I don’t revise much these days…except in the interest of a more passionate syntax


These words by Yeats were said later in his life to poet John Berryman on their one and only meeting. The idea in them is fascinating, the great poet having gotten to a point where the technical matters got down to phrasing, which is saying.

a more passionate saying

This is something I aspire to in my own writing, but also in my own reading. Weekly, I strive to find things that stop me for one reason or another.

In this week’s poem “Leave It To Me Blues” by Joel Oppenheimer, he goes about his particular saying through straightforward language and a lyric subtlety that disarms as much as surprises.

* blushing moon *

* this week’s round and round *

Leave It To Me Blues – Joel Oppenheimer

from the heart of a flower
a stalk emerges; in each fruit
there are seeds. we turn our
backs on each other so often,
we destroy any community of
interest. yet our hearts are
seeded with love and care sticks
out of our ears. but there is no
bridge unless it is the wind which
whistles our bare house, tearing
the slipcovers apart and constantly
removing the tablecloth covering
it (the table) like a shroud (the
shroud of what the table could mean,
if only we were hungry enough to
care), and we cut ourselves off
because we discovered each man is
an island, detached. man, the
mainland is flipped over the moon.
all i have to depend on is effort,
and the moon goes round and round
in the evening sky. my sons will
make it if they ever reach age,
but how to take care i dont know.
it doesn’t get better. on the other
hand, even with answers, where
would we be, out in the cold, with
an old torn blanket, and no one
around us to cry


Happy arounding!


*poem found in the anthology A Controversy of Poets.

The two year anniversary of the Influence is here and I must admit: it snuck up on me.

I had all these great ideas about what to do (party hats! balloons! poems recited inside of a cake!), but then life kinda kept happening.

As life happened, so did the Influence, though, which is the goal ultimately.

The life of a blog is like the life of a flag: as long as the wind keeps up, the colors keep flying.

This week’s poem “Lives of the Poets” by Kim Addonizio (fresh out of the latest issue of Poetry magazine) is apt for our little celebration.

When I started this blog, I was happy to have it become a reader’s blog, a place for me to share the poems that were rockin’ my world at the time. It has been a pleasure to see the readership of this blog grow. Thank you to each of you who drops by.

I hope to continue sharing the highlights of the life of this poet and that it may mean something to the life of the poet in you.

* two years makes me this happy *

* two years makes me this happy *

Lives of the Poets – Kim Addonizio

One stood among the violets
listening to a bird. One went to the toilet
and was struck by the moon. One felt hopeless
until a trumpet crash, and then lo,
he became a diamond. I have a shovel.
Can I turn it into a poem? On my stove
I’m boiling some milk thistle.
I hope it will turn into a winged thesis
before you stop reading. Look, I’m topless!
Listen: approaching hooves!
One drowned in a swimming pool.
One removed his shoes
and yearned off a bridge. One lives
with Alzheimer’s in a state facility, spittle
in his white beard. It
turns out words are no help.
But here I am with my shovel
digging like a fool
beside the spilth and splosh
of the ungirdled sea. I can’t stop.
The horses are coming, the thieves.
I still haven’t found lasting love.
I still want to hear viols
in the little beach hotel
that’s torn down and gone.
I want to see again the fish
schooling and glittering like a veil
where the waves shove
against the breakwater. Gone
is the girl in her white slip
testing the chill with one bare foot.
It’s too cold, but she goes in, so
carefully, oh.


Happy flagging!


Continuing on the theme of “can’t-believe-I-haven’t-shared-this-yet,” this week’s poem by Linda Gregg is one whose lessons I am still learning.

I know that I am still learning – which is to say I have much yet to learn (and let this always be so) – because I found notes!

In my notes on this poem from a journal circa 2009, I wrote that what moves me is Gregg’s ability to sneak in a bit of the metaphysical into a poem rich with narrative detail. It does so in the following specific lines:

 Love is not less because of the spirit.
Delight does not make the heart childish…

Let the spirit marry the heart…

These three lines – free of concrete description – hold the philosophical heart of the poem.

Alone, they make an small abstract poem.

Alongside the rest of the poem, these lines “sparkle easily.”

* white oleanders, yo *

* white oleanders, yo *

Glistening – Linda Gregg

As I pull the bucket from the crude well,
the water changes from dark to a light
more silver than the sun. When I pour it
over my body that is standing in the dust
by the oleander bush, it sparkles easily
in the sunlight with an earnestness like
the spirit close up. The water magnifies
the sun all along the length of it.
Love is not less because of the spirit.
Delight does not make the heart childish.
We thought the blood thinned, our weight
lessened, that our substance was reduced
by simple happiness. The oleander is thick
with leaves and flowers because of spilled
water. Let the spirit marry the heart.
When I return naked to the stone porch,
there is no one to see me glistening.
But I look at the almond tree with its husks
cracking open in the heat. I look down
the whole mountain to the sea. Goats bleating
faintly and sometimes bells. I stand there
a long time with the sun and the quiet,
the earth moving slowly as I dry in the light.


Happy drying!


* painting found here.

There are some poems essential to my psyche that I’m surprised I haven’t posted on here yet.

This week’s poem by Zbigniew Herbert is one of them.

I remember reading it the first time years ago and just being floored. How the subject, a pebble, can be meditated upon and become some larger than itself is profound. You can see the mountain forming in reverse from the pebble of the lyric.


* who, me? *

* who, me? *

Pebble - Zbigniew Herbert

The pebble
is a perfect creature

equal to itself
mindful of its limits

filled exactly
with a pebbly meaning

with a scent that does not remind one of anything
does not frighten anything away does not arouse desire

its ardour and coldness
are just and full of dignity

I feel a heavy remorse
when I hold it in my hand
and its noble body
is permeated by false warmth

- Pebbles cannot be tamed
to the end they will look at us
with a calm and very clear eye

                                       Translated by Peter Dale Scott and Czeslaw Milosz


Happy clearing!


Bill Knott’s death last week had me digging through my journals to find this week’s poem. It’s a sonnet I wrote in homage to the man after reading his book The Unsubscriber.

I did a post on his work last November (which can be checked out here) in which I shared some of my sketches. Bill was kind enough to stop by the blog and say some encouraging words. This gesture moved me for many reasons, not the least of which is the nature of blogs and communities online.

I share this week’s poem (along with my impromptu sketch of the man) as a tribute to the poet as well as to all of you kind enough to stop by and read.

* knott bad, but knott great either *

* knott bad, but knott great either *

to Bill Knott – Jose Angel Araguz

He had time on his hands,
he could feel it – seconds itch
like you wouldn’t believe – really, bitch
all you want of boredom: lands

of it exist in every story.
Heroes bored until heroic, villains bored
until dead. He was never bored.
All that living, heroic or gory,

passed him by like a wind,
and like a wind left him
nothing. Seconds itch, minutes sting. He
would hold a pen for hours. Find
a clock: that ticking, that’s him.
Pulse is the man. Time, he.


Happy Knotting!


p.s. a fine article on Knott (and the inspiration for my sketch) here.

Just wanted to do a quick post and share the news that I have been selected to be CantoMundo 2014 fellow!

Check out the official announcement here.

See you Friday!


This week’s poem “Bus Stop” by Donald Justice rounds out the recent syllabic kick on the Influence.

I recently read an illuminating essay by Justice where he breaks down some of the thinking that went into the poem, both the conceptual thinking and the structural.

He describes walking his dog around his neighborhood in California around the same time when people would be coming home from work. His sense of the memory is that everything was already there for the poem, the world of it just had to be organized.

I remarked to someone just this week that Justice’s work always surprises me. An undisputed technical master, he makes you forget all about technique by earning such moments as the one below where he fills a line with: Black flowers, black flowers.

* whatcha waitin' for *

* Bus Stop with Chola *

Bus Stop – Donald Justice

Lights are burning
In quiet rooms
Where lives go on
Resembling ours.

The quiet lives
That follow us—
These lives we lead
But do not own—

Stand in the rain
So quietly
When we are gone,
So quietly . . .

And the last bus
Comes letting dark
Umbrellas out—
Black flowers, black flowers.

And lives go on.
And lives go on
Like sudden lights
At street corners

Or like the lights
In quiet rooms
Left on for hours,
Burning, burning.


Happy burning!


* photo by Craig Carlson found here.


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