poems, mostly metrical, and rants and raves on poets, poetry, and the po-biz (with 8-string stuff)
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Posts from — November 2008

After the Show

How long before I feel myself again?
I never was that other man and yet
He stole my life for weeks, his rocky zen
My sleeplessness, his strings my fret.

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November 29, 2008   2 Comments

Long Overdue and Still Flailing

I finally added The Barefoot Muse to the poetry zine links at my Sonnetarium. I’m terribly behind with site maintenance both there and here — when Planet‘s production run ends later this month I hope to be able to at least make a dent.

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November 12, 2008   No Comments

A Most Marvelous Piece of Luck

About a month ago I read in Science News that a big reason the Earth’s climate differs from Venus’s is carbon sequestration via subduction of ocean floor – and the next day recognized that process in “Ocean,” from Greg Williamson’s sonnet collection A Most Marvelous Piece of Luck:

The ocean provides for foraminifers,
Which turn to limestone and in their shell formation
Also keep Earth from burning up, or worse …

I’ve been reading the book over and over again, carrying it with me to work and to rehearsals for Return to the Forbidden Planet, reading poems like “Beer” (the link is to its appearance in Unsplendid, where I first met the poem) aloud to friends and acquaintances, undoubtedly annoying more than a few, and there have been so many serendipitous links to and from the 69 sonnets of this collection to so many worlds of discourse that I’ve come to expect everything in it to be verifiable, as is in fact the case with nearly everything in the next poem (quoted in full, with permission):

Clouds

Containing only .035%
Of the Earth’s fresh water at any given moment,
Clouds are a pretty insubstantial pageant
Really, which the nineteenth century docent

And Englishman, Luke Howard, classified
As stratus, cirrus, nibus, and cumulus
(From Gr. flat, fruity, agile, and big-thighed)
(And every silver lining has one, Gus)

Until, at length, you notice overhead
“Soft coral reefs and powdery cumuli,”
The “grand confections” literalism shrouds
In secrecy, your feet on the ground and your head,
Etymologically speaking (“I
See a bunny”), you old daydreamer,
                                                                        in the clouds.

Here I figured it was “Gus” who had said “Every cloud has a silver lining” and I wanted to find out just who “Gus” is or was. But nope – and Google doesn’t point to anyone who said “Soft coral reefs and powdery cumuli.” If “Gus” said that, it’s a pretty private reference, or else “Gus” just rhymes with “cumulus,” which would be mildly annoying, if true — but I learned that the silver lining adage has its likely origin in Milton’s “Comus,” and that Phineas T. Barnum first wrote it in its modern form. That is an amazing pair, and a discovery worth getting out of bed for. So even the occasional mild disappointment in the book can lead to surprised delight.

Another reason I’ve expected a near-unreasonable level of attention to detail is that Williamson is the Monk of poets. In my 4th post at this blog’s predecessor I wrote about his “double exposures,” interleaved iambic pentameter couplets that can be read together, as a single poem, or separately as two poems, one consisting of the first lines of each couplet and the other of the second lines. In this book, every sonnet’s last line ends with the title of the poem, the first word of its sestet is “Until,” and its subject is annihilation — and the book is nevertheless remarkably cheerful. The first epigraph for the book, from Berryman’s Dream Songs, has “I died” as that marvelous piece of luck, and the third and last is

Damn, they killed Kenny.
Bastards.

In between, there’s Shakespeare (“a consummation devoutly to be wished”) , and it’s an appropriate trinity for this marvelous book. Is it a great book, as the jacket blurbs more than imply? Not for me to say. I was occasionally annoyed at what seemed to me its relentless cleverness, and its multiply nested narratives and explanations have bled into this review. I can’t see in it a way for other poets, myself included, to follow going forward. But it is at least a magnificent excursion, a reconnaissance in force, and I expect at least some of the work here to remain with me for a very long time.

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November 11, 2008   No Comments

Ay Ay Ay Ay Ay Ya-ee!

Something eats your life, or my life, anyway. It’s been the campaign for months, and in 3 days we open Return to the Forbidden Planet (that’s a now showing link, and presumably will change after November 23). Actually, it will be smaller chunks soon — rehearsals and sets and the rest are much harder than just doing the show. I’m wearing a red shirt, but I don’t get killed, at least in the script. Dates and times are on my gig calendar.

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November 4, 2008   3 Comments