radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)
I sort of convulsively flung a submission at a poetry & art journal tonight. My system is to do this once every twelve to eighteen months and hope very hard for enduring notoriety.

It has not, so far, been a successful system, but that is never any bar to a gambler.

radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)

"Autumn Day"
Trans. Stephen Mitchell

Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
Will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander on the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

radfrac_archive_full: (writing)
The supermarket must have had millions.
Why was it so hard to find flowers that day?
I walked everywhere, a one-man Internet
Crawling the city for gerbera
Iris, tulips, anything – why is there
Only one kind of iris for sale?
Gardens are rivered with foaming dragonfaces.

I was a bad gardener. Is that why
Flowers eluded me when I wanted to say
Whatever it was I wanted to say? Welcome home.
Don’t leave me. Hyacinths mean naming
Transience is not the same thing
As lacking faith. What year was that?
It must have been the last.

Here on my desk, gerbera, something local
And the one whose name sounds like falsehood
But I can never remember. Oh, Disbuds.
In the purple vase. I do buy myself flowers
Sometimes. Sometimes I pretend
They are for other people.

These ones I meant for a friend but then
Never brought to her. I hope she forgives me.
radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)
And today's effort. So only seven more poems to write in order to catch up.

Sonnet (ish) for B.

The ultraviolet gloom of bluebells
veiling the empty lots and medians
along the walk between our houses
reminds me (always) of cigarettes.

You know, when the poor man In Howard’s End
walks all night for beauty with nothing
but tobacco to feed on, and wins only
well-meaning sex and money, bad advice

and (spoilers) death. Much more difficult
to hand over beauty. Here, take these awful
bluebells, their ugly stalks and ghostly
always retreating indigo

Use them to colour in the peeling
lilac porch where we smoked and ate waffles
and promised ourselves to beauty
a long time ago, unless that was someone else

or unless I really meant sex and money.
Anyway, I don’t mean that now.

radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)
Hm, it took me even less time than I expected to drop off on the daily poems. I got to Day 2. In my defense: family visit.

Here's the second one:

The way heat persists
In the smell of these cedar
Blocks, about the size
Of a deck of cards,
Meant to keep moths away
Lights, in memoriam,
Gas fixtures in soft cages
And most of a moon.

That was a bad year
Despite the teapot full of gin
And a little tonic --
A cold summer full of strife.

Another year
He put juniper in his mouth
And asked: was that the meaning
Of my life?

The yellow moth wheels
The brown moths, whorled
Like wood grain, press
Themselves against the screen
Until it sags

If the taste changes,
If it turns sweet,
The answer is yes.

radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)
[eta] Now that I am sober, fact-checking confirms that the old new year was actually March 25th, and even the Gregorian shift (12 days) doesn't add up to April 1st, so I'll have to account for that somehow. March 25th happens to be exactly a week before April Fool's Day, so maybe I can do something with that.

I really ought to stop writing poems that require even desultory scholarship and just talk about my feelings.

[eta] Okay, here is a revised draft. Must go on to Day 2.

Running the cuckoo

It is the old new year.
Let’s be fools together –
Drink too much wine
And cross against the lights
At midnight on a Wednesday
When no one cares.

What have you stolen?
What misplaced
Forever? What
Have you borrowed
And ruined?
What broken and hidden?

I, nobody, absolve you.
It is the new year
Of broken dishes.
This year only
The crazed faces
Of shattered pottery
Will be blessed.

How have you bruised, bloodied,
battered yourself
This year, stumbling home
in sorrow and sublime

I, nobody, will receive your muffled
Your lost emeralds,
Your brain tumour,
Your forged translations

Your desperate and your cheerful
Deceptions, your ecstatic missteps
And triumphant catastrophes.

It is a week since
The old new year
And we are still fools
Who cannot read calendars.
Still Wednesday. Good enough.

Salt the sugar bowls
Short-sheet the beds
Stretch saran wrap
under the toilet seat
I will balance
a bucket of water
over the door

It is the old new year
And your face and your hair
Are so clean

radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)

There would be a map here
Fold-line at Vancouver
And when the creased pages met
Whitehorse would kiss California


There would be a map here
A digital crystal of snow
Spinning over Calgary
Like a page that can't load

Secret feature: tap the edge
And the map flips over
the underside red
As the raw country under skin
The legend says: hellfire

* * * * * *

For context, the first poem comes above my analysis of Ivan Coyote's regional poetics and the second above my analysis of Rae Spoon's same, which include a violent evangelical home life.

radfrac_archive_full: (dichotomy)

Lord: it is time. The huge summer has gone by.
Now overlap the sundials with your shadows,
and on the meadows let the wind go free.

Command the fruits to swell on tree and vine;
grant them a few more warm transparent days,
urge them on to fulfillment then, and press
the final sweetness into the heavy wine.

Whoever has no house now, will never have one.
Whoever is alone will stay alone,
will sit, read, write long letters through the evening,
and wander along the boulevards, up and down,
restlessly, while the dry leaves are blowing.

Rilke's "Autumn Day" translated by the incomparable Stephen Mitchell
radfrac_archive_full: (writing)
First my left shoulder went awry, and now my right shoulder has gone. There's this blue-white star of pain at the base of my right shoulder blade, and it's worst when I type or sit at a computer. Painkillers don't seem to touch it. Only heat shrinks the star to a gleaming pearl, rotating slowly in place, sending out flashes of pain.

My current journal is enormous, and it's actually sort of too heavy to carry around, so today I was reduced to toting index cards held together by the pen lid. Then, even though the beer clerk (or whatever you call the person who fills your growler) told me she'd put the cap on extra tight, the nut brown ale leaked into my bag (a feather-light but tough reusable originally designed to hold four bottles of Okanagan wine) -- all over my book and index cards.**

The book was not Prochain Episode, to which I still have not returned. It was The Black-Eyed Blonde, by Benjamin Black / John Banville, which is supposed to be a new Philip Marlowe novel in the voice of Raymond Chandler. For my money*, it isn't much like Chandler -- it lacks the clipped, glib, effortless hard-boiled tone. (I am consulting my ale-stained index cards now.) Black-Banville has a fine prose style, but he uses more qualifiers and equivocations -- he expresses more ambivalence. Chandler's profoundly ambivalent, but his language isn't, and that tension is part of the pleasure. I heard Banville interviewed, and he agreed with me about who Marlowe's one true love really is, so I thought it was worth looking into.***

I'm researching for an interview on Monday by listening to poets read their work on YouTube. There are many genera of poet, both living and fossil. The singsong, the theatrical, the conversational. Those who sound like they're reading a book to a child and those who sound like they're trying to bully you. Those who read all line breaks like questions and those who enjamb with ferocious glee. There's that infinitely wistful address pioneered by Michael Dickman that I rather envy.

When I do read, when I can be convinced to attempt it, I tend to be a conversational-theatrical hybrid, I think. I hope. I aspire, anyway. Perhaps I am orchidaceous and recondite. Perhaps it is time for bed.


*In this case, "my money" would consist of library fines.

**I know I could use my Mobile Device to take notes, but it isn't notably faster, and I don't enjoy the kinetic experience of poking at it as much as I like using a pen. Since no one is watching me, I might as well choose my own pleasure over some abstract concept of convenience or modernity. He said grumpily. Also: get off my lawn.

***Marlowe is, in my opinion, a gothic heroine. I keep meaning to write a paper about that.
radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
e.e. cummings reads at about half the speed I expected, in a heavily mannered voice. I've always imagined "anyone lived in a pretty how town" to proceed at a cheerful clip, whereas if he had laid it out the way he reads it, it would look like this:



in a




Where DOWN is a sudden serious drop of the voice, like a lugubrious Sesame Street character explaining the difference between Opposite Words. And each word is pronounced       very       carefully.



Aug. 25th, 2010 06:34 pm
radfrac_archive_full: (Harold Ross of the New Yorker)
Rejection notice today, not unexpected: I really only tried because they had an online submission form. Otherwise I am so unproductive, timid, lazy and cheap that I would never submit any work at all. For this same reason, I will probably go on submitting there.

They got back to me quickly and courteously, and that must be difficult given an online form. I think, however, that they must tailor the rejection message for a slightly more aggressive style of poet.

The message explained that they weren't going to be able to use "anything from this submission". This particular submission consisted of one poem, five lines long. Five of your scanty contemporary lines, too, about three or four words each, expanding a little around the waistline and tapering in again discreetly at the foot.

If they had been able to use something from the submission, what would that mean? A handful of the more vivid and concrete nouns? Just the image of his face?

I am only teasing, of course. It was a small poem, and I had my doubts about it, but other poets I know have whole manuscripts they gamely launch at publishers over and over again, and this is my version of competing.

radfrac_archive_full: (Harold Ross of the New Yorker)
I have listened about fifty-one times to the Bookworm interview with Alice Quinn about Edgar Allen Poe & the Jukebox, the recent publication of Elizabeth Bishop's unpublished works.

I have listened to the interview enough times that it's now one of my fall-asleep recordings, along with the Clayton Eshleman interview. His reading of his long poem "Combined Object" is bottomless, and it is about sleep.

More in this vein: sorrow, ferries, winter circuses )


*The image on the Amazon page seems to be cropped: the edition I saw had quite a lot more peach to say for itself.
radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
"My aim is to go to the very essential elements of an emotion or sensation and its plastic display in the mind, and at the same time try to capture the energy of that emotion expressed in breath or movement through rhythm, and to create with both a small cosmos with its particular currents and possibilities and then let it flow."

--Coral Bracho
radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
Ruffled edge of a crab shell:
the upper plate, not unlike an empty denture.

Reflection of fat orange flower-balls
impossible at this angle
the same flower
growing against the dark rock
into the clear water
drowned sparklers still burning
hollow underneath like skulls
bells, bowls
the domes of medusae.

Every stone in the graveyard
eaten like sugar by the sunlight.

Someday your bones
pitted and soft as old shells
turn to milk in the hot earth's mouth.

The blue heron
who does not think of you
from one day to another.

Small sand-patterend fish
appear in order to rush away.

The sand mottled rust and violet
and black underneath where you dig grooves
with your feet.

Cinnabar-red dragonfly.

The pond seems still
its invisible tremor projected
on the faces and undersides of massive leaves
an incessant shudder
that the plant, nodding, seems to try
to shake off
light threading, worming, runnelling
up the tall cones of the plant
which shelter under the raddled leaves
as wide, some of them, as your spreading arms
your circling arms.


new poem

May. 10th, 2008 09:08 pm
radfrac_archive_full: (writing)
Divine Speech

Another thing you don't like:
people who try to speak
the unutterable.

You regret telling the story
of the vision
that moved me.

You tell me you're reading
a book about death
but you won't discuss it.

You won't go into my house
or ask me to yours
or eat food from my hands.

You won't talk about art
the last place
I thought we might be able to meet.

You call me up to go for pints
and talk about how good-looking
you used to be. Always
the same ten pounds,
gaining or losing. How
you used to be cruel
to ugly people.

I can't say
I never thought you were handsome.

I loved you
for the stories you told
for the vision
you wish you hadn't shared
the arc of your body illuminated
like a burning wire
by the infinite rivers
of divine speech.

radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
Today's Bookworm shows: Allen Kurzweil, Curtis White, Jonathan Dee, Oliver Sacks (all from 2002).

Sacks and Silverblatt talk about science writing as phenomenological poetry, which reminds me of the little book about geographical topography that I bought at the now-vanished-beneath-gentrification Oak Bay Bookstore, every line of which reads like thoughtful natural poetry.

It seems to me that the brief moments of transcendence I get from encounters with natural beauty in this town are something like the GST cheque. A small allotment of a thing needed in much greater quantities, coming at intervals just close enough to forestall complete despair, keeps you going on just enough that you do not have to consider the changes necessary for you to go on with joy and satisfaction.

In my youth, I used to find out about authors not by reading their work, but by reading biographies of them. In this way, I learnt about the details of their lives, and usually some aspects of a critical analysis of their body of work, but I had almost no contact with their actual style. Instead, I became intimate with the particular voice of biography, which actually may have made the literary work -- more complex in style, less immediate in detail -- more difficult to engage with.

I'm all about the mediation.



Aug. 7th, 2007 06:48 pm
radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
I've added more podcasts to my alertness arsenal. "Bookworm" is very good. The host sounds like Mr. Badger just woken from his winter doze, all pleased and snuffly. Like he's digging for insight around the bumptious roots of the vast trunk of Literature. He has the best interview subjects.

That particular podcast is always exactly twenty-six miuntes and forty-eight seconds long, and has a short instrumental interlude in its middle, on which evidence I assume it is taken from broadcast, and usually observes a newsbreak.

One of the archived Bookworm podcasts was a discussion with the translators of two new volumes of Pierre Reverdy. What they read out sounded extraordinary -- that distinctive voice of surrealism, deadpan, bizarre, abrupt, childish.

It would be asking a great deal to find much material from a second-tier French poet in the local public library, but I did discover Modern French Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology. Its superior side-by-side format (the only really good way to read translations) and its eight poems of Reverdy's, translated by Patricia Terry, have allowed me to embark on another bout of one of my favorite amateur passions -- translation. As with all true amateurs, my utter unsuitability for this task is what makes it uniquely mine.

I read recently (in the New Yorker) that the fashion in repairing rare books has changed. Instead of trying to make mends invisible, tears aer fixed with bright white paper, the better to see your interventions by, my dear.

There must be similar fashions in translation, if I only knew enough translators to cite them. Along the two axes, of fidelity in meaning and fidelity in form and sound, the counters must slide and click and occasionally collide, depending on the intellectual values of the day. If I were to hazard, and it would be hap-, I'd guess that in 1975, the year of Modern French Poetry, meaning was in ascendancy over form. The translations seem close in direct sense, but not very evocative. The new ones, of course, are too new to be got, so I am stuck fiddling with the old, like trying to re-solve someone else's sudoku puzzle. Except that instead of one there are myriad solutions, most of them bad. (What would the universe be like if mathematics worked that way?)

* * * * * *

I was going to offer, if you came up with a really good title for the previous-post-mentioned review blog (it need not be a literal reference to reading, reviewing, or trains*) to let you choose the book (or restaurant or movie, etc.) that I began with -- stipulating right of refusal if I just couldn't bear it. Does that make it more, or less, appealing?


*For example, you could suggest "The train runs backward" or you could as easily suggest "Pink mushrooms fall from the sky". I will consider all.
radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
You are lovely. You came all that way and you paid money to sit in that stifling hot room. It was amazing to have you there. I was really, really, one-more-really-for-each-of-you touched. You are Just Super.

It was only after I'd read that I realized I'd done a slightly audacious thing elbowing my way into the lineup last night. Well, in fact Captain had done the audacious thing by offering me the space -- easily, without fuss, and in style; but that's Captain.

These were really clever and interesting people, and I would have been glad just to have seen them read. It was a remarkably strong lineup. I found I recognized more of the work than I expected to.

They were friendly at the break, too. I was a bit dazed myself what with the sunburn and the performing rush and I didn't say anything very clever, but it was nice to look at them all and feel Pleased. And I got to be in the group photo at the end. I'm the one grinning like a loon.

Also a sheepish thank you to the kind dyke next to me who didn't mind that I accidentally drank out of her water bottle in my nervousness.

There were quite a few of the fellows there from Gay Men Read Books Exclamation Mark. My prof was there, in a muscle shirt. John Barton, of course, was in the lineup, and he and Billeh Nickerson were also doing the BC launch of Seminal: The Anthology of Canada's Gay Male Poets. Which I would have bought had I brought any cash. Amber Dawn's book, sadly, was not available.

I would just like to say: Billeh Nickerson is a doll. He was entirely gracious about including me. He read my bio like it made just as much sense as anyone else's. And at the intermission he took us aside and explained that he doesn't work gigs where the authors aren't paid. And then he gave us honoraria. So: I have been paid to read. How about that?

What did I actually read? )

*All this looks rather like namedropping, but I'm trying to Give Credit Where Credit is Due, point people at their books, and offer a little awe here and there.

radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
So I might be going to read at Pride in the Word. It's next Saturday night, 7pm, Open Space Gallery. I expect it costs money.

The reason it is definite and I am tentative is best explained through psychological narrative.

I'd found the roster for Pride in the Word, and thought, "I never get invited to read at these things." I felt sorry for myself for a bit, and then I allowed the eventual corollary, "Because no one has the faintest idea who I am."

So I asked the Captain of all our hearts, "Captain, what should I do to become the sort of person who gets asked to be in poetry readings?"

Whereupon he offered me part of his stage time. I was so alarmed that I tried to refuse. He wasn't having any, and [livejournal.com profile] inlandsea said that being afraid that no one would like me was not a good reason not to do it.

Stupid believing in yourself. Too much work.

Annnyway. Any number of forces might prevent it from happening. Logistics. A rain of herring. If they somehow don't, I'll be there. And if you go, well, you'll be there, too. There are lots of other people reading that you might like better.

Saturday. 7 o'clock. Open Space.

There. I've done what I can.

radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
Born in obscurity among feral cats in the wilds of Sooke, he rose to become the largest, proudest, and most princess-y cat you were ever likely to meet. A Maine Coon, as you may know, is a Whole Other Animal. He knew me only as Movable Cushion. I was lucky to bear the name.

My ex-co-conspirator fought bitterly against putting him to sleep, but in the end knew it wasn't fair to let him go on. It is the person's job to take care of the cat. That is what you do, even when it's the last thing you want to do.

Here is a poem I wrote with him in it, a long time ago.

Story of Our House

We will have light in the morning
curtains of dust twisting as they fall
the unripe sun
the wakeful noise of birds
the cold feet of the cat
crossing the linoleum floor

We will have light in the afternoon
light burred in the drowsy cat's fur
light on the oak table, on the bread brown as oak
on the melting butter, on the grapes and cherries
lit up like planets made of glass

Our house will always have chocolate and halvah and tea
we will contemplate the wind as it explodes the dandilions
and drink salt out of the air
the cat will jump into the fireplace
and strut out with dirty paws

And twilight
the air in the house will turn smoke-blue
like glass over a flame
the cat will look up, crossing through the dry grass in the yard
his gold-leaf eyes suddenly illuminated

We will have darkness in our house
and the smell of evening
last cups of tea in the arch of the door
bare feet nesting in the carpet

Panes of darkness to enclose us into our beds
into the dark rooms of our sleeping minds
and the cat will move restlessly between sleep at your feet
and stalking the night highway
             traced out by stars like distance signs
the marks of his paws soft and sooty
disrupting and rearranging the sky

So many old loves gone.



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