* a meditation on brevity with paz, ritsos, & carruth

Writing – Octavio Paz

I draw these letters
as the day draws its images
and blows over them
and does not return


It’s suiting to begin this meditation on brevity with Paz who once said that he admired the short lyric for being the hardest kind of poem to write. Anyone who’s worked out a haiku or tanka in earnestness knows something of this difficulty. With haiku and tanka there are at least parameters, a spirit to leap after. Often, the short poem is a surprise, something arrived at when you intuit the right time to leave a poem alone.


Triplet – Yannis Ritsos

As he writes, without looking at the sea,
he feels his pencil trembling at the very tip –
it is the moment when the lighthouses light up.


I came across this gem from Ritsos in Stephen Dobyn’s illuminating book “Best Words, Best Order.” In it, Dobyns speaks of the nuanced work of the last line as a “metaphysical moment,” one that suggests “sympathetic affinities and a sensitivity to those affinities on the part of the poet.” The power of a short lyric can be felt when one is reading and feels something like “lighthouses light up” inside the mind.


haiku – Hayden Carruth

Hey Basho, you there!
I’m Carruth. Isn’t it great,
so distant like this?


Ultimately, what is at stake in the short lyric is what is at stake in any poem, the translating/transcribing of the human voice. In a longer poem, one can create an argument via imagery and metaphor, what’s being said accumulates like a wave to a crest. The short lyric is the echo of that argument, the sound of foam chisping on the shore. What is compelling about Carruth’s distance is not that Basho feels it, but the reader does.

* wavering *
* wavering *

Happy shoring!


* congregating with tranströmer

Tomas Tranströmer’s recent passing has me reading back into his work. Always, I am taken in by the immediacy of his line.

In this week’s poem, “The Scattered Congregation,” this immediacy plays out in quick turns. Whether in nuanced phrase or illuminating flash of image, Tranströmer always makes me a believer. Makes me proud to be part of the “congregation.”

* flockgregation *
* poetgregation *

The Scattered Congregation – Tomas Tranströmer

We got ready and showed our home.
The visitor thought: you live well.
The slum must be inside you.

Inside the church, pillars and vaulting
white as plaster, like the cast
around the broken arm of faith.

Inside the church there’s a begging bowl
that slowly lifts from the floor
and floats along the pews.

But the church bells have gone underground.
They’re hanging in the sewage pipes.
Whenever we take a step, they ring.

Nicodemus the sleepwalker is on his way
to the Address. Who’s got the Address?
Don’t know. But that’s where we are going.


Happy don’t knowing!


* new work up at apogee journal’s blog: perigree

* cinnamontography *
* cinnamontography *

Just a quick note to share that my flash fiction piece “Forgotten Conversation” has recently been published on Apogee Journal’s Blog: Perigree.

Check it out here.

Special thanks to Cecca Ochoa for working with me in shaping the final version.

This work means something special to me for where it took me towards the end, evoking Sandra Cisneros from her Loose Woman poems as a kind of patron(a) saint of the broken hearted!

See you Friday!


* three years of the influence

This weekend marks the 3 year anniversary of this blog.


This week’s poem – “A Flock of Sheep Near the Airport” by Yehuda Amichai – takes on the idea of attention in a way that ties into the spirit in which I started the blog. The first stanza evokes the kind of conflicted feelings one goes through in everyday life, the “combinations” that “wound” as well as “heal.” The second stanza, with its focus on one sound, evokes for me in a way the act of being engrossed while reading.

Each week I hope to share a poem that has, for a little while, been for me “the only sound in the world.”

I see this as a kind of reader’s blog, a way of putting a bit of good energy out into the world. I’m excited to still be going strong and to have you along for the ride.

* near the what now? *
* near the what now? *

A Flock of Sheep Near the Airport – Yehuda Amichai

A flock of sheep near the airport
or a high voltage generator beside the orchard:
these combinations open up my life
like a wound, but they also heal it.
That’s why my feelings always come in twos.
That’s why I’m like a man who tears up a letter
and then has second thoughts,
picking up the pieces and pasting them together again
with great pains, sometimes
for the rest of his life.

But once I went looking for my son at night
and found him in an empty basketball court
lit by a powerful floodlight.
He was playing all alone.
And the sound of the ball bouncing
was the only sound in the world.


Happy sounding!


* moon tidings via kathleen jamie

First, a bit of news: the new issue of RHINO Poetry is available for purchase! Check out my poem “Joe” – selected for the 2015 Editor’s Prize – here as well as selections of other fine work in issue here. Thank you to everyone at RHINO for their support!


This weekend brings with it a total lunar eclipse which is being reported to be the shortest lunar eclipse of this century. In honor of its brevity, here’s the shortest poem I have about the moon:

Moon – Jose Angel Araguz

A widow turning over in her sleep.


* blushing moon *
* blushing moon *

Working on a recent manuscript recently, I got called out about the moon: It’s always the moon! And it’s true, I do try to hang too much on it. It’s hard not to. From Li Po getting drunk underneath it and Sir Philip Sidney’s “sad steps” to Philip Larkin’s “lozenge of love” and this week’s poem, the moon keeps being sought after with interest and fascination.

…like a coin we spend, only to find again (sorry couldn’t help it 🙂 ).

This week’s poem – “Moon” by Kathleen Jamie – put the moon on my mind again when I read it earlier this week. It does what I work hard to do when talking about the moon, which is bring it into conversation with the personal in a new way.

Jamie’s poem was featured in The Best American Poetry Blog series “Introducing Scottish poets” curated by Robyn Marsack – find out more about her work and others here.

Moon – Kathleen Jamie

Last night, when the moon
slipped into my attic-room
as an oblong of light,
I sensed she’d come to commiserate.

It was August. She travelled
with a small valise
of darkness, and the first few stars
returning to the northern sky,

and my room, it seemed,
had missed her. She pretended
an interest in the bookcase
while other objects

stirred, as in a rockpool,
with unexpected life:
strings of beads in their green bowl gleamed,
the paper-crowded desk;

the books, too, appeared inclined
to open and confess.
Being sure the moon
harboured some intention,

I waited; watched for an age
her cool glaze shift
first toward a flower sketch
pinned on the far wall

then glide to recline
along the pinewood floor
before I’d had enough. Moon,
I said, we’re both scarred now.

Are they quite beyond you,
the simple words of love? Say them.
You are not my mother;
with my mother, I waited unto death.

 from The Overhaul  (Minneapolis: Graywolf, 2015)


Happy mooning!