Sunday, August 30, 2009

thoughts on poetry (especially Connie Stadler's & William B. Burkholder's)

[Notice: This also appears as a Facebook Note, and my preference is that general comments be made there. I would like to reserve this "dripping brain" post for what I call Contact High -- where comments are more about encounter, impact, what any of these poems do for you or how they might fail to move you, and maybe to register your thoughts about execution -- what strikes you as commendable and effective or deficient and puzzling. I would like others to go with me into these poems...kick the tires, honk the horns, take em for a spin.]

The last few years, my mind has been fractious. I don't know when this began or what event might have set it off. I used to sit through a 90-minute Bruckner symphony with no sweat. I used to get lost in poetry, no sweat. Now, I'm fidgety. Maybe it's just my way of tumbling into older age. I must sense the Reaper's mossy breath on the back of my neck, with dread and restlessness kicking in.

So lately – the last few years – letting myself fall into a poem is no longer a natural act. In fact, poetry is sometimes irritating to me. All this confession. All this energy of craft. All this probing of reality and personality. I prefer just drinking a bunch of beer, as I try to calm myself down...shift into a chronic low gear.

I didn't come to or “get” poetry until I was around 28. My friend Robert Andrews seduced me with Ezra Pound. Then it all clicked. Some of Shakespeare's sonnets went deep into my crazy head. Then the Romantics – Blake, Wordsworth, Keats (especially Keats). On to Emily Dickinson and Dylan Thomas. Many others.

But Pound! Oh, my goodness gracious. Who gives a shit what his single poems and Cantos are about? Not me. I simply could not get enough of being swallowed up by those lines of absolute pitch-perfection. The rhythm never to be equaled. The images so remarkable as to leave my consciousness stunned and strangely palpitating.

But it had become an effort to even pull a book of poetry from the shelf these last couple years.

Then, I came to Facebook and fell into and among a circle of writer friends. Against inertia, I find myself compelled to read the poems these folks write. Not as an obligation. Rather, the stuff is just so damn good, it won't allow me to be my lazy, mind-wallowing self. None of them are alike. Reading them, it's like entering different worlds. Actually, it's more like stepping into distinct art forms. Though they share the medium's formal structure of having line-breaks, these bodies of work are more like constellations in the ether of untouching universes.

Among those poets are William B. Burkholder and Connie Stadler. Two of Williams's and three of Connie's are reproduced below.

Everyone has their own way of appreciating a poem. After each one, I'll comment on what I get from it.

William B. Burkholder


Cicada’s chorus,
High among sycamore’s green tendrils,
Crescendos of summer,
Cacophony of 7 year sleep,
Memory seeps in and out.
Lapping waves of recollection.

Exo-skeletal molted shells,
The remnants of prior lives,
Cacophony of song,
Celebrating new things,

Higher possibility
Among branches of summer’s throng.

Peeling back the browns and yellows
Of Old man’s changing wig,
To look within
And glean the mystery
Of summer messages remembered by me.

A melancholy yet hopeful spirit animates this poem. I like how “Higher possibility,” keyed to the aural setting, bumps the poem into a new octave. An almost mystical, pantheistic quality arrives and sets up the shift into denouement. And it seems to me that the conclusion turns the entire piece into an extended, Westernized haiku.

Shadow Dancer

Lamp lit luster, shadow figure moves,
Behind the curtains to fusionists’ grooves.

Blue bonnets singing sonnets
Of yesterdays arousals,

A carousel of secret cares.
Full circle, round and round,

Calliope’s muted tones.
Passions rise among the mess,
Of flesh, and blood, and bones.

Dim light pale,
Yellow moon serenade,

Shadow dancer moving,
This is how she plies her trade.

And the dollar men,
Blue collar men,
Gather under sill,

To witness
And gather fantasies
To experience the thrill,

Of the Woman
Decorating windows
To the rhythm and the time…

You see,
She works nights,
At the Local Five and Dime.

Well...I didn't expect that ending. Not sure what I was expecting. This poem is a Calliope, a musical dance through words. For an instant, I became this woman, swirling to what I perceived to be an inner rhythm of life-felt, half-sighed romance, a mood in which the frowning thoughts of philosophers have no purchase:

A carousel of secret cares.
Full circle, round and round

[William B. Burkholder is the content editor for, and they constantly accept submissions from poets, writers and artists. He holds the copyrights for the above two poems.]

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Connie Stadler

Uncle Edgar




Torrential excreta

‘Arrogant, reprobate

How could I know?
In my Catholic Pleated

That the Throbbing
Amaranthine Palpation

That the Ebon

That Detested

That all

Were You.

In the Sepulchre
The Resounding

Where Mediocrity
& Genius

Bob and Weave
Bob and Weave

We Dissever
Beyond the


But at
I lay down my pride


Staving Unhallowed

Hound of Usher
By the Throat

Is Kindred

And the Angels Sob
As Vermin Fangs
In Human Gore,

Eternal Travelers
Of Valley Shadow
Where Demons Pillage
& Denude

Where Horror rakes the Dawn
And Soundless Screams are Born
Where Joy is ‘ere Foresworn
And Adamantine Breath, Be


Two Ravaged Lives

Prophetic sounds…arise forever
From Us, and from

all Ruin

Copyright 2009 by Connie Stadler

The first time I read this, I went a little overboard, leaving in my comment this phrase: “morbid holiness.” I think I was simply carried away with the thought that I had found another who was keying into something peculiar to me: a sense of deep entropy behind life's energetic flailing. The kind of quality I discern in De Quincey and W.G Sebald. Who knows if those writers, including Poe, were implying what I thought they did about reality? I'm peculiar and sense what I sense.

On second reading, I began to doubt my interpretation.

Today, this thing scares the shit out of me.

You decide how it affects you.

Bed & Breakfast

Victorian bouquets:
Petals of oiseaux, jaquemar,
Eau de nil
Dapple antique eiderdown
In assaultive
On cockcrow myopia.

Grecian valence frames
Perfectly positioned scenic wonder
awash in London Grey gust
of modernity’s befoulment.

…nary a footnote
in brochured fineprint...

Of Indian Summer
Saturday Getaway.

Varnished and burnished
Undulations of walnut balustrade
Await grandeur frenzied
morning hoard

Innkeeper’s lacquer and clatter.
Fresh bun salver/lilac doilies
Lalique saucered cups
Brim and steam
Rendering hasty departures
From sunrise
Jacuzzi delectations.

Post matinal satiation
Hedgerow impeccability
Vaporous meanderings
Of routinized reflection.

In the distance…

Beyond the boundaries
Of propriety
An ancient evergreen
Impales manicured
Shattering scansion
Of manicured lawn
And architectural immaculata.

Losing myself…

I digress
soft earth path
‘Neath the belly
Of ancient

In approach
The delusion of assembled
Natural happenstance
Shapeshifts into upright slabs
Of fragmented bleached alabaster
Cambered and cruciform stelae
Cracked Cornish crosses
Adrift in weedy integument.

…in memento mori…

Aged bas-relief proclamations
Crying out for notice:

I lived
I was

Duly noted, save
this moment
this day
By industrious puff-tufted
And ever shadowy
Aeolian kiss.

In a wilderness
Of catacombed questions
effusing from
phantasmic Swirling
Synaptic trails
Imagistic impress…

…Parlor portraiture of customary
Seated mother in
Organdy peplum finery
Tonsorially flawless chignon
Cradling preoccupied
Baptismal babe

Sailor suited shaver
Stolidly at the bulwark
Of kith and kin flank
Dundreary whiskered
Pater Familias…

The thirst of ripened life long quenched.

No more the verdant sommersault of innocent abandon.
No more begging for the baffled coin, the clink of pride.
No more copulations of old, deluded seeking.
No more straying through funereal gravel of the labyrinth.
Just complete silence.
Empurpled drippings of unfulfilled resurrection

I am deeply moved.

Arising from
Ruminant crouch
Dandelions graze
Solitary wayfarer
Of insanable expanse
Ever receding
By the quickening footfall
Immemorial mist…
Ever more
Striding the shallows
Of mortal coil thought.
Eternal erasure
Of even faintest lamentation.

In the distance…

Polychrome Queen Anne gables
Sudden sunless sky.
Whispers of fresh brown bread
And pumpkin soup
Impel needful cantered pace.

The loping affirmation
Of human

Copyright 2008 by Connie Stadler

It is good that we can puncture time and space, normality and circumstance. It is necessary that the souls of things occasionally invade us...fumes of hot fairy dances scald us in the accidental flower-circle. Such refreshes the mind, spurs new tangents into the neural maze.

“In the distance...” That is where we long to be. Like pent-up demons, coiled and knotted into everydayness, we desire go hollering with abandon into more supple space and more equivocal time. Into natural anarchy.

This poet loves words, and she presents us with a master chef's banquet. Where do these words come from? What peculiar quality of sentience controls their flow? Both of those questions have no answer, of course. We are in the presence of art's mystery.


In the laughing house
strewn in the plum dappled
peach tricking meadow,
A thicket of blackberried
hummingbirds steal my form.
That I may gaze through the
fawn breast light
at the glimmers of hyacinth hair
and the ripple of your farm hued
body sawing and bailing, in
briny brilliantine hallow.

Till ash evening
falls and I return to the
dragonfly blight in
the onyx ribboned hills
that fill me with the
quarry of your absence
tracing unkissed lips, pale
in the time skewered dusk.

Copyright 2008 by Connie Stadler

I can only relish and marvel. What is your reaction? What are your thoughts?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Hey Lord...Don't Ask Me Questions

Heat Treatment...I wanna burn, baby

discovery of a lifetime

I now, officially, declare and reveal the existence of my very first guru...sensei...mentor. He doesn't know this fact, and I didn't ask permission. This is more like a stalker thing. I have made him my own, like those nutty psychos who pin hundreds of crush-object photos on their basement bulletin boards.

I've been unconsciously searching for this person my whole life. Now that I've found him, I ain't letting go. He might end up having to take out a restraining order against me. I already know that I will violate any such instruments of control.

Kris Saknussemm, an author whose current novel is titled Private Midnight, is a friend of mine on Facebook. I have become addicted like a junkie to some things he posts there, and I would be his flunky if he asked me. These short word effusions, usually delivered in the witching hour, are like extra hyped-up verbal meth: the effect is immediate and direct. My brain is set instantly abuzz, and it vibrates long after reading.

I get the uncanny, stalker-y sense that these single paragraphs have been dispensed on the zany winds just for me. I'm beginning to suspect that no one else can even see them there as a Facebook post. Or if they see anything, all the letters are magically rearranged: they're just reading something ordinary and ho-hum...only am I wearing the special invisible 4-D glasses that unscrambles the code...only can I see these oracular marvels!

These three-or-four-sentence wonders are koans that make me smile and make my brain stop thinking. But they are extra-special koans: I'm brought into alignment with the porcupine stars of an unknown galaxy in an unsuspected dimension. Kris is (he must be) channeling the voice and mind of God's loony half-brother who is in charge of that hypnagogic world.

Or maybe these are dream fragments, pieces of a super-reality digested through his mind and oozed out to us as revelations.

Kris has produced what I think is the finest sentence in the English language. It describes a childhood moment of inspiration, after watching an episode of that old TV series The Time know...the show with the slowly turning, black-and-white corridor, through which intrepid (and physics-shrugging-off) adventurers jogged down and into goofy times:

I remember wrapping myself up in a sheet and hurling myself down the stairs thinking I might get back to Gettysburg.

......I will speak softly now and let that sentence hover in mid-air, let it have a few holy moments to seep into your consciousness.

And below is a recent post, an example of those compressed exotic adventures leaving my soul stunned. It makes me as giddy as a monkey walking through space untethered to the banana-shaped mothership:

Watching the old men betting on a cricket fight in Guangzhou. Two female students I knew float by in an enormous tea cup, the kind with the dragons on it that change color when you pour in the hot water. It looks strangely innocent in the sludge of the Pearl River amongst the barges and industrial boats.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Poetry by Rumi

I dreamed the other night...

...that I was standing in the middle of the gravel road in front of my house out here in cotton field hell. I was holding a Winchester rifle for no good reason. A weasel jumped out of a bush in my yard and pounced on a lethal snake. The snake's head swelled up like that Dali guy's Sebelius-looking head in the 1937 painting Sleep. Then it turned into a half-cow , half-anaconda -- a scrunched-up, rubbery-looking creature that went scampering down the road on prissy legs and hooves. Also had an embarrassed demeanor on its glancing-back-at-me face.

As that horrible prodigy moved on, from the same direction comes a man-eating black panther (leopard?...hell, I can't remember, and this was a dream anyway, so who cares). It approached me with deadly intent. And I remembered why I was holding that ridiculous Winchester. Beast came within a few feet of me, golden eyes menacing and aflame. It even cocked its head to mock me, as it bared its teeth. I cocked the lever-action rifle and stuck the end of the barrel against its head. "Click." No shot. Damn thing was out of bullets.

So as the panther circled me, I turned and kept poking it in the head and in the side with my gun barrel. Just trying to keep it at bay. I woke up.

the chosen one

Every seven generations,
one child is chosen
from the pool of seed
floating on the surface of
Secret Lotus Lake.
She comes to keep the bond
intact and ever blooming
between what is possible
and what withdraws in Brahman.

She grows among the people,
and love becomes her chakra.
Quiet spells come on her after
raucous laughter, playing.
The gleaming moon ascends.
She dreams the dream of ancients
in which no time can be,
seeing into archetypes
and soaking up the symbols.

Her later life is laden,
for in her lives another,
moving half into our time,
Lakshmi is her burden,
bringing grace and beauty.
Beauty glows within the chosen,
like a light reaching others,
but she will not find a soul-mate,
for no one is godly.

Tears like droplets on the lotus
in an evening's condensation
weep inside where Lakshmi drinks them,
turning tears into visions,
into brightness and the cobra.
White to let her know that Brahman
is aware of her heartache,
Shiva into hooded form
to tell her she is not alone.

And her dreams at night come pouring,
dreams Ganesha weaves profusely,
He who pines for absent Lakshmi --
speaks to Her beneath our forms,
speaks of realms and deeds beyond.
Languid, dreaming through the woman,
Lakshmi weeps for the chosen,
for her life as secret holder
of the chain of Love.


Dawn breaking.
Birds singing.
Leaves dripping.
Breeze sighing.

And in the crystal pool,
the woman wades up to her waist,
reaching out entranced to gather
lotus blooms of lustrous pink.

Then inhaling subtle fragrance
deep into her lungs and Lakshmi,
she ensures the future's blooming
for all lovers, though not her.