Hold It All

Category: Poets


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by Lindsey Trout Hughes

Hi, Mark!

I hope this note finds you well. I saw your post last week about the spring writing course. I asked Katie Consamus over coffee if she’d like to take it with me and be my writing partner. Wouldn’t you know, she had already signed up! So here I am, hoping to jump on this train, too.
Let me know what you need from me to proceed. I’m very much looking forward to revisiting you and Mev.

Best from Brooklyn,


Summer 2016
by Lindsey Trout Hughs

I posted something on Facebook today
a gut response to that horror in Florida

and anyway it seems to be helping some hurt people
in a small way

and I wouldn’t have posted it
had I not taken your class

so many thanks to you
and now I’ll go cry some more

before I go write out this rage
like a motherfucker


Read the rest of this entry »


I Am
by Laura Aranda

I am on my way
I am haven’t yet arrived and the in the in-between
I am that bliss you find in a mountain rainstorm
in a solitary blade of grass and
the relief you find in that luscious drink of water
out of that cut-in-two cola bottle
ripe with the sweat of your generous neighbor and
sweet with the taste of use after use after use.
I am discomfort
I am the time before you finally decide to let go, and jump
I am that feeling of nauseous anticipation
I am squashing indecision
I am (finally) forgiving myself
I am the dreamer that weaves hammocks all night long as you rest
I am the chocolate of indulgence and the rib of change Read the rest of this entry »

Taking Refuge in Po Chü-i

Enough already of Useful Idiots, Counterpunch, flare-ups at The Intercept
Political yammering by self-appointed soothsayers

This Friday night I fade far away from news of assorted American Psychos
And am welcomed by Po Chü-i

Who reminds me, yes, of the brutal world all the way back then
But also of the joy even now with four friends who are still alive


With Jim, Dan, and Mev, Upper West Side, 1995


What You Understand Depends on Where You Stand

For Brent Fernandez and Brett Schrewe

On Daniel Berrigan’s Night Flight to Hanoi

Night Flight to Hanoi is an account of Jesuit Daniel Berrigan’s odyssey in late January and early February 1968, when he and historian Howard Zinn traveled to Hanoi as representatives of the American peace movement. Their aim was to bring home three U.S. pilots whom the North Vietnamese had released. The narrative includes his decision to go, the waiting, the arrival, the tours into the grotesque and destructive displays of US military power, the testimonies of Vietnamese humanity and ingenuity, the meeting with the pilots, and the unelaborated denouement when the men are flown home—contrary to the wishes of the North Vietnamese—on a military plane. He and Zinn went in good faith around the world to promote peace between the two countries; the U.S. government, however, violated the agreement.

What is bracing in this account is Berrigan’s journey of solidarity, risk-taking, and accompaniment (example: sitting in the bomb shelters with the Vietnamese). So, what matters after such exposure and confrontation over the course of several days?

Seeing matters: “I have seen the victims. And this sight of the mutilated dead has exerted such inward change upon me that the words of corrupt diplomacy appear to me more and more in their true light. That is to say—as words spoken in enmity against reality.” [22-23] How Berrigan’s Jesuit brother Ignacio Ellacuría stressed over and over the imperative to confront realidad. Read the rest of this entry »

With Presence, Alertness, Patience, and Care

John Brehm, The Poetry of Impermanence, Mindfulness, and Joy

When asked by a student if there was a secret to writing haiku, Buson replied, “Yes, use the commonplace to escape the commonplace.” When the student asked how, he said, “Read Chinese poetry.” 203

I originally bought this book, thinking it would be useful as a supplementary text for a gatha writing and reading class. Having finished it I don’t think so, but it has introduced me to some good poems for sharing. The compiler’s thesis: mindfulness of impermanence leads to joy.

Among the poems I will pass on—

Ellen Bass, If You Knew
Chuang Tzu, The Joy of Fishes
Jack Gilbert, A Brief for the Defense
Hanshan, They Laugh at Me, ‘Hey Farm Boy!’
Kobayashi Issa, This World of Dew
Kobayashi Issa, Under cherry trees
Jack Kerouac, In my medecine cabinet
Pablo Neruda, Horses … Ode to My Socks
Ryokan, First Days of Spring—the Sky
Ryokan, Nothing satisfies some appetites
Ikkyu Sojun, After ten years in the red-light district
William Stafford, It’s All Right
Szymborska, Miracle Fair Read the rest of this entry »

First Draft of a Translation

אָ מענטשהייט

איך בין אײַער דאַנקבאַר זון

  יעדער מענטש מײַן טאַטע’ס עלטער

    איז  מײַן טאַטע  

  יעדער פרוי מײַן מאַמע’ס עלטער

איז  מײַן מאַמע           

אַלע  די קינדערלעך

                  זענען  מײַנע קינדערלע

און דער הונט

 וואָס זיצט מיט מיר

 איז מייַן פרייַנד

אָ מענטשהייט

    אָ מייַן  משפּחה

איך בין אײַער דאַנקבאַר זון

—Ali Al-Bazaz, Oh Humanity

The Way It Looked in 1969

Now the age of 101, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has composed poetical works about most U.S. presidents since the administrations of Eisenhower in the 1950s. I recall with appreciation his poem “Tale Tale of the Tall Cowboy” during the Reagan years (published in Harper’s), as friends and I were working in the Sanctuary Movement (for Salvadoran refugees), on the Pledge of Resistance (to end US support of terrorism against the people of Nicaragua), as well as Witness for Peace delegations in Nicaragua.

I was the age of nine in 1969 when New Directions published his short book, Tyrannus Nix? At that early stage of Nixon’s presidency, the prophetic Ferlinghetti zeroed in on the man who would soon be known for the bombing of Cambodia, the Enemies List, and the Watergate scandal.

Ferlinghetti is seriously playful in this cultural intervention, and I happily share the following themes and excerpts to give you a glimpse of political skewering from more than fifty years ago.

Direct speech—I’ve got to hand it to you old family friend… why don’t you open the Doors of Perception … will you ever invite the Living Theater to your House…and probably all the time longing to be loved by the same people who loved and hated Kennedys…

Political critique—Nixon Nixon I’m singing you this baseball Diamond Sutra from way out there in New Left Filed in the International League… the Vietnam albatross…Are you Machiavelli smiling… DDT is killing the pelicans and their eco-system is our own…War is good business Invest your son … look Fidel Castro in the eye and tell him without the benefit of electronic aides that your government does not believe his truths while a lizard crawled out of your eye Read the rest of this entry »

Morning and Night

After finishing Hilberg’s trilogy this morning, have spent the evening with the poets: Eluard, Cardenal, Heifetz-Tussman, Glatshteyn, and Brecht.


Gleanings and Connections

Anne Waldman and Laura Wright, editors,  Cross Worlds: Transcultural Poetics—An Anthology

Dear Layla: “modernist textual montage/collage of a wide-ranging array mixing the personal and the historical”

Dear Layla: “Ezra Pound’s Cantos gave me a way to collage many texts and voices into poems, using material from a range of historical records.”

Dear Layla: “Reznikoff, like many poets, often focuses on the micro to make real the macro.”

Dear Layla: a multitude of voices within the narrative

Cross Worlds: “speaking on what happens both between and across spaces, locations, languages, genres and media.”

Cid Corman: “the main thing is to stay open to others, to listen, that’s the secret, and to look around you.”

“Rap is a black person’s CNN, according to Chuck D.” Read the rest of this entry »

Training Our Memory

Adam Zagajewski, Another Beauty
Translated by Clare Cavanagh

Memoirs of a young poet who studied in Krakow.  Mostly it is the short aperçus that captured my attention and interest, plus the method of writing a narrative, broken up  time-wise here and there, and then he comes in with more epigrams.  He offers extended portraits of women whom he rented from, his teachers (“Professor Leszczynski never removed his green overcoat”), other students and poets, acquaintances (“He was a bachelor, a gallant gentleman, a troubadour ready to serve any lady in the most disinterested and noble fashion”) whereas my portraits are all too brief – I need to flesh out much more fully.    He reviews his time in Paris and the US as well as his love for classical music, such as Mahler’s 9th and the glorious first movement, or Schumann’s third piano concerto.  He regrets becoming a poetic ideologue and propagandist. I ordered this book on impulse, thinking his structure would be convergent with my own, but it’s not:  mine is bolder! (Or, some may say, more chaotic). 


Some passages—

I’d try to summon up that whole vanished culture, killed off by the Germans and Russians, the large apartments with paintings on their walls, the vast bookcases, and most of all the clear sight and free souls of people who had chosen their own convictions, who had handpicked their pessimism, people who didn’t live yet in the shadow of that Moloch, the one and only all-consuming Party.

Inscription on a gravestone found in North Africa:  “I, a captain in the Roman legions, have thoroughly considered the following truth.  There are only two things in life, love and power, and no one can have them both at once.”   Read the rest of this entry »