Monday, August 26, 2013

Paavo Haavikko

The children get this face of mine
When I start a new life
As soil, as vegetation,
   retiring from poems.
But where does my breath go then?
And how can I be happy
Not seeing the pigs sprouting hooves,
   the asparagus ripening, golden . . . Oh,
It is late,
My grandfather's fate,
A terrifying example.
He was too slow, all of forty-four
   (and that
Is too damn late) when he retired,
Oh, it takes the whole man
Just to listen to the winds
From sunrise to sunset
   and all night long,
Oh, it takes all your strength
   to really be at rest:
There is no footpath
   to the gods.

--Paavo Haavikko
tr. Anselm Hollo

in Paavo Haavikko and Tomas Tranströmer: Selected Poems
[Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1974]

Friday, August 16, 2013

Katherine Coles

The Double Leash

*       Blizzard to lilac. Dandelion
to leaf. Endless
variation of seasons I note

                in passing, smells
        I cannot smell: rotting
        gardens, feces, musk of cat.

*       These two

                run in front of me, golden
        shoulder to patchwork, heads
        lifted or lowered into

                scent, tongues lolling. Ears
        damp with their own
        spittle and each other's

                tell me, tethered a pace behind,
        their journey's epic: tipping
        forward to the familiar or
        stranger's distant yap; angling

                to my breathing, whispered
        praise, my slightest

*       Ignored.

*       The shepherd

                throws herself into

                any whirring wheel, to herd
        the neighbor's tractor mower or
        the UPS truck's packets
        home; pulling her back,

                the golden's oblivious
        ballast, instinct heading
        always for the gutter's

                deepest puddle, her own way
        within the forked leash's
        one-foot range. As we pass,

                the clans set up
        their barking, as if we
        were news, gathering center

                of a congenial warning
        din--mine answer with
        disturbances of pace, an extra pull
        or lollop, grins thrown

                slant-eyed over shoulders
        until one hears a call
        she can't ignore, surrenders

                to baying's ferocious
        joy moving through
        muscle and bone. Moving
        storm, storm's eye: happy

                universes whirl in their skins
        as I do in mine. Unknowable,
        their fate. Mediums between
        foreign principalities, they're tied

                to me, to each other, by my will,
        by love; to that other realm
        by song, and tooth, and blood.

        fr. Poetry (Chicago), August, 1998

Friday, June 28, 2013

Gene Frumkin

Variations on the Taste
of Dried Apricots

Tongue and palate are darkly lit
by the afterglow of the dried apricot
in its sour sunset.
An ear
heard on the lips:
the sound
is soft and round.
The dark orange gong,
struck by the tooth,
vibrates on the tongue.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pablo Neruda

For Everyone

I can't just suddenly tell you
what I should be telling you,
friend, forgive me; you know
that although you don't hear my words,
I wasn't asleep or in tears,
that I'm with you without seeing you
for a good long time and until the end.

I know that many may wonder
"What is Pablo doing?" I'm here.
If you look for me in this street 
you'll find me with my violin,
prepared to break into song,
prepared to die.

It is nothing I have to leave to anyone,
not to these others, not to you,
and if you listen well, in the rain,
you'll hear
that I come and go and hang about.
And you know that I have to leave.

Even if my words don't know it,
be sure, I'm the one who left.
There is no silence which doesn't end.
When the moment comes, expect me
and let them all know I'm arriving
in the street, with my violin.

tr. Alastair Reid
fr. Fully Empowered, 1975

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Jackson Mac Low


To manifest: to be, visibly.
To make visible what was formerly invisible or otherwise to make sensible what was formerly not.
To present or make present, vocally, visibly, or otherwise, one's views, sentiments, objections, etc. in reference to a matter of public concern.
Manifest: a commercial document listing constituents of cargo or names of passengers on a plane, ship, or other vehicle.
A manifest of meanings.
To make evident or certain by showing or displaying.
Readily perceived by the senses, especially by sight.
Easily understood or recognized.
To become obvious.
To be, obviously.
To be, recognizably.
To become recognizable.
To emerge as a figure from a ground.
To become visible, or otherwise perceptible, as an agent.
To act.
To make interior states perceptible to others.
Manifesto: a public declaration of principles, intentions, views, or feelings.
A document in which is said explicitly what otherwise might have remained implicit in political, artistic, or other practice.
To present or make present.
To present for inspection what might not otherwise have been able to be inspected.
To make the implicit explicit.
To make the hidden unhidden.
To say what might not otherwise have been said.
Choose one or more of the following:
Every text is a manifesto.
Every (adjective) text is a manifesto.
Every text worth reading is a manifesto.

18 June 1983
New York



What the maker of a manifesto does not comprehend or acknowledge is the basic unmanifestness from which and within which each manifestation take place. It is this neglect or ignorance that calls forth repugnance when a manifesto is proclaimed or published, especially one regarding art. As if what comes to being in and as the work of art could ever be totally manifest or even manifest at all without its abiding steadfastly in the unmanifest! A work of art is a manifesto only insofar as it is its own antimanifesto.

21 June 1983
New York

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Fernando Pessoa


Raining. There is silence since rain's self
Makes no noise unless a noise of peace.
Raining. The sky's gone to sleep. When the soul is
Widowed of unknowing, feeling gropes.
Raining. My essence (who I am) I repeal.

So calm the rain is, it seems to disappear
(Not even made of clouds) into air, seems
Not to be rain even, only a whisper
Which itself, in the whispering, dislimns.
Raining. Nothing gleams.

No wind is hovering. There is no sky
That I can feel. It's raining, distinct, indistinct,
Like something certain which may be a lie,
Like what a lie does to us, some great thing desired.
Raining. In me nothing's stirred.


tr. Jonathan Griffin
in Fernando Pessoa: Selected Poems
[Middlesex, England: Penguin Books, 1974]

Monday, April 29, 2013

Jacques Prévert

Family Portrait

Mama knits
The son goes to war
She finds it all perfectly natural, Mama
And Papa, what is he doing? Papa?
He is making little deals
His wife knits
His son goes to war
He is making little deals
He finds it all perfectly natural, Papa
And the son, the son
What does the son find?
The son finds absolutely nothing, the son
For the son the war his Mama the knitting his Papa
     little deals for him the war
He will make little deals, he and his Papa
The war continues Mama continues she knits
Papa continues he carries on his activity
The son is killed he no longer carries on
Papa and Mama go to the cemetery
They find it all perfectly natural, Papa and Mama
Life continues life with knitting war little deals
Deals war knitting war
Deals deals activity
Life along with the cemetery.

fr. Jacques Prévert, Paroles

tr., Harriet Zinnes in Blood and Feathers:
Selected Poems of Jacques Prévert

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Robert Duncan

Poetry, a Natural Thing

     Neither our vices nor our virtues
further the poem. "They came up
     and died
just like they do every year
     on the rocks."

     The poem
feeds upon thought, feeling, impulse,
     to breed   itself,
a spiritual urgency at the dark ladders leaping.

This beauty is an inner persistence
     toward the source
striving against (within) down-rushet of the river,
     a call we heard and answer
in the lateness of the world
     primordial bellowings
from with the youngest world might spring,

salmon not in the well where the
     hazelnut falls
but at the falls battling, inarticulate,
     blindly making it.

This is one picture apt for the mind.

A second: a moose painted by Stubbs,
where last year's extragent antlers
     lie on the ground.
The forlorn moosey-faced poem wears
     new antler-buds,
     the same,

"a little heavy, a little contrived",

his only beauty to be
     all moose.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Jackson Mac Low

1st Light Poem: For Iris -- 10 June 1962

The light of a student-lamp
sapphire light
the light of a smoking-lamp
Light from the Magellanic Clouds
the light of a Nernst lamp
the light of a naphtha-lamp
light from meteorites

Evanescent light
the light of an electric lamp
extra light

Citrine light
kineographic light
the light of a Kitson lamp
kindly light

Ice light
altar light

The light of a spotlight
a sunbeam
solar light

Mustard-oil light
maroon light
the light of a magnesium flare
light from a meteor

Evanescent light
light from an electric lamp
an extra light

Light from a student-lamp
sapphire light
a shimmer
smoking-lamp light

Ordinary light
orgone lumination
light from a lamp burning olive oil
opal light

atom-bomb light
the light of an alcohol lamp
the light of a lamp burning anda-oil

fr. 22 Light Poems
[Black Sparrow Press, 1968] 

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Ron Padgett

The Art of the Sonnet 

Last night I said hello
to the little muse
the smaller than usual muse

She was floating toward me
a plaster figurine
on a cloud

but her plaster lips
could not return my greeting.
That's the first part

and in Japan.
Now the figurine
drifts past and turns

a smile erasing
her face

fr. How to Be Perfect

Monday, March 18, 2013

Jack Spicer


No love deserves the death it has. An archipelago
Rocks cropping out of ocean. Seabirds shit on it. Live out their
     lives on it.
What was once a mountain.
Or was it once a mountain? Did Lemuria, Atlantis, Mu ever
     exist except in the minds of old men fevered by the distances
     and the rocks they saw?
Was it true? Can the ocean of time claim to own us now adrift
Over that land. In that land. If memory serves
There (that rock out there)
Is more to it.


Wake up one warm morning. See the sea in the distance.
Die Ferne, water
Because mainly it is not land. A hot day too
The shreads of fog have already vaporized
Have gone back where they came from . There may be a whale
     in this ocean.
Empty fragments, like the shards of pots found in some
     Mesopotamian expedition. Found but not put together. The
Universe has distance but not much else.
No one’s weather or room to breathe in.


On the tele-phone (distant sound) you sounded no distant than
     if you were talking to me in San Francisco on the telephone
     or in a bar or in a room. Long
Distance calls. They break sound
Into electrical impulses and put it back again. Like the long
     telesexual route to the brain or the even longer teleerotic
     route to the heart. The numbers dialed badly, the
     connection faint.
Your voice
                  consisted of sounds that I had
To route to phonemes, then to bound and free morphemes, then
     to syntactic structures. Telekinesis
Would not have been possible even if we were sitting at the
     same table. Long
Distance calls your father, your mother, your friend, your
     lover. The lips
Are never quite as far away as when you kiss.
An electric system.
“Gk. ήλέκτρον, amber, also shining metal; allied to
     ήλέκτωρ, gleaming.


Malice aforethought. Every sound
You can make making music.
Tough lips.
This is no nightingale. No-
Bodys waxen image burned. Only
Believe me. Linguistics is divided like Graves mythology of
     mythology, a triple goddessmorphology, phonology, and
Tough lips that cannot quite make the sounds of love
The language
Has so misshaped them.
Malicious afterthought. None of you bastards
Knows how Charlie Parker died. And dances now in some brief
     kingdom (Oz) two phonemes
That were never paired before in the language.


Aleph did not come before Beth. The Semitic languages kept as
     strict a separation between consonant and vowel as between
     men and women. Vowels somehow got between to produce
     children. J V H
Was male. The Mycenaean bookkeepers
Mixed them up (one to every 4.5)
     (A = 1, E = 5, I = 9, O = 15, U = 21)
Alpha being chosen as the queen of the alphabet because she
     meant not.
              IBM cards follow this custom.
What I have chosen to follow is what schoolteachers call a
     blend, but which is not, since the sounds are very little
     changed by each other
Two consonants (floating in the sea of some truth together)
Immediately preceded and/or followed by a vowel.


The emotional disturbance echoes down the canyons of the
Echoes theresounds cut offmerely phonemes. A ground-
     rules double. You recognize them by pattern. Try.
Hello shouted down a canyon becomes huhluh. You, and the
     canyons of the heart,
Recognize feebly what you shouted. The vowels
Are indistinguishable. The consonants
A pattern for imagination. Phonemes,
In the true sense, that are dead before their burial. Constructs
Of the imagination
Of the real canyon and the hearts

fr. Language 
in The Collected Books of Jack Spicer
[Los Angeles: Black Sparrow Press, 1975]

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Allen Ginsberg

Siesta in Xbalba
and Return to the States
          dedicated to Karena Shields


Late sun opening the book,
          blank page like light,
invisible words unscrawled,
          impossible syntax
of apocalypse--
          Uxmal : Noble Ruins
No construction--

          let the mind fall down.

--One could pass valuable months
and years perhaps a lifetime
doing nothing but lying in a hammock
reading prose with the white doves
          copulating underneath
and monkeys barking in the interior
          of the mountain
and I have succumbed to this

'They go mad in the Selva--'
          the madman read
and laughed in his hammock

          eyes watching me:
unease not of the jungle
          the poor dear,
can tire one--
          all that mud
and all those bugs . . .
          ugh . . .

Dreaming back I saw
an eternal kodachrome
souvenir of a gathering
of souls at a party,
crowded in an oval flash :
cigarettes, suggestions,
laughter in drunkenness,
broken sweet conversation,
acquaintance in the halls,
faces posed together,
stylized gestures,
odd familiar visages
and singular recognitions
that registered indifferent
greeting across time :
Anson reading Horace
with a rolling head,
white-handed Hohnsbean
camping gravely
with an absent glance,
bald Kingsland drinking
out of a huge glass,
Dusty in a party dress,
Durgin in white shoes
gesturing from a chair,
Keck in a corner waiting
for subterranean music,
Helen Parker lifting
her hands in surprise :
all posturing in one frame,
superficially gay
or tragic as may be,
illumed with the fatal
character and intelligent
actions of their lives.

And I in a concrete room
          above the abandoned
labyrinth of Palenque
          measuring my fate,
wandering solitary in the wild
          --blinking singleminded
at a bleak idea--
          until exhausted with
its action and contemplation
          my soul might shatter
at one primal moment's
          sensation of the vast
movement of divinity.

As I leaned against a tree
          inside a forest
expiring of self-begotten love,
I looked up at the stars absently,
          as if looking for
something else in the blue night
          through the boughs,
and for a moment saw myself
          leaning against a tree . . .

. . . back there the noise of a great party
          in the apartments of New York,
half-created paintings on the walls, fame,
          cocksucking and tears,
money and arguments of great affairs,
          the culture of my generation . . .

          my own crude night imaginings,
my own crude soul notes taken down
          in moments of isolation, dreams,
piercings, sequences of nocturnal thought
          and primitive illuminations

--uncanny feeling the white cat
          sleeping on the table
will open its eyes in a moment
          and be looking at me--.

One might sit in this Chiapas
recording the apparitions in the field
          visible from a hammock
looking out across the shadow of the pasture
in all the semblance of Eternity

          . . . a dwarfed thatch roof
down in the grass in a hollow slope
under the tall crowd of vegetation
          waiting at the wild edge :
the long shade of the mountain beyond
          in the near distance,
its individual hairline of trees
traced fine and dark along the ridge
          against the transparent sky light,
rifts and holes in the blue air
          and amber brightenings of clouds
disappearing down the other side
          into the South . . .

          palms with lethargic feelers
rattling in presage of rain,
          shifting their fronds
in the direction of the balmy wind,
          monstrous animals
sprayed up out of the ground
          settling and unsettling
as in water . . .
          and later in the night
a moment of premonition
when the plenilunar cloudfilled sky
          is still and small.

So spent a night
          with drug and hammock
at Chichen Itza on the Castle :--

          I can see the moon
moving over the edge of the night forest
          and follow its destination
through the clear dimensions of the sky
          from end to end of the dark
circular horizon.

          High dim stone portals,
entablatures of illegible scripture,
bas-reliefs of unknown perceptions :
          and now the flicker of my lamp
and smell of kerosene on dust-
          strewn floor where ant wends
its nightly ritual way toward great faces
          worn down by rain.
In front of me a deathshead
          half a thousand years old
--and have seen cocks a thousand
old grown over with moss and batshit
          stuck out of the wall
in a dripping vaulted house of rock--
          but deathshead's here
on portal still and thinks its way
          through centuries the thought
of the same night in which I sit
          in skully meditation
--sat in many times before by
          artisan other than me
until his image of ghostly change
          appeared unalterable--
but now his fine thought's vaguer
          than my dream of him :
and only the crude skull figurement's
          gaunt insensible lare is left,
with its broken plumes of sensation
and indecipherable headdresses of intellect
          scattered in the madness of oblivion
in holes and notes of elemental stone,
blind face of animal transcendency
          over the holy ruin of the world
dissolving into the sunless wall of a blackened room
          on a time-rude pyramid rebuilt
          in the bleak flat night of Yucatan
where I come with my own mad mind to study
          alien hieroglyphs of Eternity.

A creak in the rooms scared me.

Some sort of bird, vampire or swallow,
          flees with little paper wingflap
around the summit in its own air unconcerned
          with the great stone tree I perch on.

          Continual metallic
whirr of chicharras,
          then lesser chirps
of cricket : 5 blasts
          of the leg whistle.
The creak of an opening
          door in the forest,
some sort of weird birdsong
          or reptile croak.

My hat woven of hennequin
          on the stone floor
as a leaf on the waters,
          as perishable;
my candle wavers continuously
          and will go out.

Pale Uxmal,
          unhistoric, like a dream,
Tuluum shimmering on the coast in ruins;
Chichen Itza naked
          constructed on a plain;
Palenque, broken chapels in the green
          basement of a mount;
lone Kabah by the highway;
          Piedras Negras buried again
by dark archaeologists;
resurrected in the wild,
and all the limbo of Xbalba still unknown--

          floors under roofcomb of branch,
foundation to ornament
          tumbled to the flowers,
pyramids and stairways
          raced with vine,
limestone corbels
          down in the river of trees,
pillars and corridors
          sunken under the flood of years :

Time's slow wall overtopping
          all that firmament of mind,
as if a shining waterfall of leaves and rain
were built down solid from the endless sky
          through which no thought can pass.

A great fat rooster
mounted on a tree stump
in the green afternoon,
the ego of the very fields,
screams in the holy sunlight!

--I can't think with that
supersonic cock intensity
crucifying my skull
in its imaginery sleep.

          --was looking back
with eyes shut to
          where they crawled
like ants on brown old temples
          building their minute ruins
and disappearing into the wild
          leaving many mysteries
of deathly volition
          to be divined.

I alone know the great crystal door
          to the House of Night,
a legend of centuries
          --I and a few indians.

And had I mules and money I could find
          the Cave of Amber
and the Cave of Gold
          rumored of the cliffs of Tumbala.

I found the face of one
          of the Nine Guardians of the Night
hidden in a mahogany hut
          in the Area of Lost Souls
--the first relic of kind for that place.

And I found as well a green leaf
          shaped like a human heart;
but to whom shall I send this
          anachronistic valentine?

Yet these ruins so much
          woke me to nostalgia
for the classic stations
          of the earth,
the ancient continent
          I have not seen
and the last few years
          of memory left
before the ultimate night
          of war.

As if these ruins were not enough,
          as if man could go
no further before heaven
          till he exhausted
the physical round
          of his own mortality
in the obscure cities
          hidden in the ageing world

. . . the few actual
          ecstatic conscious souls
certain to be found,
          familiars . . .
returning after years
          to my own scene
transfigured :
          to hurry change
to hurry the years
          bring me to my fate.

So I dream nightly of an embarcation,
          captains, captains,
iron passageways, cabin lights,
          Brooklyn across the waters,
the great dull boat, visitors, farewells,
          the blurred vast sea--
one trip a lifetime's loss or gain :

as Europe is my own imagination
          --many shall see her,
          many shall not--
though it's only the old familiar world
and not some abstract mystical dream.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Philip Lamantia

It is the oaken village that falls, splintered through a dust of visage where I gallop, no more flint than air, to think of cabalist hope: a universal alteration in the germination of planets.

But, the mystagogic chairs smashed in seed wars, I'm conceived again by the imponderables of total conjunction--even my shadow with another's that left its organs (sex-ploding suns) some distance from the translations of matter into an image.

This way the poem becomes an open sluice for darkness. Only the most obscure body is the brightest unity.

I catch hold of a train inside an iris.

Time at the window of maternal cosmetic, the high-heeled foot garlanded by a silken phallus spectates the forest where the uterine furnishings sink into drawers at bay from that twilight flashing in a mirror of dressing and undressing.

The preternatural identities beat the clouds from their barks, a child's chance look at the raging smolder of roses. Nearing sleep, this same wind rustles the void of blood-stained horses (my first cabals) whose galaxy dissolves with a kiss the victorious rescue of the palpable shadow streaming stars, her face: this bed, the undulant phantom: her hips.

We ride wooden horses
Always a desert marries the boiling water.

Friday, March 1, 2013

John Ashbery

Bird's Eye View of the Tool and Die Co.

For a long time I used to get up early.
20-30 vision, hemorrhoids intact, he checks into the
Enclosure of time familiarizing dreams
For better or worse. The edges rub off,
The slant gets lost. Whatever the villagers
Are celebrating with less conviction is
The less you. Index of own organ-music playing,
Machinations over the architecture (too
Light to make much of a dent) against meditated
Gang-wars, ice cream, loss, palm terrain.

Under and around the quick background
Surface is improvisation. The force of
Living hopelessly backward into a past of striped
Conversations. As long as none of them ends this side
Of the mirrored desert in terrorist chorales.
The finest car is as the simplest home off the coast
Of all small cliffs too short to be haze. You turn
To speak to someone beside the dock and the lighthouse
Shines like garnets. It has become a stricture.

[Houseboat Days, 1977]

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Vladimír Holan


The snow began to fall at midnight. And it's true
that the best place to sit is in the kitchen,
even if it's the kitchen of insomnia.
It's warm there, you fix some food, drink wine
and look out the window into the familiar eternity.
Why should you worry whether birth and death are only two points,
when life is not a straight line after all.
Why should you torture yourself staring at the calendar
and wondering how much is at stake.
And why should you admit you have no money
to buy Saskia a pair of slippers?
And why should you boast
that you suffer more than others.

Even if there were no silence on earth,
that snow would have dreamed it up.
You're alone. As few gestures as possible. Nothing for show.

tr. C. G. Hanzlicek & Dana Hábová

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ha Jin


My letter warned you not to go
--the war was merciless, the road
to the fleeing court equally difficult.
But bewitched, you set out
and left your wife and children behind.

Heaven knows how they get by--
perhaps starving, at night
trembling under a broken roof.

True, our duty is to serve the country,
but you, what can you do?
Can you wield a sword or lead troops?
Can you wave a banner or blow a bugle?

See, how easily the rebels
caught you and brought you here
to smell burned animals
and taste their barbaric music.


Five months ago we were besieged,
outside the city wall
the rebel army ready to charge in,
inside, our troops mounting defense.

Then the Emperor changed his mind--
the entire court fled toward Szechwan
leaving us civilians to defend Chang An.

How could we fight a quarter million
cavalry and swordsmen!
Just in one day the capital fell--
killing, screaming everywhere,
smoke blocking out daylight.


Now that you are in this trap
you'd better take it easy.
For the time being we are safe
(I gave a singing girl
to a rebel general).

But don't stroll on the streets
with your neck so straight.
Don't wear your official cap--
allegiance to the court is a crime.
Don't chant in the park.
Some barbarians understand your words
and will behead you for that.
Don't try to escape--
if they catch you, you'll be a goner.
Don't cry after drinking.
Many people are more miserable
than you and I.

after hearing you recite your poems
Lu Ben, the herbalist, took to his bed
saying he missed home.
He lost his only child last fall.

The country is broken,
but mountains and rivers remain.
Spring is here again,
cherries and apricots blooming.
Look, under the charred eaves
swallows are rebuilding their nests,
dragonflies flitting with skinny wings.

fr. Wreckage
[Brooklyn, New York: Hanging Loose Press, 2001]