Friday, April 30, 2010

Ethical Alchemy

Photo by Anne-Marie Conard

"I say that religion isn't about believing things. It's ethical alchemy. It's about behaving in a way that changes you, that gives you intimations of holiness and sacredness."

~ Karen Armstrong

Thursday, April 29, 2010

When the Space Gets Too Large for Words

Cape Cod Morning, Edward Hopper

Waving Goodbye
by Wesley McNair, from Lovers of the Lost

Why, when we say goodbye
at the end of an evening, do we deny
we are saying it at all, as in We'll
be seeing you, or I'll call, or Stop in,
somebody's always at home? Meanwhile, our friends,
telling us the same things, go on disappearing
beyond the porch light into the space
which except for a moment here or there
is always between us, no matter what we do.
Waving goodbye, of course, is what happens
when the space gets too large
for words — a gesture so innocent
and lonely, it could make a person weep
for days. Think of the hundreds of unknown
voyagers in the old, fluttering newsreel
patting and stroking the growing distance
between their nameless ship and the port
they are leaving, as if to promise I'll always
remember, and just as urgently, Always
remember me. It is loneliness, too,
that makes the neighbor down the road lift
two fingers up from his steering wheel as he passes
day after day on his way to work in the hello
that turns into goodbye? What can our own raised
fingers do for him, locked in his masculine
purposes and speeding away inside the glass?
How can our waving wipe away the reflex
so deep in the woman next door to smile
and wave on her way into her house with the mail,
we'll never know if she is happy
or sad or lost? It can't. Yet in that moment
before she and all the others and we ourselves
turn back to our disparate lives, how
extraordinary it is that we make this small flag
with our hands to show the closeness we wish for
in spite of what pulls us apart again
and again: the porch light snapping off,
the car picking its way down the road through the dark.

[Thanks Kit!]

What Happened to Fiery Romance?

Andrew Bird Live at the Guthrie Theatre 2008

by Andrew Bird

Why? Why’d you do that
You shouldn’t have done that
If I told you once I told you three times
You’ll get your punishments when you show me your crimes
It’s not a spell or a curse you put on me
Or the way you make me smile so tenderly
But how I wish it was your temper you were throwing
Damn you for being so easygoing

I thought that time would tell
My sins would provoke you to raise some hell
Not a chance
Whatever happened to fiery romance
Oh how I wish it was those dishes you were throwing
Damn you for being so easygoing

No, don’t give that line
Don’t try to tell me that inaction is not a crime
Can’t you see what kind of seeds you’re sowing?
Damn you for being so easygoing

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Look Back Then I Look Away

Samantha Crain
from You (Understood) which comes out June 8th

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Creating Illusions

A PowerPoint diagram meant to portray the complexity of American strategy in Afghanistan.

“[PowerPoint] is dangerous because it can create the illusion of understanding and the illusion of control. Some problems in the world are not bullet-izable.”

~ Brig. Gen. H. R. McMaster, from “We Have Met the Enemy and He is PowerPoint,” by Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times, April 26, 2010

Sunday, April 25, 2010

It is Easier to Think

Spring 2010 Loveland, Ohio

“In poetry I have a few axioms, and you will see how far I am from their center.

1st. I think poetry should surprise by a fine excess, and not by singularity; it should strike the reader as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a remembrance.

2nd. Its touches of beauty should never be half-way, thereby making the reader breathless, instead of content. The rise, the progress, the setting of imagery should, like the sun, come natural to him, shine over him, and set soberly, although in magnificence, leaving him in the luxury of twilight.

But it is easier to think what poetry should be, than to write it. And this leads me to another axiom—That if poetry comes not as naturally as the leaves to a tree, it had better not come at all.”

~ John Keats,  from a letter to John Taylor, February 27, 1818

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Constantly Keeping Track

Excerpts from "Sleep," Radiolab, May 25, 2007:

sticky-notes Robert Krulwich: Robert Stickgold has the theory that as you go through your day, your brain is constantly keeping track of emotional content. Your brain is going to flag that stuff, It says, Oh, I need to remember so I can work on it later. I’m going to put a sticky on this one.

Robert Stickgold: So if it puts a sticky on everything that’s hard during the day, then all the brain has to do when it’s creating a dream is go and grab stickies.

Jad Abumrad: Stickgold thinks he’s seeing the outline if the dream-making process here. It starts really simply at the very beginning of sleep, right after you fall asleep, with the replay. This, he suspects, is just the brain emptying out its stickies.

Robert Krulwich: Are you at all puzzled by the super-duper, Technicolor, extraordinarily cinematic qualities of some of these [dreams]? Because if it were just an everyday brain function to sort of make sense of the world and allow you to make new connections, you wouldn’t really need quit the movie quality.

Robert Stickgold: When we talk about dreams, what seems to come into dreams are memories, concepts, relationships, associations that have a strong emotional flavor and — I’m guessing from the data — need a full-blown orchestration to be properly processed.

“Sleep is the annihilation of consciousness, so it’s a terrible time in which everything disappears — the universe and yourself with it. I think if people didn’t sleep and didn’t have the unconsciousness of sleep, they possibly wouldn’t even realize that consciousness is an enormous gift.”

~ Dr. Giulio Tunoni

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Slowing Down Remembrance of Things Fast

“…fear does not actually speed up our rate of perception or mental processing. Instead, it allows us to remember what we do experience in greater detail. Since our perception of time is based on the number of things we remember, fearful experiences thus seem to unfold more slowly.”

From “How the Brain Stops Time,” by Jeff Wise, Psychology Today, March 13, 2010

Stetson C, Fiesta MP, & Eagleman DM. (2007). Does time really slow down during a frightening event? PloS One. 2 (12).

Continuing to Signal

The Signal
by Sharon Olds, from One Secret Thing

When they brought his body back, they told
his wife how he'd died:
the general thought they had taken the beach,
and sent in his last reserves. In the smokescreen,
the boats moved toward shore. Her husband
was the first man in the first boat
to move through the smoke and see the sand
dark with bodies, the tanks burning,
the guns thrown down, the landing craft
wrecked and floored with blood. In the path of the
bullets and shells from the shore, her husband had
put on a pair of white gloves
and turned his back on the enemy,
motioning to the boats behind him
to turn back. After everyone else
on his boat was dead
he continued to signal, then he, too,
was killed, but the other boats had seen him
and turned back. They gave his wife the medal,
and she buried him, and at night floated through
a wall of smoke, and saw him at a distance
standing in a boat, facing her,
the gloves blazing on his hands as he motioned her back.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Listening Transforms the Listener

Excerpts from Taking Our Places by Norman Fischer:

Taking Our Places “Listening is magic: it turns a person from an object outside, opaque or dimly threatening, into an intimate experience, and therefore into a friend. In this way, listening softens and transforms the listener.

Listening is basic and crucial because it is the soil out of which all the fruits of our human relationships grow. Listening takes radical openness to another, and radical openness requires surrender. This is why listening is frightening, although we don’t usually think of it that way. It requires a kind of fearless self-confidence that most of us have never developed.

…If you want to stay open to life and to change, you have to listen. To listen, really listen, is to accord respect. Without respect, no human relationship can function normally, for the pain and hurt that inevitably arise from disrespect eventually pervert it. When your mind is occupied (usually quite unconsciously) with your own thoughts and plans and strategies and defenses, you are not listening. And when you are not listening, you are not according respect. The speaker knows this and reacts accordingly.

It doesn’t take a psychic to know that someone is not really listening. We all know whether or not we are being listened to. But we are so accustomed to not being listened to that we take it for granted and even see it as normal. This is why it is so startling, and so powerful, almost magical, when we are actually heard by another person within the openness of true listening.

Perhaps the most common and pernicious form of nonlistening is our nonlistening to ourselves. So much of what we actually feel and think is unacceptable to us. We have been conditioned over a lifetime to simply not hear all of our own self-pity, anger, desire, jealousy, wonder. Most of what we take to be our adult response is no more than our unconscious decision not to listen to what goes on inside us. And as with any human relationship, not listening to ourselves damages our self-respect. It occludes the free flow of love from ourselves to ourselves. To allow ourselves to feel what we actually do feel—not to be afraid or dismayed but to open up a space inside our hearts large enough to safely contain what we feel, with the faith that whatever comes up is workable and even necessary—this is what any healthy, mature human being needs to do and what we so often fail to do.”

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A Period of Stagnation

Excerpts from “The Boring Age,” by Michael Lind, Time, March 11, 2010:

Illustration by Kelly Blair for TIME We like to believe we live in an era of unprecedented change: technological innovation is proceeding at a rate with no parallel in all of human history. The information revolution and globalization are radically disruptive. Just as Barack Obama would like to be a transformational President, so the rest of us like the idea that we live in a thrilling epoch of transformation. But the truth is that we are living in a period of stagnation.

Surprisingly, this stasis is most evident in an area where we assume we are way ahead of our predecessors: technology. In fact, the gadgets of the information age have had nothing like the transformative effects on life and industry that indoor electric lighting, refrigerators, electric and natural gas ovens and indoor plumbing produced in the early to mid-20th century. Is the combination of a phone, video screen and keyboard really as revolutionary as the original telephone, the original television set or the original typewriter was?

…I predict that in the year 2050, the nation-state will still be the dominant form of political organization, with a few new nation-states added to the U.N. The U.S. will still be the dominant global economic and military power, even if China has a somewhat larger GDP because of its larger population. Most energy will still be derived from fossil fuels, and nuclear power will account for an increasing share of global electricity production, while wind and solar power will still be negligible. Most people will get from place to place by means of cars, buses, taxis and planes, not fixed rail. Thanks to biotech advances, people will live longer and healthier lives, and consequently the largest single occupation in 2050 will be — drumroll, please — nursing!

I know, that's a boring vision of the future compared with a Chinese century in which everybody is a genetically modified immortal who rides monorails and eats algae grown in skyscrapers. But hey, in the future, phones will be really cool.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

At the Centre

by Har-Prakash Khalsa

Seeing Beyond Superficial Differences

Michael McCullough from “Getting Revenge and Forgiveness,” a conversation with Krista Tippett, Speaking of Faith, March 25, 2010:

Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct “I think one of the best things we can do with religious faith is give people an appetite for difference. And the major world religions all have the resources for doing this, for getting people excited about people who are different from them.

It's not every brand, right, that exercises that prerogative, but in the scriptures and traditions of every world religion that has been successful on a grand scale, there is a story there about the love of difference.

Compassion toward difference. Caring for the strangers in your midst. Being able to see beyond superficial differences toward the essential commonalities.

Religion is also good at appealing to people's meaner sides and the more brutish side and the resources are there for both. So it's really up to those people who have a passion for reconciliation in their own faiths to make sure that the right tones are struck and the others are a little bit more muted.

…I wish we could come up with a completely new word for what this human trait is or maybe find some new way to talk about it so that we could unload a little bit of the baggage from the past, because some of the baggage is that it's sort of a namby-pamby thing that doormats do or wimps do.

You know, only sort of milquetoast types of people are interested in. But from everything I've managed to read and see and understand in my own work it's that forgiveness is a brawny muscular exercise that I kind of imagine someone with a great passion for life and a great hardy sort of disposition being able to take on.”

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Killing Time

by Rae Armantrout, from Versed

for Aaron Korkegian

Rae Armantrout has won the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for poetry for “Versed,” her 10th collection. Complex systems can arise
from simple rules.
It's not
that we want to survive,
it's that we've been drugged
and made to act
as if we do
while all the while
the sea breaks
and rolls, painlessly, under.
If we're not copying it,
we're lonely.
Is this the knowledge
that demands to be
passed down?
Time is made from swatches
of heaven and hell.
If we're not killing it,
we're hungry.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ego-Free States

The hookah-smoking caterpillar in Tim's Burton's Alice in Wonderland.

Excerpts from “Hallucinogens Have Doctors Tuning In Again,” by John Tierney, New York Times, April 12, 2010:

Researchers from around the world are gathering this week in San Jose, California, for the largest conference on psychedelic science held in the United States in four decades. They plan to discuss studies of psilocybin and other psychedelics for treating depression in cancer patients, obsessive-compulsive disorder, end-of-life anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and addiction to drugs or alcohol.

…Scientists are especially intrigued by the similarities between hallucinogenic experiences and the life-changing revelations reported throughout history by religious mystics and those who meditate. These similarities have been identified in neural imaging studies conducted by Swiss researchers and in experiments led by Roland Griffiths, a professor of behavioral biology at Johns Hopkins.

…“There’s this coming together of science and spirituality,” said Rick Doblin, the executive director of Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies. “We’re hoping that the mainstream and the psychedelic community can meet in the middle and avoid another culture war. Thanks to changes over the last 40 years in the social acceptance of the hospice movement and yoga and meditation, our culture is much more receptive now, and we’re showing that these drugs can provide benefits that current treatments can’t.”

Dr. Charles S. Grob, a psychiatrist who is involved in an experiment at U.C.L.A., describes it as “existential medicine” that helps dying people overcome fear, panic and depression.

“Under the influences of hallucinogens,” Dr. Grob writes, “individuals transcend their primary identification with their bodies and experience ego-free states before the time of their actual physical demise, and return with a new perspective and profound acceptance of the life constant: change.”

Read the entire article here…

[Thanks Dōshin!]

Truth Versus Gossip

Photo study for The Gossips from Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera

“Rumors are a great source of comfort for people…When you’re looking at truth versus gossip, truth doesn’t stand a chance.”

~ Barbara Mikkelson of, from “Debunkers of Fictions Sift the Net,” by Brian Stelter, New York Times, April 4, 2010

Monday, April 12, 2010

Both the Problem and the Solution

Listen to this short, remarkable story about a clever strategy which a nursing home in Düsseldorf, Germany came up with to address the problem of disoriented residents wandering away.

“It’s like another thought comes up and you forget what you wanted. It’s like fishes coming up to the surface of the water and then going down again. Thoughts come up and they disappear and you don’t know that they have ever been there. You forget.”

~ Richard Neureither (translated by Regine Hauch) for “The Bus Stop,” by Lulu Miller, Radiolab, March 23, 2010

by Company of Thieves

I'm angry all the time
No one's fault but mine
Tell me how you fashion kind
When you're out of style

And I try hard to answer
All the questions that you've posed
Tell me now how should I care
When I feel so alone
And so unloved

The pressure is rising
I mean it, it's binding
I've been compromising for you

When you come home really late at night
Ripe to pick a fight
I know just the kind you'd like
So come on and bite

And I try hard to answer
All the punches that you throw
Tell me now how should I fair
When I feel so unloved and so alone

The pressure is rising
I mean it, it's binding
I've been compromising for you

The pressure is rising
I've been compromising for you
I'm waiting at the bus stop in the morning
And it's pouring

Oh, I am waiting at the bust stop for you
Staring at walls with closed doors
The key that won't work
Sure helps the time pass by
Saying I'm wrong when I'm wrong
Knowing it's the right thing
Sure helps the thoughts in my mind

The pressure is rising
I mean it, it's binding
I've been compromising for you
You, you

I am waiting at the bus stop
In the morning
And it's boring

by Company of Thieves

I'm angry all the time
No one's fault but mine
Tell me how you fashion kind
When you're out of style

And I try hard to answer
All the questions that you've posed
Tell me now how should I care
When I feel so alone
And so unloved

The pressure is rising
I mean it, it's binding
I've been compromising for you

When you come home really late at night
Ripe to pick a fight
I know just the kind you'd like
So come on and bite

And I try hard to answer
All the punches that you throw
Tell me now how should I fair
When I feel so unloved and so alone

The pressure is rising
I mean it, it's binding
I've been compromising for you

The pressure is rising
I've been compromising for you
I'm waiting at the bus stop in the morning
And it's pouring

Oh, I am waiting at the bust stop for you
Staring at walls with closed doors
The key that won't work
Sure helps the time pass by
Saying I'm wrong when I'm wrong
Knowing it's the right thing
Sure helps the thoughts in my mind

The pressure is rising
I mean it, it's binding
I've been compromising for you
You, you

I am waiting at the bus stop
In the morning
And it's boring

Stillness at Birdcall

Grailville Retreat Center in Loveland, Ohio

Ornithology in a World of Flux
by Robert Penn Warren, from The Collected Poems of Robert Penn Warren

It was only a bird call at evening,
As I came from the spring with water,
Across the rocky back-pasture;
But I stood so still sky above was
not stiller than sky in pale-water.
Years past, all places and faces
fade, some people have died,
And I stand in a far land, the evening
still, and am at last sure
That I miss more that stillness at
birdcall than some things that
were to fail later.

[Thanks Rebecca Bradshaw!]

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Counting Loved Ones

Conception Abbey in Conception, Missouri Photo by Donna Forgey used with permission.

A Remedy for Insomnia
by Vera Pavlova, number 66 in the hundred poems that make up her collection If There Is Something To Desire

Not sheep coming down the hills,
not cracks on the ceiling—
count the ones you loved,
the former tenants of dreams
who would keep you awake,
once meant the world to you,
rocked you in their arms,
those who loved you . . .
You will fall asleep, by dawn, in tears.


“The only thing I hope for is that, regardless of what the outward world is for different people, different nations, I hope their internal world is similar. And if I, hopefully, have managed to somehow describe my inner world in this book, all I count on is that it will have some resonance among the American readers, or, at the very least, the American readers will treat this book as a kind of a guidebook for my inner world, strange as it may appear.”

~ Vera Pavlova

Friday, April 09, 2010

Going Down the Road

“"Oh, there's many a time you're just going down the road at O-dark-thirty in the morning and you just start thinking about a particular pattern."

~ Long-haul trucker Dave White, on his newfound passion for quilting, “Idle Pastime: In Off Hours, Truckers Pick Up Stitching,” Wall Street Journal, March 29, 2010


[Thanks Kit!]

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Tip Me Over, Pour Me Out

My friend Dōshin Owen spotted this compelling piece by Lesley Dill at the Kemper Museum of Modern Art recently.

Poem Spill, 1995
paint, plaster, collage, wire and wood

Photo by Dōshin Owen

Here’s a description from Voices in My Head, a 1995 exhibit of works by Lesley Dill: “The exhibition [consisted] of large—12 feet long—hanging cloths of muslin or gauze, each silkscreened with an image of a figure or part of a figure. The surface is stained with tea, paint and varnish, and in most cases collaged with pieces of cloth, stitched with thread, or even burned. Fragments of Emily Dickinson's poems are painted directly on the figure, or are stamped on or below the images, even cut out of the cloth. The inspiration for this series are the Buddhist prayer flags that captivated Dill during her stays in India and Nepal. These flags, pieces of cloth on which prayers have been printed, are hung, sometimes in great numbers, outside of temples or in sacred places to blow in the wind. Used to convey prayers, they are imbued with a powerful sense of spirituality.”

Photo by Dōshin Owen

One need not be a Chamber — to be Haunted —
One need not be a House —
The Brain has Corridors — surpassing
Material Place —

Far safer, of a Midnight Meeting
External Ghost
Than its interior Confronting —
That Cooler Host.

Far safer, through an Abbey gallop,
The Stones a'chase —
Than Unarmed, one's a'self encounter —
In lonesome Place —

Ourself behind ourself, concealed —
Should startle most —
Assassin hid in our Apartment
Be Horror's least.

The Body — borrows a Revolver —
He bolts the Door —
O'erlooking a superior spectre —
Or More —

Making Time

Excerpts from “Time Lost and Found,” by Anne Lamott, Sunset:

Anne Lamott, photographed for Sunset by James Hall I sometimes teach classes on writing, during which I tell my students every single thing I know about the craft and habit. This takes approximately 45 minutes. I begin with my core belief—and the foundation of almost all wisdom traditions—that there is nothing you can buy, achieve, own, or rent that can fill up that hunger inside for a sense of fulfillment and wonder. But the good news is that creative expression, whether that means writing, dancing, bird-watching, or cooking, can give a person almost everything that he or she has been searching for: enlivenment, peace, meaning, and the incalculable wealth of time spent quietly in beauty.

Then I bring up the bad news: You have to make time to do this.

…I know how addictive busyness and mania are. But I ask them whether, if their children grow up to become adults who spend this one precious life in a spin of multitasking, stress, and achievement, and then work out four times a week, will they be pleased that their kids also pursued this kind of whirlwind life?

If not, if they want much more for their kids, lives well spent in hard work and savoring all that is lovely, why are they living this manic way?

…Time is not free—that’s why it’s so precious and worth fighting for.

Will they give me one hour of housecleaning in exchange for the poetry reading? Or wash the car just one time a month, for the turtles? No? I understand. But at 80, will they be proud that they spent their lives keeping their houses cleaner than anyone else in the family did, except for mad Aunt Beth, who had the vapors? Or that they kept their car polished to a high sheen that made the neighbors quiver with jealousy? Or worked their fingers to the bone providing a high quality of life, but maybe accidentally forgot to be deeply and truly present for their kids, and now their grandchildren?

I think it’s going to hurt. What fills us is real, sweet, dopey, funny life.

I’ve heard it said that every day you need half an hour of quiet time for yourself, or your Self, unless you’re incredibly busy and stressed, in which case you need an hour. I promise you, it is there. Fight tooth and nail to find time, to make it. It is our true wealth, this moment, this hour, this day.

Read the entire article…

[Thanks Kit!]

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Wider and Deeper

“In Zen literature the word intimacy is often used as a synonym for enlightenment. In the classical Zen enlightenment stories, a monk or a nun is reduced simultaneously to tears and laughter as he or she suddenly recognizes that nothing in this world is separate, that each and every thing, including one’s own self, is nothing but the whole, and that the whole is nothing but the self. What are such stories telling us if not that love is much wider and deeper than an emotion? Love is the fruition of, the true shape of, one’s self and all that is.”

~ Norman Fischer, from Taking Our Places

Life in Itself is Nothing

April 2010

by Edna St. Vincent Millay, from Millay: Poems (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets)

To what purpose, April, do you return again?
Beauty is not enough.
You can no longer quiet me with the redness
Of little leaves opening stickily
I know what I know.
The sun is hot on my neck as I observe
The spikes of the crocus.
The smell of the earth is good.
It is apparent that there is no death
But what does that signify?
Not only under the ground are the brains of men
Eaten by maggots.
Life in itself
Is nothing,
An empty cup, a flight of uncarpeted stairs.
It is not enough that yearly, down this hill,
Comes like an idiot, babbling and strewing flowers.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Seeing Each Other

Abramovic, left, with Karen Dorothee Peters. Photo by Joshua Bright for The New York Times. The Artist is Present

“Time was passing, but I couldn’t tell…The overwhelming feeling I had was that you think you can understand a person just by looking at them, but when you look at them over a long period of time, you understand how impossible that is. I felt connected, but I don’t know how far the connection goes…We insulate ourselves in New York City. Everyone goes around with headphones. It’s one of the fantastic things about New York: you can be near all these people, and still be in your own head.”

~ Dan Visel, on sitting across a table from artist Marina Abramovic, from “Confronting a Stranger, for Art,” by Jim Dwyer, New York Times, April 2, 2010

[Thanks Matt!]

Sunday, April 04, 2010

From the Beginning

Ab Ovo
by Joseph Brodsky, from So Forth

Ultimately, there should be a language
in which the word "egg" is reduced to O
entirely. The Italian comes the closest,
naturally, with its uova. That's why Alighieri thought
it the healthiest food, sharing the predilection
with sopranos and tenors whose pear-like torsos
in the final analysis embody "opera."
eggsThe same pertains to the truly Romantic, that is,
German poets, with practically every line
starting the way they'd begin a breakfast,
or to the equally cocky mathematicians
brooding over their regularly laid infinity,
whose immaculate zeros won't ever hatch.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

Poetry Blows the Roof Off at CIFF


From “Louder Than a Film Festival,” by Clint O’Connor, The Plain Dealer (March 29, 2010):

Poetry, let alone high school poetry, is not supposed to outshine flashy films from around the globe. But "Louder Than a Bomb," a documentary about the inspiring teens of a huge poetry slam in Chicago, thrilled the audiences and judges at the 34th Cleveland International Film Festival.

The movie, which had its world premiere here, won both the Roxanne T. Mueller Audience Choice Award for best film, and the Greg Gund Memorial Standing Up Film Competition, which honors movies about social justice and activism, and includes a $5,000 prize for co-directors Jon Siskel and Greg Jacobs.


First Real Blackout Poem on the iPad

by Austin Kleon


From Next to Next

by Dan Chiasson, from Where's the Moon, There's the Moon

5. Next

If you can orbit the planet, why can't you see
what makes the human heart happy?
Is it art or is it sex?
Or is it, as I suspect, just keeping going

from next thing to next thing
to next thing to next thing
to next to next to next to next
pulsating stupidly to outlast time?

Friday, April 02, 2010

Ism After Ism

Poems should be more like essays and essays should be more like poems.

~ Charles Olson

Two of every sort shall thou bring into the Ark.

~ Genesis

*     *     *

by Stephen Dunn, from Riffs and Reciprocities: Prose Pairs

Riffs & Reciprocities: Prose Pairs First, it was more about mystery than about trying to get us to behave. Whichever, we’re still in some lonely cave, not far from that moment a lightning storm or a sunset drove us to invent the upper reaches of the sky. Religion is proof that a good story, we'll-told, is a powerful thing. Proof, too, that terror makes fabulists of us all. We’re pitiful, finally, and so oddly valiant. The dead god rising into ism after ism—that longing for coherence that keeps us, if not naive, historically challenged. To love Christ you must love the Buddha, to love Mohammed or Moses you must love Confucius and, say Schopenhauer and Nietzsche as well. They were all wise and unsponsored and insufficient, some of the best of us. I’m saying this to myself: the sacred cannot be found unless you give up some old version of it. And when you do, mon semblable, mon frère, I swear there’ll be an emptiness it’ll take a lifetime to fill. Indulge, become capacious, give up nothing, Jack my corner grocer said. He was pushing the portobellos, but I was listening with that other, my neediest ear.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

The Uncovering of Language to Its Sacred Condition

“I do feel that images are gifts. I don’t know if they create the soul, but they certainly reveal it. The image is a revelation of sorts, therefore apocalyptic as opposed to ecliptic. While eclipses cover, an apocalypse is an uncovering. The writing of a poem is the uncovering of language to its sacred condition. Many people who don’t write poetry think that poetry is prettified language. But poetry undresses language down to its manifold meaning. I keep imagining the body of God naked, radiating meaning and significance and voice; somehow we cover it, and dress it up so it becomes prose. And I feel like images come from the body; it’s kind of a body wisdom. ”

~ Li-Young Lee, from “Poems from God,” by Amy Pence, Poets & Writers, November/December 2001 (subscription required)

* * *

To Life
by Li-Young Lee, from Behind My Eyes: Poems

Behind My Eyes: Poems Who hasn’t thought, “Take me with you,”
hearing the wind go by?
And finding himself left behind, resumed
his own true version of time
on earth, a seed fallen here to die
and be born a thing promised
in the one dream
every cell of him has dreamed headlong
since infancy, every common minute has served.
Born twice, he has two mothers, one who dies, and one
the mortar in which he’s tried. His double
nature cleaves his eye, splits his voice.
So if you hear him say, while he sits at the bed
of one mother, “Take me home,”
listen closer. To Life,
he says, “Keep me at heart.”

Tearing the Page
by Li-Young Lee

Every wise child is sad.

Every prince, is a member of the grass.

Each bud opening opens on the unforeseen.

Every wind-strewn flower is God tearing God.

And the stars are leaves
blown across my grandmother’s lap.
Or the dew multiplying.

And of time’s many hands, who can tell
the bloody from the perfumed,

the ones that stitch
from the ones that rip.

Every laughing child is forgetful.
Every solitary child rules the universe.

And the child who can’t sleep
learns to count, a patient child.

And the child who counts negotiates
between limit and longing,
infinity and subtraction.

Every child who listens
all night to the wind eventually

knows his breathing turns a wheel
pouring time and dream to leave no trace.

Though he can’t tell what a minute weighs,
or is an hour too little or too long.

As old as night itself,
he’s not old enough in the morning
to heat his milk on the stove.

But he knows about good-byes.
Some of them, anyway. The good-bye
at the door each morning, a kiss for a kiss.
The good-bye at bedtime,
stories and songs until it’s safe to close his eyes.

And maybe he’s even heard about the waiting room
at Union Station, where dust and echoes climb
to the great skylights

accompanied by farewells
of the now-going, to join the distant
farewells of the long gone,

while a voice announces the departure
of the Twentieth Century for all points West.

Yes, every wise child is heart-broken.
A sorrowing pip,

he knows the play
he’s called away from each evening
is the beginning and end of order
in a human household.

He’s sure his humming to himself
and his rising and falling ball are appointed
by ancient laws his own heart-tides obey.

But he can’t tell anybody what he knows.

Old enough to knot his shoelaces,
he’s not old enough to unknot them.

Old enough to pray, he doesn’t always
know who to pray to.

Old enough to know to close the window
when it storms, old enough to know the rain,
given the chance, would fall on him,

and darken him, and darken him, the way
he himself colors the figures
he draws, pressing so hard he tears the page.