Friday, February 24, 2017

Going Dark

I need to "go dark" for a poem I want to write. I need to visit that dark inner landscape of loss, grief, even hopelessness, a place of going through the motions of life even when one is certain there is no point to such motions. I have explored this bleak landscape in the past—a little bit in my own life, but mostly as a way to access poems. For those of you who don't know me well, trust that I balance journeys to this empty place with many, many journeys to brighter places of warmth and creativity and purpose.

At least, I once was able to effect such balance. I need to "go dark" now, but I am finding it difficult to access the bleak, empty place. Because...we are living it. It's that "new normal" we're all insisting isn't normal. How can I go dark when it's all dark? Why go dark; why not just look at the front page of any real newspaper? Why write another poem?

I know, I know. Because one must. Because...poetry. Because the world needs. Because to not would be to surrender to the forces that have co-opted darkness and turned it into a place that feeds on grief and sneers at empathy and scoffs at emptiness. A place darker than dark. A place from which even darkness recoils. A place not of darkness, but of evil.

I'll figure it out. Poems will be written. Darkness will be visited; motions will be described; the reasons for those motions will be hinted at. Gardens will bloom. Graves will be dug. Here we go.

go dark black bird in a gold sky singing

Sunday, February 19, 2017


Inspiration from yesterday's museum trip:

Spring! I know it's still the middle of February, but this weekend's little reminder that another season is inevitable is most welcome in what has seemed a season drained of charm.

Sunlight on water.


Books. They still seem to matter. They still feel new.


And of course, art. That thinking, feeling human beings take up a pencil or brush or or pen or camera or even a sharp blade and make one little square yard-or-so of the universe a little less chaotic, a little more thought-provoking, a little more beautiful...


how to say

Friday, February 17, 2017


seeking comfort
from stone
after stone
after stone
after stone
after stone
after stone
after stone


Well, it's been a week, eh? Too much talk, too little communication. Words as weapons, leaving us longing for silence. The worst full of passionate intensity, and the best trying their best to counteract the forces of evil that seem hell-bent on equating language with chaos.

Art museum tomorrow. Perhaps that will help.



Sunday, February 12, 2017


Experience is never singular. We live in super-imposed moments, several moments deep (perhaps more than several, perhaps countless). Every moment contains its own memory, and every memory is a parade of ghosts of itself, each ghost newer than the one before.

Generations of ghosts, there in the synapses of our neurons.

I'm moving toward that in my poetry, an exploration of these super-imposed moments. They may (I am discovering) (though I've no doubt known this all along) have occurred days or months or years apart, but they are one.

Winter is like this, as well. Each winter becomes all winters; each storm contains the one before, the one before, the one...

Think of your own moments, how they inform one another. A collage of moments.


the longer he lives

[downriver heron
february's gray and gold]

the more he


her voice

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Archaeologist, Historian, Poet

Speaking to the past: Your lives will end, but two thousand, three thousand years from now, we will be learning what we can of your daily existence. Please leave us scraps, flakes, shards, scratches in stone. We will even listen to your bones. Sprinkle your bones with flowers, and we will hear even more.

We can't know ourselves without wanting to know you.

Archaeologist, historian, poet.

The afterlife: Art, poems, the good work you do now that will enhance all the lives to come. Scraps, flakes, shards, scratches in stone.

Our bones. The pollen our sorrow leaves behind.


reveals hundreds of
portraits atop landscapes

Friday, February 10, 2017

Skirts of Sight

in search of any lingering
moon and stars
in wide, wide
skirts of
we shine


I am thinking of the concept of pilgrimage, which leads me to think of what I mean by "holy," as in a holy place, or some tangible thing or intangible concept held sacred. These are not words I use too often, since I am not religious.

Or, rather, I use these words often, just not out loud (or in writing), because I actually am religious: about writing (as sacred act), art (sacred objects), museums (sacred places), visiting the shrines of those who tried this thing called "living" before me and succeeded (or even failed) in ways that still inspire.

Skirts of sight — seeing more than one thought possible. And that's always a possibility (one might even say probability)—always something more to see, outwardly as well as inwardly.

In ever-widening circles of experience, perception, awareness, appreciation. In wide, wide like skirts of sight we shine.

Thursday, February 9, 2017


So here I sit, waiting for word of what surely, surely! will be a snowday, thinking back over the past three weeks of the semester.

And thinking about the herons I've seen this winter, a relatively mild winter but still one would think that anything with wings that stands around in water all day would go at least a little farther south.

And thinking of those class discussions that took off, and I couldn't write on the board fast enough. Prufrock as Odysseus!

Thinking of the weeks to come, the poems to be read, the essays to grade.

Thinking of the snow everywhere carefully descending (that's e.e. cummings); thinking of the pavement gray (Yeats), thinking of the mermaids singing, each to each (Prufrock).

Thinking of a collage idea I had while trying to fall asleep one night, but I don't think it's possible. The idea had to do with language, a torn language, a language that almost, almost means somethi...

Hmm, that gives me an idea...



Sunday, February 5, 2017

All Is Not Lost

I finished this haiga collage yesterday evening, after dinner with friends, wonderful conversation, a couple glasses of chardonnay.

I was also, as I was creating this, remembering a time in my life (more than twenty-five years ago) when I felt lifeless, outwardly composed but gray inside. It was reading and my own work with poetry that helped me compose my inner self, helped me form the inner life that sustains me to this day.

I love how collage can capture these inner compositions as well as the impressions of one's outward life, the snippets of conversation, the pieces of memories and stories, the laughter, the bald eagle suddenly crossing the winter sky, the light on the lake settling in towards another evening.

All is not lost.


the idea
is not lost
set down
by the soft light
of evening

Friday, February 3, 2017

Onward with Poetry

The first two weeks of the Spring semester have been full of poetry, writing, discussions. For the most part, my classrooms have been politics-free, a relief for me as well as for my students, a space in which to exercise one's intellect, rather than wallowing in the stupid and useless. Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Wallace Stevens, Derek Walcott, W.B. Yeats, E.A. Robinson (the ending of "Richard Cory" gets 'em every time)...

A brief respite from the books today; a walk in the frozen park, the big lake almost all ice, though the ice is thin. Hepatica leaves on the forest floor are getting a little sheen to them; in about six weeks, the flowers will be out, the first spring blooms.

But we have miles to go before we sleep...


ice topography
if I could write
love letters like that