Archive for September 2011

Republicans Seeming to Look for Any Alternative To Romney

September 30, 2011


Republican operatives seem to be looking for any alternative to Mitt Romney (and yes, Perry) these days, without noticeable success. Chris Christie insists he’s not interested. The kitty cat (above) may be interested but has dubious experience. The Swiss Cheese (also above) seems per se disqualified (unless it can convince operatives that it was made in Wisconsin.)

An Egg is Still Not a Lightbulb (Crafting Poetry)

September 29, 2011

I have lately been following a terrific poet-inspiring blog called dVerse Poets Pub;  I’m a bit new to the pub, and in anticipation or what, last week,was a day to post “works-in-progress”, I posted, this morning, a draft poem  (Dolphin Dream).  But instead dVerse Poets Pub has requested poets to think  today about the craft of poetry!

The craft of poetry!  Thinking!  I don’t know which is more difficult for me.   Both take some measure of disciplined focus and wild abandon.  I do a lot of revision when I write;  at the same time, I rely a huge amount on unconscious leaps.   Increasingly, these leaps probably arise from synaptic gaps (or gaffes), as much as from inspiration.    I try to use these gaps as starting out places, and then, ideally, I go over and over them to iron out the rough edges.  Good to leave some rough edges though.  And, of course, to add music.

A form can help as it can supply some of the discipline and focus.  (As well as the music.)

And now, here’s a poem about it.

Villanelle to Wandering Brain

Sometimes my mind feels like it’s lost its way
and must make do with words that are in reach
as pink as dusk (not dawn), the half-light of the day,

when what it craves is crimson, noon in May,
the unscathed verb or complex forms of speech.
But sometimes my mind feels like it’s lost its way

and calls the egg a lightbulb, a plan a tray,
and no matter how I search or how beseech,
is pink as dusk (not dawn), the half-light of the day.

I try to make a joke of my decay
or say that busy-ness acts as the leech
that makes my mind feel like it’s lost its way,

but whole years seem as spent as last month’s pay,
plundered in unmet dares to eat a peach
as pink as dusk (not dawn), the half-light of the day.

There is so much I think I still should say,
so press poor words like linens to heart’s breach,
but find my mind has somehow lost its way
as pink as dusk (not dawn), the half-light of the day.

(Sorry to those who have read the poem before, a reposting.  It’s also in my book, Going on Somewhere, by Karin Gustafson, available on Amazon.)

Revising a “Dolphin Dream” (Slivers of silver, gradients gray.)

September 29, 2011


The poem below, Dolphin Dream,  is a revised version of a draft poem I wrote this past April as part of my effort to celebrate National Poetry Month.  (I try to post a new draft poem every day.)   I was planning on linking this revised version last week for the dVerse Poets Pub, “Meet the Bar”, event in which participants give each other helpful commentary to improve their poems, but because that event focused (in a very interesting way) on the subject of poetic craft, and this poem is not really very “crafty”, I did not highlight it.  At any rate, here it is for the dVerse Poets “Open Link” night.   I am very happy to get commentary from both dVerse poets and non-dVerse poets.  (Thanks much.)

Dolphin Dream

The hospital warned I’d have to cart
the scanner needed to test my heart,
my torso too, and abdomen,
the places growths had lodged within.

I carried the scanner in a bag;
still those who saw it guessed the sag
that weighed my spirit, slowed my walk,
and, only human, began to talk.

Upset, I left, broke for the sea,
though the waves that day were high for me.
To escape what seemed a crushing blow,
I took a dive far far below. 

The drop was so precipitate,
five fathoms deep I had to wait,
and watch above the wash of bubbles–
warning signs of deadly troubles,

’till, as my lungs used up my breath,
I saw a sight beyond the rest,
from my cerulean deep sea bed,
a paisley pattern over head.

Slivers of silver, gradients grey,
muscled curves as clear as day,
Sharks? No, dolphins. My heart took flight,
awe subsuming background fright.

Their ease, their grace, was palpable;
to wish them gone felt culpable;
though soon my lungs were so compressed,
wonder turned to harsh distress.

The need for change brought exhalation,
despite the lack of further ration–
no air down there–and so far down,
I felt that I must surely drown.

I woke up treading toward the light,
gasping, panting, in the night,
afraid to settle back to sleep,
though longing to re-spy that deep.

That I could watch those dolphins twist
without a clutch inside my chest!
That I could sink into that dream,
without a thought of scan machine,

or hospital, or sense of tumor,
hush of the half-murmured rumor.
But how could I return with ease
to a place I could not breathe,

where ocean salt still left its trace
inside my heart and on my face,
and dolphins swam as far above
as anything I’ve ever loved.

One query for commenters is whether the last line should read “as everything I’ve ever loved” rather than anything.  

P.S.  I’m reposting an old picture.  (Sorry!)   I don’t like to do this, but it was one of the first I did on iPad 2 so I’ve always had a soft spot for it.

Mea Culpa. Blown Sestina. (Feels Bad But Could Be Worse.) (No Casualties)

September 28, 2011


In the early years of this millenium, I used to console myself when I made a mistake with the thought that I hadn’t invaded Iraq. (The idea being that if even supposedly “expert” teams of ex-think-tank leaders can make extremely problematic and terribly consequential decisions, I should cut my self-acknowledged dim wits some slack.)

It feels flippant to use such a consolation in the case of a poetic mistake, that is, the omission of a line in a poetic form. I could perhaps look for solace in less bloody, and perhaps more current, comparisons, such as “Hey!  I didn’t invest in credit default swaps.” Or, how about, “I didn’t push Greek debt.”)

A plain old admission of “I blew it” makes a lot more sense.

So here it is–I blew it. My “sestina” posted yesterday is missing a line in the third stanza. This stanza only has five lines rather than the requisite six; the missing repeated word is “air.”

My only excuse is I wrote the poem in such extended scribbles (actually on a big index card while walking) that I scribbled over my little reminders related to the ordering of the end words. (I had posted them in pencil in the margin of my index cards.)

Of course, the poem is salvageable (if such a thing even matters). I can re-work the third stanza. I am also pretty sure that the additional line will make the poem better. My sense is that traditional forms became traditional because they have a certain ring–a kind of innate rightness, charisma.

So far, unfortunately, I haven’t had the time or the strength of mind to make the changes. (Embarrassment takes a certain hold, as in, that elephant up there is blushing.)

My apologies to all who complimented me on the good use of the form!

Another Sestina? Yes! “Seeking”

September 27, 2011


I have been thinking a lot about poetry lately. This is partly because I’m supposed to be working on a novel! But also because I’ve been in contact with a couple of very supportive websites for online poets. This poem is written for the “open link” night of dVerse Poets Pub, which also inspired the form.

The sestina, for those who don’t know it, is a form consisting of six six-line stanzas whose lines end with the same six words, repeated in a somewhat confusing cycle. The last three-line stanza, called the envoie, also uses all six words.


It was heat so hot it cut the air
into panels of swaying bend and warp,
her gaze into off-set swathes of view;
heat so hot that it blotted out the sun,
passing off white noise as summer sky;
heat as hot as any she’d not felt,

for the weather did not burn but lined with felt
her day, her lungs, her movements through the air,
enclothing its tight fist around the sky.
So very hard to breathe a weave and warp
that were weighted not with light but sun,
which, even as it seemed to hide from view–

only a smear in the red-orange view
of dusk, the pink of dawn–made itself felt
as a chemical ball of flame, a sun
of some far planet that in time/space warp
had circumvented the Earth’s true sky.

Oh where, oh where, she wondered, was the sky?
Its hue, its blue, the newness of each view,
the healing that could ease the twist and warp
that tugged at all she thought, at all she felt.
Oh where, oh where, she wondered in dull air,
was he who once was called her only son?

In truth, of course, he still was called her son.
The names of things not found under the sky
remain their names, like lyrics to an air
whose tune is lost, like paintings of a view
long since blocked out (by trees, let’s say, who felt
their limbs took precedence). In the warp

of her wandering mind, even the warp
of branches that curved and craned for sun
was conduct consciously planned and felt–
for all was sentient, live, under the sky,
while also dead. This special point of view
appears to the human for whom to err

has been divine, who’s felt the loss of sky
that held a son, a point of view
so sharp, it limned the warp of missing air.

P.S. For those interested in process–I did not have a clue of what I was going to write when I started only that I wanted to try another sestina. So I focused on a few good repeating words, and started out with a line (more or less) from the novel I am supposed to be working on (which does not have a story anything like this.) Oddly, I did not think about “err” as a homonym till the second or third draft.

(As always, all rights reserved.)

Mermaid Sonnet – “Different Tastes in Mythical Creatures”

September 26, 2011


I am reposting this poem and painting as an entry in the weekly links of another very active poetry site, Gooseberry Garden, which is focusing this week on mythology.   A dear friend had suggested the topic of mermaids for a poem, which I used as a writing exercise.   At first, I envisaged a poem about teenage girls diving into the surf on a tropical beach; but the poem that came out was somewhat different. (I’m afriad that I had a Robert Pattinson fixation at the time, and somehow brought the subject of mermaids around to vampires.

Different Tastes in Mythical Creatures

Some go for vampires; they like the idea
of sharp but elegant pursuit, the notion
that they personally are the cup of tea
of the ruthless.  Others look to the oceans,
scanning fantastic waves for a gleam of gleam,
twist of twist, the well-hipped curve of tail;
their magic’s found in the muscular seam
between breast and flipper, flesh and scale.
They love the submergence, dive to the unknown,
an elegance unclothed in its own wet skin,
Eve and the serpent combined, slicked hair let down,
the search for safety in the dare, plunge, swim.
Others—we’re too afraid to go in headfirst,
would rather wait, dryly, to slake another’s thirst.

For more on the mechanics on sonnets, check here.

Apple Picking! (With Elephant)

September 25, 2011