* dreaming with miroslav holub

* rules were meant to break your head *
* rules were meant to break your head *

The above image is in reference to Fleming’s right-hand rule, a term used in talking about electromagnetism.

The term appears in this week’s poem, “Dreams” by Miroslav Holub. When writing a dream poem and/or about dreams, I try to always be conscious of the why behind each dream detail. Each detail should feel necessary rather than just shocking or “dream”- like.

The details that surprise me most in Holub’s poem are those that are closest to everyday reality. The short lyric travels from the outlandish to the concrete, and ends on “Just grass” as if defying the expectations of a poem about dreams. Even the reference to the right-hand rule, which was outside of my immediate understanding, is handled as an everyday detail. Holub was a scientist; if dreams are made up in part of the details of everyday life, Holub’s lyric stays true to its revelatory impulse all the way through while remaining consistent to the poet’s life.

***

Dreams – Miroslav Holub

They sap man’s substance
as moon the dew.
A rope grows erect
from the crown of the head.
A black swan hatches
from a pebble.
And a flock of angels in the sky
is taking an evening class
on the skid pan.

I dream, so I dream.
I dream
that three times three is nine,
that the right-hand
rule applies;
and when the circus leaves
the trampled ground will
once more overgrow with grass.

Yes, grass.
Unequivocal grass.
Just grass.

***

Happy grassing!

José

* new work up at Bear Review

bear review

Just a quick post to announce the release of Bear Review 2.1 which includes two of my poems.

Read “Theory of the Slammed Door” here

and “Theory of Grapes in a Dream” here.

These two poems continue formally in the vein of my “hands” series but move into their conceptual world. Special thanks to Brian Clifton and Marcus Myers for including me and for a dynamic edit in one of the poems!

This issue also includes fine work by J. P. Dancing Bear, Meg Johnson, Nomi Stone, and John Gallaher, as well as a collaboration between Simone Muench and Dean Rader. Read it here.

See you Friday!

José

* dedicated with william carlos williams

While “The Red Wheelbarrow” remains one of his more popular poems – and one that confounds students to this day, usually leading to the question Why is that a poem? (to which I usually respond with Why not?) – read enough William Carlos Williams and you’ll see how multifaceted his body of work is. In this week’s poem, “Dedication for a Plot of Ground,” Williams is able to whirlwind through the details of a human life and have them stand with as much vividness as the more nuanced image of

a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

Two weeks ago I shared a poem by Blaise Cendrars in which I discussed the use of lists in poetry and life. Williams’ use of a list in this week’s poem opens up and gives a second life to a person through his own singular way with specificity.

* este wheelbarrow *
* este wheelbarrow *

Dedication for a Plot of Ground – William Carlos Williams

This plot of ground
facing the waters of this inlet
is dedicated to the living presence of
Emily Dickinson Wellcome
who was born in England; married;
lost her husband and with
her five year old son
sailed for New York in a two-master;
was driven to the Azores;
ran adrift on Fire Island shoal,
met her second husband
in a Brooklyn boarding house,
went with him to Puerto Rico
bore three more children, lost
her second husband, lived hard
for eight years in St. Thomas,
Puerto Rico, San Domingo, followed
the oldest son to New York,
lost her daughter, lost her “baby,”
seized the two boys of
the oldest son by the second marriage
mothered them—they being
motherless—fought for them
against the other grandmother
and the aunts, brought them here
summer after summer, defended
herself here against thieves,
storms, sun, fire,
against flies, against girls
that came smelling about, against
drought, against weeds, storm-tides,
neighbors, weasels that stole her chickens,
against the weakness of her own hands,
against the growing strength of
the boys, against wind, against
the stones, against trespassers,
against rents, against her own mind.

She grubbed this earth with her own hands,
domineered over this grass plot,
blackguarded her oldest son
into buying it, lived here fifteen years,
attained a final loneliness and—

If you can bring nothing to this place
but your carcass, keep out.

***

Happy bringing!

Jose

p.s. Read an article on the recent discovery of the man behind “The Red Wheelbarrow” here.

* moebius stripping with michael ondaatje

This is the real secret of life — to be completely engaged with what you are doing in the here and now. And instead of calling it work, realize it is play.

– Alan Watts

I like this quote because of the shift in gears it implies about life and how we approach it. I feel it easily mirrors something done in writing, how one must fight against being caught up in making a point and rather be open to what is at play. In a poem, it is being aware of the possibilities in an image or a turn of phrase, and digging further.

This week’s poem – “The Time Around Scars by Michael Ondaatje” – digs into the image of a scar and ties it to ideas of memory and time. As the poem develops, I feel myself as a reader traveling as if on a moebius strip. Ondaatje, by staying close to an image and emotion, is able to create a reading experience where time is traversed as it only can be in a poem.

* star time *
* star time *

The Time Around Scars – Michael Ondaatje

A girl whom I’ve not spoken to
or shared coffee with for several years
writes of an old scar.
On her wrist it sleeps, smooth and white,
the size of a leech.
I gave it to her
brandishing a new Italian penknife.
Look, I said turning,
and blood spat onto her shirt.

My wife has scars like spread raindrops
on knees and ankles,
she talks of broken greenhouse panes
and yet, apart from imagining red feet,
(a nymph out of Chagall)
I bring little to that scene.
We remember the time around scars,
they freeze irrelevant emotions
and divide us from present friends.
I remember this girl’s face,
the widening rise of surprise.

And would she
moving with lover or husband
conceal or flaunt it,
or keep it at her wrist
a mysterious watch.
And this scar I then remember
is a medallion of no emotion.

I would meet you now
and I would wish this scar
to have been given with
all the love
that never occurred between us.

***

Happy occurring!

Jose

* listing with blaise cendrars

This week’s poem – “Chinks” by Blaise Cendrars – reminded me of an early lesson about list poems, namely how most poems can easily slip into lists. Whether it be a series of phrases, images, or movements, lists can sneak their way into poems, usually in threes (note how even in this sentence about lists there is a list of three within it!).

Mind you, there’s nothing inherently bad about this: usually it’ll happen naturally and have its own rhythm. Finding ways to subvert this human tendency towards *ahem* “listing” in a poem is always a challenge.

In the poem below, I was moved by the way Cendrars is able to create a pocket of human action between lists. The tension created between nature images and the speaker’s silence in the poem’s narrative adds energy to both.

* pieces, in *
* pieces, in *

Chinks – Blaise Cendrars

Sea vistas
Waterfalls
Trees long-haired with moss
Heavy rubbery glossy leaves
Glazed sun
High burnished heat
Glistening
I’ve stopped listening to the urgent voices of my friends discussing
The news that I brought from Paris
On both sides of the train close by or along the banks of
The distant valley
The forest is there watching me unsettling me enticing me like
a mummy’s mask
I watch back
Never the flicker of an eye.

translated by Dick Jones in qarrtsiluni

***

Happy watching!

Jose