Sunday, December 20, 2009

Shoveling by Moonlight

At sunset, my neighbors' holiday lights cast an eerie glow from beneath the new snow. Like four miniature suns, they formed part of an alien wintry landscape. After my walk, I finished shoveling by moonlight.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

La Fovea

I was invited by wonderful poet Pamela Hart to join in the fun on La Fovea, an online literary magazine with an intriguing concept. Editor Frank Giampietro just posted two of my prose poems, "Tortoiseshell" and "Bride Number Two." If you want to read them, simply click on this link:

Then make sure to travel on and explore this expanding community of poets!

I was fascinated by the unusual way this publication works. Here is a description from the Web site explaining "the rules":

•Each nerve editor (found on the main page) is in charge of a nerve. The nerves are made up of poets who are invited to submit to La Fovea. Click on the editor's name to see all the poets and poems in his or her nerve.

•The nerve editor asks a poet to submit two poems. After that poet has had his or her poems published on La Fovea, he or she will ask another poet to submit poems.

•If the last poet on the nerve does not find a poet to submit poems for whatever reason, the nerve is called "dead." It's okay to have a "dead nerve." The important thing is for the nerve editor to notice that a nerve has died and begin a new nerve from their first page of poems.

I also enjoyed the inspirational quote from a letter Frank O'Hara wrote to Kenneth Koch, which explains the title, La Fovea. Here are O'Hara's words:

"Kenneth you really are the backbone of a tremendous poetry nervous system / which keeps sending messages along the wireless luxuriance / of distraught experiences and hysterical desires so to keep things humming / and have nothing go off the trackless tracks"

--Frank O'Hara

And now, a brief biology lesson about the eye from La Fovea's editor, Frank Giampietro:

The fovea is the place on the back of the eye where the nerves gather and take signals from the eye to the brain. Ironically, the fovea is the only place on the back of the eye that does not imprint an image. Instead the brain fills in the image based on information around it so that we don't have a small spot in our vision.

We think the term is, well, poetic and sums up in a metaphor a lot of what it means to find, and "to see," excellent poems.

The poets whose work appears on this website agree in part or in whole with the following manifesto:

1. We believe that it makes no sense to say one form of poetry is more valid or more artistic than any other.

2. We believe that the old model of submission/rejection is but only one way for finding and publishing the best poetry.

3. We want poets rather than poet/editors to have more editorial authority in general. Poets should be able to champion people they love and have their opinions "matter."

4. We think La Fovea will encourage poets to read each other's poems because they will want to know who else is on their nerve. They will want to ask, "With whom am I related?"

Thanks to Pam for inviting me to join her nerve on La Fovea, and thanks to Frank for posting the prose poems. Stay tuned to find out who I invited to join the nerve.

Oh ... the wildly gorgeous eyes above belong to a very laid-back ragdoll cat, Poodiddy, who belongs -- sort of -- to my younger brother and sister-in-law. He didn't even seem to mind my camera right up next to his whiskers. Click on the image to enlarge.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tree with the Moon in the Palm of Its Hand

Yes, I'll say that again: tree with the moon in the palm of its hand.

This photo was taken at the very end of November. Standing there, looking up, I felt like that pearl of a moon was being offered to me. I guess it was. I took it. Now I'll pass it on to you.

For a closer look, simply click on the image.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Ice Thorn

Late this afternoon, at the top of my hill: an ice thorn encasing the last of the light.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The Face of the World

Yesterday, this milkweed plant captured the austere beauty of late November. I love the shape of the pods as they dry and twist, having released most of their silk-haired seeds. The forms grow simpler, the colors muted. The eye exalts in the stark new patterns that reveal themselves at the end of fall.

Ralph Waldo Emerson comments on this in Nature:

All men are in some degree impressed by the face of the world; some men even to delight. This love of beauty is Taste. Others have the same love in such excess, that, not content with admiring, they seek to embody it in new forms. The creation of beauty is Art.

The production of a work of art throws a light upon the mystery of humanity. A work of art is an abstract or epitome of the world. It is the result or expression of nature, in miniature. For, although the works of nature are innumerable and all different, the result or the expression of them all is similar and single. Nature is a sea of forms radically alike and even unique. A leaf, a sun-beam, a landscape, the ocean, make an analogous impression on the mind. What is common to them all, -- that perfectness and harmony, is beauty. The standard of beauty is the entire circuit of natural forms, -- the totality of nature; which the Italians expressed by defining beauty, "il piu nell' uno." Nothing is quite beautiful alone: nothing but is beautiful in the whole. A single object is only so far beautiful as it suggests this universal grace. The poet, the painter, the sculptor, the musician, the architect, seek each to concentrate this radiance of the world on one point, and each in his several work to satisfy the love of beauty which stimulates him to produce. Thus is Art, a nature passed through the alembic of man. Thus in art, does nature work through the will of a man filled with the beauty of her first works.

-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Liberman's Castle

"Castle," a painted steel sculpture by Alexander Liberman, graces the grounds of Ward Pound Ridge Reservation as part of Art in the Parks. I love the Picasso-esque composition this section creates with its bold orange curves, crisp shadows, and black cables in beautiful contrast to the sky. It's huge: 42' x 30' x 40'. Part of the fun was watching its construction by crane. One afternoon, while I sat on a bench in the sun, I looked on with delight as a small boy leaped from a van and raced toward the sculpture, arms raised, awestruck.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Milkweed Bugs

In "The Ninth Elegy" from The Essential Rilke, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote these powerful lines:

Here is the time for the sayable, here its home.
Speak and avow it. More than ever
things that can be experienced fall away,
shunted aside and superseded by unseeable acts,
acts under crusts that readily shatter
when the inner workings outgrow them and seek new
Between the hammers
our heart endures, like the tongue
between the teeth, which yet
continues to praise.

--Rainer Maria Rilke, tr. by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann

I praise these milkweed bugs (yes, that's really what they're called), observed in all their orange-red glory at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, New York. The photo was taken on 10/11/09. To see the milkweed bugs more clearly, simply click on the image.

The above excerpt was found on p. 133 of The Essential Rilke, translated in 1999 by Galway Kinnell and Hannah Liebmann, The Ecco Press. Rilke lived from 1875-1926.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paula's Dahlia

Countless thanks to my family, to my friends both old and new, for forming the human bridge that spans the abyss! Your compassion, your laughter, your almost magical appearance/voices at just the right times, combine to carry me over darkness.

I love this glorious dahlia from my sister-in-law's garden, found drifting in a crystal bowl on her kitchen counter in Colorado. I was mesmerized by the gradations of pink.

Just now, I absentmindedly chose Breathing the Water by Denise Levertov from my shelf. (I know you are tired of hearing about my coincidences, but here's yet another.) There was a lovely rose-colored envelope inserted between pages 74 and 75. When I opened the book there, what did I look down to read? These lines from the end of her poem, "La Cordelle":

"... fading goldenrod, / fresh marguerites and / ardently pink / dahlias, dahlias / of bright / scarlet, dahlias / of garnet crimson, / almost black, / both reds / bloodred, // the entire bouquet / singing its colors / the livelong / empty day, the stones / resanctified."

-- Denise Levertov

"Ardently pink dahlias," indeed. Family and friends, your radiant words blossom in the shadows. Again, my thanks.

The photograph was taken 9/25/09 in Colorado. Just click on the image to enlarge. Breathing the Water by Denise Levertov was published by New Directions in 1987. Original copyright was in 1984.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Overnight, She Is Different

If you click on the link/title above, you will be magically transported to an interactive online collaboration that I worked on with Rick Mullarky, artist/designer extraordinaire, and Kala Pierson, talented experimental composer, for Born Magazine: Art and Literature Collaboration. Make sure to turn on your sound first, click on "start," then move through the piece by clicking on the white plus signs.

Here's what I wrote about this heady experience in an interview with Dan Wickett from Emerging Writers Network:

This was the most fun I had had in a long time. It was a delightful experience. I worked with Rick Mullarky, an artist/designer, and Kala Pierson, a composer, doing an interactive collaboration for Born Magazine. Rick was very open to suggestions, and we had a lively and humorous correspondence. I have an art background myself, so I was curious to see how he would visually interpret the poem. I felt both free to come up with ideas and yet receptive to letting Rick experiment in his own way. His concepts were thrilling, parallel to the feeling of the piece, but capable of opening it up in new ways. Kala had previously asked me for use of a prose poem, “One Claw into the Dream,” as text for an experimental opera she was working on. In return, when Rick and I started the collaboration, I suggested asking Kala to participate in our project. She said yes and joined in the fun and e-mailing, supplying the innovative and eerie sound. It was a process of discovery and play throughout. So, yes, I had some input, but tried to let the other artists add their own unique contributions .... For fun, Rick and I just finished another interactive collaboration using one of my prose poems, “Guilt.” We may also do one for the first poem in Teaching Bones to Fly, “Secrets of Blood.”

If you would like to read the interview in its entirety, click here:

Interview with Dan Wickett, Emerging Writers Network, 1/31/05.

Looking back -- and I find it hard to believe this collaboration came out in 2003! -- it's fascinating that the three of us worked on this project without ever meeting each other, without ever even hearing each others' human voices!

Update: Rick Mullarky and I placed "Guilt" on The Diagram, much to our delight. I'll write about this second collaboration in another post. Since then, we've made a few initial attempts at a third piece, tentatively titled Cross-Section of a Man. We'll see what evolves ...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Plug in the Unplugged Heart

Nothing like the sound of the wind combing the tall grass, rattling the maples, to soothe the scurrying mind. Nothing like the electric splash of October color to plug in the unplugged heart. I walked all over the park today, but the most gorgeous thing I saw was the poison ivy growing in the deli parking lot. Spectacular.

The photo was taken 10/11/09 in Cross River, New York. Click on image to enlarge.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Frog at the Window

This rainy Saturday: a frog at the window just now, as I walked back from the mailbox. I needed that sweet little surprise.

Thursday, October 1, 2009



Overnight, the wind
delivers a gift to your sill:
a dead yellow jacket,
rocking on its back --
summer's gold brooch,

-- CBK
From my first full-length book, Teaching Bones to Fly, Bitter Oleander Press, 2003

Congratulations, Thea and Mark! Congratulations, Amanda and Michael! Love to all!

The photo of the two bees on the thistle flower was taken 9/18/09 at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.

Monday, September 7, 2009


Several weeks ago, while walking through the park, I looked down to discover a bouquet of peacock feathers on the side of the road. They captured the late light with an emerald and turquoise shimmer. I'd like to think that someone left them there as an iridescent surprise for a child to find.

Great quote from Franz Kafka:

You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be quite still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

-- Franz Kafka

The photo was taken at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, New York on 8/3/09. Click on image to enlarge.

Monday, August 31, 2009


For those who have ever been delightfully lost in looking, who have willingly drifted into a timeless place when surrounded by beauty, this excerpt from Vladimir Nabokov's riveting Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited will recapture that feeling:

I confess I do not believe in time. I like to fold my magic carpet, after use, in such a way as to superimpose one part of the pattern upon another. Let visitors trip. And the highest enjoyment of timelessness -- in a landscape selected at random -- is when I stand among rare butterflies and their food plants. This is ecstasy, and behind the ecstasy is something else, which is hard to explain. It is like a momentary vacuum into which rushes all that I love. A sense of oneness with sun and stone. A thrill of gratitude to whom it may concern -- to the contrapuntal genius of human fate or to tender ghosts humoring a lucky mortal.

-- Vladimir Nabokov

The photograph of the Renwal doll was taken at the pond at the top of my street this spring. Click on image to enlarge. The paragraph is from Speak, Memory: An Autobiography Revisited by Vladimir Nabokov, page 139, Vintage International, 1989. It was originally published, in different form, by Harper & Bros., New York , in 1951.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The World Wants To Tell Me Something

While thinking that lately so many coincidental things have happened, that so many shimmering details are coming together to form a larger, clearer picture, I came across a book by Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler. It was wedged in an odd place, half-hidden, waiting. I had bought this book years back, holding off reading it until I would have the necessary quiet, focus and time to savor its strangeness. (I have yet to let myself fall into its mystery. When the time is right, I will.) I opened the book (as with Hesse's Steppenwolf in the previous post) to see what message the pages might contain. I found these words quivering under my fingertips:

Leaning from the steep slope (the chapter title)

I am becoming convinced that the world wants to tell me something, send me messages, signals, warnings.…


There are days when everything I see seems to me charged with meaning: messages it would be difficult for me to communicate to others, define, translate into words, but which for this very reason appear to me decisive. They are announcements or presages that concern me and the world at once: for my part, not only the external event of my existence but also what happens inside, in the depths of me; and for the world not some particular event but the general way of being of all things. You will understand therefore my difficulty in speaking about it, except by allusion.

-- Italo Calvino, translated from the Italian by William Weaver

The quote was taken from pages 52-53 of If on a winter's night a traveler by Italo Calvino, original copyright 1979, included in Everyman's Library in 1993. The photo was taken on 8/17/09, slightly uphill from my house. The tree is a black cherry, identified by the ever-helpful Michael Gambino, curator of Trailside Nature Museum at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, NY. Click on image to enlarge.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Little Enigma

As I cruised down a rural road, this mind-catching sign leaped into my peripheral vision. I made a mental note to revisit it on my ride home, to stop and take a picture. Later, when I parked in the empty lot, I noticed a gigantic stuffed panda perched on the upstairs porch of the empty/haunted/work-in-progress restaurant. He had faded to a pale and mellow brown in the August sun. Slouched into his setting, he looked accepting of life’s surreal surprises. He seemed to take in the lush green landscape, to admire the Queen Anne’s lace waving far below, right next to the Enigma sign.

Today’s lesson: Always stop to revel in the little mysteries.

If this is a restaurant-to-be, I’m coming back for the grand opening. (Beautiful: The Grand Opening of the Enigma! Solutions to life’s riddles revealed with a meal …) I love the idea of opening that door, stepping over the threshold, and entering the Enigma, ready to savor a sip and a bite of magic and mystery.

Which carries me rocketing back in time to another odd sign in Steppenwolf, Herman Hesse’s unsettling and dream-swirled novel written in 1929. It’s a hallucinatory tale of many doors, mirrors and masks. (Hesse’s works were the perfect, mind-exploding material for college-age readers. As a young woman I read his books, one after another.) Due to discovering the Enigma sign, I wanted to find a particular, connected section in the book. Presto. I opened the book to the exact page. Of course, I’m sure the book tended to open to where it was frequently opened to in the past, to one of the many dog-eared pages. However, bear with me here, shrug off all doubt. It was so fitting, Steppenwolf opening like a door to the very words I was searching for!

Fellow enigma explorers, read them yourselves. (Forgive several brief omissions in the text.) Here are Herman Hesse’s words:

This time, too, the wall was peaceful and serene and yet something was altered in it. I was amazed to see a small and pretty doorway with a Gothic arch in the middle of the wall, for I could not make up my mind whether this doorway had always been there or whether it had just been made. It looked old without a doubt, very old; apparently this closed portal with its door of blackened wood had opened hundreds of years ago onto a sleepy convent yard …. I paused to examine it from where I stood without crossing over, as the street between was so deep in mud and water. From the sidewalk where I stood and looked across, it seemed to me in the dim light that a garland, or something gaily colored, was festooned round the doorway, and now that I looked more closely I saw over the portal a bright shield, on which, it seemed to me, there was something written. I strained my eyes and at last, in spite of the mud and puddles, went across, and there over the door I saw a stain showing up faintly on the grey-green of the wall, and over the stain bright letters dancing and then disappearing, returning and vanishing once more. So that’s it, thought I. They’ve disfigured this good old wall with an electric sign. Meanwhile I deciphered one or two of the letters as they appeared again for an instant; but they came with very irregular spaces between them and very faintly, and then abruptly vanished. … Why have his letters playing on this old wall in the darkest alley of the Old Town on a wet night with not a soul passing by, and why were they so fleeting, so fitful and illegible? But wait, at last I succeeded in catching several words on end. They were:


I tried to open the door, but the heavy old latch would not stir. The display too was over. It had suddenly ceased, sadly convinced of its uselessness. I took a few steps back, landing deep into the mud, but no more letters came. The display was over. For a long time I stood waiting in the mud, but in vain.

Then, when I had given up and gone back to the alley, a few colored letters were dropped here and there, reflected on the asphalt in front of me. I read:


…. I was freezing and walked on … longing too for that doorway to an enchanted theater, which was for madmen only. At every other step there were placards and posters with their various attractions …. But none of these was for me. They were for “everybody,” for those normal persons whom I saw crowding every entrance. In spite of that my sadness was a little lightened. I had had a greeting from another world, and a few dancing, colored letters had played upon my soul and sounded its secret strings. A glimmer of the golden track had been visible once again.

-- Herman Hesse

When my daughters were small, I referred to the airy passageway between two trees as a “magic door.” We always went through together. It felt like we were entering new woodland universes, being careful never to be separated, following the same path. For years we were in the same world at the same time. Of course, as they grew up, they entered their own kingdoms, kept opening new doors, which led in turn to separate places and whole other sets of beckoning doors.

Lately, after anticipating and attending a small high school reunion, I’ve been reliving the joys and pangs of the past. It’s jarring to look back and marvel at how life would have been so different based on seemingly insignificant choices, or a single locked or unlocked door. I was going to attend the reunion in my hometown with one of my oldest friends, but a death in her family prevented her from coming at all. The night of the party, I entered that shadowy time machine alone. After an initial wave of high school shyness, I was transported somewhere else, somewhere where old friends and acquaintances were all welcoming, with good stories to tell. Each person I saw, each story I heard, set my mind and heart off in another direction. The event summoned my own history with all of its own anecdotes, with its own collection of sweetness and grief. By this stage in our lives, I think we have all had enough life experiences to jettison the masks. I felt like a lot of straight and deep things were said. Delightfully humorous things, too.

Time got billowy there, and although I thought I would have time to connect with everyone, I didn’t. E-mail correspondence began or continued in earnest. People I didn’t know well in high school became new friends. Other people who didn’t/couldn’t attend the reunion made contact. Six of us – three who were at the reunion and three who weren’t – converged from all directions to meet again yesterday. We spent five hours talking. I’m proud of how they’ve all turned out and took great pleasure in their creativity, intelligence, humor, and compassion. Two of them are my oldest friends: one from third grade and one from way back in first. (She still remembers my first classroom entrance after moving to the area midyear. I was wearing red sneakers and crying!) How magical to be able to retrace my steps through so many passages and to still find new possibilities and doors revealed.

Phew. Okay. Let’s move out of range of this tsunami of nostalgia, and on to: THE ENIGMA PRIZE!!! Can anyone out there identify the location of the Enigma sign? I will send the first person to correctly uncover that mystery a FREE signed copy of my skinny chapbook, The Smaller, Paler Version of His Head. I’ll also enclose a miniature mystery. My contact information is in the sidebar of the blog.

Note: the condensed passage was from Steppenwolf by Herman Hesse, the 1963 revised edition from Holt, Rinehart and Winston, pages 31 - 33. The original translation was by Basil Creighton in 1929; the revised translation was by Joseph Mileck and Horst Frenz in 1963.

Monday, August 10, 2009


Really? I'm not ready. But here it was in unmistakable Technicolor, blazing right under my feet, right on my road, yesterday afternoon.

Click on image to enlarge.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Travel by Dragonfly

Late this warm August afternoon, dragonflies quivered in the breeze, clinging like iridescent pennants to tall stems. I actually thought the word pennants as I crouched at the edge of the field, watching them. If I was still enough, they let me get very close. Later this evening, I discovered that they really are called Halloween Pennants (Celithemis eponina).

Do you remember those trippy Jimi Hendrix lyrics from "Spanish Castle Magic?"

It's very far away
It takes about half a day
To get there, if we travel by my -- uh -- dragonfly ...

Whenever I hear that song, those lines make me laugh. A little bit of musical magic, a little bit of hallucinatory flight. Travel by dragonfly -- I guess that's what I was trying to do, getting so close I could see the patterns of veins on their diaphonous wings, looking deep into those gigantic mirrored eyes, imagining how the world looks reassembled into a mosaic. Maybe Jimi Hendrix had compound eyes.

Click on image to enlarge. Photo taken late this afternoon at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Cloud Fire

More than a thousand words! Last evening's towering clouds in Connecticut were magnificent, alive with shifting orange light and an occasional tinsel-flash of horizontal lightning.

The sky is the daily bread of the eyes.
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson

The quote was found in The Harper Book of Quotations, Robert I. Fitzhenry, Ed., HarperPerennial, 1993. Click on image to enlarge.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

He's Got Duende

This wild-eyed fellow dominated a room full of antique dolls in a small museum in Vermont. Mesmerizing ... and a bit unsettling to linger in his mischievous gaze. (Really, just try to avert your eyes.) Some inanimate objects possess a strange, spiky energy. Somehow, this clown projects something demonic, a dark invitation. But there's something comical there, too. I couldn't resist him. He's got soul. He's got duende.

For more about duende, visit this previous post: Duende: Words Both Winged and Quilled.

For more about clowns, visit photographer Stu Jenks' blog entry: The Bozos: Bozo Below Uncompahgre Peak . (Scroll down for more Bozo-themed posts.)

At last I'm back, escaped from computer limbo!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Leafy Sanctuary

The orange-gold of a Baltimore oriole lured our eyes to the very top of this incredible tree. From a distance, the branches formed a solid green dome. Like a leafy Cousin It, the tree kept its secrets to itself. Of course the imagined sanctuary created inside was irresistible. I had to find out what it was like to enter the heart of the tree. Parting those thick tresses, I stepped into a hushed sanctum. The light was gorgeous, brighter than expected, dappled and soothing. Bird whispers resumed. When my friend couldn’t find me, she knew exactly where to look. She found her own door into the sheltering umbrella of spangled green. We just stood there, awed, looking up and listening.

Norwegian poet Olav H. Hauge wrote a poem called “Leaf Huts and Snow Houses” that contains these parallel thoughts:

These poems don’t amount
to much, just
some words thrown together
at random.
and still
to me
there’s something good
in making them, it’s
as if I have in them for a little
while a house.
I think of playhouses
made of branches we built
when we were children:
to crawl into them, sit
listening to the rain,
in a wild place alone,
feel the drops of rain on your nose
and in your hair –

Olav H. Hauge, translated by Robert Bly

Hauge was born in 1908 in a small Norwegian settlement. In Bly’s words, he “lived all his life on what he could produce from three acres of ground.” “The richness in his small house lay in the handmade spoons and bowls, the wooden reading chair, and the bookcases to which the best poetry from many continents had found its way.” Eighty years later, Hauge died “in the old way,” with no signs of disease. I was enchanted by Bly’s description of the respectful service, followed by this heart-rippling scene:

A horse-drawn wagon carried his body back up the mountain after the service. Everyone noticed a small colt that ran happily alongside its mother and the coffin all the way back up.

The excerpt from “Leaf Huts and Snow Houses” was found on page 264 of The Winged Energy of Delight: Poems from Europe, Asia, and the Americas, Selected Translations by Robert Bly, HarperCollins Publishers Inc., 2004. The photographs were taken at White Flower Farm, Litchfield, Connecticut, on 6/7/09.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Brassy-Green Beautiful

Huge and brassy-green beautiful. The voices of these Cricket Hill Garden bullfrogs were so loud that my friend mistook them for the distant grunts of pigs.

Click on image to enlarge.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Perfect Unfurling

This peony was at the perfect point in unfurling, cupping the soft light. Cricket Hill places decorative umbrellas over some of the blossoms to protect them from withering sunlight. (A bit sadly, this beauty had no real fragrance.) Called Coral Charm, it kept beckoning me back, luring me into its gold-fringed silence.

Click on image to enlarge. The photo was taken 6/7/09 at Cricket Hill Garden in Thomaston, Connecticut.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cricket Hill Peony

Up close: an eye-dazzling peony at Cricket Hill Garden in Thomaston, Connecticut this afternoon.

Click on image to enlarge.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Confetti Toss

The other evening I went for a walk in the wind. Up the hill, the wild air had carried the flowers and loose petals of tulip trees to the ground. Like a pinata-spill, like a confetti-toss, the festive green and orange blossoms were strewn in the road, on the grass, and among the fallen leaves. Some detached petals looked like psychedelic moth wings. I stared up through the glossy foliage to the still-attached flowers, swaying and trembling in the late light. The wind played a hissing, whispered music to watch by.

Click on image to enlarge.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Dream Altitude: Beckian Fritz Goldberg

Strange, unsettling poem from a strange, unsettling -- and riveting -- book: "Retro Lullaby" from Never Be the Horse by Beckian Fritz Goldberg. (And it's a poem-match for this photograph! Sometimes the perfect poem just flutters to your finger like a lovesick homing pigeon.)

Here's an excerpt from "Retro Lullaby":

After all, my sister said I was a strange child, an
My mother said if they talked idly in February
of going somewhere in June, I'd wake in June,
my suitcase packed.

Terrible she said to have a child who never forgot a thing.

But now, of course, I've slipped
my mind forever in some infeasible way, flown

stiff as a toy in my dream altitude and I remember
wondering even in my elation if I'd drop
suddenly and if I did

I don't remember. But if I did, I'd say,
It's ok, you can be my angel. You can be
my human kite.

I relish the simile, "stiff as a toy in my dream altitude." Dream altitude! Later in the poem, Beckian Fritz Goldberg comes to the conclusion that "... childhood stinks big in our lives as death." In this case, the smell is of "moist hay," a scent that brings back the past, that inflates her "postcard of a little stranger," so that "her stupid white hands will come up like two / white pages from the bottom of a lake ...." It's magic the way a simple fragrance can transport us to the past, give us back our lace-trimmed ankle socks and braids.

One of my favorite pieces from the collection is the title poem, "Never Be the Horse," in which a mysterious horse is crossing the ocean, standing in a hull, trying "to dream on the smell of damp oatseed." The full line the title comes from is "Never be the horse God talks to." I love the final two lines: "Months later, a rock rose and then low furzy branches. / Then in each ankle a bell clapped for the mud."

How can you resist a book that contains poems with titles like "With a Ravenous Spike," "Flowering Adam," and "The Tongue of the Sphinx?"

Never Be the Horse won the 1998 Akron Poetry Prize and was published by The University of Akron Press in 1999. The photograph of the Renwal doll was taken 5/23/09 in my yard.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fall into the Iris

I almost did yesterday, when I leaned forward, crouching on tiptoe, to take a photograph of the tiger-striped heart of this blossom. Lovely iris vertigo.

The photograph was taken yesterday, one house uphill from mine. Click on the image to enlarge. Go on. Feel free to tumble inside.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Two Flowers, One Plant

Earlier this evening, as I walked past these twin dandelions in my front yard, unbidden labels floated into my meandering brain: Mind and Soul. As I walked on, other pairs arrived: Dream and Reality, Past and Present, Premonition and Memory, even Poetry and Photography. When I thought more about it, I realized it was possible to switch the two, reading the floral symbols in the opposite way. Why not ethereal Soul on the left and bright gold Mind on the right? Or -- think about it -- Reality and Dream (sigh!), Present and Past (sigh!), Memory and Premonition. Photography and Poetry could work. And rather than the original Past and Present, doesn’t the seed-bearing version of Past also begin to look like the Future? That results in Past and Future merged on the left and Present solo on the right. Off go my untethered thoughts, like dandelion seeds clinging to their flimsy silk umbrellas …

Monday, May 18, 2009

Glowing Opossum

Okay. He is a bit startling, but this preserved opossum at the Trailside Museum commanded full attention the day I did the Poetry and Wildflowers walk at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. (Hey, as a nocturnal creature, daytime is not his best time.) Back in 1610, promotional literature for the Jamestown, Virginia colony included the first written reference to the opossum: "There are ... Apossouns, in shape like to pigges." This was the spelling used to replicate the sound of the Virginia Algonquian word for the opossum.

Historical information was found in The American Heritage Dictonary of the English Language, Third Edition.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Literary Wildflower Walk This Saturday!

This Saturday, May 9th, come take a poetry and wildflower walk with me at the Luquer-Marble Wildflower Garden in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, New York. At stops along the way, you will hear poems that mirror or speak to the natural setting. Selected poems include works by Mary Oliver, Charles Wright, Louise Gluck, Emily Dickinson, Tomas Transtromer, Linda Pastan, and many others. If you're inspired, share a quote or brief poem of your choice that reflects the season. We'll meet at the Trailside Museum at 1:00 PM. A couple of days ago the primroses were on the cusp of opening, Jacob's ladder and spring beauty were in full bloom, and the Jack-in-the-pulpit and trillium were perfection. (The photograph above is of a Jack-in-the-pulpit found there, with lungwort in the background.)

For additional information, click here:
Poetry and Wildflowers Literary Walk

The program is free to the public, although there is a parking fee to enter the reservation. We'll go rain or shine! The walk is easy, with benches along the way.

Here is a spring excerpt from my poem, "Kisses," originally published in The Bitter Oleander, then in Teaching Bones to Fly, my first full-length collection:

The kiss unfurls feathery green
along each branch,
sets to beating the pale hearts of apples
still hidden in blossoms.
Between our lips:
an orchard in a white dream of fruit.

The Poetry and Wildflowers event is sponsored by Friends of Trailside and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation with additional funding by Poets & Writers, Inc. using public funds from the NYS Council on the Arts, a state agency.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Author's Prayer: Ilya Kaminsky

One of my favorite Mother's Day activities was attending -- with both of my daughters -- Ilya Kaminsky's reading at the Katonah Poetry Series in 2006. We sat near the front in the Katonah Village Library, mesmerized by this young man's beautiful and powerful poetry and charmed by his generous spirit.

Ilya has given me permission to post "Author's Prayer," the moving opening poem from his collection, Dancing in Odessa, winner of the Tupelo Press Dorset Prize. I first read this piece on the Born Magazine Web site, a fortuitous discovery itself. Born is an "experimental venue marrying literary arts and interactive media. Original projects are brought to life every three months through creative collaboration between writers and artists." If you'd like to experience Ilya Kaminsky's collaboration with artist John Bolster, click here: "Author's Prayer."

Meanwhile, here are his radiant words:

Author's Prayer

If I speak for the dead, I must leave
this animal of my body,

I must write the same poem over and over,
for an empty page is the white flag of their surrender.

If I speak for them, I must walk on the edge
of myself, I must live as a blind man

who runs through rooms without
touching the furniture.

Yes, I live. I can cross the streets asking "What year is it?"
I can dance in my sleep and laugh

in front of the mirror.
Even sleep is a prayer, Lord,

I will praise your madness, and
in a language not mine, speak

of music that wakes us, music
in which we move. For whatever I say

is a kind of petition, and the darkest
days must I praise.

-- Ilya Kaminsky

After discovering this Web site while wandering the Web -- leap to leap -- I was determined to find a way to collaborate on a project myself. This resulted in a wonderful adventure with artist/designer Rick Mullarky and experimental composer Kala Pierson. I'll do a separate post on this experience. (Coming to this blog SOON!) The sunset photo was taken over the weekend in Patterson, NY.

And speaking of Mother's Day weekend, do come to my Poetry and Wildflowers literary ramble at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation this Saturday afternoon. Merely scroll down or click here for details:
Poetry and Wildflowers

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Forsythia Glow

Winter-scarred but pollen-dusted, he marches into forsythia light. Petals caress his shoulders like quivering fingertips.

At least that's how I see it, thanks to my neighbor's lush front yard bushes. They were aglow on Thursday.

For a bit more forsythia gold, visit my flash fiction piece on Wigleaf:

"One-Handed Prayer"

And here's a final yellow note from Theodore Roethke, poet extraordinaire:

Deep in their roots,
All flowers keep the light.

-- Theodore Roethke

The Roethke quote is from page 319, The Harper Book of Quotations, edited by Robert I. Fitzhenry, HarperPerennial, 1993. The photo was taken 4/30/09, in my neighbor's yard.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Ear to the Ground: KGB Bar Reading, 5/22/09

I had to walk backward to take a second look at this "ear" emerging from the earth. Roots, listening.

Come listen to authors from the Online Writing: The Best of the First Ten Years anthology at the prelaunch at KGB Bar in NYC on Friday, May 22, 2009, from 7:00-9:00 PM.

Readers include co-editor Kim Chinquee, Anthony Tognazzini, Holly Tavel, Carol Novak, Susan Henderson, and Christine Boyka Kluge.

The anthology is edited by Doug Martin and Kim Chinquee, with an introduction by Brian Evenson. It's published by Snowvigate Press, Inc. and is arriving SOON!

It should be an exhilarating spring night! I look forward to seeing you there.

The photograph was taken at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Cross River, NY on 4/24/09. Click on image to enlarge.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Poetry and Wildflowers

I hope you'll accompany me for an afternoon of poetry and wildflowers at Ward Pound Ridge Reservation on May 9th:

Join North Salem poet Christine Boyka Kluge for an easy literary walking tour of the reservation's wildflowers and awakening landscape. At stops along the way, hear poems that mirror or speak to the natural setting. If inspired, share a quote or brief poem of your own that reflects the season.

1:00 PM on Saturday, May 9, 2009
Trailside Nature Museum
Ward Pound Ridge Reservation
Routes 35 & 121 South
Cross River, New York

Free to the public (parking fee)

Sponsored by Friends of Trailside and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation with additional funding by Poets & Writers, Inc. using public funds from the NYS Council on the Arts, a state agency.

On Friday, I visited the reservation to see what wildflowers and plants were up. In the Luquer-Marble Wildflower Garden, I was treated to trillium (see photo), lungwort, periwinkle, trout lily, skunk cabbage, daffodils, may apple, etc. Beautiful. As a bonus, the magnolia in front of the Trailside Museum was aglow with huge magenta and white blooms. I'm having a great time collecting writing to parallel nature's show: "The force that through the green fuse drives the flower" (Dylan Thomas), "Trillium" (Louise Gluck), "Little Lion Face" (May Swenson), etc. Everything is happening fast: popping, unfurling, blossoming. By the 9th it should be glorious. We'll meet rain or shine at the museum. The relaxed literary walking tour should last about 1 1/2 hours. Or however long poetry and the natural setting captivate us. It's Mother's Day weekend -- bring your mom! Or let her bring you. I look forward to seeing you there.

The photo of trillium was taken 4/24/09 in the Luquer-Marble Wildflower Garden.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


The virtue of the camera is not the power it has to transform the photographer into an artist, but the impulse it gives him to keep on looking.
-- Brooks Atkinson

And, I find, while looking through the extra eye of the camera, that I flinch with sweet shock at the other worlds revealed. I take delight in that deep focus, that revelation, that unfurling.

Follow the advice of Goethe:

Every day look at a beautiful picture, read a beautiful poem, listen to some beautiful music, and if possible, say some reasonable thing.
-- Goethe

Both quotes came from The Harper Book of Quotations, edited by Robert I. Fitzhenry, HarperPerennial, 1993, pages 345 and 344 respectively. The photo of the fern was taken last spring at The New York Botanical Garden, Bronx, NY.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Sky Drain

Here's another photo from Alder Lake in the Catskills, in Ulster County. (See previous post.) I love the way the sky appears to be serenely slipping down the drain. Time washing over the edge, softly disappearing. It was a very good day.

For your reading pleasure, I've retyped "Sending You," a beautiful poem by Ray Gonzalez from his book, Consideration of the Guitar:

I am sending you a piece of sycamore bark.
-- Paul Celan

I am sending you the shadow from
my cottonwood tree, making sure

it extends over the river to reach you.
I include the leaves in my mother’s hair,

the brittle flashes of brown that
stuck to her at my birth.

I am giving you the roots from
excavated ground, their arms

reaching as far as the stone wall
where my fathers scrawled their names.

I have not forgotten the mud
from their swollen feet, rain

washing it off their labor, carrying it
beyond the storm to dry at your door.

I am delivering a cloud floating
in the sky as a memory that will

find you on the other side, passing
you flowers that grew on the earth,

their seeds the touch you needed
when you were the source of love.

I am mailing you a letter, my words you heard
when you were the sunlight that came and went,

transferring your fire into me
in the same way it burned you.

I am sending a piece of those ashes.
They spell my name as they fall into the canyon

washed out by the river, the shadow of my
cottonwood moving in the direction I came.

-- Ray Gonzalez

This poem was reprinted here with the permission of the author, Ray Gonzalez. It appears on page 16 of Consideration of the Guitar: New and Selected Poems, BOA Editions, 2005.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Light on the Water

Yesterday, hiking around Alder Lake in the Catskill Mountains of Ulster County, New York, my younger daughter and I (and her malamute) were treated to this serene and glittering scene with that dark finger of shadow pointing at the center. The image matched a quote I had found a couple days earlier, while skimming through The Harper Book of Quotations:

Happiness is the light on the water. The water is cold and dark and deep.

-- William Maxwell


On the way home, I drove toward the full moon -- bright gold, huge, balanced low on the horizon. At one point, a black band of clouds bisected it, then wafted off, like an unveiling. I was listening to Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks. Have you ever noticed how, on rare occasion, lyrics and song mood magically match your own setting and state? I felt dreamy and pensive; I was reliving the past while admiring the sky and the indigo hills. As I cruised along, mesmerized by the shifting lunar show, "If You See Her, Say Hello" came on:

Sundown, yellow moon, I replay the past
I know every scene by heart, it all went by so fast ...

-- Bob Dylan

This particular old "album" plays like a collection of flash fiction and prose poetry. For example, read this vivid scene from "Idiot Wind":

I woke up on the roadside, daydreamin' 'bout the way things sometimes are
Visions of your chestnut mare shoot through my head and are makin' me see stars.
You hurt the ones that I love best and cover up the truth with lies.
One day you'll be in the ditch, flies buzzin' around your eyes,
Blood on your saddle.

Or how about these lines from later in the same song:

I been double-crossed now for the very last time and now I'm finally free,
I kissed goodbye the howling beast on the borderline which separated you from me.

The songs get inside your ribcage and tangle your heartstrings. I don't ever tire of certain pieces, of that knotting sensation that wakes, pains, and pleases the heart.

The initial quote was found on page 194 of The Harper Book of Quotations (Third Edition), edited by Robert I. Fitzhenry and published by HarperPerennial.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Dark Feet Dangling

I love her precarious perch, her split shadow, her dark feet dangling over the next step, pointing the way. She is stalled, fighting vertigo -- pondering -- still believing in an easier descent.

Here are the final stanzas from Denise Levertov's poem, "Broken Pact," from Evening Train:

But mind and heart continue
their eager conversation,
they argue, they share epiphanies,
sometimes all night they raise
antiphonal laments.

Face and body have betrayed them,

they are alone together,
unsure how to proceed.

-- Denise Levertov

The poem can be read in its entirety on page 29. The photo was taken in my yard this spring. Metal sculpture by Thea Kluge. Click on image to enlarge.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Poetry and Truth

Would I ever find, in the years ahead of me, that true meeting between a hidden life and a hidden language out of which true form would come -- the form of the true poem?

--Eavan Boland
Eavan Boland ponders this question as an Irish poet and woman in Object Lessons: The Life of the Woman and the Poet in Our Time (1994). I read this book with great hunger when I first dove into the thrilling depths of truly writing poetry -- when, after years of savoring poetry, of writing pieces mostly for myself, I decided to devote a serious intensity to writing. In a strange way, this book gave me permission to be who I needed to be artistically, to find and transcribe my own truth. To define my poetry in my own individual way.

This is Boland's thought on her position as a poet:

Gradually the anomaly of my poetic existence was clear to me. By luck, or its absence, I had been born in a country where and at a time when the word woman and the word poet inhabited two separate kingdoms of experience and expression. I could not, it seemed, live in both. (p.114)

She goes on to describe, in a vivid and moving manner, the path of her poetry's evolution within a culture, as a woman. In a way it's her nonlinear autobiography, studded with gems of revelation as she finds her way. For instance:

All good poetry depends on an ethical relation between imagination and image. Images are not ornaments; they are truths. (p. 152)

I love that. And later:

No poetic imagination can afford to regard an image as a temporary aesthetic maneuver. Once the image is distorted, the truth is demeaned. (p. 152)

She ends the chapter with this powerful statement:

If a poet does not tell the truth about time, his or her work will not survive it. Past or present, there is a human dimension to time, human voices within it and human griefs ordained by it. Our present will become the past of other men and women. We depend on them to remember it with the complexity with which it was suffered. As others, once, depended on us. (p. 153)

The initial quote was found on p. 119.

The small metal sculpture opens like a matreshka to reveal a single, smaller female figure inside. Is this the unconscious? Poetry? Inner truth, the deeper woman? Rebirth? It seems to illustrate Boland's discussion. It was made of cast bronze by Scott Nelles of Nelles Studios in northern Michigan. Click on image to enlarge.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Shadow Embrace

I like the way these elongated shadows embrace the tree like needy hooks or fantastic thorns. Aren't there great patterns and textures in the bark? Such an invitation to fingertips. And that March washed-blue sky shining in the background.

There is a blind niche in the azure:
in each blessed noon
one fateful star trembles,
hinting at the depth of night.
-- Osip Mandelstam, tr. by Clarence Brown & W.S. Merwin

Mandelstam wrote a poem (#133) containing this deep and piercing stanza in 1922. It became part of Poems, published in 1928. I found it in The Selected Poems of Osip Mandelstam, translated from the Russian by Brown and Merwin, New York Review Books, 2004, translation copyright 1973. (See page 43, third stanza.)

Mandelstam was arrested and exiled in 1934, after he read a work denouncing Stalin. I found it fascinating that his wife, Nadezhda, memorized his writing, so that it would be preserved even if his papers were lost or destroyed. When his exile ended in 1937, he returned to Moscow, but was arrested again and sentenced to hard labor in Siberia. According to the book notes, he was "last seen in a transit camp near Vladivostok."

Here is Mandelstam's belief about the necessity of poetry:

The people need poetry that will be their own secret
to keep them awake forever,
and bathe them in the bright-haired wave of its breathing.
-- Osip Mandelstam, tr. by Clarence Brown & W.S. Merwin

(From the introduction, p. xiii.)

The photograph was taken on my hill, just the other afternoon. Click on image to enlarge.