zirconium: me @Niki de St Phalle's Firebird (firebird)
My week so far has included the rejection of eight poems (though one was a near-miss) and some aggravation (both of the near-to-firing-a-firm kind and the dammit-I-left-my-badge-on-the-piano variety), not to mention truly atrocious fantasy tennis results. But, I seem to be providing pleasure to assorted Kei Nishikori fans, there was plenty of butter and black pepper to mash into the neeps I boiled for supper, and I'm closing my evening with a glass of Beaujolais (slightly rough, but sanding down a bit of jag as I sip) and assorted phrases for pieces.

Also, Rattle published a poem on Sunday, both in text and audio form: "Look at that, you son of a bitch"

I also keep meaning to mention "Some Who Wander Become Lost," which the SFPA posted online a few months ago.

My calendars contain crossouts and calculations. So, for that matter, do the cards and scraps of paper containing what I might write or shape next. In the meantime, there are roses everywhere -- I saw some near a curb on Valentine's Day, just as I was about to cross White Station Road:

White Station Road, Memphis

The back of the card I picked up was blank. It has me wondering about roses not sent. It brings back memories of roses I have sent, and thrown, and pressed, and attempted to propagate (not yet successfully). Not every Emily Dickinson poem pairs up well with "Yellow Rose of Texas" ("So much of Heaven has gone from earth"? No), but it's not as if the ghosts of Amherst or Austin ever insisted on that. Perhaps the roses really want to grow. Perhaps the mallows will survive this morning's freezing fog. There is more than snow between the glass and the huge roses. There is more to work than work. Earlier this week, a colleague and I talked about trading plants later this year -- succulents for peppers. The dog knocked over one of my pots while I was away, and happily hoovered up asparagus stubs two nights ago. Cleaning. Digging. Dreaming.

A name for a new rose: Mozart.
That's what I'd call the first rose on the moon,
If I got there to grow it.

-- Robert Nye, "Travelling to My Second Marriage on the Day of the First Moonshot"
zirconium: photo of squeezy Buddha on cell phone, next to a coffee mug (buddha and cocoa)
Today's subject line comes from Yehuda Amichai's The School Where I Studied, in the September 1999 issue of Poetry. Also from that poem:

I know all about the flowering of the tree of knowledge,
the shape of its leaves, the function of its root system, its pests and parasites...

But the issue I spent the most time with in the bathtub yesterday was the one from August 1999. I'd dogeared several pages in it during my first read-through, and added a couple more this time:

  • Dan Brown's Dream after Dream, a rhyming piece about revisiting childhood fantasies (specifically "major league imaginings" and about being a superhero)

  • In that issue, it's immediately followed by Carl Dennis's Glory, which wasn't overall a poem that moved me, but it had a couple of moments that grabbed me: the narrator's description of one of his failings as "the pleasure I took in being coddled / More than my brothers were by those who mattered" and the vivid visualization of a home movie played in reverse.

  • Jack Stewart's Ariel's Reply is about and to W.H. Auden, and has a killer opening: "If reading learned books / had been why Auden lost his looks / then Prospero would have died / by thirty-five." (Auden gets a shout-out in Christian Wiman's "A Piece of Prose" at the back of the issue, for being "an exemplary prose stylist," which in Wiman's terms means being "authoritative yet intimate" and fun to read. (A fun line of Wiman's own: "It's going too far to hope for a prose that could, like a poem, compel and even almost convince simply by the way it sounds, but I like a writer who at least tries.")

  • The Stewart poem I bookmarked 14 years ago was On the Church Marquee. This time, the lines I liked most were "the faint perfume / of furniture you've had for years."

  • Daniel Halpern's Careless Perfection loses steam for me as it goes on -- a problem with a number of not-even-all-that-long poems in this issue and elsewhere. It is probably me, and happens to be something I have become more conscious of since reading the current submission guidelines at Spillway, which is soliciting poems for its "long and short of it" theme through the end of this month. Anyway, Halpern's poem would have resonated more with me if it had ended after the second stanza. It's followed by Nature Lover's Lament, which made me cackle.

  • The Wiman essay I mentioned earlier is entertainingly opinionated, and devotes a fair bit of time to what makes a good reviewer. I'll have to spend more time with it later. In the meantime, here's the kind of passage that has me folding over the corners (and also reflecting on how times change -- reader response to online poetry/reviews has been a different animal, from what I've seen so far):

    There are always those who are keen on accumulating "power" in the poetry world, and reviewing may be just one more means of doing so. One hardly knows what to say about this. Wielding power in the poetry world is roughly the equivalent of cutting a wide swath through your local PTA.

    Public reaction may in the end be one of the strongest incentives, and not a base one. Poetry is lonely. Publish a poem in some conspicuous place and the response is not likely to be overwhelming, not even likely to be a response. Publish a review or essay that is at all partisan or passionate in that same place and you'll get some letters. One of these will be from someone who is clearly quite intelligent and thoughtful, and will be very gratifying. Another will come from someone you suspect has broken off from society, who likely wrote you while on a break from building his bomb shelter or foraging for dung beetles. And then you'll get the rare, cherished one that could go either way, like the letter I once received from some mad rancher down in south Texas who objected to a review I had written. "Christian Wiman!"he screamed in a letter to the editor. "What is this, a joke? Some sort of right-wing temperance group?" He meant Christian women, you see. I sent him a bottle of bourbon.
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