Saturday, June 18, 2016

Poetry Month, Day 18, Lytton Bell, "Jane's Heartbreak Yard Sale"

Today was yard sale day - we made a whole whopping $50, but we did manage to get rid of a pair of tents. So, today, a poem about yard sales.
Here is a link to where I found the poem, which includes a reading, I presume by the author. I really like the last stanza - I find that really makes the whole poem pop. The first stanza is quite provocative as well...
Who sells used sex toys at a garage sale?
I knew I had to pull over
as soon as I saw that table full of dildos
just to hear this woman’s story
A whole bed was for sale
and a claw-footed bathtub
a motorcycle, a large stack of books
lingerie and ten photo albums
Photo albums?
Leafing through, I could see that they were all
happy couple love photos:
their trip to Hawaii
backpacking through Europe
mountain climbing in Tibet
And I shouldn’t forget to mention all of the love notes
three huge cardboard boxes full of them. I picked one up:
I stood outside your window for hours last night
while you were sleeping
hoping you would feel me there, and pull open the curtain
I approached her as she sat by the cash box
wearing a pair of oversized pink sunglasses
So, this is everything he ever gave you? I asked her, trying to be nonchalant
She nodded
I was going to light it all on fire, she told me
But what’s the point?
True, I replied, not sure what else to say
She seemed so peaceful about it. Almost happy
Just then I noticed a pile of cds:
Jane’s Joy Ride Mix
Jane’s Taking a Bath Mix
Mix for Jane for When She’s Feeling a Little Blue
And one called
In Case of an Emergency, I LOVE YOU
It was sealed with yellow CAUTION tape
and had obviously never been opened
Can I buy this?I asked her
$3.50, she said
I gave her the money and put the cd in my car
and cried and could not open it

Friday, June 17, 2016

Poetry Day 17, Lora Timonin, "Untitled Poem on a Hardees Wrapper"

Before we dated, way before we got married, my lovely wife wrote this poem for me. As today is our 18th anniversary, and since she apparently kept the original, written on the back of a (clean) Hardees burger wrapper (she was working at Hardees when we met), I shall retype it here. For posterity.

Now Ladies looking
for a Good Man
We've got this bachelor
on the stand

We'll start the bidding
close to nil
You can't imagine such a steal
He calls you when he says he will
he happily will foot the bill

He's witty
He's charming
He's debonair
And notice -
Such cute red hair*

Such a good deal cannot last
this one should be going fast
He'll write you poems
He'll bring you flowers
He'll sit and talk with you for hours

He's sweet
He's single
He isn't gay!**
And so much more
that we could say
Ladies Ladies, don't delay
Come and claim this Mike today!

* Uh, only in my beard. And not so much anymore, much more grey.

** I recall I was afraid that girls thought I was gay - not because I had any problem with people being gay, but I felt that it hurt my chances with them if they dismissed me as unavailable off the bat.***

***I'm not sure WHY I was worried about this. I had NONE of the stereotypical gay attributes. I think I maybe heard some girls talking about it? Or something?

Editing to add:

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Poetry Month Day 16, George Croynyn, translator, "Chippewa Nonsense Song of the Game of Silence"


(If you speak or laugh you are defeated)It is hanging
    in the edge of the sunshine
It is a pig I see
    with its double (cloven) hoofs
It is a very fat pig.
The people who live in a hollow tree
    are fighting

They are fighting bloodily
He is rich
He will carry a pack toward the great water.
(The rabbit speaks)
At the end of the point of land
I eat the bark off the tree
I see the track of a lynx
I don't care, I can get away from him
It is a jumping trail

I'm utterly exhausted, so I don't feel like tracking down any provenance on this. It's from my lovely wife's trip to the library sale (many many books of poetry!), a collection of American Indian Poetry edited by George Cronyn. I can only imagine that it's a lot funnier in the original, because I find I can read it with a straight face. But, also, perhaps there's something lost when it's on the page.

Ok, I lied. A little research. Frances Dunsmore recorded the poem/song in 1913 for the Bureau of American Ethnography, as told to him by a John Carl, whose mother was Chippewa, and who lived with the Chippewa until he was 10. The poem/song was performed for children, to keep them busy while grownups were doing something else. Prizes were awarded to the children who stayed quiet the best. The joke comes from the 4 distinct images: a fat pig hanging from a tree, a fight between people who live in a hollow tree (probably French people, in their log cabins), a rich man carries a sack, and then the rabbit at the end. There are actions to go with these, which might be grotesque or over stated to get a reaction. The song ends abruptly - sep! - again to provoke a reaction. Who laughed? Who gasped?

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Poetry Month, Day 15, Robert Kroetsch, "Meditation on Tom Thomson"

Something Canadian today, I think. I opened my book of Canadian poets at random to Robert Kroetsch - and then flipped around a bit, because Kroetsch specialized in massively long poems that wander all over the place, very psychedelic and thinky. Too much to type out, for damn sure. So, here's a shorter piece. Note the line breaks, reminiscent of old English poetry.

Meditation on Tom Thomson

Tom Thomson I love you    therefore I apologize
for what I must say    but I must say
damn your jack pines    they are beautiful

I love your bent trees   and I love your ice
in spring    candled into its green rot
and I love the way you drowned    all alone

with your canoe   and our not even knowing
the time of day   and the grave mystery
of your genius   interrupted   is our story

and art, man, art   is the essential
luxury   the imperative QUESTION(?)
the re-sounding say    of the night's loon

and holy shit mother   the muskeg snatch
of the old north   the bait that caught
the fishing father   into his own feast

the swimming art-man   who did not drown
in the lake   in his pictures
who drowned   for murder of grief or

the weave of the water   would not hold
the shoulders of the sky   were deep
the maelstrom would not spin   to spit him

free, daddy, FREE FREE FREE   (but I must say
DAMN your jack pines)   for the whorl
of the whirlpool breaks us   one by one

we stretch and tear   the joints
opening like curtains   on a cool
Algonquin morning   onto a red sun

or down onto the black bottom   or far
(the grammar of our days   is ill defined)
or rapt in the root and fire   of that wind

bent forest   (about your pine trees
this evening   one of them moved
across my wall)   daring the light

daring the bright and lover's leap   across
the impassible gap   the uncertain
principle of time and space   straight down

he dove    and he would seize unearthly
shades   and he would seize the drowned land
the pictures from the pool   the pool's picture

and the gods cried   Tom, Tom, you asshole
let go   and you had found their secret
and would not ever   let go   they cry


Kroetsch actively pursued an effort to unpack poetry, to dismantle it and re-invent both myths and the way that we record them. He was opposed to the simple completeness of lyric poetry, and so his work rambles all over, and refuses to come to a point or a conclusion. It's anti-lyric poetry, but still really strongly structured. It's actually pretty cool, from a poetic point of view.

Tom Thompson was a Canadian painter who influenced the Group of Seven (Canadian painters who painted nature scenes in a distinctive style), but he died before the group was founded. As Kroetsch mentions, Thompson was famous for his paintings of jack pines. He died on a canoe trip in 1917 in Algonquin park, and there is considerable speculation about how he died - murder? accident? suicide? - with no conclusive answers forthcoming or even really possible.

Here is a pair of Thomson jack pine pictures:

Poetry Month, Day 14 (belated), Ogden Nash, "Goody for Our Side and Your Side Too"

Dad-blast-it, I missed a day. Two poems today, I guess. Here's a poem for yesterday, from Ogden Nash. I am a great fan of Ogden Nash; he was witty, but also wise. His most often cited couplets tend to downplay the wise aspects - "Candy is dandy, but liquor is quicker, and sex won't go to your head," for instance - so here's a witty poem that is both wise and apropos:

Goody For Our Side And Your Side Too
Foreigners are people somewhere else,
Natives are people at home;
If the place you’re at
Is your habitat,
You’re a foreigner, say in Rome.
But the scales of Justice balance true,
And tit leads into tat,
So the man who’s at home
When he stays in Rome
Is abroad when he’s where you’re at.

When we leave the limits of the land in which
Our birth certificates sat us,
It does not mean
Just a change of scene,
But also a change of status.
The Frenchman with his fetching beard,
The Scot with his kilt and sporran,
One moment he
May a native be,
And the next may find him foreign.

There’s many a difference quickly found
Between the different races,
But the only essential
Is living different places.
Yet such is the pride of prideful man,
From Austrians to Australians,
That wherever he is,
He regards as his,
And the natives there, as aliens.

Oh, I’ll be friends if you’ll be friends,
The foreigner tells the native,
And we’ll work together for our common ends
Like a preposition and a dative.
If our common ends seem mostly mine,
Why not, you ignorant foreigner?
And the native replies
And hence, my dears, the coroner.

So mind your manners when a native, please,
And doubly when you visit
And between us all
A rapport may fall
Ecstatically exquisite.
One simple thought, if you have it pat,
Will eliminate the coroner:
You may be a native in your habitat,
But to foreigners you’re just a foreigner. 

Ogden Nash

Monday, June 13, 2016

Poetry Month, Day 13, Lin-Manuel Miranda, "Sonnet"

My wife's the reason anything gets done
She nudges me towards promise by degrees
She is a perfect symphony of one
Our son is her most beautiful reprise.
We chase the melodies that seem to find us
Until they're finished songs and start to play
When senseless acts of tragedy remind us
That nothing here is promised, not one day.
This show is proof that history remembers
We lived through times when hate and fear seemed stronger;
We rise and fall and light from dying embers, remembrances that hope and love last longer
And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love cannot be killed or swept aside.
I sing Vanessa's symphony, Eliza tells her story
Now fill the world with music, love and pride.


Presented without comment. Well, except for this - the first stanza could just as easily be about my wife (replace "son" with "daughters," naturally).

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Poetry Month, Day 12, Richard Henguist Horne, "Pelters of Pyramids"

From Book 5 of the The World's 1000 Best Poems, I have selected this short piece (and it was a rough selection, I can tell you. Book 5 covers the poets from Guest to King, and there are some rather long pieces in there - Homer falls between Guest and King, for instance, as does A.E. Houseman. I was tempted to give you all some Houseman, actually.)

Horne's poem talks about, perhaps, the futility of resisting the passing of time. Or maybe the smallness of small minds. At any rate, sometimes it feels as though we are cursing the ancients and throwing rocks at pyramids, expecting some reaction. Horne says people have felt like that for ages. What art thou more than we, indeed.

Pelters of Pyramids
Richard Henry Horne (1802–84)
SHOAL of idlers, from a merchant craft
Anchor’d off Alexandria, went ashore,
And mounting asses in their headlong glee,
Round Pompey’s Pillar rode with hoots and taunts,
As men oft say, “What art thou more than we?”        5
Next in a boat they floated up the Nile
Singing and drinking, swearing senseless oaths,
Shouting, and laughing most derisively
At all majestic scenes. A bank they reach’d,
And clambering up, play’d gambols among tombs;        10
And in portentous ruins (through whose depths,
The mighty twilight of departed Gods,
Both sun and moon glanced furtive, as in awe)
They hid, and whoop’d, and spat on sacred things.
  At length, beneath the blazing sun they lounged        15
Near a great Pyramid. Awhile they stood
With stupid stare, until resentment grew;
In the recoil of meanness from the vast;
And gathering stones, they with coarse oaths and jibes
(As they would say, “What art thou more than we?”)        20
Pelted the Pyramid! But soon these men,
Hot and exhausted, sat them down to drink—
Wrangled, smok’d, spat, and laugh’d, and drowsily
Curs’d the bald Pyramid, and fell asleep.
  Night came:—a little sand went drifting by—        25
And morn again was in the soft blue heavens.
The broad slopes of the shining Pyramid
Look’d down in their austere simplicity
Upon the glistening silence of the sands
Whereon no trace of mortal dust was seen.        30