Saturday, April 27, 2013

Recent Misreadings

"Mexican Vulgarities Take Over Town" (vigilantes)

"Global Dictionaries Gather for Thatcher Funeral" (dignitaries

I also read “School using bulletproof whiteboards” as “School using waterproof bullets.” 
It took a second even to identify the direct objects. 

"Stellar cast rescues ministries" (miniseries

Reading a book about Flaubert that was peppered with French, I read this sentence:

“Honours dishonour, titles degrade, employment stupifies” 

and thought, wow, it’s great that I understood that whole French sentence, only to do a double-take and realize I’d understood it because it was in English.

"Clinical studies show bleeding rats slow after treatment" (rates

"Our prompt for today: let’s try writing toilets" (triolets)  

And a glance at the World Wildlife Fund logo yielded


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Landscape with moonlight

The #5 tram brings me to the train station but my writing delivers me only to a place bright and desolate.

In late April the sun is still struggling, feeble, and usually it gives up by noon, sailing for southern France. And who wouldn’t? Those whom duty tortures and those who thought German superior to French. Those are the same people. 

We looked at a painting that expressed it well. I said to Luisa, it’s beautiful not because it’s pretty but because it’s true.

(Carl Blechen: Landschaft im Winter bei Mondschein)

Sunday, April 21, 2013


Being in the middle of my own enormous erasure project, it was wonderful to read Jen Bervin’s book Nets from 2004. It’s a milestone in erasure poetry, taking some of Shakespeare’s sonnets and unearthing new poems inside them. 

In erasure there must be revelation, and the presentation of these fine little poems emphasizes that - black words plucked from the pale source, the sonnets set upon the creamy page with nothing placed opposite to distract the reader. 

Many of these poems stand strongly on their own, but it’s not possible for me to divorce the poems themselves from the concept and the presentation. So even where some of the poems would not travel so boldly alone, I open my eyes wider and take in the full text engulfing the poem found inside it, and all I can say is “wow.” I really loved these - even the paper it’s printed on is sumptuous. 

I don’t buy the oft-touted view that one must find something totally new in erasure poetry, that the found poem should be completely independent of the source text. If that’s the case then why do erasure at all? The source is going to offer possibilities and choices. The source is at the poet’s disposal, and will set limits. The source is not going to predetermine, but it is going to influence. 

I love Bervin’s note at the end of the book: “When we write poems, the history of poetry is with us, pre-inscribed in the white of the page.” 

Here is an excerpt that should help you decide if you are interested in owning this book, which I obviously recommend.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

darling buds

Trees and bushes are budding here, and the sun, as always, is struggling to shine. ‘A’ for effort, folks.

Speaking of darling buds, my daughter had to explain Shakespeare’s sonnets 18 & 73 for homework last night, so looks like I came back on the right day. I got to explain the difference between “perceive” and “behold,” who “thou” and “thee” are, “doth,” verb endings, and also that “bare, ruined choirs” aren’t bankrupt, naked singing groups, but desolate places. 

My daughter asks a logical question. Shakespeare faults the summer for its imperfections, yet says his beloved has an eternal summer within her. So isn't that internal, eternal summer imperfect, too? Stumped me.

When we got to the eternal summer line, I couldn’t help but think of Camus’ invincible summer, which was also internal, and the Beach Boys’ endless one, which was going on outside, somewhere in California. Only one of these summers involved surfing. 

Having been away, I didn’t update the links to my poems for the Pulitzer Remix, where I’ve just posted for day 17.

April 17 Charged Months * April 16 Sally
April 15 Antique Telescope * April 14 Darting to an Aim
April 13 Fool's Route * April 12 Camp Unhappy Catalog
April 11 Mother Frenzy * April 10 Daily Rounds
April 9 Dear Goatee * April 8 The Tinkling Glass
April 7 Hotshot Realtor * April 6 Scarlet Freight

For your pleasure, here's a picture of a serendipitous pairing I found in the dictionary - Overabundance Overalls. Could use some of those. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

long hand

At the Pierpont Morgan museum there’s a display case in the library showing original documents from writers, composers and historical figures. In this day and age, what is more surprising than someone’s handwriting? It's so expressive, and evokes the same intimacy as a lock of hair, or pair of slippers, would.

The first document on the inner side of the case is a short letter from Ludovico Buonarroti to his son Michelangelo, written while the father was ailing. It is a squat, orderly handwriting with squiggly tails. It says, in short, “don’t worry about me; I will be fine.” He dies soon afterwards. 

Beside the Buonarroti letter is a letter from Niccolò Machiavelli, who has just had a close call on the battlefield. Perhaps I read too much into it, but there is a sense of tension in the script, as if he wants to do exercise control over his hand but is in a hurry. 

JRR Tolkien had lovely penmanship, small and ornate. Each letter is like a separate fruit hanging from a tree in an orderly orchard. In the letter he jokes about how little he has earned from “The Hobbit.” 

Though not scrawl, Shelly’s handwriting is less controlled. It most resembles an uneven thicket, where someone has hacked away in places with a scythe. 

I was aware before I visited the museum that Virginia Woolf usually wrote in violet ink on blue paper. Her letter lights up the display. Her handwriting seems the most free of the row. It slants upwards to the right, ascending. It comes out swinging. I could not find an image of the letter online, but here is a short note to her nephew, which gives a good idea, although it is less disciplined than the letter. 

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Cowering in Place

I enjoy when someone invokes the German language as a sure source of the right word, as in, “I’m sure the Germans have a word for it.” Sometimes they do, and if they don’t, usually one can be manufactured handily.

Despite my job as a part-time German, I invoked the language today with the same hope when I experienced the fear I suffer once or twice daily: the fear of standing up - whether from throwing something away or picking something up - and bumping my head against an open cabinet door.

(Banging your head against an open cabinet or cupboard door, by the way, is one of the reasons people swear.)

Anyone who has stood up only to smash their head against the edge, or worse, the corner, of a cabinet door knows that this fear serves a protective purpose.

As far as I know there is no German word for this fear. But let’s create Dooferunfallangst, or Aufstehenderkopfstossangst. Actually, German asks too much of us here. Let’s go with Fear of Hitting Your Head against a Cabinet Door upon Resuming an Upright Position.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Tomato soup

“It’s always ourselves we find at the sea.” I inhaled a lot of ee cummings when I was a teenager, and this line comes back to me as I dig through Independence Day, finding poems. If you gave a group of poets the same page, they’d each come back with different poem. 

The shaky thing about this project is everyone’s daily poem is instantly published! Most of my Pulitzer Remix poems wouldn’t be poems I’d submit. They’re just there. In the time allotted to me, I found them. I wrote them down. I bow humbly to my limits.

Today at work, in a different but similar scenario, I repeated my favorite, widely applicable Andy Warhol quote (that I possibly made up): “This is a soup can. We must make do with what we have.” 

Here are my five poems so far: 

Time! is my theme these days, as in it's flying. At the moment(s) I am trying to get through The Finkler Question before traveling to NJ tomorrow. As always before a trip, I don’t want to board the plane with a book I’ve nearly finished. I prefer to arrive at the airport with FRESHBOOK. Besides, ahead of my trip, I ordered enough books, deliverable to my mother, for a suitcase library. She has begun reading one, which appeals to my inner thrift-monger.
Related Posts with Thumbnails