Monday, April 28, 2014

Lydia Davis

Lydia Davis [Paris Review]

from Lydia Davis's Collected Stories:

Our Kindness

We have ideals of being very kind to everyone in the world. But then we are very unkind to our own husband, the person who is closest at hand to us. But then we think he is preventing us from being kind to everyone else in the world. Because he does not want us to know those other people, we think! He would prefer us to stay here in our own house. He says the car is old. We know that really he would prefer us to be acquainted with only a small number of people in the world, as he is. But what he says is that the car would not take us very far. We know he would prefer us to look after our own house and our own family. Our house is not clean, not completely clean. Our family is not completely clean. We think the car would serve us well enough. But he thinks we may want to go out and be kind to other people only because we would prefer not to be at home, because we would prefer not to have to be kind only to these three people, of all the people in the world the hardest three for us, though we can easily be kind to so many other people, such as those we meet in stores, where we go because there our car, he says, may safely take us.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Virginia Woolf

Virginia & Vanessa Stephens [Book Snob]

from Virginia Woolf’s “A Sketch of the Past”:

I find that scene-making is my natural way of marking the past. A scene always comes to the top; arranged; representative. This confirms me in my instinctive notion — it is irrational; it will not stand argument — that we are sealed vessels afloat upon what it is convenient to call reality; at some moments, without a reason, without an effort, the sealing matter cracks; in floods reality; that is a scene — for they would not survive entire so many ruinous years unless they were made of something permanent; that is a proof of their “reality.” Is this liability of mine to scene-receiving the origin of my writing impulse?

Friday, April 25, 2014

Tooth & Claw

Tooth & Claw

Downslope from my bed
homeless squabble.
They sleep beside the creek.
Their piss & defecations mark trees
the leashed & licensed dogs
tag by daylight.
park staff wade past rocks
bared in the drought year’s shallows,
peer through brush
at populations
unimpressed by cleanup.
Fed by the water treatment plant
a rackety pump’s nozzle
gushes frothy gallons
down the rubbish-spackled bank
hardly a body’s length
from a freeloader’s tent.
They grow.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Mary Ruefle

Mary Ruefle [UNCW]

from Mary Ruefle's Selected Poems:

Perfume River

She thinks fishing is an odd way
to make love: watching her husband rooted
in water, slick to the hips under the arch
of a bridge, his whole rod nodding
like hart's tongue fern in its youth.
She has other thoughts hidden
inside of these, barely visible
like the stamens of crocus.

Ah spring! The cedar waxwing with a plume
in his ass, pumping seeds from his mouth
like a pinball machine.

Palaver of scents
and the boys standing naked under the waterfall.
Pachinko! The word enters her bloodstream:

Holy Mary mother of God-who's-gone-fishing-today,
she'll stay out bog-trotting until she's
blue in the face, like an orchid.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Anne Carson

Anne Carson [Marta Spendowska]

Emily is in the parlor brushing the carpet,”
records Charlotte in 1828.
Unsociable even at home

and unable to meet the eyes of strangers when she ventured out,
Emily made her awkward way
across days and years whose bareness appalls her biographers.

This sad stunted life, says one.
Uninteresting, unremarkable, wracked by disappointment
and despair, says another.

She could have been a great navigator if she’d been male,
suggests a third. Meanwhile
Emily continued to brush into the carpet the question,

Why cast the world away.
For someone hooked up to Thou,
the world may have seemed a kind of half-finished sentence.

But in between the neighbour who recalls her
coming in from a walk on the moors
with her face “lit up by a divine light”

and the sister who tells us
Emily never made a friend in her life,
is a space where the little raw soul

slips through.
It goes skimming the deep keel like a storm petrel,
out of sight.

The little raw soul was caught by no one.
She didn’t have friends, children, sex, religion, marriage, success, a salary
or a fear of death. She worked

in total six months of her life (at a school in Halifax)
and died on the sofa at home at 2 P.M. on a winter afternoon
in her thirty-first year. She spent

most of the hours of her life brushing the carpet,
walking the moor
or whaching. She says

it gave her peace.

Emily Brontë [Branwell Brontë]

Monday, April 14, 2014

Joshua Poteat

Joshua Poteat [Vimeo]

Illustrating the seventeenth century
             [PLATE UNKNOWN]
after Bohumil Hrabal

Evening comes, black wig of roots after the storm.

             Dandelions cataract the ditches, deserted as stars,

a star in each milky eye, a star like the hole you shoot
                          through a pillowcase. That is something

they never ask you: What is death to these weeds?

             What is beyond suffering? It doesn’t mean we will

all turn out horribly. It just means too much rain
                          can make a weed drunk with courage.

It used to be called chivalry, to save a girl

             from the mouths of beasts, then take

her foot in your mouth for your own doings.
                          To lure a tapeworm up from the caverns

of your bowels, give yourself a milk bath.

             A peasant hoeing in the fields once took

his thumb for a grub and hacked it off.
                          Nobody appreciates these kinds of things

anymore. Even money’s lost its charm.

             We’re inclined to tragedy now.

There was always someone carrying
                          his guts off in a bucket back then.

The dead have a name for it,
             but they aren’t talking.

Given’s as good as gone.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Che Qianzi

Che Qianzi [Poetry East West]

from Language from a New Century: Contemporary Poetry from the Middle East, Asia, & Beyond, ed. Tina Chang, Nathalie Handal, & Ravi Shankar:

by Che Qianzi, tr. Jeffrey Twitchell-Wass & Yang Liping

1: A spire in the north. A spire in the south. In the south a nail was pulled out.

2: A half moon, two earths, one earth, very soft when stepped on, very soft shyster.

3: The gods appear to have freckled faces; the masses’ point of view; the rubble creeps over the branches; you are going to hunt birds.

4: A box that cannot keep secrets, darkness and Jiangsu Province, will be reduced to a leaky cage. In the cage there is nothing, the background contains it.

5: A water drop too is curved.

6: Lace words on the cuff, Tailor Song threads the eye of the needle. Shrimp heads twisted off their bodies.

7: Tadpoles drifting between commas, differentiated by their tails, were finally expelled from the fictitious revolutionary troop. Transformed into iron-skin green frogs, with the press of a button they jump without stop, without stop.

8: One sentence is no longer than one character. The character gets a big head. The character becomes a big star. A spire. Ursa Major hammering bright the nails in the north.

9: One sentence circled three times around one character, circling the fourth time it broke.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Edward Abbey

Edward Abbey [Abbey's Web]

The personification of the natural is exactly the tendency I wish to suppress in myself, to eliminate for good. I am here not only to evade for a while the clamor and filth and confusion of the cultural apparatus but also to confront, immediately and directly if it’s possible, the bare bones of existence, the elemental and fundamental, the bedrock which sustains us. I want to be able to look at and into a juniper tree, a piece of quartz, a vulture, a spider, and see it as it is in itself, devoid of all humanly ascribed qualities, anti-Kantian, even the categories of scientific description. . . .

the strangeness and wonder of existence are emphasized here in the desert, by the comparative sparsity of the flora and fauna: life not crowded upon life as in other places but scattered abroad in spareness and simplicity; with a generous gift of space for each herb and bush and tree, each stem of grass, so that the living organism stands out bold and brave and vivid against the lifeless sand and barren rock. The extreme clarity of the desert light is equaled by the extreme individuation of desert life-forms. Love flowers best in openness and freedom. . . .

I can hear myself think. . . .

In the evening the wind stops. A low gray ceiling of clouds hangs over the desert from horizon to horizon, silent and still. One small opening remains in the west. The sun peers through as it goes down. For a few minutes the voodoo monuments burn with a golden light, then fade to rose and blue and violet as the sun winks out and drops. My private juniper stands alone, one dead claw reaching at the sky. The blossoms on the cliffrose are folding up, the scarlet penstemon and the bayonets of the yucca turn dull and vague in the twilight. . . .

A venturesome minority will always be eager to set off on their own, and no obstacles should be placed in their path; let them take risks, for godsake, let them get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches — that is the right a privilege of any free American. . . .

At what distance should good neighbors build their houses? Let it be determined by the community’s mode of travel: if by foot, four miles; if by horseback, eight miles; if by motorcar, twenty-four miles; if by airplane, ninety-six miles. . . .

to evade for a while the clamor and filth and confusion of the cultural apparatus but also to confront, immediately and directly if it’s possible, the bare bones of existence . . . the bedrock