Saturday, November 25, 2006


bend over flower

the spring rain

is fallen and

the breadbox of lips is

singing haberdashery

the sparrow of our bones

has become cloud

and the carousel we make is:

O bonus trumpets

indestructible various broadloom light

O eight

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Kafka Safety Helmet

"A little known fact about this period, reported by Peter Drucker in Managing in the Next Society, is that Kafka invented the safety helmet. He received a medal for this invention in 1912 because it reduced Bohemian steel mill deaths to fewer than 25 per thousand employees. "

from Wikipedia on Kafka.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


This from Discover (August 2006):

"Poets who committed suicide were much more likely to have used first person singular references like "I," "me," and "my" and fewer first person plural words like "we," "us," and "our" in their poems than did nonsuicidal poets, according to a study publised in 2001 in the Journal of Pyschosomatic Medicine. (----What's that?)

"Using text-analysis software, researchers Shannon Wiltsey Stirman of the U of Pennsylvannia and James W. Pennebaker of the U of Texas at Austin compared 156 poems by nine poets who committed suicide. Suicidal poets, they found, also tended to use fewer terms like "talk," "share," and "listen" over time, while the nonsuicidal poets tended to increase their use of such words. To reduce the influence of other factors, poets in both groups were matched as closely as possible by nationality, education, era, and gender. For example, American poet Sylvia Plath, who committed suicide at age 30 in 1963, was matched with her contemporary Denise Levertov, who died of natural causes at age 74 in 1997."

I don't know that this research means anything. Does it mean only that depressed poets often feel isolated and are overwhelmed by their own issues? Are they struggling with a sense of self and their place in the world? Do they feel increasingly cut off from meaningful communication and interactions? Does this kind of analysis only apply to certain kinds of writing, and assume an identification with between the poets' personal issues and their writing? Is it possible to have writing that doesn't reflect your personal/psychic life, even indirectly?

To write anything is, I think, a triumph. A sign of hope and the belief in the non-futility of one's actions, of the importance of one's own expression or creativity. Writing, even privately is an action of belief in, of faith in creativity, art, communication, expression. You don't have to use the word "listen," "talk," or "share," in a poem. If you write anything, you must believe in those words. If only that you are listening, talking, and sharing with yourself as a reader, a person, a writer.


Yesterday, at my school -- which is over 100 years old -- in a very solemn and beautiful Remembrance Day service, an old master of the school (he's about 80, I think) read the 47 names and ranks of the "old boys" who died in active military service. It is always very moving, looking around at the hall full of kids some of whom are just a couple of years away from the age of those remembered. The act of remembering, of naming the dead is powerful. He also read the famous Binyon poem:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:

Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.

At the going down of the sun and in the morning

We will remember them.

This was especially moving as this old teacher has read the names at this service for the last 50 years at the college. And has become increasingly aged and weak, walking with a cane, helped by his son (one of my teacher colleagues) even if he still has a magnificant and moving stentorian voice.

The widow of an alumni, read a poem about the dead veterans in her family including her husband. It was remarkable. This frail old woman who had to be helped to the podium reading this poem that she had written, listing the many places her family had served in to a room full of young kids. There are many kinds of poems and they speak in different ways and for different audiences and occasions. I don't deny authentic connections.

I was aware at this service of how those involved were connected to the life of the school. Current students' grandparents were among the 47 dead. Letters, flags, crosses, photographs, and medals were displayed that belonged to vets who were the parents and grandparents of current parents and teachers. My friend John played the pipes for the ceremony. Our students sang, read, and laid wreathes. Two fainted.

The whole ceremony was a solemn act of hope, I think. Making meaning. And I think, it went beyond whether or not one supported war. (For me, there was both the shadow of current wars and the memory of my family and friends of the family helped in the Holocaust.) The ceremony was an articulation that life was important. That a life is important. That life is important. Simple but eloquent.


I shall not grow old

as the part of me that’s left

grows old

rage shall not weary me

nor the damn years

yes, and in the sunset

in the morning

and all afternoon

and for much of the night

I’ll remember me.


Now, I hear my new phone ringing. It doesn't ring. It only moos. Simple yet eloquent.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Book of Scissors

This arrived in the mail today:

"Plop Around the Clock," a chapbook published by Ryan Bird as it says in the colophon "in a limited-demand edition of 1 copy for Gary Barwin, October 29th, 2006...These poems were shamelessly ripped off from the book frogments from the frag pool by Gary Barwin and derek beaulieu. They created the book of scissors, & Ryan Bird merely ran with it."

How completely cool. Also flattering of course. But really part of writing is to interact in some way with readers. Having a book of responses is exhilarating. And it's part of why derek and I wrote our book -- to respond to Basho and to other Basho responders.

The book is a series of haiku bouncing off derek and my book. Here's a couplefew:

Basho, Lettuce & Tomato

(bun) sky
(meat) frog (meat)
pond (bun)

Day 3 (from 7 Days at Basho Park)

mud plumes
separate new frogs
from old sounds

Day 6
boy fart
old pond sound
funny bubbles

Ryan is publishing up a storm these days through his fantastic mag Twaddle and through his Um, Yeah Press. He has an inventive, off-kilter wit (like that line about running with the book of scissors up there.) He's one to watch fer sure.

So, thanks Ryan. I'm totally delighted. Now I'm gonna make me a cereal fort just like you. Aint never gonna come out til the milk stops fallin'.

The Usual Greetings and Salutations

jars of octopus
small dreams
giving my 110%

November 2, 2006
a butterfly slams into a tent peg
I feel about average

this cup of coffee
has too many of me
a thousand blinking wings

"New Year's Day-- / everything is in blossom! / I feel about average." (Issa, trans. Hass)
"The jars of octopus-- / brief dreams / under the summer moon" (Basho, trans. Hass)