Pun: Hook, Line and Sinker

Madhur Anand
New Index for Predicting Catastrophes
"Nature Morte with Zoological Professor"

The poem ends on a delightful jeux de mots invoking the homonymic possibilities of the bated/baited pair: "1 man / is going fishing today to forget about brains, / casting bated lines". So tiny a shift easy to miss. Like bran for brains.

And so for day 2260
19.02.2013

Madhur Anand's Science of Words: Cycling and Recycling

"Moving On" — its beginning and end...

I'm on a stationary bike looking at numbers.
Heart rate, calories consumed, distance travelled, time spent,
instantaneous speed. Each motivates, differently.
[...]
By half the year's end I'm not where I thought I would be.
This meditation finds a neat echo in the last line of the next poem ("Type One Error"): "One deterministic seed, the mind recounting when / counting is not enough, though where many poems begin." including of course the preceding poem — "Moving On".

Madhur Anand also demonstrates a knack for recontextualizing by lifting lines from scientific papers and laying out the results in intriguing and suggestive poems collected in A New Index for Predicting Catastrophes. There is here an ecological sensibility. Or should we say echo-logical?

And so for day 2259
18.02.2013

The Ineffable in Autumn

John Williams
The Necessary Lie
"For My Students, Returning to College”

Now splintered grass encrusts the yard
And crisp leaves slant the brittle air;
Impassive, close, the neutral sky
Engages buildings lean and spare,
           The day is lean and hard.

Within these rooms the truth must lie.
Immortal, of the mortal brain,
It burns inert in cold black print
And warms the lifeless grasp to gain:
           The concept does not die.

Here we have come to search the gray
And sullen stubbor[n]ness of fact:
To learn that we can never sense
Or know what we can never act
           Or what we cannot say.
Like coal - condensed to burn bright - action hooked to speech.

And so for day 2258
17.02.2013

Protean Position: Sitting

I admire her self-possession and her imagination and, as the poet stresses, her ability to sit very still. Here are the concluding stanzas to her portrait. We are captivated by her swift transformations.

[...]

First she is an ancient queen
In pomp and purple veil.
Soon she is a signing wind,
and, next, a nightingale.

How fine to be Narcissa,
A-changing like all that!
While sitting still, as still, as still
As anyone ever sat!
Gwendolyn Brooks Bronzeville Boys and Girls

And so for day 2257
16.02.2013

Sketch as Stretch

I admire his sequencing. Alain de Botton in The Art of Travel provides a lovely set up to his discussion of de Maistre's Travel around My Bedroom (found in the chapter "On Habit" in the section "Return") by in the previous chapter ("On Possessing Beauty") introducing Ruskin's reccomendation to sketch or word-paint in order to implant one's experience of a place into memory. de Botton stresses along with Ruskin that aesthetic attainment is not the point; the practice is.

And, as he had pointed out when presented with a series of misshapen drawings that a group of his pupils had produced on their travels through the English countryside: 'I believe that the sight is a more important thing than the drawing; and I would rather teach drawing that my pupils may learn to love nature, than teach the looking at nature that they may learn to draw.'
It's all about paying attention wherever one's steps may lead.

Thus ends a chapter and here ends the last chapter of the book...
There are some who have crossed deserts, floated on ice caps and cut their way through jungles but whose souls we would search in vain for evidence of what they have witnessed. Dressed in pink-and-blue pyjamas, satisfied within the confines of his own bedroom, Xavier de Maistre was gently nudging us to try, before taking off for distant hemispheres, to notice what we have already seen
Off to sketch.

And so for day 2256
15.02.2013

Good Technique Pays

A sample from The Beggar's Handbook: A Guide To Successful Panhandling by M.T. Pockets (Loompanics Unlimited, 1989).

To be a successful panhandler you must lead the intended giver to believe that you will be slightly improved by the gift, however small. When you make your approach, be fearful, be distressed, be upset, even be a little disoriented, but be coherent. Lead the intended giver to believe that his or her gift will restore your equilibrium. This will lead the giver to believe that he or she will feel good about this transaction afterward. Of course, when you get what you want, look relieved. The giver will feel every bit as good about the transaction as you do. There is no sense doing it the other way; all that does is engender hostility and — just possibly — problems with the authorities in and around your chosen place of work. Once you are marked as a troublemaker, you will be forced to move n and that can mean giving up a goldmine for a tin quarry. I do not need to further belabor the implications in terms of dollars received for effort made.
cover of Beggar's Handbook
Good tips on how to gather those tokens of appreciation and relieve apprehension.

And so for day 2255
14.02.2013

Dignity Not Cheap

The poverty of means...

Exercises for Ear
(The Ferry Press, 1968)
Stephen Jonas

XII
in america
          the rich
are poor &
  
          the poor
outraged
        since no

peasant tra-
            dition
to lend

       dig-
nity to cheap-
              ness
... the riches of reading.

The rich are cheap and lacking in dignity because their efforts require no sacrifice. That's one way to toss the coin.

And so for day 2254
13.02.2013

Two Examples of Attunement

Exercises for Ear
(The Ferry Press, 1968)
Stephen Jonas

A fine pitch, an idiom in key:

CLXII

   Lutes
        we ain't got
but ghee'tars
             aplenty
Sure to send you back to Ovid:
XIX
Echo, a beautiful nymph
   loved the woodland sports

         tho' favored of Diana,
she had one fault:
      
                  she talked
too much

     the rest
needs no repeating
Half the fun is in the layout upon the page — sends you grappling.

And so for day 2253
12.02.2013

Terminus Tact

I love how the title page of Exercises for Ear (The Ferry Press, 1968) characterizes its author as "Stephen Jonas / Gentleman". And it is the touch of the gentle man that concludes the book with a wry aside to Jack [Spicer?].

CLXXIX
      (Jack):
             strange abt women
when they discover you

on to their secret; they never
trust you

         again   alone
w/ their husbands
The full title (Exercises for Ear being a Primer for the Beginner in the American Idiom) explains some of the abbreviations deployed and the ellipsis of "are". Also explains the use of the expression "on to someone" — be on to someone: be close to discovering the truth about an illegal or undesirable activity that someone is engaging in. We never quite know the secret but we do get a vivid picture of the reaction to coming close.

And so for day 2252
11.02.2013

Yellow Mellow Waves

I got to see this broadside at the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library. It was issued by Karyl Klopp's Pomegranate Press in 1973. It's a concrete poem by Ronald Johnson. Bright yellow with inventive use of letter forms and negative space.

That section to the right above the signature block serves as an epigraph and is a quotation from Nijinsky.
The earth is the head of God. God is the fire in the head. I am alive as long as there is fire in my head. My pulse is like an earthquake.
On the verticals one reads Maze, Mane, Wane. On the horizontals, MMW, AAA, ZNN, EEE.

And so for day 2251
10.02.2013

Food in Time

Rooting food in temporality.

This is not a manual of cookery but a book about enjoying food. Few of the recipes in it will contribute much to the repertoire of those who like to produced dinner for six in thirty minutes flat. I think food, its quality, its origins, its preparation, is something to be thought about in the same way as any other aspect of human existence.

[...]

When one thinks of the civilization implied in the development of peaches from the wild fruit or of apricots, grapes, pears, plums, when one thinks of those millions of gardeners from ancient China right across Asia and the Middle East to Rome, then across the Alps north to France, Holland and England of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, how can we so crassly, so brutishly, reduce the exquisite results of their labour to cans full of syrup and cardboard-wrapped blocks of ice?

Cooking something delicious is really much more satisfactory than painting pictures or making pottery. At least for most of us. Food has the tact to disappear, leaving room and opportunity for masterpieces to come. The mistakes don't hang on the walls or stand on the shelves to reproach you forever.
Jane Grigson, introduction to Good Things

And so for day 2250
09.02.2013

Read/Red

Stein's line has its own Wikipedia entry Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose

Ronald Johnson in ARK 60 Fireworks I reconstructs the visual impact by a bit of clever homophony:

arose a battleground:
rows on rows of roses
wound round and round
And so arises great delight.

And so for day 2249
08.02.2013

Cypress

ARK 34, Spire on the Death of L.Z.

[...]
to say then head wedded nail and hammer to the
work of vision
of the word
at hand
that is paradise,
this is called spine of white cypress
roughly cylindrical
based
on the principle
of the intervals between cuckoos
and molecules, and molecules
reechoing:
[...]
The spine of cypress in this poem by Ronald Johnson caught my attention in part because it reminded me of having recently read Alain de Botton on the cypresses in the paintings of Van Gogh and how the painting reorganized de Botton's sense of the landscape of Provence (and his general argument that good writing and innovative painting allow us to see anew):
It was a clear day, with a mistral blowing that ruffled the heads of the wheat in the adjacent field. I had sat in this same spot the day before, but only now did I notice that there were two large cypresses growing at the end of the garden, a discovery that was not unconnected to the chapter I had read the night before on van Gogh's treatment of the tree. He had sketched a series of cypresses in 1888 and 1889. 'They are constantly occupying my thoughts,' he told his brother. 'It astonishes me that they have not yet been done as I see them. The cypress is as beautiful in line and proportion as an Egyptian obelisk. and the green has a quality of such distinction. It is a splash of black in a sunny landscape, but it is one of the most interesting black notes, and the most difficult to get exactly right.'

Alain de Botton, "On Eye-Opening Art" in The Art of Travel
It is with great joy that I came across another cypress later in ARK. It occurs suitably in a poem (ARK 75, Arches IX (from Van Gogh's Letters)) that stitches together quotations from the painter's letters.
[...]
a terrace with two cypresses
a nameless black
charged with electricity
[...]
Charged like a conducting spine.

And so for day 2248
07.02.2013

Square Composition

The typewriter not only provided space for recording breathings, it has also been an instrument for pattern making.

http://homes.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance/juvenilia/juv16.htm

                        COILED STANZAS



                             Resistance

         Home                            Heart

               Ohm is where the Art is

       Heart                           Home

                  Resist Stances


A "corner" poem from my Juvenilia similar in structure to Ronald Johnson's "Puss-in-the-Corner" except his is more spare.

                       PUSS-IN-THE-CORNER


        Whisker                         Paw

                       sqweek


        Claw                            Pounce



in Sports and Divertissments ([Ian Hamilton Finlay's] Wild Hawthorn Press, 1965)

Almost like recognizing a kindred spirit. Most like.

And so for day 2247
06.02.2013

More Than Fruit Storage

Charles Olson comparing and contrasting the Maya and Americans in his essay "Human Universe"

And when a people are so disposed, it should come as no surprise that, long before any of these accomplishments, the same people did an improvement on nature — the domestication of maize — which remains one of the world's wonders, even to a nation of Burbanks, and that long after all their accomplishments, they still carry their bodies with some of the savor and flavor that the bodies of the Americans are as missing in as is their irrigated lettuce and their green-picked refrigerator-ripened fruit. For the truth is, that the management of external nature so that none of its virtu is lost, in vegetables or in art, is as much a delicate juggling of her content as is the same juggling by any one of us of our own.
Refrigerator Cakes. Refrigerator Poems.

And so for day 2246
05.02.2013

Palm and Sole

Ronald Johnson ARK (Albuquerque: Living Batch Press, 1996)

You are immersed in a sequence of poems, you turn the page and face

ronald johnson beam 18

A hand print.

Sends me back to my first imprints. Recording weight and length and even the name of the "accoucheur". Tag (with the metadata) and footprint have been kept together by a pretty pink ribbon.

birth info - lachance
baby footprint
My Signature Reply to Beam 18 by Ronald Johnson

http://www.ubu.com/historical/johnson/index.html
RONALD JOHNSON INTERVIEW, November 19, 1995
RJ: ARK is a all a strumming of the lyre.
Now accompanied by a stomping (estampe) of the foot — a different beat.

ADDENDUM: Ronald Johnson's "Still Life" in A Line of Poetry, A Row of Trees lists a number of objects and in the last position is headed by an ampersand ("eye")
& the palm of a hand with an eye the Indians made.
The poem ends:
What hand will reach out to see the world?
And leave its prints for others to see?

And so for day 2245
04.02.2013

Fantasia on a Materialist Epiphany

Unfolding the mind of one youthful version of Alan Turing

To his great surprise is materialism is not so sad. He moves with greater ease and resilience and less fear. It is as though his eyes have suddenly come into focus from a nauseating blue and the whole world looks brilliant. All of his senses have sharpened so that colors and sounds and smells and textures are splendid and vibrant, his experience of them a heart-soaring joy. Every blade of grass glistens. The hard Cambridge wind batters respect out of him. The barren twist of every branch of every tree, even the week fog of light, the whole of the world sings out to him as though he has never seen or heard anything before. With the sheer pleasure of this tactile awakening, his love of nature intensifies as though he has finally given over to her, wholly and without inhibition. Within days his spiritualism is no more than a mildly embarrassing, childish memory. In its place is calm, impervious materialism — nothing like the sad, bleak emptiness he feared. He would have a bad time trying to put it into words. No single world could mean this thing. He would have to write something lengthy with many caveats and tangents and even then he knows he would not successfully express the immediacy or the splendor of the visceral experience. Maybe in another's mind better words would come, but not in his. And so his mind offers him something simple. only one world comes to him over and again, and it could be only this — a word he doesn't often think to use: "beautiful." It is beautiful.
Janna Levin. A madman dreams of Turing machines

And so for day 2244
03.02.2013

Wall of Brass Keys

The character, Kurt Gödel, is in Paris, stop-over on his way back to Vienna, and is in some distress. Out of this unease peers a cinematic eye.

He hid in a small hotel of single rooms near the train station, terrified of the girl behind the desk, of her silhouette against the hanging keys, a frozen rainfall of brass.
Janna Levin. A madman dreams of Turing machines

The image is arresting for is control of stasis that hinges on "silhouette" and "frozen" while the movement is present in "hanging" and "rainfall". All constructed by nimble use of parallelism.

And so for day 2243
02.02.2013

Light and Its Aftereffects

Lux fiat. Verbum est.

Stepping out of the tradition into a displacement of sorts.

this account of light
as an acquired characteristic
became propositional

just as every forest
would come to speak to us
as a verb
"North by South" Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent Liz Howard

Other instances of illumination gave us a blood moon & plenum and another moon caught in gutter water. All emanating from that peculiar poetic direction: north by south.

And so for day 2242
01.02.2013

Radius of Radiance

We set here as a prelude to a page from Ronald Johnson Radi Os (Berkeley: Sand Dollar, 1977) what are the concluding lines of T.S. Eliot's "Little Gidding", the last of the Four Quartets.

Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always—
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
I have always thought that the rose and fire become one in the rose window of a cathedral whatever architectural splendours lie at Little Gidding. Regardless of my adolescent imagination, the lines serve me well here for not only the conjunction of fire and rose but also for the half-heard in the stillness.

Radi Os is a poem produce by erasure of the 1892 (Crowell) edition of Milton's Paradise Lost. Some gentle soul has nicely paginated the library copy and on page 31, in a tiny hand, refers the reader to the front page. A transcription does not do justice to the spatial dynamics produced by the erasure:

in the shape / as of / above the / rose / through / rose / rising / the radiant sun

rose page from Radi Os
And so to the front page: where "rose" is a verb: tree / into the World. / Man / the chosen / Rose out of Chaos: / song,

first page of Radi Os by Ronald Johnson
The kind reader's linking of the front to the rose page echoes some of the observations observed in Guy Davenport's afterward
From book to book he has grown more responsive to light and pattern in nature; he believes that light evolved the eye to see itself [...] These pages at first glance look haphazard (as a Cubist painting seemed to first viewers to be an accident). They are not. There is a page that has the word man at the top, flower in the middle, and star at the bottom. There are other words on the page, and they help us see the relationship between man, flower, and star. One order of word gives: man passed through fire / His temple right against The black. It is, for instance, electro-chemical energy in brain cells derived from photosynthetic sugars in vegetables whereby we can see a star at all, and the fire of the star we call the sun thus arranged that it could be seen and thought of by nourishing the brain. Is that system closed? Did the sun grow the tree the made the paper you are holding, and the ink on it, so that it can read this book through your eyes?
With a bit of rearranging the cycle fits the stream on screen.

And so for day 2241
31.01.2013

The Fullness of Words

Adrienne Rich
Sources
The Heyeck Press, Woodside, 1983

The poem ends with the expressed desire to rest "among the beautiful and common weeds" but recognizes there is no such rest.

A phrase has occurred at intervals throughout the sequence: an end to suffering. We are informed in a note as to its origins:

The phrase an end to suffering was evoked by a sentence in Nadine Gordimer's Burger's Daughter: "No one knows where the end of suffering will begin."
We come back to Rich's conclusion: "When I speak of an end to suffering I don't mean anesthesia." She turns to the specificity of place and identity, themes she has carried throughout.
When I speak of an end to suffering I don't mean anesthesia. I mean knowing the world, and my place in it, not in order to stare with bitterness or detachment, but as a powerful and womanly series of choices:    and here I
write the words, in their fullness:
powerful;        womanly.
image of last section of Sources by Adrienne Rich
A block of prose gives way to poetry. A line break falls on "I" and spacing between "powerful" and "womanly" return us to the typography of the preceding sections to conclude that the speaking self is powerful and mediated through the fullness of words.

Meditating on the spaces between words, I came back to Olsen's 1950 observations in "Projective Verse" on breath (and spirit) and the place of the typewriter in the disposition of the words on the page.
What we have suffered from, is manuscript, press, the removal of verse from its producer and its reproducer, the voice, a removal by one, by two removes from its place of origin and its destination. For the breath has a double meaning which [L]atin had not yet lost.

The irony is, from the machine has come one gain not yet sufficiently observed or used, but which leads directly on toward projective verse and its consequences. It is the advantage of the typewriter that, due to its rigidity and its space precision, it can, for a poet, indicate exactly the breath, the pauses, the suspensions even of syllables, the juxtapositions even of parts of phrases, which he intends. For the first time he can, without the convention of rime and meter, record the listening he has done to his own speech and by that one act indicate how he would want any reader, silently or otherwise, to voice his work.
Time is what Rich chooses to mark. Dates we take to be the span of composition — a year. There is in these poetics no place without time. No words without a fullness of history.

And so for day 2240
30.01.2013

Interstitial

If there is any doubt about the technical term "bearing down" it would be dispelled by one look at the cover of Penny Chalmers (Penn Kemp) Bearing Down (Coach House Press, 1972).

cover of bearing down

It is of course about the joys and tribulations of giving birth. But it is birthing in a particular space: the institution of the hospital. At the end of the book, there is a reproduction of a menu. It is obviously Easter time.

menu bearing down
In the upper right corner are some thoughts of the season (unattributed)
Easter is no time for argument.
Lilies don't argue; they bloom.
Springtime doesn't argue; it comes.
Music doesn't argue; it sings.
Beauty doesn't argue; it beckons and points.
Love doesn't argue; it outlives our griefs.
Which thanks to the World Wide Web we can ascribe to Frederick B. Speakman, author of sermons, in fine fettle for presenting an argument ("Easter is no time for argument" is itself an argument).

Down the right margin in landscape orientation is the a comment (we are uncertain in whose voice) it appears elsewhere as attributed to Patsy Gray (Age 9) from a piece about grandmothers:
They don't talk baby talk like visitors do because it is hard to understand.
When they read to us, they don't skip or mind if it is the same story again.
There are are more reproductions of hospital literature from the chaplain this time in which are interpolated other bits of unattributed sentimental poetry. For example
Said the Robin to the Sparrow:
"I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.["]

[which we trace to Elizabeth Cheney]
Both the hospital literature and the interpolations are in Courier, the ubiquitous typewriter typeface. We are faced with the question: did the poet place these in the spaces or were they found there? The one clue, layout of the interpolations in a perpendicular position, doesn't apply to all the space cramming instances. All do share a crowding effect. There is quoting going on. Who is doing it remains uncertain. I vouch for ironic insertions by the author given the wry wit exhibited in a number of the birth poems all the while bearing down.

And so for day 2239
29.01.2013

Expansive Minimalism

Ronald Johnson
Eyes & Objects (Catalogue for an Exhibition: 1970-72)
Jargon Society, 1976

The beginning from "The Inside-out Sphere"

I offer this sphere I found,
like water held
in a rind of light.
And an ending from the end of "Windwindow"
ascent descent and accident
Eye and ear are pleased and the mind set adrift.

And so for day 2238
28.01.2013

Joy is Not Happiness; It is Happy - A Matter of Luck

George Johnston in "Convocation Address: Queen's University, 29/5/71" distinguishes between happiness and joy.

Love is very dear.
     Happiness,
unhappiness,
getting our own way
and so forth
cost the Earth.

But joy
     is free,
unasked-for, unexpected, undeserved
     as an honorary degree.
These are the last rhymes this morning
     from me.
And a joy it is to mark the occasion with such mirth.

George Johnston. Endeared by Dark: The Collected Poems.

And so for day 2237
27.01.2013

Liminal

At the end, on the last page of A Poem As Long As The Highway by Douglas Barbour there is a set of lines that mark the ongoing nature of the poem as an act of cognition (learning). Set off-centre close to the right margin, the lines look like a ribbon of highway, with plenty of room for passing that is if you drive on the right.

Learning is not
direct


in ratio to distance
travelled


we cannot learn
enough


               journey
too far.


On the road again always.

And so for day 2236
26.01.2013

In the Earth's Shadow

Eclipse. Iris.

All night the blood moon measures the dilation
of your pupil, pinprick or dinner plate
in this plenum where our attention fails to die.
A stanza from one of the poems (there are many) entitled "Standard Time" in Liz Howard Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent. This one occurs on page 9.

And so for day 2235
25.01.2013

Leaf by Leaf by Colour

It could have been laid out as a pair with a caesura:

bronze by bronze, crimson by reft crimson

or stacked via line breaks:

bronze by bronze,
crimson by reft crimson

but instead we have a stress on "reft" resulting from a "cut" enjambement:

bronze by bronze, crimson by reft
crimson
"Swept Sky" in George Johnston's Endeared by Dark: The Collected Poems.

And so for day 2234
24.01.2013

Majestic Is Often Used

Words are insufficient: the mountains "remain to be described" And yet the poet establishes a sort of grandeur "in whatever mode":

They wait to be described [...]
geologist, surveyor, artist:
crowsfeet on a map, the heavy
colours cut and carved, numbers
and weight, percentages, all
methods to paraphrase
certain immensity.
They remain
to be seen:
Douglas Barbour A Poem As Long As The Highway

It's the waiting and the remaining that get stressed as they hug the left margin.

And so for day 2233
23.01.2013

Granite and Glaciers

In memory one puts a period.

All we have in this country is landscape,
Granite shivering with light[.]
That is where memory stops.

But there is more (always more):
All we have in this country is landscape,
Granite shivering with light,
Winter sun, brightness that never
hints of the dark.
This place is inhabited by dreams,
The movement of glaciers.
Good to remember what exposed all that granite.

M.T. Kelly. "All We Have" Country You Can't Walk In

And so for day 2232
22.01.2013

Stigmata of the Poet: Sensitive Reactions

Phil Hall The Oak Hunch ends with a sequence called "Index of First Lines" which opens with a discourse on missionaries, islands and the nature of words which leads to an image of the poet manifesting stigmata in a very visceral fashion.

I am the one with these stinking wounds in the
palms of my hands—these gifts?—my articulate
hands that can not make straight arrows
I like the ambiguity of "articulate" meaning both jointed and enjoining.

The coda takes on the aura of an homage to James Merrill with a most striking image.
I hold the blunt end of my pen in my mouth,
and put my palms together so the stinking holes
in my hands make one hole I can see through.

Bowing my head, I shove the pen through the
hole in my hands—planchette!
Before you run to the nearest Ouija board and instigate a series of Ideomotor moves, consider that Hall identifies as nodes to this sequence two other poets: Ronald Johnson Ark: The Foundations 1—33 and George Open Of Being Numerous (where we find Oppen quoting Whitehead (believing it to be from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin) "In these explanations it is presumed that an experiencing subject is one occasion of a sensitive reaction to an actual world." which sensitive reaction brings us back to our reading Hall who ends his sequence with little faith in any way back: "SAYING A LOST PATH BACK, as of old . . ."). A bendy arrow.

And so for day 2231
21.01.2013

Figure of a Skater Tending to Move Towards a Centre

The contrast is set up between those seeking warmth, a multitude, and the skater, a lone figure.

Coffee drinkers fill the hut with steam;
They warm themselves within against the cold
That creaks without and circumvents the light,
While Mr. Murple, in a cloud of frost
Centripetal,
Turns on his pivot skates the captive sky.
And the crowded alliteration binds the turning figure to the elements: cloud/frost/centripetal and skates/captive/sky. Apt for the creaking cold.

"Ice At Last" in Endeared by Dark: The Collected Poems of George Johnston.

And so for day 2230
20.01.2013

Guttural From the Throat

From a villanelle by Liz Howard ("A Wake" in Infinite Citizen fo the Shaking Tent) come these lines which remind one of a wholly erotic power.

If I moan from an animal throat it is in hope you
will return to me what I lost learning to speak.
From Phil Hall two lines out of An Oak Hunch:
  BETWEEN THE BODY & LANGUAGE
a ravine of call & response
Return. Gap.

And so for day 2229
19.01.2013

Praise Poem & Occasional Poetry

Every wonder how best to celebrate the character and accomplishments of a great literary figure?

Here is a praise poem for Northrop Frye found in Endeared by Dark: The Collected Poems of George Johnston. It was written on the occasion of a conference in Moncton. Its title: "A Celebration For Northrop Frye, May 28, 1980". And here are its concluding stanzas:

How do we honour one
already in the fane
    of honour,
    how bear

our messages of praise
before his critic's eyes?
    Well, anyhow,
    we do

confident of his smile
and knowing that we dwell
    this hour
    together
    in Eden's bower.
Ending thus on an image of conviviality is superlative not only praised the man but also marks the occasion with fine wit.

And so for day 2228
18.01.2013

Two Views of Tipping Fountain

First an observation on space

Scrivener Public Square

Designed by Toronto architect Stephen Teeple and named after the late MPP Margaret Scrivener, it includes a 'tipping fountain' by artist Robert Fones and a series of small, angular streams and ponds that are refreshingly free of the unnecessary safety barriers that too often ruin good urban design.

Shawn Micallef
Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto
Second an observation on time
Working with public artist Robert Fones, the team proposed to install a Japanese Tipping Fountain that relates directly to the original clock tower on the station building. The result is a physical representation of passing time.

From the Teeple website
http://www.teeplearch.com/portfolio/scrivener-public-square
tipping fountain


And so for day 2227
17.01.2013

Cognitive Decline and the Beauty of Delay

I would perhaps not have been so sensitive to these lines by George Johnston if I was not aware of the work of Marlene Goldman on dementia and stigma, Forgotten: Narratives of Age-Related Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease in Canada.

[...]

we come to our beauty,
     terrified or serene
or beyond both, more likely,
     knowing even as also we are known.

I guess I shall not again
     see him, as we leave his room;
his wits are gone
     and he is as though at home

yonder. He smiles from a distance;
     and he is, as you say, beautiful
for all his ambience
     of tubes and bottles, the whole

apparatus of delay
     that keeps some good things on,
his courtesy, and the play
     of his Irish sense of fun

[...]
George Johnston "Goodbye Margaret" in Endeared by Dark: The Collected Poems

And so for day 2226
16.01.2013

Another Puddle, Another Moon

Moon in puddle Zen trope is here at play, I believe, in the very reflective white space between stanzas. But here the moon is pluralized — each moment of perception offering its own.

I will not refuse the moons
you show me

caught in the gutter water
Liz Howard "Bingo Riot" in Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent

And so for day 2225
15.01.2013

Conditionals

If you are entitled to one line to ponder for a day ...

what else is a river but the promise of a text
Liz Howard "Foramen Magnum" in Infinite Citizen of the Shaking Tent

And so for day 2224
14.01.2013

Sins and Sinners

This set could be extended in imitation of Erasmus's De Copia. But it's power comes from its limited triplicate form and the tactical placement of line breaks.

Love the person not the police report.
The wrists not the weapon, the grievers
not the tears.
The metonymy of "wrists" adds to the sensation of compression — a poetic grenade about to go off.

Priscilla Uppal "Try Not to Romanticize" in Live Courage.

And so for day 2223
13.01.2013

Perfectly Saying

I am wondering if the ending of this poem is what is called in French "finir en queue de poisson" or in German "im Sand verlaufen" — a fish tale in the sand. The lines allows the poem to disintegrate gently.

[...]
could be the face I put on everything,
or it could be my way of saying
nothing and saying it perfectly.
The end from Philip Levine "Picture Postcard from the Other World" in A Walk With Tom Jefferson.

And so for day 2222
12.01.2013

Epic Repeater

In Live Courage, using the footer section of the pages, Priscilla Uppal constructs the emulation of a news crawl in which she threads excerpts from Homer's Odyssey translated by Richard Lattimore with various online and print news sources.

The effect relies as much on page breaks [pb] as continuation.

[...] mistake and release his son / And once the spirit has left the white bones, all the rest of the body [pb] is made subject to the fire's strong fury, but the soul flitters out / Floods caused by pounding mon- [pb] soon rains have left some 77 people dead in Bangladesh and India and marooned almost two [pb] million / Poor fools, and they had not yet realized how over all of them the terms of death were [...]
The page turning brings an additional dimension to the play of juxtaposition.

And so for day 2221
11.01.2013

Hands, Hands, Hands

A pair of enumerations from an essay on hands.

It's because of our independently moving, finely adjustable fingers and very mobile, opposable thumbs that we can both grip and finely manipulate: wield scalpels, plait braids, shell peas, tie knots, pluck guitar strings or play the violin, turn a key in a lock, or pick up, sharpen, and then control a pencil. It's second nature for us to write our names, turn the page, decorate our pottery, take notes, to externalize our thoughts, sketch what we see or dream of.

~ ~ ~

Hands are absolutely everywhere in our language (which, it has been argued, they, and not the tongue, vocal chords and lips, are responsible for creating in the first place). They have demanded their own verbs: clench, grasp, stroke, twist, squeeze, wring, clutch, flex, press, pluck, caress, and punch, to name but a few . . . The specialized movements of our hands make up our lives: knitting, tying, sewing, stirring. And the imagery of the hand peppers our speech: hand in hand, we say, on hand, hands down, on the other hand, second hand, hands on, hand in glove, hand in hand, handed on, even-handed, heavy-handed, high-handed, empty-handed, hand-me-down, hand over fist . . .
I'm sure that second "hand in hand" is there to make sure we are paying attention to Kathy Page "Hand Over Hand" in In The Flesh: Twenty Writers Explore the Body. And a shelf of books in a library?

And so for day 2220
10.01.2013

Contemplating Destinations

It reads like an homage to the gazetteer form.

Nowhere is the appeal of the airport more concentrated than in the television screens that hang in rows from the terminal ceilings to announce the departure and arrival of flights, whose absence of aesthetic self-consciousness and whose workmanlike casing and pedestrian typefaces do nothing to disguise their emotional charge and imaginative allure. Tokyo, Amsterdam, Istanbul, Warsaw, Seattle, Rio. The screens bear all the poetic resonance of the last line of James Joyce's Ulysses, which is at once a record of where the novel was written and, no less important, a symbol of the cosmopolitan spirit behind its composition: "Trieste, Zurich, Paris." The constant calls of the screens, some accompanied by the impatient pulsating of a cursor, suggest with what ease our seemingly entrenched lives might be altered were we simply to walk down a corridor and onto a craft that in a few hours would land us in a place of which we had no memories and where no one knew our name. How pleasant to hold in mind though the crevasses of our moods, at three in the afternoon, when lassitude and despair threaten, that there is always a plane taking off for somewhere, for Baudelaire's 'anywhere! anywhere!: Trieste, Zurich, Paris.

Alain De Botton. "On Travelling Places" in The Art of Travel
And a shelf of books in a library?

And so for day 2219
09.01.2013

Food in Lear

Most of his limericks that feature food are devoted to the demise of the character due to overeating or feature curious food choices such as spiders. This limerick stands out for me because not only of its edible element but also by its position in the last line.

There was an Old Man of the coast,
Who placidly sat on a post;
        But when it was cold
        He relinquished his hold
And called for some hot buttered toast.
Implied is some domestic help able and willing to supply the requested sustenance.

Edward Lear. Complete Nonsense.

And so for day 2218
08.01.2013

Gate and Way

These lines are from a stanza (room) at the end of the first page of the first poem (not the end of the poem). The omniscient third person speaker keeps the distance between guest and host alive with possibility and speaks with authority about the future which is figured in the sleeping babies.

The guests are leaving. They say goodnight.
It's a long way to the next house, long as from planet to planet.
Sleeping babies in their arms just got the first lesson:
how to open the door. The rest they will learn.
Goran Simić Immigrant Blues "Open the Door" translated by Amela Simić.

And so for day 2217
07.01.2013

Howard "Trapping" Browning

Opening lines of the dramatic monologue by Robert Browning, "My Last Duchess" where the Duke of Ferrara guides a visitor to a portrait

That’s my last Duchess painted on the wall,
Looking as if she were alive. I call
That piece a wonder, now; Fra Pandolf’s hands
Worked busily a day, and there she stands.

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/43768/my-last-duchess
As the poem progresses the reader intimates that the Duke had her murdered.

It is this story that gives bite to Richard Howard's "Nikolaus Mardruz to His Master Ferdinand, Count of Tyrol, 1565" and the speaker is a diplomat arranging a marriage.
     as his avarice,
     no "cause" for dismay:
once ensconced here as the Duchess, your daughter
     need no more apprehend the Duke’s
                         murderous temper
                         than his matchless taste.
     For I have devised a means whereby
the dowry so flagrantly pursued by our
     insolvent Duke ("no
     just pretence of mine
be disallowed" indeed!), instead of being
     paid as he pleads in one globose sum,
                         should drip into his
                         coffers by degrees —
     say, one fifth each year—then after five
such years, the dowry itself to be doubled,
     always assuming
     that Her Grace enjoys
her usual smiling health. The years are her
[...]
Further relishing the moment is provided by the fact that Howard collects this poem in a book entitled Trappings.

And so for day 2216
06.01.2013

Concentration Contemplation

Nelson Ball in the introduction to Konfessions of an Elizabethan Fan Dancer by bpNicol (Coach House Press, 2004) writes

Concrete poetry at its best is a contemplative poetry, allowing the writer and the reader to consider visual, aural and literal meanings together.
We add that this type of contemplation actively engages the lips and eyes.

And so for day 2215
05.01.2013

The Italian Side

A note on translation by Maureen B. Fant.

The first time I wrote Italian recipes for an American publisher, I was shocked to realize how far over to the Italian side I'd slid in my thirty years in Italy. I didn't own an instant-read thermometer and hadn't touched my measuring spoons in decades. I know when my garlic was golden by looking at it — no idea how long it took to get there. And yet, when you get right down to it, I still have my U.S. passport, and I still want a recipe to tell me what to do.
Just what is the Italian side?
And yet there is an elegance to the formal, elliptical Italian recipe style, which Oretta represents. There is something seductive about cooking without a safety net of numbers, and there is considerable logic to the refusal to give temperatures and timing for somebody else's equipment or for quantities of salt without first tasting the salty ingredients. Are we all cooking in identical laboratories? Certainly not.
Oretta Zanni de Vita and Maureen B. Fant Pasta the Italian Way: Sauces and Shapes.

And so for day 2214
04.01.2013

Dream Snatcher - Poem Hatcher

From biology through mythology, Kay Ryan ends this poem with an allusion to Coleridge's Visitor. Don't answer the door. Make some time, just some wee bit of time, to relish the judiciously placed repetition . . . as if examining the patterns of yolk splatter.

A chick has just so much time
to chip its way out, just so much
[...]
One backward look by any of us
can cost what it cost Orpheus.
Neither may you answer
the stranger's knock:
you know it is the Person from Porlock
who has dreams for dinner,
his napkin stained the most delicate colors.
Kay Ryan "Doubt" in The Best of It: New and Selected Poems (Grove Press, 2010)

And so for day 2213
03.01.2013

Gene Splicing

Stitching a new beast ...

POETRY BEING AT A DEAD END POETRY IS DEAD. HAVING ACCEPTED THIS FACT WE ARE FREE TO LIVE THE POEM. Imagine the / interlocking uninsistent / tunes of drifting things. THE POEM WILL LIVE AGAIN WHEN WE ACCEPT FINALLY THE FACT OF THE POEM'S DEATH.
Sources:
ABC The Aleph Beth Book, bpNichol (Oberon Press, 1971)
"Tune" in The Best of It: New and Selected Poems, Kay Ryan (Grove Press, 2010)

And so for day 2212
02.01.2013

Dogs in Homer

Priam to Hector in Lisa Jarnot's translation from Book XXII of The Iliad:

And then for me
last of all
that at my door
the hungry dogs
will feast upon my flesh,
that someone with a
heave of gleaming bronze
will pull life from my limbs —
and even that the dogs in my own halls
those that I fed and those
that were bred to stand watch at the door —
they will lap up all my blood
in their heart-wild frenzy
and then will sleep fast
at the gate.
(You should also see what she does with crocodiles in Reptile House)

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

See also "Dogs and Heroes in Homer" Bernard Knox's review of
Nature and Culture in the Iliad: The Tragedy of Hector
by James M. Redfield
and
A Companion to the Iliad (Based on the Translation by Richmond Lattimore)
by Malcolm M. Willcock
in New York Review of Books April 29, 1976 Issue
The dog, in Homer, is a predator and scavenger; he is "the most completely domesticated animal but he remains an animal. The dog thus represents man’s resistance to acculturation" and "stands for an element within us that is permanently uncivilized." The danger run by the warrior, who, according to Redfield, "stands on the frontier of culture and nature," is that he may become a dog — a transformation suggested often in the similes — and more, a cannibal. This is a theme often hinted at and finally brought into the open in Achilles' wish that he could bring himself to chop Hector's flesh and eat it raw (XXII 347).
The dog is thus an emblem of the impurity of battle. The warrior becomes a mad dog as he enacts the inner contradiction of battle. On behalf of a human community the warrior is impelled to leave community and act in an inhuman way. He becomes a distorted, impure being; great in his power, he is at the same time reduced to something less than himself.
Hector was a mad dog in the rage of battle but he is now a corpse. "To the passive impurity of Hector—marked by the impure condition of his body — corresponds the active impurity of Achilles — marked by his inability to find any limit to his act."
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Thanks to the work of Jarnot, it is in the pathos invoked by Priam that lingers long after reading the speeches of Achilles and Hector. The image of one's own dogs drinking one's own blood is rendered all the more striking by the figure of the sleeping dogs at the end of the speech.

And so for day 2211
01.01.2013