not a pretty picture. not a good. not a bad. picture. but an argument.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

a dictionary of all that is


From an interview with Stanley Kunitz (by Bill Moyers),

Let me tell you about a twelfth-century Chinese poet named Yang Wan-li, one of the four masters of Southern Sung poetry. One day he gathered his disciples around him and addressed them in this fashion: "Now, what is poetry? If you say it is simply a matter of words, I will say, 'A good poet gets rid of words.' If you say it is simply a matter of meaning, I will say, 'A good poet gets rid of meaning.' But, you say, if words and meaning are gotten rid of, where is the poetry? To this I reply, 'Get rid of words and meaning and there is still poetry.'"

Scholars have been wrestling with that test for centuries. I think that Yang is telling us that poetry is more than a product of human intelligence and craft. It is an intrinsic element of the beauty and mystery of existence, something we take in with the air we breathe. We take it in and then we give back some semblance of it in our art.

Saturday, March 27, 2021

a strong desire for the power to see trees or stone


Letter to a Poet by Robert Hass

A mockingbird leans
from the walnut, bellies,
riffling white, accomplishes

his perch upon the eaves.
I witnessed this act of grace
in blind California

in the January sun
where families bicycle on Saturday
and the mother with high cheekbones

and coffee-colored iridescent
hair curses her child
in the language of Pushkin–

John, I am dull from
thinking of your pain,
this mimic world

which make us stupid
with the totem griefs
we hope will give us

power to look at trees,
at stones, one brute to another
like poems on a page.

What can I say, my friend?
There are tricks of animal grace,
poems in the mind

we survive on. It isn’t much.
You are 4,000 miles away &
this world did not invite us.


Naming for Love by Hayden Carruth

These are the proper names:
Limestone, tufa, coral rag,
Clint, beer stone, braystone,
Porphyry, gneiss, rhyolite,
Ironstone, cairngorm, circle stone,
Blue stone, chalk, box stone,
Sarsen, magnesia, brownstone,
Flint, aventurnine,
Soapstone, alabaster, basalt,
Slate, quartzite, ashlar,
Clunch, cob, gault, grit,
Buhrstone, dolomite,
Flagstone, freestone, sandstone,
Marble, shale, gabbro, clay,
Adamant, gravel, traprock,
And of course brimstone.

Some of the names are shapes:
Crag, scarp, moraine, esker,
Alp, hogback, ledge, tor,
Cliff, boulder, crater,
Gorge, and bedrock.

Some denote uses:
Keystone, capstone,
Hearthstone, whetstone,
And gravestone.

For women a painful stone called
Wombstone, which doctors say is
"A calculus formed in the uterus."
Gallstone and kidneystone hurt everyone.
Millstone is our blessing.

I will not say the names
Of the misnamed precious stones.

But a lovely name is gold,
A product of stone.

Underwards is magma;
May all who read this live long.

Sunday, January 17, 2021


Friday, September 25, 2020

Monday, September 7, 2020