“Terza Rima”, Richard Wilbur

Published in The New Yorker in 2008, here is a gem-like little poem by Richard Wilbur reflecting on the casual power of terza rima, the form in which Dante wrote the Commedia and also that of Robert Frost’s Acquainted With The Night:

In this great form, as Dante proved in Hell,
There is no dreadful thing that can’t be said
In passing. Here, for instance, one could tell

How our jeep skidded sideways toward the dead
Enemy soldier with the staring eyes,
Bumping a little as it struck his head,

And then flew on, as if toward Paradise.

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“Crossing the Jordan”, Matt Alberswerth

 

From the journal Prometheus Dreaming ,  I liked this poem by Matt Alberswerth which has strong echoes of Ted Hughes:

 

 

Crossing the Jordan

Did the fish hear me when my ankle broke the surface of the water?

They followed your steps with their glassy eyes.

What moved the branch as I walked beneath it?

It was a hungry wind.

When it touched my hair did I feel cold and scared?

Only as scared as you should. Only as cold as you were.

Were my feet cut by the creek’s rock bed?

It drank what blood there was.

Something warned me as I crossed water. What warned me?

It was a barred owl.

What warned me?

A horned grebe.

What warned me?

A fox, its belly full of stars.

At the middle of the river, the water was up to my knees. What saw me?

The fox kept watch, its belly full of stars.

How did I know?

You saw its shadow from bridge. It was cast by the moon.

What did I see?

You saw the fox was a wolf. Mother of darkness, specked with snow.

What did I see?

You saw the she-wolf drag the moon down.

What did I do when I saw the moon fall?

You dunked yourself in the water.

Did the cold water choke me?

It did and it does.

When the dark water cloaked me, did I feel cold and scared?

Only as cold as you were. Only as scared as you should.

“My Life by Water” – a found poem by M. Stone

I greatly enjoyed M Stone’s found poem “My Life By Water”, constructed using… well, you can follow the link to find out – and does it matter? It stands on its own merits as an evocative piece of writing with some interesting juxtapositions.

MY LIFE BY WATER
I rose from marsh mud.
I knew a clean man
I married
in the great snowfall.
Consider at the outset—
I am sick with the Time’s
tradition.
Keen and lovely man,
alcoholic dream.
I lost you to water, summer.
Now in one year
my life is hung up.
July, waxwings
hear
something in the water.
Along the river,
the graves—
traces of living things.

Writer M. Stone

I’m thrilled that my found poem “My Life by Water” is included in the new issue of Unlost Journal! Many thanks to the Editors.

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David Owen in the New Yorker on Noise Pollution

David Owen in the New Yorker on Noise Pollution

There’s an interesting and somewhat maddening story by David Owen in the current New Yorker on noise and health (both human and animal).

Interesting because, well this is something I am interested in. I for one can hardly get enough of this kind of thing:

We stepped into an adjacent room. “Here is our acoustic laboratory,” Christophe said. He handed me one of Bruitparif’s sound-monitoring devices, which he had helped invent. It’s called Medusa. It has four microphones, which stick out at various angles, hence the name. The armature that holds the microphones is bolted to a metal box roughly the size of an American loaf of bread. Inside it is a souped-up Raspberry Pi—a tiny, inexpensive computer, which was originally intended for use in schools and developing countries but is so powerful that it has been adopted, all over the world, for myriad other uses. (You can buy one on Amazon for less than forty bucks.) Embedded in the central microphone stalk are two tiny fish-eye cameras, mounted back to back, which record a three-hundred-and-sixty-degree image each minute. Medusas are the successors of Bruitparif’s first-generation sensors, called Sonopodes, which rely on expensive components imported from Japan. Sonopodes are still in use, although they are too big to move around easily. “The Japanese system is very good, but each one costs almost thirty thousand euros, and we can’t deploy it as much as we expect,” Christophe told me. “So we built our own system, which is small and low-cost. The idea is the same.” Bruitparif has installed fifty Medusas in the metropolitan area, and will add many more this summer.

And we should all be personally concerned with this issue:

Modern sound-related health threats extend far beyond music, and they affect more than hearing. Studies have shown that people who live or work in loud environments are particularly susceptible to many alarming problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, low birth weight, and all the physical, cognitive, and emotional issues that arise from being too distracted to focus on complex tasks and from never getting enough sleep.

In February, Bruitparif, a nonprofit organization that monitors environmental-noise levels in metropolitan Paris, published a reportthat combined medical projections from the World Health Organization with “noise maps” based partly on data from its own network of acoustic sensors. It concluded, among many other things, that an average resident of any of the loudest parts of the Île-de-France—which includes Paris and its surrounding suburbs—loses “more than three healthy life-years,” in the course of a lifetime, to some combination of ailments caused or exacerbated by the din of cars, trucks, airplanes, and trains. These health effects, according to guidelines published by the W.H.O.’s European regional office last year, include tinnitus, sleep disturbance, ischemic heart disease, obesity, diabetes, adverse birth outcomes, and cognitive impairment in children. In Western Europe, the guidelines say, traffic noise results in an annual loss of “at least one million healthy years of life.
Maddening, because little of this is news. Anyone who read any of a host of books and studies could tell you this. And the solutions are not pie-in-the-sky by any means. As Owen’s article ends:

“Machinery” by Robert Wrigley

On what would have been my father’s 87th Birthday this poem by Robert Wrigley seems fitting. It captures something of the tension between the worlds of literary endeavour and the practical, literal workaday world ; a world with, as Wrigley writes, its own evocative vocabulary and moments of poetry:

Machinery

by

 

My father loved every kind of machinery,

relished bearings, splines, windings, and cogs,

loved the tolerances between moving parts

and the parts that moved the parts,

the many separate machines of machinery.

Loved the punch, the awl, the ratchet, the pawl.

In-feed and out-feed rollers of the thickness planer,

its cutter head and cutters. The barrel and belt sanders,

the auger, capstan, windlass, and magneto.

Such a beautiful vocabulary in his work, words

he knew even if often he did not know

how they were spelled. Seals, risers, armatures.

Claw, ball-peen, sledge, dead-blow, mallet,

hammers all. Butt, mitered, half-lap,

tongue and groove; mortise and tenon,

biscuit, rabbet, dovetail, and box: all joints.

“A poem is a small (or large) machine

made of words,” said William Carlos Williams.

“To build the machine that makes the machine,”

said Elon Musk. Once my father repaired

a broken harpsichord but could not make it sing.

The chock, the bore, the chisel. He could hang a door,

rebuild an engine. Cylinders, pistons, and rings.

Shafts, crank and cam. Hand-cut notches

where the hinges sat. He loved the primary feathers

on the wings of a duck, extended and catching air,

catching also the tops of the whitecap waves

when it landed. Rods, valves, risers, and seals.

Ailerons and flaps, yaw control in the tail.

Machinery, machinery, machinery.

Four syllables in two iambic feet. A soft pulse.

Once I told him what Williams said,

he approached what I made with deeper interest

but no more understanding in the end.

The question he did not ask, that would have

embarrassed him to ask, the question I felt sure

he wanted to ask, the one I was too embarrassed 

to ask for him, was “What does it do?”

Eventually the machine his body was broken,

and now it is gone, and the mechanically inclined

machine in his head is also gone,

and most of his tools. The machines that made

the machines are gone too, but for a few

I have kept in remembrance. A fine wood plane

but not the thickness planer, which I would not know

how to use. A variety of clamps I use to clamp

things needing clamping. Frost said

“poetry is the sort of thing poets write.” My father

thought it was the sort of thing I wrote,

but what mattered to him was what it did.

What does it do, and what is it? 

A widget that resists conclusions.

A crank that turns a wheel

that turns. A declaration of truth

by a human being running at full speed

in a race with no one, toward nowhere

except away from the beginning and toward arrival.

Once my father watched the snow

and noted how landing on the earth it melted.

He said, “It’s snow that doesn’t know it’s rain.”

 

“From birthday to death-day we continue to collect and weave together the materials of our minute private universe, as a bird builds its nest “

“From birthday to death-day we continue to collect and weave together the materials of our minute private universe, as a bird builds its nest “

From the always interesting First Known When Lost here is a post with a wonderful piece of 0rose (rather than poetry, FKWL’s usual beat) by Walter de la Mare:

“As for our waking traffic with the world-at-large — and how infinitesimal a fraction of that is solely ours — what a medley this appears to be: loose, chancey, piecemeal, formless. From birthday to death-day we continue to collect and weave together the materials of our minute private universe, as a bird builds its nest, and out of a myriad heterogeneous scraps we give it a certain shape and coherence, wherein to lay our treasured brittle eggs. But how little life itself respects the rational, adapts itself to our convenience, discloses its aim, explains the rules — despite the fact that every thread of it that is ours is weaving itself into a gossamer fabric thinner even than dreamed-of moonshine, which we call the Past; and which, when in recollection we attempt to record and arrange it and to give it something of a pattern, we shall call autobiography. Nature, inscrutable mistress of her vast household, even although man assumes himself to be her fairy godchild, shows him a fickle favouritism, destroys him if he ignores her, and is indulgent only if he obeys to the last iota her every edict, her every whim. She is; she perpetuates herself; as if she herself were bemused and in a dream — with her seasons and her weather, her greenery and stars and her multitudes; creating, destroying, never at rest.”

“The Sonnet Is Dead”, a sonnet by Joanna Cleary

From the Summer 2018 issue of Temz Review here is a sonnet (of course) by Joanna Cleary. I like its ironic treatment of contemporary lit crit certainties. And of course, the poem itself subverts the title:

The Sonnet is Dead
By Joanna Cleary

The sonnet is dead; we’ve talked it to death.
Love is complicated, political.
And what could be more complicated than
a sonnet? They are always ironic,
my professor said sternly to the class.
Always. The idea is ironized
in the sestet. I was still half-asleep,
retracing my pen over the octave,
thinking that it first could have been written
on a day as rain-splattered as today,
and the poet could have walked home slowly
with both feet wet from stepping in puddles
as sunlight appeared in the sky again
to touch water drops shining on cobwebs.