* sketching with Miriam Sagan

*historically historic district*
*historically historic district*

This is a church right across the street from our new apartment in Cincinnati.  We have moved into a historic district which reveals new things with each walk we take around the neighborhood.

The drive across country was a series of things being revealed.  In Itasca, Ani pointed out a cardinal excitedly, fascinated with how the actual red of the cardinal is a different from what she envisions in her head.  I told her to sketch it.  She responded: How do you sketch that red?


A few weeks before the move I was delighted to receive from Miriam Sagan herself a copy of her book “Seven Places in America: A Poetic Sojourn.”  The poems and essays in the book follow Sagan as she travels to seven places and documents the life lived and seen.  It was a great guide for my own poetic sojourn, and the inspiration for my post last week.

The poem below is one of a number poems in Sagan’s book that create their magic through a series of short lyrics.  There’s something about the short lyric that is ideal for travel.  When you travel there is so much to see – you can barely take it all in, much less write about it.

How do you sketch that red?

One line at a time.


Sketches in a Notebook – Miriam Sagan

a lizard
in a rolled up shade

tree bromeliads –
two cormorants
build a nest of twigs

man with a cane
crosses path with
a tiny turtle

child pats the palm tree
the alligator

tree canopy
butterfly, and purple glade
morning glory

rare buttonwood vine
looks like any foliage –
but rare –

a leaf drops in
the mahogany hammock –
without season

out of the palm trees
a peacock darts – escaped –
but from where?

tree snail gleams
in the leaf canopy –
stolen ghost orchid

raindrops’ circles –
yellow spatterdock flowers
floating green pods –

two shy vultures
pick raindrops
off the car’s roof

only the most
delicate colored pencils
draw the tree snail’s shell

drawn in an inky line,
overcast afternoon

drop tip
implies rain


Happy implying!


* check out Miriam Sagan’s blog here.

* from the car: verses & such

As we made our way from O to O – Oregon to Ohio – I found myself writing little lyrics along the way.  I also wrote snippets of our conversation, bits that made me laugh or that meant something to me.

I consider it a sort of travel journal/daybook – one strictly written in the car, with all the randomness and fleeting nature of things passing by a car window, blurring and fascinating.  Keeping these in the car helped shape their brevity.

Today is the last day of the journey.  Expect the usual Influence biz next week.

For now, enjoy my own narrow road from a narrow interior.


DAY 1: Eugene OR to Spokane WA

shadow of a cloud
over the yellow grass – the
first time she’s noticed

“The clouds look painted on —

(in cloud voice)
You guys, they noticed.
I told you they’d notice.
You can’t just put on falsies!”

outside of Fishtrap
clouds in their schools of shade and
light over the trees

DAY 2: Spokane WA to Bozeman MT

snow on the mountains
in Montana – river sounds
cold against my ear

Coeur D’alene River
breaking as we pass – she asks:
why do rivers wind?

“I hope we’re not headed towards those clouds.”

“Where do you think we’re headed?  Behind us?”

DAY 3: Bozeman MT to Dickinson ND

“I’m so tired of driving into the sky.”

cows dip their heads
into the grass
and move their mouths
eating under
through all these clouds

looking down into
the Badlands
we laugh into


DAY 4: Dickinson ND to Eden Prairie MN

Minnesota lakes
on the side of the highway
the sky’s loose pages

pelican alone
on the water – a white that
dives into itself

miles after leaving
North Dakota the red dust
streaked across the car

DAY 5 Eden Prairie MN to Itasca IL

morning fog on the
Mississippi River – map
trembles in my hand

rain dots the windshield
the colors of passing cars
under a gray sky


See you in Cincy!


* some words from Basho & the friday influence

This week The Friday Influence introduces the “some words from” feature – on the last Friday of each month expect a quote or two from poets that have and are presently influencing my work or simply blowing my mind.

Our first feature: haiku poet Matsuo Basho!

Sabes sabi?

Here he is talking about the idea of sabi:

“Sabi is in the colour of a poem. It does not necessarily refer to the poem that describes a lonely scene.  If a man goes to war wearing a stout armour or to a party dressed up in gay clothes, and if this man happens to be an old man, there is something lonely about him.  Sabi is something like that.  It is in the poem regardless of the scene it describes – whether it is lonely or gay.  In the following poem, for example, I find a great deal of sabi.” *

                        Under the cherry

                        Flower guards have assembled

                        To chatter –

                        Their hoary heads together. 

In citing this poem (by one of his disciples), Basho illustrates sabi as something to be experienced, a thing to be completed through the engagement of the reader.

This attention to not only what goes in a poem but what it does in each of us is part of the reason is why I return to Basho’s work often.  He gets this poetry thing in a way that expands it, gets it in a way that shows the way for others.

He is one of the great travelers, both on the road and the word.

Here’s an excerpt from Basho’s travel journal, The Records of a Travel-worn Satchel:

“In this mortal frame of mine which is made of a hundred bones and nine orifices there is something, and this something is called a wind-swept spirit for lack of a better name, for it is much like a thin drapery that is torn and swept away at the slightest stir of the wind.  This something in me took to writing poetry years ago, merely to amuse itself at first, but finally making it its lifelong business. It must be admitted, however, that there were times when it sank into such dejection that it was almost ready to drop its pursuit, or again times when i was so puffed up with pride that it exulted in vain victories over the others.  Indeed, ever since it began to write poetry, it has never found peace with itself, always wavering between doubts of one kind and another.  At one time it wanted to gain security by entering the service of a court, and at another it wished to measure the depth of its ignorance by trying to be a scholar, but it was prevented from either because of its unquenchable love of poetry.  The fact is, it knows no other art than the art of writing poetry, and therefore, it hangs on to it more or less blindly.”


Happy hanging!


* all quotes in this post come from Nobuyuki Yuasa’s translation of Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North and other travel sketches.

** photos snagged from here and here, respectively.

* travel update & some life sketches

Hello y’all!

Since I am moving this week back to Oregon and am on the road as I write this, I decided I would forgo the usual Friday Influence post and share some life sketches.  I will resume the usual astrologically-centered good times next week.  Enjoy!



walking in Flagstaff

the folds of her blue dress

in the wind

our laughter folded there




driving at night

the lights of Bakersfield

disappear behind the hill

like so many gleaming eyes





on the highway

in the half-light of sunset

the passing lights of trucks

like the eyes of a man


when told to go



Happy driving!