Monday, July 31, 2006

A thin glimpse of Capital Fringe   [theatre-scene report]

Reading Andy Gricevich's report on his experience as a visiting (from Madison, Wisconsin) performer at the Des Moines, Iowa Fringe Festival (and noting his upcoming gig in the Minneapolis Fringe fest), I began to post a blog-comment remarking on my tangential glimpse of Washington, DC's premiere entry in fringe festival-dom (i.e., this city's innaugural fringe festival, which ran July 20-30). However, considering my blog has perchance teetered too far in the poetry-only-slump (on a poetry/prose teeter-totter, you understand), here's some remedial totter (or, bloggo-quasi-reportage).

So: Washington, DC has just seen its own first annual fringe festival. In gone years, I would have been all over the thing -- or at least more attentive to its contents, then I happened to be in the instance. I've enjoyed (bits of) similar summer festivals in Los Angeles (briefly, in the mid-'80s) and the superb New Performance Festival in the Bay Area circa 1986(?) (which I covered for the Daily Californian, the UC Berkeley newspaper; perhaps I wrote something in The Express about it too) (not really a fringe festival: it was curated and featured maybe 10 shows rather than maybe 200; but it held the marathon feel (and fine glimpse of the New) a fringe festival can offer); and I've attended a few stray events at a couple of Fringes in NYC over the years. One being a Tom Waites / Robert Wilson work (rather surprising combo); Janet Fine (whose hat hangs mainly in Mumbai these days) enjoyed that with me.

I don't know if this DC event was poorly publicized, or if I've just been remiss anent local newspapers (surely it was featured in the Post and presumably touted in the City Paper; alas, I've become locally inattentive -- NYTimes online being my more habitual paper lately). Anyway, I woudn't have known of its existence, except that I was called in to serve as videographer (as I've done frequently over the past half-dozen years) for my friend, the Baltimore-based theatre/dance innovator Naoko Maeshiba's fringe offering, a 2-person multimedia performance work (somewhat Butoh-based), "remains of shadow." I'd seen an earlier incarnation of (some bits of) the duet work a couple years ago; but Naoko and Tatsuya Aoyagi have really expanded and developed this to a high level. (I was happy to learn it will travel to San Francisco's NOHspace later in the year.)

This was held in a (thankfully) well appointed space [in contrast to Andy's Des Moines experience] -- the new schnazzy venue that the (surreal disfunctional family drama comedy, if this is a fair thumbnail characterization) Wooly Mammouth Theatre Company now calls home. Contemporary theatre in DC is one of the strongest art forms here, by and large; by contrast, new music is rather straggling and struggling in the background, with only a handful of proponents. (My scale for comparison is cities like NYC and SF.) Anyway, notwithstanding the good theatre space, it seems the performers were jammed a bit tight in terms of tech rehearsal time, but pulled off a credible, indeed fine show. (I videotaped the 1st and 3rd of their three performances.) But I failed to catch anything else in the fest. It seems I'm preoccupied with other obligations & aims this season. Anyway, a more official writeup (preview article -- a tad too terse, but giving some overview) can be seen here.

Exiting the theatre, I noted (next door) a particularly fancy Indian restaurant called Rasika -- a name ringing rueful bells for me, recalling my long-ago venture in arts management (Rasika Productions) and (more pointedly), considering the currently woefully in-limbo status of my would-be / future publishing imprint (Rasika Editions). Although, inshallah, that looks potentially poised to change next year. ("Rasika" is Sanskrit argot for connoisseur.)

Must give Rasika Restaurant (or their webbuilder) credit for an unusual Flash site. But on Sunday late afternoon, they were closed; I enjoyed a bowl of soup, instead, at the cafe at Olsson's Books on 7th Street -- where I also purchasd Jose Saramago's superb novel All the Names. I'm in a phase of reading (perhaps) all his books -- started with The Double (2004), then the little fable Tale of the Unknown Island (1999); All The Names (1999); and I'm currently getting into The Cave (2002). Will write about Saramago's work in future. Morning is already here, with its fish to fry.


After blogging the above, I exchanged shoptalk chitchat (by email) with Maida Withers -- our local dance/performance mater familias. She remarked,
Naoko did this performance at the Ko Festival (same as Wendy [Woodson]'s location this year) in Amherst, MA last year . . . I like Naoko so much. Sticking to this duet is such a good plan for her. The Woolly Mammoth is a small space (15 x 22 or something). It is a little tight for dance and technology unless you strip the space, perhaps.
I replied,
It's true the stage is small -- but it proved suitable for a "contained" (compact in space) work such as Naoko and Tatsuya did.

So that is a good point about the space limitation. It could work quite wonderfully for ( e.g.) Indian classical dance, which is typically performed very compact in space. It's funny I hadn't thought about how small the stage is. Moreover, its odd angle (a jutting-out corner of a rectangle slightly off-center toward middle of downstage) could call for special blocking. But I suppose some sorts of work could be tailor-made for such a stage. Naoko used projected DV in parts of the piece. It was a bit dim (the projector maybe not so powerful), but seemed to work very well with the piece.

A bit later in morning, I began to read Charles Simic's take on the Dada exhibit, and felt a little frisson or trace of century-spanning echoes --
On February 5, 1916, Hugo Ball, a German avant-garde theater director, and Emmy Hennings, his mistress and a nightclub singer, opened for the first time the Cabaret Voltaire in Zurich where they presented exhibitions of contemporary art and performances of experimental music, poetry, and dance. The cabaret had a small stage, room for forty to fifty people in the audience, and was located in a seedy neighborhood of bars, variety shows, and cheap hotels in an otherwise respectable city in which many expatriate artists, writers, journalists, actors, intellectuals, and professional revolutionaries were then living, as well as international war profiteers and spies. Lenin rented rooms on the same narrow alley. Joyce worked on Ulysses in a neighborhood not very far away.

Dada did not yet exist as a movement, nor did it have a name. What started as a series of evenings where poems of modern German and French poets were recited, art songs performed, and compositions by Franz Liszt, Alexander Scriabin, and Claude Debussy played on the café's piano changed over the next few weeks into something quite different under the influence of new arrivals on the scene.
They were the poet Richard Huelsenbeck, whom Ball had known in Berlin, the Alsatian-born artist Hans Arp, and the twenty-year-old Romanian poet Tristan Tzara and his not-much-older compatriot, the painter Marcel Janco. What brought them together was their hatred of the war and their belief that both art and politics needed a revolutionary change. . . .
And the story goes on . . .

[blogo-link: the festival "thin glimpse" here perhaps follows from (or vaguely relates -- as items of a kind -- to) the tangential Bread & Puppet Circus recollection-wisp jotted in wake of posting my old poem "Escalator" (Dec.22 2005).]

Thursday, July 27, 2006

"The ocean of night"     [sonnet of surfeit]

How many words are needed to reach a landing?
the river of words the mountain of words the sea
of maundering words the clouds of words grandstanding
and all the memento mori conturbat me
How many words must an eye read? how many must
a thin tongue produce for to float upon neighborly breath?
say how many bones must molder to make some more dust?
and how many times must the soul do the drill of death?
O how many drills? how many bits? pray how
many times will the latest-yet sun arise in an east?
and the questions! how many questions to wrinkle a brow?
and the smiles and sighs! and the tears! Might you at least
call a truce to the unending endlessness   we must swim in?
the ocean of night our poor lights gleam   and dim in?

memento mori conturbat me: (loosely translated) "recalling my mortality is really messing me up"; see, e.g., memento mori. My line in fact messes up (or mixes) this "memento mori" phrase with the refrain to William Dunbar's classic poem "Lamenet for the Makers" (see poem #24) -- said refrain being "Timor Mortis conturbat me". [Whether my hybrid line reads with grammatical correctness in Latin, I don't (at the moment) know for sure.]

A listing of earlier blogged sonnets (and sonnet sequences) is seen here

"The lost cartouche"   [shi diptych with boomerang]

for Ellen Frank

Does poetry add to the gloom   or lead through the gloam?
the rhyming of bloom with womb   or tomb with loom
is woven into the language   little is known
we zoom through a mute cartoon   seeking for whom?
but they speak to us   the words inscribed on trees
falling with leaves   blustering with breezes   soon
perhaps we'll recite   the odes of wrists and knees
does poetry add to the gloam   or lead through the gloom?

Inscribed in the lost cartouche   that none were reading
was the history of the place   that all were finding
it wasn't exactly a case of   special pleading
but might have become an occasion for   fresh reminding
"there's a crack in everything" sang the song   unwinding
were a tale without a head   whose heart were bleeding
"the pictures in the exhibit   were bright even blinding"
inscribed in the lost cartouche   that none were reading

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

"Through a curtain"     [sonnet ars poetica]

the happiness of the sonnet resembles a dance
where the body must veer to left and then to right
one loves the way   in global circumstance
the world turns night to day and day to night

one loves how winter will warm till finding summer
how autumnal chill will eventuate vernal bloom
eventually   if change be deemed a bummer
in such a world   has happiness what room?

no sooner you've said one thing and spelled it out
another thing must then follow right in its wake
you return to the first anon   as if to flout
the feeling of leaving   every return you make

through a curtain of complication points to the time
when a final return is sealed in the couplet's rhyme

A listing of earlier blogged sonnets (and sonnet sequences) is seen here

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

"Please return to me"     [ghazal translation]

[Urdu poem by a contemporary, Ahmed Faraz]

It's okay if you hanker to grieve me     please return to me!
even though you're determined to leave me     please return to me!

hey! the pride of adoring you merits its due respect!
to renew me   why not deceive me?     please return to me!

the life we share may look different   yet every now & then
so that others might blindly believe me     please return to me

O who could unravel the reasons behind our estrangement?
to wax mannerly when you would peeve me     please return to me

too long have I missed the delight of your furious moods!
so that heart-broken tears may relieve me     please return to me

in hearts prone to illusions of joy   doesn't hope flicker on?
for the candle unsnuffed in naive me     please return to me


A transliteration of the original Urdu poem, a literal translation, plus his own "transcreation" of the poem, are all given by Max Babi here. Max also offers a brief bio-note on the Pakistani poet.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Poem with rhymes spurned by Auden and Bishop   [boomerang riff]

W. H. Auden once promised his readers he'd never again rhyme an "s" sound and a "z" sound, however concordant they might look on the page (dose, rose). Similarly, late in life, Elizabeth Bishop explained to her students that although she'd once rhymed plural and singular (chests, rest), she planned never to do so again.
        -- Brad Leithauser, "Wild Irish"

I took an almost lethal dose
inhaling such a heady rose
I awoke upon the cushy chests
of mermaids lapped in aquatic rest
for a sea of scent all senses dozed
I abandoned track of nose and toes
we spake no more of host nor guest
dualities fade like bygone pests!

all earthly woes approached their close
time hadn't frozen yet came close!
for I forgot its thorns and tests
the bitter hidden in its jest
seemed sweet betimes   delight arose
I took an almost lethal dose

"Buckets of oats"   [rhymed riff]

I'm not making this up: "there's no more reliable way of initially entering a poet's private domain than by examining what he or she rhymes with what." This from Brad Leithauser, reviewing the latest slender (78 pages for $20) offering from Seamus Heaney in last Sunday's New York Times. In other news, the latest way to test out the reliability of your new hybrid vehicle is to gauge how many buckets of oats it will eat.
        -- Ron Silliman

But what will I rhyme with buckets of oats?
    my donkey is so lackadaisical!
the sense although lucid   the thing it connotes
    this quasi-equine geophysical
metaphorical burro provokes
deadpan funnybones while it evokes
global meme of an old transportation
long since left in a dustbin of motes

for history zooms every elsewhere --
yet could someone still saunter by goats?
all the overtones hid in plain notes
filling rafters with shaded elation
glinting manuscript-illumination
still remembering what tale it totes?

[caveat and disclaimer: I have not, so far, gotten into Seamus Heaney's poetry. Though I feel as if I should be able to like it (or at least consider it), so far I have been unable even to read it. I deem this a slightly shameful personal failing; and perhaps the malady will eventually be overcome. This noted limitation admittedly forecloses any-much scope for my ability to comment intelligently on Heaney-specific facets of the above. This anecdotal foible notwithstanding, I feel there perchance yet remain reaches and dimensions for the scope of riff, play, irony, insinuation, and various other-such salient stuff.]

Friday, July 21, 2006

"Graceline"     [abstractive shi]

Do diminishing tyrannies of the particular   play too infinite?
yet transforming ameliorations   may turn near-continuous

one forever trudges through slumbrous confines   of a common conduit
the narrow banks yet growing lithely lyric   or merely looming incongruous

the cry of need the ache of emptiness   would this defines our baseline?
a lilting treble courts higher troubles   birds of the absolute

till we dissolve or but silt away   on some dim washed-out graceline
what tale's shard left behind in remnant fringe   looking irresolute

Sunday, July 16, 2006

"Grammatical mistakes in a love letter"   [found language riff]

I'm often scoffed at for my obsession with Queen's English
and my tendency to write back to my fiance
about grammatical mistakes in a love letter.

        -- Shanya Rehman

Grammatical mistakes in a love letter!
ah the subject and the object grow confounded
the topic topsy-turveys with the predicate
                the nape's foregrounded

the fingers seem to trundle from the shoulders
the ears are sprouting out of dainty toes
grammatical mistakes in a love letter
                one might suppose?

Grammatical mistakes in a love letter!
the definite article's bleached into submission
the active has been pacified by seaspray
                on secret mission

the whispers are emerging from the coattails
the bosom proves a plausible trove of flowers
grammatical mistakes in a love letter?
                it might be ours

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Monsoon Vignette II     [ekphrasis]

Hey little brother!   you've really advanced!
remember when you were   a frog just like me?
in puddles we'd plash!   O water's romance!
                    what ecstasy!

how wonderous is maya   with all of its dance
you died as a frog   and what do we see?
you've leapt up the rungs   to mouse circumstance
                    sheer poetry!

but now you're an earthling   with ants in your pants
does water so frighten?   you're a fine sight to see!
hop on! I'll be careful   we'll tour all of France
                    we've chemistry

our friendship continues   though we make an odd couple
I'm a frog in my sinews   you're a mouse who's in trouble
                    but sympathy
                    looks not askance

Monsoon Vignette     [ekphrasis]

How tenuous toys the world they say
like a dewdrop poised on a lotus leaf
a shimering noise in its quavering way
                  and all so brief

How wondrous blooms the world meseems
like a castle festooning the vacant air
it's spun from looms of lunacy's dreams
                  where foul or fair

Dumbfounding arrives the world indeed
like a field mouse dry on a puddled frog
astoundingly aye it upholds frail need
                  with rain agog

from an ekphrasis exercise on Caferati

Friday, July 14, 2006

Puppet Play     cont'd     [narrative poem]

PART THREE: The Original Chicken and Meher Baba's Silence


“At first there wert naught. And yet”   thus the tale
      begins   “a Chicken was there!"
the paradox caught   like a fish by the tail
      as it flies out of water in air!

"At first there was Nothing   yet there was a Chicken!"
      the line is absurd and profound
and from out of its deep a strange story will quicken
      out of water arises firm ground

"O what was this Chicken? pray who was this fowl?"
      the Original Chicken of course!
But prithee Countessa! what occasions your scowl?
      have I erred? kindly point to the source

“You poets”   the goodly Countessa spake thus
      “should be minding your manners forsooth!
“if a person be boarding an unnumbered bus
      who can say where they’re headed in truth?”


“You mean?” “What I mean” (this my puppet explained)
      "we’ve received no report on the source
the provenance and pedigree!” Well buckle my brain!
      did I give him short shrift? well of course

It be from Meher Baba our story derives
      he told it through gestures whilst mum
“But why was he silent?"   my Countessa she drives
      a hard bargain   with a logical drum

Now if here you require biographical particulars
      like a reader in Lives of the Saints
eftsoons we’ll be lost in those extra-curriculars
      as a painter gets lost in his paints

But okay:   Meher Baba his Silence ccmmenced
      July 10, 1925 -- allowing
it wasn’t tapasya   his unique diligence
      had a cause more arcane for its vowing


This Silence at first he one year would observe
      he a chalkboard employed to jot notes
but the term kept extending   he said it did serve
      a key role in his “work”   this connotes

a frank mystery   the action and utterance of Sages
      wells up from a source hard to gauge
they peruse the whole book of Eternity   whose pages
      call forth fresh response with each Age

When in 1932 to America he traveled
      he allowed that his Silence would break
ceremonious in the Hollywood Bowl   this unraveled
      (plans change)   trowing much lay at stake

for the Silence he kept served as brake on the wheel
      of the world and its spiral of noise
when at last he would shatter this Silence we’d feel
      all the power pent up in that poise


it wasn't tapasya: the Wikipedia has a good item on tapasya, noting:
  "Tapasya is the principle and practice of physical and spiritual austerity and discipline to achieve a particular aim.
  "A Sanskrit word, Tapasya is literally a personal endeavor of discipline, undertaken to achieve a goal. It is usually applied in religious and spiritual terms, but can be applied to any field or context. One who undertakes a tapasya is a Tapasvin.
  "Monks and gurus in Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism practice tapasya as a means to purify and strengthen their devotion to God, practice a religious lifestyle and obtain moksha, or spiritual liberation. Performing tapasya is an imbibed characteristic of every religion born in India."

trowing much lay at stake: holding the view that the stakes (consequences) wagered on the action (the continuing silence, and its eventual breaking) were considerable and estimable in scope

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Puppet Play     cont'd     [narrative poem]

PART TWO: An Argument with Puppets


Now my puppets (sweet dolls) came like hounds to the hunt
      when the scent of the fox is discerned
here they called for a homer! I wanted to bunt!
      how pelagic the argument churned

Once they'd heard that the tale of the Original Chicken
      wert one I'd decline to declaim
their desire for that news   like a Lazarus who'd quickened
      sprang up and began to complain

Any story I'd offer forthwith they rejected
      how choosy they suddenly proved!
although Romeo & Juliet I'd nearly perfected
      they ordered it done and removed!

"Prithee why does this need for the narratives of chickens
      all suddenly nest in your brains?"
but replied Clytemnestra   "indeed by the dickens
      I wot not   and yet it remains!"


The Original Chicken's a tale invented
      by a Sage of the Orient recent
its theme is tremendous   like a theatre full-rented
      its income of meaning quite decent

O nix that last trope!   there I write like a dope
      the Original Chicken outflies
Such merchantilish simile   that tumbled out timidly
      it inhabits far loftier skies

But what use to describe   all the excellent facets
      of a jewel that surpasses my ambit?
the hope diamond is good yes   but prithee now should this
      determine the poor shopkeeper's gambit?

I explain my position   in the face of attrition
      "fact is   I'm a busyish man
I've not recently read   what the Silent One said
      of the Chicken's original plan"


"It's chicken or bust!"   the Countessa's disgust
      grew apparent when this she exclaimed
"You're a poet we trust   now our gist and our thrust
      is the wish to hear rightly declaimed

Your own fresh condensation   of the tale of the Chicken
      recounted at leisure and length
now we're ready to listen as the plotting may thicken!
      tell the Chicken's good tale at full strength!"

O puppets are bothers!   what man with his druthers
      would march to their reasonless tune?
I'm a poet respectable!   with tales delectable!
      my job is to bellow or croon!

"I implore thee Countessa!   dispell and forebear!
      or permit ample time for review"
I descanted that message   and fell in the snare
      as a poet is wonted to do

some notes

they called for a homer: (i) Homer, the quintessential epic storyteller of antiquity; (i) "homer" is American slang for a "home run" batting of the ball, in the sport of baseball. A home run is the most astonishing and successful response to a pitch; whereas a mere bunt is a kind of polite equivocation. The latter will carry forward the team's objectives, no doubt, and in some circumstances is even strategically advisible. But it indubitably lacks the drama -- and the score-winning efficacy -- of a home run. Even casual observers of the sport cannot fail to be impressed by the sudden cheering of the crowd occasioned by a homer. And even idle literary bypassers will likely listen attentively, if a Homer should stand and recite his hoary story. (Incidentally, the poet Donal Hall, recently appointed to the august office of Poet Laureate of the United States, is said to be a major baseball fan -- a topic which even crops up in some of his poetry. My linking, here, of the two meanings of "homer" may thus be in sync with more pervasive literary blusterings of breeze.)

pelagic: of or relating to the seas or oceans: marine, maritime, oceanic, thalassic. Thus, "how pelagic the argument churned": the argument churned in an oceanic manner.

Puppet Play         [narrative poem]

PART ONE: The Poet Muses and Seeks for a Theme


The mumble of whimsy was burgeoning swift
      I wanted to yammer a yarn
what tale would avail? what droll for my drift?
      the curtain hung black and untorn

The puppets turned pensive "For sure you've a story!
      You've always proved fine for a fib!"
I bantered defensive "It's all for your glary
      bright puppets!" quoth I rather glib

"Why not a romance?" piped the svelt Clytemnestra
      I'm bored by vile murders and strife
"If you croon we will dance!" bade the comely Countessa
      when was song the lost lodestone of life?

Yes in singing and dancing and carrying on
      and a'spinning blithe bluster for play
might bide meet entertainment from dusk nigh till dawn
      one could see if I've aught yet to say!


To retail the old tales wert a trifle pedantic
      hath the mind not the mill to imagine?
pour the grain of the day and I'll grind it right frantic
      in frolic mayhap   or high dudgeon

but the news wreaks such noise and its plagues wake such blues
      and its woes evoke frowns of confusion!
if we choose to seek poise will the vague we peruse
      bop the nose of the clown of illusion?

all the brews of the market fall flat and bite bitter
      else prove they too sweetish by half!
all the crews of the cinema bail out at my meter
      presuming all rhyme vapid gaff!

well in short I've no notion what drama to tell
      though at length I've the craft to draw out
strange report from the ocean where karma may swell
      but what strength hath my raft? I'm in doubt


If my puppets could clue me what saga they seek
      I'd oblige to make hay in their sunshine
don't play shy! spill your mood! 'neath its curtains but peek
      let us quaff of your say and your moonshine!

"Mister Poet!" here comes one to join what assignment
      I've posted for fresh requisition
"if from stars in fair heaven I purloin mine alignment
      a sketch will I fetch with concision

Pray regale with that myth of the Original Chicken!
      it's ancient and new! rich and strange!"
aye indeed it's a marvel! its plot loves to thicken
      but its plume far exceeds my poor range

to pursue such a telling would want long seclusion
      and musings and drowsings and prayer
for its theme be the goldenest in all of illusion
      I careen penny lanes -- but not there

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

where are the poems?

o where are the poems   dulcet & dapper?
(water from faucets   may mimic a river)
pithy & earthy   or chipper & proper
where are the poems   for sweat or in shiver?

where are the poems   suasive & laughing?
(water from bottles   may mention a rill)
gleaming & flowing   or bleeding & scoffing
where are the poems   that answer & fill?

Monday, July 10, 2006

"An obvious riddle"         [boomerang]

Responsive to this poser:

What makes a good poem in the early years of the 21st century?

the question an obvious riddle
gives rise to an urge to consider
what we need now is depth or a little
yes the well knows but what of the river?
some will say what you want is a shiver
some may vote for a jot or a tittle
must the poem both solve and deliver
a question an obvious riddle?

According to Rachel Dacus, the question was formulated and set afloat by Richard Long, editor of 2River. You, too, can offer an answer, if so disposed. See here.

Must say I wasn't thinking of the name of Mr. Long's publication, when composing the above -- not having quite taken it in, nor being previously acquainted with it. Ah well (so to speak). And in fact, the river phrase in line 4 of my poem recollects a line from John Ashbery's memorable pantoum "Hotel Lautreamont" --

And what of older, lighter concerns? What of the river?

Regrettably, I don't locate any link to Ashbery's poem (for your perusal); I will, anyway, link to this review of the eponymous 1993 poetry book -- particularly since it's paired by the reviewer with W.S. Merwin's exquisite volume (from the same period) Travels. The reviewer in fact gives short (but appreciative) shrift to the Merwin book; and both that and Ashbery's are preceded by more detailed consideration of David Ferry's Gilgamesh. What to do? All three are worthy of note, no doubt. And the stream of time is fast passing . . .

I first encountered the Ashbery poem in 1990 -- when it appeared in The New Yorker Magazine. I was living and painting in Greenwich Village that year. I immediately borrowed a few lines from it -- including the one I quote here -- for a suite of paintings. The paintings were perhaps ultimately unexceptional; but the poetry continues in memory.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

An Inland Journey    cont'd     [narrative poem]



“The world and its work only naught into naught is”
      quoth Hafez   remembering the tome
who would parse out the puzzle confounded by aught is
      plead I   as I'm sifting the loam

Say you're idling on shores   of an indolent isle
      in mute colloquey with blusterings of breeze
would fine sand feign a hamlet   all miniature-style?
      do you loll in vague shadowings of trees?

Say I hold to what world I were born to   twain score
      and ten years long afore   have you gone
from what habiting you kept?   whilom dreaming of shore
      and fond isle?   one could wander anon

Mordant ticks of the clock   dimly mock the taut tabla
      smooth vina eftsoons would I learn
toward what shore do we flock?   is the sea Parabrahma?
      blind babbling  we yearn to return

            - F I N I S -

some notes

only naught into naught is: is merely nothing into nothing
The line from Hafez-i-Shiraz is very slighlty modified from the English version given by the redoubtable Col. Wilberforce Clark. The second line of the couplet reads, "The verifying of this matter, a thousand times I have made." Meher Baba was fond of quoting this particular couplet of the Persian poet.
quoth Hafez remembering the tome: (i) said Hafez, who remembered the tome [the Qu'oran]; or (ii) said Hafez --- as we may recall by recollecting [what is written in] the tome [i.e., the Divan-i-Hafez (his collected poems).

The poet's pen-name literally signifies "[one who] remember[s]". Conventionally, the poet is understood to bear this pen-name in honor of his knowing the Qu'oran by heart. But remembrance (the remembrance of God; the soul's remembrance of its original state; etc.) is of course central to the mysticism of Hafez's poetry. Coincidentally, the commonplace Farsi greeting (equivalent to "hello" and "goodbye" [= God be with you]) is Khoda hafez ("remember the Lord"). At any rate, the line in my poem mildly plays with this simplistic paradox: that he who remembered a book, is himself remembered in a book.
twain score / and ten years: this detail is autobiographical (i.e., I'm 50 years of age)
in mute colloquey: could mean in muted conversation (and/or in unvoiced conversation)
from what habiting you kept: from the abode you maintained
mock the taut tabla: immitate the percussive sounds of the well-tuned tabla (Hindustani drum)
smooth vina eftsoons would I learn: I should like to study the dulcet and suasive, ancient musical instrument called vina (thus confesses the poet at conclusion of the poem -- a germane remark, to the degree the whole poetic cycle could, under one possible construction, be deemed (almost) as an extended metaphor for this musical aspiration; -- albeit such a passing remark is, well, merely a passing remark, and, one trusts, in no wise a delimiting interpretational conception; at most, it [rather self-mythologically] notes one element in a (vague) congries of thoughts somewhat [i.e., more or less] underlying and underpinning the formation of the poem)
Parabhrahma (Skt.): God the Beyond
blind babbling: babbling in a blind (unenlightened) way. The word babble most literally denotes the nonsensical utterances of infants; but in a secondary sense, it conventionally suggests the sound of a brook or river -- such as may wend its way sea-ward.

An Inland Journey    cont'd     [narrative poem]



“An oaf and his trove are not easily parted”
      thus spake the old monk with a laugh
“Polaris and Venus both weep broken-hearted”
      rejoined the mad guest, looking daft

“On an isle dwells an Ancient, betimes I espy him”
      allowed the wise monk with a smile
“every tree of his grove hid unknowably whilom”
      responded the guest in good style

“Does a flute ply the void? Is no tympany heard?”
      so inquired the old anchorite keenly
“Is the tune unalloyed by all taint of a word?”
      in such wise quipped the sailor serenely

Sits a wizened Franciscan with kettle at hand
      and the hour grows late after noon
hath the tea long extended, pell-mell and unplanned
      whilst the pair thus converse, patent loons


“For to sail the wide brine seeking high deathless plunder
      were rude or absurd!” quoth the guest
“Can the self from its semblance be cloven asunder?”
      this quandary the hermit expressed

“What to make of the fugue that our fortunes delimn?”
      thus inquired the sailor perplexed
“An we travel or sit, where’s the brink or the brim?”
      thus inquired the anchorite next

“When one floats with a craft, o’er the vast of the brine
      what determines the course one pursues?”
sitting pensive, the guest this perplexity fine
      retrospectively posed and perused

“When one climbs to an Abbey and taps at the door
      who’ll explain repetition’s design?”
pacing thoughtful, the hermit thus studied the chore
      very life had delivered in fine


Brightly lingering a spell over tea and conversing
      each sounded the thought of the other
with the annal the twain were together rehearsing
      akin to a babe and its mother

“Bababoo!” cries the babe who is toddling toward speaking
      by rudiments   “Baboo!” rings the echo
and if “Kalamazoo” be the word he were seeking
      what bodes it for thee or El Greco?

All art is but figments of figure and hue
      dreamy pigments of line and design
and if one who were striving for Kalamazoo
      spake Baboo, should this serve as a sign?

What means it if Lao-Tzu abide on an isle?
      what sooth hath the peach of the fable?
what boots it I write antiquarian style?
      and what should the telling enable?

some notes

tympany: drum [primary sense], inflated or bombastic utterance [secondary sense]
patent loons: obvious lunatics
chore: task [primary sense], also twist [an extrapolatable secondary sense -- considering the etymology: Middle English cherre, char turn, time, piece of work, from Old English cierr, cyrr; akin to Old English cierran to turn, Old Norse kjarr underbrush, Greek gerron wicker shield, wicker body of a cart; basic meaning: turn, bend, twist]. In context of the verse, "chore" of course suggests, the work of working out of a puzzle -- a puzzle delivered (as the poem notes) by life itself, in short.
Kalamazoo: a city in Michigan (also, a river beside that city). While the word was admittedly chosen simply on phonetic grounds, we may tangentially note this interesting anecdote about the possible origins of the name (thanks to a Wikipedia item): "Another popular account is the legend of a Potawatomi [tribal Indian] named Fleet Foot. In order to win his bride, he was required to run from his settlement to a point on the river and back before a pot of water boiled away. This event is thought to have occurred in 1810, a couple of decades before the first permanent white settlers. The Potawatomi word kikalamezo appears on an 1823 atlas of the area. The word translates as 'boiling pot' or 'place where the water boils,' and refers to the Fleet Foot legend."
what bodes it: what does it forebode or prefigure?
El Greco (lit. "the Greek"): the Spanish artist (1541-1614 AD). As the Wikipedia notes, "He is best known for tortuously elongated figures and often fantastic or phantasmagoric pigmentation."
figments: -- a dictionary definition is worth noting: something made up, fabricated, or contrived; "uses this dim figment of the chronicles as an excuse to present the doubts and indecisions of a humanistic age -- Herbert Read". And this etymology is noted: Middle English, from Latin figmentum, from fig- (stem of fingere to shape, form, devise, feign) + -mentum -ment. The word "figure" is of course cognate, sharing the same root.
what boots it: what is its advantage, purpose, or use?

An Inland Journey    cont'd     [narrative poem]



Here time is no tyrant, with nothing save summer
      blithe breeze through the leaves waffles on
some flute-song wafts pliant? ah pity, no drummer
      and the hour arrives always at dawn

yes boughs rife and laden, lithe bending for burden
      where fruit droops as fabled for true
within heady aroma hides hearty love’s pardon
      where baubles gleam limpid for dew

on an isle so reclusive, white shores clad in sea-spray
      stray droplets play globes of fine pearls!
where the birds hint of peacock, of turtle and osprey
      what peach mocks the cheeks of shy girls?

may an Ancient who husbands an orchard sequestered
      harken wisps or heed wafts of a world
ever distantly longing? Old man! you're unpestered
      you who seldom see sails unfurled


My dream was half-wakeful, my waking half-slumber
      the heat of wide daylight soon dwindling
what league of whose sojourn? I’d lost track of number
      west dusk sembled embers ‘neath kindling

an anchorite somewhere is attending his fire
      a guest sitting somewhere is listening
an island stowed somewhere, an comic or dire?
      dim fruit lost in dawn-light faint glistening

were you scaling a hillside or reaching an Abbey?
      a tap on the door finds reply
were you weaving an annal, all earnest and gabby?
      right flummoxed and strange is my sigh

we were glimpsing the trove of night stars dappling darkness
      is glinting on fruit so obscure?
where a flute-song lurks lonesome, no ear turns to hark this
      an orchard unseen remains pure


I camp on the deck of a ship, or an Abbey
      the crash of a wave inkles sea-spray
it’s late beyond matins, there’s light in the lobby
      the bird that I glimpse seems an osprey

The monk hands a cup, fragrant tea in its steam
      I awaken, perchance having slumbered
mid-day shall we sup? and is living sheer dream?
      what keeps us obscurely encumbered?

I’m a'raising the cup and a’tasting the brine
      do I traipse up the shore with its sand?
I’m below in the cellar surveying old wine
      in a sequel pell-mell and unplanned

I’m espying my semblance, an oaf with his trove
      but what isle would deep silence contain?
if my tongue, whilom dumbstruck, toured words: what is love?
      Eftsoons the lone flute-song again

some notes

turtle: turtledove
fine: (i) tiny, (ii) of excellent quality
the crash of a wave inkles sea-spray: ...bestows an inkling of sea-spray

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Critiquing An Inland Journey       [chat extract]

On "Puttered A Tad" and Hazarding a Curveball

This pertains to my new narrative poem (blogged here over the past few days):


The following dialogue is extracted from an impromptu chat with a writer-friend, who'd offered a stylistic critique of the poem.

she:. . . . the phrase puttered a tad is charming
me: ah, gracia
she: ...but seems to me a bit out of sync with the the rest of the stanza
me: well I will consider the point, as I re-read the whole
she: ...or maybe that was deliberate? Like [Priyanka Joseph]'s recenet line?
me: It is not inconsistent with certain other peculiar phrases elsewhere in the poem -- such as . . .
    "Good Father," I sighed, "I'm flummoxed and strange
          my canard should no rustic believe
she: ah
me: -- in comparison, puttered a tad is downright ordinary ;-)
she: ...shades of Father William. let me re-read the whole
me: good, obliged . . .
she: I like: so a nautical chilla-nashini I kept :-)
interesting transposition of context
me: gracia. yes -- the poem does not try to be pucca antiquated. I was happy to find chilla-nashini listed in the Wikipedia too.
she: however, I still feel that maybe having a phrase like this tossed in regular intervals would make it less prominent when it does show up. It might create a kind of wry tongue-in-cheek feel about something really important deep down. on the other hand, it would change the feel of the poem.
forgive me -- I have a plebian sort of mind and look for synchronicity [sic] in some things
me: It's a good observation of a question.
I feel I have made a good try to "negotiate a style" -- it is a tricky business I quite agree.
she: ...a sort of assurance of the expected in certain cases, and the anticipation then lies in what that something will be. so I'm a bad critic in this case, because I don't really have an open mind in this context. for instance, the line in Priyanka's poem jarred me...
me: But again -- I think to best judge, you need first to read the whole in sequece. I do feel there is more or less a new synthesis of style in this poem overall -- it is a new synthesis, not simply a following of a pre-existing model. It chooses its own lexicon and degrees of modernity or antiquity, fairly carefully, -- or so I think.
she: wouldn't have in another context.
I did read it :D just read the trilogy
me: ah -- you're quick
she: :-) yes
me: Well yes one can critique the point you raise, I agree.
she: ...I tend to read fast
me: However, the whole poem is premised on a synthetic style. So that's what it is.
she: like I said I have a slight block about these things. hmm
me: My partial justification involves the view that even Coleridge was inventing a faux antiquarian style
she: ...consistency
me: Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
she: I agree
me: I presume to do the same.
she: but he sustained it through
me: Yes, but he was not living in the 21st century. Here, we have more latitude.
she: granted
me: Or at least, I allow myself this. Another poet can write in another way if they please. To be fresh and original, I need more sloppiness. :-)
she: ...but even so -- I would still argue that there should a sort of rhythm in it
me: ...But I think it is a controlled sloppiness.
she: ...much like a radif in a ghazal
me: ...I argue there IS a rhyme to it. But it could take some time to justify it.
she: sure there is a rhyme. not my point at all.
me: You said "there must be some rhyme to it" -- my phrase replied to that.
she: rhythm, not rhyme
me: rhythm. oh. rhythm, metaphorically
she: exactly. say we are looking a wave on a sea shore. each one is different. but each one crests
me: Well here's my next absurd thought: The poem must be recited aloud before it can be judged. ;-)
she: ...I'd like to catch the crests.
OK. will do. hang on
me: ;-)
she: ok. I recited the whole. there is a very clear physical rhythm, rhyme and meter
me: mm
she: but while the sprinklings of modernity were more than my non-verbal [silent] reading revealed, I still maintain what I said. maybe there need to be more of those :-)
but that notwithstanding, the poem is quite a remarkable effort
me: In terms of the style and intraoduction of some archaisms, I feel it is fairly calibrated, fairly controlled. But this is a matter that different sensibilities will differ on. And it's good to have your input, and a fair input it is.
she: ah but it's not the introductions of archaisms. it's the introduction of obvious modernities
me: Well yes -- the mixing of archaisms and modernisms.
she: like spiel
me: ...But but but
she: or puttered a tad
me: ...those SEEM like modernisms,
she: or well, yes
me: but they can be imagined to have antecedents ;-)
she: it's a question of what the ear is used to in terms of usage
me: the poem is in fact playful about this, I will admit
she: that it is :D
me: It does hazard some off notes, that's true, including the spiel. I'm aware of it. But I feel it makes it less boring ;-)
There are many surprises this way.
she: but the poem is not boring, it's very lyrical in fact
me: ...Also, because it is consciously a poem written now. Not trying to pretend to be written in 1892.
It is really my own expression, in short, and so is as confused in its frames of reference. ;-)
But if you're a guy who can't even figure out whether he's sitting on a boat or sitting in a hermitage, naturally the talk will be gibberish, or borderline so. ;-)
I do have a couple thoughts about the language. The anchorite tends to be slightly more antiquated than the narrator. And the language pulls back into an olden style gradually. The first few stanzas, one might not think of it as antiquated in style, particularly. But then it starts to throw in curveballs a bit.
I think I've tried to be smooth, but failed -- but then, the failure is part of the work. Or maybe I didn't try hard enough, because the curveballs seemed interesting enough after all. ;-)
she: oh they are :D

[edited very slightly, mostly as to lineation & punctuation]

Friday, July 07, 2006

An Inland Journey    cont'd     [narrative poem]



“Such an annal as you weave,” now the anchorite spake
      “shows a form symapthetic to me
I alike brooked a life I inclined to forsake
      in a land far across the wide sea

I akin loved the lore of the ends of the world
      where all blessings depend from a bough
I the same went to sea with my sail unfurled
      all a’fierce my importunate vow

What to make of the greeting sustained in raw sand
      where a hamlet dissembles one's own?
how to reck such a sequel, oblique and unplanned
      in a quaint whilst familiar zone?

I forsooth became dumbstruck espying a self
      who portrayed me, unwise to the ruse
all tricked out as my glass, with my mood and my pelf
      wotting not the spectacular news


"E'en as scaled thee the hill to this hermitage leading
      the same long afore did I climb
e'en precisely as quoth thee in tale proceeding
      my spiel struck each note of that rhyme"

The anchorite paused, as he tended the fire
      that blazed in the hearth with its embers
what are we but plain voices in fugue of a choir
      unwitting? but someone remembers

What means it that he who paraded as me
      didn't trace his own face in my own?
and what bodes it if I who this anchorite spy
      fail to sort the purport of his tone?

The hermit and I took our stroll in the night
      noting Venus as well as Polaris
then he showed me a cell and remarked that he might
      on the morrow brook further my queries


After orisons of matins, o'er tea we convened,
      the bald anchorite tacit yet kind
"Have you kenned," he inquired, "or haphazardly gleaned
      the old doctrine of infinite mind?"

“I've puttered a tad an of this or of that
      hath philosophy's track long intrigued
but I wore in the world dark necessity’s hat
      I ploughed shallow betimes or fatigued

Of mind, what I'd grapple were logic and thought
      the sequence of question and reason
for infinity’s sky by such net to be caught
      should require an infinite season!”

He laughed at my quip, then directed, “Come sit”
      I dove and then drank the deep silence
it seemed I were standing eftsoons on a ship
      whilom semblance would merit reliance

some notes

how to reck such a sequel: how to regard such a subsequent experience?
all tricked out as my glass: appearing like my image in a mirror
wotting not the spectacular news: not being aware of the novel spectacle
my spiel struck each note of that rhyme: what I spoke followed, note for note, that utterance
"plain voices" may suggest: (i) isolated voices, (ii) plainsong (or plainchant) voices. The word plain, in its root, simply means level or flat (thus a geographical correlate of the geometrical plane), here variously suggesting a lack of ornament (self-comprehension), complexity (self-complication), intensity (self-accentuation), and multiplicty (self-exaggeration). If I may so riff. Technically and historically (which is to say, musicologically) speaking, I'm not sure to what degree or in what ways plainchant is related to (or distinct from) fugue -- the latter being a compositionally rigorous weaving of interlocking voices. I'm thinking one could allow that plainchant may be construed as a more archaic and simple antecedent of the baroque fugue (as in the works of Bach); while of course not all plainchant is fugal in character. Indeed, as I'm admittedly vague on the topic, I'll leave off further splittings of the hair. The idea of "isolated voices" is withal the primary sense of the phrase, in fine.
noting Venus as well as Polaris: respectively, the planet of sympathy (or love), and the star of constancy (the Pole Star): the lyrically various as well as the invariantly dependable; beauty as well as truth. Do I parse till the parchmenet be but ribbons? Ah, but the poem nears ending.
orisons of matins: early morning prayers
tacit yet kind: quiet but friendly
I've puttered a tad: I've tinkered (in such studies or speculations) a bit. The verb putter derives from potter (that is, the work of a ceramacist); whereas the noun tad derives from toad (as we may note, too, in the word tadpole). A ceramacist may apply a tad of clay, when seeking to perfect the pot he is puttering.
should require an infinite season: i.e., it would take forever


After believing the tale to have been concluded with this Part Three, lo and behold: a sequel: PART FOUR

An Inland Journey    cont'd     [narrative poem]



"Good Father" I sighed   "I'm flummoxed and strange
      my canard   should no rustic believe
how I seem to be bagged   in dimensions deranged!
      wotting not   an to laugh or to grieve"

"Come sit" the monk bade   "in the hearth lives a fire
      whilom rarely I'd squander the kindling
whatsoe'er be thy saga   an comic or dire
      I espy in your visage no swindling"

We sat and we supped and we quaffed of his port
      the while I recounted my tale
the anchorite proved of a genial sort
      only what could the telling avail?

"I passed" I declaimed   "many years of a life
      whose burden late grew sore oppressive
having lost half a fortune   and all of a wife
      the drift of my thought turned regressive


"I recalled olden tales   of a land beyond seas
      wherein happiness falls from the bough
I resolved for to sail   if the wind should but please
      to reach land or risk limb were my vow

So a nautical chilla-nashini I kept!
      at its zenith   my craft struck raw sand
now adventured my foot onto shore   and I wept
      fell the sequel   oblique and unplanned

I encountered no tree   lading fabulous fruit
      all golden its nectarine kiss
whose taste and glad glimpse   whose scent or bare thought
      all impart absolute happiness

In lieu what I spied   as I roved from the beach
      were a hamlet whose map proved banal
if my aim were to taste   immortality's peach
      I were caught in illusion withal


"Every way of that ville   were a street of my town
      till I sauntered anon to a ruelle
I discovered a house like my haunt!   Do I frown?
      had my trek been the trip of a fool?

In the house stood a man who resembled myself
      never once he remarked on the marvel
his mood my erst mode   his trove my erst pelf
      he divulged how he hankered to travel

He fancied to wend   to the ends of the world
      his sojourn commencing eftsoons
in favorable gale   should his sail be unfurled
      a journey of one or two moons

He bade me abide in the haunting he left
      he departed by God   but this morn!
as he sallied forth sea-ward   I saw how bereft
      he'd debark as I landed   forlorn"


To a certain degree degree, the experiment with mildly archaic diction and style is also an experiment with primary and secondary meanings of some familiar words; for the more archaic sense as well as the current sense can (at times), in the setting of such a poem, be brought together into a more dynamic continuum. Perhaps I exaggerate what's actually accomplished in the instance. This is merely noting one line of interest. My interest in such possibilities owes something to the example of early Merwin (especially his superb, long narrative poem "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" from Green with Beasts, as well as stray things read from Robert Graves, Ezra Pound, Yeats, Frost, and even (to a minute degree) Tagore. Anyway, I'll put in a some notes (perhaps overmuch; but I won't do this always!)

  flummmoxed and strange: (i) confused and peculiar [modern sense]; (ii) embarrassed and a stranger [archaic sense]
  my canard should no rustic believe: (i) no simple-minded person would be likely to credit my false(seeming)/fantastical story [primary (figurative) sense]; (ii) no country-person (by nature, an expert in this field) would be apt to recognize my duck [secondary (literal) sense]
  bagged: (i) caught, stuck; (ii) drunk (as with the idiom, in the bag = inebriated); (iii) captured like a bird [such as a duck] -- can be noted as a mild, possible implication
  dimensions: (i) a system of physical (or metaphysical, or metaphorical, or even narratory) positional coordinates; (ii) may suggestion (as a secondary meaning) dementia = madness]; "dimensions deranged" may signify "disarrayed coordinates [of position]" (if taken primarily in a physical sense)
  wotting not: not knowing
  an to laugh or to grieve: whether to laugh or to grieve
  whilom: formerly
  an comic or dire: whether comic or dire
  chilla-nashini: a severe austerity of forty days' duration
  at its zenith (i.e., after the completion of the 40-day period)
  craft = boat or ship
  fabulous fruit: the fruit described in fables. Here, the peach of immortality (chiefly of Chinese [and also, possibly, Persian] conception) is indicated. At some point one might peruse the late Prof. Edward H. Shafer's tome, The Golden Peaches of Samarkand. (Whether it should prove germane in the instance, I wot not; my studies are sadly sporadic.)
  fell the sequel oblique and unplanned: what happened [fell or befell] next [i.e., the sequenl] transpired in a manner not directly following (from logic or expectation) nor consonant with anticipation (plan)
  withal: nevertheless
  ruelle (from the French rue, street, diminutive): a small street or lane
  trip: (i) journey; (ii) collapse or misstep
  trove and pelf: fortune and possessions
  haunting: dwelling [perhaps my own gerund-formation(?) from haunt = habitual abode; but I vaguely think I've seen the gerund form (in this sense) somewhere]

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

An Inland Journey        [narrative poem]



I wanted to wend to the ends of the world
      I floated for forty long days
in favorable gales my sail unfurled
      till land came at last through the haze

when avant of the craft could my gingerly footstep
      adventure   I stood in raw sand
what condition of Earth had the Fashioner put at
      world's end?   prithee what was this land?

Soon a street did I ramble   resembling my own
      toward a domicile   trying to be mine
where the plot sported brambles   my hand had late grown
      while the cellar   played rife with my wine

when the ashcan's debris   aped my actual trash
      who could be the good man that I met?
he portrayed (more than me)   a parade of panache
      and betrayed (unlike me) no regret


He confided his mind   to make sojourn eftsoons
      all a'quest for the ends of the world
sail a'hoist he inclined   to fare one or two moons
      what if favorable welkin be furled

"And what beach would you reach?   which terrain be your aim?"
      I implored with a tear in my eye
here he laughed   "Isn't sport for th' esprit of the game?"
      his retort would bring glee but rang dry

He queried anon   "Your vayage embarked whence?
      You what dutchy relinquished for travel?"
not a trump did I sound   as I stood in suspense
      aright pensive how things should unravel

"I renounced" I replied   "an abode like your own
      on a ruelle   resembling this lane"
I pronounced in a candid   but casual tone
      in a trice   were we silent again


"Pray when" I inquired at length   "do you go?"
      "Today!" he rejoined   "Have you need
for a haunt to abide for a while?"   "On no!
      goodly thanks for the offer indeed

I'd be sauntering inland   intent to discover
      if woodland or mountain show new here --
whether aught look familiar   this might be a cover
      meseems I've an aim to pursue here"

We bade fare-thee-wells   both departing the home
      struck I hill-ward   joined he the brine ocean
bewildered I asked   wherefore need the soul roam?
      what begat   the blind rash of commotion?

And I came to an Abbey   and tapped at the door
      an anchorite opened and smiled
quoth he   "It's been long since I wandered ashore
      but what fetches you inland   my child?"

some notes
the Fashioner: this follows the phraseology of Zhuang-zi [Chuang Tzu, circa 3rd century BC], in some of whose stories one finds reference to "The Fashioner of [all created] Things"
eftsoons: soon, straightaway
welkin: sky, atmosphere, heavens
vayage (Old French): voyage
You what dutchy relinquished for travel?: this highly formal question might (among other things) simply mean: where did you come from? From what earthly principality did you depart (and thus "relinquish"), so as to fare forth as a traveler?
aright pensive: rightly thoughtful
ruelle: a charming olden English word denoting a small street or lane (from the French rue + diminutive elle]

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Vishnu's Watusi -- a Sequence of Ardeo Pangrams

Here's an index of blogged poems in this new form.

< 1 >       1 |   "Vishnu's watusi"   (ars poetica)
< 2 >       2 |   "Love's orbit"
< 1 >       3 |   "Jung's Kapital"
< 1 >       4 |   "Erasmus's Folly"

< 2 >       5 |   "Hemingway's Kabala"
< 3 >       6 |   "Frida's kitchenette"
< 3 >       7 |   "Dante's Inferno"
< 1 >       8 |   "Racine's simulacrum"

< 1 >       9 |   "Quixote's reality"
< 1 >       10 |   "Vayu's wafting"
< 1 >       11 |   "Saraswati’s trove"
< 4 >       12 |   "Villon’s graphologist"

< 1'>       13 |   "Rameau's suite"
< 1 >       14 |   "Ardeo's brief"

< 1 >       15 |   "Wisteria"   (coda)

For an explanation of the form, see my notes following the first two poems. The left-hand column above indicates which lattice pattern was employed in composing the respective poem (regarding which patterns, see said notes).

The meaning of "XYZ" is touched on in notes that follow the 10th poem in the sequence -- though hardly exhaustively. In this sequence, my use of the refrain "XYZ" is somewhat informed by (what one might call) an abstraction from ghazal poetics.

"Wisteria" (coda)         | 15   [Ardeo pangram]

Alabaster beehive, cuddling’s delight. euphony’s filigreed gondola.
Holy inspiration, jovial kindness, lovely mellifluous naiad. Ovoid pearl,
quicksilver reason, superlative tenderness. Utterly voluptuous, winsome XYZ

Asshole bitch, cunt dickhead, excrement fucker, goofus.
Hackneyed imbecile, juvenile killjoy, ludicrous monstrous nobody. Obvious phony,
queer retard, stupid turd. Urinal-vomiting wiseass, XYZ

Austerely bland, cautiously droll, easy fellow, gracious.
Happy, intuitive, just kinda lonely, modestly neighborly, ostensibly peaceful,
quietly responsible, sweet-tempered, under-valued wisteria, XYZ

"Ardeo's brief"         | 14   [Ardeo pangram]

Asking begging cajoling. Doesn’t every father grieve?
How is Junior keeping lucid? My neighbor’s orchard pears
quit ripening. Something tells us Vermeer wanted XYZ

Acting blaming confessing. Doesn’t every foible grate?
How is Jupiter keeping lofty? My nephew’s outdoor pool
quit rollicking. Something tells us vacationers want XYZ

Abstract basic condensed. Doesn’t every feeling germinate?
How is jasper keeping light? My nights out predictably
quit rocking. Something tells us voluptuaries want XYZ

Angry bellicose caustic. Doesn’t every fiddler groove?
How is Jerusalem keeping lonely? My necktie obviously pacifies
quite randomly. Something tells us Vatican wants XYZ

Augury benison code. Doesn't every felicity graduate?
How is Jefferson keeping languid? My need outstrips predictions
quite regrettably. Something tells us valedictorians want XYX

Amateur balletomane cadet. Doesn't every filament glue?
How is Jabreel keeping longitude? My nonsense outdoes prudence
quite royally. Something tells us Volvo wants XYZ

Amble bustle croon. Doesn't every functionary gesticulate?
How is juryduty keeping limber? My nibbling occasionally peaks
quite ravenously. Something tells us videography wants XYZ

Ardeo’s brief continues. Doesn’t every factory generate?
How is Jarrett keeping lovely? My nightsong orbits Pluto
quite respectably. Something tells us verbalism wants XYZ

"Rameau's suite"         | 13   [Ardeo pangram]

A bane can derail even fabulous glow
(how innocent jive keeps life’s merry north orbit)
please queue rugged squall to unleash vatic woe,

A bonnet can drape even fractional graves
(how impudent jests keep life’s mordant needs onerous)
please queue recent squaws to unlatch vernal waves,

A basket can drift even functional gloom
(how indigent jaunts keep life’s mythic nonce odious)
please queue Rameau’s suite to untrammel (la) vie’s womb,

A banana can delight even figurative guys
(how indolent jibes keep life’s motor nerves ochre)
please queue rustic screed to unloose visions wise,

A bassman can daunt even freewheeling girls
(how inflence jazz keeps life's muddled nodes on)
please queue ritual spiel to unglue virtual wheels,

A banquet can darn even fictional gloves
(how imminent jowls keep life's modest nest open)
please queue royal songs to unkeel vacuum's wolves,

Ardeo’s been called down earth's febrile groove?
(how incident jousts keep life’s mute news oneiric)
please queue ruby swoon to undo vapid woof,

[Pattern 1']

[Pattern 1' is identical to pattern 1 (i.e., it is the usual sequence of 26 letters), except that the elements are broken into lines slightly differently -- for sake of further formal experiment.]

Herewith introducing Pattern 1':
a b c d e f g
h i j k l m n o
p q r s t u v w

Monday, July 03, 2006

"Villon's graphologist"         | 12   [Ardeo pangram]

A boy can just keep laughing, silly twit!
Doesn’t every fellow mention narrow options, Uncle Vinny?
Good housekeeping, if pretty quaint, really welcomes XYZ

Always beautiful cantaloupes! Jazz-kitchen lyricists still trill.
Democracy eventually flourishes. Maybe nobody ordered us vermicelli?
Given his incorrigible phraseology, quit romping with XYZ

A butterfly can just keep lilting, so true!
Doesn’t every fridge merit natural olives? Unlimited value
gets hilarious in particular quarters. Recently, with XYZ

Angst bears consequences. Justice keeps life’s show trundling.
Discrete events favor multiple network options. Use volunteers.
Given his inevitable parsimony, quit reasoning with XYZ

Agamemnon became curious. Just keep languishing, storm trooper.
Democracy eventually falters. Maybe nobody organized universal values.
Given his ineluctable punctiliousness, quit remonstrating with XYZ

Ardeo’s being cautious? Jove keeps laughing. Somebody tell
Demeter empathy feels more noble. Only us? Villon’s
graphologist has interesting perceptions, quite relevant where XYZ

[Pattern 4]

Herewith introducing Pattern 4:
a b c j k l s t
d e f m n o u v
g h i p q r w (xyz)

"Saraswati's trove"         | 11   [Ardeo pangram]

Advertising brandishes cosmic dolls. Everybody fulminates gladly.
Hallucinogenic incongruities jerrymander Kensington ladies’ mouths. Others pause.
Qualitatively, residual sentences translate us. Vintageport weary, XYZ?

A banal condition delimiting existentialist fecundityseeking geomancerdiplomats
has indeed jazzily kaleidoscoped longitudinal methodological nanopolysyllabic paleocomplicationism
Queer reasons seemingly teleprompting undulatory Washingtonianists, XYZ?

Act because categorical derring-do eventually facilitates gladiolas
Held inside jacaranda keepsakes, life’s menthol nouns operate pensively
Quest requires sentimental temperament under verdant willows, XYZ

Actual Bengalis, curative delights, excellent fiduciary girls
Hollywod iguanas, journey-keeping lights, many noble optimistic pearls
Quiddity remains somewhat trecherous under vortex whirls, XYZ

Anthony Burgess can do everything fairly good.
Holiday island jetset kangaroo lifts my noggin’s orbital praxis.
Quality really seems tenable? Unlapsed voters want XYZ

Ardeo bemoans causation’s deception. Elemental fantasies grate.
Hispanic imagination’s jamboree kings love multiple nights of pleasure.
Quarantine’s reason? Saraswati’s trove under vacant whirligig, XYZ

Sunday, July 02, 2006

"Vayu's wafting"         | 10   [Ardeo pangram]

A bee can dance each fine glide.
Has it joined khyal’s land? My notes on pearls:
quills reach some truth. Us? We’re XYZ

After ballet, cartalk doesn’t ever feature gurus.
Hackneyed idea, Jewish kinder leaving many nations. Only present
questions. River sending torrents under Vayu’s wafting. XYZ

Absolut Berkeley: chemistry debutantes, eloquent fellowships, grandiose
history. Imagine: juvenile Kandinsky lassitude, marginal nocturnal orchestras, probably
quotable (ritual suicide, technical undertow). Valentine willingness, XYZ

Arboreal balustrades couldn't dim. Fragmentary glockenspiels
hasten it. Jurisprudent kangaroos lending mist? Nostradamus oranges peeling
quick? Rotorooter scientists teaching us   ventilated Waterloo, XYZ

Ardeo! being cool   delimits excess feuds.   Glendora
hearkens if   jalali khwajas laugh.   Mandala neighbors of   Padua
quarters rouse   seasonal troubles. Ur   vagabonds welcome X (YZ)


Khyal (or khayal) (Persian/Urdu): the word denotes a major style of Hindustani classical vocal music -- one which emerged in the later Moghul period (as discussed here). But the word itself literally means (and thus connotes) something like "imagination" or "embellishment" or "ornamentation".

Vayu (Skt.): wind, or the personification (god) of wind. The Wikipedia has a nice item on Vayu. Hanuman, as the "son of Vayu," presumably personifies the murcurial intellect. The relationship between thought and wind seems curious indeed -- an evocative association.

jalali khwajas (Arabic): literarly, magnificent masters. The expressive characteristics of spiritual temperaments are evidently classified into two primary categories of the Jalali (magnificent) and Jamali (gentle), with a third, the Kemali, being a blending of the primary two. In his contributions to William Donkin's unique book The Wayfarers: Meher Baba With the God-Intoxicated, Meher Baba invokes this Sufi classification when describing masts (advanced spriritual pilgrims) whom he contacted over many years of wandering in India: some of jalali, some of jamali temperament.

As for the Glendora of this peculiar poem, -- the City of Glendora is one of the myriad little municipalities in Los Angeles County. I've never been there, but for some reason I would often hear it mentioned on the radio, in my Southern California childhood. I suppose that proper nouns heard on the nocturnal radio in childhood may acquire some imaginal power, at times. Glendora seems of that sort in the instance. The Padua reference is mainly mindful of the legendary setting of Shakespeare's romance (Romeo & Juliet). Padua, anyway, I've actually been to -- albeit briefly, a pleasant day-trip. There are fine Giotto paintings to be seen in a church there.

Ur vagabonds: I suppose it may have been Ezra Pound who popularized this penchant for the use of Ur [literally, the ancient civilization antecedent to current Iraq] as an adjective, suggesting "old, root, original." My notion of the Ur vagabond, although not limited to one line of reference, primarily points to Siva in that phase of his life when he was called Bhairava (or Bhairo).

In these poems, the reader may note, "XYZ" is used as a sort of all-purpose cipher. Its meaning may vary with context. But to a fair degree, if one must give it any denotation, it may suggest the mystical per se: a quality which is inherently hard to tack down. The poem (and, possibly, the cycle of poems -- unless more emerge) concludes by noting that X(YZ) is welcomed by Ur vagabonds. The poem thus rests, in end, on this invocation of Bhairo and his rapport with something mysterious.

Attentive readers of this particular poem may note how each stanza relies on a different basic rhythmic principle, in organizing a rythmic pattern of syllables -- while traipsing down the alphabet-wise stepping stones of the "melodic line." To spell it out here: stanza 1 uses only monosyllables, stanza 2 only disyllabic words, stanza 3 only trisyllabic words. Stanzas 4 and 5 each offer a sort of sampler pack: that is, strings of cadenced utterance following fixed patterns of diminishing syllabic scope. To be specific: in stanza 4, the pattern is 4-3-2-1. In the final stanza, the pattern is simply 3-2-1.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

"Quixote's reality"         | 9   [Ardeo pangram]

Always believe calendars? Does every fruittree glisten?
How is John Kennedy’s likeness most noble or pure?
Quixote really sought to understand valiant ways, XYZ

And being cautious -– does every fender gleam?
How is Japanese kudzu like my notion of pasta?
Quixote really said those unbelievably vital words, XYZ

As belief continues -– does every faith grow?
How is July’s knife-life more necessary or proper?
Quixote really seemed troubled, unwontedly violent with XYZ

Absolutely brilliant cantatas! -– doesn’t every fenster glow?
How is Juanita’s kiss like Maine’s northernmost offseason places?
Quixote really sentimentalized the unlivable vacation with XYZ

Abstractly, beans count. Does every frijole generalize?
How is jujitsu’s knack like mental nodules of pulchritude?
Quixote’s reality slightly trembled under vision’s weight, XYZ

Ardeo became curious -– didn't every feather glide?
How is justice / kindness / love / meaning not our problemo?
Quixote really serenaded the ultimate virgin wench, XYZ

"Racine's simulacrum"         | 8   [Ardeo pangram]

Answer, babe. Can delirium ever feel good?
How is journalism keeping life's more necessary occupations peachy?
Quit reacting, start teasing. Unlimited value was XYZ

Amazon became comatose? Don't even finish. Grok
his insults, just keep laughing. Many negative opinions pester
Quakerism. Really serious turbulence usually vanishes with XYZ

Angry bears can discomfit even French gentlemen.
Hungry islanders just keep listlessly moaning. Nobody operates past
quartertime. Racine's simulacrum twitters, unless vetted with XYZ

Aspersion, blame, castigation, denigration -- every fearsome gut
has issues. Jayadev, Kabir, Lalleshwari, Milarepa, Nanak -- O poets!
Quell reality's semblance. Tune up vinas wonderfully, XYZ

Ardeo beseeches! can driftwood ever follow God's
heart? Isn't just keeping lifelike my notable occupation? Please
qualify recent semaphores -- till ultimate victory wins XYZ

"Dante's Inferno"         | 7   [Ardeo pangram]

African bananas? Give him my nascent salutation. Time
can deftly inculcate juvenile opinions. Permit us vermouth,
even freely kiss. Lovers' quests reach Warsaw, XYZ

Always believe graceful hymnals. My neurologist sadly thinks
Castro didn't illuminate. Jill omits pails, using vallygirl
earnestness. Frankness kills lassitude? Quilt realists want XYZ

Angling by gosh, hawking my newsbrief. Sell the
cantaloupe, darling, I just ordered pomfret. Unlike vehemence,
elementary fraudulence keeps life quite reasonable, when XYZ

Ask before guessing! Has my nest suffered the
casual debris incident? Just orchestrate pianistically, using very
elegant fingering. Kafka's lifelong questions really wangle, XYZ

Ardeo bellows, gentlemen. Haven't my nasturtiums subtly tinkered?
Can Dante's Inferno just overlap Pasadena? Unobvious virtue
eliminates fallacy. Kilroy's letterings quaintly rue wartime, XYZ

[Pattern 3]

"Frida's kitchenette"         | 6   [Ardeo pangram]

Amazement becomes groovy. Hikmet mellows. Negotiate some timeshares.
Cute darlings invade Japan. Osama putts, using very
easy frequencies. Kindle love, quote Rousseau. Weep, XYZ

After becoming generally hellbent, Molière never softened. Tell
Cassandra: depict images. Just opine plausibly. Unlike Virginia's
escalator, Frida's kitchenette likes quails. Really weird, XYZ

Actual beings give history many nice situations. Today,
California's deep images. July often presents unlikely variations.
Equador's farout kazoo-lovers quaff radical weltanschauungs, XYZ

Abstract baloney? Give him mayonnaise. Nobody seeks truth,
can danger imperil jeunesse? Obstinate persons usually value
expensive features. Karmic language quietly reflects water, XYZ

Ardeo believes God has many necessary secrets. Tricky
conditions delimit interesting jests. Ordinary people undulate very
expressively. Feeling kind? Let's quit reading. Wow, XYZ

[Pattern 3]

Herewith introducing Pattern 3:
a b g h m n s t
c d i j o p u v
e f k l q r w (xyz)

Regarding the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet (1902-1963), I don't know if he mellowed per se. Here anyway is the concluding passage from one of his more noted poems:

To think of roses and gardens inside is bad,
to think of seas and mountains is good.
Read and write without rest,
and I also advise weaving
and making mirrors.
I mean, it's not that you can't pass
      ten or fifteen years inside
                                      and more--
          you can,
          as long as the jewel
          on the left side of your chest doesn't lose its luster!

(from "Some Advice to Those Who Will Serve Time in Prison")

"Hemingway's Kabala"         | 5   [Ardeo pangram]

Always doing good, just making peace, seasons vanish
but everything harbors kindness. Negative qualities tax wattage
conferring friction in lieu of reasonable usage, XYZ

Alaskan dodos grieve, jurists mangle poems. Somebody valiantly
bought every Hungarian knickknacik, not questioning the wisdom
conventionally found in lots of redundant utensils, XYZ

Anybody doing Gitmo? Jellybellies make pretty sombreros. Ventriloquists
became essential, having knocked (not quotably) the walls
continuously flaming in LA. Oftentimes, rednecks ululate, XYZ

Anguish doesn't give jealousy much pathetic significance. Venetian
bellydancers, ever heartless, knight-noise-questioning, told WSJ
comedians facts, indeed legends. Obliviousness reduces umbrage, XYZ

Acrimony's deciduous gameplan: just make people seem very
blasé. Ernest Hemingway's Kabala notwithstanding, quinoa toast wasn't
contaminated. Feeling in luck? Order readymade Überseele, XYZ

Ardeo doesn't get just maudlin. Prithee seek visionary
beauty, even hazarding knockouts. Nobody questions the waitress
community's fundamental intuition. Let's organize realism's undoing, XYZ

[Pattern 2]

"Erasmus's Folly"           | 4   [Ardeo pangram]

Asking begging caterwauling -- deathly exit? fragrant garden?
Hello indigo, joyous klepto, lend me nobody's ocular pardon
Quivers render straight talk unto volkslieder wannabes, XYZ

Ancestral belvederes conceal duende, epistemology falsifies girlishness,
hirsute intellectuals juryrig kosher menus? (not our patisserie)
Quite right, Sirrah -- terrify us. Venus was XYZ

Angelic babes come dance every Friday. Gradually
he intensifies. Juvenal kept laughing, Milarepa naturally objected. People
qualify remote situations to underline vicinal weirdness, XYZ

Administrative burdens can discourage everyone. Failure gets
heavy in jail. Kindling lacking moisture needs our prayers?
Quoranic recitation startles townsfolk. Ubiquity ventures westward, XYZ

Alms become commonplace, does everybody feel good?
Halos itch, just kindly leave mine near our pagoda.
Quixotic romantics still tour. Uptown vixens welcome XYZ

As becomes clear, Desiderius Erasmus's Folly grows
highly in-joky (keeping Latin mirth nimble on pinheads).
Quite rightly, Sinatra told us Vivekachudamani was XYZ

Advertising bothers certain doctors. Europeans frequently gather
hollyhocks in joy. Koreans learn many nuances of propriety's
quickmarch regimen. Should Tagore unlocalize? Valmiki watched XYZ

Ardeo began carefully. Doing everything felt glorious.
He interviewed journeymen, kept learning musical notation, napped often, played
quietist retrospectives. Salamago tells us Vivaldi was XYZ