My Chapbook Between My Teeth

Yesterday I received the best email ever. A first of its kind. A bookstore, Bluestockings in the Lower East Side on Allen Street,  emailed me to REORDER my chapbook Between My Teeth. Reorder because they sold out of the first batch. I’m still on cloud nine. It’s the first time I’ve ever sold my work, the first time strangers have chosen to purchase something I’ve created–with help from my wonderful partner Craig who designed the fabulous the cover. It is a wonderful feeling.

I’ve also had work published online at Diagram. Please go here to view. And they thoughtfully included these poems in their second anthology Diagram.2.

Here’s Craig’s cover:

And here’s are a few of my favorite poems below. I don’t have titles, so I separate them with symbols.

The outline of the day,
-smelling of mustard and tears-
stretched to cover my mouth.

Awake, I imagine on my chest,
a small house filled with sleep,
blankets piled high, midnight blue, plush.

Wrapping them around my eyes, around my feet,
I’m sleepy, yet my mind is busy counting
not sleep, not sheep.

My eyelids close and my lashes flutter,
louder than ever.

***

I walk under a tree,
that fits like a hat,
leaves waving around.

In a bark shirt,
I’m on my knees praying,
for a good new habit.

People are full.
They pull in their feet and hands,
frothing, they carry no weight,
not even their own.

***

Weariness muscles my eyes.
I am tied up in exhaustion knots, yet
sleep has abandoned my night.

I imagine dreams standing in line at 3 am.
Negotiating with sleep, I hide and seek among the wires,
arguing for time to think all my thoughts.

Perhaps you could unfold me,
place kisses on my forehead, on my cheek,
maybe then I could sleep.

***

I’m working on some new poems. One that I really like that’s in the works, is this one:

I went on a walk,
with an almost circle, late-in-the-sky moon,
a glow between clouds,
and a branch.

Turning a corner on the way home,
I looked over my shoulder and saw it again,
astoundingly bright near a tree, then behind a veil,
bow down, the bright light.

Poet Cesar Vallejo

I was cleaning my desk an found a small metal box that I packed with little odds and ends including a copy one of my favorite poems by the masterful Peruvian poet Cesar Vallejo. So I thought I’d write a post about him and include this poem, which I’ve read so many times.

Between pain and pleasure there are three
creatures. One looks at a wall,
the second puts on a sad disposition
and the third advances on tiptoes;
but, between you and me,
only second creatures exist.

Leaning on my forehead, the day
agrees that, in truth,
there is much accuracy in space;
but, if the happiness, that, after all, has size,
begins, alas! in my mouth,
who is going to ask me for my word?

To the instantaneous meaning of eternity
corresponds
this encounter vested with black thread,
but to your temporal farewell,
corresponds solely what is immutable,
your creature, the soul, my word.

– Cesar Vallejo, from Payroll of Bones (1923-1936)

I found this poem in one of my favorite books the National Book Award winning Cesar Vallejo: The Complete Posthumous Poetry, 1978 translated by Clayton Eshleman and Jose Rubia Barcia. Now I’d like to buy The Complete Poetry, 2007, translated by Clayton Eshleman.

Comic Notes: Gabrielle Bell

A while back I began to discover comic book/graphic novel artists and among my favorites is Gabrielle Bell. I love her straight forward style and autobiographical storylines. She’s been published by Drawn and Quarterly of Canada which does amazing work.

There has been a growth of graphic novel and comic book shops around town. Three great places I’ve come across are: Desert Island on Metropolitan Avenue in Williamsburg; Bergen Street Comics in Park Slope; Rocketship on Smith Street in Cobblehill; (and my pal Drew directed me to a wonderful one in Portland, OR called Reading Frenzy). So it’s easy to find Bell’s books, support local owners, and to discover great new work.

Added Jan 24: The friendly owner of Desert Island mentioned that Gabirelle Bell has a blog. It’s here.

Discovering Dylan Thomas

Coming to Arizona for the holidays, we first flew into Phoenix. The next morning needing coffee and wi-fi we also discovered a terrific used book store, Book Gallery. At the store I bought two books, C.S. LewisOut of the Silent Planet and The Poems of Dylan Thomas. I’ve always wanted to read Thomas, but never had found the time. The moment I flipped thought the book I was hooked.  I picked a few poems below.

LIGHT, I KNOW, TREADS THE TEN MILLION STARS

Light, I know, treads the ten million stars,
And blooms in the Hesperides. Light stirs
Out of the heavenly sea onto the moon’s shores.
Such light shall not illuminate my fears
And catch a turnip ghost in every cranny.
I have been frightened of the dark for years.
When the sun falls and the moon stares,
My heart hurls from my side and tears
Drip from my open eyes as honey
Drips from the humming darkness of the hive.
I am a timid child when light is dead.
Unless I learn the night I shall go mad.
It is night’s terrors I must learn to love,
Or pray for day to some attentive god
Who on his cloud hears all my wishes,
Hears and refuses.
Light walks the sky, leaving no print,
And there is always day, the shining of some sun,
In those high globes I cannot count,
And some shine for a second and are gone,
Leaving no print.
But lunar night will not glow in my blackness,
Make bright its corners where a skeleton
Sits back and smiles, A tiny corpse
Turns to the roof a hideous grimace,
Or mice play with an ivory tooth.
Stars’ light and sun’s light will not shine
As clearly as the light of my own brain,
Will only dim life, and light death.
I must lean night’s light or go mad.

HERE IN THIS SPRING

Here in this spring, stars float along the void;
Here in this ornamental winter
Down pelts the naked weather;
This summer buries a spring bird.

Symbols are selected from the years’
Slow rounding of fours seasons’ coasts,
In autumn teach three season’ fires
And four birds’ notes.

I should tell summer from the trees, the worms
Tell, if at all, the winter’s storms
Or the funeral of the sun;
I should learn spring by the cuckooing,
And the slug should teach me destruction.

A worm tells summer better than the clock,
The slug’s a living calendar of days;
What shall it tell me if a timeless insect
Says the world wears away?

(Both poems are from The Poems of Dylan Thomas, 1952)

Poetry in Translation

A few years ago my Mom gave me a subscription to Poetry magazine and I always have an issue on my bedside table. It’s hard to keep up! My favorite month is usually April’s Translation Issue. Here are two favorite poems, one from the 2007 edition and one from 2009:

This poem New York is by Valzhyna Mort, a young Belarusian poet:

New York

new york, madame,
is a monument to a city

it is
TA-DA
a gigantic pike
whose scales
bristled up stunned
and what used to be just smoke
found a fire that gave it birth
champagne foam
melted into metal
glass rivers
flowing upwards
and things you won’t tell to a priest
you reveal to a cabdriver
even time is sold out
when to the public’s “wow” and “shhh”
out of a black top hat
a tailed magician
is pulling new york out
by the ears of skyscrapers

Translated from the Belarusian by Franz Wright and Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright
Source: Poetry (April 2007)

This poem Backside is by the Japanese modernist Chika Sagawa (1911-1936):

Backside

Night eats color,
Flower bouquets lose their fake ornaments.
Day falls into the leaves like sparkling fish
And struggles, like the lowly mud,
The shapeless dreams and trees
Nurtured outside this shriveled, deridable despair.
And the space that was chopped down
Tickles the weeds there by its feet.
Fingers stained with tar from cigarettes
Caress the writhing darkness.
And then the people move forward.
Translated from the Japanese by Sawako Nakayasu
Source: Poetry (April 2009)

A Diverse Reading List

I looked over to my stack of books and saw that I have a very diverse reading list at the moment. I thought it would be fun to list the books and share a favorite quote.

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner

This is this first book by Stegner that I’m reading. Actually all the books that I’m reading at the moment are written by the authors who I’m reading for the first time. Crossing to Safety is my book group’s pick from last month which I wasn’t able to finish. (I had a good excuse with the new job. Yes I usually finish the book before we meet!) Here’s a favorite passage from the sections I’ve read already:

“In fact, if you forget mortality, and that used to be easier here than in most places, you could really believe that time is circular, and not linear and progressive as our culture is bent on proving. Seen in geological perspective, we are fossils in the making, to be buried and eventually exposed again for the puzzlement of creatures of later eras. Seen in either geological or biological terms, we don’t warrant attention as individuals. One of us doesn’t differ that much from another, each generation repeats its parents, the works we build to outlast us are not much more enduring than anthills, and much less so than coral reefs. Here everything returns upon itself, repeats and renews itself, and present can hardly be told from past.” pg 4

The Narrow Road to the Deep North and Other Travel Sketches by Matsuo Basho
Translated and introduced by Nobuyuki Yuasa

I’ve read Basho’s work before, but never this one which is of his most renown works. And when I was in the bookstore browsing, the thorough introduction by Nobuyuki Yuaka caught my eye. He places Basho in historic perspective and explains his significant part in the development of the Haiku.

Here’s one of Basho’s haikus at the beginning of a Travel Sketch entitled “The Records of a Weather-Exposed Skeleton”

In a way
It was fun
Not to see Mount Fuji
In foggy rain

Vertigo by W.G. Sebald (More on Sebald in The Guardian)
Translated by Michael Hulse

I’ve had this book for several years, so I’m not sure where it came from. I’m guessing I read about W.G Sebald and nabbed it somewhere along the way and hadn’t found time to read it yet. He’s one of those authors I’ve been meaning to discover for a while and even though he is German, I’m reading him in English translation.

”  There they stayed for several days, visiting the famed underground galleries of the Hallein salt mines, where one of the miners made Mme Gherardi a present of a twig which was encrusted with thousands of crystals. When they returned to the surface of the earth once again, Beyle writes, the rays of the sun set off in it a manifold glittering such as he had only seen flashing from diamonds as ladies revolved with their partners in a ballroom blazing with light.
The protracted crystallisation process, which had transformed the dead twig into a truly miraculous object, appeared to Beyle, by his own account, as an allegory for the growth of love in the salt mines of the soul. He expounded this idea at length to Mme Gherardi. She for her part, however, was not prepared to sacrifice the childish bliss that filled her that day in order to explore with Beyle the deeper meaning of what was doubtless a very pretty allegory as she sardonically put it.” pgs.25-26

Code 2.0 by Lawrence Lessig

I bought this book last March at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas where Lessig spoke. Lessing now at Harvard, was a Stanford Law professor and the founder of their Center for the Internet and Society, gave a masterful presentation and I wanted to dig deeper into his thinking. This is the next book I’m going to read. The blurb on the back says: “this foundational book as become a classic in its field” and “In this remarkably clear and elegantly written book [Lessig] takes apart many myths about cyberspace and analyzes its underlying architechture.”-Wired.

Sci Fi Love

Every once in a while I get up on my Sci Fi soap box and pass along a favs list, usually a gentle entry into the genre to ease newbies into this fabulous world of entertainment, philosophy, and mind-bending creativity.

SOLARIS, Stanislaw Lem: among my favorite books of all time, this is an incredibly inventive tale about humans on the planet Solaris, which is much more than a mere pile o’ rocks.

THE MARRIAGE BETWEEN ZONE ,THREE, FOUR, AND FIVE, Dorris Lessing: Lessing has written several sci fi works, and this is one of my favs.

THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS, Ursula LeGuin: love the gender-bending species in this novel. Who’s male, who’s female, no one knows.

PATTERN RECOGNITION, Wilson Gibson, NEUROMANCER too: start with Pattern Recognition, as it’s more digestible and very entertaining. If you like it, give his seminal novel Neuromaner a whirl.

LILITH’S BROOD, Octovia Butler: Love this trilogy about humans and a visiting species co-mingling.

UBIK and DO ANDRIODS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP (basis for the film BLADE RUNNER), Philip K. Dick: yes you can tell Dick likes drugs, but at least he is able to articulate ideas he meets on his trips.

 
 

 

 

 

 

Reading Frenzy

I must be starving for words, because there’s a reading frenzy going on in my home. Books were quietly piling up and now I can Not Stop Reading. (Not that this is a bad thing, but it’s kinda hilarious to have four books going at once and a stack waiting, albeit many of the books are the kind of non-fiction that I need to stop and start to digest.)

Here is my reading list, all of which I can Highly Recommend, especially if the topic interest you.

THE REST IS NOISE, Alex Ross: I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It’s, hands down, one of the best books I’ve ever read on music and simply one of the best non-fiction books I’ve ever read. Ross makes a somewhat difficult topic, the history of 20th century music, incredibly accessible. I hear and feel the music he is discussing.

EVERYTHING IS CINEMA, Richard Brody: Again not an easy topic, at least for me…Godard’s life and work. But this extensive look at Godard’s history is very enlightening, especially for me as I found him intellectually stimulating but kinda like homework. This book is helping me see the spectacular level of innovation and thinking behind his films.

[fyi: Both Brody and Ross write for The New Yorker, as does James Wood, whose book HOW FICTION WORKS, I recently finished and was similarly impressed by…those New Yorker dudes know how to write a book! Big thanks to Jen Lam for the recommendation and for the actual book!]

THE ZEN OF CREATIVITY, John Daido Loori: During my meditation research I came across information about the Zen Fire Lotus Temple in Brooklyn which is connected to the Zen Mountain     upstate. These are both headed by Loori who is also a photographer. I was curious to read something by him.

WALKING MEDITATION, Thich Nhat Hanh: Hanh is a master in this form and I wanted to learn more about it.

BACK TO BEGINNINGS, REFLECTIONS ON THE TAO, Huanchu Daoren: A lovely book of short meditations on life from the late 16th century. I found many to be quite practical and useful.

DESIGN AS ART, Bruno Munari: Munari illustrated this childrens book that I still have and probably treasure the most: CIRCUS IN THE MIST. I recently read a bit more on him and ordered a few of his educational books. This one looks great–I can’t wait to delve into it.

NOTES ON THE CINEMATOGRAPHER, Robert Bresson: I’ve been in the thrall of a Bresson love-fest for a while, with DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST at the top of my list. But I just watched both MOUCHETTE and PICKPOCKET and was blow away too. Wanting to learn more about Bresson, I found this book of his working memos.

INDIGNATION, Philip Roth: On the pile, a recommendation from Sandy. He’s one of my fav. living authors, so am looking forward to it…am going in blind, as I haven’t read about the story line.

Poetry I’ve been dipping into/wanting to read more of:

ELIZABETH BISHOP, a book of her complete works.

DECREATION: POETRY, ESSAYS, OPERA, Ann Carson

THE WASTELAND and other poems, T.S. Eliot

I’m also revisiting this classic that I read many many moons ago:

TO THE LIGHTHOUSE, Virginia Woolf: I’m flabbergasted by the poetry, philosophy, simple magic of her vision. I have to read each page very slowly–Not Easy for Ms. Skimmer–to savour this one. I got some little post-its and I keep sticking them on pages.

For our coming two week-I can’t believe it’s happening–California trip in August:

MY ANTONIA, Willa Cather: Another reread and our next book group pick

BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL, Fredrick Nietzsche: My pal in life and books Drew read this for his new philosophy reading partnership. He just told me that he was surprised how readable it was….which is why I’m choosing to take it along.

And a book I always have around and dip into now and then:

THE BOOK OF DISQUIET, Fernanda Pessoa: I can never read more than a page or two of this journal-like book by one of Portugal’s most important poets. You deeply sense his life experience which is infused with melancholy.

Words I Love, Alone or In Groups

I feel like thinking about Words I Love today.

Books: Roberto Bolano’s 2666

Even thought I haven’t finished what was meant to be Five Books, there are sentences here that spin me around. I’ve actually written several down in a notebook just to savor them a little bit more. Here are two:

“…, or maybe not, maybe her peacefulness was just peacefulness and a hint of weariness, peacefulness and banked embers, peacefulness and tranquility and sleepiness, which is ultimately (sleepiness, that is) the wellspring and also the last refuge of peacefulness. But then peacefulness isn’t just peacefulness, thought Fate. Or what we think of as peacefulness is wrong and peacefulness or the realms of peacefulness are really no more than a gauge of movement , an accelerator or a brake, depending.” -(on peacefulness, pg. 302, Hardcover edition)

-“And the window ledge and the roses outside and beyond them the grass and the tree and the evening advancing across ridges and ravines and lonely crags. The shadows that crept imperceptibly across the inside of the cottage, creating angles where none had existed before, vague sketches that suddenly appeared on the walls, circles that faded like mute explosions.” pg. 90

Bolano knocks me out!

Another big fave: Fernando Pessoa, the Portuguese poet and writer, who wrote a poem that included these lines: “The Universe is not an idea of mine; My idea of the Universe is an idea of mine.” I’m also still am dipping into his gorgeous The Book of Disquiet.

In the Music/Word category it is hard to beat Leonard Cohen: “I cannot follow you, my love. You cannot follow me. I am the distance you put between all the moments that we will be.” (“You Know Who I Am”)

When I first heard Cohen’s voice and lyrics I thought I was sitting with the Oracle of Delphi. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oracle_of_Delphi#Oracle. Damn he cuts to the bone.

Thinking about words purely, lately I’ve fallen in love with Sanskrit. I picked up a Book of Sanskrit names because it caught my eye. (I’m not trying to name anything at the moment.) And the words and their meanings and music are stunning. I’m sure I’ll try to either write a poem in Sanskrit, or I should name something, maybe  a plant in our living room.

A few Sanskrit names-words (without their vowel accents. I’m not sure how to add those here):

Sagara = Ocean, Lalita = lovely, gentle, innocent, Kavya = poetry, Lola = fond of (Kavyalola=fond of poetry), Santa = peace, Vicara = inquiry, Gita = song, Marici = ray of light, Manjula = beautiful, Manju = joyous, Sana = calm, Tara = star, Ishma = spring, Mani = gem, jewel, Loka = world…I could go on for a looong while. This language is so musical!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sanskrit