Monday, December 26, 2011

Lines from a year's worth of failed and unfinished poems

* I know you are there / on the outskirts of the city, tweeting your location / to a sleeping world. * We wait for a Jerusalem to take shape, beyond sea / and sex... * Unexpected caesarian – / hips too narrow, they said, to deliver though premature. * The earth is letting go of us. * Nothing Hanseatic about this league / of ours. But if they call you homewrecker, they’ve got it wrong – *  I wanted to keep you pinned / in the womb, medicated, sewed up / so you couldn’t escape / the life to come. * Weeks since our goodbye in the metro station, / the one that left me tongue-tied, word of you comes / by word of mouth. * I could not keep up when push came to shove / and we pushed toward love with sightseeing as a viable backup plan. * Sometimes cropping up / in drainage ditches after floods, flash bushes / flattened out in drought and papered the trenchbed. * The television spire, minareted above the city center, pricks the sky, pulses light, / beacons, blinks as we exit onto grey platforms, momentary us / spilt to each... * Blue river. / Water and it’s watery stare – / tributary to oceans, / unceasing susurrations. / Apple / of my eye. *

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Trouble and Translation

Translating Lorca - 

Mi corazón rezuma niebla. 
Cuando la selva del azul oculte 
la tierra, 
mi corazón continuará empapado de niebla. 

Río azul.

Ah, the heart oozes which? 

   1. Fog (densa), mist (neblina), haze, damp. (f)
   2. Disease of the eyes, which dims, the sight. (f)
   3. Mildew (hongo parásito). (f)
   4. Mental obscurity, confusion of ideas. (f)

Or is it all of these at once, all possibilities of the word flashing across the mind of the native speaker?

If so, how then does one translate?

And what is lost or gained in the space between tongues?

What have we after Babel but a beautiful puzzle, a puzzling beauty?

Friday, December 16, 2011

Today's Reading: Anything Can Happen - Seamus Heaney

          After Horace, Odes, I, 34

Anything can happen. You know how Jupiter
Will mostly wait for clouds to gather head
Before he hurls the lightning? Well just now
He galloped his thunder cart and his horses

Across a clear blue sky.. It shook the earth
and the clogged underearth, the River Styx,
the winding streams, the Atlantic shore itself.
Anything can happen, the tallest towers

Be overturned, those in high places daunted,
Those overlooked regarded. Stropped-beak Fortune
Swoops, making the air gasp, tearing the crest off one,
Setting it down bleading on the next.

Ground gives. The heaven's weight
Lifts up off Atlas like a kettle lid.
Capstones shift. Nothing resettles right.
Telluric ash and fire-spores boil away.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Word Frequency - an alphabet of one-offs

An alphabet of single use words from my 2011 writing:

A is for acanthology, B is for blackfly, C is for condom, D is for dogwalker, E is for erosion, F is for foxes, G is for goodbye, H is for hackneyed, I is for insomniac, J is for jacket, K is for knife, L is for lust, M is for midsummer, N is for newspaper, O is for orison, P is for primness, Q is for quailing, R is for rainpocked, S is for scoliotic, T is for tropic, U is for unable, V is for vainglory, W is for windscreen, X is for x, Y is for yellowpages, Z is for Zero



Poetic Obsession

Poets and Writers sent out a prompt today: Look back through the poems you've written this year and make a list of images or words you've repeated. This list will guide you toward identifying your poetic obsessions. Choose one of your poetic obsessions and write a poem that fully explores it. So I did. Below are selected frequent words in my drafts and new poems (minus articles, prepositions, conjunctions, and the like).  The list is really quite lovely, a poem in and of itself, the story of a year:

21 lights, 20 rain, 18 moon, 18 mango, 17 wedding, 17 mouth, 17 floor, 16 station, 16 horses, 16 breath, 15 smoke, 15 sleep, 14 grandfather, 14 face, 14 city, 13 music, 13 hours, 12 room, 12 memory, 12 waiting, 12 hands, 12 half, 12 cousin, 11 wife, 11 press, 11 narthex, 11 factory, 11 evening, 11 dust, 10 voice, 10 vision, 10 wrong, 10 wind, 10 two, 10 roads, 10 rasp, 10 platform, 10 know, 10 keep, 10 gravity, 10 gone, 10 everything, 9 young, 9 tongue, 9 overripe, 9 months, 9 girl, 9 aquavit, 9 another, 8 thrusts, 8 staring, 8 skin, 8 sky, 8 roofs, 8 mornings, 8 forgetting, 8 fish, 8 earth, 8 drunk, 8 deliver, 8 caesarian, 7 bed, 7 womb, 7 thrall, 7 thoughts, 7 sea, 7 passengers, 7 nativity, 7 mountains, 7 metro, 7 Jerusalem, 7 days, 7 ditches, 7 dark, 7 cotton, 7 corrugated, 7 child, 7 cannot, 7 brothers, 6 underground, 6 stopped, 6 starseed, 6 staggered, 6 snorts, 6 scars, 6 highway, 6 Helen, 6 clutching, 6 ceiling, 6 bridges, 6 bottomland, 6 bedroom, 6 awake, 6 arms, 5 trains, 5 tickets, 5 terminus, 5 swathed, 5 suffered, 5 silence, 5 sidestepping, 5 shock, 5 sanctuary, 5 river, 5 return, 5 raw, 5 marriage, 5 i-pod, 5 drone, 5 dream, 5 death, 5 bottleneck, 5 blind, 5 blinding, 5 Bergen, 5 glasses, 5 beach, 5 Arkansas, 4 touched, 4 touching, 4 tethers, 4 stains, 4 spots, 4 legs, 4 leaves, 4 hardwood, 4 harbour, 4 Argir, 4 foothills, 4 floodplains, 4 crenulated, 4 cocktails, 4 cervix, 4 Berlin, 3 winters, 3 pregnant, 3 perhaps...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Trolley Folly


I grew up on Carrier Street in Grand Rapids, thus named for the trolley line that ran down the street, carrying workers to the furniture factories downtown. Visiting home over the Thanksgiving holiday, I ended up in traffic behind a Grand Rapids Trolley Company "trolley." This faux-streetcar was crammed with holiday shoppers on a  shop-hop around the city.

I would love to live in a world where streetcars populate the city, but wish I didn't live in one in which buses are dressed up as streetcars to capitalize on nostalgia. You can dress a pig in silk, but it's still a pig. The trolley-clad bus belching diesel smoke at the stoplight in front of me was still a bus though, if this picture is a indication, one available for hire for weddings. 

Humboldt University of Berlin - Chemistry Lab 1950

Monday, December 5, 2011

Hiems in Lago Pratorum Alborum


Hiems – in caelo fumus suspendit. Cycni reliqui a lago commigraverunt. In tenebra expergefacio. Odaratus aeris novus est et placidus lagus est. In tenebram ad casam meam ambulo. Legi. Lectito. Recito. Scribeo cum spe lectoris cuius cor meum sentiet scietque. Ita i, bloge parve, et inveni eam! Dona ei verba mea, a dextra mea ad suam.


Thursday, December 1, 2011

Selling Italy - Italian Stereotypes in American Marketing

I saw this advertisement on television last night: Amore in the Afternoon - an odd title to be sure, evocative of both Death in the Afternoon by Ernest Hemingway and Afternoon Delight by the Starland Vocal Band (see hyperlink for a wonderfully dated music video) at once. For Americans, fine coffee is essentially an Italian affair. So Nestle, a Swiss company advertises on American television promoting a machine likely made in China by saying its "the Italian way." They dress up an actor who is probably not Italian (he never speaks at least) in stereotypical Italian clothing. The co-opting of the superlative adjective form to make"droolisimo" is particularly nice - I think Italians don't say that. Also, drool does not make me want to buy products. Last week, Italian 10 years bonds sold for 7%. The good life portrayed in advertising is certainly false for many Italians during this time of austerity. But though investors and economist have little confidence in her, Italia is still the sweetheart of advertisers.