Thursday, June 29

Poetry Thursday: Leonard Cohen, W.S.Merwin & Linda McCarriston

Poetry Thursday ... today, Thursday, has been so busy for me with work that I haven't had time to really sit down and make a proper poetry post. Instead I am linking to my sunday post (with an awesome poem by Linda McCarriston) and to my photoblog, where I posted another wonderful poem by W.S.Merwin that I love) ... so please click the link to Sunday's post, Healing the Mare or my photoblog post at Land of Little Rain, for my Poetry Thursday contributions.

Ah, and as an extra bonus, I also wanted to tell you about a wonderful interview of another master of song, lyric and poetry, Leonard Cohen.

A friend sent me a note telling me about the PBS News broadcast tonight -- Leonard Cohen was being interviewed. He has been in my , oh, top three singer/songwriter/poets/lyricists forever ... as long as I can remember. so of course, I wanted to watch the interview. We missed it on tv (not being tuned into tv the way I am) but I am listening to the interview online. Here's the link

I have been thinking off and on, about the Poetry Thursday prompt a couple of weeks ago, to read a poem aloud, or consider the spoken word when writing a poem and how that might or might not change how we understand a poem, or write.... and when I heard Leonard Cohen talking about how a poem's mood can be entirely different depending on who is reading it aloud, and how that person is feeling just before reading, or during the reading .... I thought I'd like to share what he said with the other Poetry thursday contributors.

When asked, "What's the difference between writing a poem and a song?" Cohen replied:

A poem has a different time. For instance, a poem is a very private experience and it doesn't have a driving tempo - in other words, you can go back and forward, you can come back, you can linger. it's a completely different time reference. Whereas a song, you've got a tempo - you've got something that is moving swiftly, you can't stop it. And it's designed to move swiftly from mouth to mouth, heart to heart where a poem really speaks to something that has not itme, and that is a completely different perception.

He also said, "The tempo of a poem "migrates" depending on the mood of the reader."

I wrote this blog post for Poetry Thursday. Check out other poetry posts for this week by clicking this button:

Calendar for July: Bluebird House

Dear blog readers:
Here is my monthly calendar offering to my blog readers to say thank you for reading and visiting -- I publish these downloadable calendars as a gift of appreciation to you for sharing your lives with me through your writings and photos and comments on my blogs. You can see my other blog, Land of Little Rain, here

For July's calendar, I wanted to feature a photo I shot at our friends' land near Helena. Clancy and Mandy celebrated their wedding in August, 2005 near this beautiful aspen grove in Blue Cloud. The rainbow-colors painted on this bluebird house, to me, symbolize the beauty and happiness these two young people have -- and are creating everyday -- in their lives. Their one year anniversary is coming up next month: blessings and good luck to both of you in the second year of your marriage, Clancy and Mandy!

Please feel free to download and print this calendar. To download, click anywhere on the calendar and you should get a new window with the image. Click on the photo again in that new window to go to the large version of the calendar. Right-click to download the calendar. It should print out 8.5" x 11". If you have a printer that requires a margin, please print this slightly reduced to fit on a standard letter-size paper.

I hope you enjoy the monthly calendars, and please let me know if you have any problems downloading I can send them to you by email attachment.


Wednesday, June 28

Poetry Thursday: This time it’s personal

Today I have found a companion in my journey as a poet, as an artist, as someone who is healing from her wounds. I have found the poet, Linda McCarriston, through Bill Moyers, who, if I had a list of my favorite 10 men in the world, would most definitely be on that list.

As I read poem after poem by McCarriston, I thought immediately of Lynn's poem and the many responses left in the comments on that blog post, by readers of Poetry Thursday. I wrote her a letter, copied to Liz as well, which I am posting here:

Dear Liz and Lynn,
It's Saturday morning, around 9:00 am. I got up at sunrise this morning and spent two hours kneeling on the ground in my garden, pulling weeds, hoeing just-warming earth into mounds, then transplanting my small tomato and basil seedlings. It's finally warm enough in Montana to put these tender starts outside, so they can grow accustomed to the harsh elements where I live. Sunrise was early today, since we're just three days past Solstice. With soil under my fingernails and dirt-rounds on my knees, I ate a delicious breakfast -- in the sun -- made by my husband, Tim: waffles from freshly ground spelt and oat grains ... strawberries grown in our hanging baskets, maple syrup and a small cup of thick espresso. Tim has gone to work in his furniture shop, after bathing our old dog, Sam and leaving him to dry in the sun.

I tell you this (how my Saturday morning has been) because in a roundabout way, my morning today is connected to something I have gained from and learned from both of you.

I feel so lucky to have the companionship of a man who truly loves me, whose hands are gentle and kind, who cooks meals for me occasionally, who kneels down on a wet bathroom floor to lovingly bathe a 17-year old (around 104 equivalent human years) dog ....

Feeling this lucky made me think about your recent poem, Lynn -- the one inspired by words you love/words you hate .... and the upwelling of feeling I had when I read it -- it reminded me so much of experiences I had as a very young pre-teen and teenager. I have sat with those feelings and memories for the last two days, since reading your poem.

I wrote a comment on that blog post, Lynn, but I just wanted to say again that I believe your courage in sharing that poem (no matter what degree to which it is autobiographical or not ...) affected me strongly -- not just the poem itself, but the fact that you posted it! that you wrote it and shared it and didn't just let the poem sit between two journal-covers ... and I believe your courage probably affected alot of people who read that poem, judging from the comments.

For a break from my garden "chores", I thought I would go online to read your poem again, along with more of the amazing, heartfelt and diverse poetry contributed this week by the many Poetry Thursday members. I'm sure you know how browsing around blogs and the internet in general can be a round-about and sometimes incredibly synchronous experience!

Well, in the course of the last hour I have read six Poetry Thursday blog posts and commented, looked at a whole bunch of Flickr photos posted with poetry .... (from the Literary Reference in Pictures group on flickr) plus come across an amazing interview by Bill Moyers with poet, Linda McCarriston. You may be familiar with her work, Liz and Lynn. If you aren't I encourage you to read her poetry, maybe starting with this very good interview.

The interview is an archive of Moyer's PBS show, NOW, which is now unfortunately, hosted by David Brancaccio (he's not nearly as radical as Moyers thus the show has become kind of tame, imho) -- anyway, I get sidetracked. Back to the point: Moyers and McCarriston were discussing intense, personal uncomfortable writing -- very similar to yours. At least, the discussion between Linda and Moyers reminded me of some of the questions and issues brought up here in these comments, by readers who have responded to your powerful poem.

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

The material was hard to handle, but in some ways a more difficult problem was that many people actively tried to discourage me from writing these poems. They felt that if I were to write them, the poems would be shrill or I might be identifying myself as a feminist or a radical. Because I knew that these experiences told in the first person woman's voice of outrage were not supposed to be poetry, I tried to write these poems in a way that was veiled. But when I veiled the voice or the experiences I put the fire out in them.

I tried again and again and again to write these poems, and I was really driven a little bit wild by the necessity to write them. I didn't know why I felt so compelled to write them, but when I finally found that I was beginning to write poems about these experiences that were standing on their own, that were good poems, I realized that I simply had to speak back to the culture that I saw as creating and sustaining the ideas that led to this violent situation in the first place. I really don't feel I had a choice. That was my material, and the difficulty was simply in waiting and leaning on the material long enough until a way came to me by which I could speak.

Those who argue that poetry says the unsayable generally mean the unsayably beautiful or the unsayably profound, but the unsayable can also mean what people simply don't want said, ever. That's why poetry is extremely radical—poetry allows the individual experience to strike like lightning through the collective institutional consciousness and to plumb the depths of actual communal experience so that what people don't want said in fact gets said, and in a way that is unignorable. Poetry does this through the stature of utterance which characterizes it.

MOYERS: Some of your poems are suffused with healing— just the sound of your voice when you read it is a healing experience.

MCCARRISTON: I think that's what people respond to, that it is possible for the people who are damaged to deal. Many, many people suffer cruelly tragic childhoods, and many others who don't suffer cruelly tragic childhoods suffer painful childhoods, but they're all encouraged by the future just to grow up and get over it. So they have all this experience which they can't get over very easily, and it continues to be painful. At times when they begin to confront it, they feel that they're going to be stuck in it forever, and they don't want to be stuck in it forever. Then they begin to ask: Is there a way out? Can one heal? How does one heal? I think it's the possibility of healing in that poem that people have responded to.

If you are interested in reading the entire interview, it's here. And here is a poem by Linda McCarriston, which strikes me as very much like the type of poem we Poetry Thursday participants have been discussing in this comment thread.

I was wondering if maybe this would be something you would want to post on Poetry Thursday, maybe in the sidebar under special links, or I don't know ...l maybe somehow we could have this be a topic, without getting too much into the "confessional" type of poetry -- maybe just putting some thought into how this kind of poem might fall flat, or on the other hand, might be so powerful and universal that it changes someone's life, truly changes someone's response to pain and circumstances.

I'll leave it up to you how to present this, if at all. I love Poetry Thursday and congratulate you both on a successful idea that seems to be drawing more and more people to be open to writing, reading and sharing poetry in community.


Here are a few more links and excerpts by or about Linda McCarriston:

From McCarriston's article about her poem "On Horseback" article published in Sojourner's Magazine: When the artist goes into the "dark place," she goes with her materials, her commitment (which is the habit of her presence there), and her humility (a willingness to be surprised and even undone by what finds her there). What discovers her is usually neither what she expected nor what her society wants particularly to hear, but it is a truth, something she didn't know she knew or knew but had forgotten.

Here is an interview of Linda McCarriston by Bill Moyers on his now tame PBS show, Now. (I say it's tame now because Moyers has retired from the show leaving his replacement, David Brancaccio, to continue. Brancaccio's style and subject choices are anything but interesting to me after the brilloiance, courage and genious Moyers demonstrated week after week when he hosted NOW. )

And McCarriston's poem:

On Horseback

We are only walking.
This is not the romance
of horseback riding:
your mane, which is short
and scraggly, sticks out
like a hedge of cowlicks
or merely flops off to the side.
Nothing is flying, trans-
porting, transcendent.

Then we aren't a metaphor
for anything, Shawnee James,
little borrowed horse I learn on.
Your body is bent and dented
as the first car I owned,
the '52 Plymouth, brush-painted,
one walleye headlight
held in with masking tape.
And I am a comparable model.

But, cast off the road,
our shadow is travelling
across the cut stubble of October.
My hands have forgotten themselves,
as the shadow has forgotten them,
does not require them.
With your four legs, our two heads
find a balance.

A single thing in gray,
its many muscles flush and flexing
in everyday grace,
we move over the grass, as whole
as the shape anything makes, passing.
We are something going somewhere,
handsome and practical and proud.
We shake out our tail.

LINDA McCARRISTON teaches poetry at the University of Alaska in Anchorage. Her most recent collection of poetry is Eva-Mary (Northwestern Press, 1993). Talking Soft Dutch was published by Texas Tech Press (1984). Reprinted here by permission of the author/poet.

Today's post is part of a growing circle of blog posts written for Poetry Thursday, begun by poets, Liz and Lynn. Click on their names to see their blogs, or check out the other poetry posts for this week by clicking this button:

Poetry Thursday: this week’s (completely and totally optional) idea — this time it’s personal

Sunday, June 25

Healing the Mare ... an echo

Healing the Mare
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

I made this to illustrate my response to this poignant poem written by Linda McCarriston:

Healing The Mare

Just days after the vet came,
after the steroids that took
the fire out of the festering
sores--out of the flesh that in
the heat took the stings too
seriously and swelled into great
welts, wore thin and wept, calling
more loudly out to the green-
headed flies - I bathe you
and see your coat returning,
your deep force surfacing in a
new layer of hide: black wax
alive against weather and flies.

But this morning, misshapen
still, you look like an effigy,
something rudely made, something
made to be buffeted, or like
an old comforter - are they both
one in the end? So both a child

and a mother, with my sponge and
my bucket, I come to anoint, to
anneal the still weeping, to croon
to you baby poor baby for the sake
of the song, to polish you up,
for the sake of the touch, to a shine.

As I soothe you I surprise wounds
of my own this long time unmothered.

As you stand, scathed and scabbed,
with your head up, I swab. As you
press, I lean into my own loving
touch, for which no wound
is too ugly.

-- copyright by Linda McCarriston
Posted with the author's permission

For more poetry and articles written by Linda McCarriston, please read the interview by Bill Moyers with Linda McCarriston or read her article in Sojourners Magazine

Thursday, June 22

For Poetry Thursday: Wild Parsley

Reverie under Wild Parsley Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

Wild Parsley

I lay my cheek down on
cool green blades
and watch flickering sunlight move
through disks of wild parsley

inhale spring sap perfume -- the
scent hangs sweet and redolent from
cottonwood buds -- heavy
like a cloud of old memories

I listen to a swishing
crinoline gesture in the distance
branch-dancers rise beneath
the always-flow of water music

my thoughts float
on the surface of years ago ...
carried over and over through the repeated questions
of some bird's one-note-song

each repeated stanza rises at the end
like a bedspring in the forest,
creaking under the weight of
so much life

insects float and twirl,
their translucent wings
are dust motes
beckoning wild unstructured

the way memory sometimes
and stops -- in fits --
and broken soundings and
comes back to the light

copyright 2006 by Maureen Shaughnessy

Today's post is part of a growing circle of blog posts written for Poetry Thursday, begun by poets, Liz and Lynn. Click on their names to see their blogs, or check out the other poetry posts for this week by clicking this button:

Thursday, June 15

Poetry Thursday: Jumping Off Point

Jumping Off Point
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

Jumping Off Point

I did not write about you or
draw your gesture there
with graphite and brushes
dipped in ink
this fire hue and this and this blue
I did not take your picture
with me when i jumped

only here and over here
I see the shadow
you left behind, a wisp
of fog or maybe steam
milk black tea and honey and cardomon
and sip the hot sweet smell
of you -- I remember only that

I know how to say
I love you in a letter
oh I know how to leap
into memory or ocean or twilight
with map an almanac a calendar of days
I dream of jumping off the point
where love swims blind

-- Copyright 2006 Maureen Shaughnessy

I wrote this blog post for Poetry Thursday. Check out other poetry posts for this week by clicking this button:

Wednesday, June 7

Once blue is acquired it eclipses green

Once blue is acquired it eclipses green Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

"Under normal vision the most probably colors of things do not necessarily match up with their names. Physically, eyes see the colors of the spectrum the same, but when we utter a term for a color, it is not the color's immutable property; it is the name of a perception. In the hands of language and culture, simple chromatic sensations acquire a kaleidoscope of reference and meaning. As writer Alexander Theroux suggest, color is fictive space.

When a name for a color is absent from a language, it is usually blue. When a name for a color is indefinite, it is usually green. Ancient Hebrew, Welsh, Vietnamese, and, until recently, the Assyrians turned uknu, the noun for lapis lazuli, into an adjective. The Icelandic word for blue and black is the same, one word that fits sea, lava, and raven ... Goethe's blue is the color of enchanting nothingness.

It has been shown that the words for colors enter evolving languages in this order, nearly universally: black, white, and red, then yellow and green (in either order) with green covering blue until blue comes into itself. Once blue is acquired, it eclipses green. Once named, blue pushes green into a less definite version. Green confusion is manifest in turquoise, the is-it-blue-or-is-it-green color .... "
-- by Ellen Meloy from The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky Copyright Ellen Meloy, 2002.

Along with Turquoise, the following three books, also by Ellen Meloy, are on my bedroom bookshelf (meaning I read them often -- not just once) and I highly recommend any of these:
Raven's Exile
Eating Stone: Imagination and the Loss of the Wild
The Last Cheater's Waltz: Beauty and Violence in the Desert Southwest


More from The Anthropology of Turquoise:
"Within every color lies a story, and stories are the binding agent of culture. The color name ochre comes from a word that Homer used with chloros (a greenish tinge) to express the pallor of men's faces in the fear of battle. Amethyst comes from the Greek amethystos, "not drunk," topaz from topazein, "to conjecture," because the Greeks believed the gem's source was an island hidden by clouds and fog. I dip my brush into a pan of lacustrine blue. Five centuries ago lapis lazuli came from the Sinai or across the sky-raking Hindu Kush to Europe, there to be ground into powder for painters of the Madonna's robes. The Maya mixed clay and indigo in a complex chemistry to find a blue that a person could take to the afterlife."
-- Ellen Meloy, Copyright 2002 by Ellen Meloy

Tuesday, June 6

How does vision draw someone to a piece of earth?

How does vision draw someone to a piece of earth?
Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

"How does vision, this tyrant of the senses, draw someone to a piece of earth? What do the eyes rest upon -- mind disengaged, heart not -- that combines senses and affection into a homeland? Do the eyes conspire with other senses in a kind of synesthetic faculty; an ability to respond to the colors of place as if they were taste and scent, sound and touch? On walks in my desert home a yellow cottonwood leaf stings my tongue like lemon, the indigo and copper margins of the river in shadow inflict the bruise of a frail wind on my skin. Somehow in the day's prismatic clarity, even in the untrustworthy moonlight, these orgs of blood and nerves understand that light is the language of the desert."
--- Ellen Meloy, from The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone and Sky
Copyright 2002 by Ellen Meloy

Friday, June 2

Calendar for June

June Calendar Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.

Here is my monthly offering to readers of my blog, this calendar which you are welcome to download, print, or use however you want to. To download, first click anywhere on the calendar, and you will see a new window with just the calendar photo on it. Click on the photo for a larger version. It looks best printed out at 8"x10" size on heavy weight matte photo paper, but any paper will do.

Thanks for looking. I appreciate the visits to my blog and I hope you can make use of this calendar.

I'm always curious if anyone is actually using these calendars, so if you do, please leave me a comment. (that's optional as always, though). And for sure ... enjoy it!

Thursday, June 1

Poetry Thursday: Solace

Solace Originally uploaded by MontanaRaven.


June first, not yet summer
in Montana, more than spring
today I do not have Sam with me
when I come to our meadow
today I am practicing
not having him.

Can I slide into the future,
without making a ripple
or sucking in my breath,
the way some people ease themselves
into icy water
one toe at a time?

It's not any easier this way.

In this copse of twisted trees
most are garbed in green while
others wear the pall of winter:
bone-wrapped branches,
bleached blades.
Looking forward, glancing back
Inhale ... exhale ...

My solace is silken bunchgrass
on a cheek, or dancing
aspen leaves ...
like whispered prayers moving
on a breath of air
they remind me to breathe.

--- Maureen Shaughnessy

I wrote this blog post for Poetry Thursday. Check out other poetry posts for this week by clicking this button:

This is also something I did for the Utata Thursday Walk project:

I left a rather loooonnng comment on Liz's Poetry Thursday post. Thought I'd share what I wrote here, since some people don't read the comments and might be interested:
I'm smiling and chuckling as I read your post, Liz ... along with all the the comments about reading in the bathtub. We live in a tiny (900 sf) house (well, tiny by North American standards...) with one bathroom, no shower -- just a big old tub. Before all of our kids left home, it was the only place in the house to get any real privacy, so it became not only the evening reading-place for every one of us ... but also for our boys, their story-spinning place and imaginary-world-action-figure-play-place. I never really worried about ruining books by reading them in the tub. Every well-loved book on our library shelves truly looks well-read, some of them have that tell-tale puffy look books get when they have absorbed a certain amount of steam.

oh well.

So I still read in the tub. Anyway, I loved your whole post, Liz. Of course, you know Stafford is one of my favorite poets -- in my top 3. And Kathleen Norris - she's up there too.

I love this line, from Mark Mitchell's dedication on The Sleep of Grass, where he is writing about the many poems written and dedicated to William Stafford, to his memory and legacy: What you have now is a piece of lost mail pursuing an elusive address. One that is nowhere and, as Dorothy Stafford says, "is everywhere now."

The idea of reading poetry aloud ... is coming back into it's own, is being revived from the days of the staid, serious poetry reading ... in the performances of more recent poetry slams. Slams have their drawbacks and aren't for everybody, but one thing I'll say about poetry slams: they encourage poets -- both seasoned and new poets -- to write with the spoken word in mind. For me, saying my poems and thoughts as I write is the best way to establish the right rhythmn, line breaks, word-juiciness and alliteration. Saying a poem while I'm writing it makes it more like a song, connects me with its' emotion and heart.