Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Fav for Elise

How to Be Eaten by a Lion 
by Michael Johnson 

If you hear the rush, the swish of mottled sand 
and dust kicked up under the striving paws, 
its cessation, falling into the sharp and brittle grass 
like the tick of a tin roof under sun 
or hint of rain that nightly wakes you, 
try to stand your ground. Try not to scream, 
for it devalues you. That tawny head and burled 
mange, the flattened ears of its sleek engine 
will seem only a blur, a shock, a shadow, 
across your neck that leaves you cold. 
It may seem soft, barely a blow, 
more like a falling, an exquisite giving 
of yourself to the ground, made numb 
to those eyes. It may be easier just to watch, 
for fighting will only prolong things, 
and you will have no time to notice the sky, 
the texture of dust, what incredible leaves 
the trees have. Instead, focus on your life, 
its crimson liquor he grows drunk on. 
Notice the way the red highlights his face, 
how the snub nose is softened, the lips made 
fuller; notice his deft musculature, his rapture, 
because in all creation there is not art 
to compare with such elegance, such simplicity. 
Notice this and remember it, 
this way in which you became beautiful 
when you thought there was nothing more.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Favorite Poems/Collections

Hi, all. I'd love to hear about your favorite poems or collections of poems. Mine is The Shadow of Sirius, by W.S. Merwin. I'm drawn to different poems in it at different times, but this one remains one of my very favorites.


The stars emerge one
by one into the names
that were last found for them
far back in other
darkness no one remembers
by watchers whose own
names were forgotten
later int he dark
and as the night deepens
other lumens begin
to appear around them
as though they were shining
through the same instant
from a single depth of age
though the time between
each one of them
and its nearest neighbor
contains in its span
the whole moment of the earth
turning in a light
that is not its own
with the complete course
of life upon it
born to brief reflection
recognition and anguish
from one cell evolving
to remember daylight
laughter and distant music

--W.S. Merwin

Saturday, June 28, 2014

For Billy

I was reading Ruth Schwartz's book, Dear Good Naked Morning (very good), when I stumbled upon the word cicada.

for Billy Collins

And he that shall remain nameless
un-digs his own grave
every three or thirteen or seventeen years.

And he that shall remain nameless
leaves his coat of armor on tree trunks
on stones, on the roofs of cars.

And he that shall remain nameless
eats of the leaves of the land
and of the grasses of the field
and his chewing is a plague upon man.

And he that shall remain nameless
claps its sides and sings and louder sings.
And it is his own name he sings.
But we shall not.


Anybody know how I can send it to him?

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

From today, standing in a clump of aspen


He has been standing
in the shaded side of love
for so long he can no longer tell
if it is night or the shadow of a cloud.

She is knocking, though,
with the sun perched on her shoulder.
I'm coming,  he cries, fumbling for a doorknob
he almost  remembers.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Little Planet Shadowrise

Ice on the mountain
orange except for purple shadows—

nothing in the sky
but sky. Scent of smoke—

Stacked twigs next to three
tin cups. A jug of water.

On the hillside half the pines in light—
half dark. Nearby,

Aspen leaves applaud. The
hole of a woodpecker

small universe.

Hi, dears! 
Happy Monday; happy back-to-real-life day! I don't know why my name here is "M." and I'm not sure how to change it. But this is Mary (not Melanie). I'd love your thoughts on this poem. I have a handful of poems based on photographs. They aren't necessarily ekphrasic in that they don't directly describe the image, but they do inspire the poem. So I'm including the image for this one.

Image credit: Acquisition - Enzo De Bernardini, Processing – w/Sophie le Comte


Here is a new one inspired by reading a lot of William Stafford. I would be interested in hearing, first, your gut reaction upon reading it, not as a critic, but as a reader of poetry. After that, if you have any critique that might shed light on what is in or not in the poem that either failed or succeeded in creating a meaningful response inside you as you read it please comment.


I'm hoping some other folks will start posting some of their new poems as well.


From atop the bridge of too many spiders
where forty years ago I ran the metal grate
and falling, earned a scar I carry still,
I used to watch the darkened backs of fish
hanging in the water a hundred feet below.

Giant prehistoric beasts that I would never touch
they never went anywhere, just wriggled
slowly against the current, taking something
from the river that was, for me, too small to see 
and, even now, too big to understand.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Lessons from Billy

I copied down a lot of quotes from Billy (some are surely not completely accurate, but all are close). I'd be curious to hear lessons that others wrote down, if any!

"The voice is external--it is made up of other voices. A fresh or original voice is composed of other voices but the influences are not as obvious."

"This is a fuck-you poem to The Wasteland." (on Nantucket, by William Carlos Williams)

"Poetry is harder than writing." (quoting a student; Billy called this statement simultaneously stupid and profound.)

"An editor isn't looking for the next break-through poet. He or she isn't looking for an emotionally transcendent experience. An editor is looking for only one thing: a reason to stop reading. A deal-breaker."

"Walk the reader through the rooms of the poem."

"Form gets your mind off yourself."

"A good poem starts in Kansas and ends up in Oz."

"Lots of bad poems start in Oz--I don't know how you got there, and you certainly didn't take me along."

"Readers are not turned on by earnestness. Sincerity is not enough."

"You have to tell your reader a small lie. The lie is that you love poetry more than you love yourself. Which isn't true."

"Jealousy drives creativity. Professors call it literary influence--but really it's envy."

"For the reader to be emotional, you can't be emotional--you need to be calculating."

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Craft Poems

In addition to posting our own work, I would like to see examples of poems that speak to questions of craft – exemplars, if you will, like the swan poem or The Break that Billy shared with us.

Mary asked about social justice or political poems.  Here is one by William Stafford that definitely tells it slant. Not only is the ending soft, the whole poem is soft.

At the Bomb Testing Site

At noon in the desert a panting lizard   
waited for history, its elbows tense,   
watching the curve of a particular road   
as if something might happen.

It was looking at something farther off   
than people could see, an important scene   
acted in stone for little selves
at the flute end of consequences.

There was just a continent without much on it   
under a sky that never cared less.   
Ready for a change, the elbows waited.   
The hands gripped hard on the desert.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014


Welcome poets.

Post anything poetry related.

Comment or not with the intent to open us up.

For no particular reason, here is our first posting:

In Van Gogh’s dark painting, The Potato Eaters
I am the one with my back to you
the only one without a chair, without a hat
the only one kept out of the light.
I’m not pretty like the others.
I’m the one no one looks at
the one no one talks to.
I’m the one who eats last
the one who sleeps under the table
the one with the bad thing between my legs.
I’m the one who covers my ears in the night
in Van Gogh’s dark painting, The Potato Eaters.