Saturday, May 31, 2008

Walt Whitman

It's Father Walt's birthday, so in his honor, here's a little something by himself:


Out of the Rolling Ocean, the Crowd


Out of the rolling ocean, the crowd, came a drop gently to me,
Whispering, I love you, before long I die,
I have travel'd a long way, merely to look on you, to touch you,
For I could not die till I once look'd on you,
For I fear'd I might afterward lose you.


(Now we have met, we have look'd we are safe;

Return in peace to the ocean my love;
I too am part of that ocean, my love-we are not so much separated
Behold the rondure-the cohesion of all, how perfect!
But as for me, for you, irresistible sea is to separate us,
As for an hour, carrying us diverse-yet cannot carry us divers
-------------------for ever;
Be not impatient-a little space-Know you, I salute the air, the
-------------------ocean and the land,

Every day, at sundown, for your dear sake, my love.)


His expansiveness is beyond all bounds. It doesn't get much better, much more Buddhist, than this.

I'll be walking away from the computer for the next week or so: a little something I need to do. I will have a regular post on Thursday, which will be featuring more work by Joseph Semenovich, who had a couple of poems in
last Thursday's post.


Note: If you would like to receive the two current issues of Lilliput Review free (or have your current subscription extended two issues), just make a suggestion of a title or titles for the Near Perfect Books page.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Robert Hass Reads Issa, Thoreau Grinds Away & Damned Baseball Haiku

Cover by John Bennett

Ran across a number of interesting pieces this week, including a video of Robert Hass reading Issa haiku at the Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival. This short reading (less than 2 minutes) of 9 poems perfectly captures the playfulness and humor that endears Issa to so many. In addition, it a a model of how to perform haiku, no easy task. It misses the immense sadness of Issa, the other dimension that contributes to his immortality, but that was not the point of this reading as may be readily seen. This reading is part of a larger series entitled Poetry Everywhere, which includes such poets as Charles Simic, Lucille Clifton, Sharon Olds, and Robert Frost.

Fine, fine stuff. I've made it a permanent link in the Issa section of the sidebar.

In Monday's post, I mentioned
The Blog of Henry David Thoreau; here is another gem from that journal, entitled Grinding Away.

Mary Karr has recently taken over the Poet's Choice column in the Washington Post and it has taken me a little time to warm up to her style and tastes. A recent post in which she began by admitting she never liked Emily Dickinson did the trick; she mentioned the anecdote that has long been making the rounds that you can sing almost any Dickinson poem to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas." Try it with Because I could not stop for Death.


Her latest column takes on something I just can 't abide: baseball haiku. It's not the fault of the haiku; I can't stand baseball fiction, baseball short stories etc. (n.b.: I am a big baseball fan). However, in her column covering the recent publication of Baseball Haiku: American and Japanese Haiku and Senryu on Baseball, she quotes the work of George Swede, among others. Congratulations to George, one of our finest purveyors of the haiku form. He ably proves why in the two poems quoted in the article:


empty baseball field
a dandelion seed floats through
the strike zone

video ball game
through knotholes in the old fence
evening sunbeams


Now, there are a couple of baseball haiku that even I like. The first is simply perfect and the use of the single word "evening" in the second has me on my back waiting for my tummy to be scratched (and you thought you could never really please an editor).

This week's selection of poems from a past issue of Lilliput Review takes us back to #89, July 1997. As the summer season begins, here are a couple of seasonal works from back then:


Tentative Summation

A poem is ocean -
without shore.
Tim Scannell

in my hand--
the rock smoothed
by part of the Pacific Ocean
Gary Hotham


And two by the late Joseph Semenovich:



i present
whoever i am
both subject and object

and just like narcissus
how unlucky can you get
the pond became

the verb
he drowned
himself in

my step-father's paintings

the black rocks
the green frothy water breaking over them
the sky pulled apart like the innards of a pillow
one screaming gull

the heavy trucks/the grinding
gears/the chug-a-lug
the way the world




Note: If you would like to receive the two current issues of Lilliput Review free (or have your current subscription extended two issues), just make a suggestion of a title or titles for the Near Perfect Books page.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Baudelaire (& Thoreau) for a Lazy Monday Afternoon

Here's a little something for a lazy Monday afternoon:

The Sky
Where'er he be, on water or on land,
---Under pale suns or climes that flames enfold;
One of Christ's own, or of Cythera's band,
---Shadowy beggar or Croesus rich with gold;

Citizen, peasant, student, tramp; whate'er
---His little brain may be, alive or dead;
Man knows the fear of mystery everywhere,
---And peeps, with trembling glances, overhead.

The heaven above! A strangling cavern wall;
The lighted ceiling of a music hall
Where every actor treads a bloody soil ―

The hermit's hope; the terror of the sot;
The sky: the black lid of the mighty pot
---Where the vast human generations boil!

---------------------------------------translated by James Huneker


In addition to Mr. B's usual take on all things mundane, check out Magnapoets Japanese Form: there is some real high quality short work being done there. I've put a permanent link along the sidebar under blogs.

If you always wanted to see nature through the eyes of Henry David Thoreau and just haven't found the time, check out the May 18th posting on The Blog of Henry David Thoreau; it perfectly captures what's happening just outside many of our windows right now.

And if you don't believe me, just get out there and look!


Sunday, May 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Theodore Roethke

Today is the birthday of American poet Theodore Roethke. He wrote some incredibly resonant short poems, including My Papa's Waltz (← this is Roethke reading it) and Root Cellar. Here is another that might be thought of as a companion piece to Root Cellar.


This urge, wrestle, resurrection of dry sticks,
Cut stems struggling to put down feet,
What saint strained so much,
Rose on such lopped limbs to a new life?
I can hear, underground, that sucking and sobbing,
In my veins, in my bones, I feel it --
The small waters seeping upward,
The tight grains parting at last.
When sprouts break out,
Slippery as fish,
I quail, lean to beginnings, sheath-wet.

Dark enough for ya? If ever there was a description of the process that is spring (along with Root Cellar), this is it.


Note: If you would like to receive the two current issues of Lilliput Review free (or have your current subscription extended two issues), just make a suggestion at the Near Perfect Books page. How about Roethke then, eh?

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Yannis Ritsos and the New Blog Look

If you don't know about it already, make time to check out the blog Hints: The Poetry of Yannis Ritsos,
it is a daily posting of the works of this magnificent Greek poet. Here is a poem from their post last yesterday:


The Shadows of Birds: 42

Discreet lights of avenues
beneath the trees
a bicycler talks
with a soldier
a drinking glass breaks
on the pavement
the orange juice sketches
a broad-shouldered angel
with one foot missing.

Athens—May 15, 1980


Meanwhile, hope you like the new look of the blog. There were a number of reasons I changed, not the least of which was I was getting sick of the old color. More importantly, with a color background Blogger was not allowing me to indent individual lines of poems, so any poems with variously indented lines couldn't be used, which is a pretty big limitation. Here is an example of a poem from issue #146 of Lilliput that I would not have been able to print previously:


field of sunflowers
---far as the eye can see
Anne LB Davidson


Before, no matter what I did with the formatting, it would have come out like this:


field of sunflowers
far as the eye can see


Obviously, you can see in this case that this violates the poet's intent. Hence, the new look. The workaround I came up with is kind of goofy, but it appears to work in both Firefox and Explorer, so I'm good.

For now,

Note: If you would like to receive the two current issues of Lilliput Review free, just make a suggestion at the Near Perfect Books page.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dickinson, Yosano Akiko, and Basho

Cover art by Harland Ristau

I'm currently working on a couple of projects concerning Emily Dickinson which I'll probably be discussing in future postings. For the moment, for those who didn't see/hear it, I'd like to refer you to The Writer's Almanac for yesterday's rendition of "I shall keep singing!", which, like much of the best of her work, seems so simplistic on the surface but resonates like all get-out.

Over the past year and into the foreseeable future, I have and will be continuing to publish Dennis Maloney's translations of the work of my favorite tanka poet, Yosano Akiko. At least four new poems are forthcoming in the next two issues of Lilliput. In the meantime, here are a couple of older translations by Glenn Hughes and Yozan T. Iwasaki:

There are numberless steps
Up to my heart.
He climbed perhaps two or three.

Like my heart,
Which is waiting for you,
This bouquet of flowers will wither
Before tonight has passed.

The white iris
And the purple iris
Grow side by side in the pond,
Yet never open their hearts
To each other.

I've been perusing Basho and His Interpreters by Makoto Ueda, one of the Near Perfect Books of Poems list; the list has now grown to 28 items, with lots of folks taking advantage of the two free issues offer. In addition to being an all new translation of Basho's work, the poems are accompanied by extensive notes and commentaries which are very helpful in bridging the historical and cultural gaps for Westerners. Here are a few:

night . . . silently
in the moonlight, a worm
digs into a chestnut

in the seasonal rain
the crane's legs
have become shorter

with morning glories
a man eats breakfast
- that is what I am

Finally, before getting to this week's archive issue of Lillie, I'd like to mention that their is an excellent article/interview on/with Mary Oliver, in the Block Island Times. When asked to name her favorite poets, she said "Whitman, Whitman, Whitman!" I knew there was a reason I liked her: Whitman was my choice on the Near Perfect Books of Poems list.

This week's archive issue is #90, from July 1997, with a great cover by the late, very much missed Harland Ristau. Here's a couple of little gems that opened that issue:

The Wrong Path

One more mile again
another dew thunders falling
from the leaf's edge
Laura Bast-Russo

the way
is not
the map
John Viera

from Reroutings III

ID ____ RID ____ RIDE
Richard Kostelanetz

And, to close out, by the queen of the small press:

I Don't Want To Move

pillow that smells like skin
your fingers ----- light on
water in a Monet ----- that
will change before the
paint drys
Lyn Lifshin


Note: If you would like to receive the two current issues of Lilliput Review free, just make a suggestion at the Near Perfect Books page.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Country Joe McDonald and Basho

It's Country Joe McDonald's birthday. Here's a little something to commemorate it. Stick with it; after the annoying intro, it gets good, particularly "Who Am I."

And, from one of the Near Perfect Books of Poems, this selection from Basho and His Interpreters:

oh, nothing's happened to me!
yesterday has passed -
fugu soup

Homer Simpson's got nothing on Basho ...


PS If you would like to receive the two current issues of Lilliput Review free, just make a suggestion at the above Near Perfect Books link.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

4 Poems: Kerouac, Bly, Orr, and Issa

Here are 4 poems, two by poets chosen from their books suggested for the Near Perfect Books of Poetry page. First, Jack Kerouac, from Book of Haikus:

Missing a kick
at the icebox door
It closed anyway
Jack Kerouac

Next, Robert Bly, from his first collection, Silence in the Snowy Fields:

"Taking The Hands"

Taking the hands of someone you love,
You see they are delicate cages . . .
Tiny birds are singing
In the secluded prairies
And the deep valleys of the hand.
Robert Bly

And here is Issa, who isn't on the list yet, but should be, in a Robert Hass translation:

All the time I Pray to Buddha

All the time I pray to Buddha
I keep on
killing mosquitoes.
Issa, translated by Robert Hass

Finally, poem-wise, a darkish little poem by Gregory Orr from the delightful collection Pocket Poems, edited by Paul Janeczko:

The Sweater

I will lose you. It is written
into this poem the way
the fisherman's wife knits
his death into the sweater.
Gregory Orr

And, finally, otherwise, another six titles have been added to the Near Perfect Books list: check it out.


PS If you would like to receive the two current issues of Lilliput Review free, just make a suggestion at the above Near Perfect Books link

Also, it was pointed out to me that I made a mistake listing the email address on the sidebars of both the blog and the homepage. The email, spelled out to avoid spam bots, is:

lilliput review at gmail dot com

Remove the spaces, replace at with@ and dot with . and you're good to go.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Poetry Follies for a Rainy Friday Afternoon

Lunch hour and it's another rainy Friday afternoon in Pittsburgh. As an antidote to all this damp, below is a neat little bit with Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry, the later doing his very best John Cleese homage. Thanks once again go to Jessa Crispin at Blog of Bookslut for pointing in this direction. Be forewarned: the language envelop is pushed here, so it may not be for the shy or easily flustered linguistically. Enjoy.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

The List: Near Perfect Books of Poems

Cover by Albert Huffstickler

Over the last two weeks, I've been soliciting ideas from readers concerning what they consider to be perfect or near perfect books of poems, offering a free 6 issue subscription to Lilliput Review as enticement (or punishment, depending on your pov). Here is the list so far:

(Please note: this list continues to grow. See webpage listed below for details. The list is now over 170 titles)

The List

Basho And His Interpreters by Makoto Ueda

Silence In The Snowy Fields by Robert Bly

The Pill Versus The Springhill Mine Disaster by Richard Brautigan

Thirst by Patrick Carrington

Variations by Bill Deemer

Book of Haikus by Jack Kerouac

The Haiku Anthology, 3rd edition, edited by Cor van den Heuvel

Letters to Yesenin by Jim Harrison

book of resurrection by mark hartenbach

The Waiting Room at the End of the World by Jeff Rath

New Poems (1908), the Other Part by Rainer Maria Rilke (tr. Snow)

Selected Poems by Anne Sexton

The Sonnets (William Shakespeare/1609)

Harmonium (Wallace Stevens/1923)

Leaves of Grass - Walt Whitman

The Prelude - William Wordsworth

The Tower (W.B. Yeats/1928)

Seventeen books of poems in all, covering the gamut ranging from classical to small press. I have to admit this is a sort of cheap way to bump up my own personal reading list and I'm hoping that other folks find a title or two here that they might be interested in taking a gander at. Thanks to everyone that participated; a number of free subscriptions went out, so some sort of balance has been established.

Because, however, I can't get enough, here's what I've decided to do. I am going to continue to solicit titles for the list as new folks pass through or come on board. Since I don't want to take up anymore time shilling for titles on the blog, I've created a webpage with the list at the Lilliput Review homepage. As an incentive to contribute, I'm going to offer the two current issues (or two issues added to subscriptions for current subscribers) of Lilliput free on an ongoing basis. People interested in Lillie who go to the homepage looking for a sample or info will see they can get free copies for their thoughts. I'll set some arbitrary end point for the list (25 titles, 50, 100?) and call it quits when that point is reached. To me, it's a win/win/win situation; the reading list grows, people get free issues, Lillie gets out there to more folks.

So, spread the word. Send titles along anytime. I'll put a link on the sidebar of the blog to the new webpage for ease of access.

In other news, I've received a chapbook by Michael Kriesel, Feeding My Heart to the Wind: Selected Short Poems 1999-2005, from sunnyoutside press. Michael has published some excellent work in Lillie over the years and I was delighted to see this collection. Here is a poem from Lilliput #152 that is reprinted in this fine collection of short work:

Rented Room

Fall window sill
the beer's cool

watching a maple
I start to pay attention

to the light
the way trees do

And here's a second beauty:

Landing Road

Old pine trees
line the road

so many tongues
for the wind

Get a hold of a copy of this; you won't be disappointed.

Lots more things out there to discuss, but time flys by when your making new webpages and coming up with goofy ideas. So it's on to the archive for a peek at Lilliput #91, September 1997. For those keeping score, #92 is a broadside by small press impresario ave jeanne, entitled Old Man Sez Young Man. It is available for a buck, as are all previous broadsides and back issues. Here are a couple from #91:


Nothing precious is not concealed at the start.

Robert P. Vierling

Haiku #17

Heart beating so fast
and under my fingernails
acorns and oak trees.

Bill DiMichele


how is it done,
the vanishing,
to step behind an atom
the oak crown still roaring

Georgette Perry

And you too shall
pass, the autumn
tells me, shaking
its leaves
in my face.

Albert Huffstickler

Till next time,


Friday, May 9, 2008

Philip Whalen on Penn Sound, 3by3by3, & a Master's Birthday

The Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory

A terrific resource that you'll find on the sidebar to the right is Penn Sound. It is a growing archive of live poetry recordings. I was reminded of this site in a recent post by Jessa Crispin on Blog of a Bookslut, when she mentioned some recordings of Philip Whalen. They are a great way to punctuate a rainy Sunday afternoon.

If you're stuck in a writing rut ... writer's block or same old, same old ... one thing you might take a flyer at is 3by3by3; I did. Here's their submission recipe:

Pick 3 stories from Google News.
Using only words that occur in the first 3 paragraphs of each story, make a poem with 3 stanzas, 3 lines each, no more than 60 characters per line. The 3-word title should use a word from each story.

On the same newsday that your 3 stories were published, send your poem to 3by3by3blog (at) gmail (dot) com. Include links to your 3 stories.

I gave it a go and here is the result. It definitely got the brain waves crackling.

As part of the little Issa section down along the sidebar, there is a link to a .pdf of Robert Hass's 52 page manuscript, Kobayashi Issa: Poems. Here's the poem he opens with, the last poem Issa composed on his deathbed:

a bath when you're born,
a bath when you die,
how stupid.

Finally, speaking of births and deaths, I would be remiss not to mention the birth date of the master of art and shell game purveyor extraordinaire, Salvador Dali. Without him, Freud would have lost his finest envisioner; without him, the fine art of the flim-flam would have been set back half a century; without him that first hit of acid would have been so, uh, normal.

The list of near perfect books of poetry will be in Thursday's regular post.



Thursday, May 8, 2008

Gary Snyder, Alan Watts, and Five Poets with Staying Power

Cover by Oberc

As noted on today's Writer's Almanac, it is the poet Gary Snyder's birthday (in addition, don't miss Patrick Phillips's sad and beautiful poem "Matinee" on today's WA posting). Recent winner of the 2008 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize for lifetime achievement, Snyder, along with poet, novelist and activist Wendell Berry, is one of our finest living writers; both celebrate and advocate for the earth from which we come and to which we return. As Alan Watts used to say, we are not born "into" the world, we are born "out" of it.

Rus Bowden's Poetic Ticker pointed me to the following Gary Snyder video on YouTube. I'm linking directly to part 1 for convenience. Click here for parts 2 through 4.

As part of the reorganization of the sidebar (look right) on this site, I've put together a group of links to the work of Issa, patron of all things small. Lots of interest may be found there.

There are two other notes before getting to this week's selection from the Lilliput archive. The Washington Post recently had a posting on their "Short Stack" blog entitled "Five Poets With Staying Power." There are at least two on the list I agree with. The comments that follow the posting are even more interesting than the choices. Any thoughts on your 5 poets with staying power (I'll take Whitman, Dickinson, Sexton, Shakespeare, and cummings - Frost would be 6th)? And, for those who might have missed it here, my review of Mary Oliver's new book, "Red Bird," has been posted at the library blog "Eleventh Stack."

This week's issue of Lilliput is #93, from December 1997. Here are three tiny highlights:

Before the wake ...
the eldest daughter helps
with her mother's make-up.
Patrick Sweeney

at the zoo
not a single
human face
George Ralph

ancient headstones
the names and numbers
worn to mutters
William Hart

And one to lighten the day:

Another Contributor's Notes
"I learned at the Iowa
Writers' Workshop that if you don't
jiggle the toilet's knob two or three
times, it won't ever stop flushing."
Wayne Hogan

Today is the last day for the
free 6 issue gift subscription offer to Lilliput Review. Details at the link.


Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Two More Perfect Books of Poems ...

There are two more suggestions for perfect (or near perfect) books of poems. Allen has decided to nominate two current works:

Thirst, by Patrick Carrington.
The Waiting Room at the End of the World, by Jeff Rath.

Here's his "nominating speech:"

Don, great contest. To find such works is rare indeed, especially among contemporary poets. Nevertheless, I'm going to mention two that I think are superb from writers living today. You've likely heard of one of them, but I'm sure you haven't heard of the other. They are Thirst by Patrick Carrington and The Waiting Room at the End of the World by Jeff Rath. Both books are incredible through and through.

There is one more day to take advantage of the free 6 issue gift subscription by sharing the book or books of poetry that you think are perfect, or nearly so.

Though Issa will admit to little that is perfect, here's a little something in which he contradicts his own cantankerousness:

pissing a perfect
a cold night
translated by Daniel Lanoue

Or does he?

Until tomorrow,

Monday, May 5, 2008

Another Perfect Book of Poems ...

Another nomination for a perfect (or near perfect) book of poems comes from Karen. She chose New Poems (1908) - the Other Part by Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Edward Snow. Here is a link to Autumn Day translated by Snow from New Poems. At this site you will find the original in German, along with 5 other translations of Autumn Day for comparison.

If you, too, would like to find out how to get a free 6 issue gift subscription (or extension if you already subscribe) to Lilliput Review, click

Free 6 issue gift subscription

and read to the bottom of the post.

Offer expires Thursday, May 8th.


Sunday, May 4, 2008

Anne LB Davidson, Brooks Books, Issa and the Updated Sidebar

Just a brief Sunday afternoon, midweek (for this blog anyway) post, with a couple of notes of interest. I've spent some time working on the content of the sidebar of the blog, particularly in the area of poetry and magazines sites. In addition, I've broken out a couple of new categories to make it easier to focus on. So, if you are looking for some new, interesting material or new markets for your work, check out the sidebar below on the right.

While doing this, I ran across an online poetry/photography book by Anne LB Davidson entitled Sky in My Teacup. Put out by the always excellent Brooks Books, it contains a reprint of a poem that originally appeared in Lillie:

on the phone
my daughter and I
watch different sunsets

Click on the first line of the poem to see an example of how beautifully the work has been presented. Of course the whole book is accessible through the
Sky in My Teacup link.

Finally, here is an Issa poem translated by David Lanoue that's just a beauty:

lilies blooming
without supervision...

best until Thursday,

PS The
the free subscription offer (6 issues) is still good until Thursday. Looking for the poetry book that you think is just perfect or nearly so. Click on the offer for details at the bottom of post it connects to.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Derek Walcott, Bill Deemer, and Some Near Perfect Books of Poems

As noted yesterday, there was more news than I could fit in one post. In particular, there is a truly beautiful poem in the May 15th New York Review of Books by Derek Walcott:

The Hulls Of White Yachts

The hulls of white yachts riding the orange water
of the marina at dusk, and, under their bowsprits the chuckle
of the chain in the stained sea; try to get there
before a green light winks from the mast and the foc'sle
blazes with glare, while dusk hangs in suspension
with crosstrees and ropes and a lilac-livid sky
with its beer stein of cloud froth touched by the sun,
as stars come out to watch the evening die.
In this orange hour the light reads like Dante,
three lines at a time, their symmetrical tension,
quiet bars rippling from the Paradiso

as a dinghy writes lines made by the scanty
metre of its oar strokes, and we, so
mesmerized can barely talk. Happier
than any man now is the one who sits drinking
wine with his lifelong companion under the winking
stars and the steady arc lamp at the end of the pier.

If ever there was a poem as painting, this is one; in addition, it is a poem to propel us onward through spring into summer. I haven't lived at the shore for 17 years and
this whisked me back there as if it was yesterday. Although Lilliput is a mag dedicated to the short poem, Walcott's Omeros, a book length poem, comes highly recommended, indeed. This is just gorgeous work.

Here is a 2nd list of
near perfect books of poems, sent along anonymously:

The Pill Versus the Springhill Mining Disaster by Richard Brautigan
2. Basho and His Interpreters by Makoto Ueda
3. Variations by Bill Deemer
4. Book of Haikus by Jack Kerouac

And a fine list it is. The one volume I was unfamiliar with was by Bill Deemer, who I was very happy to learn was published and is available from our friend Bob Arnold of Longhouse. While looking up info on Bill Deemer, I stumbled on an online collection of Twenty Poems. From that collection, the following beauty:


O little town, you are all America to me.
Two gas stations, one tavern, sunset the big event.
I'm glad the only traffic light always stops me.

So far, there have been two takers on the free subscription offer to Lilliput Review which ends next Thursday the 8th.



Thursday, May 1, 2008

Mary Oliver, Pantheism, and the Big G

Cover by Kevin Friend

Lots of very interesting poetry related news this week, beginning with Mary Oliver. As something of an early preview to my posting of a review of her new book of poems, Red Bird, on Eleventh Stack (a blog from my day job), here's that post, which will be appearing next week, possibly in a slightly different form:

"Even at her most agnostic, her most atheistic, Mary Oliver was always a spiritual, even a religious, writer. Her embracing of nature is all-encompassing, recalling the preoccupation of no less a poetic figure than William Wordsworth. In recent years, as seen in her last few books, she has evinced a new found faith beyond the more general pantheism that always seemed to be just below the surface of many of her finest poems.

I have to admit, I approached this newer work with the kind of trepidation one has when hearing of a life-altering event involving a close friend; confronting a new found faith in others that one does not necessarily share can be a daunting thing, most especially when it concerns an old friend. I'm happy to report that, as may be seen in her new collection of poems, Red Bird, this faith is not only a logical extension of her previous beliefs, it in fact firmly accentuates what has come before.

Mary Oliver's wide appeal beyond the usual poetry reading community is easy to understand; her poems are rendered in simple basic vocabulary, are no less beautiful for that simplicity, and concern the every day world around us. Her perception of things is acute; she points out in nature what we all might see if we took the time and had the patience to truly look. Beyond capturing the moment, she also supplies the resonance from which meaning may flow. When she is good, she is transcendent. When she is average, she is at least always interesting. Red Bird is a volume that may be read straight through and then bears, in fact induces, repeated readings. It is cohesive in that its overarching theme is present throughout. There are more than a handful of excellent poems here. Listen to this excerpt from Straight Talk from Fox:

Don't think I haven't
peeked into windows. I see you in all your seasons
making love, arguing, talking about God
as if he were an idea instead of grass,
instead of stars, the rabbit caught
in one good teeth-whacking hit and brought
home to the den.

Highlights include this poem, along with Invitation, Night and the River, There is a Place Beyond Ambition, We Should Be Prepared, This Day and Probably Tomorrow Also, the fabulous Of Love, I am the one; well I could go on. There is even a powerful political poem, Of the Empire, that telescopes the general to the particular in a most damning fashion. If you listen closely, you may find there is a message just for you, as in the beginning of Invitation:

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy
and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles …

There is a wisdom here, the wisdom of long life, of loss, of longing, and of acceptance. But most of all there is beauty, a beauty not to be missed."

Oddly enough, while reading this book through a second time, I got to thinking once again about the idea of a
near perfect volume of poems. Red Bird contains many, well, not very good poems. Yet, still and all, it is a very good collection, precisely because the inferior work in this case informs the overall collection. The overarching theme is consistent throughout and, in one sense, though obviously supplying its subject, it also strengthens its voice. Here is a little 4 line poem that perfectly captures what I try to get at in the review:

So every day

So every day
I was surrounded by the beautiful crying forth
of the ideas of God,

one of which was you.

Now, if the G word puts you off, so be it; for me, the spiritual element is almost Buddhist, especially in light of Oliver's preoccupation with nature and its resonance in our lives. If you do nothing, pick this book up in your local independent shop or Borders or B & N (or, better still, your library) and read one poem:
Of Love. It alone is worth the cover price (and more).

Some interesting tidbits around the web include the Village Voice reprint of an article from April 1958 written by Kenneth Rexroth on the Beats. Ted Kooser, the subject of a recent post here, is participating in a project sponsored by the Poetry Foundation and the Library of Congress entitled American Life in Poetry
, which supplies "a free weekly column for newspapers and online publications featuring a poem by a contemporary American poet and a brief introduction to the poem ..." Poetry bloggers take note: at 161 columns and counting, that's a lot of presupplied content. For poetry lovers there are a lot of new poems to be exposed to, by both well and relatively unknown modern American poets.

In addition, there is a great 20 minute documentary on one of my favorite contemporary poets, Gerald Stern, entitled
Gerald Stern: Still Burning, at the website Poetry Matters Now, which features a parcel of video readings and is worth a bookmark.

And, finally, in the news department, can it be true that the poetry volume that moved an entire generation,
A Coney Island of the Mind by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, is really be 50 years old? And, of course, anyone that would ask that question ... If by some chance you haven't read this one, don't hesitate; it most certainly would be on my list of the most important books of poems of the last century.

Well, believe it or not there is more, but the day job beckons. So, in closing, here are some sample poems from Lilliput Review #94 (December 1997), the cover of which appears above.

the rain
knits us
with threads
of silver

Albert Huffstickler


A word, once sent abroad,
flies irrevocably.

Quintus Horace

And then there is this one line gem - I do love one line poems:

celibacy, a masking forcibly redundant

Sheila E. Murphy


Cosmoses were

swinging in the war-ruined city:
softly like now.

Kiyoe Kitamura

Till soon (or next Thursday, whatever comes first),