Monday, August 18, 2014

Denise Levertov---Extraordinary Poet

"Old River" by my sister, Margaret.  There's nothing like Louisiana sky...unless it's sky & water.

*  Remember Mallarme's words that "Poems are not made with ideas, they are made with words."

*  Beware of consciously searching for the original; nothing is more likely to lead to the banal.  The fresh word is not necessarily the odd word.

*  Strength of feeling, reverence for mystery, and clarity of intellect must be kept in balance with one another.  Neither the passive nor the active must dominate, they must work in conjunction, as in a marriage.

~Denise Levertov on the craft of poetry, from "Women of the Beat Generation", page 205

^  ^  ^  ^  ^

Morning Glories, tangled & dewy, August 2006
Captive Flower
By Denise Levertov
This morning's morning-glory
trying to thrust
through the wire mesh towards the sun
is trapped
I ease it back
to see better its unfurling,
but only slowly it resigns
the dream. Its petals
are scarred.
I had not thought myself
a jailer


HuntingThe Phoenix
By Denise Levertov

Leaf through discolored manuscripts,
make sure no words
lie thirsting, bleeding,
waiting for rescue. No:
old loves half-
articulated, moments forced
out of the stream of perception
to play “statue,”
and never released —
they had no blood to shed.
You must seek
the ashy nest itself
if you hope to find
charred feathers, smoldering flightbones,
and a twist of singing flame


A Blessing
By Denise Levertov
'Your river is in full flood,' she said,
'Work on---use these weeks well!'
She was leaving, with springy step, a woman
herself renewed, her life risen
up from the root of despair she'd
bent low to touch,
risen empowered. Her work now
could embrace more; she imagined anew
the man's totem tree and its taproot,
the woman's chosen lichen, patiently
composting rock, another's
needful swamp, the tribal migrations---
swaying skeins rotating their leaders,
pace unflagging---and the need
of each threatened thing
to be. She had met
with the council
of all beings.
'You give me
my life,' she said to the just-written poems,
long-legged foals surprised to be standing.
The poet waving farewell
is not so sure of the river.
Is it indeed
strong-flowing, generous? Was there largesse
for alluvial, black, seed-hungry fields?
Or had a flash-flood
swept down these tokens
to be plucked ashore, rescued
only to watch the waters recede
from stones of an arid variety?
But the traveler's words
are leaven. They work in the poet.
The river swiftly
goes on braiding its heavy tresses,
brown and flashing,
as far as the eye can see.
From: "Breathing the Water", pages 6 - 7
I have this entire book of short essays highlighted, dog-eared and underlined.  It's a chocolate truffles or something way better.  :-)

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Mending Wall by Robert Frost

Stone fence in Nashville, Tennessee - I immediately thought of the following poem when we drove by this fence on the way to see my granddaughter's new school, Lipscomb Academy.

Mending Wall

Robert Frost, 1874 - 1963

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That sends the frozen-ground-swell under it,
And spills the upper boulders in the sun;
And makes gaps even two can pass abreast.
The work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair
Where they have left not one stone on a stone,
But they would have the rabbit out of hiding,
To please the yelping dogs.  The gaps I mean,
No one has seen them made or heard them made,
But at spring mending-time we find them there.
I let my neighbor know beyond the hill;
And on a day we meet to walk the line
And set the wall between us once again.
We keep the wall between us as we go.
To each the boulders that have fallen to each.
And some are loaves and some so nearly balls
We have to use a spell to make them balance:
‘Stay where you are until our backs are turned!'
We wear our fingers rough with handling them.
Oh, just another kind of outdoor game,
One on a side.  It comes to little more:
There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.'
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
'Why do they make good neighbors?  Isn’t it
Where there are cows?  But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
That wants it down.'  I could say ‘Elves’ to him,
But it’s not elves exactly, and I’d rather
He said it for himself.  I see him there
Bringing a stone grasped firmly by the top
In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed.
He moves in darkness as it seems to me,
Not of woods only and the shade of trees.
He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.'
Yes, they do.  I have a wooden fence and wouldn't have any other kind.
"If you know what you are going to write when you're writing a poem, it's going to be
 average." ~Derek Walcott
Leaf hearts, wet with morning dew.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Good Morning, Moonflower

Let Morning Come
By Marion
Let the river flow
unimpeded, night black,
cradled within
strong, willow-sewn banks.
Let the crickets sing
ancient, mystical
tunes, sweet and time-kissed
into my awakened ears.
Let the moonlady’s silver
beams rain down
and suffuse my
twisted, ominous dreams.
Let the candle flame pull me into
its dancing shadow.  May
the flame illuminate
my jaded, somnolent mind.
Let the rivers flow.
     Let the crickets sing.
           Let the moonlady glimmer.
               Let the candlelight shimmer.
Please, let morning come.
January/April 2012

Early morning sunlight on my Datura Moonflower---
A bee stops by for breakfast---
If it tastes as good as it smells, he's in culinary ecstasy---
A few more minutes of sunlight and the Moonflower will be gone---
^  ^  ^  ^  ^
"The artist is the confidant of nature, flowers carry on dialogues with him through the graceful bending of their stems and the harmoniously tinted nuances of their blossoms. Every flower has a cordial word which nature directs towards him." ~Auguste Rodin

Thursday, August 14, 2014

O Captain! My Captain! - Walt Whitman

Robin Williams.  From "Dead Poets Society."


By Walt Whitman

O CAPTAIN! my Captain, our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather'd every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
But O heart! heart! heart!

    O the bleeding drips of read,

        Where on the deck my Captain lies,

            Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up---for you the flag is flung---for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon'd wreaths---for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!

    The arm beneath your head!

        It is some dream that on the deck,

            You've fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor'd safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
Exult O shores and ring O bells!

    But I with mournful tread,

        Walk the deck my Captain lies,

            Fallen Cold and Dead.



R.I.P. dear Robin Williams.  "Dead Poets Society" is one of my favorite movies of all time for obvious reasons.  What to say when such a talented, beloved person is dead by his own hand?  Words seem inadequate yet they're all we have.  Who can know the despair, depression and suffering of another person?  Nobody, that's who.  I pray for his family.  It's all I've got.


'"O Captain! My Captain!" is a poem written by Walt Whitman in 1865. The poem is classified as an elegy, or mourning poem, and was written to honor Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States.'  ~from Wikipedia

                                                                 + + + + +

'All say, "How hard it is that we have to die" — a strange complaint to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.' ~Mark Twain

My blue Morning Glory in black & white.  The bees left pollen footprints...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

August Dictionary Poem by Marion

Art By James Michalopoulos of New Orleans, LA
* * * * *

Summer Dictionary Poem
By Marion – 8/9/14

August:  Aching

Bountiful, Beautiful

Cadmium Clouds, Cats

Dew-ridden Dog Days, (Dragonflies!)

Earthy, Electric

Flowers Flourishing

Garden Giving Generously

Hot/Humid, Hummingbird Hordes

Icarus-Inspired Ideograms

Jam Jelling

Kinetic Knowing

Limping, Lachrymose Lamplight

Moonlight, Morning Glories, Moonflowers

Novels, Novels, Novels Nourishing

Opalescent Opacity

Poetry, Pain, Poetry, Pain, Poetry = (Palindrome!)

Quotidian Quiddity = (Everyday’s Essence)

Radiant Rivers/Reading, Remembering

Steamy Sun Showers Shining

Thunder Trembling Tenuously

Umbral Ubiquity

Verdure Vegetation

Wanton Wakefulness/Writing, Writing, (Weeping Willows!)

Xerothermic Xanadu

Youth Yielding, Yin/Yang



"Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary." ~Khalil Gibran

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Sensual World by Louise Glück

Got this remarkable, astonishing book, "The Seven Ages" by Louise Glück for a nickel at McKay Used Books in Nashville, TN last week.  Truly, the best bargain I've made all year.  What a book.  Louise Glück is a breathtaking poet---a word magician...

By Louise Glück

I call to you across a monstrous river or chasm
to caution you, to prepare you.

Earth will seduce you, slowly, imperceptibly,
subtly, not to say with connivance.

I was not prepared: I stood in my grandmother’s kitchen,
holding out my glass. Stewed plums, stewed apricots–

the juice poured off into the glass of ice.
And the water added, patiently, in small increments,

the various cousins discriminating, tasting
with each addition–

aroma of summer fruit, intensity of concentration:
the colored liquid turning gradually lighter, more radiant,

more light passing through it.
Delight, then solace. My grandmother waiting,

to see if more was wanted. Solace, then deep immersion.
I loved nothing more: deep privacy of the sensual life,

the self disappearing into it or inseparable from it,
somehow suspended, floating, its needs

fully exposed, awakened, fully alive–
Deep immersion, and with it

mysterious safety. Far away, the fruit glowing it its glass bowls.
Outside the kitchen, the sun setting.

I was not prepared: sunset, end of summer. Demonstrations
of time as a continuum, as something coming to an end,

not a suspension: the senses wouldn’t protect me.
I caution you as I was never cautioned:

you will never let go, you will never be satiated.
You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.

Your body will age, you will continue to need.
You will want the earth, then more of the earth–

Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond.
It is encompassing, it will not minister.

Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you,
it will not keep you alive.

From:  "The Seven Ages" by Louise Gluck


We were in Nashville last week visiting family and I didn't go online once.'s August, y'all, and it's lazy, rainy, humid days here in the swamp. I planted my tomatoes late this year and I've got three huge plants loaded with green tomatoes.  I'm patiently (& eagerly) waiting them out.  Usually by this time of year, the fresh tomatoes are all gone---I did read some, though, and bought some great new poetry books, of course!

So, you're probably asking, "What about her book title?"  I'll admit I had a vague recollection of reading parts of this in Shakespeare many moons ago, but I just had to find the poem to relate it to the book.  Here's the Bard himself, to entertain you:

The Seven Ages of Man 
William Shakespeare 

                                       All the world’s a stage,
        And all the men and women merely players;
        They have their exits and their entrances,
        And one man in his time plays many parts,                      
5      His acts being seven ages. At first the infant,
        Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms;
        And then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel
        And shining morning face, creeping like snail
        Unwillingly to school. And then the lover, 
10    Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad
        Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,
        Full of strange oaths, and bearded like the pard,
        Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,
        Seeking the bubble reputation
15    Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,
        In fair round belly with good capon lined,
        With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,
        Full of wise saws and modern instances;
        And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts
20    Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,
        With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;
        His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide
        For his shrunk shank; and his big manly voice,
        Turning again toward childish treble, pipes
25    And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,
        That ends this strange eventful history,
        Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
        Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.


The cutest coffee 'shop' ever at McKay's in Nashville, The Trailer Perk:

I love the sign---
Another fun thing in Nashville was the "Retro Sno Cone Truck".  We chased it for 2 days, but finally found it, thank goodness. The best sno-cone I've ever had.  You can find their schedule online with the most awesome flavors ever:
Happy August!
* * * * *
"The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too, with blank white dawns and glaring noons, and sunsets smeared with too much color. Often at night there is lightning, but it quivers all alone." ~Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting
* * * * *
"One benefit of summer was that each day we had more light to read by." ~Jeannette Walls, The Glass Castle
* * * * *
"In summer, the song sings itself." ~William Carlos Williams

* * * * *

 "Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability." ~Sam Keen
* * * * *
"Summer-induced stupidity. That was the diagnosis, I decided as I made my way up the dirt path in the pouring rain."  ~Aimee Friedman, Sea Change
* * * * *
My glorious August Morning Glories.  They define morning for me.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Fireflies and Hex, both by Cecilia Woloch

by Cecilia Woloch

And these are my vices:
impatience, bad temper, wine,
the more than occasional cigarette,
an almost unquenchable thirst to be kissed,
a hunger that isn't hunger
but something like fear, a staunching of dread
and a taste for bitter gossip
of those who've wronged me—for bitterness—
and flirting with strangers and saying sweetheart
to children whose names I don't even know
and driving too fast and not being Buddhist
enough to let insects live in my house
or those cute little toy-like mice
whose soft grey bodies in sticky traps
I carry, lifeless, out to the trash
and that I sometimes prefer the company of a book
to a human being, and humming
and living inside my head
and how as a girl I trailed a slow-hipped aunt
at twilight across the lawn
and learned to catch fireflies in my hands,
to smear their sticky, still-pulsing flickering
onto my fingers and earlobes like jewels.

'Fireflies' by Cecilia Woloch, from "Carpathia".


By Cecilia Woloch

I shut that black wing from my heart. That bad bad bird.
I slam the light. Wrong love, it flaps, wrong love.
I slit the curtains of my eyes. If one more death makes room for one more death, I’ve died enough.
I’ve died in rooms that bird screeched through, the blood-tipped feathers in my hands. The years of longing in its craw. The little claws like dangling hooks that ruined my nakedness for good.
Wrong love, it flaps, wrong love. I wave my arms to make it go.
As if the sky could take it back.
As if my heart, that box of shadows, could be locked against itself.


Because I wanted to, that's why. 
*   *   *   *   *
"Who can tell the dancer from the dance?" ~William Butler Yeats


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

I Can Die Happy - I've Seen Nick Cave Perform His Magic

"Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds led a furious rock ritual at the Mahalia Jackson Theater" - By Alison Fensterstock, The New Orleans Times-Picayune

If you saw someone wearing a full-length black gown – or perhaps a three-piece black suit and tie – walking by Armstrong Park in the heavy July heat Monday night, odds were good they were on the way to see Nick Cave, the rock n’roll witch god, at the Mahalia Jackson Theater.

Cave’s career spans more than 30 years; the Bad Seeds formed in 1983, out of the ashes of the noise-rock outfit the Birthday Party. He’s known for his passionate intensity, whipping up furious bluster and bedlam under dark-hearted poetry that twists the blade with surgical precision.

The latest Bad Seeds album, last year’s “Push The Sky Away,” was a quieter storm, moody and subtle. Monday’s concert sampled from across the band’s catalog and was more fervent by far than the recent record, but demonstrated how much he’s trained and focused his intensity. It’s now as tailored as his slim black suit, and as dark and sharp.

From the heavy menace of the opening “We Real Cool,” Cave stalked the stage at its very lip, working the crowd like an evangelist. He gave himself over to them with an abandon that was almost frightening, urging more contact.

“I know you paid a lot of money for those seats, that doesn’t mean you have to sit in them,” he said. “The more you crash down front, the better it gets. Put your f-ing camera down – pay attention.”

He crouched and scampered like a witch doctor around a fire, and flung his arms wide, inviting dozens of hands to palm his unprotected body. (“My hands smell like Nick Cave,” a friend with front-row seats reported after the show.”)

During “Red Right Hand,” he lounged into the front row like a cabaret singer. A nasty, spitting “Stagger Lee” worked like an evil spell, rousing the audience to shout and cheer for the murder ballad’s villain.

The shamanistic display was so antic that it drew eyes away from the six men in the band, who played in half-shadow behind him (except for multi-instrumentalist Warren Ellis, deservedly spotlit as he sawed ferociously at his fiddle, climbing on a chair and flinging two bows high into the rafters of the theater. An extra bow slung across his shoulders poked out at an odd angle, like the bone of a broken wing.)

It would have been a mistake not to watch them: The current Bad Seeds lineup is made up of longtime Cave collaborators, including Ellis, drummer Jim Sclavunos (a Bad Seed since the mid-‘90s, who also plays in Cave project Grinderman) Martyn Casey (since the late ‘80s) and keyboard/percussionist Barry Adamson (an original Bad Seed, who left the band in the mid-'80s, and returned for the making of “Push The Sky Away.”)

When Cave briefly retreated from the front and sat at an upright piano in the middle of them, during the quiet, aching and tender “God Is In The House” and “People Ain’t No Good,” the easy interplay between the band mates was evident – as it was on an encore garage rave-up of “Deanna,” which released the wild tension of the set on an exultant note.

It was a night of conjuration and control, in the hands of a potent and masterful performer. Excavating the hoodoo darkness of Americana has been the Australian Cave’s stock in trade for decades. (Witness, as we did Monday night, the shattering, incantatory “Tupelo,” which weaves an ominous origin myth out of Elvis’ deep-in-the-Delta birth and his dead twin.) Where better than New Orleans – right next to Congo Square, in fact, where musical ghosts still whisper – to bring those tales to life onstage?"


Here's the link where I got the story, with some awesome photos from the concert:


Well, Ray and I were wearing black, but it was happenstance, unless you believe in synchronicity.   I got a steal of a deal from and we stayed at the beautiful & magnificent Maison Dupuy Hotel on Toulouse Street, just four blocks from the theater.  Thank God for valet parking AND that sweet lady in my radio, OnStar.  It was our first trip using it and we love it.  No maps! We walked back to the hotel after the show, it was that close.

I was going to write about my experience (so inadequate a word!) watching, experiencing Nick Cave perform, but this chick, Alison Fensterstock, of the New Orleans Time Picayune stole the words right out of my mouth.  She IS a poet in a journalist's clothing.  I've seen lots of concerts, but I've never seen a man give himself to the audience the way Nick Cave did.  It was almost sexual...seriously...a once in a lifetime, totally visceral, primal experience.  If you ever get a chance to see this band perform in concert (Warren Ellis is also a showman to behold), then do it.  Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, not your average band.  Buy their music and definitely read Nick's books & poetry. 

Nick's got a film coming out soon:  "20,000 Days on Earth".  I highly recommend it and his books.  Nick is a poet/author/songwriter/singer...and yes, a shaman & witch doctor, too---a total Renaissance man.  Here's the link to check out the trailer:

Amazing story.  Nick's been compared to Faulkner and I agree.
"Put Cormac McCarthy, Franz Kafka, and Benny Hill together in a Brighton seaside guesthouse, and they might just come up with Bunny Munro. As it stands, though, this novel emerges emphatically as the work of one of the great cross-genre storytellers of our age; a compulsive read possessing all of Nick Cave’s trademark horror and humanity, often thinly disguised in a galloping, playful romp.” —Irvine Welsh

His early poetry. 
His newest album, "Push the Sky Away".   Beautiful music.
PS:  My gorgeous state has five of THE happiest cities in the USA. I'm only sad they left out New Orleans.  I've never met nicer, more friendly people than I did in "The Big Easy" this week.  But that's for another post.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Sometimes, A Single Word is a Poem

I stole this from my daughter's blog.  I love that there's a word for this!!
From Wikipedia: 
Petrichor  (/ˈpɛtrɨkɔər/) is the scent of rain on dry earth, or the scent of dust after rain. The word is constructed from Greek, petros, meaning ‘stone’ + ichor, the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology. It is defined as "the distinctive scent which accompanies the first rain after a long warm dry spell".[1]

The term was coined in 1964 by two Australian researchers, Bear and Thomas, for an article in the journal Nature.[2][3] In the article, the authors describe how the smell derives from an oil exuded by certain plants during dry periods, whereupon it is absorbed by clay-based soils and rocks. During rain, the oil is released into the air along with another compound, geosmin, a metabolic by-product of certain Actinobacteria, which is emitted by wet soil, producing the distinctive scent; ozone may also be present if there is lightning.[4] In a follow-up paper, Bear and Thomas (1965) showed that the oil retards seed germination and early plant growth.[5] This would indicate that the plants exude the oil in order to safeguard the seeds from germination under duress.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Graveside Seats by Marion - A M'am Poem

Graveside Seats
By Marion

M'am set us up like
three scrawny ragdolls
(1-2-3 on the front row,
graveside), on maroon,
velveteen-covered folding chairs
from the local mortuary at
pap's funeral.  I were 5,
my sisters, 6 and 8.  We ought
not'a been there, much
less two feet from thet
yawning mouth of death
a'top of what balanced my
sweet pap in a fancy,
polished box with handles.

At the funeral house
we had to climb little steps
'specially put there for us
by the box he was in
to look into pap's dead,
waxy face.
He weren't really there; I could tell.
I ain't never seen my pap
out'a the house without one'a his
swanky fedora hats on his bald head
and somebody'd
forgot his hat.

It were the last day we ever wore
our pink, lacy, crinolined Easter
dresses with our shimmering, patent leather
mary janes & lace-trimmed socks.
Ever after we was mostly barefoot
and muddy...raggedy-poor.
M'am said
pap's mean first family
got all his money
and those fancy houses we'd lived in.

M'am got a job slingin' booze and
drinkin' her share of it, too, and we lived
with her sweet sister on a farm
and mostly raised our-own-selves.

I were fearless all my young life
till the day I seen my pap lowered
into thet dark hole right in front
of my horrified, little-girl eyes.

Fear jumped right out'a thet
deep, black, gaping hole and
glommed onto my tiny, child-soul

and it sits there still.



"Boy, when you're dead, they really fix you up. I hope to hell when I do die somebody has sense enough to just dump me in the river or something. Anything except sticking me in a goddam cemetery. People coming and putting a bunch of flowers on your stomach on Sunday, and all that crap. Who wants flowers when you're dead? Nobody." ~J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, 1945