Category Archives: Poetry

A little hope for this Sunday morn’


by Walt Whitman




(From a talk I had lately with a German spiritualist)



Nothing is ever really lost, or can be lost,
No birth, identity, form—no object of the world.
Nor life, nor force, nor any visible thing;
Appearance must not foil, nor shifted sphere confuse thy brain.
Ample are time and space—ample the fields of Nature.
The body, sluggish, aged, cold—the embers left from earlier fires,
The light in the eye grown dim, shall duly flame again;
The sun now low in the west rises for mornings and for noons continual;
To frozen clods ever the spring’s invisible law returns,
With grass and flowers and summer fruits and corn.


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he’s damned if the goat will pay


Encounter in the Local Pub
from the February 2010 issue of Poetry magazine

As he looked up from his glass, its quickly melting ice,
into the bisected glowing demonic eyes of the goat,
he sensed that something fundamental had shifted,
or was done. As if, after a life of enchantment, he
had awakened, like Bottom, wearing the ears of an ass,
and the only light was a lanthorn, an ersatz moon.
It was not that the calendar hadn’t numbered the days
with an orbital accuracy, its calculations
exact, but like a man who wants to hang a hammock
in his yard, to let its bright net cradle him, but only
has one tree, so hewild and aware of itknew
he had lost the order he required, and with it, rest
his thoughts only a sagging bundle of loose ends,
and the heart, a naked animal in search of a pelt,
that once fell for every Large Meaning it could
wrap itself in, as organs are packed in ice for transit
from one ending to the next, an afterlife of partsand
the whole? Exorbitant claimnot less than all,
and oddly spelled; its ear rhyme is its opposite,
the great hole in the heart of things. The goat,
he noticed, had a rank smell, feral. Unnerved,
he looks away, watches the last of his ice
as it melts, the way some godlike eye might see
the mighty glaciers in a slow dissolve back into sea.
He notes how incommensurate the simile, a last
attempt to dignify his shaking gaze, and reaches
for the bill; he’s damned if the goat will pay.

Unlike Francis Bacon, we no longer believe in the little patterns we make of the chaos of history.
—Overheard remark

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I Give You the Bigger Questions and Take Some Minor Joy-Filled Nonsense for Myself

Ever the stickler for zooming in until it’s fuzzy, rather than seeing the bigger picture, (sometimes to the point of just plain empty absurdity, I will admit,) I nevertheless couldn’t help but think of all the Found Poetry I have enjoyed consuming and creating over the years. It is the basest form of re-mixing I can think of at the moment, and although I’m always happier to leave the monumental questions of ethics, culture and policy to people who have the patience and passion for dedicating their lives to these, I will add that at its core, this issue of Lessig’s, to which he has dedicated himself, happens to be a process which I like to call turning into a human. All the things we know, think, say, do were at one time known, thought, said and done by those we observed– we consumed these things– and these things were churned over in our little brains and, effectively, re-created, thus turning us into humans who know, think, say and do things we first had to consume, re-mix and finally create outwardly. It’s a ceaseless cycle, of course, wherein Jesus may die the first time, fly up before the bus hits him the next and so on, but that’s really the jist of how we got to be who we are and continue evolving. This discussion of his and like-minded individuals’ is simply a more evolved and sophisticated extension of this concept. And another thing: isn’t it amazing how everything goes back to biology? I mean everything.

But I digress. Found Poetry. It’s a lot of fun. And also you can’t create it without consuming someone else’s creation first, then tearing it apart to create something new. Legally. Why? Because the courts don’t really care about poetry anymore and that’s just fine with me. (Okay, maybe there’s another reason, too, and that reason may or may not be that you almost never can identify the original source of the words which form the Found Poem, because they’re just words and these words can be found anywhere. So, really, the act of writing Found Poetry is nothing more than an exercise for the writer and its joy is primarily found in the process of searching and finding to fit something predetermined or allowing the words to take you in new directions. The courts certainly couldn’t care less about that.)

It’s really a super way to spend half an hour of your day, right in between creating a video montage of babies taken from TV commercials debating the merits of Proposition 19 and posting a YouTube video of yourself clucking your tongue to the tune of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. Open a newspaper, a magazine, a book, an insurance brochure, your car manual, instructions for assembling the crib… open anything with words in it that other people combined to make their own sentences. And then start borrowing. And make sentences of your own.

Try not to feel like a criminal. Do not corrode. Do not become corrupted.




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-second thoughts that complicate the time one simply wastes-


John Koethe


Wallace Stevens is beyond fathoming, he is so strange; it is as if he had a morbid secret he would rather perish than disclose . . .
          —Marrianne Moore to William Carlos Williams


Another day, which is usually how they come:
A cat at the foot of the bed, noncommittal
In its blankness of mind, with the morning light
Slowly filling the room, and fragmentary
Memories of last night’s video and phone calls.
It is a feeling of sufficiency, one menaced
By the fear of some vague lack, of a simplicity
Of self, a self without a soul, the nagging fear
Of being someone to whom nothing ever happens.
Thus the fantasy of the narrative behind the story,
Of the half-concealed life that lies beneath
The ordinary one, made up of ordinary mornings
More alike in how they feel than what they say.
They seem like luxuries of consciousness,
Like second thoughts that complicate the time
One simply wastes. And why not? Mere being
Is supposed to be enough, without the intricate
Evasions of a mystery or offstage tragedy.
Evenings follow on the afternoons, lingering in
The living room and listening to the stereo
While Peggy Lee sings “Is That All There Is?”
Amid the morning papers and the usual
Ghosts keeping you company, but just for a while.
The true soul is the one that flickers in the eyes
Of an animal, like a cat that lifts its head and yawns
And looks at you, and then goes back to sleep.


If you think this is a poem in dispassionate defense of laziness, you’re probably right. But how can it be that the “true soul [which] flickers in the eyes”  is that of the cat who simultaneously exhibits a “blankness of mind”? I don’t know. You figure this one out.


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Visual Discombobulations, Sometimes Referred to as Poetry

This is a (visual) poem entitled “fallen”, created by Jorg Piringer.

It is comprised of the fallen English letters of a translation of The Communist Manifesto. Out of context, stripped of meaning, jammed together, in effect failed and discarded. You see where this is going.

This medium is as old as painting and writing themselves. Those of us at one time or another disposed to flights in the direction of fanciful thought and stuck in the mud of very loosely grasped esotericism have offered, perhaps, that a particularly poetic painting or other work of art can legitimately be referred to as a visual poem. Indeed, it cannot. If something is poetic all it is, in the end, is poetic. Being poetic does not a poem make. So, all this gibberish to say that visual poems are not regular-Joe poems, they are not paintings; they are a sometimes-silly-other-times-stupid-often-poignant category unto themselves wherein people who can’t string together coherent sentences or draw actual figures combine their two non-talents to make something silly/stupid/poignant of them. I’m going to stop kidding around now and invite you to


“Labile” by Michael Basinski


“untitled” by Derek Beaulieu


“The Disremembered Glossolalist” by Peter Ciccariello


“alwaysendeavor” by Bob Dahlquist


“haiku #62” by Scott Helmes

All poems first published in Poetry magazine.

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-I kick your shins when we go out for meals-

by Paul Farley
from The Atlantic Tunnel

How good we are for each other, walking through
a land of silence and darkness. You
open doors for me, I answer the phone for you.

I play jungle loud. You read with the light on.
Beautiful. The curve of your cheekbone,
explosive vowels, exact use of cologne.

What are you thinking? I ask in a language of touch
unique to us. You tap my palm nothing much.
At stations we compete senses, see which

comes first—light in the tunnel, whiplash down the rail.
I kick your shins when we go out for meals.
You dab my lips. I finger yours like Braille.


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-every syllable becomes a sore-

The Wound
by Ruth Stone
The shock comes slowly
as an afterthought.

First you hear the words
and they are like all other words,

ordinary, breathing out of lips,
moving toward you in a straight line.

Later they shatter
and rearrange themselves. They spell

something else hidden in the muscles
of the face, something the throat wanted to say.

Decoded, the message etches itself in acid
so every syllable becomes a sore.

The shock blooms into a carbuncle.
The body bends to accommodate it.

A special scarf has to be worn to conceal it.
It is now the size of a head.

The next time you look,
it has grown two eyes and a mouth.

It is difficult to know which to use.
Now you are seeing everything twice.

After a while it becomes an old friend.
It reminds you every day of how it came to be.


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