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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.