Monday, September 30, 2013


I've been taking a workshop at The Rooster Moans on duende, the dark spirit. In poetry, Federico Garcia Lorca is this spirit's real champion, and though I've been familiar with the concept for some time, I am glad to finally have some space and time to find out what it is. And what it isn't.

I took a stab earlier this year at writing a gacela, a loose non-form Lorca used. The poem, "Gacela of Ash," is up in the new issue of DMQ Review today. My dusty poem "Spark" is there with it.

The zine of short poetry Right Hand Pointing also recently published a poem of mine called "Microbrew," about a small beer. 

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Every night my heart comes home kicking my ass

The literary critic I mentioned last week, Marcel Reich-Ranicki, has been buried down the street from me in Frankfurt's main cemetery. It is truly the most beautiful place in town. That now makes four luminaries for me there: Reich-Ranicki, Schopenhauer, Alzheimer, and Adorno.

I would visit anyway. There is one bench I have kept warm for many hours beside an unknown Gustav and Erna. But the bench has since been removed, as have Gustav and Erna's bones and joint gravestone. That's one drawback about the cemetery - unless you are a millionaire or cultural celebrity, you are pretty much renting the space. 

My poem "In Frankfurt Cemetery" also found refugee for only a limited time at Opium, a literary ezine now defunct. I've had it exhumed, and replant it here. It even mentions the sad warning notice they slap on the gravestones when the lease is about to expire. 

In Frankfurt Cemetery 

Trees droop among immovables. 
The rain thinks twice about landing, 
stopped at the leaves. 

Some procure plots with a woodrot cross, 
some a whole hillside, shaky with underground 
chambers, sculpture behind bars. 

Beyond the wall, the traffic brakes and hastens. 
Leave your message after the beep. 

Not the past, but the present makes me sad. 
The eviction notice on the headstone.
Now what? 

Every night my heart comes home kicking my ass. 
What are the oceans up to?
So far apart, do they have the chance to talk?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Chance Readings

"It was a Sunday morning in the beginning of April 1813, a morning which gave promise of one of those bright days when Parisians, for the first time in the year, behold dry pavements underfoot and a cloudless sky overhead.” 

The literary critic Marcel Reich-Ranicki died this week, a looming figure in German contemporary culture. His life story is fascinating. A Jew, he was deported to Poland and just escaped concentration camp, being hidden with his wife in rural Poland by sympathetic people. One thing that really got me about his story was this: 

“When I was arrested in Berlin and deported from Germany in 1938, I was not permitted to take any luggage. All I had in my briefcase was an extra handkerchief and a book. It was a novel I was reading just then - Balzac’s A Woman of Thirty.” 

I love how the detail, so incidental, the book so seemingly random, yet well-remembered as a companion at a fateful moment. In hindsight, he also remarks A Woman of Thirty is "not one of Balzac’s best.” 

The detail of Into the Wild that stands out for me - both at the time I read it and now, years later, when I’ve forgotten most of the story - is that the main figure (whose name escapes me) was reading Dr. Zhivago when he died. I was struck by the romantic coincidence, the stark landscapes of both stories and how they fatefully crossed. 

On Monday my daughter left for a class trip to London. A couple days beforehand she told me which books she would take and asked if I'd pick out a poetry book for her. I didn’t get around to it, and apologizing at the airport I realized I happened to have Federico Garcia Lorca’s Poem of the Deep Song in my purse, which I gave that to her. I can’t imagine I could have picked a better book even with hours of generous deliberation. A class trip isn't as grave an occasion as those above, thank god, but reading Lorca can surely make it more memorable. 

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Stargazing in the Library

I was thrilled last week when Passages North accepted The Inner Rodent, an essay I wrote based on my misreadings. I’d never submitted non-fiction before, and the essay was accepted within a day. It’s up on the site as part of their “Writers on Writing” series.

I should be braver. But I am tired. I should write more. But I don’t have a lot of time. 

If you click on the link you’ll see the squirrel is my mascot. Which is cool, because the squirrel is my mascot. 

Fall has descended, and today we had a table at a kids’ flea market, where we sold piles of action figures, jeans, some t-shirts and books. Carlo and I played good cop/bad cop, him being the kindly negotiator and me being the take-it-or-leave-it guy. We made 155 euros, enough to pay for groceries and the kids’ allowance.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

From the tip of an island since pulled away

I have a few poems out this week. 

Stamp Album of the Suicides” is at Dialogist. The inspirations were 1) stamps & stamp albums, which I learned to love in China; 2) respect for suicides, often disparaged for being weak and selfish; and 3) a plain old love of order. Check out the art in this issue - very good. 

A newer ezine, Bitterzoet, has three other poems: “A Hawaii Postcard Arrives in Winter 12 Years Late,” “Breaking News” and “Standing in Line Alone.” They also have a print issue, for which they took two other poems. 

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Booze & Meringue

In June I participated in a writer's regimen conducted by the Southeast Review. Basically, it was a program of ideas and quotes and riff words aimed at giving writers a daily prompt. I admit I didn't get to it every day, but if the prompt appealed to me I gave it a shot. One of the prompts was about foreign landscapes, and because I was at the time both reading a book (Elfriede Jelinek's "The Pianist") that mentions cake and receiving emails that included pictures of cake from a typographer acquaintance who was visiting Vienna, I made cake my landscape. 

It was fun to do, and the Southeast Review chose to feature the piece - Booze, Sugar & Meringue - on their site. As a kind of poem-a-day, it's not polished, but cake is also a messy affair, porous, and often full of nuts.

Monday, September 02, 2013


Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer verwandelt.

“One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in his bed he had been changed into a monstrous bug.” 

"One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dreams, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug."

“As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.”

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect-like creature." 

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning after disturbing dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into an enormous cockroach." 

"As Gregor Samsa woke one morning from uneasy dreams, he found himself in bed, transformed into a horrible vermin."

"One morning, when Gregor Samsa woke from troubled dreams, he found himself transformed in his bed into a horrible vermin." 

"When Gregor Samsa woke up one morning from unsettling dreams, he found himself changed in his bed into a monstrous vermin."

“As Gregor Samsa awoke from unsettling dreams one morning, he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous vermin.” 

Sunday, September 01, 2013


I was back at the Hans Arp museum on the Rhine today. We took a ferry across from Bad Honnef to Remagen, where they built the museum in 2007, joining the new modern building to a renovated train station. I’ve been before and had the same feeling, i.e. that this was the most beautiful museum I’ve ever been in.

This time I had to ask myself more directly: ‘Hey, is this the most beautiful museum I’ve ever been in?’ The answer was a Molly Bloom-like cascade of yeses, all down the hillside and into the river. 

It’s not beautiful because of the artwork, although I love Arp. It’s beautiful because of the way it sits in the hills, a sprawling, wide-windowed structure that for all its alien whiteness seems to belong there. It is embracing/embraced by the grass. I could sing praises of the upshooting elevator all the day long. And the tunnel! Of course it also has the wonderful Rhine flowing below it. 

The only bummer is all the walltexts relating to artwork and exhibitions are only in German, so it would frustrate most non-German speakers, and I wouldn't drive my parents out there. As I often do, I wonder if I should volunteer to translate it all for the good of humanity, but 1) I don’t have time and 2) Ach, the bureaucracy. Nevertheless, I think Arp would be happy to find this building spilling down the hills, and some texts from his "Wolkenpumpe" (Cloudpump) poems way up on the uppermost walls. 
Related Posts with Thumbnails