Quote of the Day: Hampton Sides

What a name for an author: Hampton Sides.

With a name like that, you’ve got to become a writer. If only because it fits the profession like a hand in a glove.

Yesterday, self finished reading The Way to the Spring: Life and Death in Palestine and began reading Hampton Sides’ Ghost Soldiers: The Epic Account of World War II’s Greatest Rescue Mission.

Sides’ sources — a handful of them, anyway — have a familiar ring. Then she realizes: she’s read their diaries and witness accounts long ago: in the Hoover Archives on the Stanford campus. She was doing a lot of research for a World War II novel she was contemplating.

Sides’ writing is so engaging. It feels ridiculous — even, pointless — to write fiction about World War II because nothing can equal the excitement of reading a factual account. She has a 300-page manuscript of Bacolod under Occupation. She’ll just put it aside.

And here’s that quote, finally. It’s about the fall of Bataan in April 1942 and the fate of theĀ  31st Ranger Battalion who were crowded onto the tip of the Bataan peninsula with the rest of the U.S. Army. By this time, the retreat had become chaotic:

Hibbs never forgot the sight of the blood-smeared boy dangling over the shoulders of the medics like a sodden rag doll as they retreated into the jungle. They would set the kid down on the ground and resume the fight, then pick him up and withdraw again, then set him down and fight some more. This went on all day, with the boy becoming like a terrible mascot of the retreat.

Captain Robert Prince, leader of the assault division of the 31st, was from Stanford. Lieutenant Henry Lee, “who would dash off lines of poetry from his foxhole” had studied at Pomona. About Lee: “Whenever he wasn’t holding a gun, he could usually be found with a pen in his hand.”

Here’s one of Lee’s poems:

Drained of faith
I kneel and hail thee as my Lord
I ask not life
Thou need not swerve the bullet
I ask but strength to ride the wave
and one thing more —
teach me to hate.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

From “Utopias” by Alfredo Zaldivar (New Letters, vol. 82 nos. 3 & 4)

The poem is in the New Letters Cuban issue.

Excerpt from Utopias, by Alfredo Zaldivar, translated from the Spanish by Margaret Randall:

I romanticized the tent they gave me
the fierce hand that caressed my skin
the assigned word
and promised touch.

I didn’t take into account the fragility
of the dying stag
who sleeps among beasts
the few doves who fly
when the lights go on.

I didn’t see the labyrinths surrounding the tent
the fear of conceding passion to terror.

I fled with such precision
that only my obsession for being on time
could ignore those flights.

Alfredo Zaldivar is co-founder of Vigia, a cultural arts magazine and publishing house based in Matanzas, Cuba.

Quote of the Day: Luisa Igloria, “This”



This is all you have, this life, this patch of ground marked by wood
and water, a little strand of caterpillar silk caught on low shrubs at
the wood’s edge. Everything happens here, or doesn’t happen, or
is about to change. Shadows lift at dawn, noon strikes the top of
the stone cherub’s head in the middle of the square. Pigeons blend
in among the cobblestones. It’s not much, you think: a sleepy
town, the cats in the alley, the same old men playing chess in the
park; the row of tailor shops, the bakers pitching bread into the
fire. The loaves get a little smaller every year, though they remain
as sweet. The lovers with only one place to walk. The seawall. The
pier. The post office at one end of the main street, the market at
the other. Rain drips down every house post and gutter. Flowers
and whitewash on grave markers. You can leave if you want, rent a
room in some city crisscrossed by wires and steel. On every rooftop,
gargoyles opening their mouths to the rain, drinking it all in but
never filling, never filled. Crossing the street, you turn, distracted:
flowering wisteria, japonica, scent spilling urgent messages over
a stone boundary. Nothing leaves, merely decants to color, to
sediment, to underlying pulse.

— from Night Willow, a poetry collection by Luisa Igloria

Poetry Saturday: Mary Oliver

I’m Feeling Fabulous, Possibly Too Much So. But I Love It.

It’s spring and Mockingbird is teaching himself
new ways to celebrate.
If you can imagine that — that gutsy talker.
And the sky is painting itself a brand-new
robust blue
plenty of which is spilling onto the pond.
I don’t weigh very much, but right now
I weigh nothing.
And my mind is, I guess you would say, compounded.
Our voice is saying, Ah, it’s Mockingbird.
Another voice is saying, the pond never looked
this blue before.
Another voice says, there couldn’t be a more
splendid world, and here I am
existing in it.
I think, just for the joy of it, I’ll fly.
I believe I could.

And yet another voice says, Can we come down
from the clouds now?
And some other voice answers, Okay.
But only for a while.

Mary Oliver has received the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for her poetry.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Quote of the Day: Mahmoud Darwish

  • No spectators at chasm’s door, and no one is neutral here.

— Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish


Poetry Sunday: Diane Kirsten Martin

The following appeared in Crab Orchard Review’s The West Coast & Beyond issue, Summer/Fall 2014:


— by Diane Kirsten Martin

Don’t you wonder about the panhandler
On Fremont and Market, sharing his day’s
proceeds with his pink-nosed pit? Or

Frank Chu, with his sign of 12 Galaxies?
What about the World-Famous Bushman,
hiding behind the branch he shakes

at passers-by, or the matching — from pumps
to pillbox hats — Marian and Vivian Brown.
Who are they and who are you, starting out

from the glass eyes of your apartment?
Do you wake in a sweat on an October
night with stars, the moon a fat orange

and the temperature pushing 90
and remember a silver filigree ring buried
under the azalea, the mute orphan who lived

with his uncle, your father who gave you
the back of his hand? Do you, like Frank,
dream of aliens? I’ll bet the man on Fremont

dreams about Thunderbird and wakes up
as if he drank a whole bottle of fortified wine.
Nights like this, with windows wide, you can

hear the rush of the freeway, like the sound
of whitewater Ronald Reagan had piped
into his bedroom for insomnia. Nights like this

we lie naked, contiguous in this warm
ocean that flows around our back and breasts
our arms our throats our lips, necks, thighs.

  • Diane Kirsten Martin won the Erskine J. Poetry Prize from Smartish Pace and was included in Best New Poets 205.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Thursday: David J. Daniels


by David J. Daniels

(published in Indiana Review, Winter 2013: Vol. 35 No. 2)

I was thinking, about beauty in particular
yours, you who are not by your own admission

beautiful, when the old bird down by the gatepost
started uttering his song, the one I think means

joy, but with an undertone of terror. The bird,
apart from his being a queen in the way he carries

on, is neither beautiful nor pure. I despise the clock
of his ruby throat, and because of the way I’ve watched him

root a metal can for grub, then turn that filth to music,
I have thought to take him down. But with what?

I’ve got no gun to speak of, and once in my hands,
what would I do with that terrible scrap of scarlet?

David J. Daniels is the author of Clean, Winner of the Four Way Intro Prize, and two chapbooks: Breakfast in the Suburbs and Indecency.

Yes, self hangs onto everything. Everything.

Stay tuned.

Poetry in the Galleries/ Legion of Honor

Participants in the Poetry in the Galleries project were 4th through 8th graders from the San Francisco Bay Area.

The students were invited to write a poem in response to an object in the Legion of Honor’s ancient art galleries.

Some of the results were published in a small pamphlet and distributed by the Fine Arts Museums.

Here’s one of self’s favorites:

Black-Glaze Mug, South Italian, mid-4th century BC

Small, insignificantly small.
Ancient people used me for reasons unknown.
I am a black mystery to the future of people.

— Matthew Gallelo, 8th Grade, Immaculate Heart of Mary School, Belmont

Stay tuned, dear blog readers Stay tuned.

Poetry Friday: Galway Kinnell

An Excerpt from Conversation

For Maud

–How old?

It was completely inadvertent.
It was more or less late afternoon.
and I came over a hilltop
and smack in front of me was the sunset.

–Couldn’t you have turned around and gone back?

Wherever you turn, a window
in a childhood house fills with fire.

–Remember the pennies we put on the track,
how the train left behind only the bright splashes?

Everything startles with its beauty
when assigned value has been eradicated,
especially if the value assigned is one cent.

–Does the past ever get too heavy to lug around?

If your rucksack is too heavy, it could
wrestle you down backwards.

–Does it ever get lighter?

Yes, when so-called obsolete words
start falling off the back end of the language.

(from the Galway Kinnell collection, Strong Is Your Hold)

Reading (2016)

  1. Memoir, Leanne Shapton, Swimming Studies
  2. Brick 96
  3. 2nd poetry collection, John Clegg, Holy Toledo
  4. Nonfiction, Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power
  5. Walasse Ting, 1 Cent Life
  6. Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland


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