Monday, March 31, 2014

Shanna Compton

I want to look Shanna Compton's poems, especially the ones in Poemeleon. Her poem "The one she sent & the one she received" is just beautiful. She has this amazing way of nailing openings, and this one I think is excellent:

A pear, ripe enough to taste two rooms away.

A waxed pear, an idea of Pear.

A lank of hair, tied with twine, enclosed in an envelope on which their names are written.

I'd also like to take a look at her poem "In half-asleep love" in Coconut volume one, which has this great undercurrent of the sea, of the shifting ground in the language. It really makes the poem interesting, and the opening is just great.

This is the opening:

I hush the peaches
the darkened kitchen
eerily clean in the
stainless gleam [...]

She has this great ability at immediate, beginning passages that are just incredible, way beyond usual stuff, which continues in her poem "Even a Zoo"--what a great combination in these two lines with the title. It actually reminds me when I was at the zoo in Washington, D.C. in autumn. It's great at sense of place and I love the clear emotion that's conveyed:

The dawn arrived and the plums fell.
We were both naïve and bold.

I even like her very late twentieth century in tone poem "Bubble Up"'s opening, despite not usually having many modern, punch-drunk, Tom Wolfe Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test-esque feelings:

Blue drunk on applejacked burst
bulbs the buzzed of lower lawns mown

Heather Brinkman

I want to focus on Heather Brinkman for a moment. I was reading Coconut Poetry volume four and she stood out immediately--so inventive, interesting, with a huge sense of everything fully formed. Now typically I am mostly a fan of typical format poetry, the canon and even the Modernists who don't stray too far--but I love all her choices here.

Her work was a perfect example of how a more modern format can be done in an invigorating way. Too often you see people who recklessly try odd formats and it's more of a quirk than a real way of expressing anything. What is poetry if not expression, if not something to stir feeling?

I loved her work here in Shampoo Poetry as well, especially her lines--it's looking at a backwards doppelgänger of Hilda Doolittle, sometimes even down to the steps of feeling:

my whorehouse your heart
a burning violet 

My favorite lines of her work in Coconut were:

x      x      x

iris of rapscallion (impassible)


South African goddess as caliper


the scarlet has expired
on a devolution

and you are
but a man gone

Hilda Doolittle

This is an excerpt from H.D.'s 1921 poetry book Hymen. I love the progression through the three stanzas, the odd fixation on spotless white gets more and more eerie, especially against the smell of myrtle and the background of the crocuses, which are light pale purple. 

But of herWe can say that she is fair.We bleached the fillet,Brought the myrtle;To us the task was setOf knotting the fine threads of silk:We fastened the veil,And over the white footDrew on the painted shoeSteeped in Illyrian crocus.[11]
But of her,Who can say if she is fair?For her head is covered overWith her mantleWhite on white,Snow on whiter amaranth,Snow on hoar-frost,Snow on snow,Snow on whitest buds of myrrh.
But of her,We can say that she is fair;For we know underneathAll the wanness,All the heat(In her blanched face)Of desireIs caught in her eyes as fireIn the dark center leafOf the white Syrian iris.

Jeffrey Yang

Jeffrey Yang is a standout poet that immediately caught my eye in the Zoland Poetry Journal here. His "Two Spanish Poems", part 'II. An Archaeology' is incredible. I especially want to highlight the excellent beginning and end.

I immediately thought of Thomas Wilmer Dewing's "A garden" painting in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. Yang has a great Imagist sense, but really excels past that, and is able to bring emotion into it. Many in this style aren't strong in that area, but Yang has it. The language, endless glances of an almost time elapse of motion, and mood are all impeccable.

It begins:

onyx light
travertine, green
marble walls

And ends with:

a black cat reclines
on the rough white stone
sun, tail-
line of stone benches
M. and I sit, lean
hand in hand against
wall, sun-
blinds us with
reflecting white
parrot shapes
flap in the grassy distance 


This is a look at a classic--"Ode to a Nightingale" by Keats [here with other poems]. It's a poem that starts out making you think of the expatriates of Hemingway and Fitzgerald's generation, but then it takes a turn in another direction.

By the end, you're plunged into an odd, deeper territory that is reminiscent of the strange, eerie moments of Petronius's Roman classic The Satyricon. It's really quite a poem that encroaches upon you, slowly distracting you with Greek pastoral asides until you notice how many words should be making you nervous--the way you would be if you happened upon a group of drunk, ecstatic and willingly drugged maenads.

Moments like "I cannot see", and "Fast fading violets", "verdurous glooms" and "the alien corn" pile up upon each other and you realize this is a very strange, unique poem. It's like it out-Poe's Poe. Even at the end there's another distraction, because at this point it doesn't seem to matter if the narrator is awake or dreaming--it's clearly time to come to your senses and run. This poem should be required reading every Halloween.

I like to approach classics in the sense of their enjoyability. Of course, all texts can teach us and educate us, but pure excitement is important. If you introduce someone to Keats right, they will love him. The classic poets [in any canon, in any language] shouldn't be a horrible slog of homework but a refuge from the world, something that brings everyone comfort.

Contrast "Ode to a Nightingale" with the first stanza of "To Autumn" [here], the difference in feeing is huge.

My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
'Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thine happiness,—
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.

O, for a draught of vintage! that hath been
Cool'd a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provençal song, and sunburnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:

Fade far away, dissolve, and quite forget
What thou among the leaves hast never known,
The weariness, the fever, and the fret
Here, where men sit and hear each other groan;
Where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs,

Where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies;
Where but to think is to be full of sorrow
And leaden-eyed despairs,
Where Beauty cannot keep her lustrous eyes,
Or new Love pine at them beyond to-morrow.

Away! away! for I will fly to thee,
Not charioted by Bacchus and his pards,
But on the viewless wings of Poesy,
Though the dull brain perplexes and retards:
Already with thee! tender is the night,
And haply the Queen-Moon is on her throne,
Cluster'd around by all her starry Fays;
But here there is no light,
Save what from heaven is with the breezes blown
Through verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways.

I cannot see what flowers are at my feet,
Nor what soft incense hangs upon the boughs,
But, in embalmed darkness, guess each sweet
Wherewith the seasonable month endows
The grass, the thicket, and the fruit-tree wild;
White hawthorn, and the pastoral eglantine;
Fast fading violets cover'd up in leaves;
And mid-May's eldest child,
The coming musk-rose, full of dewy wine,
The murmurous haunt of flies on summer eves.

Darkling I listen; and, for many a time
I have been half in love with easeful Death,
Call'd him soft names in many a mused rhyme,
To take into the air my quiet breath;
Now more than ever seems it rich to die,

To cease upon the midnight with no pain,
While thou art pouring forth thy soul abroad
In such an ecstasy!
Still wouldst thou sing, and I have ears in vain—
To thy high requiem become a sod.

Thou wast not born for death, immortal Bird!
No hungry generations tread thee down;
The voice I hear this passing night was heard
In ancient days by emperor and clown:
Perhaps the self-same song that found a path
Through the sad heart of Ruth, when, sick for home,
She stood in tears amid the alien corn;
The same that oft-times hath
Charm'd magic casements, opening on the foam
Of perilous seas, in faery lands forlorn.

Forlorn! the very word is like a bell
To toll me back from thee to my sole self!
Adieu! the fancy cannot cheat so well
As she is fam'd to do, deceiving elf.
Adieu! adieu! thy plaintive anthem fades
Past the near meadows, over the still stream,
Up the hill-side; and now 'tis buried deep
In the next valley-glades:
Was it a vision, or a waking dream?
Fled is that music:—Do I wake or sleep?


This is an excerpt from Yeats that I think really encapsulates why he was such a force in the push for Celtic appreciation, in art, language, sport and culture. This stanza [here is all of it] from "The Wanderings of Oisin" [the final name sometimes spelled Usheen] has a seductive otherworldliness, where you want to know what's going to happen next.

Both of these excerpts are a little like the tone of Keat's "Eve of St Agnes" and many of the creepy moments in C.S. Lewis's The Magician's Nephew. It also has the same dangerous mystery of certain parts of Beowulf, in Heaney's translation.


Book II


We rode between
The seaweed-covered pillars, and the green
And surging phosphorus alone gave light
On our dark pathway, till a countless flight
Of moonlit steps glimmered; and left and right
Dark statues glimmered over the pale tide
Upon dark thrones. [...] 

And I gazed on the bell-branch, sleep's forebear, far sung by the Sennachies.
I saw how those slumberers, grown weary, there camping in grasses deep,
282Of wars with the wide world and pacing the shores of the wandering seas,
Laid hands on the bell-branch and swayed it, and fed of unhuman sleep. [...]


John Keats [1795-1821] encapsulates something that I feel many think about poetry--some of his work is incredible, with other pieces don't touch you as strongly. He's a poet who ranges widely in mood. "Eve of St. Agnes" is one of his classics, but I do not love the entire thing. You can read a lot of Keats here.

I think you can take different things from poetry--from some pieces, the mood, or some middle lines, or some phrasing. When people approach the greats, the classic poets, it's important to keep this in mind. For example, someone who doesn't like many of Shakespeare's plays [except say Hamlet] may love his sonnets. And someone who doesn't like Romeo and Juliet can realize how beautiful the language is if they read a copy where the opposite pages have definitions of all the archaic terms.

It's also important to remember that the deluge of lines in older poetry is hard for us modern people to truly hear. We have faster, shorter everything, and have not been trained our whole lives to read long poems. Approach large poems slowly at different times, and you'll get something new and different out of it each time.

Here are some lines I love from Eve of St. Agnes, just small sections:

The hare limp'd trembling through the frozen grass, [...]

Upon the honey'd middle of the night,If ceremonies due they did aright; [...]

Rose-bloom fell on her hands, together prest,And on her silver cross soft amethyst, [...]
her vespers done,Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees; [...]
And still she slept an azure-lidded sleep,In blanched linen, smooth, and lavender'd,

Hilda Doolittle

H.D., aka Hilda Dolittle [1886-1961], was an incredibly great American Imagist poet during the Modernist era at the turn of the century. Her work is classic, very neo-classical like Pound's, but with a sharper focus.

She wrote several books of poetry, which are great, and she wrote an amazing book-long poem on Helen of Troy--if you love ancient Greece and Imagist work, you need to give it a try! Look here to read some of her work online. The long poem is called Helen in Egypt, you can buy it here, and a good large collection of her work can be bought here. Here is a classic piece by her, and another famous one below it:


You are clear,
O rose, cut in rock,
hard as the descent of hail.

I could scrape the colour
from the petal,
like spilt dye from a rock.

If I could break you
I could break a tree.

If I could stir
I could break a tree,
I could break you.
O wind,
rend open the heat,
cut apart the heat,
rend it sideways.

Fruit can not drop
through this thick air:
fruit can not fall into heat
that presses up and blunts
the points of pears
and rounds the grapes.

Cut the heat,
plough through it,
turning it on either side
of your path.


I saw the first pearas it fell—the honey-seeking, golden-banded,the yellow swarmwas not more fleet than I,(spare us from loveliness)and I fell prostratecrying:you have flayed uswith your blossoms,spare us the beautyof fruit-trees.
The honey-seekingpaused not,the air thundered their song,and I alone was prostrate.
O rough-hewngod of the orchard,I bring you an offering—do you, alone unbeautiful,son of the god,spare us from loveliness:
these fallen hazel-nuts,stripped late of their green sheaths,grapes, red-purple,their berriesdripping with wine,pomegranates already broken,and shrunken figsand quinces untouched,I bring you as offering.


Yeats is someone who can draw you in or turn you away--and fast. He wrote in many styles, and depending on which you get, your whole opinion of him can change three sixty degrees. Here's a great poem by him that is both beautiful in its own right and reminiscent of Donne. And here's more by him.


Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there;
From joy the holy branches start,
And all the trembling flowers they bear.
The changing colours of its fruit
Have dowered the stars with merry light;
The surety of its hidden root
Has planted quiet in the night;
The shaking of its leafy head
Has given the waves their melody,
And made my lips and music wed,
Murmuring a wizard song for thee.
There, through bewildered branches, go
Winged Loves borne on in gentle strife,
Tossing and tossing to and fro
The flaming circle of our life.
When looking on their shaken hair,
144And dreaming how they dance and dart,
Thine eyes grow full of tender care:
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart. [...]

Ezra Pound

Pound's poems often make me think of Cy Twombly, the painter. They both focus on ancient Greece quite a bit. Twombly is so strange and seems to hint at forests, cold white Greek statuary, the white stone of Ezra Pound’s cantos, and moss, soft under your feet as you trek by.

Pound said in Canto XVII:
And shipped thence
to the stone place,
Pale white, over water,
known water,
And the white forest of marble, bent bough over bough,
The pleached arbour of stone

Pound's work in Lustra [here] is great too, with classic, simple neo-classical lines and scenes, like in

The Spring

Cydonian spring with her attendant train,
Maelids and water-girls,
Stepping beneath a boisterous wind from Thrace,
Throughout this sylvan place
Spreads the bright tips,
And every vine-stock is
Clad in new brilliancies.
                                      And wild desire
Falls like black lightning.
O bewildered heart,
Though every branch have back what last year
She, who moved here amid the cyclamen,
Moves only now a clinging tenuous ghost.

His other work in Personae [here] is great too, like this one--it's so mysterious and makes me immediately think of Sappho and John William Godward:


Unto thine eyes my heart
Sendeth old dreams of the spring-time,
Yea of wood-ways my rime
Found thee and flowers in and of all streams
That sang low burthen, and of roses,
That lost their dew-bowed petals for the dreams
We scattered o'er them passing by.


One poem I love is by A. C. Swinburne [1837-1909], called "Pan and Thalassius" [and more here]--it has an incredible moment of passion and is both Greek and universal in its feeling. The stanza below I've excerpted is one I think that speaks to the maenad or Dionysian reveler in all of us, and the desire of all people to feel true abandon, joy, love and power.

The joy of the wild woods never
Leaves free of the thirst it slakes:The wild love throbs in us everThat burns in the dense hot brakes

Many don't have lives that allow for self-expression or even a lot of freedom, but that feeling still lives on inside the heart. Here is the whole thing:


O sea-stray, seed of Apollo,What word wouldst thou have with me?My ways thou wast fain to followOr ever the years hailed theeMan.
NowIf August brood on the valleys,If satyrs laugh on the lawns,What part in the wildwood alleysHast thou with the fleet-foot fauns—Thou?
See!Thy feet are a man's—not clovenLike these, not light as a boy's:The tresses and tendrils inwovenThat lure us, the lure of them cloysThee.
[Pg 216]UsThe joy of the wild woods neverLeaves free of the thirst it slakes:The wild love throbs in us everThat burns in the dense hot brakesThus.
Life,Eternal, passionate, awless,Insatiable, mutable, dear,Makes all men's law for us lawless:We strive not: how should we fearStrife?
We,The birds and the bright winds know notSuch joys as are ours in the mildWarm woodland; joys such as grow notIn waste green fields of the wildSea.
No;Long since, in the world's wind veering,Thy heart was estranged from me:Sweet Echo shall yield thee not hearing:What have we to do with thee?Go.

The Song of Roland

Another example is The Song of Roland [here], the epic poem about Charlemagne’s great knight in battle. The strange, esoteric phrase ‘AOI’ repeats often after stanzas–it has a strange magnetic quality to it for some reason.

I like this excerpt below especially. Alde is the woman who was to marry Roland but he’s just died, when she finds out, she collapses and dies from shock and grief. It's simple but sad, and it's a moving moment in the Roland epic:

Alde the fair is gone now to her rest.  
  Yet the King thought she was but swooning then,  
  Pity he had, our Emperour, and wept,  
  Took her in's hands, raised her from th'earth again;  
  On her shoulders her head still drooped and leant.  
  When Charles saw that she was truly dead  
  Four countesses at once he summoned;  
  To a monast'ry of nuns they bare her thence,  
  All night their watch until the dawn they held;  
  Before the altar her tomb was fashioned well;  
  Her memory the King with honour kept.


Hugo’s ‘A Sunset’ I like, (translated by Francis Thompson):
I love the evenings, passionless and fair, I love the evens,                                       
Whether old manor-fronts their ray with golden fulgence leavens,                       
In numerous leafage bosomed close;                                                                                 
Whether the mist in reefs of fire extend its reaches sheer,                                         
Or a hundred sunbeams splinter in an azure atmosphere                                        
On cloudy archipelagos. [...]

Here's another poem, "How Butterflies Are Born" translated by A. Lang, which is light and soothing, a reminder of the gentle garden verses of Coleridge and the gentle relaxation of spring. I think there are poems for all moods and times and seasons, and this is one for a sweet moment or Valentine's Day:

("Comme le matin rit sur les roses.")
     {Bk. I. xii.}
     The dawn is smiling on the dew that covers
     The tearful roses—lo, the little lovers—
     That kiss the buds and all the flutterings
     In jasmine bloom, and privet, of white wings
     That go and come, and fly, and peep, and hide
     With muffled music, murmured far and wide!
     Ah, Springtime, when we think of all the lays
     That dreamy lovers send to dreamy Mays,
     Of the proud hearts within a billet bound,
     Of all the soft silk paper that men wound,
     The messages of love that mortals write,
     Filled with intoxication of delight,
     Written in April, and before the Maytime
     Shredded and flown, playthings for the winds' playtime.
     We dream that all white butterflies above,
     Who seek through clouds or waters souls to love,
     And leave their lady mistress to despair,
     To flirt with flowers, as tender and more fair,
     Are but torn love-letters, that through the skies
     Flutter, and float, and change to Butterflies.


Sunday, March 30, 2014


Haiku is something many assume isn't for them, but there are people writing new poems in that format every day, all over the globe. Chances are, some will be ones you'll love. I say this because it happened to me.

I love this poem by Marili Deandrea:

luna d’aprile                                       April moon
qualcuno sta piangendo                      someone is mourning
fra i ciliegi                                          out among the cherry trees

And this one:
alba irlandese -                                   Irish dawn-
su prati di smeraldo                            about emerald meadows
eco di arpe                                          echo of harps

I can tell you, that's what it felt like in the little roads of Ireland. Everywhere around you were endless sheets of bright green, and people did have harps in the oddest locations. The music was incredible.

Of course, haiku by the famous masters Basho, Buson, Issa and Shiki are amazing too. I will be sure to highlight them as well--I'm a huge fan of all of them.

Arthur Waley

Today I want to focus on Arthur Waley. He translated a book of Chinese poems [here], much like Ezra Pound did. This book was famously the first poetry volume bought by Paul Bowles, a famous expatriate American who lived in Morocco. Bowles wrote fiction, composed music alongside friend Aaron Copland and recorded traditional Moroccan music for the Library of Congress.

These poems are fascinating, both for their brilliance, their anonymous writers and their source in ancient times. The poem "The old harp" is a really interesting look at music, even though you must keep in mind that Chinese music evolved on its own path. Thinking about how it's similar to ancient Greek music is interesting, though--because both differ a lot from classical music [ie. baroque, classical, romantic, modern]. It reads:

Of cord and cassia-wood is the harp compounded:Within it lie ancient melodies.Ancient melodies—weak and savourless,Not appealing to present men’s taste.Light and colour are faded from the jade stops:Dust has covered the rose-red strings.Decay and ruin came to it long ago,But the sound that is left is still cold and clear.I do not refuse to play it, if you want me to:But even if I play, people will not listen.How did it come to be neglected so?Because of the Ch’iang flute and the Ch’in flageolet. --footnoted with this piece of information: [these are barbarous modern instruments]

An incredible moment from anonymous poem "Fighting south of the castle" from around 124 b.c.brings home the horror of war and death--even just the fear we all bear of death and suffering: 

Crows, how can our bodies escape you?
The waters flowed deepAnd the rushes in the pool were dark.The riders fought and were slain:Their horses wander  [...]

Major Jackson

Today I want to look at Major Jackson's poem "Urban Renewal" [here]. His own website is here, and two other great poems of his are here.

His slow, meandering walk through what reminded me of a tour I walked out alone in Rome is incredible. For a second I thought these were just my thoughts, if I were a descendent of Coleridge. Jackson's work is incredible. I mean, the sense of place comes across incredibly, no matter where you're relating it to in your head. I loved this section:
Never get used to the morning slow prayers of palm
leaves, the feisty light caressing the cubed
halls on the hills [...]

He has great language and a wonderful amount of ambiguity, for example I loved these lines:
[...] what you grieve is not
the sublime change of seasons, but the minor
hurts you caused in loving too many women.

And the end is excellent too. He's got such a hint of Shakespeare on the edges of his Byronic heart--it seems intense yet delicate and refined at the same time. And part 'xxv. Salobreña' of "Urban Renewal" is really good, it's such a blend of love, and dormant power and Hemingway, especially these lines:

[...]  Her dress spills across the restaurant's floor
like a red shadow, darker than billboards of black bulls
[...] All seeing is an act of war.

G.L. Ford

Today I want to focus on an excellent poet, G.L. Ford, who could have given the Imagists a run for their money. His chapbook Landscapes of Fire and Music is incredible.

His lines are so multi-layered, and call back to so many ancient atmospheres, like this from part 5 of "Canticle Flesh", it's so much sand of Algeria and Morocco and the terror of Set at the same time:
[...] red blossoms from pastures of sand

I also loved his very Gabriele d'Annunzio feeling, and the little moments that felt as great as Hughes best work--or even Seamus Heaney:
from the wreckage
of orchids and ice colliding mid-heaven [...]

I can garb myself in broken twigs, honey, blood, dawnspill [...]

vines swathe the traffic sign, glossolalia of green

He's got such a weight behind his words, so much intellect. Simple poems are great, but just like food, richer, more complex poems can be amazing. There are different flavors, categories and types of poems.

Here's a review of more of his work.

Marosa di Giorgio

Marosa di Giorgio is someone I want to focus on today. She lived from 1932 to 2004 and was from Uruguay. She wrote a lot of poetry, including The History of Violetswhich has been translated.

Here's a review that discusses Marosa, another review, another review, a review and another translation of her work. They're great reading. Here's a hugely in depth look at the translation, Spanish construction and musicality of Marosa's work. Here are some more poems. Buy a cheap copy of The History of Violets, and read the digital proofs online for quick reference.

She is an incredible poet, with a very pure style of imagery, like a pared down Neruda. She never makes his mistakes; I love him, but no one's perfect. Her lines are a very pre-modern type of Imagism, but the lack of neo-classical atmosphere doesn't diminish the work at all. Here's a line that I liked:

When I look toward the past, I only see perplexing things: sugar, jasmine, white wine, black wine, [...]

Marosa has amazing balance, and great lyrical descriptions. Another except phrase is: [... it] illuminates them, wraps them in candied paper; [...]

Marosa's work has a sense of the supernatural, a sense of regular, wild nature showing its overlooked beauties. Here's a longer quote that gives you a sense of her from poem XIX:

Above the ground, through the air, in the full moon’s light, like a lily’s stem, bending over incessantly, it adds on hyacinths, lilies, narcissi. The wolves draw back at the sight of it; the lambs get down on their knees, crazy with love and fear. It moves on like an errant candelabra, a bonfire; it flies toward the house, passes the cabinets, the fireplace. With only a glance it burns the apples, illuminates them, wraps them in candied paper. It flings colored stones into the rice; it makes the bread and pears glow. It drives itself into the table like a November yucca branch; it hunts a star, it stuffs itself with candles, pine seeds, bottles. It breaks into the bedroom and spins over my dream, above my wide-open eyes; it floats in the air like a lamp or three-tiered crown of pearls. It is a fish, a coral branch outside the water, each piece of coral full as a bud, a lip. It flies back toward the moon; it scares the horses and owls, who break into flight and instantly stop. It calls to me, who cannot sleep, and together we go off beyond the hills, away from the night workers who tried to mow it down like a hydrangea

Here's another great excerpt from Marosa:

They always had the reddest harvest, sparkling grapes. Sometimes at 
noon, when the sun gets us drunk—otherwise we wouldn’t dare—my mother 
and I walked hand in hand along the paths through the orchard, up to the 
nearly invisible line, up to the monks’ vines. Each vine raised its lantern of 
grapes; each was like a ruby without facets, with a spark inside. They stood 
here and there in their black or red robes, absorbed in contemplation, and 
they seemed to be scrutinizing miniature stamps, great paintings, or else 
meditating intensely on the Saint of those parts. Hearing our approach, one 
turned toward us with a stare like a gold or silver arrow. And we fled, never 
to return, trembling beneath the immense sun.

Sunnylyn Thibodeaux

This time I'd like to focus on Sunnylyn Thibodeaux [here on goodreads, here for the Auguste Press]. I was reading a chapbook called Night Palace and her piece "Tallulah" immediately stood out.

Her imagery is impeccable, it was walking past Renaissance cassone [large marriage chests] and across cool stone floors. But there's a strong undercurrent of medievalism in the work, and it's very M.R. James. It makes you want to ask her, what happened to inspire this poem? Was it eerie enough that I should sit down first? She's got an incredible sense of place, and it's very biblical, very beautiful like the book of Revelation.

There's a real sense of the black and white 1946 film 'La Belle et la Bête' by Jean Cocteau in French, of that incredible imagery and those hallways. The end is also excellent, I love it:
[...]keeps the candles burning low
                            in case he needs to return

There's just this chorus of danger. I mean on Game of Thrones, when they're on Dragonstone, the island, and Melisandre is just lingering beyond, in the dark beside the dark stone walls carved with flat reliefs of dragons--it this level of menace. But at the same time, the reader knows that she isn't actually malicious in thought, she thinks she's perfectly kind and rational, but has dark, terrible memories and hates to sleep. There's this big aporia, this gap between how much we think we know her and what she could suddenly do at any moment. "Tallulah" could have been given to the HBO directors on how to make team Stannis more terrifying.

And I also loved the earlier moment of weight, and pressure and the unknowability of time, night and the dark:
The moon climbs walls
    scales of darkness, heavy night

Mikhail Aizenberg

Today I'd like to focus on Mikhail Aizenberg--his chapbook Less Than a Meter is incredible. It's got Russian on one side and the English translation on the other. He is a master of atmosphere, and I couldn't stop reading his work [you can buy his books here].

His work in "WHO AM I TALKING TO?" [page 19] creeps down into you slowly, reminding me of Pound's eerie way of making you feel disconnected with the ancients and modernity in the same moment. I tried to find a line to excerpt from it, but you really have to read it in order. By the end there's a chill in the air. It's incredible.

I especially loved his lines from "DOMESTIC GRAFFITI", it's just like that cold, cool room in La Dolce Vita when the mentor plays his recordings of rain and nature sounds, or the old stone of the outdoor areas of L'année dernière à Marienbad:

.... in the courtyard. Together
light and thunder stalk our savage nights.
Light and thunder fling our windows open.

And then in another poem, I love this as an evocation of Vietnam actually. It's titled with just the first line [as with Shakespeare, in the old convention]:

The birds are silent.
A heavy shadow in a smoke-obscured thicket.

Jeffrey Allen

I'd like to look at Jeffrey Allen, specifically his chapbook Bone and Diamond. His work is what I think the pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus would have been writing if he cared for poetry. If you love his work, and you will if you love Shakespeare and Norse legends, or even Tolkien, check out all his poems, writing and books here.

"Clawless" is amazing, but "Cloudtrigger" is just as good. As is "This is Coyote's Dream" [the one on page 8]. I mean his first line in "Coyote" is:

the sun is an accuser, will work for its armament.

And then later:

[...] a tankard of golden adder

Allen has a great sense of progression, and his images are impeccable. I see classicism and neo-classicism in them, and love it, but I think everyone could feel a connection. An example of his almost musical movement forward is from "Hunters", here:

i drew my brother's bow
                             bent back into my ear
    the string a struck bell       deep           in a clear pool

His poem "Cloudtrigger" is great, with echoes of Plath, late Hughes and Eliot with the air but with the flower it feels so beautifully like Spenser. His opening is somehow quiet, and bookended by strange, intimate close to the stanza:

and the remains of a woman who yet died at her dawn
                                      thunderheads [...]
                              tonguing the iris to remove the wounding

P.J. Gallo

Let's look at P.J. Gallo, specifically his chapbook Geirfuglasker. I especially love the middle of his poems, they're incredible.

He's got imagery that the Imagists would approve, and it's perfectly evocative, like in his "Étude Geirfuglasker" here, which I will excerpt from. For a second I thought I was back on the sea.

...             |     In a bright
valley, we are lost at sea,

lost in a simple blue fog   |

a dark speck for a boat.    Though
a simple blue fog settles
down into the sea's many

valleys.     The lost at sea find
land by sailing until they
find land.      The lost at sea's

bluish hull, nucleus of
a watery wreath

His poem "Monk Parakeets in Several Trees Outside a City of Millions" has a similarly amazing middle, one that made me consider booking a plane ticket after. The excellent combination of all the disparate elements is perfect. There's such a sense of place, of atmosphere. You also almost get the feeling of just driving through this place, this too wild piece of nature. The excerpt reads:

  ....  summoned after a
history of hungry nights    |

Just then, a monkbird dips her
beak against a leaf, sipping
         sidelong away from thirst    |
Florida's littoral limit,
Florida's beautiful limit
becomes the limit of my
curiosity's weaving [...]

the rear seat of the realist's   |
My glance across wet velvet
water ends against a buoy

Pope's Iliad

Alexander Pope's translation of the Iliad [here] can grab you when you least expect it. After all the action and death are over, I remember being caught by the emotion in the final lines.

The contrast of the beautiful dawn sky and the land around them with the wine, fire and cinerary ashes of Hector's bones are incredible. His dignity and honor seem to permeate the moment, coming through in the expensive, royal purple cloth, delicate and exquisite craftsmanship and gold.

They read:

Soon as Aurora, daughter of the dawn,
With rosy lustre streak'd the dewy lawn,
Again the mournful crowds surround the pyre,
And quench with wine the yet remaining fire.
The snowy bones his friends and brothers place
(With tears collected) in a golden vase;
The golden vase in purple palls they roll'd,
Of softest texture, and inwrought with gold.
Last o'er the urn the sacred earth they spread,
And raised the tomb, memorial of the dead.