* rockin’ with Zbigniew Herbert

There are some poems essential to my psyche that I’m surprised I haven’t posted on here yet.

This week’s poem by Zbigniew Herbert is one of them.

I remember reading it the first time years ago and just being floored. How the subject, a pebble, can be meditated upon and become some larger than itself is profound. You can see the mountain forming in reverse from the pebble of the lyric.


* who, me? *
* who, me? *

Pebble – Zbigniew Herbert

The pebble
is a perfect creature

equal to itself
mindful of its limits

filled exactly
with a pebbly meaning

with a scent that does not remind one of anything
does not frighten anything away does not arouse desire

its ardour and coldness
are just and full of dignity

I feel a heavy remorse
when I hold it in my hand
and its noble body
is permeated by false warmth

– Pebbles cannot be tamed
to the end they will look at us
with a calm and very clear eye

                                       Translated by Peter Dale Scott and Czeslaw Milosz


Happy clearing!


* one for Bill Knott

Bill Knott’s death last week had me digging through my journals to find this week’s poem. It’s a sonnet I wrote in homage to the man after reading his book The Unsubscriber.

I did a post on his work last November (which can be checked out here) in which I shared some of my sketches. Bill was kind enough to stop by the blog and say some encouraging words. This gesture moved me for many reasons, not the least of which is the nature of blogs and communities online.

I share this week’s poem (along with my impromptu sketch of the man) as a tribute to the poet as well as to all of you kind enough to stop by and read.

* knott bad, but knott great either *
* knott bad, but knott great either *

to Bill Knott – Jose Angel Araguz

He had time on his hands,
he could feel it – seconds itch
like you wouldn’t believe – really, bitch
all you want of boredom: lands

of it exist in every story.
Heroes bored until heroic, villains bored
until dead. He was never bored.
All that living, heroic or gory,

passed him by like a wind,
and like a wind left him
nothing. Seconds itch, minutes sting. He
would hold a pen for hours. Find
a clock: that ticking, that’s him.
Pulse is the man. Time, he.


Happy Knotting!


p.s. a fine article on Knott (and the inspiration for my sketch) here.

* organizing the world with Donald Justice

This week’s poem “Bus Stop” by Donald Justice rounds out the recent syllabic kick on the Influence.

I recently read an illuminating essay by Justice where he breaks down some of the thinking that went into the poem, both the conceptual thinking and the structural.

He describes walking his dog around his neighborhood in California around the same time when people would be coming home from work. His sense of the memory is that everything was already there for the poem, the world of it just had to be organized.

I remarked to someone just this week that Justice’s work always surprises me. An undisputed technical master, he makes you forget all about technique by earning such moments as the one below where he fills a line with: Black flowers, black flowers.

* whatcha waitin' for *
* Bus Stop with Chola *

Bus Stop – Donald Justice

Lights are burning
In quiet rooms
Where lives go on
Resembling ours.

The quiet lives
That follow us—
These lives we lead
But do not own—

Stand in the rain
So quietly
When we are gone,
So quietly . . .

And the last bus
Comes letting dark
Umbrellas out—
Black flowers, black flowers.

And lives go on.
And lives go on
Like sudden lights
At street corners

Or like the lights
In quiet rooms
Left on for hours,
Burning, burning.


Happy burning!


* photo by Craig Carlson found here.

* considering Thom Gunn

Writing poetry has in fact become a certain stage in my coping with the world, or in the way I try to understand what happens to me and inside me. Perhaps I could say that my poetry is an attempt to grasp, with grasp meaning both to take hold of in a first bid at possession, and also to understand (Thom Gunn)

To continue in the syllabic vein begun with last week’s poem, I present below Thom Gunn’s “Considering the Snail.”

There is much to admire in the poem. The pace, for one, feels apt for the subject matter.

Then there are the seemingly happenstance (but more likely deliberate) end words emphasized by the form. One choice moment for me is the way the line:

What is a snail’s fury? All

breaks right at seven syllables and seems to both answer the question by breaking on “All” as well as progress the line.

“Progress” as the last word of the poem, seems to be at the heart of the poem, both in concept and in form.

* for your consideration *
* for your consideration *

Considering the Snail – Thom Gunn

The snail pushes through a green
night, for the grass is heavy
with water and meets over
the bright path he makes, where rain
has darkened the earth’s dark. He
moves in a wood of desire,

pale antlers barely stirring
as he hunts. I cannot tell
what power is at work, drenched there
with purpose, knowing nothing.
What is a snail’s fury? All
I think is that if later

I parted the blades above
the tunnel and saw the thin
trail of broken white across
litter, I would never have
imagined the slow passion
to that deliberate progress.


Happy progressing!


p.s. I have two haiku in the latest issue of A Hundred Gourds. Check them out here and here.