Saturday (Winter Returns) Musings

I would encourage everyone to check out the latest issue of New Madrid. I’m not plugging this journal just because it is from Murray’s MFA program and because I worked on journal. I’m very proud of where the journal is going and this issue (our theme was intelligent design) is very well done. There are a lot of wonderful pieces but here are just a few “Breasts” by Pamela Johnson Parker, Slow Fuse of the Possible: A Poet’s Psychoanalysis by Kate Daniels, Mouse by Mark Brazaitis, Small Talk by Lauren Smith, and Call it Beautiful by Scott Doyle. I’m still finishing the issue but please go to the link (listed under my links section) and check it out.
This article appeared in the the Sunday Book Review section of the New York Times:

In October, John Ashbery became the first poet to have an edition of his works released by the Library of America in his own lifetime. That honor says a number of things about the state of contemporary poetry — some good, some not so good — but perhaps the most important and disturbing question it raises is this: What will we do when Ashbery and his generation are gone? Because for the first time since the early 19th century, American poetry may be about to run out of greatness.

What strikes me about it is it’s the same old question. When the old “greats” die, will there be anyone to replace them? I have news for poets, this isn’t just a poetry problem. I also think it is a bit narrow minded to say that just because the older generation is passing on, all poetry is doomed to mediocrity. The younger generation learns from the greats, they idolize the greats, and then they move beyond them. That’s is and always will be the cycle. I don’t think poetry is any different.

Monday (Last Day of Class Before TG) Musings

Here is your poem of the day:

Sleeping in the Forest

I thought the earth remembered me,
she took me back so tenderly,
arranging her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before, a stone on the river bed,
nothing between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated light as moths
among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
breathing around me, the insects,
and the birds who do their work in the darkness.
All night I rose and fell, as if in water,
grappling with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better.

Mary Oliver

When I Was the Muse

When the painter said, OK, you guys,
take off your clothes!
I startled at the plural,
assuming I’d been engaged to model by myself.
But then the dark-skinned god I knew as Aaron
from my Econ class unzipped his jeans,
and dropped them, grinning, on the floor.
So I did, too, and clambered up beside him
on the plywood box that elevated us above
the clutch of paint-stained easels. Thoughtfully,
the students posed our naked bodies. Someone fluffed
the crispy hair between my legs into a dark brown
bristling fan. And someone pinched the sides
of Aaron’s face to pinken up his cheeks.
Privately, I installed myself inside that mental space
where I had hidden as a child when the world
could be aborted no other way …

It was part of my plan to walk unclothed
among the portraits my unclad body
had provoked. So when we broke
for lunch, the students lunging in a herd
out back to smoke, I did. If you had asked me
then why I modeled, I’d have said,
to overcome my bourgeois insecurities,
to combat my fear of what might happen
if I showed myself completely naked
to someone else. But if you asked me now?
I’d describe the privilege of walking among
A museum of strangers’ images devoted to oneself,
and tell you what a privilege it was to see myself
the varied ways that others did.
Some silly fellow had painted nipples on me the size
and shape of frying eggs. Another jokester
had shrunk them down as small as M&Ms.
But someone serious and sad had shared a vision
of my head as a clotted orb of hair and mouth,
and brushed in underneath, a body headless
as the horseman in the myth. Then I seemed
to walk into the darkroom of my mind’s own eye
and saw the self I’d always felt inside but never known:
a complicated, unsmiling creature with a fear-tinged face.
Around her the aura of something golden was fighting
with whip-like straps of something black. She was staring
straight into the future, trying to get out, trying
to conceal her fear, completely unaware
of how it glistened and glowed, and of how
irresistible it was for the artist to spread it
across the canvas so that everyone could see.
Kate Daniels
I can’t remember if I heard Kate Daniels read this poem at MSU or if I read it in one of her books.
I’ve spent the last two hours working on revisions to my preface. I’m going to take a “break” now and grade the rest of my first round of argument papers. I still have two classes to do, but I figure I can work on those tomorrow. We’re not leaving till around 4. Busy busy busy…

Monday ( Blue Christmas) Musings


Poem of the week from Poetry

Our Valley

We don’t see the ocean, not ever, but in July and August

when the worst heat seems to rise from the hard clay

of this valley, you could be walking through a fig orchard

when suddenly the wind cools for a moment

you get a whiff of salt, and in that moment you can almost

believe something is waiting beyond Pacheco Pass,

something missive, irrational, and so powerful even

the mountains that rise east of here have no word for it.

You probably think I’m nuts saying the mountains

have no word for ocean, but if you live here

you begin to believe they know everything.

They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,

a silence that grows in autumn when the snow falls

slowly between the pines and the wind dies

to less than a whisper and you can barely catch

your breath because you’re thrilled and terrified.

You have to remember this isn’t your land.

It belongs to no one, like the sea you once lived beside

and thought was yours. Remember the small boats

that bobbed out as the waves rode in, and the men

who carved down to nothing. Now you say this home,

so go ahead, worship mountains as they dissolve into dust,

wait on the wind, catch a scent of salt, call it our life.

Phillip Levine


Kate Daniels is going to be featured on Poetry Daily this Saturday.

As the title to this post suggests, I heard Blue Christmas by Elvis this morning on my way to school. I love the holidays, don’t get me wrong, but it seems a little premature to be playing Christmas music already. Although, my sister sent me a picture message this morning showing at least six inches of snow at their house in Pennsylvania. Perhaps it’s closer than I think…