* remembering galway kinnell

Given this week’s news of Galway Kinnell’s passing, I find myself heading into Dia de los Muertos this weekend with him on my mind.

I had the pleasure of attending a reading he gave alongside Phil Levine in NYC. The two great poets chatted at their table before the reading. When the time came to start, Galway walked up to the mic and in his booming, majestic baritone gave a stellar reading of Phil’s poem “They Feed They Lion.” The room was collectively knocked out. Phil then walked up and replaced Galway at the podium, and said: “Gee, that was pretty good.”

They then proceeded to take turns, poem by poem, reading each other’s work. I remember how well the two voices complimented each other’s work, Phil adding some lyric subtlety to his reading of Galway’s “The Avenue Bearing the Initial of the Christ into the New World,” and Galway delivering the grit and grace behind Phil’s poems.

Grit and grace are two solid words to remember Galway Kinnell by, words exemplified in the meditation in the poem below.

* el maestro *
* el maestro *

The Man Splitting Wood in the Daybreak – Galway Kinnell

The man splitting wood in the daybreak
looks strong, as though, if one weakened,
one could turn to him and he would help.
Gus Newland was strong. When he split wood
he struck hard, flashing the bright steel
through the air so hard the hard maple
leapt apart, as it’s feared marriages will do
in countries reluctant to permit divorce,
and even willow, which, though stacked
to dry a full year, on being split
actually weeps—totem wood, therefore,
to the married-until-death—sunders
with many little lip-wetting gasp-noises.
But Gus is dead. We could turn to our fathers,
but they help us only by the unperplexed
looking-back of the numerals cut into headstones.
Or to our mothers, whose love, so devastated,
can’t, even in spring, break through the hard earth.
Our spouses weaken at the same rate we do.
We have to hold our children up to lean on them.
Everyone who could help goes or hasn’t arrived.
What about the man splitting wood in the daybreak,
who looked strong? That was years ago. That was me.


Happy stronging!


* some news & milosz

First off, I want to announce the release of the latest issue of Foothill, which includes my poem “The Accordion Heart” here. Check out the rest of the great work in this issue here.

Next, I’d like to share the news that my poem “Don’t Look Now I Might Be Mexican” has placed 3rd in Blue Mesa Review’s 2014 Poetry Contest, judged by Carmen Gimenez Smith.

To celebrate, I went out and bought this guy:

* calavera, yo *
* calavera, yo *

As Dia de los Muertos comes around again (next week), I find myself aware of the honoring one does on a daily basis, whether directly or indirectly, of those who have passed. Even in the words one writes, the dead mix with the living and make up a whole other life. This week’s poem by Czeslaw Milosz lives in that in between space.

Secretaries – Czeslaw Milosz

I am no more than a secretary of the invisible thing
that is dictated to me and a few others.
Secretaries, mutually unknown, we walk the earth
without much comprehension. Beginning a phrase in the middle
or ending it with a comma. And how it all looks when completed
is not up to us to inquire, we won’t read it anyway.


Happy secretaring!


* more from desde Hong Kong

* taking another Paz at it *
* mas Paz *

I recently received my contributor’s copy of the anthology desde Hong Kong and have been enjoying dipping into the collection of great tributes. One in particular stood out in my reading. I share it below to further celebrate this anthology’s publication.

In “Going Home,” British-Canadian poet Phoebe Tsang delves deep into an image (a la Paz) and has the subject matter, and the reader, come out different on the other side.

Going Home – Phoebe Tsang

At dawn, the carts glistened with wet scales
as if the fish were still alive,
not drowning for lack of water.
They slept just like the rest of us,
breathed city air.
As the sun rose, the glitter faded from their gills.
By noon, the last dregs were fins and bones
kicked to the gutter,
entrails slick under fishermen’s boots.
The fishermen gone home,
back to the sea.


Happy homing!


p.s. Information on ordering a copy of the anthology can be found here.

* sentimentality via mary ruefle & hart crane

I revisited this week’s poem – Hart Crane’s “Chaplinesque” – this summer reading through Mary Ruefle’s “Madness, Rack, & Honey.” In the book, she points to the sentimentality of the poem, how it makes the campy humor of Chaplin and the image of a kitten and raises them to their proper place, which is simply a place of consideration. That each of us here simply to be seen and heard.

On the technical side, Crane’s always up to something metrically. Here, I like how he sneaks in a six beat line into every stanza except for the first and last, the mix of rhythms evoking Chaplin’s signature walk a bit.

(Spooky and coincidentally: Ruefle and Chaplin share the same birthday).

Later in the same essay, she states that if someone says your poem is sentimental, it probably means it isn’t sentimental enough. Committing to that impulse and seeing sentimentality through to what’s at stake is the challenge. And the only way to see and hear one’s self.

* liked the poem til I pointed out the thing about the meter *
* liked the poem til I pointed out the thing about the meter *

Chaplinesque – Hart Crane

We make our meek adjustments,
contented with such random consolations
as the wind deposits
in slithered and too ample pockets.

For we can still love the world, who find
a famished kitten on the step, and know
recesses for it from the fury of the street,
or warm torn elbow coverts.

We will sidestep, and to the final smirk
dally the doom of that inevitable thumb
that slowly chafes its puckered index toward us,
facing the dull squint with what innocence
and what surprise!

And yet these fine collapses are not lies
more than the pirouettes of any pliant cane;
our obsequies are, in a way, no enterprise.
We can evade you, and all else but the heart:
what blame to us if the heart live on.

The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
the moon in lonely alleys make
a grail of laughter of an empty ash can,
and through all sound of gaiety and quest
have heard a kitten in the wilderness.


Happy sentimenting!


* new poems: The Apple Valley Review & 2River View

Just a quick post to share the publication of some new work.

I have three poems up in the latest issue of the Apple Valley Review. Check them out here along with other fine work in this issue. Editor Leah Browning was kind enough to ask for a bit of background on each poem, so make sure to scroll down and see what connections led to the poems.

I’m also happy to announce the release of the latest issue of the 2River View, which includes two poems of mine as well as audio here. Check out the rest of the fine issue here. Special thanks to editor Richard Long for the hard work in putting together such a fine issue.

See you Friday!


* william james: a lyrical alignment

So, earlier this week, THIS happened:

* bling bling *
* bling bling *

I’m delighted to share the news of my having become married. 🙂

Those of you who’ve followed me on the Influence for a while may have caught me speaking about a previous divorce. I’m happy to have been keeping up this blog long enough to show that life has turns and revolutions, and that life moves on.

In keeping with this spirit of movement and (new) connections, enjoy the lyrical alignment below, in which William James connects more than a few dots for us. James’ knack for being at turns psychologist, philosopher, and mystic (usually all in one paragraph) always impresses me.


The Charm – William James

a lyrical alignment from The Will to Believe

Who does not feel the charm of thinking
that the moon and the apple are,
as far as their relation to
the earth goes, identical;
of knowing respiration and
combustion to be one; of
understanding that the balloon
rises by the same law whereby
the stone sinks; of feeling that
the warmth in one’s palm when one
rubs one’s sleeve is identical
with the motion which the friction
checks; of recognizing the difference
between beast and fish to be
only a higher degree of that
between human father and son;
of believing our strength when we
climb the mountain or fell the tree
to be no other than the strength
of the sun’s rays which made the corn grow
out of which we got our morning meal?


Happy charming!