* fitting in with Edward Arlington Robinson

Octave XI – Edward Arlington Robinson

STILL through the dusk of dead, blank-legended,
And unremunerative years we search
To get where life begins, and still we groan
Because we do not find the living spark
Where no spark ever was; and thus we die,
Still searching, like poor old astronomers
Who totter off to bed and go to sleep,
To dream of untriangulated stars.

* I hate being that guy *
* I hate being that guy *

I’ve been dipping my head into the work of E. A. Robinson again.  He was a contemporary (and at times considered a rival of) Robert Frost.  He led a pretty bleak life: in his twenties, drinking and money problems had him kinda lost.

He eventually found a patron/friend/savior in the form of President Theodore Roosevelt, who, after becoming aware of his work, set him up with steady work hoping to keep him writing.  And it did.

I love this story because of what it says about not fitting in.  After reading him long enough, I’ve become convinced that some part of him was aware of not fitting in, and put it to work in his poems.

What I love about the octave above is the use (a successful use) of the words “unremunerative” and “untriangulated” – how the long words draw attention to themselves, almost seem not to fit in.  But they do, both in rhythm and sense: triangulated stars are those close enough to be measured.  The phrase “untriangulated stars” refers to those stars too distant to be measured.

That, to me, is the beauty of not fitting in: sometimes it comes in a way that is moving and encouraging.

Happy (not) fitting in!


* new poems up in the latest Right Hand Pointing

Just a quick post to announce Right Hand Pointing’s Issue 72, which includes my poems “Kindred Spirit” and “Fool.”  You can read them here.

Check out the rest of the issue here.  There are some rockin’ poems by Philip Shils, Larry D. Thomas, Luis Cuauhtemoc Berriozabal & Rosemary Badcoe.

Also of *ahem* note, is this issue’s “The Note”: editor Dale Wisely writes an editor’s note like no one else.

See you Friday!


* paying tribute via Bert Meyers

I recently lost a friend of mine – at the same time that a few other people I know also lost people close to them.

For this week’s post, I thought I’d offer a poem by the great Bert Meyers.

Though about a specific person, I feel the sentiment speaks for many.

For W.R. Rodgers – Bert Meyers

I knew a candle of a man
whose voice, meandering in a flame,
could make the shadows on the wall
listen to what he said.
Time flowed from a vein that ran
its blue crack through his pale forehead.

He’s done.  You’d need a broom
to arouse him now.
All things burn before they’re dead.
Some men are words that warmed a room.


Happy warming!


* bangin’ on the kitchen table with Jay-Z & Linda Pastan

* reading between the reading between the lines *

The above example of scansion is a good example of where my mind’s been at past few days.  I’ve been and will be writing with an eye (and ear and heart) towards meter, mainly for a class, but more than the class, there is an inner drive to grow stronger in this regard.

Throughout the fourteen years I’ve written seriously (meaning at its most simply the years I’ve written and typed something up: typing up means business!) I have read several books on prosody.  The most I’ve taken from my readings is a sense of how to work with the stresses of each line.

This usually plays out with me absentmindedly banging my fist on a table or tapping my foot – I say “tapping” but if you see me do it, there is a heave of my head forward as well, so that I constantly look like I’m about to get up and leave.

My take on it leaves me looking silly, but it does get me going.  And that’s the point.

There is a moment in one of my favorite Jay-Z songs where he says:

Kitchen table – that’s where I honed my skills

At the same time he says the line, the music stops, and all you hear is the beat of a fist hitting a table.

It blows my mind every time I hear it.  Something clicks in me each time in regards to process and what it means to work with words.  Do anything to get the words out.

Linda Pastan’s poem below takes on the issue of prosody on her own terms as well.  Like her, I believe that the work of the poem has lessons beyond the page.

Prosody 101 – Linda Pastan

When they taught me that what mattered most
was not the strict iambic line goose-stepping
over the page but the variations
in that line and the tension produced
on the ear by the surprise of difference,
I understood yet didn’t understand
exactly, until just now, years later
in spring, with the trees already lacy
and camellias blowsy with middle age,
I looked out and saw what a cold front had done
to the garden, sweeping in like common language,
unexpected in the sensuous
extravagance of a Maryland spring.
There was a dark edge around each flower
as if it had been outlined in ink
instead of frost, and the tension I felt
between the expected and actual
was like that time I came to you, ready
to say goodbye for good, for you had been
a cold front yourself lately, and as I walked in
you laughed and lifted me up in your arms
as if I too were lacy with spring
instead of middle aged like the camellias,
and I thought: so this is Poetry!


Happy prosoding!


* what we want & Chase Twichell

* frozen lake, yo *
* frozen lake, yo *

The above is a picture of the Burnet Woods Lake taken earlier this week.

It be frozen.  Cincinnati got pulled into what’s been termed a “polar vortex” – a fantastic phrase which of course has made its way into a poem or two already.  That said, the vortex itself was not so fantastic.  Kinda scary.

The opening in the picture above is usually filled with a constant stream of lake water.  On my walk, I couldn’t help but stop by and take note.  There was also this:

* lake cracking up *
* lake cracking up *

I say “take note” but the impulse to stop and assess plays out in truly complicated and meaningful ways inside each of us.

Today’s poem Roadkill, by Chase Twichell, explores some of what is behind that impulse, posits want as what drives it and, consequently, drives us.

The poem was published in this week’s New Yorker and posted on Facebook by a friend.  One’s Facebook feed is another place where one streams through quickly, trying to keep up.  Finding this poem had me taking note.  I’m glad I did.

And yes: I just did compare checking out your Facebook feed with checking out roadkill.  Just sayin’.


Roadkill – Chase Twichell

I want to see things as they are
without me.  Why, I don’t know.
As a kid I always looked
at roadkill close up, and poked
a stick into it.  I want to look at death
with eyes like my own baby eyes,
not yet blinded by knowledge.
I told this to my friend the monk,
and he said, want, want, want.


Happy wanting!


* new poem up at American Tanka

* clouds, yo *
* clouds, yo *

Just a quick note to share the latest issue of American Tanka, featuring one of my own here.

Check out the rest of Issue 23: a plume of breath, including fine work by Susan Constable, Edward J. Reilly, & others here.

Special thanks to Laura Maffei for putting together a great issue and for the opportunity.

See you Friday!