Self and reality. Symbol and language. Myth and image. Memory and consciousness.
Dream and unreality: locus communis.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Last Winter Tanka

fallen brambles || Lake Travis, TX
Rain-slick December.
At wet cross streets a sudden
cypress flames out rust
red against the winter mist.
Only my mother sees this.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Poets Totally Get Cognitive Obstacles

Found this old link-draft page sitting in the blog's dashboard— a sign to always double check one's settings at least once a week. It is old news from the Poetry Foundation— yet the relevancy remains.

As a writer it is important to set obstacles in your path to test the limitations of your creative theories. Why else would I torture myself composing nightly haiku and the occasional tanks verse? To discover other phrasing. To invent a new language. To rediscover experience.

Read full article: Poets Totally Get Cognitive Obstacles : Harriet Staff : Harriet the Blog : The Poetry Foundation

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Gray, Insecure Century || Fragments

My boy, Brendan, sleeps— offering time to catch up quickly on random blog commentaries. The signs show he is going through a growth spurt: change in eating habits, shift of sleeping schedule, and increase of curiosity of the workings of his new world. This morning in fact I caught him swinging from the window blinds à la Tarzan's boy. Which caught me off guard. A frozen moment in time and panic. How he managed to work his way from floor, to couch, to window in less than five seconds is beyond me. To put this in clearer perspective: he only reached his first birthday earlier this December. I was not anticipating the terrible two phase for another six months. Naive me.

His first birthday itself was a milestone event for the family for numerous reasons. A multitude of justifications, too many for explanation. Suffice it to say, his adoption served a dramatic moment in our lives on many levels. Worthy of a Charles Dickens novel. As a writer myself I tend to hold back revealing intricate plots in an abrupt journalistic fashion. Situations sometimes need further examination, further desensitization before even considering putting them into print.

Yes, even though I maintain a blog, a casual reader may pick up on the fact I often do not delve into extreme details of my personal life— there is a notion of discomfort displaying my private self, allowing it to mix in with my public persona. I want the poetry to do the creative talking, not my day-to-day impressions. Some bloggers can achieve a nice balance of honest-disclosure with their audience— and in fact I enjoy reading of others' adventures in this wilderness. These types of journal-blogs allow for a commonality and a sense of security in this gray, insecure century (to paraphrase Charles Simic). However, for now, for me, a little silence is good, until we get to know one another better.

Rejections from publishers seem rather absent these last few weeks. Roughly speaking, five or six manuscripts of poetry are floating around the ether of the internet, patiently waiting for an editor to open a file and show a sign of interest or quick "no, thanks." My methods for finding a printing house appear lacking. I will be the first to state this out loud. Even in casual living I tend to hesitate, pause, hold back too often. I question my talents too much; I react too late to offers.

The current project regarding my boy has a tentative title of Grackle, Fox, and She-Bear. Odd how titles often arrive sooner than poems. Titles for me act as a point of reference, an established goal. My muse seems to think in fragments and allows me for stitching and revision along the path.

In this case, this project motions in a different manner than other writing— I am used to poems falling out in a rush or in a necessity to be put on the page— the current words slowly work across the notebook paper... a fractured long poem slowly working together over a number of weeks and months. This is of course due to the fact the full series of poems sit in plain view, the full amorphous work wants definition, shape, embodiment.

—and now the boy awakes. Demanding voice. Today will be a fragmented journal as well.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Hydrant 23 || The Manner Language Stumbles at Night

Ivy and Brick

The goal of freewriting projects often falls into the territory of discovering self. Or falling into memory to define one's self. Through a rambling pattern of words and imagery. Broken phrases and de-constructed sentence forms. Which is why I often use these hydrant photos as a starting point— almost none of the photographs can be traced to a specific epiphany moment. I can meander through any odd assortment of phrases— a sea of language. My newest project deals with folktales, or the logic of magic realism, set in a current, a stream of social thinking from a fictitious village somewhere in Europe, thatched roofs and white plaster walls, seaside location perhaps— but not a relevancy for the plot because I want the character to wander on foot through the typical wooded conflict— confusion of shadows and tricks of the light, lack of light, when mice and beetles roam, owls and bats. The manner language stumbles at night when the mind is sleepy, hesitant. Waiting for to idea to find you, not the other way around—

So I pick up a book at random, Stephen Dobyns Heat Death, remove the bookmark from the title poem, page 67, section eight: a reaffirmation of a fragmented, older idea which corresponds to my current reality, (but taken out of context):
think of it as a child in a red coat. Think of
that child on a flat acre of woods and the whole
acre pried and cut from the earth like a table top
—that child is my newest poem series— that child is my son on his adventure— that child explains my new direction in writing.

Friday, December 9, 2011

115/365 - 119/365 || Five Grackle Tanka

— with fractured language
falling from a blueblack beak.
Stuttering vowels,
split phrases. Cacophonous.
Raw words costumed in plumage.

The moment fractured—
an acorn splintered, broken
segments all representing
past, present, future motions,
the day hunched and fragmented—

The moment hovers,
circling with iridescent
wings, suspended close—
an unfolding overhead
as a dark epiphany—

The night once fractured
into fractions of the flock—
jab and clutter, full.
One voice echoed the many—
now there is only silence.

We were a gesture,
a completeness undefined;
yet we shaped the wind,
the patterns of elm branches
crossing over the sky.

Friday, December 2, 2011

114/365 || One Last Conversation with Winter Moon

Three days after posting the "Twelve Conversations with the Winter Moon" a new tanka emerged in my notebooks. At the risk of going back and editing a finished post, for the sake of coherent chronological records I'll leave the individual thirteenth verse as an isolated post. Maybe if in the near future a formal publication is achieved, the official title will become "Thirteen Conversations with the Winter Moon." Somehow the association of the number thirteen works well with our satellite.

your image returns at night
when I least expect
it: a cliched metaphor
in endless repetitions.

Items of Interest || I am Compelled to Share Anything Woolf-ish

One of my favorite literary blogs, but.if.and.that., recently posted material regarding Virginia Woolf, one of my favorite authors— and of course I am compelled to share anything Woolf-ish.

The Same Dirt Road through the Woods

Failed to mention that this last November, I was interviewed by The Fertile Source. One question in particular struck a chord with me due to the nature of the query.

FS: In “As A Figure of Hermes” the narrator open with the writer’s dilemma: “A moment of confrontation: me and the blank paper,” dilemma enough without the presence of a child to raise and love and imagine a life for over the rest of one’s days. Eventually the narrator latches onto the metaphor of Hermes, sliding into reverie about mortal son. Can you speak to the relationship between fatherhood and writing? How has fatherhood come to bear on your writing life?

DGS: With the experience of becoming a father last year, and the whole process of the adoption of our son Brendan, I quickly fell into a mode of redefining myself. Almost immediately a whole new understanding of my goals and aspirations emerged—I know it sounds cliché, but once the title of Father is attributed to you, a strange mindset develops without warning: no matter how much mental preparation you are supplied.

The poem in particular was a projection of a future possibility once Brendan reached his middle teen years—written before a birth mother had even matched with us. What I find interesting, although the projection of him as a dark-haired boy is inaccurate, my fear of a loss of communication with him is very similar to the fear of losing touch with my creative energies. Once, in the mid Nineties, I experienced a long spell of writer’s block, partly self-imposed, partly circumstance. My fear of the blank page echoes my fear of Brendan not understanding the creative energy of a writer-father.

At the time I left my answers somewhat short— however, ironically, more than once a full multi-page essay could have been generated as a response. As an example, I realize my fear of writer's block is the same fear of possible failure as a father— and until now— I never connected the two feelings. My above reply limits my reactions in a self-centered manner, that is, I address Brendan's emotions towards me, rather than addressing my emotions returned to him. To be more balanced I should add that of course as a writer I have a relationship with my poetry, just as intense as my relationship with my son. At one time I thought the two were separate from each other, running different paths, heading off in different directions. Now of course it is plain that the two elements run along the same dirt road through the woods, the same goal, the same resolution. My son has become my poetry, more-so than any metaphor could express.

It all comes down to identity and definition of the self. The titles of "poet" and "father," even "partner," "son," and "brother," braid together within the components of self awareness and creative output; these multiple labels in the end are all reaffirming who I am today.

Read the full interview:

Friday, November 25, 2011

102/365 - 113/365 || Twelve Conversations with a Winter Moon

The analogy
should be made obvious. Clear.
The words in the book
become the voice in your head.
My voice repeating my words.

You hold a pebble.
The pebble aches to increase
in size, move beyond
perimeters of your hand,
or notions of being owned.

Sometimes you appear
after a long night drinking,
blurry-eyed. Wrinkled.
A dark edge of unshaven
whiskers on your curved features.

What was— is now gone—
burnt out embers, cold ashes.
Circumstances change
overtime— the stove once hot
transforms to a stone-cold shell.

— and even your eyes
carry the ghost impressions
of your former past.
Shadows which cling at your heels
distort in the morning light—

A shirt lies empty,
forgotten on the unmade
corner of the bed—
transforms to ghost memory
or a mere speculation—

As an empty plate
left on the table’s worn edge—
unspoken symbol
or expectant metaphor—
you pause—an apparition —

A lamp left burning
on the darkening side street,
as unfinished poems
piled on a desk top by
the window with open blinds.

Outside each window
your face shifts between the glass,
a ghostly voyeur
witnessing each falling word,
each failed gesture between us.

Other times you fade
in the background as a blur
in a photograph,
a forgotten phrase pausing
on the tip of a blunt tongue.

Like the time you tripped
walking up the stairs, drunk on
experience and
returning home with someone’s
breath still warm inside your mouth—

You linger palely
resting on the horizon
as a vague notion,
or a sight hesitation
I cover up with one hand.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Treading slowly through the Labyrinth

Hagiography or Folktale?

As it is with most projects, a current idea has begun, quite by accident. Recently my boy fights falling into sleep; he effectively resists the plunge into slumber by holding firm to a strong resentment, most often during the period of his mid-afternoon naps. His anger lashes out, all energy channeled into defiance and independence. As a logical means of calming him down, I chant repetitive poems, or sing foolish songs I learned from camp, or casually talk about the day's events— anything to distract his moods away from rebelling against rest.

Recently, I found myself building a story from scratch, assembling a rough adventure typical of the Grimm brothers containing talking animals, dense forests with darkened paths, and a recognizable plot pattern of basic conflict-resolution. As I stand holding him, swaying, the rhythm of my motions often picks up the construction of the narrative, the phrasing of language basing itself on my shifting arms. In a sense, the story transforms around me, becoming a challenging labyrinth of information, forming itself slowly in my head of its own volition, even as I stand in the act of recitation.

Often in a caffeinated rush I visualize the full project in a formulated draft: three or five sections of verse, each division standing on its own, yet working together to form a plot, a hero's motion towards a successful denouement.

Originally I had planned beginning a modern hagiographical retelling of Saint Brendan and his adventures with the whale— of course based on my boy's sleeping habits and our whole adventure in the adoption process. But, now I find myself swept up in a sudden fantasy world of its own making— a hybrid concept stemmed from Galway Kinnell's The Book of Nightmares and Anne Sexton's Transformations. Perhaps, carefully, treading slowly through the labyrinth both projects will formulate themselves.
Three of my poems have been posted by The Fertile Source this week. I am excited mainly because this trio of verse are all relatively new works— composed in the last two to three years. All three deal with Brendan in some fashion— as a background character, as a metaphor for my collective writing, and as direct conversation to his future-self.

Read the full poems at:

Friday, November 18, 2011

96/365 - 101/365 || Blood Releasing Itself within Itself

We walk everyday
among our ghost memories,
wading through past tense
experiences, misplaced
moments. Poems never written.

I feel my worn hands
grow dry in the night, casting
off moisture, slowly
transforming, shifting into
copies of my father's hands.

A young, displaced hawk
balances on suburban
backyard boundaries—
his savage poetry leans
from the fence— then leaps forward—

Tonight a ringing
in the ears, a pressure change—
or blood releasing
itself within itself. Yet,
the pace of the night maintains.

An old dog wanders
along the garden stone wall
pausing long enough
to leave traces of his name—
small, watery graffiti.

Clear night overhead.
The chimes likewise are quiet.
Only one light burns
in the house, here beside me—
and the sounds of you breathing.

Nights of Alcohol and Cigarettes

After eight months of drafting and revising a poem I finally finished the last stanzas— and revised the title from "A Dream-Poem to a Former Lover in Minneapolis." I have mentioned in the past how the work often faltered, stalled out without warning. The title itself changed three times. The phrases kept meandering without an sense of closure, no ending nor grand emphasis or moral to wrap up my point. Currently it sits with seven distinct sections— the only commonality between them all is the fact they are composed in tercet stanzas, and a loose chain of a story-line. Overall it sums up my understanding of a failed relationship during my college years— a brief five year span which left me wounded.

Even now a large sense of regret lingers. A sense of waste: R. often fell into a series of weeks filled with drunken binges, angry nights of alcohol and cigarettes. Material for poetry he would claim during calm sober afternoons. Before the binges began again.

The catalyst for the poem of course is R.'s early death last November, his sudden leap into finality.

A portion of Section 3 reads:
I never understood
why you wanted Death to rise
within your life, personified

as a trick in his late twenties.
Glassy-eyed. Coked up.
His right arm flicking ashes indifferently

as he lay next to you
in the dark. Without emotion,
as he breathed in smoke,

considering the hairline cracks
running along the ceiling—
considering your t-cells spinning languidly

in thin-walled veins. Sometimes while you slept,
he would curl beside you, caress your forearm,
and tap inside the elbow to raise

the lines of green-blue channels,
to loosen out a casual
bruise for a matter of days.

He would watch it fade
from a dark violet to a sickly green...
At least now he has the closure he always sought— leaving me with many unanswered questions and speculations of my acceptance to the news.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

92/365 - 95/365 || Malleable Words

A silence invades
my notebooks— heavy winter,
without stain,— smothers
words, all languages erased.
All that remains: vast brightness.

My mind wanders back
and forth, shifting words around,
reshaping notions
of the verse. Malleable words.
I hear chimes in the distance.

I hear chimes. Off key.
A night wind drifts without goals.
The night itself pulls
overhead without purpose—
sudden memories flood close.

Rocking you to sleep:
every few moments, you glance
up, open slow eyes
to verify I still stand,
shifting with you — back and forth.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A New Masthead Design

Blogger has been adding some new templates lately; I have played with a few, much to my disappointment. The concepts do not fit my plans for the site. At any rate, I did change the headline photo to an ink illustration I completed last year. It seems appropriate for a writing/poetry themed blog.

Fractures and Personae || Publication Updates

Originally I planned on developing a formal rant regarding a recent rejection letter-- I always reserve the right to be angry over editorial comments; my expressionistic rumblings may still hit the laptop this month-- however, positive news was delivered to me over the last series of weeks. As I tell my students, the old adage: focus on the positive; ignore the negative.

First, The Centrifugal Eye has posted their recent issue. On page 27 a long poem of mine is shown: "Fragments: East Saint Louis, 1996." This work in particular went through numerous revisions and changes over the last few years, due to the number of literary magazines which rejected it. Thankfully, the original intention remains, a theme of psychological dilapidation and ruin. The stanzas themselves are fractured shards. --as a fallen ceramic vase or a dropped glass ornament. I should add, this poem is an example of the poet talking through a mask of a bitter poet-narrator. I channeled a very bitter moment in my own life while I lived in Saint Louis, then spiraled the feelings into a dark voice. It is interesting how reality blurs with fiction and speculation... Within the reality of the poem is a scene of the downtown portions of the city which still maintain the crumbling early Twentieth Century architecture-- still beautiful in their decorations and scroll work along the edges of the buildings' structures. One section of the city contains an old brewery which I remember being a part of the Lemp Brewery chain... details are not clear for me at this stage. All recall is the levels of brickwork and dusty decay of the older sections of the factory. A full cityblock of early history of Saint Louis.

Likewise, in mid-November, the print version of And/Or will be available. They accepted three of my more experimental works which deal with different personae and their interior monologues. In particular, my long poem "9 Fugues for Jazz Piano" was selected for this issue. It also involved a memory of Saint Louis from the Nineties-- but less personal, more fictitious. The voice is that of a jazz pianist lost in a break up, which results in his decent into a drunken state of denial and resistance to the situation. He was an interesting character to channel-- difficult to maintain, but based on reality of loss and refusal for change.

To date I have never read these out loud; I may attempt to get a reaction from one of my higher-level writing courses near Winter Break. It would be nice to discuss these characters in-depth with a collection of opinions.To get a reaction from an audience regarding their acknowledgment of another person's pain.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Hydrant 22 || Almost Translucent

There is a moment outside when walking across the commons to a small pond you cross through a cloud of gnats; they spiral as individual galaxies, a fog of stars blurring in front of your eyes for a moment,then hover just out of your vision, then return. Unintangible. Almost translucent. Always out of reach. Unphotographable. As the early twilight moon skimming the horizon. A dim crescent in a moment of hesitation.

90/365 - 91/365 || Two October Tanka

As an afterthought:
ignore these fading ideas,
lost conversations
trapped in technology,
a limbo of wandering—

In worn leather shoes,
October stumbles, falling
forward slightly, scraps
of blank paper slipping from
holes inside his coat's pockets.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

89/365 || We are Separate

Randomly, I composed a haiku and tanka based on the same scene, the now moment just before ten o’clock with the cat curled against me with R. asleep even with the lights on as I read the poetry of Santoka Teneda. My two short verses follow the notion of the two of us in one bed, on the one hand living a tight bonded life of its own patterns and habits— and yet. On the other hand, we are separate. Individualistic. A clear division between our positions. Unique islands, two territories.

For now, the tanka:
As I turn the page
you roll over half asleep—
nightly ritual.
Our two lives lie side by side.
Only a cat between us.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

85/365 - 88/365

The moment hovers—
a peristent present tense—
unfolding itself,
slowly uncovering both
of us lying prone on the bed.

All I remember
from today: wood doves clustered
along the back fence.
The sweet weight of the baby
falling into a deep sleep.

We bundle the baby,
and his frustrations, outside—
spoon into his mouth
a stronger identity
and a greater sense of self.

The baby frowns and
considers the buttons on
my shirt as I hold
him close— his fingers tug tight
on the threads that bind us close.

As of tonight, I like the repetition in the last verse. The wording emphasizes the lack of distance which lies between Brendan and myself, at this stage of his life. Lately he stares thoughtfully, intently at the most mundane objects: a ring of keys, the open electrical sockets, the autumn decorations we hung on the front door. When he gets into these serious modes, you can see the thought processes forming, the formulas building up the cause and effect aspects of the household. And then, on occasion, satisfied, he will look up at me and grin wide, and proceed to waddle off to a new corner for further examination of all his toys.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Item of Interest || Ten Oldest Books

from Vintage & Anchor:

Due to the ever-changing nature of archaeology and dating technology, the literature currently considered the oldest in the world may shift in line with newer, more exciting technologies. Regardless, however, these ancient texts will always remain amongst the oldest known to humanity. Typically of Egyptian, Sumerian, or Akkadian origin, the world’s first works of literature provide an integral glimpse into how the peoples who initially recorded their histories, stories, and religious beliefs lived out their daily lives. By educating oneself in humanity’s past, one does nothing but forge a deep understanding and awareness of the present.

Read more:

79/365 - 84/365 || Domestic Tanka

You feed the baby
in the backyard— while I walk
around the warm house,
with buckets of green water,
for plants wilting on the porch.

Another listing
of negation: no crickets,
no fire flies, only
sudden, endless rain falling
on top of this house of light.

Suddenly sleep tugs
at my sleeve—insistent child—
I almost consent—
until sudden wordings fall
in my lap, as steady rain.

While waiting for words
to emerge on blank paper,
the floor fan spirals—
creating drafts in the room—
coiling back empty pages.

It is time I moved
the round stone head of Buddha
among the milkweed:
soft divine fires for his night,
new platitudes for his days.

You sleep soundlessly,
never moving beside me
as my hand furiously
motions over lines
of paper, a soft blurring.

Hydrant 21 || The Ether Background of Living


This moment is forgotten— the inspiration lost in the ether background of living. But I can say this much, as a means of reaching for closure, stretching for a point beyond blue hydrants on greening grass, the last few days proved how one can become lost in their own rituals, not as in a rut, but in the stress of motioning forward day to day. Chores which should take a matter of minutes took hours: confirmation of a prescription at the pharmacy, driving across town to pick up my boy, feeding him as he squirms, as he resists the straps of the high chair, the limitations I place on him as a father— how soon does one's inner drive kick in? Is he already a viable personality struggling against authority, even as a ten month old? Yet, he still needs a sense of comfort and control; I must acknowledge that his want of my presence does overwhelm me often. Echoing my want to reply with confirmation of his identity, his stretching shadow across the kitchen floor in the afternoons—

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Steel Toe Review || The Myth of Pain

This month, Steel Toe Review posted one of my earlier poems: "The Myth of Pain." The work opens with the notions of personal violence, what people will do to themselves in a fit of guilt or resentment:
At the bus stop, we watch the other couple.
They have hidden themselves in a corner,
away from the general movements of travelers.
There is a quiet casualness in the way she tugs
at a strand of her straightened hair, as she pulls
back her sleeves, exposing her brown arms when she leans
against her boyfriend’s shoulder. The same slow motions
you took, angry and drunk,
leaning against a bathroom wall, marking
your arm with a paring knife, cutting soft scratches
into the skin.

The notions here, even a casual scene replicates hidden anger— and how one on the outside reacts to the situation.

In the poem I flipped the concept so that an average couple without issues is being observed by a couple who have issues. The plural "we" voice carries the burden of knowledge of self-injury; the other couple is oblivious to the situation or the fact they are observed. What results, the "outsiders" view the "norms" of a community. Yet a commonality is reached through the accepted definition of pain. One character keeps herself in a well of guilt over her mother. Another character suffers from specific issues of self-harm, self-mutilation.

Read the full poem:

Friday, October 7, 2011

76/365 - 78/365 || Three Water Tanka

Four days of silence.
No ideas merge on paper.
But tonight I dream
of a mountain in Japan.
I lean back and drink it in.

In a calm fountain.
Mosquito larvae hurtle
and plunge as small ghosts.
Pale incandescent bodies.
Translucent under water.

From outside, daylight
collects in a metal tub,
already filled with
unripe, greening rainwater
and the impatient autumn.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Hydrant 20 || Tilt -- or the loss of a metaphoric bridge--


Times exist when a fluid annoyance easily flares up at myself— for not creating elaborate commentary for these photographs— the loss of a metaphoric bridge, or rather for not building a metaphoric bridge between an image and a creative ideal. For instance today's picture displays what should allow for instantaneous exemplifications, remarks regarding the state of the world or tilted political discourse in America— but all I recall is the moment itself— the short walk down a sidestreet in Houston this summer. The buzz of traffic blurred in my ears as I crouched down to shoot the photo. Brendan was asleep in his carrier; Ricky was busy with a meeting in an air conditioned hotel room. The day presented itself with much promise—

Hydrant 19 || Cypress Grasslands in Triplicate




Hydrant 18 || Roadside

Recent construction has removed this hydrant from the back roads. The full area is being renovated and repopulated by a new subdivision— what was once scrub-land is now dirt fields with wood spikes measuring territories for houses and streets.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Five ponies huddle,
cluster in a raw circle,
their nostrils flaring.
The almost-blue sky widens
with the moon shifting westward.

Monday, September 26, 2011


As flotsam, jetsam,
plastic supermarket bags
drift, then recede,
transforming themselves into
clutches of saltwater cranes.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Item of Interest || Decomposing Summer

Recently had the pleasure of seeing some of my newer work published on-line. I remember once being hesitant regarding electronic publishing. Often a greater (psychological? spiritual?) distance is put in place between the casual reader and the computer screen. However, the efforts put into producing Decomposing Summer proved me wrong. These pages do not lie still: they show strong design and awareness of the craft.

A strong feeling of pride exists to be included in this inaugural publication.

from but.if.and.that , editor Aaron Geiger comments:

[T]his publication is an exercise in dipping the toes in a stranger’s pond. What the collective “we” hope to accomplish is: 1) Bring literature to the public in a free and visually engaging format; 2) Bring joy to the English language; 3) Showcase authors and poets, artists and photographers, and assist them with their endeavors; and 4) Learn along our journey new ways of engaging with the “audience” of our peers, friends, readers, and the great unknown.

Read more at:

Random || 71/365 - 73/365

I have nothing new
to add to this world tonight—
save for a loose scrawl
of ink on the page, hasty
scratches of ill formed ideas.

Sudden clarity
can arrive just by leaving
a room, the door shut
behind you with a firm grip,
closing out all memory.

A conversation
suddenly starts up next door,
just as you trim back
my hairline, down to the scalp.
Clumps of hair fall to their words.

A Humming || 66/365 - 70/365

Corner of the room,
a small fan hums patiently;
middle of the night,
his songs deepen, fill up rooms
with an assertive presence.

Even now the moon
lingers along the landscape,
hesitant as a
low humming on the edge of
the horizon— just waiting.

A small copse of pines.
Humming with a steady pulse.
Cicada chorus.
Continuous. Even with
the sudden downpour of rain.

hums in this small grey room; while
the unmade bed waits
for revision, the light bulb
burns out without a warning.

Subtractions gathered
at the crossroads, suspended
on telegraph wires—
a migration of darkness
humming, chattering loudly.

Tanka on Fire || 63/365 - 65/365

A mile from the house
fields are burning, spewing out
dense ash, as grass burns—
we watch a column of smoke
stretch over the horizon.

A yellow moon
echoes the pale front porch light—
but not even this
is strong enough to console me
as brush fires motion closer.

Ash drifts in the yard,
falling from nearby brush fires—
too close for comfort.
The air, heavy with silence,
hums with a strange emphasis.


without any real warning,
words fall down on me,
grab hold, make obscene gestures,
rude demands— then flee— laughing.

Friday, September 9, 2011

52/365 - 60/365

Stumbling through the house
in the middle of the night
treading carefully
not wanting to wake baby—
yet all doors howl like a dog.

A metaphor hides
openly in tonight's storm.
You stand whispering
in the middle of the house
watching the dark with your son.

A poem of absence:
in the distance, no train shows.
Only a flat line
of the horizon spinning
forward into the landscape.

Twelve books remain closed,
as the outside settles, close—
and leans at the house.
Every light, in every room,
confirms the open silence.

For a brief moment,
standing outside in pitch heat,
you feel the earth shift
forward on its axis as
your father waters his plants.

The moan of a truck
passes as we lie in bed—
a shifting of mood—
slow whine of machinery
fades into the warm distance—

Slacked mouthed, a single
bloom opens out in the night—
an exclamation,
or point of witness watching
from the shadows of the room.

The back garden wall
dreams of being covered in
a heavy ivy—
to be consumed completely,
to become hidden ruins.

A poem of presence:
in my dreams you still enter—
an unwanted ghost
of the past. Firm. Persistent.
Waiting to be acknowledged.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

46/365 - 51/365

Within the bedroom,
on the edge of the window,
dead insects collect.
At night their ghosts haunt our dreams,
diving, buzzing in our ears.

The clock confirms ten.
Every light in the house burns
against the night's hour—
and I lie in bed waiting
for a deeper darkness.

Throughout the full night,
the air conditioner chirped
every five seconds;
I dreamt of fields at midnight,
a wide chorus surrounding.

Copper-blue horses
covered with clapperless bells
carry small children—
whose arms are filled with heavy
absence— to see dry rivers.

A surprise sense of
contentment emerges when
off of the back roads,
in the middle of dry fields:
one blue pony seen galloping.

Random hawks circling
tight spirals over backroads—
they coil summer winds
into a close braid of past,
present, and future tenses.

Friday, September 2, 2011

33/365 — a revision

The last few days I have stared intently at one of the past entries posted here recently. In the original posting, I showed a collection of twelve tanka verses, loosely grouped together by a theme of darkness, night. In particular the opening verse often stumbled with my reading eye, causing a slight irritation, an inner twitch. Up till now, I ignored the critical reaction, wanting to respect my primary objectives: to show a short verse as it first appeared on the page without an extensive over-editing process and without creating multiple revisions of the piece. This was a means of connecting to the impulse of a moment, even in a limited fashion, bridging back to the spark of recognition of the epiphany as it unfolded in memory. Perhaps realistically this concept is flawed in itself. These words after all represent my own creative compulsions; some minor refinement is not a bad thing.

Looking at the poem in question, originally I wrote:
      Front of the courthouse,
      making his proclamations
      as Martin Luther,
      a grackle shouted his speech
      to anyone who would listen.

My annoyance emerges with the sounding of verb tenses, particularly in line four. The utilization of past tense grates against my teeth. Instinctively I want the phrasing to fall into a present tense logic, to show the moment as it forms in a “now” sensibility, not as a past event. Which leaves me considering the point: why do I prefer present tense in poetry in the first place? For now, I am not going to belabor the point. Perhaps an essay can later derive from this questioning (?). However, it is important to note that with present tense in this case, this individual epiphany impulse lies exposed as a raw moment— as if the event occurs for the first time to the reader in their own time stream and sense of self.

The poem now reads:
      Front of the courthouse,
      marking his proclamations
      as Martin Luther,
      a grackle shouts out speeches
      to anyone who'll listen.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Item of Interest || Antagonists and Conflict

from Jed Alexander's blog:

There are many different kinds of conflict. All stories don't have to have antagonists, but antagonists are often a critical part of genre fiction. But all antagonists do not have to be villains. Villains portrayed as evil and unredeemable not only reduce your conflict to a black and white morality tale, but they make your stories less complex, and less interesting. The key to great character development is identification. If your reader can identify with some aspect of the character, if they can have a sense of what it's like to be in that character's shoes, it enriches their understanding of what it's like to be a person. It provides a model for empathizing with real life people whose motives and actions you don't always agree with.

Read more at:

33/365 - 45/365 || Twelve Nighttime Tanka

Front of the courthouse,
making his proclamations
as Martin Luther,
a grackle shouted his speech
to anyone who would listen.

Spent the day writing
out short poems to anyone—
while you slept turning
over in the fresh halfdark—
murmuring broken phrases.

The cat roams dark rooms,
with you beside me breathing
in the night softly—
unaware I lie awake
staring down at blank pages.

Looking for a poem
reveals a full absence tonight,
an incompleteness,
a richness of nothingness—
as whispers on a dirt path.

Persistent image:
the moon rises yet again
in one of my poems
before the full night descends,
holds me closely in his hands.

From across the room,
the Virgin and Child stare down
from the boundaries
of the wall: nonjudgmental,
yet locked in observation.

Late night ritual:
the cat argues his feelings
from the bedroom floor,
then jumps onto the mattress,
only to leave one more time.

An unfinished poem
waits nearby on the nightstand,
folding itself up
rocking in the window’s draft,
with a resolved impatience.

Four days pass without
murmurs of passing tankas.
Their presence evades
the house skillfully— even
my papers burn with absence.

From the crib he calls—
a litany of new sounds,
each small syllable
from his mouth fractures language—
words change into paper moths.

Left unattended,
the crack in the window grows,
splits out a new path,
creates a hole large enough
for the full moon to slip through—

The bones of the house
settle down in the middle
of this persistent
drought— the lingering dry winds
callout ghosts from all corners.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

28/365 - 32/365

Along the highway,
ahead of the approaching storm,
a crescent moon hangs
balanced in hesitation
between waxing or waning.

He sits in the sun—
every morning the same man,—
same intersection—
bags piled around him. The sun.
No, he keeps shaking. No. No!

Despite the dry winds,
and the extended drought's reach—
fireworks can be heard
across the dark neighborhoods,
splitting the night with echos.

Even a small kiss
on the baby's shoulder blades
leaves behind a mark—
the act of loving transforms
to unintended bruisings.

Baby in your arms.
You pace the room. Trying to calm
his fresh energy
which rolls him as a comet,
restless, ever in motion.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Short Observation || Small Poem

Manuscript rejections keep filtering into the house— this month I picked up the submission inquiries to reclaim years lost when I isolated myself from any writing community. It's interesting how the interval between request mailings and publishers' responses has lessened over the last fifteen years, dramatically. In this digital age I should not be surprised at a hasty rejection note, but I still retain the expectation of waiting months before an official answer. Yet, even with the quick replies, I have found I must package up the manuscript as soon as possible to mail it out again. A step before the negativity compounds, resulting in a deepened inaction. Self induced paralysis is deadly; it locks up the creative drives, leaving one in a static rut.

On a more positive note: a short poem appeared in a benefit journal this week, Notebook Somalia. Using a Twitter feed, the editors hope to raise awareness of the ongoing African famine this season— offer some relief to the chaos.


From his rooftop perch,
the mockingbird shouts warnings,
siren-like details,
still maintaining an order—
despite the empty nest.

Friday, August 19, 2011


The baby's birthmark
flares from the back of his neck—
as a smudged thumbprint
set on the top of his spine—
his own crimson signature.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


The open book slips—
in the middle of the night—
falling from your side
of the bed, tripping into
my own small territories.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Tonight, images
refuse to fall into place;
words fail to cohere
with meaning— and yet, you sleep
unaware, with hands clenched tight.

Item of Interest || Watching Television

from Yahoo! News, a recent study shows the ill-effects of television viewing:

For every hour of television watched after age 25, lifespan fell by 22 minutes, according to the research led by Dr. J. Lennert Veerman of the University of Queensland.

But other experts cautioned that the study did not show that TV watching caused people to die sooner, only that there was an association between watching lots of TV and a shorter lifespan [...]"As a rule, the more time we spend watching TV, the more time we spend eating mindlessly in front of the TV, and the less time we spend being physically active," [Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, further commented:]"More eating and less physical activity, in turn, mean greater risk for obesity, and the chronic diseases it tends to anticipate, notably diabetes, heart disease and cancer."

Link no longer active:

Tuesday, August 16, 2011


Paper magnolias
group darkly in the corner,
open their wide mouths
to swallow down the daylight,
take in all lingering hours.

Monday, August 15, 2011


Without clear warning,
my foot suddenly arches
as a fist, twisting,
transforming itself backwards
in an angry half circle.

Friday, August 12, 2011

20/365 || Faulty Tanka

A depression settles—
no, rather a bitterness
emerges inside— weaving
itself tightly in my chest.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Item of Interest || Definition of Haiku

Particularly for my English 1302 students: I stumbled on the Haiku Society of America’s definition of a Haiku. What is relevant here, although terminologies and traditions change over time, this page offers a background which explains the notions of this short form of verse.

For more information visit:


Sporadic days of writing. My ritual of a poem-a-day is off track and sputtering. Maybe the habitual pattern will return this week.

In the back garden,
everything withdraws, pulls tight
within itself as
the drought lingers, settles down—
even the moon fades to black.

temporary silence || item of interest

After a few weeks of inactivity-- postings will resume on a steadier basis. First, for the time being, wanted to share a poem I found at decomP magazinE (not a typo). Benjamin Winkler's piece, "Atavism" stood out for me due to his sparse details in the phrasing and fragmented sentence structures. The idea of producing fractured verses always appeals to me as a reader of the avant-garde— the more experimental the poem, the more I enjoy it. Gertrude Stein, can you hear me?

Winkler's impressionistic style allows for numerous levels of interpretation— permits a psychological analysis of the poem's creative process and the persona in a sense.

The opening stanza reads:
naked days       and panic grass
father’s father put to seed
mouths     unto weed
hands     trowels     halfway
down     stuck     to clay

Is the speaker burying the past, or digging it up? Father-as-weed metaphor? Presents an interesting riddle to unravel. Hope to uncover more of his work in the future.

Read the full verse at:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

12/365 - 18/365

—so predictable,
the cat chooses his options
of occupation:
curl at the foot of the bed—
or roam nighttime's darkened house.

Second time around
the pond, drowning in heat
of early twilight,
a bell rings with flattened chimes
—and then I notice the moon.

For a brief moment,
we confuse the sound of a
distant dog barking
with the baby three rooms down
the hall, yet sleeping peaceful.

An odd depression
unfolds over me— dark wings
opening slowly—
unexplainable motion
without justified reason.

After eye exams,
the outside world burns with fire—
pale auras surround
everything, every object
reveals hidden energies.

I can hear silence
throbbing in my ears, shifting
as darkness settles.
We lie in bed, side by side—
locked in a firm present tense.

Some nights its harder
to reach within that storehouse
of words, gather seeds
of sensory impressions
as from a pomegranate.

This is not a rant—

Since Brendan's birth, much of my free time dissolves into absence. Why this surprises me, I am not sure. Why I did not plan to compensate for my loss of personal time, I do not know. My concentration for creative work lessens as well— which alarms me. Grading papers or editing material for my free-lance gig, these still function with normal processes. Yet, whenever a blank page sets before me and an allotted time span exists— a sense of overwhelming fatigue takes hold. The mind wanders through web sites of useless information, or worse, I get lost in the confusing paths of various tweets or blogs. And then also, I continually anticipate Brendan to call out. The responsibility of raising a child slowly erases my past identity, remolds me into the role parent, father, authority figure.

I do not mean for this to sound like a bitter rant. These words serve as a notice to myself: be more careful of your ideas. Plot free time very carefully. Read more often in spare moments.

Yes, as of late I have been rather negligent with updates and regular posting of materials. I do have a ready list of excuses: newborn, teaching summer courses, lack of sleep, distraction of secondary projects, et cetera, et cetera. At one time these rationalizations would be a central theme in my journals and conversations with other writers and curious students. Likewise these pleas would factor in as heavy subjects in my blog entries— somehow today for the first time I realize how much weight these excuses carry in day to day activities. I shold have seen the evidence. One of my greatest complaints to students is their prepared dramatic speeches for not turning in homework— I collect these notes in numerous digital files for ready examples for future classes.

My point: if I expect my students to not rely on a quick excuse for a lack of personal motivation, the I should do the same for myself. In basic terms, drop the cliched phrases and just do the work.

Received a wonderful rejection. Pank Magazine, a source on line I hope to be associated with one day, sent me the best "No, sorry—" The difference this time, I felt that a connection was made. They understood the experimentation on the page. The poem's fit with their publication was just-not-right.

Read their material. It contains many teeth. Bites quick. But carries a strong point.

On a mor positive note, another magazine, but.if.and.that chose a short poem for their theme of "Decomposing Summer." The selected piece began under a new approach— utilizing a different set of images and words I never put to verse. Once the e-publication is live I'll post a link. Until then, visit their site as well to see what they offer. Good bag of tricks.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

04/365 - 11/365

An open hydrant
transforms into a fountain—
water burgeoning
everywhere— grackles cluster
as a jubilant coven.

Resisting the fall
into sleep, my son disguised
as the moon, tumbles
and rolls across the surface
of his crib repeatedly.

The final sun drifts
along the back garden wall,
releasing flocks of
red wing blackbirds: testaments,
each and every one of them.

Within the corner
of my left eye, a small vein
blossoms, opens out
a single blood flower
waiting for acknowledgement.

Tonight, no more words.
Leave the lights burning in every
room— open all doors.
Let actions replace the text
of this moment's arrival.

Two grackles bicker
perched on the edge of this year's
drought. With strange formality—
closely circling each other—
wildly spitting out curses.

A persistent whine
in the background. As a ghost
child humming lost rhymes
or perhaps instead it's a
mosquito trapped in the room.

Yesterday, four cranes
emerged from the pond, despite
continuous drought
pouring over the landscape
with a controlling embrace.

Sunday, June 5, 2011


Within memory,
a lizard scurries across
the kitchen windows—
just managing to escape
the prowling neighborhood cat.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


We have driven past
the same scene before: burnt out
ruins of a home
that's collapsed within itself.
An abandoned metaphor.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Item of Interest || Developing Your Creative Practice

From The site, Developing Your Creative Practice: Tips from Brian Eno. How the creation of music and literature can operate in similar fashions.

Read more:

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lurking in the Background Shrubs

After more than five years I finally selected a new photograph for my main web site: click here to view the new image.
As a result I may set up a ritual of changing the image once a month, just to add a sense of variety, diversity. Likewise doing so forces me to rethink the necessity of maintaining a presence on the web, allow a strategy to be developed.

The Centrifugal Eye officially accepted my long poem “Fragments: East St. Louis, 1996”— should be out in August this summer. This one accomplishment makes up for many rejections over the past eight or nine years— every time the poem was passed up by various magazines I questioned the experimental approach placed in the text. I questioned the message, the theme of bitterness, the persona’s insistent persistence at finding beauty in ruins. Ruin in his personal life. In the decay of buildings constructed during the height of the past century.

Over time I did make changes, slight re-phrasings of some stanzas, but always kept the poem’s basic structure. A sharp eye may notice the format for section i and ii are deconstructed blank sonnets. Section iii in turn becomes something other, no longer following a formula or scheme. I wanted the text to act as a metaphor of inner city decay. The older ideas shown merging with an encroaching modernism—which results in a destruction of the old foundations, rather than a restoration of the past architecture. The poem is divided up into four sections, each one composed of a collaged approach towards reality; fragments of similar verses loosely, somewhat haphazardly combined into one full poem. The persona, lost in a scene of dilapidation, begins reflecting on the chaos in his life and tries to reconstruct a sense of strength in his individuality, rather than maintain an attitude of loss. Midway through the poem the “you” addressed by the persona shifts from a representation of anyone/everyone to a representation of his own self, or the city or a companion slightly distanced, emotionally and physically.

Eve Hanninen, the editor of The Centrifugal Eye did make some astute editorial tightening of lines. And two grammatical errors were fixed, errors I should have seen lurking in the background shrubs of the poem. Over all the acceptance proves to me that my voice does carry merit—a fact that I need to repeat to myself on the bad days when rejections are more plentiful than accolades.


From abstraction. Grey
waters receding. Pulling
back. Revealing stones.

Ivy & Brick

Ivy & Brick, originally uploaded by d_g_s.


Perspective, originally uploaded by d_g_s.


IMG_0292-adj, originally uploaded by d_g_s.


Tilt, originally uploaded by d_g_s.


Suburban, originally uploaded by d_g_s.

Wild Grass

Wild Grass, originally uploaded by d_g_s.


Roadside, originally uploaded by d_g_s.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I Have No Resolution

Going to attempt a second round of proofing / editing / revising my Quintet manuscript. At one point it was to be sent off to a contest at the beginning of the week— but circumstances "intervened" let's say. I still do not feel confident in the arrangement of the poems. Which of course is a major warning sign. If hesitancy exists, examine the nature behind the pause. And at this point I have no resolution. So the document sits on the other side of the room, on the floor, hidden under some file folders. But I hear it calling out, demanding attention. Just like the baby. The two of them have the same insistent call.

A Poem by Valzyna Mort

After waking the house up at five this morning, the baby is finally back in his crib, sleeping peacefully. Myself, still half-asleep, existing between school terms, in a psuedo-limbo. Time to get my reading and writing back into their old habits. Stumbled on a Berlin-based magazine, Sand. Their material is in English, despite their European roots. Seems a good connection for future reading.
At random, I selected the following poem.

sylt II || Valzyna Mort

the wind that makes your hair grow faster
opens a child’s mouth full of strawberry and sand.
slow and sure
on the scales of the ocean
the child’s head outweighs the sun.

Read the full poem:

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Item of Interest || Dragoncave: More Poems Without Categories

Dragoncave: More Poems Without Categories:

"—if Orpheus hadn't failed by turning on the last stair, his foot already half into the daylight, if he hadn't lost Eurydice in that turning, her shade falling back into the shadows—well, what would we have left to learn? What would write about? The gift is in the failure. The gift of this long-term illness is how it has pared my life down to what really matters. You try to live a good life, and still, everything goes wrong. You do everything right, and follow all the right advice, and still you have to go forward knowing that none of that matters, that it could still fall apart at any second."

Read more:

Rejections Still Sting

Trying to recover from a full day of grading. And the knowledge tomorrow will be the same. And Thursday. Repetitious. The whole while, Brendan spent time amusing himself, allowing me possibilities for concentration. Himself, he was intent on understanding the mechanism in his “exer-saucer,” a device that allows him to partially suspend mid-air, in the midst of his toys, as he fiercely chomps and sucks on his pacifier. Every so often he would look up from a rattle or a bell to make eye contact. His smiles are beautiful. When he breaks into a smile I understand so many levels of parenthood which were never open to me in the past.

The Spring Semester is closing. And another quiet student leaves me a handwritten note saying they liked the course—this term the letter is delivered by a young man: glasses, bookish, intelligent, yet someone who hardly speaks out in the room. He earned a high mark before the commentary; he knows he’s done well in my class, so his words are not mere fluff to my ego— however one defines such a connection, it manages to justify crawling out of bed at 4:45 AM every morning, blurry-eyed. I need to save these notes. Maintain a collection for the bad days. The days when I question the validity of higher education, or the mentality of the average college student freshman.

Received a cold rejection this week. I should expect these. After twenty years, or more, dealing with literary magazines, I have had many fair share of “sorry.” Plus, as a former editor for a student-run magazine, a college intern for a poetry journal, and as a former Editor for an industry publication, I know how multi-tasking skills are important and how time crunched the position can be. However, rejections still sting. Especially after waiting over six months and then getting a form-letter. No extra postscript. No “try again in the future.” No apologies for the extended reading period. Nada. Zip. Zilch.
Ah, well.

With the completion of my 365-Haiku project finalized, I am taking a few days to redirect the energy into a new cycle of poems. The “Dream-Poem” should be closer to a final draft by this weekend—barring no surprises. Despite the fact I need to confirm the flow of Summer term’s syllabus, completion of a working draft is an approachable goal.

Poetry Notebook Entry: Shifting Reality

On the way to work, juggling radio stations, I found another approach to a stalled poem, due to a flashback in memory. Now I cannot even recall the song flooding the car which triggered the memory of Des Moines, Iowa, more than twenty years ago: that ill-furnished apartment close to campus, that never-ending winter of endless snow. The memory provided an alternative series of stanzas to blend into the existing mix of impressions and rants.

What I want to acknowledge is the perceived actions and perceived values of another, from my past, yet brought up to date with the current times, expressing the current formula of our individual lives.

I used the phrase ‘up to date’… perhaps ‘reinvent’ is a better choice. Since this is a characterization reimagined a firm understanding of actuality will never be certain. Which leaves me room for shifting reality— the persona after all is a figure based on my impressions, yet then he transforms into someone other.

(I never understood why)
you always wanted Death to enter your rooms
personified as a trick in his late-twenties:
glassy-eyed, coked up with slicked back hair—

indifferent, disinterested, immaterial, cold, unemotional, callous, distant, silent, unresponsive, unfeeling


Recently visited the cardiologist for a stress test and an ultrasound of my heart. There was an odd comfort being able to view the workings of the organ, the actual muscle itself pulsating and throbbing, generating its internalized rhythm— a rare wild flower, sacred blue flame, a ripening wild apple surrounded by wasps. It was an overwhelming moment, building a stronger connection with myself.

The metaphors collect, gather for a future poem— a nice image for closure of the 365 haiku-cycle.

In the doctor’s suite,
they show me my awkward heart,
cased in sacred flames.

Monday, May 16, 2011

362/365 - 364/365

In my chest's center
sets a bowl, filled with poems,
lost and forgotten.

Unintended night
showering of the lawn: two hours
of pulsing sprinklers.

As I close in on the final poem of this cycle, I wanted to experiment with a lack of punctuation as a means to suggest double meaning, a play with phrases. In tonight's three lines no commas exist. No end stops, nor semicolons. No dashes.

For whatever reason, I often personify the moon, offer up a personality to the satellite's presence. What results below: either the moon is reflecting on poetry or the persona is meditating on poetry. Both figures participate in the formula simultaneously and individually, a blurring of action between the two realities.

the full moon rises
          contemplating a haiku
while I brush my teeth

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Poem by Ravi Shankar

Another discovery today. This one from the Chronicle of Higher Education. They offer a lengthy commentary afterwards.

Breast Feeding at the Blue Mosque || Ravi Shankar

Hidden from a queue to bag shoes a woman nurses a child
under a wool scarf in the shadow two fluted minarets cast
pitched towards incessant sun, a necessity somehow an insult
to sharia law, no matter what sustenance a lemonwedge
of breast, God’s own, yields, puckering a tiny mouth
until bright eyes glaze to doll loll. Fairly alien to ponder
raw biology of milk conveyed by ducts lined with capillaries,
made from pouring stuff of stars: nourishment that manifests
minerals for bone from pulsing light.

Read more:

Item of Interest || Emily Fragos on Emily Dickinson’s Letters

From the Paris Review, a recent post discusses a new publication of correspondence from Emily Dickinson. Emily Fragos on Emily Dickinson’s Letters

Dickinson’s missives are the only prose she ever wrote, and they make an intriguing complement to her veiled, often mysterious verse. I recently corresponded with Fragos about the portrait of Dickinson that emerges from this collection of her lifelong, ardent epistles.

Read more:

Item of Interest: The Canon Is an Argument (Ongoing)

Nothing to Say & Saying It: The Canon Is an Argument (Ongoing)

Of course we know the canon is an argument that says as more about who we are now than who we were, but it’s nice to see examples now and then, just to be sure.

A Poem by Diane Lockward

Stumbled on the following poem this morning. The archived site: Ars Poetica seems to no longer post material on a daily basis— more exploration of the full web site is in order.

My Husband Discovers Poetry || Diane Lockward

Because my husband would not read my poems,
I wrote one about how I did not love him.
In lines of strict iambic pentameter,
I detailed his coldness, his lack of humor.
It felt good to do this.

Stanza by stanza, I grew bolder and bolder.
Towards the end, struck by inspiration,
I wrote about my old boyfriend,
a boy I had not loved enough to marry
but who could make me laugh and laugh.
I wrote about a night years after we parted
when my husband’s coldness drove me from the house
and back to my old boyfriend.
I even included the name of a seedy motel
well-known for hosting quickies.
I have a talent for verisimilitude.

In sensuous images, I described
how my boyfriend and I stripped off our clothes,
got into bed, and kissed and kissed,
then spent half the night telling jokes,
many of them about my husband.
I left the ending deliberately ambiguous,
then hid the poem away
in an old trunk in the basement.

You know how this story ends,
how my husband one day loses something,
goes into the basement,
and rummages through the old trunk,
how he uncovers the hidden poem
and sits down to read it.

But do you hear the strange sounds
that floated up the stairs that day,
the sounds of an animal, its paw caught
in one of those traps with teeth of steel?
Do you see the wounded creature
at the bottom of the stairs,
his shoulders hunched over and shaking,
fist in his mouth and choking back sobs?
It was my husband paying tribute to my art.

from Eve's Red Dress (Wind Publications, 2003)

Friday, May 13, 2011

Great Shakes -

Great Shakes -

Article by Stephen Marche

William Shakespeare was the most influential writer who ever lived. Even those who haven’t read his plays know his words, from “to be or not to be” to “let slip the dogs of war.” But his influence goes beyond quotable phrases. Here are five ways he altered our lives.

Read more:

357/365 - 361/365 || repost of 5 lost haiku

darting in milkweed,
ghost of my brother returns
as a hummingbird

Directly overhead,
the moon half opens itself,
an unfinished poem—

The blank page swallows
me completely. Nothing left.
Not even a word.

Again. No ideas.
Yet the night still circles low.
Ink across paper.

After the storming—
fresh shoots of honey suckle
coil around the hours.

Monday, May 9, 2011

stumbling drunk through poetry

04.28.11: Found a chance to experiment with a Blues formula—laying out lines of strategic, repeating phrases— based on the old Robert Johnson tracks. In particular, his “Crossroad Blues” always haunted me—on many different levels. Johnson captures a strong sense of isolation in this song. The lyrics soak in a heavy desperation, an extreme loneliness.

For myself, I began with the construction of a framework based on folk-logic—the manner a culture will explain aspects of human behavior through natural elements, or how natural objects become personified with human qualities. What I’ve used are universal insects as stepping stones to explain the persona’s emotions: mosquito, fly, wasp, moth.

But I do need to add brief scenes of mundane, everyday experience to counter balance the notions of magic-realism. True to form I’ll more than likely chuck out all sense of logic—delve closer to the psychological weakness of the persona. He shows a sense of isolation—but at the moment nothing is well defined. He appears more as an observer of his surroundings, rather than a participant.

04.30.11: Feel as if I’m stumbling drunk through poetry. Case in point, with the blues-poem in development, it seems to need additional three or more verses. It sits truncated, without a closing rhyming couplet. It lacks a resounding, firm resolution which expresses a clear concept of my theme: the fear of the future, of the unknowable element. Furthermore, it remains untitled. Usually the title emerges first, and then the work. I cannot explain it. This is how my creative brain works. A tentative path needs to be seen, if only vague notions of directions: dirt and loose gravel. On a plus, I managed to rummage through plausible titles. Random blues, Mundane blues, Existential blues…

Half-an-hour-later: after consulting a rhyming dictionary and juggling placement of stanzas—I think the issue is resolved. Going for: “Devil Wasp Blues”— now the sense of direction is established.

05.01.11: Phrases from nowhere: fractured:
the stone split in half / Brendan smiled
Dream of Saint Brendan
Brendan dreaming of the Whale
Saint Brendan Dreaming of the Whale

Brendan, my child, dreaming of the whale, which becomes the story of St. Brendan and the whale, with a quote from the text.

Just as well I couldn’t sleep tonight. Brendan woke at 11 o’clock hungry, ravenous, as if he were never fed in his life. Within fifteen minutes he devours seven ounces of formula and collapses back to sleep.Of course, now I am more awake. Trying to relax, concentrate on the white noise of a fan or the air conditioner in the vents.

May have finished “Devil Wasp Blues”—which makes reference to Brendan twice as a background figure. Very little reality exists in the piece. It shows a reactionary approach to the world.

05.04.11: After a delay, finally found time to work developing the structure of my Quintet MS. It does have a structure, yes. Must retain the positive sense of what changes have appeared in the text. Tomorrow when I print it off then I can be over-critical. Pin-point hints of weakness in the sequence. At this moment, I should feel the satisfaction of creating over 50 solid pages of work.

Odd restlessness in my head tonight: cannot concentrate. The ideas of potential possibilities keep interrupting the actuality of the now moment. I should be finding another verse for “Devil Wasp Blues” or at least composing a haiku—

Once I have Quintet in working order—next on the list is to return to the preliminary MS and sort it out. Resurface the emotional depths—circulate it to publishers—almost every one of the poems were printed by various magazines. It carries a worth.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

355/365 - 356/365

Words tonight burn close
to the page— turning to ash.
No hesitation.

Almost forgotten:
moment with Brendan outside—
Hummingbird. Cannas.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Item of Interest || the 99%

A short essay on creativity I found recently—

349/365 - 354/365

Reading poetry
backwards— thumbing through the book
on random pages.

Sorting through my pills—
five isolated moments—
promote a death-fear.

Coiled in a S-shape,
an old lizard warms himself
on a porch sundail.

With flaming forked tongues,
the cannas in the backyard
recite their first poems.

In the compost heap,
beetles scurry, dig themselves
deeper into muck.

Settled as a stone,
caught between two molars,
one rasberry seed.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Item of Interest 3 || PANK magazine

from a recent posting at PANK magazine.

You have to have a certain amount of confidence to be a writer, to submit your writing to magazines and publishers. Writing is something that is often very personal, something in which you, as a writer, are extremely invested. As writers we work hard in whatever free time we can scratch out for ourselves. There’s no money in it and not much glory. Writers do it for the love, plain and simple, too. As a writer, you have to believe in yourself enough to withstand rejection, to not give up when one editor or ten editors or a hundred editors tell you no. You have to find a way to make sense of the business of writing when writing can be so personal. I understand why rejection stings and why a writer’s first instinct might be to behave badly in the face of it. There is a problem, though, when you are so confident in your writing that you cannot take no for an answer.
Click on the paragraph to read the full essay.

Item of Interest 2 || LA Times

From an article posted on the LA Times blog.

With the written word continuing its traditional perception in modern culture as a challenged art form at best and a shortsighted career move at worst, there was perhaps no more happily self-effacing group of writers at USC than those on the Sunday afternoon panel "The Poet's Journey: Personal Reflection and Public Revelation."

In a thoughtful and often inspiring conversation, the five poets talked not only about where the personal becomes poetic in their process, but also made a persuasive argument for poetry as one of the most vital forms of expression.

Click on the paragraphs to be linked to the full article.

Item of Interest || essay by Donald Revell

Here is an artiocle of interest from the Poetry Daily blog.

It happens often. I will be reading, a quiet passage concerning something wordless and near—a domestic animal, a flowering plant on a windowsill, an injured bird—and suddenly I find myself still reading the poem but praying too, asking God to watch over the animal, to prosper the flower, to mend the bird. It seems ridiculous, especially when I remember that the poem was written a while ago, sometimes a very long while ago, and that in all likelihood the subject of my prayer has long since died. Nevertheless, it's wonderful to be drawn to attend what I am reading so entirely that even its most ephemeral presences are Present to me and matters of concern. Nothing is impossible for such a poem.
Click the paragraph to read the full text.

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Stumbling with new verse—
yet the stillness of the house
promises deep sleep.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Song of a Reformed Headhunter: "Eve's Fault"

From one of the many blogs I follow: Songs of a Reformed Headhunter. The poet, Jee Leong, lately has been connecting many Renaissance female writers to modern notions, current threads of thought. My favorite so far was posted today.

Song of a Reformed Headhunter: Poem:

"Eve's Fault"

Not Eve, whose fault was only too much love
—Aemilia Lanyer,
“Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum: Eve’s Apology”

Though she has left the garden, she does not stop loving them.

God won her when he whipped out from his planetary sleeve
a bouquet of light. They watched the parade of animals pass.
He told her the joke about the Archaeopteryx, and she noted
the feathers and the killing claws, a poem, the first of its kind.
On a beach, raised from the ocean with a shout, he entered her
and she realized, in rolling waves, that love joins and separates..."

black-eyed susans

black-eyed susans, originally uploaded by d_g_s.

For a number of weeks I noticed this dark blue hydrant squatting in the middle of his domain of a ragged meadow; over a few days the undergrowth emerged as a slow developing flame of colors, a prairie brushfire growing out of control. Despite the drought in the region these wild flowers are burgeoning everywhere— the landscape burns overnight.

Fortunately, the road has a level embankment so I could park the car, throw on the hazards, and step out of the way of on-coming traffic without much effort. What surprised me: on the edge of the field were wild berries, already with a scattering of red-black berries forming. Driving on the road of course one cannot see the various plants. Everything blurs into a impressionistic green, brown, or yellow, depending on the season.


Another night, full
with a suspicious lack of
strong epiphanies.

Goodbye, typewriter!

Goodbye, typewriter! Learn the love story that helped create the typewriter | The Hot Word | Hot & Trending Words Daily Blog at

Thursday, April 28, 2011

345/365 - 346/365

A soft peace exists.
Feeling sleep take hold of me.
Cat calls from closed door.

to take a blue pill again
tonight. Or then. Not.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011


You begin snoring.
Almost immediately
the cat leaves the bed.

Item of Interest || Interpretation vs. Sentiment

From a recent blog by Josh Corey, who tackles the subject of poetry's intentions through a recent publication by David Orr: Beautiful and Pointless: A Guide to Modern Poetry —and through other various critcal material.

The problem [...] is that we are never completely outside interpretation, just as we are never completely outside politics: the claim that poems need not be interpreted simply sets up the existing interpretive framework as the unmarked case, a "good" universal approach next to which all other approaches are particular, "academic," and "bad."

Corey provides a link to an important essay by Susan Sontag, "Against Interpretation," published in 1964, which is still relevant today.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Cypress, Texas

Cypress, Texas, originally uploaded by d_g_s.

Rust and red paint.

Cypress, Texas

Cypress, Texas, originally uploaded by d_g_s.

For some reason the lighting and shadows for this basic photograph work beyond the mundane scene for me. Rather like the results.


For most of the night,
baby refuses to sleep—
we rock, back and forth.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Six Word Haiku Challenge || 342/365

From a variety of literary resources open to me at the moment, I read a creative writing challenge: generate a six word, traditional haiku. At first my reaction was negative. Felt a viable poem shouldn’t be put under such severe restrictions. Yet...

Since that moment, I wrestled with the concept, despite the fact I lost the original source for the prompt. A plan formed on its own. The math set up the pattern. Every line would have two words.

Or better still, begin with concentrating on multi-syllabic words, pulling out various phrases with a stronger complexity of phonetic makeup, but words within the common vernacular.

For instance, with the logic that a five syllable word could open and/or close the poem, in order to control the word count, I began listing possibilities:

With that said, retaining the syllable/wound count created a stronger frustration than expected. Perhaps I tried too hard to maintain a purist approach. The poem which resulted lacks a sense of the poet-individual and lacks a true epiphany moment. The form is correct; the theme is weak. In the upcoming months I may play with the idea some more.

words inevitably
fracture the language.