Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Verse of the Day - Adam Zajajewski


Yes folks, there are poets whose name begins with the letter z, a letter that's pronounced zee over here, although I prefer "zed"

Adam Zagajewski is not only the only poet I am familiar with with a 'z' surname, but he's the only Polish poet I am aware of. And this poem strikes a chrord with me because I need balance - work/life balance right now.

Balance by Adam Zagajewski

I watched the arctic landscape from above
and thought of nothing, lovely nothing.
I observed white canopies of clouds, vast
expanses where no wolf tracks could be found.

I thought about you and about the emptiness
that can promise one thing only: plenitude—
and that a certain sort of snowy wasteland
bursts from a surfeit of happiness.

As we drew closer to our landing,
the vulnerable earth emerged among the clouds,
comic gardens forgotten by their owners,
pale grass plagued by winter and the wind.

I put my book down and for an instant felt
a perfect balance between waking and dreams.
But when the plane touched concrete, then
assiduously circled the airport's labryinth,

I once again knew nothing. The darkness
of daily wanderings resumed, the day's sweet darkness,
the darkness of the voice that counts and measures,
remembers and forgets.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Verse of the Day - Chase Twichell

I found this poem by chance but I rather like it. It makes me think of the quietly rotting interior, the lonely farmsteads we pass on a road to nowhere; it can only be America; a world unpruned and broken where love is folded away in a drawer.

These are lonely and sad images but there's something appealing about them in the same way as there's something appealing about solitude and giving up on our mainstream lives.

Inland by Chase Twichell

Above the blond prairies,

the sky is all color and water.
The future moves
from one part to another.

This is a note
in a tender sequence
that I call love,
trying to include you,
but it is not love.

It is music, or time.
To explain the pleasure I take
in loneliness, I speak of privacy,
but privacy is the house around it.
You could look inside,
as through a neighbor's window
at night, not as a spy
but curious and friendly.

You might think
it was a still life you saw.
Somewhere, the ocean
crashes back and forth
like so much broken glass,
but nothing breaks.
Against itself,
it is quite powerless.

Irises have rooted
all along the fence,
and the barbed berry-vines
gone haywire.

Unpruned and broken,
the abandoned orchard
reverts to the smaller,
harder fruits, wormy and tart.
In the stippled shade,
the fallen pears move
with the soft bodies of wasps,
and cows breathe in
the licorice silage.

It is silent
where the future is.
No longer needed there,
love is folded away in a drawer
like something newly washed.
In the window,
the color of the pears intensifies,
and the fern's sporadic dust
darkens the keys of the piano.

Clouds containing light
spill out my sadness.
They have no sadness of their own.

The timeless trash of the sea
means nothing to me—
its roaring descant,
its multiple concussions.
I love painting more than poetry.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

National Cowboy Poetry Gathering details are released.

Now yee haw, howdee and all that, you don't often associate cowboys with poetry - spitting on the earth and falling off the backs of bulls more like.

But I received a press release today for the 28th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering—the nation’s greatest celebration of the American West, its people, culture and tradition - which will take place January 30 to February 4, 2012, in Elko, Nevada.

"Every winter for the last 27 years, cowboys, ranchers, rural and urban people have traveled en masse to this small high desert community, to join with friends, family and others who care about the rural West. Together, they listen to poetry and music, learn about cowboy culture in the U.S. and around the world, experience great art, watch western films, learn a craft, and gather to eat, drink and swap stories," the release says.

 Ticket sales for the 28th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering begin on Tuesday, September 6, 2011. Members of the Western Folklife Center, which produces the event, can purchase tickets that day, while non-members can purchase tickets one month later, on Thursday, October 6.

Programs at the 28th Gathering will focus on the southwestern United States, specifically Arizona and New Mexico—which are celebrating their centennials next year—and West Texas. The event will present poets and musicians from the region, as well as workshops and panel discussions focused on regional food, culture and agriculture. An exhibition of Southwest ranching culture featuring the photography of Kurt Markus and Jay Dusard will be on display in the Western Folklife Center’s Wiegand Gallery.

The 28th National Cowboy Poetry Gathering will feature nearly 50 poets, musicians and musical groups from the U.S., Canada and Australia, performing on seven stages at four different venues. The line-up includes cowboy poets Baxter Black, Wally McRae, Paul Zarzyski, Waddie Mitchell, Yvonne Hollenbeck, Joel Nelson, Doris Daley and many others.

Have I heard of any of these fellas - nope. But I guess there must be a market for this kind of thing. This sure is a new take on the moon, that source of much poetic inspiration over the centuries. In saying that I'm left rather cold by that whole leathery bottomed cowboy love among the cactus kind of thing. Don't get me wrong: I thought Brokeback Mountain was a great movie and I'm all for homosexuality in the movies. But the love scenes certainly made me feel a bit queasy.

 See here for more details.

The Bucking Horse Moon by Paul Zarzyski

A kiss for luck, then we’d let ‘er buck—

I’d spur electric on adrenaline and lust.
She’d figure-8 those barrels
on her Crimson Missile sorrel—
we’d make the night air swirl with hair and dust.

At some sagebrushed wayside, 3 A.M.,
we’d water, grain, and ground-tie Missile.
Zip our sleeping bags together,
make love in any weather,
amid the cactus, rattlers, and thistle.

Seems the moon was always full for us—
its high-diving shadow kicking hard.
We’d play kid games on the big night sky,
she’d say that bronco’s Blue-Tail Fly,
and ain’t that ol’ J. T. spurrin’ off its stars?

We knew sweet youth’s no easy keeper.
It’s spent like winnings, all to soon.
So we’d revel every minute
in the music of our Buick
running smooth, two rodeoin’ lovers
cruising to another—
beneath Montana’s blue roan
bucking horse moon.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Verse of the Day - John Betjeman

John Betjeman was the poet laureate when I was growing up. He seemed like friendly old type; the sort you could while away a couple of hours in the pub with. His successor Ted Hughes was surely a better poet but less easy company.

I drove through Slough a couple of times when I was in England. It isn't as bad as in the 1930s when Betjeman wrote this poem. But nor is it the sort of place you linger in unless you are in the cast of The Office. I remember a strip of Polish shops, a nondescript industrial park and little more. It was was on the road to Windsor.

This poem seems to be a commentary on industrialisation as well as Slough and alienation from the natural world. And it's still relevant today because we all know people who daren't look up and see the stars but belch instead.

Slough by John Betjeman

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!

It isn't fit for humans now,
There isn't grass to graze a cow.
Swarm over, Death!

Come, bombs and blow to smithereens
Those air -conditioned, bright canteens,
Tinned fruit, tinned meat, tinned milk, tinned beans,
Tinned minds, tinned breath.

Mess up the mess they call a town-
A house for ninety-seven down
And once a week a half a crown
For twenty years.

And get that man with double chin
Who'll always cheat and always win,
Who washes his repulsive skin
In women's tears:

And smash his desk of polished oak
And smash his hands so used to stroke
And stop his boring dirty joke
And make him yell.

But spare the bald young clerks who add
The profits of the stinking cad;
It's not their fault that they are mad,
They've tasted Hell.

It's not their fault they do not know
The birdsong from the radio,
It's not their fault they often go
To Maidenhead

And talk of sport and makes of cars
In various bogus-Tudor bars
And daren't look up and see the stars
But belch instead.

In labour-saving homes, with care
Their wives frizz out peroxide hair
And dry it in synthetic air
And paint their nails.

Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough
To get it ready for the plough.
The cabbages are coming now;
The earth exhales.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Poetry on the streets of London

I have neglected this blog recently due to a trip to England. London may lack the romance of Paris but there's certainly poetry on these teeming streets; on the sides of the Tube and among the wacky performers at Covent Garden.

I'm not sure Londoners would be very interested in this poem or have a view on whether it's good or bad. True to my most random moments I plucked it out of mid air. The Internet is made for acts of wild and abandoned randomness. I highly recommend it.

However, the good folks of London are probably far too busy looting flat screen TVs to care.

London Baby by Mohammed Nashir

Who doesn’t miss London?
It is heaven on earth
Everything in one city
People bustling
No Crime
A life of phantom
Excellent Lyrics
Listen to this while I spit
London Baby
The hustle and bustle
The muscle and london’s Hollywood
Don’t miss it for one second
Never leave
Who wants to live in a boring small town
Live in London Baby
Not for the OAP
For the Messy
City People
Not for the faint of heart