Monthly Archives: December 2010

Dec. 28, 2010: REMEMBERING MALIBU, for Brian Moore (Seamus Heaney)

A little shout-out to reader Ali Najmi, who spent Christmas day on
Malibu beach. Seriously, who does that? This poem is about CA and yet
has a nip of winter in it. The dedication is to Irish-Canadian
novelist Brian Moore. If you want a quiet, melancholic, domestic
northern Irish drama, his “The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne” is
highly recommended. If you’re more into international intrigue and
post-Holocaust Jewish-Nazi spy chases, “The Statement” is fantastic.
Happy holidays!

Oh, this one is by Seamus Heaney. ~mjl


The Pacific at your door was wilder and colder

than my notion of the Pacific

and that was perfect, for I would have rotted

beside the luke-warm ocean I imagined.

Yet no way was its cold ascetic

as our monk-fished, snowed-into Atlantic;

no beehive hut for you

on the abstract sands of Malibu —

it was early Mondrian and his dunes

misting towards the ideal forms

though the wind and sea neighed loud

as wind and sea noise amplified.

I was there in the flesh

where I’d imagined I might be

and underwent the bluster of the day:

but why would it not come home to me?

Atlantic storms have flensed the cells

on the Great Skellig, the steps cut in the rock

I never climbed

between the graveyard and the boatslip

are welted solid to my instep.

But to rear and kick and cast that shoe —

beside that other western sea

far from the Skelligs, and far, far

from the suck of puddled, wintry ground,

our footsteps filled with blowing sand.


Dec. 20, 2010: THE TROUBLE WITH READING (William Stafford)

“If you have been wondering where the articulable, readable poems have
gone in the last third of the 20th century,” claims reviewer Victor
Howard, “you might start with William Stafford.” Never mind that his
dependent clause is one of the lamest of straw-man arguments, he does
have a point that for plain-spokenness–which is not the same as
simpleness–Stafford’s your man. He died in 1993. He grew up in houses
always on the edge of town, over the highway, neither rural nor urban,
and his poetic voice is that of a wanderer, an accidental seeker who
observes the things in his path and wonders why they are there, and
why they are. And then he has a handful of poems that directly address
reading, writing, and studying poetry, among them this one. Enjoy.


When a goat likes a book, the whole book is gone,
and the meaning has to go find an author again.
But when we read, it’s just print–deciphering,
like frost on a window: we learn the meaning
but lose what the frost is, and all that world
pressed so desperately behind.

So some time let’s discover how the ink
feels, to be clutching all that eternity onto
page after page. But maybe it is better not
to know; ignorance, that wide country,
rewards you just to accept it. You plunge;
it holds you. And you have become a rich darkness.


Dec. 13, 2010: A LIFE OF CRIME (William Matthews)


In the past 6 months I’ve put 15,000 miles on my odometer, moved
across 7 states twice, seen the Pacific Ocean, been to the dead center
of the Midwest, thrown in NYC, DC, Nashville, and NOLA for good
measure. Here’s a poem for all of us in our far-flung climes,
hunkering down for the winter, but knowing all our old acquaintances
are as close as we remember them.

Born in Cincinnati, William Matthews went to Yale and then on to UNC,
and served as a writer-in-residence at many colleges, including
Boston’s Emerson. Critics think that his poetry is not of a
knock-you-down sort, and while it does not glitter or dazzle, it sheds
a steady light. He died too young at 55. -ed.


Frail friends, I love you all!
Maybe that’s the trouble,
storm in the eye of a storm.
Everyone wants too much.
Instead we gratefully accept
some stylized despair:

suitcoats left hanging
on folding chairs, snow falling
inside a phonebooth, cows
scouring some sad pasture.
You know the sort of landscape,
all sensibility and no trees.

Nothing but space, a little
distance between friends.
As if loneliness didn’t make us
responsible, and want accomplices.
Better to drink at home
than to fall down in bars.

Or to read all night a novel
with missing heirs, 513 pages
in ten-point type, and lay my body
down, a snarl of urges
orbited by blood,
dreaming of others.

Dec. 6, 2010: 3:30 EST (Matthew Lamberti)

Dear readers,

Here’s something that doesn’t come along too often–an original. You will be grateful I’ve limited it to 5 lines, which is about all I could remember while driving. Whatever time zone you’re in, have a good week! -ed.

3:30 EST

33 degrees
3:30 EST
lucky me