Sunday, July 27, 2014

House (Neruda)

The iPhone app that I used for this is called ToonPaint. When one takes a picture it renders things in this manner sort of like a faded color drawing. I think one might be able to manipulate the result but I usually like it the way it comes out. We are still neatening up this place in the Michigan woodlands, but also playing with our electronics now that we got the Invaluable Internet up and running. Usually S has the dachshund on his lap, but she decided to nap on the couch during this photo opp.

Here's a little more Neruda for tonight, and many other nights.


Perhaps this is the house in which I lived
when neither I, nor earth, existed,
when everything was moon, or stone, or shadow,
with the still light unborn.
This stone could then have been
my house, my windows, or my eyes.
This granite rose recalls
Something that lived in me, or I in it,
a cave, a universe of dreams inside the skull:
cup or castle, boat or birth.
I touch the rock's tenacious thrust,
its bulwark pounded in the brine
and I know that flaws of mine subsisted here,
wrinkled substances that surfaced
from the depths of my soul,
and stone I was, stone shall be, and for this
caress this stone which has not died for me:
it's what I was, and shall be---the tranquillity
of struggle stretched beyond the brink of time.

from Pablo Neruda; selected poems,a bilingual edition, edited by Nathaniel Tarn, HM, 1990, page 411

Notice the useful repetition of the word "stone" which is la piedra in Spanish. Also other words like granite and rock as well as castle and pounded carry forth this theme. Even the moon is rocky!

Saturday, July 26, 2014


Now, all along the edge of the meadow, a beautiful stand of timothy reminds me how my father taught me the word for this useful forage grass. So tonight, another hay poem. (I have found quite a few!)

At the Back of the North Wind

All summer's warmth was stored there in the hay;
Below, the troughs of water froze: the boy
Climbed nightly up the rungs behind the stalls
And planted deep between the clothes he heard
The kind wind bluster, but the last he knew
Was sharp and filled his head, the smell of hay.
Here wrapped within the cobbled mews he woke.
Passing from summer, climbing down through winter
He broke into an air that kept no season:
Denying change, for it was always there.
It nipped the memory numb, scalding away
The castle of winter and the smell of hay.

The ostlers knew, but did not tell him more
Than hay is what we turn to. Other smells,
Horses, leather, manure, fresh sweat, and sweet
Mortality, he found them on the North.
That was her sister, East, that shrilled all day
And swept the mews dead clean from wisps of hay.

Thom Gunn (1929-2004).
from The Sense of Movement, Faber & Faber, 1968.

Friday, July 25, 2014

The Health of Poetry

The day lilies were already blooming when we got here, because we were later this year. 
I ran outside just now to get this picture before the daylight was gone.

Just before we left last year I bought Czeslaw Milosz's Complete Poems (1931-2001) Ecco, 2003. 776 pages! That's a lot of poetry! I left a box of poetry books for my return and picked up this one first this morning. And in just a short while, I had found my old favorite and marked several more to use on this blog. S says I can't just use one poet all the time; I was planning to spread them out, really.

At the insistence of his publisher, he wrote a forward. It is one page long. Here is the last about forty percent of it.

I think that effort to capture as much as possible of tangible reality is the health of poetry.Having to choose between subjective art and objective art, I would vote for the latter, even if the meaning of that term is grasped not by theory, but by personal struggle. I hope that my practice justifies my claim.

The history of the twentieth century prompted many poets to design images that conveyed their moral protest. Yet to remain aware of the weight of fact without yielding to the temptation to become only a reporter is one of the most difficult puzzles confronting a practioner of poetry. It calls for a cunning in selecting one's means and a kind of distillation of material to achieve a distance to contemplate the things of this world as they are, without illusion. In other words, poetry has always been for me a participation in the humanly modulated time of my contemporaries.

Czeslaw  Milosz, from the Introduction to 
New and Collected Poems. n p.

"Tangible reality" this has always seemed very important to me in poems and I was delighted to find such a clear statement of it here. Now it is full dark and I am off to bed. Good night!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Return to a meadow

Driving by the productive grasslands of the plains states on our trip East.

Still tired from the trip, I decided to take a nap. I picked up The Meadow from the bedside table. The first thing in it is this full-page epigraph for Galvan's book. I took it as a sign, having driven past so many meadows in the past week.

I think the form of two and three line stanzas taking turns, but not in a rigid manner, is interesting. And I have been fond of that dear nutty poet, Robert Duncan for many years. Many of my teachers spoke highly of his work. I heard him read many years ago and retain an impression of a sort if frail, fragile and mannered elegance. I wish now that I had written even a paragraph after each of the many poetry readings I went to in San Jose, Berkeley, San Francisco, Mill Valley, Palo Alto in the 1980s. Who knew that four Nobel Laureates and so many other honored poets would be among them and that I would forget everything but stray impressions.

Often I Am Permitted to Return to a Meadow

as if it were a scene made-up by the mind, 

that is not mine, but is a made place, 

that is mine, it is so near to the heart, 
an eternal pasture folded in all thought 
so that there is a hall therein 

that is a made place, created by light
wherefrom the shadows that are forms fall. 

Wherefrom fall all architectures I am 
I say are likenesses of the First Beloved 
whose flowers are flames lit to the Lady. 

She it is Queen Under 
The Hill whose hosts are a disturbance of words within words 
that is a field folded. 

It is only a dream of the grass blowing 
east against the source of the sun 
in an hour before the sun’s going down
whose secret we see in a children’s game 
of ring a round of roses told. 

Often I am permitted to return to a meadow 
as if it were a given property of the mind 
that certain bounds hold against chaos, 

that is a place of first permission,
everlasting omen of what is.

Epigraph to The Meadow by James Galvan, Henry Holt, 1992.

by Robert Duncan (1919 - 1988) 
from The Opening of the Field, New Directions,1960.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Billowing clouds on the journey

Today we traveled the length of the Upper Peninsula, drove across the Mackinac Bridge and got to the meadow in front of the house in time for the late light. I am pretty tired and still unpacking, although the essentials are done.

The drive was beautiful, and the clouds were especially spectacular. Here is one of Issa's cloud haiku
as translated from the Japanese by David Lanoue at

in the depths of the lake
billowing clouds


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tongues of Flame

In this beautiful world we traveled under these Minnesota clouds and
others across the state and barely through a corner of Wisconsin and
just into Michigan. It was a beautiful day, but started out on an
extremely sour note. We were the last, I think, to leave the motel, but there was another car on the far side of the lot. A corpulent, coarse, red-faced angry man was yelling at a woman and calling her a bitch, bitch, bitch. (I couldn't look; this is S's description of him. I don't know why I didn't look; it seemed too private or too dangerous. Or I didn't want to know.) This went on a little as we got into our truck with the dachshund. The woman screamed back and then began to scream and flail at the two girls, who were sobbing. The group sort of eddied around their car; it wasn't clear if they were loading or unloading. The girls had long dark hair and reminded me of my granddaughter. We drove away. I have been thinking about this all day. Why do people act like this? How can children be protected? Why are men often so free with their anger? Why does it seem like public behavior has gotten more and more coarse while I have been watching it? There are many terrible things going on right now all over the world and so much suffering (much of it really unnecessary and related to greed) and I can make very little difference. How I wish I could! I don't know how all this goes with the Eliot poem below, but I think it does.    
Good night.

T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Section V.

What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make an end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from. And every phrase
And sentence that is right (where every word is at home,
Taking its place to support the others,
The word neither diffident nor ostentatious,
An easy commerce of the old and the new,
The common word exact without vulgarity,
The formal word precise but not pedantic,
The complete consort dancing together)
Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,
Every poem an epitaph. And any action
Is a step to the block, to the fire, down the sea's throat
Or to an illegible stone: and that is where we start.
We die with the dying:
See, they depart, and we go with them.
We are born with the dead:
See, they return, and bring us with them.
The moment of the rose and the moment of the yew-tree
Are of equal duration. A people without history
Is not redeemed from time, for history is a pattern
Of timeless moments. So, while the light fails
On a winter's afternoon, in a secluded chapel
History is now and England.
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple​tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half​heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always-
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in​folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Yellow Sweetclover

Many of the fields, hills and swales in North Dakota are brushed with golden color now from the small, abundant blooms of Yellow Sweetclover. This is another immigrant to North America--it was brought here as a forage crop more than 200 years ago. And made itself right at home!

As I thought last year, and I still think, North Dakota has untold possibilities for a photographer willing to give it some time and careful attention. But I love driving through twice a year even if I cannot stop. Today, driving on US 95 in a part of the state with very red soil we drove past a great deal of construction related to drilling for oil. Here were a few old wells that have been there for years and some very new ones working with a different type of machinery. There were also many upright cylindrical storage tanks I think are for oil. Many of them are bright red, which is very striking against the green fields.  In one place there was a large red-soil flat quadrangle preparing for a new operation. There were so many working pumps along this stretch that it made me wonder how much oil there is-- and can one suck it out from underneath one's neighbor? There was one red flat spot--without the machinery installed yet--that  looked like a giant paved red tennis court. It all made me sorry for the beautiful greening earth as we drove past in our big blue gasoline-powered Toyota.

This motel in Detroit Lakes MN has a broken internet so this is one-finger phone typing. And here is the first part of Derek Walcott's 


Silence asphalts the highway, our tires hiss
like serpents, of God's touching weariness,
His toil unfinished, while in endless rows
the cabbage fields, like lilies, spin in air;
His flags rot, and the monkey god's nerves rattle
lances in rage. Human rags tend cattle
more venal every year, and chrome-tooled cars
lathered like estate horses nose the shallows. . . 

Page 87

There is quite a bit more to this poem. I am really loving The Poetry of Derek Walcott on my Kindle. I am eating it in small bites. Walcott sets the poetry bar high. There are endless things to study and think about on every page. 

from the road tonight