willendorf remains! The works of the Gawain poet remains. Making is good for the spirit, so why not aspire to make something that remains, or to experience the things that remain? 

Dostoyevsky to his brother after the firing squad, after the last-moment reprieve: "to be a man among people and remain a man forever, not to be downhearted nor to fall in whatever misfortunes may befall me—this is life; this is the task of life. I have realized this. This idea has entered into my flesh and into my blood." 

How splendid! Read the whole thing HERE.