Monthly Archives: February 2014

Feb. 24, 2014

Dear readers,

I’ve always been a big fan of the MV membership. This year I am just discovering how many truly talented writers we have among us! Brandon Som has been hanging around these pages for about 4 years, I think. I met Brandon in Pittsburgh, and he’s currently a PhD candidate in creative writing at USC. The cool thing is, he’s already a prize-winning poet. In 2012, Nightboat Books selected his manuscript The Tribute Horse as the winner of their 9th annual poetry competition. The book will be published in about a week, so I feel very honored that we get to run a section from this forthcoming work. My only clue to this selection, provided by the author, is that the “Dolbear” in line 1 is American scientist Amos Dolbear, and someone might want to enlighten us on that reference. There is a cricket theme and an American west coast immigration theme running through “Bows & Resonators,” though I haven’t yet read it all. Given that this section is about listening, it’s a good candidate for reading out loud. -ed.

from Bows & Resonators

 

 

6

 

Dolbear

 

to test a law,

 

walked out under stars

white & clustered,

 

as summer’s

calf-high,

Queen Anne’s lace

 

& listened

 

counting evensong,

like a prosody, on his fingers

 

to hear the heat & balm

in the chirr

 

& by logarithm

measure,

in Fahrenheit, the field.

 

Mic-ing the inner ear,

scientists have recorded the hairs

 

shook in seawash,

 

so we might hear what

hearing

sounds like: a night bug

 

abrading

wing-teeth

 

—a field

of bulrush & burr,

a capella

 

amid chicory,

 

all

sizzling like a pan steak.

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Feb 18, 2014 Blue Monday

Dear readers,

This week’s poet said of last week’s poet, “The one thing that is clear throughout [Kumin’s] substantial body of work is that she believes survival is possible, if only through the proper use of the imagination to retrieve those things which are loved well enough.”

“Use of the imagination to retrieve those things which are loved well enough”: I haven’t seen a better description of Diane Wakoski’s (b. 1937) undertaking in “Blue Monday.” The poem reads like a dream, a dream that keeps churning and churning the subconscious material, and bringing those things loved well enough right up to the surface. Enjoy it! -ed.

BLUE MONDAY

Blue of the heaps of beads poured into her breasts
and clacking together in her elbows;
blue of the silk
that covers lily-town at night;
blue of her teeth
that bite cold toast
and shatter on the streets;
blue of the dyed flower petals with gold stamens
hanging like tongues
over the fence of her dress
at the opera/opals clasped under her lips
and the moon breaking over her head a
gush of blood-red lizards.
Blue Monday. Monday at 3:00 and
Monday at 5. Monday at 7:30 and
Monday at 10:00. Monday passed under the rippling
California fountain. Monday alone
a shark in the cold blue waters.
                     You are dead: wound round like a paisley shawl.
                     I cannot shake you out of the sheets. Your name
                     is still wedged in every corner of the sofa.
                     Monday is the first of the week,
                     and I think of you all week.
                     I beg Monday not to come
                     so that I will not think of you
                     all week.
You paint my body blue. On the balcony
in the softy muddy night, you paint me
with bat wings and the crystal
the crystal
the crystal
the crystal in your arm cuts away
the night, folds back ebony whale skin
and my face, the blue of new rifles,
and my neck, the blue of Egypt,
and my breasts, the blue of sand,
and my arms, bass-blue,
and my stomach, arsenic;
there is electricity dripping from me like cream;
there is love dripping from me I cannot use—like acacia or
jacaranda—fallen blue and gold flowers, crushed into the street.
                         Love passed me in a blue business suit
                         and fedora.
                         His glass cane, hollow and filled with
                         sharks and whales …
                         He wore black
                         patent leather shoes
                         and had a mustache. His hair was so black
                         it was almost blue.
                         “Love,” I said.
                         “I beg your pardon,” he said.
                         “Mr. Love,” I said.
                         “I beg your pardon,” he said.
                         So I saw there was no use bothering him on the street
                         Love passed me on the street in a blue
                         business suit. He was a banker
                         I could tell.
So blue trains rush by in my sleep.
Blue herons fly overhead.
Blue paint cracks in my
arteries and sends titanium
floating into my bones.
Blue liquid pours down
my poisoned throat and blue veins
rip open my breast. Blue daggers tip
and are juggled on my palms.
Blue death lives in my fingernails.
If I could sing one last song
with water bubbling through my lips
I would sing with my throat torn open,
the blue jugular spouting that black shadow pulse,
and on my lips
I would balance volcanic rock
emptied out of my veins. At last
my children strained out
of my body. At last my blood
solidified and tumbling into the ocean.
It is blue.
It is blue.
It is blue.


-1968

Feb 10, 2014

Dear readers,

I said I’d never work hard on Monday again, and now look. My apologies. And I won’t wax verbose this morning, merely noting that Pulitzer prize-winning poet Maxine Kumin (1925-2014) died over the weekend. She was the Library of Congress’ poetry consultant (aka the poet laureate) from 1981-1982, and wrote a lot about her native New England. Today’s poem is a reflection on mortality–another’s, not her own–and in some of its imagery is probably a decent lead-in to next week’s poem. Enjoy. -ed.

HOW IT IS


Shall I say how it is in your clothes?
A month after your death I wear your blue jacket.
The dog at the center of my life recognizes
you’ve come to visit, he’s ecstatic.
In the left pocket, a hole.
In the right, a parking ticket
delivered up last August on Bay State Road.
In my heart, a scatter like milkweed,
a flinging from the pods of the soul.
My skin presses your old outline.
It is hot and dry inside.
I think of the last day of your life,
old friend, how I would unwind it, paste
it together in a different collage,
back from the death car idling in the garage,
back up the stairs, your praying hands unlaced,
reassembling the bits of bread and tuna fish
into a ceremony of sandwich,
running the home movie backward to a space
we could be easy in, a kitchen place
with vodka and ice, our words like living meat.
Dear friend, you have excited crowds
with your example. They swell
like wine bags, straining at your seams.
I will be years gathering up our words,
fishing out letters, snapshots, stains,
leaning my ribs against this durable cloth
to put on the dumb blue blazer of your death.



-1997

Feb 3, 2014

People,

See, this is what happens when I actually do my job on Monday (and then again Tuesday!). I’ll try not to let it happen again.
We had the good fortune of reading our poet’s self-introduction during the special anniversary series: it is Mary O’Donoghue, resident of Boston and sometimes Tuscaloosa, AL, associate professor of English at Babson College. I also had the good fortune to hear Mary read her work at Boston College, about the time that her first collection of poems, Tulle, was published. She’s also written fiction, and has won awards and grants on both sides of the Atlantic for her work. Today we’re actually going to take a look at one of her translations, of the Irish poet Louis De Paor. De Paor (b. 1961) is director of Irish Studies at NUI-Galway, and also established himself as a public poet in Australia, where he lived for about 10 years.
Take a look at this one. Do I hear echoes of the Orpheus myth? -ed.

An tAmhránaí

 

Is dóigh leis an mbeirt os mo

chomhair gur leosan amháin a labhrann

 

nuair a chanann a gholtraí ghrámhar is

fada le barra a méar

 

go mbeidh siad sa bhaile is cead

seanma ar a chéile acu go maidin.

 

Is ait le haonaráin is iarleannáin go

mbeadh fonn briste a gcroíthe ar bharr

 

a theanga ag fear nár casadh orthu

cheana. Nuair a bhuaileann na sreanganna síoda

 

a cheangail dá chéile an chéad lá riamh

iad, druideann an lánúin phósta dá mbuíochas

 

i leith a chéile. Nuair a chuimlíonn

uillinn a léine sin le gualainn a mhná, baineann

 

fear óg ar thaobh eile an tseomra a

gheansaí samhraidh de is iarrann

 

ar fhear an tí an teas a ísliú in ainm

dílis Dé. Guíonn an cailín a bhfuil áilleacht

 

an bhróin ina gnúis go mbeidh sé gan

chéile nó go bhfaighidh sé í. Tá an oíche á reabadh

 

ag foireann na gclog: scuaine

scuadcharr, otharcharr is inneall dóiteáin ar a gcoimeád

 

ón tine nach féidir a mhúchadh i gcuislí

dóite na bhfear mór laistigh

 

atá mall chun na sochraide arís. In aice

an droichid, tá nodaireacht an uaignis

 

ar chuilithíní an aeir os a chionn léite

go cruinn ag an bhfear atá díreach tar éis léimt.

 

Tá an t-uisce chomh mín le bráillín, is

tonn álainn an cheoil ina bhéa

 

á bhodhradh ar bhuaireamh an tsaoil.

Leanann an ceoltóir ag seinm

 

ar na sreanganna fola a shíneann ón

gcroí go dtí béal a ghiotáir. Tá a chaoineadh

 

chomh séimh le pluid na habhann á

tarraingt os ár gcionn go léir.

 

 

 

The Singer

trans. Mary O’Donoghue

These two here in front of me
think he’s singing to only them

when he plays a loving lament,
their fingers ache to be home

where they can play on each
other till morning. The lonely

and old flames are amazed
a man they’ve never met

has the broken tunes of their dreams
off by heart on the tip of his tongue.

When he touches the strings
that tied them together the first time

ever, the married couple in the corner
move closer in spite of themselves.

When the sleeve of the man’s shirt
brushes his wife’s shoulder, a young fella

at the other end of the room
takes off his summer jumper and asks the barman

to turn the heat down for God Almighty’s sake.
The girl made lovely by sorrow prays

he’ll never rest until he finds her.
Outside, a fleet of sirens storms the night,

squadcars, ambulances and fire-brigades
running from the fire that can’t be put out

in the smoldering hearts of the men inside
who are late again for the neverending funeral.

Beside the bridge, the morse code
of loneliness broadcast on flurries

of air is clear as day to the man
who has just jumped. The water is smooth

as a sheet and he is deaf to the world
as the music fills his mouth,

washing away a world of worries.
The singer keeps on strumming

the strings that stretch from the heart
to the mouth of his guitar.

His cry is soft as the river, a blanket of water
drawn up over all our sleepy heads.