Category Archives: pome

Make of it what you will

From time to time I happen upon a bit of text that just has to be passed around. Here’s today’s:

Wake words*

Perhaps he was mothersmothered
(born into the muddlecrass, at a time when wimwin).
The mamafesta delivered when he was yung and easily freudened.

For a while, a tenorist who saw the world cycloptically—
in his bachelure flat, the life lamatory, listening to ladies’ lavastories—
bewilderblissed and inn sane, he mistributed the unfacts alcoherently.

Nowanights, he looks at the fadographs with violet indigonation.
An iciclist who fell on a pineapple but still climbs the bannistars
With his tellavicious langurge (or langwedge) points a colliderorscope
at the chaosmos, tells with puerity his rheumaniscences
and awaits a funferall, barks like a duck “quark quark”!

[* Almost all of these words were invented by James Joyce and used in Finnegans Wake]

Peter Kennedy, Literary Review Dec 2016/Jan 2017 pg 58

The Geese

Christopher Lydon’s Radio Open Source has brightened a lot of the last decade for me, opening doors into places and subjects I hadn’t known I wanted to learn about, and introducing me to stuff I’ve since realized I care deeply about. A case in point: an interview with Colm Tóibín, towards the end of which he reads an Elizabeth Bishop poem which is achingly reminiscent of the Nova Scotia I know. His lead-in is absolutely spot-on (“…what was it that just hit you, emotionally? where it was in the poem where that began, and was sustained?”)

Poem

About the size of an old-style dollar bill,
American or Canadian,
mostly the same whites, gray greens, and steel grays
-this little painting (a sketch for a larger one?)
has never earned any money in its life.
Useless and free., it has spent seventy years
as a minor family relic handed along collaterally to owners
who looked at it sometimes, or didn't bother to.

It must be Nova Scotia; only there
does one see abled wooden houses
painted that awful shade of brown.
The other houses, the bits that show, are white.
Elm trees., low hills, a thin church steeple
-that gray-blue wisp-or is it? In the foreground
a water meadow with some tiny cows,
two brushstrokes each, but confidently cows;
two minuscule white geese in the blue water,
back-to-back,, feeding, and a slanting stick.
Up closer, a wild iris, white and yellow,
fresh-squiggled from the tube.
The air is fresh and cold; cold early spring
clear as gray glass; a half inch of blue sky
below the steel-gray storm clouds.
(They were the artist's specialty.)
A specklike bird is flying to the left.
Or is it a flyspeck looking like a bird?

Heavens, I recognize the place, I know it!
It's behind-I can almost remember the farmer's name.
His barn backed on that meadow. There it is,
titanium white, one dab. The hint of steeple,
filaments of brush-hairs, barely there,
must be the Presbyterian church.
Would that be Miss Gillespie's house?
Those particular geese and cows
are naturally before my time.

A sketch done in an hour, "in one breath,"
once taken from a trunk and handed over.
Would you like this? I'll Probably never
have room to hang these things again.
Your Uncle George, no, mine, my Uncle George,
he'd be your great-uncle, left them all with Mother
when he went back to England.
You know, he was quite famous, an R.A....

I never knew him. We both knew this place,
apparently, this literal small backwater,
looked at it long enough to memorize it,
our years apart. How strange. And it's still loved,
or its memory is (it must have changed a lot).
Our visions coincided-"visions" is
too serious a word-our looks, two looks:
art "copying from life" and life itself,
life and the memory of it so compressed
they've turned into each other. Which is which?
Life and the memory of it cramped,
dim, on a piece of Bristol board,
dim, but how live, how touching in detail
-the little that we get for free,
the little of our earthly trust. Not much.
About the size of our abidance
along with theirs: the munching cows,
the iris, crisp and shivering, the water
still standing from spring freshets,
the yet-to-be-dismantled elms, the geese.

(source for the text: “Poem”)

digging around in the archives

I happened upon this bit of text as I burrowed through musty files on backup drives, and I confess that I’m pleased with it:

Start anywhere
It all connects
and the trick is to choose
among branching paths
or perhaps it’s to
unwind the thread
as you sally forth
so as to be able
to reconstruct
your wanderings

That reconstruction is a tale
a narrative of Tolkien proportions
though without the necessity
of any end to the hero’s quest
and indeed with no heroes
or deus ex machina
just the progress of discovery

And what does the Argonaut seek?
Not fleeces or immured maidens
gloriously slain foes
or vanquished enemies

It’s the link, the nexus,
the skein of allusion
the journey and not
the destination
the joys of finding and telling

(28 xii 2008)

Remembering a teacher, 50 years later

In my freshman year at Harvard I studied Swedish (Scandinavian B –there was no Scandinavian A) under Göran Printz-Påhlson, a pleasant if (as I thought) somewhat lumbering Swedish poet (I particularly remember that he wore leather jackets which creaked when he moved). He was a friendly and generous teacher, though I was too much in awe to actually seek him out and, well, converse. Just today I happened upon an electronic version of his Letters of Blood, and Other Works in English, and learned that he died in 2006. The introductory materials tell me some of what I missed by not, well, conversing.

Poetics is a subject of which I am largely ignorant, but a quick flip through the pages of the prose parts of the book suggests that I might enjoy discovering on some winter night when the snow howls without. And I’m mostly immune to poetry, though sometimes my attention is caught. And caught it is by some bits of Printz-Påhlson’s, like this from My Interview with I.A. Richards

Inversion is a counterfeit experience
there is but one irreversability.
Chestnuts, rabid squirrels, slosh and sleet,
the sullen, birdstained wisdom of John Harvard.

O Fyffes bananas, obscene planks,
the flexes bared to vision like the sinews
in Vessalius. I grope my way
through the intestines of heuristic house.

Last night we heard in Kresge Hall
a lion-vested English poet fulminate
like an under-paid volcano against Science,
applauded by a host of boffins.

Afterwards, a girl called Shirley took my hand
and wished to lead me through the maze
toward the magus posing there as Tannhäuser,
fettered with electric wires in a great maidenform…

and here’s the whole of Songs of Dock Boggs

There are gridiron reverberations
in the hills, sourmash
blandishments bleating
from the sheriff’s office

Ah, the gavroche innocence of a barnyard rape!

He offers a smile, mild
as pick-axe handles a
mile wide which kindles
the hide of rutabaga;
their red necks swabbed
by cool, pale blue grass
in the abstracted stare of poverty
Bushwacking the melodies of God
for the breakdown of bushfires
he nurtures illustrious health
with the grating pap
of pink indulgence,
plucking the lure of life
from the audible mouchoir moment
when distant authority suppurates
the blueridge landscapes of childhood.

Raw death: a clodhopper shovel
smack in the kisser.

and from The Lyndon Baines Johnson Lavatory Seat Refurbishing Rightwinding Leftbranching Recursive Selfperpetuating Paradox Memorial

Here I sit thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is.

Here I sit, scratching my ass, thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is.

Here I sit, smoking some grass, scratching my ass, thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is.

Here I sit, sticking my middle in, smoking some grass, scratching my ass, thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is.

Here I sit, waiting for the end, entertaining a friend, bridging a loan, blowing my horn, sucking my stick, flexing my prick, farting through my ring, sticking my middle in, smoking some grass, scratching my ass, thinking: Aw, shit, think how great our country is.

Fragments found while cleaning the desk

A couple of haiku inspired by mass media triumphalism of a year or more ago (just how long ago unclear, desk stratigraphy being undated and undatable), but sure to be relevant again before long:

moral certitude
inspires the cannon fodder
waving flags: Huzzah!!

another martyr
ours or theirs: keep careful count
a winner someday

New years thought

This one wandered out of my mind and onto a piece of paper yesterday, and sat around for a day expecting to be posted:

I grew up wondering
if I’d live to see the Millenium
and here it is almost a decade beyond,
the last of the Noughts.
What should I wonder now?

and another

These things seem to keep happening, this time as I thought about where to begin in laying out a landscape of African musics that I’ve been accumulating in mp3 form since the spring.

Start anywhere
It all connects
and the trick is to choose
among branching paths
or perhaps it’s to
unwind the thread
as you sally forth
so as to be able
to reconstruct
your wanderings

That reconstruction is a tale
a narrative of Tolkien proportions
though without the necessity
of any end to the hero’s quest
and indeed with no heroes
or deus ex machina
just the progress of discovery

And what does the Argonaut seek?
Not fleeces or immured maidens
gloriously slain foes
or vanquished enemies

It’s the link, the nexus,
the skein of allusion
the journey and not
the destination
the joys of finding and telling