Sunday, December 17, 2006

Sunday 10 December 2006

[Barthes, Le Grain de la voix]

I made a helicopter out of the feathers I found in Sherwood today. So many feathers! An angel must have crashed. I attached each gray quill to the end of a bare branch of my tulip tree. I used wet willow leaves to tie them on. Each of the lower branches jutted up into feathered fingers. If a tree could fly, this one would spin and whir and shoot up to the heavens.

"You could call this the "lyric escape"--something that poets have always indulged in, creating their own illusions to live by and denying the darkening plain of the 'real' world." (Lawrence Ferlinghetti, "Poetry As News," July 16, 2000)

Shakespeare speaks of escape. Of naming. The way the poet makes home. Is this sort of creating, this sort of escape, not in fact how we make landscape, make landscape our own? How we squat and inhabit space?

The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.



Moody clouds on the southern horizon. Blue sky above. My meadow had its first winter cut this week. The shredded leaves left behind are becoming part of the earth already, sifting down through the grass. Just two bodies, besides mine, on the 4-mile walk to Green Lake today. Coming and going from rooming houses along Aurora. The greens this time of year along Aurora are filled with light, with yellow, with light. Electricity. Things are bright within.


9:31am. 5 walkers, 5 runners and 1 dog pass in this one minute. 11 bodies move past my desk.


Thanks to Paul and Mara I have sought, found and ingested Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "Poetry as News" column from the San Francisco Chronicle Book Review. I have spent the last few days on the 1998-2001 entries. I find the column, in part, overly critical. In places it could dig deeper. Perhaps there was a line limit. Why lash out with the small space you're given? A line of praise would engage the reader just as well. But then the column is fairly informative and, at times, even provoking. And Ferlinghetti does, and this is of utmost importance, introduce a number of new poets. He opens his readers to the modern Greek poet, C. P. Cavafy. He reopens readers to Brecht, Brecht the poet. He encourages us to see the films of James Broughton. And he shares with us Ko Un, the unofficial poet of Korea. He tells the story of Ko Un's visit to City Lights, relates how he and Un traded poems and Sum-e brush drawings. And do you know what Ferlinghetti drew for Un? He drew the Ouroborous, the oldest mystical symbol in the world. The serpent swallowing its own tail. A circle. Green Lake.

From "Maternal Grandfather" by Ko Un

Look, if you sweep the yard well
the yard will laugh.
If the yard laughs,
the fence will laugh.
Even the morning-glories
blossoming on the fence will laugh.

-Translated by Brother Anthony of Taizé with the late Kim Young-Moo


All day I have been reading Cavafy to my visitors, "Waiting for the Barbarians" and "Che Fece…Il Gran Refiuto."

"Waiting for the Barbarians." When you are told poetry can do nothing, when you are told poetry doesn't matter, read this poem and talk again about what matters. What matters is thought and action. In every instance. Thought and action.

"Che Fece…Il Gran Refiuto." Words borrowed from Dante's Inferno. They translate to "Who made… the Great Refusal." The entire quote from the passage in Inferno reads "Che fece per vilta il gran refiuto," or "Who made, because of cowardice, the great refusal." Cavafy suggests that in life there are great Yeses and great Nos, that we must have the courage to make these choices, to face adversity and to act with morality. A morality we can seek and find nowhere but inside ourselves. Perhaps it is born in us? Those who have the great Yes when the great Yes is called for cannot help but draw upon it. Those who lack it can neither create it nor apologize for its absence.

3:40pm – mid-afternoon counter. 4 walkers pass and one child in a stroller pass in this one minute. 5 bodies move past my desk.


Cindy and Shawn took me away for tea to Green Lake Espresso, two blocks away. Something warm. Anything warm. The day has been full of rain and wind. Few visitors come in such weather. Good friends come in such weather.


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