Wednesday, February 28, 2007

From the Peruvian

The other day we had a visit in town from
Clayton Eshelman, poet, editor, best known
as the devoted translator of the Peruvian
modernist Vallejo.

Clayton gave a magnificent presentation
of his Vallejo renderings for my group of
student poets and others at the College of
Creative Studies at UCSB.

A sample:

Paris, October 1936

From all of this I am the only one who leaves.
From this bench I go away, from my pants,
from my great situation, from my actions,
from my number split side to side,
from all of this I am the only one who leaves.

From the Champs Elysées or as the strange
alley of the Moon makes a turn,
my death goes away, my cradle leaves,
and, surrounded by people, alone, cut loose,
my human resemblance turns around
and dispatches its shadows one by one.

And I move away from everything, since everything
remains to create my alibi:
my shoe, its eyelet, as well as its mud
and even the bend in the elbow
of my own buttoned shirt.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Depending On One Capital Letter

8-Letter Poem



Monday, February 26, 2007

A Demand

(draft of a poem)

Guy at the poetry reading
asks show-offy questions.
No interest in answers.

I gaze at the poet's
dusty shoes.

In a Q & A session
after a Dalai Lama teaching
a man demands he be told
"in a few simple words"

how to achieve Enlightenment.

The kindly teacher,
without any words,
gazes at him intently
for a good while

and begins to weep.


Sunday, February 25, 2007

Every Paris in the Morning

This blog centers on poetry matters, but wants
to range a bit today. The post still counts as poetry-
centered though what I'm offering isa a bit from a
recently completed screenplay (in collaboration
with my pal and UCSB colleague Ted Macker)
because the song below is adapted from an early
poem of mine.

Here's how it looks in the script...imagine a
youthful female blues-singer handling it, someone
like Joss Stone. BTW, the "Dylan" here is female.

Greg shakes hands with an imposingly professorial-
looking man (UNCLE ROB) who sits behind a large
desk in his drab office.

The scene plays out over Dylan’s soulful singing:


Every Paris in the morning
When the mist is on the street
All the lovers fall to dreaming
Nose to nose and feet to feet
In the small-talk of the dawning
Like one body in their heat
Every Paris in the morning
When the mist...
Is on the street.

While the faithful dogs are yawning
While the suicides are scheming
All the lovers fall to dreaming
In this clearinghouse of woes
All the lovers fall to dreaming
And their dreams are bittersweet
Every Paris in the morning
When the mist...
Is on the street.

All the lovers fall to dreaming
And they dream their dreams of those
Lying under clumsy covers
Close beside their newer lovers
Who are dreaming dreams of others
Nose to nose and feet to feet
Every Paris in the morning
When the mist...
Is on the street.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Goodbye, Subtitle

Been giving serious thought to the vexed question of
whether to add a sub-title to my next collection,
close to being ready to send it out.

The title is FOOD FOR THE JOURNEY (title poem

Here's how it would look with the sub- tacked on:

a memoir in poems

Helpful, in pointing out the organizing notion
central to the book, or limiting in suggesting
that the contents shouldn't be read just as
individual poems?

Writing about the question here, I veer toeard
just keeping the sub-title to myself. Thank you,

Goodbye, Subtitle.

Title poem:


Like everyone else I've served my time
lying under the weight of a mountain
breathing stones; yet always my blood,
like leveling water, knows where it's wanted.


Once I had a whitewater vision:
beneath the rage of the rapids I sensed
the undersound of the river's sound,
indistinguishable from silence.


Who am I? Not a solving...a seeing.
I'd view the storm through eyes of calm.
I'd speak to say
where the silence is.


On days when it seems the food for the journey
is clay, not bread, and the spirit famished,
as dusk transfigures everything
I pause, near silence: listening.


Friday, February 23, 2007


As the last example (for the moment) of my practice
of exchange-poetry, here's a completed renga with
Lawrence and Kerry as comrade players.

As you'll see, we ride very loosely on the rules,
most often veering into senryu, more inspired
by Kerouac's "American Haiku" than the astringencies
of the classic form.


Looking in his father's closet
after the funeral
ten pair of old shoes

dust that hides under the bed
once sun-dazzled through the air

Under the suitcase
Old workboots in the closet --
they were married then

840,000,000 steps
on the way to the Bardo

walk my path a while,
a teacher's path -- through darkness
children with bright eyes

The path from his house to the stream --
walked while thinking of women

huge, non-human, yes,
yet always for him the Muse
leaves girlish footprints

the very first thing she noticed
his ancient Taryn Rose loafers

the shoes in the hall,
thrown into a cardboard box,
car driving away.

carried her into the house
warmed water to wash her feet

home for a duck or death for a crow
just beneath the surface --
this fathomless ocean

barefoot with toes painted coral,
won't hear talk of autumn leaves

The Big Easy flooded and broken
high in that magnolia tree
hang a pair of old shoes

a wave of great waters came;
winds, rouse waves of compassion

wailing of children,
weeds and stones strewn in the houses
after retreating water

that red wine of suffering
so many sipping

hunters, gatherers,
a woman one hundred five
holding a child's hand

mailing blankets to Houston,
her own children warm and fed

when all's been taken,
oh for an old pair of shoes,
an old tossed out pot

bronzed for his sixty-fifth birthday
his first pair of shoes

Salt on the front steps,
Three gulls perched on the roof –
Still, three pictures hanging

old eyes need a doctor's touch:
off he goes in his old shoes


Thursday, February 22, 2007


Just to show a bit of a sequence of 84s, here are a few links
from one where Lawrence started us off on the theme
of "Art." Note that his first posting has "+"-signs to indicate
that he's working with stanzas rather than a single 84.


This calling to be fully present
with style
one does ask to be an artist
an old chair
so many asses eased


lurks alone,
and the passerby's unsuspecting gaze
to fall
just before the


his family comfy at home
note this madman, fated to art,
out in the storm,
waiting for a masterstroke


"Burning down my house is the best thing I ever did."
said the Sufi to
the World's soul
from the flames.


the persistence of art

we were meant to play

here we are most excellent

unwearied by all
that is not art

This goes on for another 16 links, and there are hundreds of other thematic sequences.


My new year's resolution, as a life-long striver, was "Understanding overcoming," which turned into
a poem of aspiration yesterday, jotted down on my last wallet-carried slip of paper:




Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Introducing 84s

My birthday, shared with W.H. Auden.

I want to continue putting out examples of ongoing poem-exchanges.
with a recently concluded sequence of 84s. Each link contains exactly
84 characters (letters or punctuation, not spaces). Why 84? Any arbitrary
number would do, for this is mainly a practice in seeking concision, but
84 represents a sort of modest tip of the hat to the Buddha, who was said
to have left 84,000 different teachings because of the variety of human
sensibilities -- the opposite of one-size-fits-all.

Lawrence and I keep two of these sequences going at all times, taking
turns starting new ones once a theme seems to have come to a natural
ending. Mostly a single 84 is sent (using the word-counter on the computer
to zero in on the required length). Now and then we get going on a sequence,
with "+" between links to indicate that we're into a multi-stanza
offering. Otherwise we just use a "*" to indicate the end of our turn,
and we don't bother to label who's writing what (the Buddha smiles
over that). This post is longening -- the example comes tomorrow!


Tuesday, February 20, 2007


Since I started out yesterday talking about exchanges with other poets,
thought I'd follow up with a sample of my verbal ping-pong game
with Donna Rudolph. As mentioned, with this exchange the only rule
is to respond to the theme set by one's colleague poet at the
end of her/his contribution.

Here's a single exchange as an example ("-d" obviously is Donna, "-b" me):


In the hand
in the bush
there's fire.

Let's tell it like it is
(or might be)
truth like water
Kali's tongue
pouring sorrows down the mountain
cleansing drenching
touching tearing
Routing out the quivering child
Delivering him,
down into the swaying green-eyed sea.



These words, half-lies we spend our strength on,
white acres of mist declared to be mountains,
cunning assertions of tuneful thought
like "decorous slow quadrilles of the stars"

must have a purpose, refusing to cease
despite our knowing that we must cease.
"The miniature thunder of amplified ants!"
"The hummingbird's wing-seethe!" Is there a use

in saying that blood is unsayably-purple

within us? that breath thrums the drums of the lungs?

Tell us this earth is God's terminal cancer,

We'll pour us some words out, like these, about that.


next theme (KALI)


Monday, February 19, 2007


This will be a poetry blog, sometimes involved with trying out
new stuff as it comes along.

I keep the daily energies flowing through exchanges with
friends, these based on various rules.

With Lawrence E. Lione of Santa Monica, CA. I do haiku renga
(the third hand here belongs to Kelly O'Keefe in Boston) and
a form I invented called "84's" (each link composed of exactly
84 characters).

With Donna Rudolph, northern CA., I exchange on themes
each poet sets the other.

With Jordan Rome, former student taking an MFA a Sarah
Lawrence in N.Y., the rule of exchange is time-limits: we shoot
5, 10, or 15 minute poems back and forth, have literally
thousands of pages of these stored up by now through four
years of practice.

As an illustration, here's what the Barry/Jordan exchange
came to today (now and then one of these warm-up exercises
leads to a draft taken seriously and promoted to the Active
Poem Writing file).


8:44 p.m.

no one eats what they want at all times
or gathers the pleats in the sewing as well
as they might at all times or wrestles with bears
hardly ever and no one murders as well
as they do on TV what an act to follow plus
no one clips at their toe nails a lot
if they're busy cooking the food they don't want

and no one loves enough at all times
or at any time or speaks so sassy
that everyone in the room turns round
the way they do on TV when no one
loves enough or speaks so sassy
most of the time and let's not be fooled
because who believes he gets enough
cream for his hair or registered mail?


- b (me)


3:52 p.m.

Story of the Pumpkin

Back, back, back,
long time ago, so early in our culture
people living at that time
called it the past. Earth still flat
and Gawd had yet to create the Elk
or quartz. An orange tree
stood in an open field,
almost touching the incomplete
sky. Two oranges grew
on the same branch and were
constantly fighting.
Who was going to be sweeter,
more brilliant in color,
have more seeds. Their bickering
was heard for miles;
it’s why fish have no ears.
One day, a huge cloud appeared
and the two oranges thought
that, surely, the best orange was the biggest,
and so they swelled
and swelled, trying to out do each other
till eventually the tree branch could not hold them
and they fell. Over the years
they grew so angry at each other that they lost
most of their sweetness.
They stayed huge and had families,
giant competitions over who could get the biggest.
Then cross pollination was invented,
then genetic alteration. Today,
at State Fairs, there are pumpkins
the size of Volkswagens.


- j (Jordan)