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Bob and Sari's Farewell Reading

We're leaving Albuquerque and relocating to the Seattle area at the end of July, but before we go we'd love to read you our poetry one last time. On Saturday, July 23, we'll be in the Special Collections Library (room: Center for the Book) on Central and Edith NE from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Please come and join us in our farewell to Albuquerque, and pick up a book or two while you're at it!

If you'd like to let us know you're coming, RSVP on Facebook or Meetup.

Robert Arthur Reeves

Otros: Pettus, Plath, Pound, Prevert

July 24, 2016

My big sister Lu (authorially she styled herself L.R. Pettus) died in San Jose, California in 2014.  She was well known to the poetry community there as a “storypoet”—i.e. a shaper of narrative poems out of (usually but not always European) folktales, of which she was also a learned researcher.  I admired those poems, but earlier in her writing life she also produced some of the lyric poetry that satisfies my own taste more.  Here is a sample, issued privately in a beautiful run of tiny chapbooks in the 1980’s:

Seven Harp Songs

 

to Maggie

 

one story says the first harp was made

    of the empty shell of a dead turtle

and one story says the wind resonated

    through the rib bones of the skeleton

                of a beached whale

the origin of the harp is a secret thing

we think it came out of the great water

    because we came out of the great water

and because its music is a live thing

but we know something had to die

    to make it so

 

three children left home               one after the other

    to seek their fortunes

they never came back

their old parents sat patiently by the fire

and the grey wind blew rain all about the house

this is an old story

why do i want to weep

 

why do we imagine

    the gods play musical instruments

do we invest them with our boredom

    and loneliness

or do we hope in some light-dazzled hereafter

    to emulate them

to bring forth perfect harmonies

    from unbreakable strings

haven’t we learned yet

that what makes music happen

is that this time we didn’t make mistakes

 

why are we dismayed to discover

                the track of the dark companion

why do we speak of disaster

there is a song for the soft ash of the volcano

and a song for the earthquake

the world is made of these things

why do we speak of them in terms of property

there is a song for the night-blooming cereus

each note passes into silence

    and is beautiful

 

sometimes i am satisfied to be idle

neither plucking strings

    nor tapping on the small drum

nor whistling under my breath

    the notes of the flute

not even dancing

after all what would the music be

if i didn’t hear it

 

i followed your wet-sand footprints

picking up driftwood and pieces of shell

and a seagull feather

what did i want you to see

what did i want you to hear when i called

the wind blew echoes of my words

but you said nothing

before your footprints vanished in the water

 

stone        music        word

so much is lost in the water

where has the roughness gone

what was the shape of the beginning

what i was about to say to you

before i thought it over

what was the first note

from the string

 

I have to say I don’t really like the poems Sylvia Plath is especially famous for.  Merely looking at their text, they seem petty, and I suspect they’re admired as monuments to a simpleminded feminism Plath would’ve found mysterious and distasteful.  But she was one of our most acute, inventive and deeply living poets, and the easy explanations of her death strike me as an insult to anyone who struggles with severe depression.  Her poetry is, even when not inflammatory and oratorical on purpose, exciting for its facility with ever-altering mood, its ability to pluck the most dazzling and surprising language from everyday experiences, and not least its equal familiarity with the outer and inner worlds of a stunningly intelligent spirit.  The poems I like best, and have typed into my Otros collection, are “Tulips,” “The Night Dances,” “The Detective,” “Ariel,” “Poppies in October,” “Nick and the Candlestick” and “Berck-Plage.”  The collection Ariel is now available as she planned it, in a different order and with different contents than the book as edited by her widower Ted Hughes:  but I think both versions are great books worth reading.

Ezra Pound was a strong influence on my poetic choices when I began to write as a young adult in the ’70’s.  His chiseled, careful speech helped wean me off Hopkins’ luxuriances.  His interest in Anglo-Saxon, classical Greek and Chinese verse forms broadened several generations’ sense of what poetry was and could be:  mine too, and of course to the young man I was, the Cantos, at that time still actively underway, seemed an intensely thrilling project.  I’ve read the book since, and have to conclude that it’s mostly a dismal failure, and where it doesn’t fail dismally, it bores.  Perhaps five to ten good poems can be rescued from this self-indulgent and frequently hateful compost pile.  Pound’s earlier poems, like the beautiful couplet “In a Station of the Metro” (of which Hugh Kenner said “Every word is necessary, including in the title”) and the formal—not to say archaic—love poem “Envoi, 1919,” modeled on an Elizabethan song by Edmund Waller, are delightful examples of the powerful restraint and grace Pound lost in the Cantos.

My favorite poems are mostly in English.  Someday I’ll try to write something about why I think English is (historically!) the best language for poetry.  I do read some amount of poetry in other languages though, and the main reason I haven’t included more of it in Otros is my mistrust of the available translations.  Where the poem is in a language I don’t know, my criterion has to be whether the translation itself works as a poem.  That’s the case with Ferlinghetti’s rendering of Jacques Prévert’s “Song in the Blood,” a hypnotic anti-war (or anti-humanity) poem I discovered on Joan Baez’s magnificent poetry album Baptism.



Grade A: The Man in the Pickup

July 17, 2016
Written in Albuquerque (Mesa SE), July 2000:  addressed to J—.  From my second-storey porch I could get something of a bird’s-eye view of what was…

Otros: Noyes, Olds, Oliver, Owen

July 10, 2016
This week’s four poets are all from the twentieth century (two of them just barely), so I won’t reproduce their poems here.  I’m including things…

Grade A: you & you

June 26, 2016
Written in Albuquerque (Mesa SE), May? 2000:  addressed to Leisha Hultgren.  She came to stay with me (or in town, anyway) for about a month,…

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Sari Krosinsky

My farewell poem to New Mexico

July 11, 2016

At least, this is the farewell poem I've written before leaving New Mexico. I shan't be surprised if I have more farewells to say when I've gone.

Crossing Puget Sound,

I say how unlike the odor

of the Atlantic, not noticing yet

I don’t mean I still miss that childhood

shade of brine. Months later, my nose

is still full of it. So you’ll come with me

back to water. We’ll let the desert

sands run out, at least the ones

we don’t carry there with us, the grains

that may spill sometimes when we blink.



Reading on 4/23, Releasing New Chapbook with Poems from the Locked Ward

April 17, 2016
Download the free ebookI'm reading at Los Griegos Library this Saturday (details below), and I'll be giving away a limited number of zine-style copies of…

Poems of (partial) recovery

February 20, 2016
Some of the newer poems I've been working on deal with the comparative improvement in my depression over the last few months (and the elimination of…

Ripples in Space-Time

February 12, 2016
Geeking out this morning over the detection of gravitational waves, I thought I'd share this poem from A God's Life with Ben's general relativity-based time travel…

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