Tag Archives: Diane Wakoski

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 11, 2013 Blue Monday

Dear readers,

It’s been a long year, and I know some of you are eager to dive back into the deep and bracing waters of Diane Wakoski’s poetry. Our featured writer today has been the featured writer in mid-February going back at least 8 years. Wakoski (b. 1937) is a California native who is now most closely associated with the state of Michigan, where she’s worked and taught for decades. Her books include Coins and Coffins, The George Washington PoemsThe Motorcycle Betrayal Poems, Inside the Blood FactoryThe Emerald City of Las Vegas, and Medea the Sorceress.
Over the years we have commented on many of “Blue Monday’s” features: the wild metaphors and symbols, the repetition, the deep image, the mordant humor. Have we ever mentioned how sexy it is? This is a damn sexy poem! There are tongues, and breast, and lips, and arms, and stomachs, and gushes and rippling and flowers and a black shadow pulse, and “electricity dripping from me like cream.” Last year I said this poem arrives at the “coterminus of love and loss,” and there seems to be some kind of apostrophe (an address to the dead, or to an absent interlocutor) going on. A lover remembered, but remembered in all dimensions: the emotional, the temporal, and also the corporeal. I’ll never figure out what this poem is about. And that’s great. Happy early Valentine’s Day to all! -ed.
BLUE MONDAY
Blue and 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 soft 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 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 paints 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

May 14, 2012 Thanking My Mother for Piano Lessons

Dear readers,

In “Blue Monday” Diane Wakoski (b. 1937) describes love as a banker, remember? He wears a blue business suit and a fedora, and also black patent leather shoes and a moustache. In today’s poem–and who would think we’d find a mother’s day poem from Diane Wakoski, of all people?–all that remains is the moustache, which she spells “mustache.” Moustache is the preferred spelling, people–although she somewhat redeems herself by using the pleasing plural option at one point.

You’ll notice that Ms. Wakoski’s plan of attack here is very similar to what we see in “Blue Monday”–fiercely free verse, with the use of indentation to set off voices and themes. Long sentences, piled-up clauses, repetitions… she snaps her subject into focus through a long, multi-perspectival approach, sort of like driving all around a farmhouse before finally figuring out where the driveway is. Critic Marjorie Perloff says Wakoski “strives for a voice that is wholly natural, spontaneous, and direct. Accordingly, she avoids all fixed forms, definite rhythms, or organized image patterns in the drive to tell us the Whole Truth about herself, to be sincere.” I’d bet there are many among us who can relate to the emotional base of this poem. And double-special MV greetings to member Meg Harry, who gave birth to twins last week! -ed.

THANKING MY MOTHER FOR PIANO LESSONS

The relief of putting your fingers on the keyboard,
as if you were walking on the beach
and found a diamond
as big as a shoe;
as if
you had just built a wooden table
and the smell of sawdust was in the air,
your hands dry and woody;
as if
you had eluded
the man in the dark hat who had been following you
all week;
the relief
of putting your fingers on the keyboard,
playing the chords of
Beethoven,
Bach,
Chopin
         in an afternoon when I had no one to talk to,
         when the magazine advertisement forms of soft sweaters
         and clean shining Republican middle-class hair
         walked into carpeted houses
         and left me alone
         with bare floors and a few books
I want to thank my mother
for working every day
in a drab office
in garages and water companies
cutting the cream out of her coffee at 40
to lose weight, her heavy body
writing its delicate bookkeeper’s ledgers
alone, with no man to look at her face,
her body, her prematurely white hair
in love
         I want to thank
my mother for working and always paying for
my piano lessons
before she paid the Bank of America loan
or bought the groceries
or had our old rattling Ford repaired.
I was a quiet child,
afraid of walking into a store alone,
afraid of the water,
the sun,
the dirty weeds in back yards,
afraid of my mother’s bad breath,
and afraid of my father’s occasional visits home,
knowing he would leave again;
afraid of not having any money,
afraid of my clumsy body,
that I knew
         no one would ever love
But I played my way
on the old upright piano
obtained for $10,
played my way through fear,
through ugliness,
through growing up in a world of dime-store purchases,
and a desire to love
a loveless world.
I played my way through an ugly face
and lonely afternoons, days, evenings, nights,
mornings even, empty
as a rusty coffee can,
played my way through the rustles of spring
and wanted everything around me to shimmer like the narrow tide
on a flat beach at sunset in Southern California,
I played my way through
an empty father’s hat in my mother’s closet
and a bed she slept on only one side of,
never wrinkling an inch of
the other side,
waiting,
waiting,
I played my way through honors in school,
the only place I could
talk
       the classroom,
       or at my piano lessons, Mrs. Hillhouse’s canary always
       singing the most for my talents,
       as if I had thrown some part of my body away upon entering
       her house
       and was now searching every ivory case
       of the keyboard, slipping my fingers over black
       ridges and around smooth rocks,
       wondering where I had lost my bloody organs,
       or my mouth which sometimes opened
       like a California poppy,
       wide and with contrasts
       beautiful in sweeping fields,
       entirely closed morning and night,
I played my way from age to age,
but they all seemed ageless
or perhaps always
old and lonely,
wanting only one thing, surrounded by the dusty bitter-smelling
leaves of orange trees,
wanting only to be touched by a man who loved me,
who would be there every night
to put his large strong hand over my shoulder,
whose hips I would wake up against in the morning,
whose mustaches might brush a face asleep,
dreaming of pianos that made the sound of Mozart
and Schubert without demanding
that life suck everything
out of you each day,
without demanding the emptiness
of a timid little life.
I want to thank my mother
for letting me wake her up sometimes at 6 in the morning
when I practiced my lessons
and for making sure I had a piano
to lay my school books down on, every afternoon.
I haven’t touched the piano in 10 years,
perhaps in fear that what little love I’ve been able to
pick, like lint, out of the corners of pockets,
will get lost,
slide away,
into the terribly empty cavern of me
if I ever open it all the way up again.
Love is a man
with a mustache
gently holding me every night,
always being there when I need to touch him;
he could not know the painfully loud
music from the past that
his loving stops from pounding, banging,
battering through my brain,
which does its best to destroy the precarious gray matter when I
am alone;
he does not hear Mrs. Hillhouse’s canary singing for me,
liking the sound of my lesson this week,
telling me,
confirming what my teacher says,
that I have a gift for the piano
few of her other pupils had.
When I touch the man
I love,
I want to thank my mother for giving me
piano lessons
all those years,
keeping the memory of Beethoven,
a deaf tortured man,
in mind;
            of the beauty that can come
from even an ugly
past.

Feb 13, 2012 Blue Monday

Dear readers,
once again we find ourselves together on Valentine’s Day–were you expecting it? Did you forget? Were you lulled into complacency by the general misery that is the month of February? Has the quotidian grind of work-a-while adult existence ground you into a fine, dullish grey powder? Well prepare to be rehydrated by the blue, watery depths of Michigan poet Diane Wakoski’s greatest work, our annual hymn to the coterminus of love and loss. -ed.
BLUE MONDAY
Blue and 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 soft 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 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 paints 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

Monday’s Verse, Feb. 15, 2010

Welcome to Monday’s Verse’s annual Valentine’s Day edition, when we celebrate the work of Diane Wakoski, b. 8/3/37. Ms. Wakoski teaches creative writing at Michigan State; she has published numerous volumes of poetry, and one collection of critical essays. Her early work was considered to be part of the short-lived “deep image” school of American poetry, where image and symbol interact in an often stylized and dramatic way. Resonances within the poem itself tend to produce a “sense” of what the poem is doing, as opposed to meaning that stems from narrative, rhyme, or emotional appeal. That seems to be particularly the case in “Blue Monday,” one of the best poems I’ve ever read, in its skillful use of repetition.

Critics have written of Ms. Wakoski’s use of archetype, fantastic images, personae, and a deeply personal mythology, and I think those elements are here, too. Nebulous terrors take the form of sharks swimming in an unlikely place. Love is a banker. Dreamy images of blue trains and blue herons conjure mystery, even as they are among the most sensible of her images. More importantly, here’s what MV readers have had to say about the poem:

“well this makes me want to throw myself into oncoming traffic on valentine’s day…this one is deep.”

“mrs. wakoski rolls repetition down the page in a way that pulls you down with it.  this is nicer left on paper, i think.  it would depend who was reading it for me to so willingly trail after their voice as i do her lines.  i was always taught not to follow strangers, especially ones bearing candy or poetry.  shady folks, so i’m told.”

“Absolutely beautiful. I especially like:

blue of her teeth
that bite cold toast
and shatter on the streets

“That is depressing. This is the first time I’ve read this one. Does the poem change point of view after the first block, or is the narrator talking about different people?”

“I love this poem! The imagery is so poignant. Depressing? I guess so but so true of Mondays when one is fixated on finding love. When we want love it does seem cold and distant–alienating.”

Without further ado, happy Monday. -ed.

BLUE MONDAY

Blue and 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 soft 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 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 paints 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

Monday’s Verse, February 14/09

The past two Valentine’s Days I have made short stabs at explicating this Diane Wakoski poem, a MV tradition for about 8-9 years. This year it will speak for itself. Beware, enjoy, and have a great week. -ed.

BLUE MONDAY

Blue and 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 soft 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 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 paints 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

Monday’s Verse 2-11-08

Greetings, earthlings.


Diane Wakoski. Who is she? All I know is that, like my dad, she was born in 1937. And like my dad, has had a terrific impact on my life. But unlike my dad, solely through my experience with a singe poem of hers, a poem we’ve been running to celebrate Valentine’s Day in this forum since at least 2001, a poem I’ve called among the best I’ve ever read. It’s a Monday morning and this shit is heavy, so sit back, finish your sudoku, get that 2nd cup of coffee and a handful of Kleenex, and let’s go to town. In years past I’ve said a thing or two about how/why this poem works on me (and recommended reading it aloud), but for now I think I’ll demur and let the tyros have their hearts broken alla prima, and perhaps let the veterans say their piece. Peace? Happy Valentine’s Day. ~mjl






BLUE MONDAY



Blue and 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 soft 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 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 paints 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