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.