Friday, October 24, 2008
The official spoken language of the universe is English,
and the official written language is Egyptian hieroglyphics.
Deep space explosions and telepathy require no subtitles.
All creatures known and unknown possess mouths.
The rule of sequels obtains, even in parallel universes,
and gravity gives rise to reason, weightlessness to panic.
Despite our investment in it, the moon sheds little light.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Elizabeth Dodd has lived in Kansas since 1989, when she became an English professor at Kansas State University. She publishes poetry and personal essays, and the natural world appears vividly in all her writings. She also publishes commentary on nature topics that are related to ecological issues, or ecocriticism. This is an emerging field of study in American belles lettres, one that has genesis in the 1930s writings of Nebraska author Loren Eiseley. The Flint Hills area of Manhattan often inspires her prose and verse, and from these she moves to human concerns.
This poem, "Lyric,” begins with a question of faith. Bishop George Berkeley questioned materialism when he asked “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?" Here, Dodd’s scattering of “broken” bark and branches across snow create a “grammar” of affirmation. She includes the speaker of the poem—“I turn sideways”—as another natural element, not a dominator of wilderness. The poet’s “hillside” consists of unseen realities, including song, the essence of lyrical poetry. Her verse transcends matter, and her answer to Bishop Berkeley is “Yes.” Poetry is a sixth sense.
(Unfortunately, the original spacing will not translate to this page.)
It doesn’t matter
a tree falls
or doesn’t on this hillside.
I am here
in this buoyant silence
lifting from snow cover.
There is no story to tell
about cause and effect,
no one to pull
the stiff sheet of grammar
over a scattered pattern
of bark and branches
broken on the snow.
I turn sideways
and the wind slips among us,
so many vertical,
Education: Elizabeth Dodd received a B.A. in English and French from Ohio University in 1983; an M.F.A. in poetry from Indiana University in 1986; and a Ph.D. in American and British Literature from Indiana University in 1989.Career: Dodd has p two books of poetry: Archetypal Light (University of Nevada Press, 2001) and Like Memory, Caverns (New York University Press, 1992, Elmer Holmes Bobst Award). Her books of essays and criticism are In the Mind’s Eye: Essays Across the Animate World (University of Nebraska Press, 2008), Prospect: Journeys & Landscapes (University of Utah Press, 2003, William Rockhill Nelson Award), and The Veiled Mirror and the Woman Poet (University of Missouri Press, 1992.)______________________________________________________________________________________© 2008 Denise Low, AAPP 23 © 1992 Elizabeth Dodd “Lyric” (New York University Press).
Friday, October 17, 2008
Frank Bidart, Watching the Spring Festival (Farrar, Straus & Giroux)
Mark Doty, Fire to Fire: New and Collected Poems (HarperCollins)
Reginald Gibbons, Creatures of a Day (Louisiana State University Press)
Richard Howard, Without Saying (Turtle Point Press)
Patricia Smith, Blood Dazzler (Coffee House Press)
These are all established poets with salutory previous book publications--no surprises like Troy Jollimore, for example. Also note that the majority of these poets are published by academic or small literary presses. I encourage apprentice poets to find these books, read them, and look at the poets' strategies as they re-create the world with tracks on paper.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
On Oct. 3, 2008, in Lawrence, Kansas, the 26th Annual Edward J. Devitt Distinguished Service to Justice Award was presented to Tenth Circuit Judge Deanell Reece Tacha.
Speakers at the award ceremony included Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito, Judge Carolyn King of the Fifth Circuit, Chief Judge Robert Henry of the Tenth Circuit, Judge John Lungstrum of the District of Kansas, Judge Sarah Barker of the Southern District of Indiana, John Tacha, and Daniel Low.
The Devitt Award honors Article III judges whose careers have been exemplary. Judge Tacha has been a judge on the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals since 1985, served on the U.S. Sentencing Commission, chaired the Judicial Division of the ABA, chaired the U.S. Judicial Conference Committee on the Judicial Brach, was President of the American Inns of Court, chaired the Appellate Judges Conference, was a member of the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession, was president of the Kansas University Alumni Association, and has been active in numerous other professional, civic, philanthropic, and cultural organizations.
During the ceremony, Daniel Low remarked on how inspirational Judge Tacha was, and he read a poem written in honor of the occasion by Kansas Poet Laureate Denise Low:
For a Kansas Judge
Central Plains wind stops for no woman
nor beast—not the cattle nor the sparrows.
Sometimes it carries straight-line rain
and sometimes glistening prisms of mist.
Pawnees and Spanish fought in the winds
and Cheyennes and American soldiers.
West winds blew through council fires
and brick court houses on town squares.
Gravity tugs the wind into whorls, never
easing its grip. These laws do not vary.
Each community learns the same lessons:
how sun returns after winter, how kindness
fosters survival, how the stories circle,
how law holds even the sky in order.
Sunday, October 5, 2008
Welcome to autumn, “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,” and here is a poem about falling leaves, but it is not like Keat’s “Ode to Autumn” nor anything else. Judith Roitman writes about the passage of time, a traditional end-of-year concern, but she is an original. She experiments with how language can mirror consciousness. Images appear, and also fragments of thoughts, but this very American poetic form of experimental verse does not connect dots in expected ways.
Judith Roitman has lived in Lawrence since 1978. Besides being active as a poet, she is professor of mathematics at the University of Kansas. She is Guiding Teacher at the Southwind Zen Center and an active member of the Jewish community in Lawrence. These multiple roles inform her writing. In addition, she is a voice among poets like Ron Silliman who comment on contemporary experience of poetics (http://ronsilliman.blogspot.com/). Clarity of vision is a hallmark of her writing, but the logic is unreliable, as chaos theory shows how random events are the rule, not the exception.
“As a Leaf” is a poem about the motion of falling leaves, perhaps set in the autumn season. Here, focus is on each image as it occurs, and not the expected connections among them. Readers must fill in stories, if there are any. This poem is also about perception itself, as real images are copied on our retinas (“Copy to copy”) and “transformed” into human experience. I also find this poem to be about poetry itself, which is like “turning the wrong corner” and finding new ways to perceive reality. A lyrical image is “suspended wasp motion” as time itself continues to move forward like heartbeats and like the slow, floating wasp’s flight. The ending thought, about the tension between immobility and action, resolves with the “& so on” of continuing creation as our galaxy continues to spread outward across the blue sky. This kind of poetry asks the reader to participate fully.
AS A LEAF
Copy to copy as a leaf falls transformer to transformed
light on glass moving as hands denied & flight
suspended from wings but without looking
all things against blue the blue room blue house
we find it this way every so often turning the wrong corner
the right one filling up all gone against blue
covered within light the heart the sign of it steady
the wire angling up into vision
things ready to fall
& others spinning up suspended wasp motion
within derelict acts & clarity of motion
stillness within motion & so on.
Education: Judith Roitman graduated from Bayside High School in New York City (1962); Sarah Lawrence College with a BA in English (1966); University of California-Berkeley (1974).
Career: This poet has published poems various journals, including First Intensity, Black Spring, Locus Point (on the web), Bird Dog, and Wakarusa Wetlands in Word & Image (Lawrence: Imagination and Place, 2005). She has published these chapbooks, or books under 50 pages: The Stress of Meaning: Variations on a Line by Susan Howe (Morris, Minn.: Standing Stones Press, 1997); Diamond Notebooks (Buffalo, New York: Nominative Press Collective, 1998); Slippge (Elmwood, Conn.: Potes and Poets Press, 1999); and No Face: New and Selected Poems (Lawrence, First Intensity 2008).