2012 In Review

WordPress has come up with a new gimmick.

I received the following by E-Mail and WordPress offered to transfer the contents to a blog post.  Why not? thought I.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

About 55,000 tourists visit Liechtenstein every year. This blog was viewed about 420,000 times in 2012. If it were Liechtenstein, it would take about 8 years for that many people to see it. Your blog had more visits than a small country in Europe!

Click here to see the complete report.

Subverting Early English Poetics

fig2-leninbedeThe title above belongs to a post by the blogger Harper Eliot of the blog (It Girl. Rag Doll). She’s written a beautiful little treatise on Old English poetics. She writes:

“When I was in the upper school I spent a month of each of my four years studying the history of literature. By looking at a variety of texts from Gilgamesh to Oedipus Rex to The Tempest to the Lyrical Ballads to Riddley Walker, I was able to gain a rather comprehensive overview of the evolution of literature, and one of the main things I remember from these classes is writing poetry. Whatever era or subject we were studying, we were encouraged to write poetry in a similar style. So I wrote sonnets and villanelles; I wrote in iambic pentameter and trochees; I wrote quatrains and free-verse; and I often enjoyed the freedom of subject juxtaposed with the structure of the form. I also very much liked the way in which I now, in a contemporary setting, I am free to pick and choose from past forms and find one that will fit whatever poem I would like to write.”

I highly recommend the post: informative and playful. Among other things, she tries her hand at old English verse. (If you need a refresher on the rules of alliterative verse, visit my post The Beautiful Changes.) She what you think. ! Be warned though, Harper’s blog contains erotic content and is intended for grown-ups. If you’re underage, behave yourself. !

Saadi Youssef

Despite the absence of posts, I have been in and out of poetry circles and the poetry life. I went to a first-time local gathering of poets in White River Junction, Vermont, hosted by David Celone, a poet studying for his MFA in poetry at the Vermont College of Fine Arts. I was Nostalgia My Enemyluckily invited. Most of the attendees read their own poems, including Davide Celone; and I was also lucky enough to sit next to Peter Money; and to hear him read as well. If you visit his site, you’ll see a picture of him with Allen Ginsberg.

Besides being a poet, Peter is also a Vermont publisher and being favorable to all things Vermont, I asked if there was anything I could mention at my blog.  Peter mentioned Saadi Youseff and in a follow up e-mail, here’s how he described his relationship to the Iraqi poet, writer and thinker:

The contents of Nostalgia, My Enemy were arranged at my table, overlooking Mt. Ascutney, here in Vermont.  Every comma, dash, parenthesis, was met and marked by curve of maple branch, pine, gust of wind, movement of pond–here in Vermont.  It was, in fact, from this very atmosphere and landscape that my relationship with Arab intellectual Saadi Youssef, and my friend and co-translator Sinan Antoon (check out his City Lights novel), began.  Under the “pyramid, tsunami, altar” of the mountain shadow that looms over my writing. . . I came to meet Saadi and Sinan in earnest.  Hence, a translation “Made in Vermont!”  Sinan Antoon and I participated in the first Iraq-era Poetry Against The War reading in Hartland Four Corners, Vermont.  We later met up with Saadi Youssef at a PEN International Voices event in New York City.  . . .By the way, Saadi Youseff is keen on Lincoln, New Orleans, the chess players of Washington Square Park, and Walt Whitman (he translated Whitman into Arabic).

Every now and then I dream about a world without passports, checkpoints or countries where we are all one people united by a common humanity. I can’t, for the life of me, imagine such a thing ever coming true. Our separate ideologies and beliefs seem insurmountable and the vision of a borderless world, where we are free to live as we like, seems like nothing more than wishful foolishness; but in my heart of hearts I still yearn for it. My country is also everywhere.

From the back matter of the book:

transparent blank bar divider“Ever since I read Saadi Youssef he became the closest to my poetic taste. One finds the lucidity of a watercolor painting in his transparent poems and the rhythm of daily life in their soft tone. . . . He is one of our major poets who guided poetry or were guided by it to a rebellion against the hauteur of poetic language. He established a new rhetoric, ascetic on the surface, but in search of essence at its core. Saadi Youssef, whose poetry is in dialogue with the history of poetry, is like no other Arab poet. . . . I was enchanted by his complex simplicity in its search for the poetics of minutiae in the prose of life and for the secret relationship between the quotidian and the historical. I was even more enchanted by his attempt to clinch the vanishing present. If every poet contains several poets within and if the text is a conversation with other texts, as Octavio Paz says, then Saadi Youssef was one of the poets whose poetry trained me to excavate the poetic in what is seemingly non-poetic. . . . I have been asked often about my dry spells and I would always say: As long as Saadi is writing I feel he is writing on my behalf.” – Mahmoud Darwish

“Saadi Youssef was born in Iraq, but he has become, through the vicissitudes of history and the cosmopolitan appetites of his mind, a poet, not only of the Arab world, but of the human universe.” – Marilyn Hacker

Saadi Youssef is considered one of the most important living Iraqi intellectuals and one of the country’s greatest modern poets. From his exile in the suburbs of London, his writings have varied from angry invectives in essay forms attacking the US-led occupation of Iraq, to tender poems recollecting Iraq’s shards from memory. His poetic eye peers into New Orleans after it is devastated by Hurricane Katrina; it observes a homeless man in New York speaking to a squirrel; it follows butterflies in Columbia. “No more nostalgia,” Youssef has said. “My country is everywhere.”


B&W Angel (Block Print)I just noticed the count this morning. And I’m a little embarrassed because I’ve written so little this autumn. I have been responding to all who comment on my posts (so I’m still here and alive). I’m hoping (and I want) this Winter to be more productive.

At the top of my list is to write about Donne’s Fifth Holy Sonnet. This was a recent request by Melissa commenting on Donne’s Sonnet Forgive & Forget. I also attended a poetry reading in my own area and met Peter Money, a local Vermont poet and publisher who recently published a collection of poetry by Saadi Youssef. I feel quite remiss in not having mentioned his book yet. I have a second post on writing Iambic Moon & Children (Rich Ink) (Block Print)Pentameter that needs to be finished. I’d also like to discuss Antonin Scalia’s “originalist” reading of the Constitution as it relates to interpreting poetry. And, lastly, I have a couple of my own poems I’d like to finish and publish. So, let’s see how I do this coming Winter.

In the meantime, I do want to mention Sandy Hook. The shooting breaks my heart. I have three happy, curious and playful daughters going through elementary school. I’m sure I’m no different than anyone else (or any other parent) who, by turns, has experienced grief, anger,  hope and hopelessness. I’ve been spending extra time with my daughters and giving them a few more hugs and kisses — gratitude for life. My heart breaks for the grieving parents. There’s been too much of it: Sandy Hook, Norway, Colorado, Syria, Pakistan. Let there be a little extra love to go around this Christmas and New Year.  And peace.

Requests, Tutoring, Commissions & Advice

My income has grown very thin and this is my own fault.

I love writing, whether it’s poetry, short stories, novels yet to finish, or contributing to this blog. I receive many requests for information on particular poems and for (in effect) tutoring. Many poets have asked if they can send me their poetry for advice. I don’t regret the time I’ve already given. Part of our reason for being in this world is to generously give to others.

Possibly by the end of the year this blog will have received a million visits or more. If even half of those visits are mistakes, which is likely, that’s still half a million students, poets, and readers of poetry. If just half those visitors donated just one dollar, I could support myself, my family and devote myself to offering students and readers more of the information they have already enjoyed. If you feel you have benefited from the articles in this blog, please consider donating.

Alternately, offering advice on poetry, responding to requests and tutoring, are services which I will offer in exchange for your donation. I’m glad to offer half-hour to hour long tutoring sessions, via chat, if you are a student with specific questions concerning a given poem or poetry in general. The price for these tutoring sessions will be fixed. If you would like me to analyze or discuss a given poem in a post, the commission will be based on the number of lines in the poem. If you would like my reaction to your poetry, I ask you to decide for yourself what you’re willing to donate.

Meanwhile, enjoy the summer and read some poetry.

Birchsong: Poetry Centered in Vermont

  • April is a busy month for poetry in Vermont. Expect more announcements, and I’ll hope that some of you are in the area.

A new anthology of contemporary Vermont poetry, Birchsong: Poetry Centered in Vermont, published by The Blueline Press, includes work by 56 poets living in Vermont or closely connected with the state. The book’s 92 poems reflect a place where living is dictated by the seasons, farming is a way of life, and towns may have only one main street. But for all the appeal of its picturesque landscape and simplicity of rural life, Vermont, in this volume, is not portrayed as a Norman Rockwell painting. While some poems describe real “Vermonters,” those born to the land, others are from the perspective of those who have discovered it. All the poems, whether narrative or reflective, open a window on a region of contradictions where natural beauty and neglect, wealth and poverty, often exist side by side.

Birchsong editors are Alice Wolf Gilborn, Carol Cone, Brenda Nicholson, and Monica Stillman. Guest editor Rob Hunter, who teaches English at Burr and Burton Academy in Manchester, is the author of a book of poetry, September Swim. Birchsong’s colorful covers were painted by Burr and Burton’s art teacher, Betsy Hubner, who also did the interior artwork.

Description: 128 pp, b&w illustrations, four-color cover, front and back
Price: $15.00

Publisher: The Blueline Press, Danby, Vermont
Date of publication: February 2012
Printed by: The Shires Press at the Northshire Bookstore, Manchester, Vermont

Available from the Northshire Bookstore
4869 Main Street, Manchester Center, VT 05255

  • News: We have 18 to 20 poets who will be reading and more who are coming to listen. Stop by the Northshire Bookstore on April 14 at 3:00 p.m.

Direct link: http://www.northshire.com/siteinfo/bookinfo/9780962030932/0/


When Shakespeare was authoring plays, his play along with those by any other playwright, had to be approved by the master of revels—the Queen’s censor. The cost of doing so was born by the production company. Writing a play that flirted with morally or politically subversiveness was a dangerous game that could lead to torture and imprisonment.

At a time of unrest, when the Earl of Essex was challenging the Queen’s [Elizabeth’s] authority and armed bands terrorized the streets of London, the Chamberlain’s Men [Shakespeare’s company] were forbidden to perform Richard II, a play already licensed and performed, because it contains a scene in which a king is compelled to renounce his crown; in 1601, the queen’s counsellors believed that this might encourage her enemies and spark off a revolution. The theatre was taken very seriously by the authorities and was allowed to deal with political issues only if they did not refer too obviously to current affairs or seditious ideas, but were set, safely, in an earlier century or, better still, in ancient Rome or foreign countries. [John Russell Brown, Shakespeare and His Theatre (New York: Lothrop, Lee and Shepard, 1982, Page 31]

The comparison is not between “piracy” and moral and political subversion (though comparisons can be made) but the near absolute power exercised by the Master of the Revels. The bill presently being pushed by powerful industry and corporate interests is a similar, extra-judicial power grab. As the saying goes: Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  Passing this bill would give industry and corporate interests the same powers (over me and you) that the Master of the Revels (and government censors throughout history) have enjoyed and exercised. Art and learning thrives through the sharing of ideas and, yes, even the theft of ideas; but a balance must be struck. There are far better ways to control piracy.

A key provision of the bill would give copyright owners the power to stop online advertisers and credit card processors from doing business with a website, merely by filing a unilateral notice that the site is “dedicated to the theft of U.S. property” — even if no court has actually found any infringement.

The immunity provisions in the bill create an overwhelming incentive for advertisers and payment processors to comply with such a request immediately upon receipt. Courts have always treated such cutoffs of revenue from speech as a suppression of that speech, and the silencing of expression in the absence of judicial review is a classic prior restraint forbidden by the First Amendment. [Laurence Tribe, Constitutional Scholar]

The freedom of expression found on the internet is unique in human history; and because of that freedom, powerful interests, both private and public, are threatened. The bill gives the U.S. government the ability to block sites using methods similar to those enjoyed by the Chinese Communist Party, and for this reason the bill is opposed by human rights organizations and a variety of legal scholars.

For now, the Internet belongs to you and me. Help keep it that way.

Die Erlkönigin is Reviewed

Kevin Maclellan, over at Reviews and Responses has reviewed what I think, perhaps, is my best poem to date – Die Erlkönigin. As I wrote him, I don’t often get much comment on my poetry; and that makes his reading all the more enjoyable. Without seeming too conceited I hope, visit his blog (the links have been corrected) and see what you think. Even if you don’t agree with what he’s written or his estimation of the poem (or anyof my poems), he’ll still appreciate your thoughts. ❧

Der Erlkönig

  • One of the best poems I’ve written, in my opinion, is Die Erlkönigin. Back when I posted the poem I included links to videos dramatizing Goethe’s original – Der Erlkönig. My own poem is a retelling of Goethe’s. In the meantime, a new youtube video has been released that’s just incredible. Let me know what you think. Soon, I hope, I’ll have a post on EA Robinson’s The Sheaves.