go you to the dead

moon leaves rustle
shapes shift
traverse the miles
carrying good
carrying bad

it pleased the almighty
to quiet the storms with one voice
to quiet the thunder
at the center of the universe

they rise and fly in the air
past brilliant clouds
past suns lit in red
crossing the sea
in ethereal blue luminous

Year of Poems: Week 1-12

(Reading a poem a day for a week and reporting back. Read the commentaries on each week's selections, starting from the bottom of the post and working up. See the full listing of poems, with links here.)


Year of Poems - Week 12
A note on the format for this project. Prior to this week I've been doing a separate post per week, but I've now rolled them all into one. As always, the link to the complete list of poems I've read thus far is located at the top of the page.

Did I mention that Atlas Poetica, "A Journal of World Tanka," is a mighty fine publication? Probably, but it bears mentioning again. They have 26 issues in all, so they've been doing this for a while now. I've been gradually working my way through issue 24, which is a rather substantial piece of work, and intend to move on to the other issues after finishing that one.

Also worth a look, if you have any interest in the tanka form, is an online version of the ancient Japanese work known as the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu. It's brought to you courtesy of the Japanese Text Initiative, a joint project of the University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center and the University of Pittsburgh East Asian Library, and it is also worth a look - or two. Those who can't get enough of free Japanese works of ancient poetry can head on over to the Kindle store (and presumably to other online book outlets) for a copy of Japanese Literature Including Selections from Genji Monogatari and Classical Poetry and Drama of Japan. Check the spreadsheet link at the top of this post for a link.

I started this project, in part, as a way to seek out a wider range of poetry than I otherwise might. Which worked, at least to a point, but I can't resist throwing in a old favorite now and then. This time around that would be Sailing to Byzantium, by Yeats.


Year of Poems - Week 11
More tanka and haiku this week, including selections from the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu, issue 17 of failed haiku, and the quite excellent Atlas Poetica. In the non-tanka categories, there's Potato Bug Exterminators, by James McIntyre, an alleged poet of some notoriety. Also a short work from Woodrow Wilson - yes, that Woodrow Wilson. And the Shadow Award contest winners, from an online publication called The Molotov Cocktail. Of special note here, not that you asked, is the 2nd Place winner, stark raving naked, which to my ear sounded like a pretty adept take on Ginsberg's Howl. Also of note, the 3rd Place winner, Children of the Damp.


Year of Poems - Week 10
More tanka from Atlas Poetica this week, as well as a few days worth of classic examples of the from an ancient Japanese work called the Ogura Hyakunin Isshu. Then there's issue 19 of Prune Juice, a Journal of Senryu, Kyoka, Haibun & Haiga, and a few "regular" poems by Mark Strand and Regie Cabico.


Year of Poems - Week 9
More tanka (short Japanese poems similar to haiku) this week, but not exclusively. Also Weltende Variation #I, an interesting work by Bill Knott, a poet I was not familiar with. I read a good bit of issue 13 of Unbroken Journal, who specialize in short prose poem forms. On the tanka front this week, I spent a few days this week reading issue 24 of the quite excellent, Atlas Poetica, which is devoted to tanka. As with anything else, there were a number of pieces I liked, some that didn't do much for me and one, by Alexis Rotella, that jumped right off the page. Here it is.

Forgive me mother
for not visiting
your stone
I’ve grown tired of
taking care of you.


Year of Poems - Week 8
The focus was on tanka (a Japanese poetry form that's not unlike haiku) again this week. Also a poem by Marina Tsvetaeva, said to be "one of the most renowned poets of 20th-century Russia."


Year of Poems - Week 7
My intention when I commenced upon this project was to jump around as much as possible when selecting each day's poems. However, this week I got stuck on tanka, with much of the week being devoted to reading examples of this form. Tanka is not too far removed from haiku - obviously the better known of the two forms. According to one definition, a tanka is "a Japanese poem consisting of five lines, the first and third of which have five syllables and the other seven, making 31 syllables in all and giving a complete picture of an event or mood." All but one of this week's readings were dedicated to examples of this type of poem. Since they are so short, some days I read and listed more than one.


Year of Poems - Week 6
Highlights this week - Adam Cast Forth, in which Borges imagines what it might be like for Adam, after he is cast out of the Garden of Eden. Also, Moth-Terror, by Benjamin De Casseres, a piece of "modern" poetry. Or at least it was nearly a century ago when it appeared in The Second Book of Modern Verse, in 1922.


Year of Poems - Week 5
A wide ranging exploration this week, from Togray, a poet whom I couldn't find out much about but who apparently made posey in the 12th century. All the way up to the present day with two poets - James Tate and Bill Knott - who died within the past few years. Nothing quite knocked my socks off this week but I guess these latter two were the highlights.


Year of Poems - Week 4
The prize for best title this week has to go to Small Insects and Their Place Among Main Sequence Stars, by Juanjo Bazán. Which appears in the online speculative fiction magazine, Strange Horizons. Also of note, a poem by very well-known fantasy writer who was not particularly well known for his poetry. That's Tolkien, whose Goblin Feet is of interest more as a curiosity than anything else.

Speaking of writers not primarily known for their poetry, there's James Joyce, whom I have mixed feelings about. Finnegan's Wake is a fine piece of work that I don’t even pretend to understand and which is best taken in very small doses. Much of Ulysses is deadly dull, if I dare say so, but also contains some of the greatest passages ever written, so go and figure that one out. Nightpiece doesn’t quite rise to those heights but it's one of the better works I've read since starting this project.

Also on hand this week, Very Jones, Ellen Sturgis Hooper, Anne Bradstreet and Vasko Popa.


Year of Poems - Week 3
Who is the worst poet ever? I'm sure there's plenty of competition for that title and who's to say, after all? There are those who would say that it's Scottish poet, William Topaz McGonagall, who has a very in-depth web site devoted to his glorious works. See the link below for a sample of his poetic goodness. Then there's O Donald! Ye Are Just the Man, by eighteenth century poet Susaanna Blamire, which had a nice ring to it. Don't ask me why.

The favorites this week included Lunar Baedeker, by Mina Loy, a poet I hadn't heard of before, and a snippet from War is Kind, by a poet I had heard of before and rather like - Stephen Crane. Also of note, I Cannot Give the Reasons, by Mervyn Peake. He's best known for his Gormenghast books but apparently was also a nonsense poet of some renown.


Year of Poems - Week 2
A number of curiosities this week. A poem by Don Van Vliet (Captain Beefheart) that diverges somewhat from the loopy style he often used for his song lyrics. Clark Ashton Smith takes a crack at surrealism and a poem by Ina Rosseau about the Garden of Eden. Also, not one, but two poems about hippopotamuses (hippopotami?), one of them a rather mystifying work by none other than T.S. Eliot.


Year of Poems - Week 1
A while back I decided it might be interesting to read through the massive Norton Anthology of Poetry, nearly 2,200 pages worth. I didn't come close to completing that task and it was interesting, but only to a point. It's still one of my favorite books but it's not the kind of tome that one wants to read straight through. I prefer to jump around and pick out stuff that looks interesting rather than being stuck on a linear path. So I've ditched that project for now.

With the Year of Poems project, the game plan is to do something similar, with a goal of reading a poem a day for one year. While it's probably not quite accurate to say that a 2200-page anthology of poetry is not diverse, the goal this time around to cast the net even wider than the esteemed Norton editors did. Thus, while the first week's entry includes a Norton-friendly piece by a DWEM (Dead White European Male), there also one by a DWEF from the century before, as well as one from ancient Greece and another from ancient Egypt.

that place taboo

unspeakable secrets
restore the head
from deepest hollows
leave evil behind
this world deads us
star light decolorized
moving twinkling transformed

row, row, row your boat, prufrock

row, row, row your boat
like a patient etherized upon a table
gently down the stream
scuttling across the floors of silent seas
merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily
i have heard the mermaids singing each to each
life is but a dream
til human voices wake us and we drown

row, row, row your boat
the love song of j. alfred prufrock - t.s. eliot

ode to a shoe

walk on by
nothing to see here
but water dripping from the ear of an ape
and azure smoke curling from your eye socket
like a floating hat in a thunderstorm
i hate your porch

this is common knowledge

hypergolic deformities of the face
separated from counterfeit
body parts of inferior quality
nomenclature things destroyed
by snipers, gang cats and looters
this the proper way to wash a church

antipathy to wigs

lachrymal purgatory canals
tale of sorrow ancestors
freeze blood congealed
so we will now
sing the ninetieth psalm

manage the horse
painter of horses
lenient with lobsters
turkey in my drum
i will take a dollar

prithee be gone

albania's hard to rhyme

house above the world
pre-prophetic symbols
planes of never

fleas love dogs
remember your etiquette
breast of flamingo

you need an usher?
twitterpated in the springtime
horse trough, row boat!
in a hotel?

she hasn't lost weight
handing out baseballs
but can she climb a tree
you owe me a cadillac

frank, we'll be down in the basement

21 years studying
funeral practices of french circus clowns
a surprisingly low figure
great at so many things
16 hours of hilarity and screaming
maybe you should, don
he was right, of course
don't know if you qualify
this is it
call now to find out more
let's meet
i'll explain everything

tanka 5 & 6

tongueless mouths running
the dead cement plants blooming
they can eat eat eat
gape like pure at the sin graves
by being dead you are dead

take my wife - and horse
my mother is now a sponge
murder by tungsten
it hurts when I don't do this
and space and time are shrinking

(tanka - a Japanese poem consisting of five lines, the first and third of which have five syllables and the other seven, making 31 syllables in all and giving a complete picture of an event or mood.)

the flowering of your flowers

thou expandeth
thou contracteth
licking thyself like a drunken cat
folding murderers into four equal parts and
tickling them under the table
don’t mention it

thy tiny wooden leg drags along behind thee
thou caresseth it in the pasture
and flee from the worms of death's sting
heaven fills with the azure glory of thy knee
the far stars fill the skies with a glee
and the winds of thy heart blow like a fart

tanka 3 & 4

you helped dress my horse
our hearts beating like crowbars
light gasses wafting you were slightly dim-witted
i ate a plum with my foot

your tongue has sideburns
a trombone flies out of your mouth
the waterfall flows back up i'm sorry it's a trombone
some of my best cats are mice

(tanka - a Japanese poem consisting of five lines, the first and third of which have five syllables and the other seven, making 31 syllables in all and giving a complete picture of an event or mood.)

tanka 1 & 2

slavemaster chasm
the one-sided rainy earth
the night in motion

sting of death loses purpose
shriveled earth and sea swallowed

look here, funny boy
look at my knees, o my knees
i think you're an ape

blessed are the cheesemakers
i can't reach my silverware

(tanka - a Japanese poem consisting of five lines, the first and third of which have five syllables and the other seven, making 31 syllables in all and giving a complete picture of an event or mood.)

yielding intimations of mothlikeness

to the windward he hies, hearkening, wingining
flittering wings glistening whitelike, tanlike, paperwhite
like gleaming flecks of winglike whitish-tannish paper
hies yon and anon to the outer bounds
of the wailing and the aching and the yielding
floating, o so mothish upon the azure breeze of eternity

you wouldn't inhale the drapes

a whistle blows and azure light returns
disgusting noises come out of ernest borgnine
i no longer know how to stand up

i'll turn your topsoil till the cows come home
exploring the deep dark droopy saggy
big and frizzy (that's a metaphor dorothy)

everybody grab a gun and run to the basement
you're a pig in a cheap suit!
do you want it fast or do you want it good?

the day we kicked a puppet

we stood there upon the shore of a vast mud puddle
enraptured by the rustling of each other's genomes
but it all felt perfunctory
like the underside of a badger

you reached out a hand to me and it fell off
plopped into the mud
and a flying mud squirrel
swooped down and made off with it

so now we are tidal locked
by the gravitas of our latent potentialities
our skulls laden with moldering whispers from the back of an azure eternity
and so we must stipulate new parameters

don't do embraces with my pig

i am a strong singers
the most annoyings obnoxiouses self-centereds creature
you are i've met
i am alove
and we're falling in loves with fur

i grabs hims fur with my feets
easies on the furs you crew members
easies on the furs you havent
there's somethings you should knows
dont do embraces with my pig

i pray i never see this place again

marooned dark shades river
stygian rain in a bottomless sea under the sea
souls wash into unreality
black styx sad roaring styx from whence rapture flows
dreams passing forth in sad weary stygian waters

lamenting lost pleasures
harried by fallen angels in fathomless realms
plagued by weird armies litanies do not harm them
skies black as ink the dying show dizzying
night within night never sleep leaving
never safe from ruin

they kill god of heaven

monster action girls
the loverliest of all
a short drop off to the drip drop

look up they're thrilling
look down they're deep
look out they're back in action

the happiest people in the world
the crowd explodes in cheers
the man with a disembodied head

they all goes a little much more wilder
not that it matters much
but most of it all is all true

the world of dreams shrinks in size

passionate words whip the ground like serpents for every six pounds of transgression
we must assume the existence of the foul thing that is reality

daredevils iron small thread large pearls fearsome
silvery animals float past glittering clouds gnawing the bodies of dervishes

a man in black hell

blank outer dark
noise of millenia
guttural grumblings
like silence supreme
rambles and stares
at a radiant girl
with butterfly wings
in thick shadows
she sits and sings
dark matter swirls
through silvery air
ascends to heaven
plummets to earth