Monthly Archives: January 2015

Looking at Sticks in Winter

winter character

Looking at Sticks in Winter

After a light overnight snow grounded things stand out
like a character for winter

autumn’s fallen sticks seem arranged
a gentle alphabet of dropped and windblown things

are all alphabets constructed of things that no longer grow
snapped or broken things until the world made sense of the drift

do I know as I look down on them they are looking
past me pointing to all that is still living above our heads

to all that will be green again whether I look or not
are all languages a message in relief or is it my own relief

that words will never be in season the spring they sprouted
from long gone the spring yet to arrive as forgetful

as we are with each other with growing and shedding
that even my name is an accidental landing

To the Tune of a Song Not Yet Written

To the Tune of a Song Not Yet Written


The sun departs through a throng of clouds
on the horizon– an overexposed photo

of an old explosion. Did it happen in our time?
the cold street wants to know. The street

which is always asking, asking! An amateur’s
snapshot, I tell it. I am always on this street

that happens to be going the way
I am going. It knows only one question

but has the patience to repeat it.
Without that question to what purpose

could a street put itself? I know eventually
the pavement will give way and the question

through the voice of dirt and rocks
and sun-warmth escaping long after dark

will sound like a song without words
or the faded caption on an old photograph

someone took of us looking at the sun
standing still against the pathless sky

Morning, After the Ice Storm

Morning, After the Ice Storm


The bluejay’s query from the previous twilight
hangs in the mostly empty air between branches.

On a brown maple leaf last night’s tear
has still not fallen. Though in a few hours

this moment will be gone like all the others
even grief sometimes has to wait its turn




The end of the stem
is where a flower starts. At the end

of a ragged leaf a sated bug steps.
The end of the trunk is where the tree

plunges past seeing and the roots’ ends
commence the purest conversion.

The river turns out on the ocean,
the sky turns over the bowl of stars

with no end to the spilling space.

Humble Poem #1 [Garden Drive]

Humble Poem #1 [Garden Drive]


I’m grateful for this quiet night, and sleep
and waking from a dream of my children

in my childhood home they’ve never seen,
staying up late singing “Dance, Dance, Dance”

with their uncle my brother around the living room

Readings: Bridgewater International Poetry Festival Wrap-up & Alumni Page

We saw it all in those four days at Bridgewater. Poetry in other languages. Poetry in English that appeared to be in another language. Poetry in another language that appeared to be in English. Spoken word performances. Amazing stage presence and outlandish stage props. Cellos and calls from Paris. Wildlife and the deep internal horizon. Minds coming together and all the space in between.

By Sunday afternoon, invigorated and exhausted (and I did not even attend the evening workshops and readings because of family stuff back down the road in Staunton, so I’m not sure how some of you survived it!) I stumbled back to my house on the hill, unburdened with several hundred pages of new reading material, a couple of CDs, business cards, scribbled emails and even a draft or two for new poems, and a feeling that the world was now wheeling around me in a slightly different rhythm, with a palette of new colors I could suddenly see as if in a new landscape not quite winter and not fully weather either.

So still dizzy with the event, I’d like to bottle a bit of that magic and cast it forward. I’ve changed the title of the Bridgewater page on the top menu of this site to the Bridgewater Fest Alumni page, and I hope some of the poets I have met in the last week will use that page to continue to announce new publication of their work, be it in print or online journal, limited edition letterpress work, or big ol’ book publication events. Maybe some of us will see each other again in a few years at the next Festival, but in the meantime let’s visit and share the news with each other, and with the wonderful community of poets and readers who regularly visit this humble and grateful site.

Attending a Poetry Festival I Wonder What A World Full of Poets Would Be Like, And As I Leave the Building Into the Mid-Winter Afternoon Air I Hear the Late Migration Of a Canada Goose

Attending a Poetry Festival I Wonder What A World Full of Poets Would Be Like, And As I Leave the Building Into the Mid-Winter Afternoon Air I Hear the Late Migration Of a Canada Goose

In a room of a hundred poets my ego diminishes. My name grows so small
I can no longer find it on the program. But it turns out I am everywhere,

in every poem I hear, someone is calling my name! In the parking lot, in the cold air
above me a lone goose is calling as he flies, looking for companions traveling

his way. I look—no, he is not alone after all. There is one, silent, flying beside him.

Bridgewater International Poetry Fest: Day 3

Geez Louise. Another pretty cool day at the Bridgewater Fest. Keeping in mind the nature of this festival — that two poets share an hour onstage in two separate reading locations, and that this goes on for basically eight hours — you’re bound to miss something, so you have to rely on your newly-met colleagues in the art to find out what they saw and liked. I did not arrive until the afternoon session, so if anyone reading wants to add insight on the morning poets, please add in your comments.

The first poet I saw this afternoon was Mark Fitzgerald. Author of one previous book, he was reading new material that was strong, resilient, and had a unique beauty I’m finding hard to describe. He doesn’t bring you a storm, he brings you the sound of leaves starting to scramble across a forest floor, and then he brings you the wind, and then sound and light and rain–and the storm of the poem is assembled in your head. Hoping not to misquote here, I believe he read a line that went something like “The song was winter not knowing it wanted to end.” And in a long poem for his son about setting out into the world like a buccaneer onto the unsteady sea, he wrote, “Understand the tug, and you will find kind winds.” I cannot wait until this guy’s manuscript finds its way into a book.

Following him was Suzanne Rhodenbaugh, who read a memorable poem about a Texas woman intent on getting some Scottish broom transplanted from Virginia where she saw it to her property, enlisting the help of two Virginians of somewhat Scottish names to help her.

Performance was a key element in the presentations of Aimee Suzara and Lady Caress, who wow’d the afternoon crowd. Later, down in the Eagle’s Nest, I found the poetry of Lynn Martin particularly haunting. In the next session, it was great to hear Leah Green read her poetry, including a line in a poem entitled “Once Home,” that went something like “My friend could feel the maples not being there / even in the dark…” What a beautiful and concise way to begin to speak about absence. I was happy to find out afterwards that this poem, and another moving poem she read entitled “Venison,” were both in the copy of the journal Ecotone that I had picked up the day before from Anna Lena Phillips, who seems to be able to be in multiple places at the same time during this Festival–reading her own work, attending readings, manning the Ecotone table, and speaking on the editorial process.

This has all gotten my on-demand mind conjuring up all sorts of wacky ideas–wouldn’t it be cool if when going to a conference like this you could pick a selection of your favorite poems from the contributing poets and have an instant epub generated to take home? A kind of pay-per-poem deal, where you can take home with you a little bit of every writer’s work you enjoyed the most, and where each writer can go home with a little extra money? A kind of Make-Your-Own-Bridgewater-Fest-Anthology? Don’t nobody get frightened, it’s just my mind talkin. And knowing that all the tech exists for this kind of thing to be done.

On to Sunday tomorrow. My only real concern is that I get home in time to watch my beloved Patriots play in the AFC Championship without missing a snap — or a poem.

Bridgewater International Poetry Festival: Day Two

The festival opened up a bit today with some great informal post-reading discussions. Poet Susan Facknitz closed up the morning readings and in the time remaining helped lead and facilitate a wide-ranging discussion on the role of poetry and its possibilities in the age of internet memes and the 140-character tweet. After Stephen Corey’s talk about making every line count, he found himself in much the same facilitator’s role, as the gathering of poets seemed intent on continuing the early round-table of topics. I think all the different readers and different styles naturally cooked up some of these questions, and both Ms. Facknitz and Mr. Corey were more than up to the task of guiding these talks.

The “international” element was in power mode–

  • the morning opened up with Skype coverage from India of Susil Mandal and Indranil Acharya;
  • Filipino-American poet Patsy Asuncion read with energy, depth and passion in the morning down in the Eagle’s Nest, followed immediately by
  • Ukrainian-American Nicole Yurcaba, who read poems from her forthcoming book which focused on her her family’s history in the Ukraine and America. Both of these poets projected the authentic presence of their work in a way that was utterly personable and perspective-shifting for those in the audience.

After lunch, we were treated to a reading by Albert Russo, calling in from Paris, France.

Definitely a bracing and exciting day. And by definition in a festival packed with concurrent readings, I missed half of the events of the day! including a writer’s workshop held later in the evening by Aimee Suzara, who contributed to both of the aforementioned discussions about a minute after arriving at the college, after her flight from Oakland, CA. Whew! For those of you who saw some of the other poets, please feel free to comment on your experience. I have heard that each of the readings was captured on video, and I hope this will give us the opportunity to view the writers whose readings we missed in person.

Tomorrow I’ll be missing the morning due to engagements with an entity called Family. Among the poets I’ll miss is Angela Carter, one of my favorite Virginia poets and a great presence at our local group’s monthly meetings. Lucky for me, the afternoon of Day Three looks to be packed with quite a few poets I’m looking forward to meeting, several of whom you’ll find on the Bridgewater “Meet the Poets” page on this site.


Bridgewater International Poetry Festival: Day One

Well, Day One is in the books and even at half a day it was a whirlwind of readings and meeting lots of fine people dedicated to the craft of writing and the art of poetry.  Festival Mastermind Stan Galloway, a professor of English at Bridgewater, has convened an eclectic group of poets here to this cozy college, and a roving gang of 18 student volunteers has helped support the festivities with tech help, directions, pizza and, of course, coffee.

Once the festival really got going, you are faced with two different reading locations, each hosting two poets an hour. I was paired with Jim Gaines, which was a good match as we were both working on translations as well as on our own work. Some other interesting or odd tidbits from Day One:

  • The first two poets, Stephen Corey and Pamela Uschuk, both read poems which included peonies in them. Strangely enough, one of the poems I read, directly after their reading, also included peonies. Wha?
  • Sirwan Kajjo, a Kurdish poet living in the DC area, read three poems in English and (on request) another in his native tongue (English being his third language!).
  • Matthew Hamilton has had so many lives — soldier, peace corps volunteer, benedictine monk, and librarian — that I had the surreal impression I was meeting someone who had just walked out of a Mark Helprin novel, who happens to be a darn good poet as well.
  • I missed as many good poets as I got a chance to see, but this is the trade-off of a festival like this. it’s invigorating and exhausting at the same time.

Emily Hancock of St Brigid’s Press, along with several other supporting literary establishments including the Georgia Review, whose editor Stephen Corey can be counted among the poets presenting their work, were present and selling their books. Although I forgot to mention this in my own reading today, three of my works are available at the St Brigid table — the broadside of the prose poem Drop Everything, a handsome broadside with moon-shaped matting of my translation of Li Ho’s Sky Dream, and the omnipresent haiku coaster sets.

I survived my own reading early in the afternoon with the help of a supportive audience. Twenty minutes can seem like an eternity or like the snap of a finger when you’re reading your work. If you’d like the silent virtual tour of what I read, you can follow the links below. On to Day Two!

Poem for the Back Cover of a Book

Self Portrait at Forty Nine

Fire Followers

Nobscusset Burial Ground, Dennis MA

On Translating a Poem from the Chinese

Two poems about the moon, one mentioning the moon six times and one not mentioning the moon at all

Mei Yao-ch’en and I Lament Missing the Lunar Eclipse…

Mei Yao-ch’en and I, Walking Downtown for Pizza on a May Afternoon…

…Mei Yao-ch’en and I Await Fourth of July Fireworks…