Friday, April 20, 2012

Georges Bizet's Nocturne in D major

"I Went This Morning Over the Field"

One of Mahler's   SONGS  OF  A  WAYFARER

I walked across the fields this morning;
dew still hung on the blades of grass.
The merry finch spoke to me:
"Hey! Isn't it? Good morning! Isn't it?
You! Isn't it becoming a fine world?
Chirp! Chirp! Fair and sharp!
How the world delights me!"
Also, the bluebells in the field
merrily with good spirits
tolled out to me with bells (ding, ding)
their morning greeting:
"Isn't it becoming a fine world?
Ding, ding! Fair thing!
How the world delights me!"
And then, in the sunshine,
the world suddenly began to glitter;
everything gained sound and color
in the sunshine!
Flower and bird, great and small!
"Good day,
Is it not a fine world?
Hey, isn't it? A fair world?"
Now will my happiness also begin?
No, no - the happiness I mean
can never bloom!

Martinu -- Cello Sonata No. 3

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ballad of Kris

He has been so many places and done such things.
Strange days and unspeakable rites under wet fronds
that drip with night and with ghosts almost moaning.

How could he not set down agonies and glories on pages?
And how could the New York suaves who are afraid of danger
know what it is to go down into darkness of seawater and rise
reborn with knowledge of great fishes, untouchable pearls?

He has been so many places, and he "saw" that large teacup
floating past barges and filled with young stupefied seekers
on the lost deep currents of the imponderable Yellow River.

If what he has gleaned from combat with all this phenomena
has like ectoplasm flowed toward you with his shy sentiment,
consider yourself among the elect and do not spurn the gods
whispering riddles and wonder from within his beating heart.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

a poem by Cesare Pavese

"Grappa in September" by CESARE PAVESE

The mornings run their course, clear and deserted
along the river's banks, which at dawn turn foggy,
darkening their green, while they wait for the sun.
In the last house, still damp, at the field's edge,
they sell tobacco, which is blackish in color
and tastes of sugar: it gives off a bluish haze.
They also have grappa there, the color of water.

There comes a moment when everything is still
and ripens. The trees in the distance are quiet
and their darkness deepens, concealing fruit so ripe
it would drop at a touch. The occasional clouds
are swollen and ripe. Far away, in city streets,
every house is mellowing in the mild air.

This early, you see only women. The women don't smoke,
or drink. All they know is standing in the sun,
letting it warm their bodies, as though they were fruit.
The air, raw with fog, has to be swallowed in sips,
like grappa. Everything here distills its own fragrance.
Even the water in the river has absorbed the banks,
steeping them to their depths in the soft air. The streets
are like the women. They ripen by standing still.

This is the time when every man should stand
still in the street and see how everything ripens.
There is even a breeze, which does not move the clouds
but somehow succeeds in maneuvering the bluish haze
without scattering it. The smell drifting by is a new smell.
The tobacco is tinged with grappa. So it seems
the women are not alone in enjoying the morning.

(Italian; trans. William Arrowsmith)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Okay. So you've just written a new poem. Great. Now should come questions:

1) How can I write this poem better?

2) Is my poem anything that anyone should spend their time reading?

3) Is my poem just idle or pretentious blathering?

4) What would John Keats, Emily Dickson, Ezra Pound, or Tomas Tranströmer think of my poem?

5) Did I say anything close to what I set out to say?

6) Do I even have a clue what I set out to say, or was I simply compelled by ego and neurosis to put down a bunch of words in broken lines?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

a slight outburst

Almost all poetry is so bad that language itself laments. Don't write your poetry. No one is interested in you, for Keats's sake! Write poems that are marvelous, that are attuned to the symbolic depths and haunted connotations of language itself. The world wants poems about World. About how unusual the world finds itself to be there existing.

[Sermon to myself.]

Thursday, April 5, 2012

the Adagio

Yesterday afternoon, I listened to Beethoven's 9th Symphony. It had been quite some time since I had heard it. Maybe it was the mood I was in, but the only movement that grabbed me this time was the Adagio.

I simply could not believe that such music had been written. It seemed like everything in my life just beyond the sphere of words was contained in that slow movement. "Visions" of pure feeling arose. The infinite love and sacrifice and concern of my deceased parents found a kind of mystical expression in this music.

a little rant

Any poetry competition that requires an entry fee is being run by those who are not serious about discovering talent or the expansion of aesthetic reality. I don't care how prestigious such an outfit is. Having to pay someone to judge the worth of your poem is absurd. And it's a kind of grubby lottery system, where the losers (not the outfit itself) will be paying for the grand prize.

I have a suspicion that many of these things are run by "important" and influential foundations. The entry fees might be, as I said, a way for the contest to pay for itself (which is grubby).

More likely, though, it boils down to this: "So you want US to read your -- *sniff* *sniff* -- poem? Well, you must pay dearly for the privilege of possibly wasting our 'important' and precious literary time."

A complete failure of humility and seriousness before the adventure of aesthetic discovery.


Will Crawford's clarity, memory, and sense of the real

I recently read a new poem by Will Crawford. It presented, for me, the emblematic features of his style and art.


This poet has a way of saying things clearly, without affectation. No trace of grandiloquence. Yet there is a pervasive eloquence moving through the images and language of his poems. Will's brain must be an amazing organ. The mind it secretes seems to have a thousand open eyes cleansed of those murky "floaters" that make seeing a dubious affair. And in the clarity of seeing, he is able to also see words moving directly into phenomena.


It's almost spooky. How Will can look so far into the past and gather up moments just-how-they-were. This is deeper than Zen. This is more like having a trail of one's molecules spread over time. And those quanta of experience communicate to present thought from across the gone spaces. A form of photographic being.

Sense of the real

Some of us can only or mostly write as if on the outskirts of the concrete and the actual. We are rhapsodizers and mongers of the fabulistic market. We gaze dreamily at exotic and gleaming fishes of possibility. Mr. Crawford instead takes what's there or what was and goes into its pores. Of course, the real is always up for grabs. But like some famous guy said, when you stub your toe on a stone, the real gets down to cases quickly. The people he writes about are written about just so. Quiddity, pith, mass, and weight under the gravitas of circumstance. But since Will is a poet, his words bring from his subjects a symbolic resonance. The particular and the circumstantial become, between his lines, the universal and the mysteriously tragic.


Maybe we should get together sometime.
Laugh at loves too earnest, yawn at sex,
pshaw at the Moon's constant affectations.

What would we converse about?
Philosophy is fun in vague doses.
Nostalgia is okay if told like music.
Cosmology for a shrug and sigh.
But politics would spoil the mood.

So maybe we, should we ever meet,
could speak of how wisteria hangs
cascading through shadow and color,
at night. Yes, we must get together then,
after the sunset has quietly splashed away
to leave our air teeming with peculiar fireflies.

And of course, that mood of night and mystery
would lead our almost whisperings toward poetry.
How wonderful it would be, then, when we speak
to consider poems entirely too excellent to write.

We will sip our wine, clustering together like comrades,
to breathe over poems we nearly see but will never make.
This will be a visit to cherish. An hour of two strange souls
pondering the effects of night, wine, and possible literature.

But are you real or only written on the mirror of my seeking eyes?

[This poem, and any others without attribution on this blog, is written by Tim Buck and copyrighted.]

Monday, April 2, 2012

Torroba -- Sonatina

Toward the Unknown Region, by Vaughan Williams

Walt Whitman - Darest Thou Now, O Soul

DAREST thou now, O Soul,
Walk out with me toward the Unknown Region,
Where neither ground is for the feet, nor any path to follow?

No map, there, nor guide,
Nor voice sounding, nor touch of human hand,
Nor face with blooming flesh, nor lips, nor eyes, are in that land.

I know it not, O Soul;
Nor dost thou—all is a blank before us;
All waits, undream’d of, in that region—that inaccessible land.

Till, when the ties loosen,
All but the ties eternal, Time and Space,
Nor darkness, gravitation, sense, nor any bounds, bound us.

Then we burst forth—we float,
In Time and Space, O Soul—prepared for them;
Equal, equipt at last—(O joy! O fruit of all!) them to fulfil, O Soul.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

the peasants are waiting for nothing

[Based on a scene from Andrei Tarkovsky's film Andrei Rublev.]

Old Rus where the waters ran
as tributaries of brutal glaring
or fell as rain. Or hung as mist
turgid with a sameness of days.
Wayside markers of nailed birch
held whispers of children's graves
and of other's sunken under hymns,
forgotten prayers, grimness of ikons.

Three monks go past rotting crosses.
They are moving to keep from living.

Peasants huddle in a stable of grimaces.
Three monks shamble here in wet robes.
A prancing, singing buffoon is banging
his tambourine of sarcastic commentary.
Peasants smile as they wait for nothing.

Across this great land of Rus, tumult!
Shouts of Tatars on their fierce steeds
that steam under the arrogance of arms.
Tatars laugh, their weapons are bloody.
Days of torture have their say with being.
Boyars sneer at a jester's cracking bones.

Away in a forest are floating celebrants,
lusting with torches in a rite of spring.
Dark water that once bathed Scythians
now baptizes the wild rumors of pagans.
The gods that hide or hang in branches
are not there but give moonlight a luster.

In the stable of smells and waiting,
peasants are calm and know nothing.
A metaphysics oozes from the blood
and hard sweat of now idle scrabblers.
Their vigil for bones not yet buried
but aching in moisture is eloquent.

As rain ceases and cold thunder fades,
time screams in mouths of the mute.