Monday, July 31, 2006

The thing about poetry is that if you're moved by a poem you might not wish to say anything at all. You might wish to live with that poem in silence for awhile. If you're not fully able to understand it, maybe if you just read it to yourself again and again, get it by heart, you will come around to understand it in a way we don't have terms for expressing.

--Galway Kinnell

Friday, July 28, 2006

The Keats Shelley Museum in Rome

The museum is right next to the famous Spanish Steps. This is a very swank area of Rome with very expensive stores in the neighborhood. The bedroom picture is the actual room where Keats died of TB in 1821. That's his death mask on the wall. The bed is not Keats' bed but something similar from that period of time. The picture with the display case has a plaque on the wall that indicates that Keats died in this room. The fireplace is in Keats' bedroom.

This little museum is filled with display cases containing correspondence from poets like Keats, Shelley, Byron, and Tennyson. There is a lock of Keats' hair in one of the museum's display cases. They also have a little gift shop where you can buy books and such. I bought a very cool Byron bookmark. The museum is run by a small staff of young Brits.


A few snippets of song lyrics rattling around in my head:

"...and all my crimes are self defense."

"I'll always be King of Pain."

"Where's your crown King Nothing?"


Work is better today, but I have some catching up to do on what I was going to do yesterday before I was handed that special project that kept me insanely busy from 10:00 AM to 3:00 PM yesterday.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Not having a good work day. Very busy. I just finished eating my lunch at 3:45 PM.


A poet, any real poet, is simply an alchemist who transmutes his cynicism regarding human beings into an optimism regarding the moon, the starts, the heavens, and the flowers, to say nothing of Spring, love, and dogs.

--George Jean Nathan

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Suzanne Clements & Rome Pictures of the Basilica of St. Paul

Check out the art of Suzanne Clements. I saw some of her paintings in a gallery while I was visiting my parents. I like the Butterfly Series a lot, and I saw some of these paintings in the gallery.

Below are some of my Rome pictures from the Basilica of St. Paul (not to be confused with St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City).

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Quotes and a Few of My Favorite Things
(Okay Maybe A Lot of My Favorite Things)

Poems allow us to savor a single image, a single phrase. Just think how many people have savored a haiku poem over hundreds of years. It slows you down to read a poem. You read it more than one time. Your read it more slowly than you would speak to someone in a store. And we need the slow experience with words.

--Naomi Shihab Nye


Living fast and dying young like an endless poetry….

--From White Zombie’s song “Thunderkiss ‘65”


This applies nicely to poetry:

The ability to do a thing is not all there is. You must know the thing. You must master every facet of it. You must understand how it fits with everything else you know. You must possess it for it to be truly yours.

--Kevin J. Anderson


These are a few of my favorite things…

My wife
Brunette women
Redheaded women
Blonde women
California nectarines
The smell of freshly ground coffee beans
Selected Poems of Galway Kinnell
Strawberry breakfast bars
Silver Queen corn on the cob
Air conditioning
Long hot showers
Movie popcorn
Pepsi Lime
The extra light during spring and summer
Bottled water
Digital cameras
International travel
Star Wars
Desktop computers
Flat screen monitors
Laptop computers
Venti nonfat caramel Macchiato with whip no foam
DVD players
Magnet souvenirs from places I’ve been
Star Trek (TNG, Deep Space Nine, Voyager)
The Internet
Cell phones
Vincent Van Gogh
Hand sanitizer
Whitening chewing gum
Grande Blackberry Green Tea Frappuccino
Sci-Fi Channel
Discovery Channel
National Public Radio
Ceiling fans
Sleeping in on Saturday mornings
Frederick Nietzsche
Chicken with mixed vegetables in brown sauce with white rice
MP3 players
Baseball caps
Wireless rollerball mouse
Power windows and locks
Charlotte, North Carolina Airport
Elliptical cross trainer exercise machines with personal flat screen TVs
Paid Time Off cash outs near Christmas
Organizational charts
Keyless entry into cars
Baby carrots
Wrist watches with metal bands
Fruit of the Loom boxer briefs
Hanes white T-shirts
Old Navy flip flops
Hyperion Analyzer at work that slices and dices data and can be tailored to your needs
Guadalajara Mexican restaurant
Oliver Garden restaurant
Listening to a favorite song at night while driving on an empty country road
A deliciously sweet watermelon

Monday, July 24, 2006

More Rome Pictures from March 2006

What follows is the Italian unification monument, the Pantheon (Raphael is buried here), an arch near the Colosseum dedicated to the exploits of a Roman emperor (Marcus Aurelius Antoninus I think), a statue of a Roman emperor near a piece of the Roman Forum (either Gaius Julius Caesar or possibly Marcus Aurelius Antoninus again), and the ceiling of the Pantheon.

Any tips on how to get Blogger to load multiple photos onto Blogger in the order you want? Blogger seems to shuffle them around. It looks complicated to go into Edit Html and fix them there.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Pictures from My March 2006 Trip to Rome

Yeah, I know it's four months later, but Blogger is actually working for me on this try. Hopefully, more pictures forthcoming.


Writing, I feel, is an art; and artists, I feel are human beings. As a human being stands, so a human being is.

--E. E. Cummings


The earth has many keys

The earth has many keys.
Where melody is not
Is the unknown peninsula.
Beauty is nature’s fact.

But witness for her land,
And witness for her sea,
The cricket is her utmost
Of elegy to me.

--Emily Dickinson


Cassius Hueffer

They have chiseled upon my stone the words:
“His life was gentle, and the elements so mixed him
That nature might stand up and say to all the world,
This was a man.”
Those who knew me smile
As they read this empty rhetoric.

My epitaph should have been:
“Life was not gentle to him,
And the elements so mixed in him
That he made warfare on life,
In the which he was slain.”
While I lived I could not cope with slanderous tongues,
Now that I am dead I must submit to an epitaph
Graven by a fool!

--Edgar Lee Masters, from Spoon River Anthology

Thursday, July 20, 2006

This morning while I was getting ready for work I listened to Sting’s Ten Summoner’s Tales. It occurred to me that many of Sting’s songs (and not just on this album) are about the darker aspects of love and desire. Murder, infidelity, trying to change a person you are in a relationship with so that they suit you better, betrayal, stealing, competition with another suitor, meeting the new boyfriend when you are the ex-boyfriend, trying to control another person—these are examples from Sting’s songs about the darker side of love and desire. I think Sting is exploring in his lyrics the maddening complexities of love/desire, and in a sense he is posing the question: “What are you wiling to do for love?”

I read somewhere (it was probably Nietzsche—or at least he would agree with it if he didn’t say it) that one cannot truly be an atheist until one no longer believes in love. I think this is quite profound. It points out how our culture lauds the concept, the emotion of love to such an extent that it is commensurate to believing in God. Think about how many poems, songs, movies, novels, and television shows are about love. Think about how many women dream about their wedding day. Think about how much unhappiness is out there in the world due to a lack of love, due to disappointment in love. Think about our fascination with sex. Think about romance novels and soap operas. People have been known to commit suicide over love or the lack of it. Now imagine all of that sucked out of our culture or out of your personal belief system. It is hard to imagine living without love or without believing in it. It seems like such a cold, harsh, lonely existence, a truer atheism than not simply believing in God.

Regarding poetry, I’ve been thinking about how necessary collaboration is. How it is so helpful to have other people read your work and provide feedback on it. You then go back to your poems with a fresh set of eyes and make the tough decisions as to what feedback you’ll listen to and what feedback you’ll ignore. I find that I can only take my poems so far. At a certain point, I need the objectivity of others to help me revise further.

I’ve also been thinking about the role of luck in publishing. Yes, you have to be talented and work hard at your craft. Yes, it seems like to some extent or another that we all pay our dues, but don’t we all know poets of equal or lesser talent who seem to have it easier? They publish more. They win contests. They place their books with better publishers. Haven’t we all picked up a literary magazine at least once and scratched our heads as to why a particular poem was accepted? Are these “lucky” poets really better, or is it that their work is more in fashion right now? Does the love poem the “lucky” poet wrote just happen to come under the nose of a literary magazine editor when the editor is in the throes of a passionate love affair? The right place at the right time? In this context, I’ve never liked the concept of luck. It seems so unfair if you happen to feel that you are not lucky or as lucky.

What’s that saying you hear in one form or another? “I’d rather be lucky than …. (fill in the blank). Hmmm, probably a lot of this thinking is about sour grapes on my part. Still, at an existential level, doesn’t this kind of luck seem unfair in the cosmic scheme of things? The luck doesn’t appear to be justified; it doesn’t appear to have been earned. You could argue if you believe in karma or reincarnation that perhaps the person did something in a previous life or earlier in this life, and he or she is now reaping the rewards. Yes, interesting, and it does address the justified/earned piece, but what if this is not the case and some people, for whatever reason, are just plain and unjustifiably lucky? What does that say about the nature of existence? It’s troubling.

It’s been pointed out to me that that the poetry biz does to some extent operate on who you know. Friends help each other. Teachers help their students. Writers who are also editors may reciprocate my publishing writers/editors who accepted their work. But what if you are not good at schmoozing? What if you find going to poetry conferences to rub elbows and network distasteful (I realize that this is not the sole reason why many people attend conferences)? What if you are too busy with other areas of your life to take more workshops or get involved more with the local poetry scene? What if you are introverted and it takes awhile for you to open up and become relaxed among new people, so consequently you don’t always make a positive first impression? What if you want to earn your recognition on your own terms and solely on the merit of the work itself? Does this set you up to experience more difficulty? More disappointment? I think so.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

There must not be any preconceived notion or design for what the poem ought to be…I’m not interested in writing sonnets, sestinas or anything…only poems. If the poem has got to be a sonnet (unlikely tho) or whatever, it’ll certainly let me know.

--Amiri Baraka



I have been temperate always,
But I am like to be very drunk
With your coming.
There have been times
I feared to walk down the street
Lest I should reel with the wine of you,
And jerk against my neighbours
As they go by.
I am parched now, and my tongue is horrible in my mouth,
But my brain is noisy
With the clash and gurgle of filling wine-cups.

--Amy Lowell


from “Dream On

Some people go their whole lives
without ever writing a single poem.
Extraordinary people who don’t hesitate
to cut somebody’s heart or skull open.
They go to baseball games with the greatest of ease
and play a few rounds of gold as if it were nothing.
These same people stroll into a church
as if that were a natural part of life.
Investing money is second nature to them.
They contribute to political campaigns
that have absolutely no poetry in them
and promise none for the future.
They sit around the dinner table at night
and pretend as though nothing is missing.
Their children get caught shoplifting at the mall
and no one admits that it is poetry they are missing.

--James Tate, “Dream On” from Shroud of the Gnome

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

He’s Back

I had a great time visiting my parents. Some of the highlights: playing Mexican Train (a dominos game), going out on my parents’ boat, all the great food my parents fixed, seeing my mom’s artwork in the local gallery (it amazes me how she continues to improve in her oil paintings and watercolors), reading some science fiction, reading a fellow blogger’s chapbook, reading some more of Claudia Emerson’s Late Wife, catching up on my sleep, watching mindless TV, and stepping into the Atlantic Ocean on a beautiful day.

I didn’t do a lick of poetry writing while on vacation, but I plan to get back in the swings of things after work tonight. I was very surprised that there was no poetry news in the mail or e-mail.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

And Another

Yesterday I received a rejection from Rhino. This surprised me because they were receptive to a previous batch of poems I sent them and almost took one of my poems had not South Dakota Review beaten them to it, so I thought I had a really good shot at them taking something out of the most recent batch. One of the editors did write, however: “Gerald, ‘Prague’ series really intrigued us, voice & detail, but a bit prosey to some, thanks though!” Sigh. Another almost. I’ve heard that before about some of my poems being a little too prosey. Probably one of the hazards of working with a longer line. C. K. Williams gets away with being prosey I’ve noticed, but then I’m not C. K. Williams. I’m trying to be less prosey in my current poems and think about how other poets achieve being more lyrical/"poetic" when I read poetry, but to some extent a poet is stuck with how he or she writes at a given point in time. I think I posted something on this blog awhile back from Louise Gluck about how most poets spend their lives in various forms of torment. Not being able to write. Not being able to write the way they want to write, etc. It’s also been said about some of my poems that they just need the right kind of reader to appreciate them. I take this to mean that the way I write may be unfashionable.

After five rejections in a row to places in the market that should be receptive to my work, I’m beginning to think that I have a big number 13 stamped on my forehead. I’m beginning to feel that I have a big Hester Prynne embroidered R over my shirt’s left pocket. For a metaphor, I’m experiencing how I knock repeatedly on literary magazine doors, and the doors open just a crack to eyeball me and give me the once over. Then the doors close. Sigh. I’ll just keep at it. I need to keep the faith. I need to hold out for final victory. I need to keep telling myself what Phillip Levine said in an interview about how he is patient and stubborn as a writer.

One consolidation I guess is that some of my unpublished poems are close to being accepted. With my poetry coach B. and my new local poetry friend J., I now have two readers looking over my poems regularly. What one misses the other often catches. I’m beginning to see that maybe work that I thought was done actually needs some final tweaks here and there. Perhaps those final tweaks will get me over the threshold of literary magazine doors.

Enough hand wringing and whining. I’m annoying myself.


Last night I finished watching on DVD the movie Saved! Jena Malone, Mandy Moore, and Macauley Culkin are in this funny little movie that is a tongue and cheek and sometimes spoof or lampoon about going to an Evangelical high school. The movie takes on subjects like degayification programs, sex before marriage, teen pregnancy, smoking, speaking in tongues, Christian Rock, Mary giving birth as a virgin, faith, doubt, missionary work, and the showmanship of some kinds of preaching. The movie is gently satirical but not exactly disrespectful towards conservative Evangelists views. There is a Jewish female student that attends the high school who is so cool and just hilarious! Ultimately, I think the movie explores through humor and the struggles of the characters what it truly means to be a Christian, and I think the movie’s point is that it’s really about tolerance, compassion, love, forgiveness, and being a bit humble about your beliefs and not forcing them on others. If the above sounds interesting to you, definitely check this movie out!

A great line from the movie: “Why would God make us all so different if He wanted us all to be the same?”


Gentle readers: Over the next few days I’ll be visiting my parents, so my blog may be quiet.

Monday, July 10, 2006

I received a rejection on Friday from Barrow Street. The one bright spot is that one of the editors wrote, “Your villanelle came very close. Best of luck with your writing.” I’d like some good writing news to come my way very soon.

I’ve been revising poems and reading poetry. I re-read Edward Hirsch’s Wild Gratitude, a book that I admire very much. Yesterday I bought Claudia Emerson’s book Late Wife and began reading it. Her poems are amazing. I can see why she won the 2006 Pulitzer.

I think a lot of the woes in the world could be ameliorated if we could lessen:

- Fear
- Ignorance
- Greed
- Poverty

Fear and ignorance are primary in the list above. I think the other two follow from fear and ignorance, and poverty in part from greed. It's interesting to watch the news and thing about how fear and ignorance come into play.


The Look

Strephon kissed me in the spring,
Robin in the fall,
But Colin only looked at me
And never kissed me at all.

Strephon’s kiss was lost in jest,
Robin’s lost in play,
But the kiss in Colin’s eyes
Haunts me night and day.

--Sara Teasdale


Cultivate the habit of attention and try to gain opportunities to hear wise men and women talk. Indifference and inattention are the two most dangerous monsters that you ever meet. Interest and attention will insure to you an education.

--Robert Millikan

Do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.

--William Butler Yeats

We train people how to treat us.

--Dale Richard Buchanan

(A thought on that: It is difficult to re-train people how you would like to be treated in the future once you've trained them. People resist this.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Two pieces of news yesterday. I received a rejection from Pebble Lake Review, and I learned that I was not a finalist in the Oberon Foundation 2006 Poetry Contest.


Not Waving but Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And new he’s dead.
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning).
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

--Stevie Smith


Archaic Torso of Apollo

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise the stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

--Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell

Thursday, July 06, 2006

I received yesterday a rejection from the New England Review.


White Rose

The sundrenched beetle with a rainbow on it back
splayed and luxuriating on he wide white petal—
is that what our life could be?

Us, arms outstretched, prone
and petaled on a pillowed world?

Starved and drowning, I kneel to gather
white petals the wind has scattered.

--Elizabeth Spires


The Necktie

His hands fluttered like birds,
each with a fancy silk ribbon
to weave into their nest,
as he stood at the mirror
dressing for work, waving hello
to himself with both hands.

--Ted Kooser


A successful poem has all the best words in the very best places under the best circumstances. A poem is a little machine of words that’s meant to do some work of persuasion or communication.

--Ted Kooser

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ah Sun-flower

Ah Sun-flower! weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun,
Seeking after that sweet gold clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done;

Where the Youth pined away with desire,
And the pale Virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.

--William Blake



Truth is as mysterious as God,
and as sacred.
It sustains and kills.

It is always dangerous.

--Michael S. Glaser


The figure a poem makes. It begins in delight and ends in wisdom. The figure is the same for love. No one can really hold that the ecstasy should be static and stand still in one place. It begins in delight, it inclines to the impulse, it assumes direction with the first line laid down, it runs a course of lucky events, and ends in a clarification of life—not a great clarification…but in a momentary stay against confusion. It has denouement.

--Robert Frost

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.

--Scott Adams

Monday, July 03, 2006

Moon Dream

I dreamed this morning that I was walking between grassy rolling hills at night. I hiked up one of the hills and instantly became confused. It seemed as though sunrise and came early because it was so suddenly bright in the sky. The moon was so bright and close that it illuminated the sky the way the sun does shortly after dawn. I then felt like something gave me a great push, and I could observe myself in third person with some short of a glowing symbol over my head as I fell to the ground. The symbol looked like a slightly twisting number one or some short of Arabic letter. After I hit the ground I felt like I was a computer receiving huge amounts astronomy data with bunches of different ratios and formulas concerning the moon. The dream felt like a divine revelation or vision.


My local poet friend and I discussed our exchanged poems last night. She asked me for a list of poets that I think she might like to read. I sent her the following:

Probably Good Matches for You:
Frank X. Gaspar - Night of a Thousand Blossoms (a very spiritual, meditative, lyrical book)
Li-Young Lee - Book of My Nights and/or The City in Which I Love You
R.T. Smith - Brightwood (I think of him as being a Southern poet.)
Stephen Dunn - New & Selected Poems

Recommended Craft Books
Richard Hugo - The Trigger Town
Miller Williams - Patterns of Poetry

Rilke- Duino Elegies
Rumi - translations by Coleman Barks

Good First Books
Joshua Poteat - Ornithologies (a VCU MFA classmate of mine)
Jon Pineda - Birthmark (A VCU MFA classmate of mine)
Jeannine Hall Gailey - Becoming the Villainess (fellow blogger, book uses female mythology and comic book characters as a lens to comment on the condition of women, a highly readable page turner)

Other Poet Possibilities
Norman Dubie - Groom Falconer
Philip Levine - What Work Is
David St. John - Study for the World's Body
Jack Gilbert - The Great Fires
T.R. Hummer - Walt Whitman in Hell
Galway Kinnell - Walking Down the Stairs (interviews, essays)