Thursday, March 26, 2015

Diffugere Nives

This translation from the Latin of my favorite Roman poet into the English of my favorite British poet is among the most beautiful I know. The snows are fled away here, dear reader, and the fashion of the earth is altered. Spring has brought the swans back to the lake. I wish you well and wish Housman a happy birthday.

Diffugere Nives

        Horace, Odes, iv, 7
        (translated by A.E. Housman)

The snows are fled away, leaves on the shaws
And grasses in the mead renew their birth,
The river to the river-bed withdraws,
And altered is the fashion of the earth.

The Nymphs and Graces three put off their fear
And unapparelled in the woodland play.
The swift hour and the brief prime of the year
Say to the soul, Thou wast not born for aye.

Thaw follows frost; hard on the heel of spring
Treads summer sure to die, for hard on hers
Comes autumn with his apples scattering;
Then back to wintertide, when nothing stirs.

But oh, whate'er the sky-led seasons mar,
Moon upon moon rebuilds it with her beams;
Come we where Tullus and where Ancus are
And good Aeneas, we are dust and dreams.

Torquatus, if the gods in heaven shall add
The morrow to the day, what tongue has told?
Feast then thy heart, for what thy heart has had
The fingers of no heir will ever hold.

When thou descendest once the shades among,
The stern assize and equal judgment o'er,
Not thy long lineage nor thy golden tongue,
No, nor thy righteousness, shall friend thee more.

Night holds Hippolytus the pure of stain,
Diana steads him nothing, he must stay;
And Theseus leafves Pirithous in the chain
The love of comrades cannot take away.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Yeats and Losing in Love

I'll admit that whenever I read Yeats' love poetry, I feel a deep injustice that Maude Gonne (and later her daughter Iseult) rejected his marriage proposal -- how could you not love someone who's that good a poet? It probably says a lot about me that I equate creative talent with worthiness in love. But in truth, poetry hasn't proven that effective in the pursuit of love, in my life or in Yeats'. Of his poem, "He Wishes for the Clothes of Heaven," Yeats' said, "it's a perfect way to lose a lady." Perhaps, yes, but what beautiful way to go:

He Wishes for the Clothes of Heaven

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Tupelo Press 30/30 Project - Day Eight

I'm more than a week into the 30/30 Project, writing a poem a day for the month of January. There have been moments as thrilling as any I've experienced as a writer -- lines forming themselves as if of their own volition, ideas fusing with music. There have been moments of sheer panic as well as hours pass without a thread to follow through the maze of poem drafts. I've taken liberties with Lorca, given a nod to dear friends, bestowed a voice upon a poison mushroom, invented new lives and written my own.

If you've been one of my kind readers, following my daily progress, please consider donating a dollar or two to Tupelo Press so they can continue to promote all their wonderful poets and projects. You can find information on how to donate at the 30/30 page. View it as a trade. Here's a list of what I'll be exchanging for donations.

$1+ -- A letter or postcard
$10 -- A handwritten poem
$20 -- A poem on a prompt of your choosing
$35 -- A limited letter-press print of my poem Cicada by the artist Marie Kinscher (see above)
$100 -- A private reading

Thursday, January 1, 2015

30/30 - Day One

Artist: Marie Kinscher
Tupelo Press' 30/30 project means cranking out a poem every day, for public viewing nonetheless. That's daunting. My typical process involves the slow accretion of lines and ideas and drafts over weeks, sometimes months. 30/30 gives me no time to perfect and hone and second guess. It's good and terrifying too. I spent the morning pushing words around the page. Nothing. I tried one poem, then another, then another. The thought came that I might not be up for this.

Then I took a walk and looked at the cracked glaze of ice on Horseshoe Lake like so much candy or stained glass in the sunlight. And I remembered that life doesn't take place inside my head (and what is true of life is often true of writing and vice versa). I walked with dust kicking along Shady Beach Road beneath the bluest sky and the first lines of the day's poem came to me.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Tupelo Press 30/30 Project

Dear Reader,

I am undertaking the challenge of Tupelo Press' 30/30 project, writing a poem a day in the month of January. The poems will be posted daily on the project's website. Stephen King says that the draft of a book should only take three months and there's something in that -- an invitation to move beyond perfectionism, dig deep, and play fast and loose. I don't normally write much more than 30 poems in half a year, so this is a way to plow toward a final manuscript. I invite you to be a part of my writing this month, first and foremost through reading. And get in touch. Writing can be a lonely pursuit and encouragement, thoughts, or even heckling would be a welcome word from the outside world.

You can also be a part of my month-long writing adventure by supporting Tupelo Press. 30/30 provides poets with a challenge and unique publication venue. As a part of the project, poets agree to attempt to raise a certain amount of money for the press. My goal is $350. Donations to the press help projects like 30/30 continue along with book publishing and the Tupelo Quarterly, which published my poem Tea for Jelena earlier this year. I'm very much averse to asking friends for money, even for a great cause, so I'm not. Rather, I'm offering an exchange. Below are what you'll get for your donation depending on amount. Please consider pitching in, even a dollar or two.

$1+ -- A letter or postcard
$10 -- A handwritten poem
$20 -- A poem on a prompt of your choosing
$35 -- A limited letter-press print of my poem Cicada by the artist Marie Kinscher (see above)
$100 -- A private reading

I'll be posting about my progress here and linking daily poems on Facebook and Twitter. I can't think of a better way to kick off a resolute new year than 30/30. I wish you a fair 2015 and hope we'll meet again and often in it. .


Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Updates and Miscellany

It is often the case that good times, though remarkable don't need remarked upon. The last months have been a flurry of good things -- catching up with old friends and translating new authors, warming up with rum punch and and enjoying long walks on still winter days -- and I haven't written here. I've had the proud pleasure of accompanying students at vocal recitals and the joy of fellowship with thirty friends cozily packed into my cottage for carol singing. A few things:
  • I received an anonymous bunch of Faroese children's magazines in the mail for no apparent reason. It is always nice to get Faroepost though and I enjoyed reading about Iphones and potatoes. Any clues on the sender?
  • My translations of my dear friend Kat Müller's Gernan poems came out in Fjord's Review last month. It was a great moment as a writer to walk into Barnes & Noble and find the issue on the magazine rack.
  • My best Bennington friend, Brett Jenkins, sent me her manuscript. In it was a poem dedicated to me I'd forgotten about - These songbirds chattering us awake / were rocking the truths of the morning / gently into us, that each rock shook / from your shoes that first Vermont summer/ was preparing your body for loss... I'm so lucky in my friends.
  • Paper Darts published an illustrated version of my poem "A Trip to Jerusalem.
Last year, this time, I had Geoffrey Brock's "Alteration Finds" stuck in my head with its refrain of changing life. Since then, life has changed and for the better. I've experienced friendships built over jenga and theological discussions, the beauty of a voice rising in the swelter of summertime, cold seas and warm hearts. Merry Christmas, dear reader. Let's drink of cup of kindness for auld lang syne, the good old days. May these be those days.

Friday, November 7, 2014

A Haiku for November

November blusters in Whitmore Lake. It's the season of books and tea, rum punch and scarf-wearing. Darkness sets in early. The rain and wind sweep across my roof. The world becomes insular as weather stretches distances. Basho understood this in his haiku, the way a season can separate people–––

   Autumn deepening –
   my neighbor...
   how does he live, I wonder?

And yet there are letters from friends, books from a long way off, music and cheer and company. And from time to time, a word from you, dear reader.