* taking flight with tranströmer

During my grad studies in NYC, I had the opportunity to go to a reading by Tomas Tranströmer. Sharon Olds and Robert Bly were chosen to present Tranströmer’s work, each reading a selection. Olds delivered his work in a fervent and direct manner, while Bly strode through the poems, pausing at times to exclaim over a line and asking us to listen, really listen.

The words I’ve chosen for each reader – fervent, direct and stride, listen – are key to my understanding of Tranströmer and his poems. There is definitely a passion behind the poems, an unabashed facing of what’s in the world. But his poems are also full of close, deep listening.

In the poem below, Tranströmer evokes the flight of a bird throughout his life, develops the transient flight of a bird to such a point that the bird becomes the constant and the self is seen as the one in transient flight. For me, poetry is much like this.

* right here there is no time *
* right here there is no time *

The Nightingale in Badelunda – Tomas Tranströmer *

 

In the green midnight at the nightingale’s northern limit. Heavy leaves hang in trance, the deaf cars race towards the neon-line. The nightingale’s voice rises without wavering to the side, it’s as penetrating as a cock-crow, but beautiful and free of vanity. I was in prison and it visited me. I was sick and it visited me. I didn’t notice it then, but I do now. Time streams down from the sun and the moon and into all the tick-tock-thankful clocks. But right here there is no time. Only the nightingale’s voice, the raw resonant notes that whet the night sky’s gleaming scythe.

***

Happy gleaming!

Jose

* trans. Robin Fulton, from Selected Poems, ed. Robert Hass

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* quick post: desde Hong Kong & some news

* can't Paz this up *
* can’t Paz this up *

Just a quick post to announce the release of the anthology desde Hong Kong: Poets in conversation with Octavio Paz (Chameleon Press), which includes my octave sequence “Octaves for Octavio Paz.”

I was excited by the submission call early this Spring and came up with some rather different takes on the octave. Using a line by Paz as a guide, each octave (nine total) explores a seven syllable syllabic line, playing with the magnetic tension of words and phrasing. Here’s one sample from the sequence:

sobre la hoja de papel/el poema se hace/como el día/sobre la palma del espacio[1]

could we write: morning, window,
light: and write: afternoon stretched,
and so on: write past things missed
by the eye, missed by being
alive, write: the tree outside:
the feeling of lines moving
past you, write: the paper wind
moves: O, we’d miss the missing.

[1] “El Fuego de Cada Día”

Gestures like the play on “O” as address and declaration as well as the unique take on Paz’s words played out in each octave is my way of tipping my hat to the great poet’s Surrealist leanings.

The editors have made available both their Introduction and Afterword which give a more in depth description on the project. More information on the book can be found here.

Thank you to editors Tammy Ho, German Munoz, & Juan Jose Morales.

***

I also want to take this opportunity to announce that my pieces “Relinquished” & “Look” have placed 2nd in Blue Earth Review’s Flash Fiction Contest and will be published in an upcoming issue (BER#13).

Thank you to the editors & staff of BER! I’m greatly honored.

***

See you Friday!

Jose

* buffett – a lyrical alignment

Sometimes the best advice about the poetry life comes when trying to find out about yourself in non-poetry ways.

This rather blank statement springs from a recent reading of Susan Cain’s book Quiet: the power of introverts which takes on the idea of introverts (and extroverts) both as personal, social, and cultural phenomenon.

One of the finer points I walked away with was that for extroverts going out (a frightening concept in my world) is a way to recharge. Having that simply put really put some of the people in my world in perspective. If going out to a party is someone else’s cup of tea, that’s awesome. I’ll just be at home with my, uhm, cup of tea.

Another fine point came when Cain quoted Warren Buffett on his approach to business. I’ll let the man speak for himself about what he terms his “inner scorecard”, but damn if the parallels aren’t there for the poet – how one must focus, and focus a long time and in their own way, to get the work that matters done.

* yeah, but what's it mean? *
* yeah, but what’s it mean? *


Inner Scorecard – Warren Buffett

a lyrical alignment from Susan Cain’s book “Quiet: the power of introverts”

I feel like
I’m on my back
and there’s the Sistine Chapel,

and I’m
painting away.
I like it when people say,

Gee, that’s
a pretty good-looking
painting.
But it’s my painting,

and when
somebody says,
Why don’t you use more red

 

instead of
blue?
Goodbye.
It’s my painting. And I

don’t care
what they sell it
for. The painting itself

will never
be finished. That’s one
of the great things about it.

***

Happy abouting!

Jose

* new short (short) fiction at Star 82 Review

Just a quick post to announce the release of the Issue 2.3 of Star 82 Review featuring my short piece “Clams.” Read it here.

I was excited to find this review. The generous spirit of its content – from short (short) fictions to erasures, art, and translation – had me interested right away.

Check out the rest of the new issue here.

See you Friday!

Jose

* logically legit with rae armantrout

Revisiting the work of Rae Armantrout this week, I realize that some poems hit you with the edges of what they could be saying as they are being said. Armantrout’s work for me always gives me just enough to build a singular impression.

In the poem below, the third section’s image of leaves is baffling in its clarity. The line “Leaf shadows on pavement” is a clipped, definite image, but the stanza that follows brings that image to life through sound and meaning, reaching away from imagery and yet evoking the image nonetheless.

Such things shouldn’t be possible, says the logical part of my brain, but there it is – logically legit.

* leaf good enough alone  *
* leaf good enough alone *

Answer – Rae Armantrout *

a moment of stillness,
demanding an answer.

When does a moment end?

*

Starbucks prayer;
“Make morning good again.”

*

Leaf shadows on pavement:

word meaning to slide
carelessly,
repeatedly,
to absentmindedly caress.

*

For I so loved the world

that I set up
my only son

to be arrested.

***

Happy arresting!

Jose

* from Rae Armantrout’s collection, Money Shot.

* a bit of memory lane with ted kooser

Ten years have passed since I read Ted Kooser’s essay “A Poet’s Job Description” (in The Poetry Home Repair Manual) and yet I am compelled by much of what he says. He is casual, generous and warm throughout, all while dishing out truth bombs like “Poetry is a lot more important than poets.”

In the essay, he shares the following poem, a poem that has stayed in my memory and yet feels new as I reread it this week. The connections throughout between physical activities builds up slow, but merge completely in the last line.

* baby it's grey outside *
* baby it’s grey outside *

A Rainy Morning – Ted Kooser

A young woman in a wheelchair,
wearing a black nylon poncho spattered with rain,
is pushing herself through the morning.
You have seen how pianists
sometimes bend forward to strike the keys,
then lift their hands, draw back to rest,
then lean again to strike just as the chord fades.
Such is the way this woman
strikes at the wheels, then lifts her long white fingers,
letting them float, then bends again to strike
just as the chair slows, as if into a silence.
So expertly she plays the chords
of this difficult music she has mastered,
her wet face beautiful in its concentration,
while the wind turns the pages of rain.

***

Happy turning!

Jose

*[Image by RidiculousDream at DeviantART]