Sunday, September 17, 2017

Voice (Looking Back, Looking Ahead)

Yesterday's panel discussion on the definition(s) of voice in poetry was a wonderful experience. I was sitting between two poets whose distinctive voices were heard immediately. I talked too much about image, as I am wont to do. I became a little less certain of my own voice, which is not a bad thing—it feels like a beginning, the possibility of a new way.

Thank you, Norma Bernstock, for inviting me to be a part of this, for believing I deserved to be a part of this.

And then I had vivid dreams all night, as I always do when I attend a poetry event and listen intently to all those voices. A hummingbird turned into a kitten—and that's the least abnormal thing I can recall from the night's subconscious escapades.

I don't usually turn to my dreams (or anyone else's) for poetic inspiration, but...


dream image
his face the only
silence the only
hummingbird the only
normal tone

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Voice 2

I write in order to give voice.
I write in order to find voice.

One cricket, louder than his brethren.

All night, dozens of crickets who appreciate my diminished gardening zeal.

Four more days, summer. Why so quiet?

Canvas or camera or clay—the ones who discover their true voices thus.

There will come a day, soon, when the autumn breeze is just too much for us, and the wind chimes are moved to their winter home in the basement.

Voice. Definition(s) of. Today, Saturday, September 16, 2017, at the Dimmick Inn, Milford, Pennsylvania, 2:00-4:00. A panel discussion, with lots of poetry included. Free. All are welcome. Bring questions. Bring your voice.

Friday, September 15, 2017


I'll be part of a panel discussion (with lots of poetry being read during the discussion, as well) on the topic of "Poetry and the Definition of Voice," tomorrow, Saturday, September 16, as part of the Milford Reads and Writers Festival in Milford, Pennsylvania. Thanks to Norma Bernstock for assembling this panel and leading the discussion, which, besides Norma and me, includes poets Martin Farawell and U-Meleni Mhlaba-Adebo. This event is free! Come see us at the Dimmick Inn in Milford, PA, from 2:00 to 4:00. 

I've got a new poem that I might read, some Lavinia poems, some Thoreau poems, and some poems by some of my favorite poets, all with an ear toward what constitutes "authentic voice" in a poem. It should be a wonderful discussion/reading! See you at the Dimmick tomorrow afternoon. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Worst Part (Haibun and Haiga, for Hurricane Season)

The Worst Part

must be watching it all go // or afterwards, looking back at the years of denial and recognizing it as denial // or later, remembering // or later, apologies to what was forgotten // or stepping once more into a calm ocean // replacing—replacing is the worst // deciding one can, in fact, do without // the waiting for some kind of normal // the normal, when it arrives uninvited, unannounced // wondering where it all went // the one or two things you managed to keep, now burdened with this new knowledge // denial as crucial to not giving up right here, right now // the dry room // each evening's forecast for the morrow // that one photograph, a child's boat taken by the wind



Sunday, September 3, 2017

Cocoon (Haibun)


these are not images from last night's dream / these are images from some future dream / the past is some future dream / what do you think you see, looking down through the dark water / what happens within the cocoon / what happens when one hand holds another / why the change in tone / why the change

/in the garden/
a caterpillar transforms
/from me to you/

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

How to Unhear

I have been struggling lately with how to unhear the words of fools. The words of fools taunt us from almost every direction these days, becoming auditory parasites. We can't laugh them off, because the words themselves are so hateful and inhumane that they feel personal. Even the innocuous ones attach to memory and block out some of the joy and freedom and light that language used to offer. Laughter used to help, but less and less is funny these days, except in a satirical, ironic way, which isn't funny so much as bitter.

Only the occasional immersion in paradox seems to offer relief. Standing in a place where I can see a river standing still. Being invisible myself, so that a fish feeds at my feet. Providing welcome relief in the form of the shade of my hatbrim to a hundred or so gnats on a hot August day. The moment is just that—a moment—but in recognizing and naming a paradox, I have managed to unhear the words of fools. Even now, it has a lingering benefit: as I try to name the paradox, the auditory parasites go silent.

Yeats's speaker in "The Lake Isle of Innisfree" discovered this technique. "There midnight's all aglimmer...." Voila. Peace.

Emily Dickinson was especially sensitive to the words of fools, each one like a little death to someone who knew she had precious little time to waste. So she found her own paradox in each moment, perhaps as a way to immediately drown out the words of fools. "I heard a fly buzz, when I died." "Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me."

It takes mental agility, discipline, the will to transform reaction into action in the form of one's own thoughts. It isn't easy, but self-preservation demands of us that we practice this technique. I'm not talking about forgetting—the words of fools should be catalogued and studied and held up as examples of how to recognize future fools. But we do not each need the constant burden of these auditory parasites sucking the joy of language and life from us. To unhear for a moment, use that moment to see.

becomes a sunrise
this meadow
at sunrise

becomes a meadow
this sunrise
over meadow

Saturday, August 12, 2017

What Do These Things Mean [period]

A quick "scrap-sketch" collage has me thinking the phrase, "What do these things mean," not as a question but as a statement meant to exercise my consciousness into articulating the reason(s) for art. Collage provides a of stream-of-consciousness or "scrap association" creativity, and I often find myself drawing parallels between collage and poetry, or at least the processes of collage and poetry.

So what do these things mean.

Beauty for its own sake, resonating in an unspoken and deeply personal place, means everything. Means life.

Connections, whether planned or serendipitous, multiply meaning into belonging.

We are all in there somehow. These things mean us.

A little map. A little text. A little Leonardo. A little face. A little hand. A little flora.

An image here. Then this one.

We are lost. We are found.

What we mean. What I mean.

What do these things matter.