Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finding a New Poet: To Accept the Day - Halfway to a House - by Rosa Alice Branco

The view from Anam Cara

It is indeed a grand morning when one awakes to the discovery of a new poet. Thank you Joele Biele for introducing me to Portugese poet Rosa Alice Branco - her use of syntax startles me most (in a good way) and her building of intimacy;  both make me wonder how I could have not known her work before just now. What a pleasure!

Mornings on the Ground
Rosa Alice Branco

To accept the day.  What will come.
To pass through more streets than houses,
more people than streets.  To pass through
skin to the other side. While I make
and unmake the day.  Your heart
sleeps with me.  It wraps me up at night
and the mornings are cold when I get up.
And I'm always asking where you are and why
the streets no longer are rivers.  At times
a drop of water falls to the ground
as if it were a tear.  At times
there isn't ground enough to soak it up.

--tr. Alexis Levitin, New European Poets, Miller & Prufer, eds

Halfway to a House

I take light from the closet drawers. The first day
of fall. And all those years at the bottom.
Before, it wasn't me. It was a house under construction.
I before myself. Now I dismantle the summer,
dresses flying, naked feet beside a dress.
Time loses itself in the change of the seasons,
but in this loss someone exists in me.
A voice laughs deep within the closet.
The sun so low, in the bottom drawer.
--tr. Alexis Levitin

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tracy K. Smith and Life on Mars

Here's a lovely review of Tracy K. Smith's newest collection, Life on Mars, which includes strong poems on her father's death, childbirth, and telling moments of our times. Her second book, The Duende Poems is one of my favorite books of all times. There is also an excellent essay on the Poetry Foundation web site by her on language and translation (which I cannot find this morning but have printed out in the past). Check her out; I believe she's a poet we will be hearing much more from...and certainly about.

Poems of Childhood, Grief,  and Deep Space
by Joel Brouer

I won’t blame you for not believing this: The photograph on the cover of Tracy K. Smith’s “Life on Mars” is the same one I see every day on my computer desktop. It’s a dramatic and vivid picture from the Hubble Space Telescope, with colors I imagine J. M. W. Turner would have admired, of the Cone Nebula, a pillar of dust and gas some 2,500 light-years from Earth. Scientists say it’s an incubator for baby stars. I’ve long used the image as an efficient and emphatic corrective for solipsism. I look at it when I find myself fretting about, say, book review deadlines or my spotty gym attendance. You can’t simultaneously contemplate the vastness of the universe and take such problems seriously.

Click here to continue reading New York Times review.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

New Madrid Review - Summer Issue and Fall Theme on Japan

My past year has been wildly busy in terms of public appearances but I have been slacking in terms of sending out new work. This makes the publication of three poems in the new new madrid even sweeter. Two of the poems concern my time fleeing a fire in Spain and I sent them to new madrid review in part because of the journal's name. However, if I had read the small print on the website I would have seen this lovely explanation: 

New Madrid is the national journal of the low-residency MFA program at Murray State University. It takes its name from the New Madrid seismic zone, which falls within the central Mississippi Valley and extends through western Kentucky. Between 1811 and 1812, four earthquakes with magnitudes greater than 7.0 struck this region, changing the course of the Mississippi River, creating Reelfoot Lake in Tennessee and ringing church bells as far away as Boston.

In any case, I am happy that editor-in-chief (and great poet) Ann Neelon and crew enjoyed the work enough to take three pieces -- related to Spain or not. The journal has incredibly high production values and an international focus. My favorite poems here (and there are many to choose from) are translations (Peter Golub) from the Russian poet, Aleksey Porvin.

Submissions are currently open for the Winter 2012 issue themed on artistic commerce between Japan and the United States. Keep reading for more information...

Winter 2012
Submissions open August 15, 2011 and go through October 15.
Our Winter 2012 issue will be dedicated to the theme of artistic commerce between Japan and the United States. Though we originally intended our Japan in America/America in Japan issue as an acknowledgment of MSU’s recently instituted Japanese majorthe first to be offered in the commonwealth of Kentuckywe have expanded its purpose to include commemoration of the victims of the March 2011 earthquake and consequent tsunami and nuclear emergency in Japan.
We are looking for work in all literary genres that gives evidence of the dynamic interaction between Japanese and American cultures. Possible categories of interest include: literary responses to the earthquake and its aftereffects; responses to classical Japanese poetry and poetics; responses to the work of Kenzaburo Oe, Kobo Abe, Haruki Murakami and other modern and postmodern Japanese fiction writers; work in new Japanese literary forms inspired by manga, cell phone texts, etc.; translations of Japanese literary works into English; literary travel writing by Americans visiting Japan or by Japanese visiting the United States; work about Japanese immigration to the United States, the internment of Japanese-American citizens in the United States during World War II, the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, or along other historical themes; new takes on traditional Japanese aesthetics and/or spiritual practices.
All submissions should be of interest to the general reader. Please do not submit scholarly articles.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Horses at Coole Park, Home of Lady Gregory, Friend to W.B. Yeats

Horses at Coole River in Coole Park. This is the grounds of Lady Gregory's house where Yeats did much of his writing. How nice to have an intelligent and well-heeled patron. How nice to have a sunny day in the west of Ireland.

We also went to Yeats Tower where he lived with his wife George. The tower has been shut for the past two years which makes the beauty of the land all the stronger. We had the place to ourselves today and read poems to each other on the bridge just before the tower. A day to remember.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dinner in Galway with Poets and Writers

Dinner salad with borage and mango
This isn't just any salad, this is a salad picked by poets this morning. My friend, poet Geraldine Mills, and her sister, Tina, have "a tunnel" which they've built and filled with greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, and zucchini. With the exception of one perfect mango and a flutter of cashews, everything in this bowl was poet grown. (Special thanks to Peter Moore and Bobby Ledwith who have graciously supported this endeavor).

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Good-bye to Eyeries

Goodnight Eyeries, Goodnight
I hope to return to this village one day. One week just isn't enough. Tonight there were more adventures, but I'll keep that for another time. Here are photographs of the village taken yesterday by me.

Monday, August 8, 2011

At the Cheesemaker's: Visting Milleens

At Milleens
This was our morning field trip, across the road, to the right of the graveyard and up the hill. Milleens is the magical, soft floral cheese that we've eaten with our supper most nights. It also appears to be the favorite cheese of the royals - as was evident during their visit to the English market in Cork this year. Everything about the geography of this place, the men (the women were out of town) who make the cheese, and the taste of the cheese itself seems out of a storybook from another era.

One of the things that interested me the most was an aside when Norman mentioned that we were also standing in a place called Milleens which included his house, his son's house, the cheese-making cottage, and a swatch of pasture land. Like Anam Cara, we were about a fifteen minute walk from the village of Eyeries, but clearly not part of the village. It struck me that this is how villages, towns, and cities are born. Somebody builds a house, then his son (in this case) builds a second house...Perhaps this is too obvious to be of interest, but I've never been inside the experience before.

I also learned that they keep the milk at "blood temperature" as they add just a minuscule amount of rennet, that when finished, the cheese is cut with an instrument called a "harp." I also learned how clearly cheese-making is a way of life filled with incredible beauty but also the real dangers of pasteurization, and how much science goes into the process.

Milleens is world famous. They make one type of cheese in two sizes. That's it. It's like a poem of cheese. Norman, the cheese maker lives in a modest house next to the cheese making cottage. The planters outside his house are cast off cheese making machinery. It does my heart good to know that art and commerce can live so harmoniously here.
The cheese, the cheese maker, and me

Check out the cheese on the bottom, right. Make that the south side.

Basket of Irish products given to the Queen at English Market, Cork

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Anam Cara - Evening

Let evening come

Anam Cara - Day Six

Morning rain outside my window

I'm happy to report that my day of work as play did make a difference. I have two new pieces started although I've little idea where they're going. I also found lots of fragments in my notebook and in old files. I've let go of the idea that nothing I'm doing at the moment has a focus and trying to give myself over to the unexpected. The novelists this morning were speaking about outlines and timelines and I knew once again that I don't work that way. 

Instead, I'm deep into rereading Trapeze by poet Deborah Diggs. It is a stellar book - my favorite by any contemporary poet, I think. And so back to reading, thinking, and staring out windows. 

Friday, August 5, 2011

Anam Cara - Day Five

Damn, I started counting my days here one day late. Today already marks my halfway point which is sad indeed. If you are thinking of coming here, give yourself more time than you think you will need. Getting over jet lag, especially from the west coast will take a few days even in the best of circumstances.

And of course poems don't like to be rushed. Who does? Today I'm scouring old notebooks for abandoned work. It's a lesson I need again and again. Most of my poems start as dreck, as unreadable slosh. There's only a glimmer of what I'm beginning to think.

Yet, if I don't let myself write badly, I will never write at all.

A friend told me of an experiment she read of in the book Art and Fear. Both groups of people were told to make clay pots. One group was instructed to make the best one pot that they could. They worked hard. The second group was told they'd be judged on the number of pots they threw. Pot after pot with little angst over the shape of any one piece. The group that improved the most, that created the best art, (don't ask me how they judged this) was the second group.

Why is it so hard to let myself throw a pile of poems? But that's today's goal. Not to finish anything, not to worry about the calendar waving its pages away.

Of course I'm already cheating by going back through old notebooks and I do it because the new pieces I'm writing feel frightfully bad. But how unfair to judge them in the first minutes after creation. I'd love to know how others allow themselves this initial writing stage with less self-loathing. I think at the moment there has been so little time in my life to write this last year that I'm moving through sludge. I'm hoping that over the next few days something will let go. And even if it doesn't -- I have to admit I'm pretty happy watching the clouds and the cows.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Anam Cara, Day Two

Late morning outside my window
So here I am with the cows and gorgeous village of Eyeries in the distance. What would a visit to Ireland be without the rain? And perhaps the mist is why the houses in Eyeries are painted in bright colors -- all gold and purple and blue. This little village (one tearoom, one restaurant) is currently hosting a gallery show. Sue Booth-Forbes (proprietress extraordinaire of Anam Cara) recently organized a comprehensive show of artists and somehow arranged for every storefront and home on the main road to participate. In one window, three generations of local artists have hung their work. Some of the paintings are for sale, but many are works the artists do for themselves.

My work goes slowly, but I have (nearly) finished a poem that had been hanging around my computer files for a couple of years. I almost like it. And for me, that's pretty good.

The jet lag is playing strange games with my head. After three hours of deep sleep, I woke up and spent from 2 am until 6 am wide awake. A good time to read and write. One Irish poet I've just discovered is Leanne O'Sullivan author of Waiting for my Clothes. As Billy Collins says "A teenage Virgil, she guides us down some of the more hellish corridors of adolescence with a voice that's strong and true." By the age of twenty-one she had won most of the top prizes in Ireland and is also featured in Billy Collin's Poetry 180.

Returning to a country for the third time has all the potency of a third date. Will the relationship go further? Is this the one for me? How will my love be returned? Yes, yes, and we'll see.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

On a Writing Retreat at Anam Cara - The View Outside My Window

Anam Cara, West Cork
Travel is about intention, not expectation. You throw your body in a taxi, a few airplanes, a giant bus, and a mini van. Why? To see what happens on the other side. After nearly 48 hours of travel, I'm here. I woke up to sun and mountains and sea. This morning I've explored a waterfall, a small island, and met Jack the Jack Russell. Life slows down immensely and leaves the self with the self. Now what happens? For one thing, I am hoping to find my way into new poems, a new way perhaps of approaching poetry. Every few years i find i become tired of my own voice and that's where i am today.

There's still the village of Eyeries to explore and the beach. But for now it's the silence that draws me. Silence mixed with a bit of breeze and the water against stone.

For more information on this heavenly spot you can check out Anam Cara on-line, but trust me it is nothing at all like physically sitting right here.