Poetry Friday: San Francisco Native Son, Tony Robles

From Fingerprints of a Hunger Strike, by Tony Robles (San Francisco: Ithuriel’s Spear, 2017):

An Excerpt from Proud

City of St. Francis
I’m proud
Of being
Loved by you

And don’t worry,
I don’t hold that
Eviction against you

But it did come
As a surprise,
All wrapped in a
Gauze colored envelope

Just the way
It goes, I guess

I’d lived there
45 years, grew up
There, Mom’s died
There, at home,
Where she belonged

I got 60 days
To vacate

I’m proud
Of being loved
By you

And Mr. Fare Inspector,
I don’t got no ill feeling
Towards you for looking me
Up and down as though I
Were defective while you
Scrawled my life story on
That ticket you wrote me,
Legible only to a doctor or

I’m proud
Of being
Loved by you


Tony Robles’s Love/Hate Book About San Francisco Is Beautiful and Tragic

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Saturday: Frederick Seidel

The Bird on the Crocodile’s Back (An Excerpt)

The man can’t stay awake. He falls asleep.
It’s noon, it’s afternoon, repeatedly he falls in deep.
Seated at his desk or in an armchair, as if to try to write a poem meant
A flash flood of sleep and drowning on Parnassus in his tent,
Or something else equally not good.
The guy’s completely gone and sawing wood,
Snoring and snorting — until one snort wakes him —
And where is he? he cant think where he is — which shakes him.

(published in The New York Review of Books, 19 February 2015)

Poetry Tuesday: Wislawa Szymborska

DREAM (An excerpt)

A meadow spreads between us.
Skies come flying with clouds and birds,
mountains rise silently on the horizon
and a river flows downward, searching for the sea.

— Wislawa Szymborska, translated from the Polish by Clare Cavanagh

Poetry Wednesday: Louise Gluck

Excerpt from the poem The Evening Star

by Louise Gluck

Tonight, for the first time in many years,
there appeared to me again
a vision of the earth’s splendor:

in the evening sky
the first star seemed
to increase in brilliance
as the earth darkened

The Evening Star is in Louise Gluck’s gorgeous 2006 collection, Averno.

Stay tuned.

Poetry Thursday: Last Thursday Before Self Leaves Manila

Self bought a poetry collection at the London Review Bookshop, the day before she flew to Manila for fond reunion with beloved Dearest Mum, Dearest Bro, Assorted Cousins. She loves poetry. Big effects come in small (but explosive) doses!

John Clegg recommended it.

Excerpt from “Self-Portrait as a Garage Emcee” (from the collection Kumakanda)

by Kayo Chingonyi


117 Retford Road, Harold Hill, Essex.
I can’t sleep because there are no sirens,
no neighbour’s screams lulling me
to lurid dreams of Natasha Laurent.
There is no panoramic view for solace
but in the right light this window
shows, not this white-flight-satellite-town,
but south London from seventeen floors up:

the River Wandle a coiled snake
swallowed by the Thames,
friends crossing the road
to the park in my absence,
the alley between flats where Sacha blasts
a tattered ball into the goal-net simulacrum,
a wall against which his brother Stacy stands,
hands shrouded in Goalie Gloves.

It is our first night in this grieving house.

About Kayo Chingonyi: He was born in Zambia in 1987, and moved to the UK at the age of six. He is the author of two pamphlets, and a fellow of the Complete Works programme for diversity and quality in British Poetry. In 2012, he was awarded a Geoffrey Dearmer Prize, and was Associate Poet at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) in 2015.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreading: Bronwyn Lovell


You will wear several skins
and outgrow all of them.
You’ll sense the pull of
tightness before

the fabric splits.

So leave them behind you
like plastic wrappers,
or human dresses
discarded in the rain.

Feel the relief
of each release,
the freedom
to expand again.

Self met the Australian poet Bronwyn Lovell during a 2015 stay at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig.

A few weeks ago, Irish visual artist Jacinta O’Reilly gifted self with a copy of Bronwyn’s chapbook, Chrysalis.

The poem above is from the chapbook.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

#amreadingpoetry: Bronwyn Lovell, “Advice for the Cold-Blooded”

Met Australian poet Bronwyn Lovell at Tyrone Guthrie Centre in Annaghmakerrig in 2015. A mutual friend, Jacinta Oreilly, gave self her chapbook, Chrysalis, last week, and self has been reading it in Paris.

Thank you, Jacinta! What a lovely present.

Advice for the Cold-Blooded

When wings are the largest
part of your body

you rely too heavily
on the weather.

Listen, then.
You need to know that

the sun will not
always provide.

You must steal heat
from those warm places,

let it take you
to the next blossom

then wait for sunshine
to lift you again.

On days when every
surface is shaded

(however paralysed)
you must force

yourself to move.
Produce your own heat

in tiny increments. Shiver
until you are no longer cold.

NOTE: Chrysalis was shortlisted for the Doire Press International Poetry Chapbook Competition.

In Memoriam, Liu Xiaobo, Dissident and Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Discovered the poetry of Liu Xiaobo’s wife, Liu Xia, through a bilingual translation from Graywolf, Empty Chairs.

Liu Xiaobo passed away earlier this year. Self can imagine Liu Xia’s pain.

This morning, in Paris, reading Liu Xia’s “One Bird and Then Another:”

One Sunday, the sky was
overcast, but it wasn’t raining.
We went out together and you bought
me a blouse from a boutique.
When it got dark, we went
to a crowded restaurant
and each ate two bowls of dumplings.
On the way back we
were quiet, not saying a word,
feeling slightly uneasy.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Liu Xia: “June 2nd, 1989” (Excerpts)

This isn’t good weather
I said to myself
standing under the lush sun.

* * *



I didn’t have a chance to say a word before you became a character
in the news, everyone looking up to you
as I was worn down
at the edge of the crowd
just smoking
and watching the sky.

(from the collection Empty Chairs, translated from the Chinese by Ming Di and Jennifer Stern, published by Graywolf Press in a bilingual edition in 2015)

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Poetry Tuesday: St. John of the Cross

In self’s historical novel (so far, 291 pp), she incorporates poetry.

Here’s a poem she’s including in a chapter called Enigma.

The poem is by St. John of the Cross, in a translation by Catholic scholar Paul Mariani:

Everything about me

Sends word of your myriad graces.

And yet everything hurts,

everything leaves me dying,

stammering on about I don’t know

what’s what.

St. John of the Cross was born Juan de Yepes y Alvarez, in Fontiveros, Avila, Spain in 1542.  He became a Carmelite monk in 1563. His feast day is 14 December.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.




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