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Tuesday, October 24, 2006


I first found LibraryThing last spring, but it's taken me this long to start a concerted effort at cataloguing my books with it. (I'm not adding books in any particular order because they're not on my shelves, etc., in any particular order.) I have no idea when I'll be finished, but I hope to add a few a day until I've caught up to what I have on my shelves (and desk and dresser and tables and floor and, yes, okay, pretty much all available surfaces). Meanwhile, Library thing also offers a couple of widgets which let people see random book covers in the sidebar or even search my library.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Zielinski Text

I've finally added the text of the poem to the Songs of Adrian Zielinski post.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Friday, October 13, 2006

A Literary Dinner (Vladimir Nabokov)

A Literary Dinner audiofile (1:55).

A Literary Dinner appeared in the New Yorker on April 11, 1942.

A Literary Dinner

Come here, said my hostess, her face making room
for one of those pink introductory smiles
that link, like a valley of fruit trees in bloom,
the slopes of two names.
I want you, she murmured, to eat Dr. James.

I was hungry. The Doctor looked good. He had read
the great book of the week and had liked it, he said,
because it was powerful. So I was brought
a generous helping. His mauve-bosomed wife
kept showing me, very politely, I thought,
the tenderest bits with the point of her knife.
I ate--and in Egypt the sunsets were swell;
The Russians were doing remarkably well;
had I met a Prince Poprinsky, whom he had known
in Caparabella, or was it Mentone?
They had traveled extensively, he and his wife;
her hobby was People, his hobby was Life.
All was good and well cooked, but the tastiest part
was his nut-flavored, crisp cerebellum. The heart
resembled a shiny brown date,
and I stowed all the studs on the edge of my plate.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Overriding Self-Interest

Researchers in Zurich suspect that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex may act as a sort of governor on self-interest, perhaps raising the question of whether morality itself is built-in to the brain. I wonder how long it will be until moral relativists claim a physiological basis to their beliefs. Or will creationists snap it up first as evidence of divine design?

Personally, I'm more interested in a jet-powered laptop.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

A Woman and Her Dead Husband (a D. H. Lawrence poem)

A Woman and Her Dead Husband audiofile (4:12).

This poem (text here) was one of Lawrence's contributions to The New Poetry; an Anthology (1917,), edited by Harriet Monroe and Alice Corbin Henderson, which I found in a used bookstore last week. I was damn happy to get my hands on it (my copy is the 1920 edition); The New Poetry was, and is, an important event in English poetry.

Songs of Adrian Zielinski (a Czeslaw Milosz poem)

Songs of Adrian Zielinski audiofile (9:01).

I haven't gotten around to setting my scanner back up since I moved, so, unfortunately, I can't provide the text of this poem at the moment. I will do that in the next couple of days. Meanwhile, here's an essay on Czeslaw Milosz.

Songs of Adrian Zielinski

The fifth spring of war is beginning.
A young girl is weeping for her lover.
Snow is melting in the Warsaw streets.

I thought my youth would last forever,
That I would always be the same.
And what remains? Fear in the early hours,
I peer at myself as at a plaque of blank, gray stone,
Looking for something I have known.

A carousel drones in the little square.
Somebody is shooting at somebody out there.
A light squall blows from the torpid river.

But what is all that to me?
I am like a child unable to tell a yellow dandelion
From a star. This isn't the wisdom
That I bargained for. What are centuries,
What is history? I hack out each day
And it's a century to me.

0 Lord, throw me a tiny plume of your pity.

When I go to the fields, to the stunted forest,
To any stretch of wasted land
And observe how the first spring flowers
Are pushed up by a subterranean hand,
I want to bore a tunnel to the center of the earth
So that I can see Hell.
I want to pierce, for what it's worth,
That blue lake of the sun's rays
And have a look at Heaven.

And the heart of the earth, heavy with liquid gold,
And the cold void of whirling spheres
Would be all I'd find. There are no abysses.
Without end or beginning, Nature breeds
Nothing, except this: there is life, there is death,
It's over. There are no abysses.

If only the poorest of devils, Hell's bellhop,
Showed his horns from under the primrose leaf,
If only the angel in Heaven who chops wood
By beating his little wings waved down from a cloud.

Please, understand how hard it is when man alone
Must invent a new Heaven and Hell on earth.

First, people and trees: very big.
Then, people and trees: not so big.
Until the whole earth, fields and houses,
People, plants, animals, birds,
Have shrunk to the size of a May leaf,
Like wet clay squeezed in the hand.

You cannot even see yourself
Or your crooked path through the world.
Even the dead cannot be found.
They lie like cramped, black ants
In the sandy, amber-colored ground,
And no eye can pick them out.

Everything is so small that a real dog
Or a real bush of wild roses
Would be as immense as the pyramids,
The city gates to a boy just come
From a distant backwoods village.

I will not find a real rose,
Real moth, real stone, round and shiny.
For me, always, there will be this earth: tiny.

Somewhere there are happy cities.
Somewhere there are, but not for certain.
Where, between the market and the sea,
In a spray of sea mist,
June pours wet vegetables from baskets
And ice is carried to a cafk terrace
Sprinkled with sunlight, and flowers
Drop onto women's hair.

The ink of newspapers new every hour,
Disputes about what is good for the republic.
The teeming cinemas smell of orange peels
And a mandolin hums long into the night.
A bird flicking the dew of song before sunrise.

Somewhere there are happy cities,
But they are of no use to me.
I look into life and death as into an empty winecup.
Glittering buildings or the route of ruins.
Let me go away in peace.
There is a whisper of night that breathes in me.

They are dragging a guy by his stupid legs,
The calves in silk socks,
The head trailing behind.
And a stain in the sand a month of rain won't wash away.
Children with toy automatic pistols
Take a look, resume their play.

To see this or to enter an almond orchard
Or to stand with guitar at a sculpted gate.
Let me go away in peace.
This is not the same; possibly, it is the same.

The round ass of a girl passing by
Is a planet carved by sunlight's hand
For poor astronomers who watch the sky
As they sit with their bottle on the sand.

When they glimpse how the deep blue spreads
Across the sky, they are terrified.
Under that vastness, they hang their heads,
To them, the whole thing feels too wide.

They see the ass as it sways away:
Venus in their telescopes, warm as blood.
And spring's green shimmers like waves that play
Under bright Venus after the flood.

There is a whisper of night that breathes in me,
Little voices like cats lapping at my
And my profound subjugated storms
Erupt in a song of gratitude and praise.

What a wise man you are, Adrian.
You could be a Chinese poet,
You needn't care what century you're in.
You look at a flower
And smile at what you see.

How wise you are, how undeluded
By folly of history or passions of the race.
You walk serenely, the light, occluded,
Eternal, softening your face.

Peace to the house of the sage.
Peace to his prudent wonder.
__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

O black treason, black treason—

Czeslaw Milosz, Warsaw, 1943-1944

Friday, October 06, 2006

Quantum Computing

A research team at The Niels Bohr Institute at the University of Copenhagen have moved a little closer to making quantum computers feasible.

"It is one step further because for the first time it involves teleportation between light and matter, two different objects. One is the carrier of information and the other one is the storage medium," Polzik explained in an interview on Wednesday.

The experiment involved for the first time a macroscopic atomic object containing thousands of billions of atoms. They also teleported the information a distance of half a meter but believe it can be extended further.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Languages, Etc.

Here's a jpeg of a chart showing the relationships of the world's languages. If I recall correctly, a character in Neal Stephenson's novel Cryptonomicon speaks Manx. Languages (and codes/programming) are recurring themes in Stephenson's fiction. In Snowcrash, Hiro Protagonist is confronted with a (Sumerian) meme which acts like a virus.

(I do like the idea of spoken languages being programming languages used for our wetware (brain/ nervous system).

In 1999, Stephenson wrote an online essay about proprietary operating systems, In the Beginning was the Command Line. It's a bit old now, but still worth reading. In the Beginning was updated in 2004 by Garrett Birkel (with Stephenson's permission).

Monday, October 02, 2006

Back to blogging soon

My hard drive lives. It even survived the move I made this weekend. I'll be blogging again more regularly very soon.

And when I shake the bug that sideswiped me as it wreaked havoc amongst the lesser mortals of the Island, I'll do an audiopost of D. H. Lawrence's A Woman and Her Dead Husband.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Hard Drive Hassles

I was hoping to audiopost another Czeslaw Milosz poem in the next couple of days, but I may not be able to as my hard drive seems to be on the verge of giving up the ghost. If it holds out, or if I stumble across a replacement I can afford this week, I will do the Songs of Adrian Zielinsky.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Memory Erasure

According to the Chemical & Engineering News, proof has been found that long-term memory recording and storage works by increasing synapse responsiveness, and that the process and maintenance of memory requires the protein kinase M zeta.

Hand in hand with this discovery comes, of course, the ability to undo memory by injecting a synthetic peptide called ZIP into the brain. Shouldn't it be called unZIP?

(I'm sure, oh so sure, that no government agency will ever, ever abuse these particular discoveries. Of what use could they ever be to anyone, ever?)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Emily Up and Down and Back and Forth

The fall is coming back, and I've fallen back to Emily Dickinson. This is my seventh Emily post. In them, in lieu of much comment, I generally link words or phrases of her poem to Wikipedia entries (or other things, such as The Devil's Dictionary today) they bring to my mind. The other posts are 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.

Today I've chosen poems in which emotion, faith, and whimsy seem to rise, fall, and waver.


A sepal, petal, and a thorn * [also]
Upon a common summer's morn --
A flask of Dew -- A Bee or two --
A Breeze -- a caper in the trees --
And I'm a Rose!

*Technically roses have prickles, not thorns. I only mention this because a prickle is also called an emergence, and it could be argued that poetry exhibits emergent properties.


It's all I have to bring today --
This, and my heart beside --
This, and my heart, and all the fields --
And all the meadows wide --
Be sure you count -- should I forget
Some one the sum could tell --
This, and my heart, and all the Bees
Which in the Clover dwell.


I robbed the Woods --
The trusting Woods.
The unsuspecting Trees
Brought out their Burs and mosses
My fantasy to please.
I scanned their trinkets curious -- I grasped -- I bore away --
What will the solemn Hemlock --
What will the Oak tree say?


A throe upon the features --
A hurry in the breath --
An ecstasy of parting
Denominated "Death" --

An anguish at the mention
Which when to patience grown,
I've known permission given
To rejoin its own.


To hang our head -- ostensibly --
And subsequent, to find
That such was not the posture
Of our immortal mind --

Affords the sly presumption
That in so dense a fuzz --
You -- too -- take Cobweb attitudes
Upon a plane of Gauze!


Surgeons must be very careful
When they take the knife!
Underneath their fine incisions
Stirs the Culprit -- Life!


My friend attacks my friend!
Oh Battle picturesque!
Then I turn Soldier too,
And he turns Satirist!*
How martial is this place!
Had I a mighty gun
I think I'd shoot the human race
And then to glory run!

*See also satire.


For each ecstatic instant
We must an anguish pay
In keen and quivering ration
To the ecstasy.

For each beloved hour
Sharp* pittances of years --
Bitter contested farthings --
And Coffers heaped with Tears!

*Particularly definitions 8, 9, 10 of sharp as an adj.


Perhaps you'd like to buy a flower,
But I could never sell --
If you would like to borrow,
Until the Daffodil

Unties her yellow Bonnet
Beneath the village door,
Until the Bees, from Clover rows
Their Hock, and Sherry, draw,

Why, I will lend until just then,
But not an hour more!


Flowers -- Well -- if anybody
Can the ecstasy define --
Half a transport -- half a trouble --
With which flowers humble men:
Anybody find the fountain
From which floods so contra flow --
I will give him all the Daisies*
Which upon the hillside blow.

Too much pathos in their faces
For a simple breast like mine --
Butterflies from St. Domingo
Cruising round the purple line --
Have a system of aesthetics --
Far superior to mine.

*The daisy seems to be a symbol of innocence.


I cautious, scanned my little life --
I winnowed what would fade
From what would last till Heads like mine
Should be a-dreaming laid.

I put the latter in a Barn --
The former, blew away.
I went one winter morning
And lo - my priceless Hay

Was not upon the "Scaffold" --
Was not upon the "Beam" --
And from a thriving Farmer --
A Cynic, I became.

Whether a Thief did it --
Whether it was the wind --
Whether Deity's guiltless --
My business is, to find!

So I begin to ransack!
How is it Hearts, with Thee?
Art thou within the little Barn
Love provided Thee?


"Faith" is a fine invention
When Gentlemen can see --
But Microscopes are prudent
In an Emergency.

Fishin' In The Rain With An Umbrella (John MacKenzie)

Fishin' In The Rain With An Umbrella audiofile (2:24).

At work tonight I remembered this little piece I wrote 15 years ago.

Fishin' In The Rain With An Umbrella

Some folks say
that fishin' in the rain with an umbrella
ain't sportin'.
An' that's all well an' fine
if you're one o' those that argue
over flies and tests o' line.
But me gran'father tole me years ago —
an' stressed it as right important —
"It ain't how ya catch the fish,
it's how many ya catch that counts.
So if you're fishin' an' it's pourin',
take an umbrella with ya, b'y.
'Cause fish hate wet water in their streams
an' they'll congregate where it's dry."

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Milosz somewhat of a success

There's a fair amount of traffic on Salt and Ice today, some of it being directed here from a Wood's Lot in Ontario and looking for Milosz' A Book in the Ruins. Thanks to M. Woods for the link.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Lower the Boom (a John MacKenzie poem)

Lower the Boom audiofile (5:09).

Today is Labour Day, and Lower the Boom (text below) is the closest thing to a Labour Day poem that I've ever written.

Lower the Boom

for Ivan Arsenault, killed in August 1998
on this framework of steel and rivets,
this erector set pushing into the sky

He stood here before the glass went on, stood
in and on the growing skeleton, grasping
I-beams in the heat of Ontario's August days
palms sweating in leather gloves guiding
I-beams to their appointed places, or else

he tied re-bar with those gloved hands, tied
arcane knots around slender rods
to be hidden in concrete,
to hold the whole damn thing together

This is some of what he did: woke every morning
at 4:30, ate cereal from boxes, drank
tea that steeped while he brushed teeth and shaved,
threw his lunch box in the passenger's seat,
tightened his boot laces and his belt,
mumbled morning talk with the others
in his Miscouche accent while settling
his hardhat on dark hair, thinking maybe
about a daughter starting school soon
maybe about the jays' game, or
more likely, being from Miscouche, wondering if
the Habs will ever find another goaltender like Dryden or Roy

This is what he did that day: woke at 4:30
ate his cereal, drank his tea
tightened his boot laces and belt and climbed
the naked steel under the climbing sun, all day
he clambered in the ring and clamour
welding this, riveting that, guiding
crane-swung bundles of steel to rest, and

most of the day he breathed
and worked, glowing like a beacon of sweat

and he argued about overtime and cursed bosses (whose wreath —
and the note saying they thought they should send it
— was thrown on the funeral-home lawn)

yeah, he worked and cursed the bosses' bidding
on jobs they couldn't start on time and rushed
to finish on schedule, under budget
he cursed old equipment and mistakes driven by hurry
and the sloppy minds of others, but ...

the beat of hammers and the view,
the pure music of storey rising on storey,
of seeing the metal become

he could hear, some days, the steel breathe
see it pulse and grow like
the child he felt move each morning under
his callused hand on Ruth's belly

He saw the sunset as he thumbed down another bundle
he saw the sunset and, at first, when the steel slammed into him
he thought it was beauty flattening him, he believed
the glorious shattered red and purple had
fallen from the sky into him and
he remembered his Catholic upbringing
and, suddenly, the meaning of epiphany, but

the others saw the scattered red as blood, the paramedics saw
the darkening glorious purple bruise he had become
and the doctor stripped off latex gloves, moved on

Friday, August 11, 2006

In the Lights of a Midnight Plow

I've been waiting for David Hickey's first collection of poetry for a few years now, and it's finally happened. In the Lights of a Midnight Plow has been published by Biblioasis. I've read and been delighted by some of the poems in various forms, and I'm looking forward to the moment (hopefully tomorrow) when I have the book in my hands and can see where the poems I've read have taken themselves and can immerse myself in some poems I've never seen.

Here's an interview David did with the Northern Poetry Review:

I think our willingness to entertain a variety of poetic sensibilities, paired with our ability to see them for what they are, enables us to advance not only our own appreciation of what we're up to as writers, but also to get the most out of what poetry has to offer.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Fat is Phat!

Apparently myelin, the fatty insulator of nerve fibers, which enhances the brain's electrical connnectivity (and thereby brain cell communication) may be a substance that the body can regrow. Myelin regrowth is suspected in this Arkansas man's awakening and apparent ongoing mental recovery from a 19-year coma.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Natural History of Elephants (Milton Acorn)

The Natural History of Elephants audiofile (6:22).

The Natural History of Elephants may be my favourite Milton Acorn poem to read aloud — how often does a person get to read the words viandes, shithouse, turds, sweet, frangibility, ministrations, laughter, love, semen, and glaciers all in the same poem? The poem's text can be found here.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías

Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías audiofile (12:33)

A lot of people find this blog by searching for Lorca's Lament for Ignacio Sánchez Mejías. The original audio I posted was of poor quality and was broken in segments because of audioblogger's constraints, so I've decided to post a new, cleaner version which is all of a piece. Text here.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Wine From These Grapes title page

One of my favourite parts of "Wine From These Grapes" is the title page. (Click on image for a larger view.)

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Edna St. Vincent Millay

A new used bookstore opened in Charlottetown on Friday, just across the street from where I work. So before work, I took a look in, and found an edition of Edna St. Vincent Millay's "Wine From These Grapes," printed in 1934. I read and re-read it at work, came home and just finished recording six poems from it; Autumn Daybreak, Childhood is the Kingdom Where Nobody Dies, In The Grave No Flower, Sonnet, Spring in the Garden, The Fledgling. You can find the audio files here.

I'm too tired to look for links to the text of the poems — it's 6 am here, and I gotta sleep — but I'll either link to them tomorrow or scan them in and post them as an update.

update: Below are the texts to the above-mentioned poems. I've tried to stay as true as possible to how they are laid-out in "Wine From These Grapes."


COLD wind of autumn, blowing loud

At dawn, a fortnight overdue,

jostling the doors, and tearing through

My bedroom to rejoin the cloud,

I know—for I can hear the hiss

And scrape of leaves along the floor—

How many boughs, lashed bare by this,

Will rake the cluttered sky once more.

Tardy, and somewhat south of east,

The sun will rise at length, made known

More by the meagre light increased

Than by a disk in splendour shown;

When, having but to turn my head,

Through the stripped maple I shall see,

Bleak and remembered, patched with red,

The hill all summer hid from me.


CHILDHOOD is not from birth to a certain age and at a certain age

The child is grown, and puts away childish things.

Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.

Nobody that matters, that is. Distant relatives of course

Die, whom one never has seen or has seen for an hour,

And they gave one candy in a pink-and-green striped bag, or a jack-knife,

And went away, and cannot really be said to have lived at all.

And cats die. They lie on the floor and lash their tails,

And their reticent fur is suddenly all in motion

With fleas that one never knew were there,

Polished and brown, knowing all there is to know,

Trekking off into the living world.

You fetch a shoe-box, but it's much too small, because she won't curl up now:

So you find a bigger box, and bury her in the yard, and weep.

But you do not wake up a month from then, two months,

A year from then, two years, in the middle of the night

And weep, with your knuckles in your mouth, and say Oh, God! Oh, God!

Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies that matters,—mothers and fathers don't die.

And if you have said, "For heaven's sake, must you always be kissing a person?"

Or, "I do wish to gracious you'd stop tapping on the window with your thimble!"

Tomorrow, or even the day after tomorrow if you're busy having fun,

Is plenty of time to say, "I'm sorry, mother."

To be grown up is to sit at the table with people who have died, who neither listen nor speak;

Who do not drink their tea, though they always said

Tea was such a comfort.

Run down into the cellar and bring up the last jar of raspberries; they are not tempted.

Flatter them, ask them what was it they said exactly

That time, to the bishop, or to the overseer, or to Mrs. Mason;

They are not taken in.

Shout at them, get red in the face, rise,

Drag them up out of their chairs by their stiff shoulders and shake them and yell at them;

They are not startled, they are not even embarrassed; they slide back into their chairs.

Your tea is cold now.

You drink it standing up,

And leave the house.


HERE dock and tare.

But there

No flower.

Here beggar-ticks, 'tis true;

Here the rank-smelling

Thorn-apple,-and who

Would plant this by his dwelling?

Here every manner of weed

To mock the faithful harrow:

Thistles, that feed

None but the finches; yarrow,

Blue vervain, yellow charlock; here

Bindweed, that chokes the struggling year;

Broad plantain and narrow.

But there no flower.

The rye is vexed and thinned,

The wheat comes limping home,

By vetch and whiteweed harried, and the sandy bloom

Of the sour-grass; here

Dandelions,—and the wind

Will blow them everywhere.

Save there.


No flower.


TIME, that renews the tissues of this frame,

That built the child and hardened the soft bone,

Taught him to wail, to blink, to walk alone,

Stare, question, wonder, give the world a name,

Forget the watery darkness whence he came,

Attends no less the boy to manhood grown,

Brings him new raiment, strips him of his own;

All skins are shed at length, remorse, even shame.

Such hope is mine, if this indeed be true,

I dread no more the first white in my hair,

Or even age itself, the easy shoe,

The cane, the wrinkled hands, the special chair:

Time, doing this to me, may alter too

My sorrow, into something I can bear.


AH, CANNOT the curled shoots of the larkspur that you loved so,

Cannot the spiny poppy that no winter kills

Instruct you how to return through the thawing ground and the thin snow

Into this April sun that is driving the mist between the hills?

A good friend to the monkshood in a time of need

You were, and the lupine's friend as well;

But I see the lupine lift the ground like a tough weed

And the earth over the monkshood swell

And I fear that not a root in all this heaving sea

Of land, has nudged you where you lie, has found

Patience and time to direct you, numb and stupid as you still must be

From your first winter underground.


SO, ART thou feathered, art thou flown,

Thou naked thing?—and canst alone

Upon the unsolid summer air

Sustain thyself, and prosper there?

Shall I no more with anxious note

Advise thee through the happy day,

Thrusting the worm into thythroat,

Bearing thine excrement away?

Alas, I think I see thee yet,

Perched on the windy parapet,

Defer thy flight a moment still

To clean thy wing with careful bill.

And thou art feathered, thou art flown;

And hast a project of thine own.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Still Kicking

Been sort of a long week. I'll be posting a bit over the weekend. Maybe another Emily/Wikipedia attempt. Maybe some audio. Maybe even some baseball.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The Moose (Elizabeth Bishop)

The Moose audio file (6:35).

Elizabeth Bishop's 'The Moose' is a poem set in a bus travelling west through Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. No destination is mentioned, or needed. The narrator begins "From narrow provinces / of fish and bread and tea...." Which is as succinct and apt a description of the Maritime Provinces as has ever been written. I know those three things, salt fish (and sometimes salt meat), heavy bread, and sweet tea, kept my parents and grandparents fed and warm in some thin, thin times. And, though times were better in my childhood, I remember the big jars of herring in brine and the salt cod hanging in the cold back porch every winter.

The poem's text can be found here.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Tale of Custard the Dragon (Ogden Nash)

Custard the Dragon audio file.

The Tale of Custard the Dragon is a fun children's poem requested by humble servant a little while back. You can find the poem's text here.

The weekend

I'll be putting more audio up on Saturday and/or Sunday. Anything to avoid cutting the lawn for the first time this year.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Minor League Split Stats Database

The Minor League Splits Database is an amazing resource for dedicated baseball fans. Developed by Jeff Sackmann at BrewCrewBall, this tool will allow you to see what minor leaguers have done at home, on the road, vs lefties, vs righties and much more. For Blue Jays fans, here are alphabetical lists of all Jays minor league hitters, and all Jays minor league pitchers. Simply click on a player's name to see his stats.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Housman Parody (anonymous)

Housman parody (audio file here).

Found this piece a while ago posted on amazon as a review of A. E. Housman's A Shropshire Lad. The text can be found in the comments on this post.

This Love Song (John MacKenzie)

This Love Song (audio file here) is a piece I've been working on, off and on, for about six years. Thought I had finished it last year (though something about it still bugged me), but it came into my head tonight and I realized that I could fix it some more. So I had at it, and what you'll hear is what I did. I haven't written down the changes yet, and I'm going to sleep as soon as I finish this entry, so I can't post the text until tomorrow.

It needs some mournful music behind it. I did the previous version a few times with a local band called Out From Under, and it seemed to be a crowd-pleaser.

update: here's the text.

This Love Song

Fair warning, folks — when I finished this song I knew immediately that it ranked as at least number eight on the top ten list of the saddest songs in the world. And that's without a mention of guns, trains, or even whiskey. See, I couldn't put any of those in or the whole world would drown in tears. What I'm saying is, I had to cut the feet off this song, clip its wings, disable it, so to speak — yeah, this song parks in handicapped spaces. Another thing, it's a talkie ... if this song were to be sung the sun itself would cry and the moon sink far beyond the cold embrace of sky. Hit it, boys.

I dreamt my heart was a whippoorwill's cry
under the full moon's glare.
I dreamt two fingers touched my shoulder
and broke this love song there.

But I was walking in the empty night,
my hands were empty too.
I found this broken love song
the wind was whistling through.
I gathered up the pieces
and I took them home for you.

Yeah, I was walking in the empty night,
my hands were empty too.
I found this broken love song,
rust eating through its blue.
I carried home the pieces
and I painted them with you.

(And now the harbour's thick with ice,
the north wind blows and blows,
god's hollow voice fills the sky,
the fields are blind with snow.)

I dreamt my heart was a robin's cry
under a cloud-caught moon.
I dreamt this love song wasn't broken,
and I would see you soon.

But I'm walking in the empty night,
my hands are empty too.
I've found this broken love song,
it's all I have of you.
I've got this broken love song,
it's all I know that that's true.

(And, yeah, the harbour's thick with ice,
the north wind blows and blows,
god's hollow voice fills the sky,
the fields are blind with snow.)

Monday, May 08, 2006

Time, Time, Time

No time to post this afternoon. Got to get to the bank. Tonight, after work, I'll be putting up the audio of a couple of poems.

Willie Nelson

Went to see a Willie Nelson show tonight. It was good. Wasn't a life-changing event or anything, but it was good. Got to hear Pancho and Lefty (written by the great Townes Van Zandt), Me and Paul, and Blue Eyes Cryin' in the Rain live, finally. Sadly, he didn't do Red Headed Stranger.

But he did do about six Hank songs which pleased the hell out of me, though I could've done without Jambalaya — Six More Miles (to the Graveyard) would've been a much better choice.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

King(s) Albert

Albert Pujols hit his major league leading 16th home run last night. There is no doubt that we are seeing one of the greatest players ever to wear a major league uniform. Baseball Prospectus has a nice little article on him which begins with this

Prince Albert seems a fitting name for the St. Louis Cardinals’ resident superstar. It’s a simple, regal name for a player who makes hitting look easy, whose presence at the plate inspires the kind of awe normally reserved for royalty.

But compare Albert Pujols’ performance in the first five years of his career to those of MLB’s other greats, and the name Prince starts to look inadequate. By the numbers, Pujols looks more like a king.
In one of my fantasy baseball leagues, there's been a little discussion on Pujols and how many home runs he'll hit this year and whether he has a chance at that rare baseball feat, the Triple Crown. Here's my take on that (stats are from The Hardball Times great stats database).

Pujols has made it clear that he is the best player in baseball. The only place Alex Rodriguez can even make a run at him is in fantasy baseball. (Though if he were still a shortstop, there might be still a small question as to who is more valuable in real life.)

Pujols current homerun rate is unsustainable for mortals. He's raised his home run per fly ball percentage this season from 21.7 to 32.7, that's got to drop a little. Still, the home run rate won't drop off a whole lot because he's also lofting the ball more; his ground ball percentage has gone down to 41.7 from 46 in each of the last two seasons.

He's also batting .500 with runners in scoring position; he hit .343 and .331 with RISP the last two seasons, so the RBI rate will come down a little too. Still, you have to figure his BA is only going to rise because he's actually been unlucky there this year: his batting average on balls in play is just .208; it was .308 and .314 the last two years.

Also his line drive percentage is down to 11.2 from 20 and 17.3, so that's going to rise; which should translate to more doubles for him, which in turn should keep his RBI rate from falling too much -- extra base hits move runners.

So yeah, I'd say he has a real good chance at the Triple Crown -- as good a chance as anyone has had in years -- because even though RBI are team-dependent, Pujols teammates get on base enough and he hits with enough power and for such a high average while making good contact often that he's almost custom-built for a Triple Crown title.

As for how many home runs he'll hit ... I'm going to make a stab in the dark and predict that he'll end with 58 big flys. And I'll throw in 53 doubles on top of the home runs, (because I'm thinking that some of those homers he's been hitting and some of those line drives he hasn't been hitting are going to turn into doubles as the season goes on).

Bonus King Alberts: Albert King, lefthanded bluesman; Albert, King of Saxony; King Albert Solitaire.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Shooting of Dan McGrew (Robert Service)

The Shooting of Dan McGrew audio file here. (And Dan McGrew text here)

I find this poem even more fun to recite than The Cremation of Sam McGee. Sure, Robert Service had his faults. His poems were often sentimental, maudlin, forced. But when he got on a roll, as he did in this one, and in Sam McGee, and,
to a much lesser extent, in The Ballad of Casey's Billy Goat (and, showing that he wasn't completely a one trick pony, in The Spell of the Yukon, and My Madonna), Service mostly overcame his weaknesses and created some things of lasting value.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Four Emily Dickinson Poems

The audio file can found at this link.

Emily Dickinson's poetry needs nothing I could say about it.

Three Ted Hughes Poems

Follow this link to the audio for Dehorning, Pike, and View of A Pig.

Ted Hughes moved close to blood and breath, his eye always on the fundamental things of this world, his chosen words often hard, harsh, and blunt, his poetry sometimes so much more like stones and water and flesh than the things themselves that a hyper-real sense of his surroundings seeps from his best work. I believe the man had a great, perhaps overwhelming, capacity for empathy and that the three poems I recorded (thanks to Zach for the suggestions)
and present now for your ears, stark and unflinching as they are — the poems, I mean; I can't speak for your ears — demonstrate that empathy as well as Hughes' mastery of the English language and of his craft.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

So, You're Mike Scioscia

Yes, you're Mike Scioscia, manager of the Angels, and your team is tied with the A's at three runs apiece after eight innings. Dan Johnson is leading off the ninth for Oakland. So do you bring in Scot Shields or K-Rod, or even Brendan Donnelly or Kevin Gregg? You know, guys who can actually pitch and might keep the game tied until your team bats in the bottom of the ninth? Nope, Johnson bats lefthanded — never mind that coming into the game his AVG/OBP/SLG line for the year was a miserable .179/.257/.299 — he bats lefty, so you bring in a lefty to face him.

Never mind that the only lefty in your pen is J. C. Romero, he of the 10 walks, 9 K's and 2 home runs in 10 innings, he of the career BB/9 inning ratio of 4.72, he of the 1.58 career K/BB ratio, never mind all that number stuff ... you bring in your lefty, no matter how much he sucks, because you bring in a lefty to face a lefty, don't you? Yes you do, ooh you silly little thing, yes you do, aren't you precious? And what happens? your walk machine Romero gives up a double to Johnson, gets a lucky fly-out from Adam Melhuse and then walks Bobby Kielty and Mark Ellis, starting a 6-run A's rally and you lose the game.


Because you're a manager, Mike Scioscia, and managers are brilliant. And lefties must face lefties. Everybody knows that.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Georgetown Memories (John MacKenzie)

Georgetown Memories audio recording (the poem's text can be found in the comments on this post).

This poem is a piece I worked on quite a bit a year or so ago. It is based on Li Po's Changgan Memories, best to known to the western world, I guess, in Ezra Pound's version The River Merchant's Wife: A Letter. George Elliot Clarke turned it beautifully to his own purposes in his verse novel Whylah Falls.

I worked mostly from the same source that Pound did: Ernest Fenollosa's Notebook. I'm pretty happy with how it turned out for me.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Any More Poetry Requests?

Seeing as I have recording equipment until Thursday, are there any more requests for poems to be read aloud? I'm planning on doing a bunch anyway, to stockpile, but I'll do any reasonable request. Length isn't much of an issue this week — the amount of time your ass can stand to sit and listen is the only real limit.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Other Ingredients (E. J. Pratt)

Here's a poem from the great Newfoundland poet, E. J. Pratt, (you can listen to the audio at the Internet Archive). More of his poetry can be found here. Other Ingredients is from The Witches Brew (linked version is annotated), 1926.

Other Ingredients

To make a perfect fish menu,
The witches found they had to place
Upon this alcoholic base
Great stacks of food and spices too.
Of all the things most edible
On which the souls of fish have dined,
That fish would sell their souls to find,
Most gracious to their sense of smell,
Is flesh exotic to their kind:—
Cold-blooded things yet not marine,
And not of earth, but half-between,
That live enclosed within the sand
Without the power of locomotion,
And mammal breeds whose blood is hot,
That court the sea but love it not,
That need the air but not the land,—
The Laodiceans of the ocean.
So in this spacious cauldron went
Cargoes of food and condiment.
Oysters fished from Behring Strait
Were brought and thrown in by the crate;
Spitzbergen scallops on half-shell,
Mussels, starfish, clams as well,
Limpets from the Hebrides,
Shrimps and periwinkles, these,
So celebrated as a stew,
Were meant to flavour up the brew.
Then for the more substantial fare,
The curried quarter of a tail
Hewn from a stranded Greenland whale,
A liver from a Polar bear,
A walrus’ heart and pancreas,
A blind Auk from the coast of Java,
A bull moose that had died from gas
While eating toadstools near Ungava,
One bitter-cold November day;
Five sea-lion cubs were then thrown in,
Shot by the Cretan’s javelin
In a wild fight off Uruguay,
With flippers fresh from the Azores,
Fijian kidneys by the scores,
Together with some pollywogs,
And kippered hocks of centipedes,
And the hind legs of huge bull frogs
Raked by the millions from the reeds
Of slimy Patagonian bogs.

Then before the copper lid
Was jammed upon the pyramid,
The sisters scattered on the top
Many a juicy lollipop;
Tongues from the Ganges crocodile,
Spawn from the delta of the Nile,
Hoofs of sheep and loins of goats,
Raised from foundered cattle-boats—
Titbits they knew might blend with hops,
Might strengthen rum or season rye,
From Zulu hams and Papuan chops
To filets mignons from Shanghai.
Now while volcanic fires burned,
Making the cauldron fiercely hot,
Lulu with her ladle churned
The pungent contents of the pot,
From which distinctive vapours soon
Rose palpably before the view.
Then Ardath summoned a typhoon
Which as it swooped upon the stew,
And swept around the compass, bore
To every sea and every shore
The tidings of the witches’ Feast.
And from the West and from the East,
And from the South and from the North,
From every bay and strait and run,
From the Tropics to the Arctic sun,
The Parliament of fish came forth,
Lured by a smell surpassing far
The potencies of boiling tar,
For essences were in this brew
Unknown to blubber or to glue,
And unfamiliar to the nose
Of sailors hardened as they are
To every unctuous wind that blows
From Nantucket to Baccalieu.
The crudest oil one ever lit
Was frankincense compared to it.
It entered Hades, and the airs
Resuscitated the Immortals;
It climbed the empyrean stairs
And drove St. Peter from the portals.

E. J. Pratt

Saturday, April 29, 2006

A Book in the Ruins (Czeslaw Milosz)

Milosz' poem, A Book in the Ruins, was suggested by Humble Servant (who also provided the text) in the comments to this post. The audio can be found at the Internet Archive; text is below.

update: The URL of the file has changed because I replaced it with an amplified version. I've fixed the above link to direct people to the new version.

A Book in the Ruins

A dark building. Crossed boards, nailed up, create
A barrier at the entrance, or a gate
When you go in. Here, in the gutted foyer,
The ivy snaking down the walls is wire
Dangling. And, over there, the twisted metal
Columns rising from the undergrowth of rubble
Are tattered tree trunks. This could be the brick
Of the library, you don't know yet, or the sick
Grove of dry white aspen where, stalking birds,
You met a Lithuanian dusk stirred
From its silence only by the wails of hawks.
Now walk carefully. You see whole blocks
Of ceiling caved in by a recent blast.
And above, through jagged tiers of plaster,
A patch of blue. Pages of books lying
Scattered at your feet are like fern-leaves hiding
A moldy skeleton, or else fossils
Whitened by the secrets of Jurassic shells.
A remnant life so ancient and unknown
Compels a scientist, tilting a stone
Into the light, to wonder. He can't know
Whether it is some dead epoch's shadow
Or a living form. He looks again
At chalk spirals eroded by the rain,
The rust of tears. Thus, in a book picked up
From the ruins, you see a world erupt
And glitter with its distant sleepy past,
Green times of creatures tumbled to the vast
Abyss and backward: the brows of women,
An earring fixed with trembling hand, pearl button
On a glove, candelabra in the mirror.
The lanterns have been lit. A first shiver
Passes over the instruments. The quadrille
Begins to curl, subdued by the rustle
Of big trees swaying in the formal park.
She slips outside, her shawl floating in the dark,
And meets him in a bower overgrown
With vines, They sit close on a bench of stone
And watch the lanterns glowing in the jasmine.
Or here, this stanza: you hear a goose pen
Creak, the butterfly of an oil lamp
Flutters slowly over scrolls and parchment,
A crucifix, bronze busts. The lines complain
In plangent rhythms, that desire is vain.
Here a city rises. In the market square
Signboards clang, a stagecoach rumbles in to scare
A flock of pigeons up. Under the town clock,
In the tavern, a hand pauses in the stock
Gesture of arrest — meanwhile workers walk
Home from the textile mill, townsfolk talk
On the steps—and the hand moves now to evoke
The fire of justice, a world gone up in smoke,
The voice quavering with the revenge of ages.
So the world seems to drift from these pages
Like the mist clearing on a field at dawn.
Only when two times, two forms are drawn
Together and their legibility
Disturbed, do you see that immortality
Is not very different from the present
And is for its sake. You pick a fragment
Of grenade which pierced the body of a song
On Daphnis and Chloe. And you long,
Ruefully, to have a talk with her,
As if it were what life prepared you for.
—How is it, Chloe, that your pretty skirt
Is torn so badly by the winds that hurt
Real people, you who, in eternity, sing
The hours, sun in your hair appearing
And disappearing? How is it that your breasts
Are pierced by shrapnel, and the oak groves burn,
While you, charmed, not caring at all, turn
To run through forests of machinery and concrete
And haunt us with the echoes of your feet',
If there is such an eternity, lush
Though short-lived, that's enough. But how ... hush!
We were predestined to live when the scene
Grows dim and the outline of a Greek ruin
Blackens the sky. It is noon, and wandering
Through a dark building, you see workers sitting
Down to a fire a narrow ray of sunlight
Kindles on the floor. They have dragged out
Heavy books and made a table of them
And begun to cut their bread. In good time
A tank will clatter past, a streetcar chime.

Czeslaw Milosz, Warsaw, 1941

(This is the first audio file I've actually recorded on my computer, instead of having to record by telephone. The reading isn't perfect, but the quality is much better than audioblogger stuff I have been doing. For software, I used Audacity, an open source program. For hardware, a Shure SM57 microphone and the Behringer TUBE ULTRAGAIN MIC200 pre-amp. Many thanks to John Mullins, Pat Deighan, and Dan Wagner for the loan of the hardware.)

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Write a Fib, Win a Pair of Web Cams

this old web
will snare the strangest
little marriages of mind and
math-a-matics, of machine and human languages. is running a little poetry contest of sorts. Write the winning fib (with a tech reference), which seems to be a six line poem using the first six fibonacci numbers to determine the number of syllables per line. According to the NY Times, the form was created by Gregory Pincus as a writing exercise.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Unsteady Eddie and the Lost-At-Sea Mariners

Man, it must be tough to be a Mariners fan these days. Their closer, "Everyday Eddie" Guardado, once one of the most dependable relievers in baseball, looks like he's not only done, but overdone. "Manager" Mike Hargrove keeps jerking Jeremy Reed, their second-best outfielder and probable fourth-best hitter, in and out of the line-up; plus Hargrove's unfathomable little man-crush on Willie Bloomquist keeps dragging on (I bet he doesn't even wish he could quit him), but the guy is just not a major league baseball player. Adrian Beltre is hitting — well, no, he's pretty much doing the exact opposite of hitting, and, until he stops diving out of the strike zone after unhittable pitches while letting hittable pitches go across the middle of the plate for called strikes, nothing's going to change for him no matter how many bases he steals. On top of all that, Jarrod Washburn's been their best starting pitcher -- you know that just has to end ugly; he was one of the luckiest pitchers in the game last season.

At least they have a few bright spots in Young King Felix, who is very close to becoming one of baseball's top five pitchers, and relievers Rafael Soriano and J.J. Putz — who saw Putz' start to the season coming? It looks real, though, judging by his strikeout and walk numbers. Despite slow starts, Richie Sexson and Ichiro are real hitters and can both be counted on to end the season with reasonable facsimiles of their average numbers over 162 games. Kenji Johjima helps, too.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Sore Throat

May not be any audioposts for a few days. Came down with something over the weekend and my throat feels like my elbows and knees did after I wiped out on my bicycle on a patch of gravel when I was 11. And as for talking, when I ain't sounding like a Yamaha dirt bike with engine problems I'm sounding like my voice is changing again. Maybe it is. You can call me Squeaky.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Three Audio Poems

The audioposts of three requested poems went up yesterday. They can all be found in the post immediately preceding this one.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Poem Request Week

The Conqueror Worm, Edgar Allan Poe.
this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday Morning (parts I-IV), Wallace Stevens.
this is an audio post - click to play

Sunday Morning (parts V-VIII), Wallace Stevens.
this is an audio post - click to play

Love Song: I and Thou, Alan Dugan.
this is an audio post - click to play


Nothing is plumb, level or square:
the studs are bowed, the joists
are shaky by nature, no piece fits
any other piece without a gap
or pinch, and bent nails
dance all over the surfacing
like maggots. By Christ
I am no carpenter. I built
the roof for myself, the walls
for myself, the floors
for myself, and got
hung up in it myself. I
danced with a purple thumb
at this house-warming, drunk
with my prime whiskey: rage.
Oh, I spat rage's nails
into the frame-up of my work:
it held. It settled plumb,
level, solid, square and true
for that great moment. Then
it screamed and went on through,
skewing as wrong the other way.
God damned it. This is hell,
but I planned it, I sawed it,
I nailed it, and I
will live in it until it kills me.
I can nail my left palm
to the left-hand crosspiece but
I can't do everything myself.
I need a hand to nail the right,
a help, a love, a you, a wife.

Alan Dugan

Starting today (Wednesday, April 19), I will be taking requests for poems people might like to hear. I'll be able to do audioposts tonight, Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. If you would like to make a request, you can do so in the comments to this post, or you can email me (my address can be found in my profile). If I can find a copy of a poem I'll give it a shot.

Later today, a look — literally — at some books of which I'm particularly fond.

update: I'm going to keep this post at the top of the page for a while.

update: I will post three requested poems tomorrow: Poe's The Conqueror Worm; Stevens' Sunday Morning; and Alan Dugan's Love Song: I and Thou. I may do the first one when I get home from work tonight, depending upon how I feel. I'll continue to keep this post at the top of the page.

update: I've decided it would be most convenient for everyone if I place the requested poems at the top of this post as I do them.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Miscellaneous stuff

The Global Seismic Monitor. In case you can't shake your booty on your own.

Some open source programs for windows. A CD of open source stuff.

The, ahem, Anagram Hall of Fame.

Desperation = A Rope Ends It

The Morse Code = Here Come Dots

The Meaning of Life = The fine game of nil

Slot Machines = Cash Lost in'em

Yeti Crabs. No, it has nothing to with the perils of sex with a mythical Himalayan primate. It's a recently discovered crustacean.

The Mind and Machine Module. Lots of brain stuff. Remember: your brain is your greatest enemy. Get to know your enemy. Learn to out-think it.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A Crisping of Leaves (After Before Night Falls) [John MacKenzie]

this is an audio post - click to play

As requested in the comments on this post, a poem of my own.

A bunch of books I like a lot

For various reasons these books are important to me.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

And that's the ballgame

The 1986 World Series game 6, that is, re-enacted in RBI Baseball with Vin Scully calling the action. Well worth watching. Enjoy. And now I'm going to watch the Jays and the Yanks.

Mermaid (Robert Lowell)

(Dumbass that I am, I've finally figured out how to convert scanned images to text. So now, instead having to type in poems I want to post, or post about here, or having to search the web for them if I'm too lazy to type, I can just scan 'em and go.)

So, below is Robert Lowell's Mermaid, originally published in his 1973 collection, The Dolphin. More about Lowell can be found at this link.) Apparently, Lady Caroline Blackwood (more here), to whom Lowell was married at the time, is the mermaid of the title and figues strongly in the whole collection. Interestingly, to me, at least, Blackwood was previously married to the artist Lucien Freud — who, while he's no slouch as a painter himself, was a friend of possibly the greatest painter of the 20th century, Francis Bacon (be sure to check out the Bacon paintings linked to in that article). And they were nutbars all, bless the large-brained lot of 'em.

As usual, in lieu of taking up much space writing about the poem itself, I have scattered links throughout to show what associations were made in "my tiny, mad, chicken mind" (that link is unrelated to anything else in this post — I think).



I have learned what I wanted from the mermaid
and her singeing conjunction of tail and grace.
Deficiency served her. What else could she do?
Failure keeps snapping up transcendence,
bubble and bullfrog boating on the surface,
belly lustily lagging three inches lowered—
the insatiable fiction of desire.
None swims with her and breathes the air.
A mermaid flattens soles and picks a trout,
knife and fork in chainsong at the spine,
weeps white rum undetectable from tears.
She kills more bottles than the ocean sinks,
and serves her winded lovers' bones in brine,
nibbled at recess in the marathon.


Our meetings are no longer like a screening;
I see the nose on my face is just a nose,
your bel occhi grandi are just eyes
in the photo of you arranged as figurehead
or mermaid on the prow of a Roman dory,
bright as the morning star or a blond starlet.
Our twin black and tin Ronson butane lighters
knock on the sheet, are what they are,

too many, and burned too many cigarettes. . .
Night darkens without your necessary call,
it's time to turn your pictures to the wall;
your moon-eyes water and your nervous throat
gruffs my directive, "You must go now go."
Contralto mermaid, and stone-deaf at will.


I see you as a baby killer whale,
free to walk the seven seas for game,
warmhearted with an undercoat of ice,
a nerve-wrung back . . . all muscle, youth, intention,
and skill expended on a lunge or puncture—
hoisted now from conquests and salt sea
to flipper-flapper in a public tank,
big deal for Sunday children. . . . . My blind love—
on the Via Veneto, a girl
counting windows in a glass cafe,
now frowning at her menu, now counting out
neanderthals flashed like shorebait on the walk. . . .
Your stamina as inside-right at school
spilled the topheavy boys, and keeps you pure.


One wondered who would see and date you next,
and grapple for the danger of your hand.
Will money drown you? Poverty, though now
in fashion, debases women as much as wealth.
You use no scent, dab brow and lash with shoeblack,
willing to face the world without more face.
I've searched the rough black ocean for you,
and saw the turbulence drop dead for you,
always lovely, even for those who had you,
Rough Slitherer in your grotto of haphazard.
I lack manhood to finish the fishing trip.
Glad to escape beguilement and the storm,

I thank the ocean that hides the fearful mermaid—
like God, I almost doubt if you exist.

Robert Lowell

Part 2 is missing because I'm working from Lowell's Selected Poems which does
not have Part 2.

Here's another Lowell poem, Water. And an Elizabeth Bishop poem, North Haven, written for Lowell. As you can see, there's "water, water everywhere."

Monday, April 17, 2006

Birches (Robert Frost)

this is an audio post - click to play

I just did an audiopost of the Robert Frost poem, Birches. It should be showing up soon, I hope. You can read the poem at this link.

Update: I had to redo Birches because the first version never showed up.

I've noticed that these posts don't work very well when I try to listen to them in my browser — they get truncated somehow. But they work just fine when I open the URL in a media player like QuickTime or Winamp. Ah well.

History (Robert Lowell)

this is an audio post - click to play

Don't hear much about Lowell these days. Of course, I'm so much to myself lately that I don't hear much about anything. Whatever ... Lowell's good reading for a wet April night when you can hear green hissing and crawling up into everything that grows while last year's leaves sink into the soil, and branches fallen from winter-ravaged trees scrawl, mindless as an I Ching casting, across the ground.


History has to live with what was here,
clutching and close to fumbling all we had—
it is so dull and gruesome how we die,
unlike writing, life never finishes.
Abel was finished; death is not remote,
a flash-in-the-pan electrifies the skeptic,
his cows crowding like skulls against high-voltage wire,
his baby crying all night like a new machine.
As in our Bibles, white-faced, predatory,
the beautiful, mist-drunken hunter's moon ascends—
a child could give it a face: two holes, two holes,
my eyes, my mouth, between them a skull's no-nose—
O there's a terrifying innocence in my face
drenched with the silver salvage of the mornfrost.

Robert Lowell

Like the best of Lowell's work, this poem never tries to excuse or explain itself. Unconcerned with anything, even the question of its own truthfulness, it is simply there with its own blood on its hands, looking beyond you. Any questions you find here are yours. And any answers.