Hold It All

Category: Poets

Make Lists Not War

Dear Cami,

One index of a profitable reading experience may very well be in the marginalia we make.

For instance, I read Ed Sanders’ collection of poetry Let’s Not Keep Fighting the Trojan War eight years ago. I went through and collected my inked scribbles in the margins in a list:

I read for topics, for intriguing titles, for examples, for my own Emersonian rejected thoughts, such as …
“My political causes are hopeless”
Val’s life
We’re all gonna die
My brilliant non-career
13 years in a theology department
I could do better on Kerouac than he did in “A Visit to Jack’s Memorial Park”
Come up with an entire book of Lists Read the rest of this entry »

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A Friend Sent Me This Poem (We Inter-Are)

March 14
by Katie Murphy

It’s Amazing, Isn’t It?
I can be, at one moment, sitting at my table in the morning,
Annoyed at my boss for being an incomprehensible moron,
Pissed off at a coworker for talking down to me yet again,
Worried because my checking account balance is lower than I’d like,
Lonely because I am missing certain people dreadfully,

And then, my eyes are welling up
with the beginnings of tears,
And I’m drinking a delicious
coffee drink that I made,
And I’m listening to the different
birds chirping outside my house,
And I’m noticing how good it feels
to stop and not think of going,
And I’m reveling again in the sun and
shadows on my wall,
And isn’t morning light
the most beautiful of all,
And I’m reading your short chapter
about Hedy and thanking God and the universe
letting me meet Katie Consamus,
who could convince me, in rural France,
to log into my SLU banner account
and change my life.

Where the Tortured and the Torturer Shook Hands

How many of our most famous novelists, for instance, have bothered to take the two-and-a-half hour flight from Miami and see for themselves what’s going on here?
—Lawrence Ferlinghetti

 

I first read Seven Days in Nicaragua Libre in the mid-eighties; Ferlinghetti and I had both visited Nicaragua in 1984 (I on a Kentucky Witness for Peace delegation). I looked at the book again ten years ago, when Becca Gorley and I were reading from the City Lights Pocket Poets series. At that time, I was, still, trying to write something about our times in the West Bank and Gaza, and Ferlinghetti’s account was one of several books I read for provocation and inspiration. Many things, you can’t force; Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine was self-published in summer 2015.

A man of the Left, Ferlinghetti saw Nicaraguan history this way: “What has happened here, rather, is the overthrow of a tyrant (Somoza) supported by the U.S., and the attempt to overthrow the economic tyrant of colonialism in which Latin America has been for centuries the cheap labor market for North American and multinational business.” Many U.S. citizens may suffer amnesia about this appalling history but Latin Americans have a long memory. Read the rest of this entry »

A Ramadan Sonnet by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

for Sharifa Barakat

Headache, the invalid feeling of being sickly and having to
take it easy, testiness when
things don’t go quite
right, annoyance of magnetic
gravity, things
fall in a pile or
slide off an incline – not the

hunger alone that binds us in brotherhood ultimately with
hollow-eyed Ethiopians of
this and all other eras,
but the frailty, the passing alone down the
alien corridors of this world that is such a
poignant reminder to us, so that in our
momentary physiological grayness Read the rest of this entry »

Making the Whirling World Stand Still

Arthur Rimbaud, Complete Works
Translated by Paul Schmidt

And so I come back to the boy-genius, enfant terrible whose Illuminations I bought while at Bellarmine (under the influence of a Kerouac whose words I enjoyed but whose life was not a practical model).  And true as well with Rimbaud — what a mess of adolescence, what dissolution, no wonder the Beats jumped on his bandwagon.  No thanks.  I’ve more sympathy for the adult, boring Rimbaud than the precious, self-conscious, self-centered Poet of the universe, even with his theory of illuminism and the consequent perverting of the senses.  Demais!  

Although I must  say, I like parts of A Season in Hell  for which selections see below (Schmidt:  A Season in Hell has literary precedents:  It is a set of philosophical meditations, a confessional handbook, a mystical vision of the Soul.  But it wakes new vibrations in its style:  a nervous, compacted, often vernacular use of poetic language in prose.  It is, as Rimbaud said, ‘absolutely modern.’”)  For I am impressed by the devotion & delirium & detachment it took to compose such a “confession.”  

I can’t say that there really are many poems herein worth memorizing. Sure, I could use some lines and maybe images, but other than the list of re-readables (principally Bateau Ivre and Saison), I can put this away till another day (maybe after I’ve read Baudelaire and Breton) and want to give him another try.  

I don’t get the fascination, although there were some lines in poetry and letters that did catch me.  But I wonder if I will ever be tempted to reread him, to sit down and spend 2 to 3 hours with this Seer.  It’s a coin-flip.

_____________________

Poems Worth Rereading—- Read the rest of this entry »

A Sangha with Tu Fu, Milarepa, Lady Murasaki, Li Ching-chao, Basho, and Jack Kerouac,

Anne Waldman and Andrew Schelling, editors, Disembodied Poetics:  Annals of the Jack Kerouac School

Rereading this collection  after many years, I’m struck by the following perspectives from various writers I noted then and that still rev me up now …

Until you assert yourself nothing ever happens to you.
Jack Kerouac

This underground vehicle [along with local, cosmopolitan, and diamond vehicles in Buddhism] has equipped itself to trade in marketplaces across the planet. Its riders include Tu Fu, Milarepa, Lady Murasaki, Li Ching-chao, Basho, and Jack Kerouac. It is a night-wandering caravan, loaded down with strange and desirable goods, the goods of Poetry, and it picks its way along the treacherous trade routes of History, generously alert to the perils and needs of our own epoch. One could call it by a Sanskrit term, kavyayana—the Poetry Vehicle. Here the gospel lyric comes to mind—You don’t need no ticket, you just get on board.
Andrew Schelling

There is perhaps the poet’s Bodhisattva vow: to be a bridge, a boat, a fountain pen, a typewriter, a publisher, a school to anyone who has need of these “vehicles”—not personally, mind you, that it’s my particular style bridge, made in my image, my brand of typewriter of poetry.
Anne Waldman Read the rest of this entry »

How To Live in Many Times at Once

Over the years, I have been the blessed recipient of many poems by Katie Murphy, whose birthday it is today. I invite lovers of poetry to purchase her e-book, How to Live in Many Times at Once.

 

Here’s one of her poems from a previous collection she sent me–

Song for Wretched Hearts

I haven’t written a heartbroken poem
since I met you
but I play all of them on the ukulele now.

I crawl under as many layers as I have.
No touch, no glance, no reassuring word
could prevent the disaster,
even in hindsight.

Take care not to jostle it,
my wretched heart,
and the moments when I put away
my instrument will be all yours.

 

 

“Why Must the Poet’s Mouth Be Bloodied, His Teeth Caved in?”

More than a decade ago, octogenarian  Jesuit felon Daniel Berrigan  spoke at the local Jesuit university (in the auditorium of the business school, no less).  During the Q & A, a friend of mine asked him this question, “Dan, what have you been reading these days?”  His response:  “The Gospels and the poets.” Read the rest of this entry »

The Pithy, the Necessary, the Clear, and the Plain

Charles Reznikoff: Man and Poet, edited by Milton Hindus
National Poetry Foundation, University of Maine at Orono, 1984

Poetry presents the thing in order to convey the feeling. It should be precise about the thing and reticent about the feeling.

— A.C. Graham quoting a Chinese poet from long ago

 

This thick volume is a collection of reminisces, literary analyses, and appreciations of Charles Reznikoff: Objectivist, American-Jew between two worlds, New Yorker, walker, miniaturist, transformer of documentary mass of data into free verse art, survivor of mean anti-Semitism growing up, self-published devotee to his own writing, lawyer who never practiced, maker of a preferential option (in writing, anyway) for the humblest, and chronicler of the Jewish history.

I first learned of Reznikoff from writings by Eliot Weinberger and Allen Ginsberg. In the summer of 2010 I plunged into his works and Hindus’s volume during the generation of what became Dear Layla Welcome to Palestine. Read the rest of this entry »

Occasional Moments of Peace, Gratitude, and Delight

I first learned of Gary Snyder through Kerouac’s novel, The Dharma Bums, where he was fictionalized as “Japhy Ryder,”   who, according to Alvah Goldbook [aka Allen Ginsberg], was  “a great new hero of American culture.”  Snyder’s Back on the Fire: Essays jazzed me many times, a sample of which follows…

This Sierra ecosystem has been fire-adapted for millions of years, and fire can be our ally. 14

Biodiversity… only means variety of life, and it means “Right to Life for Nonhuman Others,” a moral sentiment I religiously support. 16

What we refer to as nature or the “environment” or the wild world is our endangered habitat and home, and we are its problem species. 24

We study the great writings of the Asian past so that we might surpass them today. We hope to create a deeply grounded contemporary literature of nature that celebrates the wonder of our natural world, that draws on and makes beauty of the incredibly rich knowledge gained from science, and that confronts the terrible damage being done today in the name of progress and the world economy. 30

We must work on a really long time frame. 40

… the most important single ethical teaching of the Buddhist tradition is nonviolence toward all of nature, ahimsa… 52 Read the rest of this entry »