Serendipitous: Philip Larkin, THE COMPLETE POEMS

It’s always the bookshelves self ends up perusing first, when she is staying with friends.

This is self’s first visit to Angela’s home, so of course the books are so enticing, an undiscovered country.

In the study, self’s eyes landed on a hardbound copy of The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin, whose poetry she only began to read very recently. While she was in Ireland, earlier this year.

She spends the morning perusing his Complete Poems. Here’s one:

Posterity

Jake Balokowsky, my biographer,
Has this page microfilmed. Sitting inside
His air-conditioned cell at Kennedy
In jeans and sneakers, he’s no call to hide
Some slight impatience with his destiny:
‘I’m stuck with this old fart at least a year;

I wanted to teach school in Tel Aviv,
But Myra’s folks’ — he makes the money sign –
‘Insisted I got tenure. When there’s kids — ‘
He shrugs. ‘It’s stinking dead, the research line;
Just let me put this bastard on the skids,
I’ll get a couple of semesters leave

To work on Protest Theatrer.’ They both rise,
Make for the Coke dispenser. ‘What’s he like?
Christ, I just told you. Oh, you know the thing,
That crummy textbook stuff from Freshman Psych,
Not out of kicks or something happening -
One of those old-type natural fouled-up guys.’

Here’s a review of The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin from The Telegraph.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

1st Day in Chicago: “Smokefall”

Self embarked on this trip to see plays.

She’s always felt that Chicago is a much more exciting theater city than New York.

Every time she comes (this is only her 3rd time), she sees plays. Didn’t Second City originate here? Second City once did a play on Rod Blagojevich’s hair. It was called “Rod Blagojevich: Superstar.”  Second City is sort of like LA’s Upright Citizens Brigade.

Now Rahm Emmanuel’s in charge.

Last night, self and poet Angela Narciso Torres went to see “Smokefall.”

As in her last play at the Goodman, “Desire Under the Elms,” the set was a mix of realistic and symbolic elements. In “Desire,” there was a huge carcass of a butchered pig hanging above the stage (To give credit where credit is due, it was Angela who remembered about the pig carcass. Self is embarrassed to admit that the one memory that burns most brightly in her mind about “Desire Under the Elms” is Pablo Schreiber, Liev’s half-brother, appearing in the buff).  In last night’s “Smokefall” there was a 1950s kind of kitchen, yellow table and chairs, and a deep red sofa. At the very back of the stage was a slanted gray platform, which characters used to run up and down or to declaim inner monologues and so forth. Clever!

After the play, there was Q & A. Self must say, the first time she ever experienced this kind of after-performance discussion was at the Goodman. Now Cal Shakes has started doing this (at least, they did it last year, after the production of Wilde’s “Lady Windermere’s Fan”) It is wonderful to have discussion, right after, because everyone’s head is still popping with ideas.  There was a young man in the audience, sitting in the row directly in front of self and her friend, who looked like the Second Coming of Chris Blackett, even down to the voice (Chris is self’s nephew; he lives in New York City).

Someone asked why the play was called “Smokefall,” which was a very good question.  And the Goodman’s artistic director (who had said he would be joined by some of the actors, but wasn’t) said the word “Smokefall” was taken from a T. S. Eliot poem called “Burnt Norton.” Here’s an excerpt (which was printed on a bookmark inserted into the play’s programme):

Time past and time future
Allow but a little
consciousness.

To be conscious is not
to be in time

But only in time
can the moment in the
rose-garden

The moment in the arbour
where the rain beat,

The moment in the
draughty church at
smokefall

Be remembered; involved
with past and future.

Only through time
time is conquered.

– T. S. Eliot, “Burnt Norton” (1935)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

The Mission: Lit Crawl 2014

Tonight was Lit Crawl in San Francisco’s Mission. Self attended a reading of Saint Mary’s College alumna, one of whom was the fabulous Rashaan Alexis Meneses.

Rashaan read the story that was recently in New Letters, a story that happened to be set in Bonnyrigg, near Hawthornden!  (Rashaan should send a copy to Hamish).

But, before the reading, we met up at local fave Puerto Allegre (546 Valencia St) for some yummy sopes and guacamole, where self met poet Raina J. Leon and got her to sign a copy of her book, Boogeyman Dawn:

Raina J. Leon signing a copy of her book, Boogeyman Dawn, at Puerto Alegre on Valencia St.

Raina J. Leon signing a copy of her book, Boogeyman Dawn, at Puerto Alegre on Valencia St.

This picture of Rashaan reading was unfortunately a little blurred, but you can still get a sense of her energy:

The Fabulous Rashaan, reading at Bay Blend Coffee & Tea, 1905 Mission Street, San Francisco

The Fabulous Rashaan, reading at Bay Blend Coffee & Tea, 1905 Mission Street, San Francisco

She happened to take a seat facing the sidewalk, so that as the reading progressed, she found herself watching a building directly across the street. There was a FOR LEASE sign on the front. The ground floor had this rather fabulous home furnishings store (with real-looking white sheep), very “chi-chi” for the Mission.

As it grew dark, the rooms of each floor of the building lighted up. And self has always, always been fascinated by windows.

She remembers staring out the kitchen window of her brother-in-law’s apartment in New York City, just staring at parallel rows of windows, and seeing people doing different things: talking on the phone, reading the newspaper. Each little square a story.

Mission Street, Across from Bay Coffee & Tea

Mission Street, Across from Bay Blend Coffee & Tea

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Signs 3: WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Today, all kinds of signs:

Graffiti on the stairs to the tower of Great Saint Mary’s Cathedral; Signs at a train station in Wales (Self was immensely fascinated by how different Welsh sounded from — English. DUH!); and book covers for discovered writers.

The Daily Post challenge for the week tells us to publish an image of a sign. So far this week, self has been interpreting the prompt very literally:

Graffiti: Sighted while climbing to the top of Great St. Mary's, Cambridge, UK:  May 2014

Graffit sighted on the climb to the top of Great St. Mary’s Cathedral in Cambridge, UK: May 2014

This is what "Welcome to Colwyn Bay" looks like in Welsh! Sighted on the train from Holyhood, Wales to Euston Station, London: May 2014

This is what “Welcome to Colwyn Bay” looks like in Welsh! Sighted on the train from Holyhead, Wales to Euston Station, London: May 2014

Fell in love with the poetry of Marcus Cumberlege when I ran across one of his collections at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig. Scoured all the bookstores in Dublin, but had to go to Kenny's in Galway to get their one used copy, a book called FIRELINES. Love.

Fell in love with the poetry of Marcus Cumberlege when she ran across one of his collections at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig. Scoured all the bookstores in Dublin, but had to go to Kenny’s in Galway to get their one used copy, a book called FIRELINES. Love.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

More From John O’Donohue

“The Banshee’s Grotto”

by Irish writer John O’Donohue, from his collection Conamara Blues:

The bean si is a solitary being . . . (Patricia Lysaght)
I heard her across the river crying: a neighbor was dying. (Paddy O’Donohue)
The tear is the anticipation of the eye’s future. (Joseph Brodsky)

The messenger comes from that distant place
Beside us where we cannot remember
How unlikely it is that we are here,
Keepers of interiors not our own,
Strangers in whom dawn and twilight are one.

When the black door opens, she often appears,
Keeping her distance from the house of grief,
Circling it with her cry until her tears
Have cut a path to the nerve of a name
That soon will stand alone on a headstone.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Crab Orchard Review, Vol. 19 No. 2 (The West Coast & Beyond Issue)

The latest in a series of issues focusing on “Place.” Crab Orchard Review initiated the series in 2009, at a time when, according to the Editors’ Prologue, Vol. 19 No. 2, it seemed that the magazine might go under.

The “Land of Lincoln: Writing From and About Illinois” issue became the first series on place because Carolyn Alessio, Crab Orchard Review’s Prose Editor, was born “in the Chicago suburbs and lives in the city itself today.” The issue focused on two of Chicago’s literary greats, Carl Sandberg and Gwendolyn Brooks.

Next followed “Old & New: Re-Visions of the American South.”

At that point, everyone was very aware that Crab Orchard Review was approaching its 20th year.  So the editors decided to make the review’s 2012, 2013 and 2014 “special issues into a kind of anthology exploring the United States of America and its regions as a subject.”

The series developed into four issues: “Old & New: Re-Visions of the American South,” “the North,” “Prairies, Plains, Mountains, Deserts” and, finally, “The West Coast & Beyond” (California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Hawai’i, the Commonwealth countries, territories and areas of U.S. occupation)

Now, in this “final edition in the series,” the editors point out that they have managed to “include at least one story, poem, or essay about, or work by an author born in or living in every one of the fifteen states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.”

Here’s an excerpt from a poem by one of the writers in the issue, April Christiansen.  Her poem is “The Great Seattle Fire, June 6, 1889″:

Shouts, pitched water, the surface glazed,
boiled over. Glue embers tumbled into shavings
littering a turpentine-soaked floor, and men
grabbed their coats, flew to the stairwell as flames

fastened themselves to the building’s walls,
inching towards the liquor warehouse next door.
Glass shattered, the crisp smell of burnt alcohol and paint
filled the sidewalks, and a crowd gathered.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

“River, I Have Known Your Source”: Anvil Press Poetry, England

Self doesn’t remember how or why she bookmarked Anvil Press Poetry. She did it a couple of months ago, when she was traveling in Ireland and England. When she was meeting so many artists, so many people.

On the Anvil Press Poetry website, the “poem of the month” is by Nina Cassian. Self loves it:

“Origins”

River, I have known your source:
sparkling water crocheting quickly through
rock’s rigid garment. Yes, I knew,
river, I have known your source.

With my palm I touched your coolness
and beyond, a splendor not to miss,
the new grass was waiting for your kiss.
With my palm I touched your coolness.

You can read the rest of the poem here.

Founded in 1968 by Peter Jay and now based in Greenwich, southe-east London, Anvil Press is England’s longest-standing independent poetry publisher.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Reading Poem (Next-to-Last Tuesday of September 2014)

An excerpt from “Nest”

by John O’Donohue (from the collection Conamara Blues)

 for J

I awaken

To find your head
Loaded with sleep,
Branching my chest.

Feel the streams
Of your breathing
Dream through my heart.

From the new day,
Light glimpses
The nape of your neck.

*     *     *     *

The book was given to self this spring by a priest in Dublin. She hadn’t seen him in almost 20 years. He used to work in the Philippines, then in the San Francisco Bay Area. He retired to Dublin. He’s 92 now and suffers from pleurisy. Yet he and a fellow priest managed to drive self from Dublin to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annamakherrig.

The trip was epic. The priests told self things like: a lir is a swan, a kill is a wood, a dun is a fort. The younger priest, self discovered, was from Cavan. (Which is why in her story “The Elephant”, just out in Your Impossible Voice, the main character, a ship’s captain, hails from Cavan.)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Forgiveness

Below is an excerpt from The Economist obituary for Maya Angelou, who passed away May 28 this year, at the age of 86. Self found out about Angelou’s passing in London. She and an old school friend, Doris Duterte Stanley, had walked to King’s Cross from Euston Station, where self’s train had just arrived from Wales.  In the lobby of King’s Cross, a gigantic video screen flashed the words: MAYA ANGELOU DIES AT 86.

(Self is so way behind in her reading of The Economist. At what point does she say Enough and quit her subscription? One more year, perhaps . . . )

When she was asked what words brought her comfort, she said, “Love.” And, after love, “Forgiveness.” Forgiveness did not mean you would seat your enemy at your table and feed him cornbread and fried chicken (though cooking food, and sharing it, often made peace). But it meant you could move on. In the words of “On the Pulse of Morning,” which she read in 1993 at Bill Clinton’s inauguration:

Do not be wedded forever
To fear, yoked eternally
To brutishness.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

Eugene Gloria: “My Bad Uncle” (From HOODLUM BIRDS)

Eugene Gloria’s poems are surprisingly long. Self doesn’t usually read such long poems — they can go on, the dense text, for three or four pages (For the same reason, she doesn’t enjoy reading long stories — A short story should be able to do its work in 20 pages or less, if possible. Just her two cents). But what the heck, she brought this book with her to Southern California, and she’s in Venice Beach, which is all sun and bikers and surfers and funky eateries.

Here’s part of a poem she really likes (because after reading it she thought: “I know this person. Or plenty like him.”).

It’s from Gloria’s collection Hoodlum Birds (Penguin Books, 2006). Self bought her copy from City Lights after a reading in November 2006.:

“My Bad Uncle”

I saw him that night, his hands braceleted
behind his back — our neighborhood lit
like a bad uncle on a pint of scotch.

We all knew his sunnier days,
the perennial garden of his heart,
the shiny coins he doled out on his visits –

How he’d sacrifice himself to woman whims:
his mother’s, sisters’, wife’s, and lovers’. His gold Ford
Falcon that shuttled us back and forth to airports,

he was always available whenever we’d call.
He was a prince of the two-dollar cigarette variety,
a happy man in love.

But goodness is mostly work and hardly pays a thing
to the soul when it has to eat alone.
His own goodness would tell him to drive

all day to his fake errands, or circle round
and around in the El with a hideaway bag.
taking swigs between stops.

So one day when we weren’t thinking,
or were thinking only of ourselves,
he parked outside a Denny’s with his pistol

stuffed in his fanny pack. It was just a last-minute thing,
a quick bite then back to our house to sleep.
Takes very little to rouse the animal crouched in the garden:

The smirk of the local girl at the menu stand,
or the two boys spilling their Cokes on his new adidas.
A loud metal voice he seldom hears wells up

Venice Beach Boardwalk, 17 September 2014

Venice Beach Boardwalk, 17 September 2014

Stay tuned, dear blog readers.  Stay tuned.

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