Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Here I am, not lost at sea but having a glorious week on the island. All I have time to say is that this is the best public school I have ever seen. More anon, when I have leisurely computer access. . . .

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I have no idea what the state of the Internet will be in my North Haven cottage, so be prepared for a week of sporadic posts and/or silence. But already I can see that it's a good thing that the island's art fund is fronting the Mazda's ferry passage, though I have no intention of driving once I'm there. Rather, the car will be functioning more like a Bookmobile/Roadie Van since I seem to be packing every giant volume on the shelf, plus Paul's keyboard and my violin, plus a week's worth of groceries, plus baseball gloves, plus hiking boots and raincoats and sun hats and computers and the second season of Star Trek. Plus some other stuff I haven't thought of yet. Oy.

What would William Wordsworth say?

A pleasant loitering journey, through three days
Continued, brought me to my hermitage.
I spare to tell of what ensued, the life
In common things--the endless store of things,
Rare, or at least so seeming, every day
Found all about me in one neighbourhood.

Clearly, WW wasn't doing his own cooking, or entertaining a kid, or teaching a week's worth of K-12 poetry classes. I bet Elizabeth Gaskell and Virginia Woolf's mother could have shown him a thing or two.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Within the space of 24 hours, I've received three rejection letters and two acceptance letters. Those of you who don't submit to journals may not understand how odd this feels. For despite the decades-long supremacy of the computer, email and online submissions are a fairly recent innovation. Yes, now, instead of waiting for months for the trickling return of my self-addressed stamped envelope, I can check my email and find a stack of form-letter rejections in my inbox. It's unpleasant and overwhelming. At least when I was walking down the driveway, snapping open my mailbox, and glimpsing my own handwriting on an envelope, I did have a few seconds to prepare myself. An email rejection is an instant smack in the face.

Yet of course online submissions have many advantages as well--the savings in postage being the primary one. And this, in itself, has led me into unexpected publication pastures. For while the three rejections were all from American journals, the two acceptances were from English ones. And the interest of British editors has been a balm. Naturally, there's the immediate flattery of being liked. But also, for me--the trashy, second-guessing, half-educated American who's wasted so much of her life in thrall to English literature; this foreigner for whom England has been more or less an imaginary country--well, there aren't words, really, for how it feels to be taken seriously by a British reader.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Planning for next week's artist-in-residence stint has been a challenge. Every day, for a week, I'll be teaching kindergartners through 12th graders. When I taught music in Harmony, I taught K-8 every Monday, and that was challenge enough. But North Haven is tinier than Harmony, with a school that has, I'm told, a total of 17 high schoolers. This means I'll not only be teaching multigrade classrooms (which we also have in Harmony) but broad age spans.

Apparently the 9th through 12th graders share an English class, and any high school teacher will tell you that such a confusion of hormonal, emotional, and intellectual advancement can quickly drive you nuts. Their teacher, fortunately, is a smart and easygoing man, but I'm already feeling high-strung about the week. The best I can do, I think, is to bring all my teaching materials with me and be ready, at any moment, to improvise. Meanwhile, I'll be digging up garden soil, hauling mulch manure, unearthing meteorites, etc. Later today I will wander down to the stream to see if, by any chance, the fiddleheads are sprouting. It's early, but I'm hopeful.

Wordsworth says, "I sate / Beneath a tree, slackening my thoughts by choice." Resting under a budding tree sounds like a good idea, and I hope to try it one of these days. But by the time I get around to slackening my thoughts, the blackflies will be out. And it's my contention that the Romantics would have been different kinds of writers if they'd had to fight off swarms of biting insects "in the sheltered and sheltering grove."

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

As I was tooling through the news this morning, I ran across this small article/call for submissions on a topic you may occasionally have mulled over yourself: can a blog be literature? Regarding my own blog, I don't feel qualified to say. For the most part, I think of what I write here as a series of letters; and while letter collections can certainly become literature (Keats's, Woolf's, etc.), they feel, in the present tense, more like snapshots or scrappy suggestions of the future . . . and, far too often, like self-indulgence. But you, the recipient of these letters, may have another opinion on the matter.

I do know that I hate the word blog and that I wish someone would invent a word for what I'm doing that sounds less like blurt. For despite all my self-indulgence, I do try not to blurt; I do try to listen to the words I choose for you, the sentences I accrue for you. I do try to respect the yearnings of your ear, though the subject itself may or may not matter to you. Here, of course, I find myself compelled to ask, "Does your ear yearn for grammar's rhetorical care?" Or is this authorial fret merely another self-indulgence? I'm not necessarily requiring you to answer; more, I'm once again second-guessing my intentions, which itself seems to be an element of my urge to write. Malcolm X didn't second-guess himself, but I can't seem to stop.

Dinner tonight: baked beans, baby lettuce, skillet cornbread. Possibly chocolate pudding with whipped cream, but possibly not.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

In line 9 of The Prelude, Wordsworth announces that he is "now free, / Free as a bird to settle where I will." I'm wondering if he's the last person writing in English who has gotten away with using "free as a bird" in a poem. There's an Elvis song about being "free / As a bird in a tree," but of course pop singers can say anything. If you would like to do some research on that bird line, let me know what you find out because I myself am not in the mood to look anything up. I'm too busy sitting in my blue chair, mulling fruitlessly over WW's freebird, snuffling into a Kleenex, and thinking that there's nothing like a head cold to make a person feel not free as a bird, in a tree or otherwise. Outside a chickadee is singing high-low, high-low, high-low, ad infinitum; and I do know I need to hoist myself out of this chair and go feed the rooster, who is grouchy because I put a net over his yard to keep him from scratching up my garden. I'm a little bit sorry I had to cage him: he so enjoyed being a freebird, and he was so handsome, strutting royally amid the devastation of my lettuce crop. Mostly, however, I'm not too sorry.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Today I start my new copying project: William Wordsworth's The Prelude or, Growth of a Poet's Mind. Wordsworth is not my favorite Romantic; but given what happened to me with Milton, that's the best reason to take him seriously. It seems that our affections are as stultifying as they are glorious. But even though The Prelude is a very long poem, it's chicken feed compared to Paradise Lost; so it doesn't feel particularly intimidating at this point in my life. And since I'm not currently writing anything of my own that's worth saving, I might as well devote my attention to WW.

Next Sunday Paul and I will be leaving for a week on North Haven, an island 12 miles off the coast of Maine, where I will be the school's artist-in-residence and Paul will be an honorary member of the 6th-grade class. We are both excited and a little nervous. Paul has never spent any time in another school, and I have never improvised a week's worth of K-12 poetry lessons. But we are looking forward to the sea and the ferry ride and our little cottage.

It will be odd to be reduced to a family of 2 rather than a family of 4. We plan to play catch after school, and go for walks, and make tiny amusing meals. I'd like to think we'll read Shakespeare as well, if I can fit that giant book into the car, along with the keyboard and the cooler full of groceries. Meanwhile, however, we are embarking on school-vacation week, which, in my house, mostly seems to involve intense bouts of sleeping.

Dinner last night: oven-fried chicken with fried dill dumplings (fatty but divine); broccoli, garlic, and olive oil.

Dinner tonight: James and I are going to watch a Mark Bittman video and learn how to make pad thai. Watching a cooking show is something I would otherwise never do, but J is gung ho; and it's true that he really ought to learn to cook something more than pancakes, waffles, and grilled-cheese sandwiches. (He also seems to have fallen for my suggestion that that cooking can be a method for attracting girls. . . . )

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I came home from yesterday's poetry festival feeling like a freak. It was snowing and I had a cold, but that's no excuse. What I felt like was Lewis Carroll's Alice. Remember the part of the story when her neck grows longer and longer and twines among the trees, and pigeons peck at her and scream, "Serpent!"? Nobody screamed at me. Everyone was cordial, and I saw people there I really enjoy, people who have been my friends for years now. But still I felt like my neck was twenty feet long and I was being pecked by pigeons. I suppose what I really mean is that my writing felt freakish. There it loomed, oversized as Alice and just as awkward, needy, and ambitious, like wings of wax are ambitious, or that mechanical stretcher that pianist Robert Schumann is said to have attached to his hand--the one that was supposed to strengthen his fingers but broke them instead.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thanks to my fifteen-year-old, I now have a cold and a poetry reading on the same day. Also, it is first light of school-vacation week, and it is snowing. Fortunately I am not on stage till 2, so my coffee and I have time to slump here at the kitchen table and mutter imprecations.

One notable thing about life in Maine is that it is so easy to complain about. If we're not grousing about snow in April, we're facing a plugged kitchen sink and jailbreak chickens with the singleminded mission of jumping up and down on top of my newly planted lettuce. And then insect season arrives, along with impossible Little League schedules and dastardly lawnmowers. Before you know it, we're back to wood splitting and chimney cleaning and ice breaking. The cycle of complaint never ends.

(Actually, I'm only pretending to be in a bad mood, so don't worry. But I really do have to read poems with a head cold. So here's hoping that it at least gives me a sexy smoker's voice as a side-effect.)

Friday, April 16, 2010

The governor has two fat, good-tempered, middle-aged springer spaniels, who attended yesterday's Poets' Tea at the Blaine House in Augusta. Meanwhile, across the road at the State House, members of the Tea Party Movement were dressed up in colonial costumes and complaining about taxes. This seemed to make the governor and his wife depressed, but the dogs continued to enjoy themselves.

I would estimate that close to 100 people were in attendance at our tea party, none in colonial costume and many of them complete strangers to me--including the other two readers. I always think of the Maine literary scene as rather small, but apparently I've been misled. I had to read first because Betsy Sholl, our poet laureate, said the only woman on the program should not read last. I think the poem went over pretty well, but I was nervous because I forgot to wear my reading glasses and I kept thinking I would read the blurry lines in the wrong order.

After the reading I drank a cup of tea and talked to a man who said he could teach me "a lot about decrepitude." I told him that my reading-glasses worries were already teaching me at least a little about decrepitude, and so I departed from this affair feeling rather bemused about the peculiarities of small talk.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My friend Ruth recently had surgery, and clearly her students are lonely for her. She posted this on her Facebook page, but I am borrowing it because I think it's the nicest get-well card I've ever seen.

"Evrything in this card is probbly mispeled, I miss you"

A Winter's Tale, Act 4, Scene 4, Lines 181-323

At long last: an update!

Paul and I both laughed a lot over this scene. He warbled all the songs in funny voices, and we both enjoyed the Weekly World News-like descriptions of the ballad subjects--the usurer's wife who gave birth to twenty moneybags and afterwards ate a meal of grilled toads, the "fish that appear'd upon the coast on We'n'sday . . . and sung this ballad against the hard hearts of maids." I also appreciated Mopsa and Dorcas's solemn and innocent wonder: "Is it true, think you?" though I was less charmed by Perdita's prim "Forewarn [the peddler] that he use no scurrilous words in's tunes." But perhaps priggishness is one of the signs of being a real princess.

Nonetheless, although this section was fun to read, it does remind me how much writers' approach to plot has changed over the centuries. Shakespeare is so willing to meander into distraction, and so are the early novelists, such as Laurence Sterne in Tristram Shandy. Cervantes's Don Quixote is one long distraction. In a way, I find this ambling approach pleasant; in a way, it bores me. But what do you think?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

I just accidentally stumbled across the news that Tracing Paradise received a special mention in the L. L. Winship/PEN New England competition. I had no idea, but I'm very pleased--not least because my friend Meg Kearney's collection Home by Now won this contest in the poetry category.
Today will be a filthy, sweaty, grubby, digging-up-the-garden day, whereas tomorrow will be a putting-on-high-heels-and-a-dress-and-going-to-the-governor's-house day. Because I will only get to read one poem at his house, I've chosen an eclogue, a piece that features both family values and filthy, sweaty, grubby Harmony. Think of it as a lobbying statement for a town that the governor never visits.

I'm almost finished with Gatsby, which is no surprise because it is one of the shortest famous novels in existence. Actually, this time through I liked it less than I did last time. I remember being impressed, during my previous reading, by the structural elegance of the both the plot and its characters. But this time, for some reason, the characters wearied me. Daisy, in particular, seemed to have lost her charm. I almost began to prefer Tom Buchanan, who, in his cruel and oafish way, is searching for some vitality, some vigor, that is not wholly dependent on wealth. He fails, of course: he can't get away from the power of his own money. But Daisy just feels like a tick. A lovely and desirable tick, to be sure, but nonetheless a blood sucker.

Dinner last night: Even though Paul was awake enough to read, we couldn't tackle Shakespeare because we were entertaining/being entertained by my friend Angela, who arrived bearing a bottle of wine and three kiwis. To accompany the wine, I made guacamole, which James arranged in front of himself like a bowl of cereal and then single-handedly consumed within 3 minutes. Fortunately, however, the rest of us guacamole-deprived eaters got to feast on potato and sorrel soup, which tastes exactly like early spring. If you don't grow sorrel in your garden, you should. It's one of the first things up and pairs beautifully with both eggs and potatoes.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

According to Gatsby's Nick Carraway, "Dishonesty in a woman is a thing you never blame deeply."

I read that sentence when I was lying on the couch last night, listening to Tom try to prod Paul into waking up and doing his math homework. And I thought, "I'd like to come up with a pithy retort"; but in truth when confronted with such epigrams, I tend to blink hard and become speechless. I don't hold anything against the character for saying this; I don't hold anything against Fitzgerald for writing it. What I do is start asking myself, "Is he right?" and then saying no and then saying maybe and then sighing and looking out the window into the dusk and wishing I was a better human being than I am.

Sometimes when I think of my response to such a statement, I'm amazed that I've managed to do anything at all with my life--that any woman has managed to do anything at all with her life--that any person has managed to do anything with his or her life. It's so simple to be cowed; it's so simple to be nothing. It's so simple to take a plain declarative sentence to heart, to believe that it was invented to subdue all your seeping flaws and confiding, arrogant desires. Literature never gets any easier to take.

Ah. Time to change the subject, I see. So I'll move on to Winter's Tale news. I'm very close to ignoring Paul and continuing into the scene without him. Tom and I cannot seem to keep this child awake. Maybe he's having a growth spurt, or maybe he's got narcolepsy; but every day after school he comes home and falls asleep on the couch. Then, when woken, he mutates into a scowling zombie, and reading Shakespeare with a scowling zombie is not at all fun or instructive.

Monday, April 12, 2010

1. Peas in, radishes in, mesclun in, dill in, cilantro in. Rocks hauled, poodle admonished, oversized dandelions donated to chickens.

2. I've started rereading The Great Gatsby. I've read it often, yet the little paperback's binding continues to survive, even though a dog named Dave once chewed off all the corners and my son James, as a toddler, spent a few strangely obsessed months plucking it off the bookshelf and throwing it across the room.

3. A pair of barred owls seems to be nesting close to our house, and all day and all night they inquire, "Who cooks for you? Who cooks for you? Awww." Dogs don't like this, but I do.

4. Yesterday evening, instead of reading Shakespeare, Tom and I sat on the couch and watched an episode of Welcome Back, Kotter. We are paying the price today in loss of brain cells. It's worse than Jagermeister. Never again.

Dinner tonight: risotto with white wine and leftover moules à la mariniรจre, plus some other stuff that I haven't decided on yet.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Peas not in yet, but a lovely, lovely day out in the cold wind digging up garden beds with a spade, hauling manure with a wheelbarrow, and prying up giant rocks with my bare hands.

This sounds like irony but isn't. It really was lovely. Early-spring gardening is full of hope. No biting insects yet, just new flowers and excitable birds and chunks of heavy wet soil and a clean grey sky. I keep thinking that I'll soon be getting too old to thrive on all this labor, but it hasn't happened yet.

And then Tom came home with mussels for dinner, and the boys departed for 7 hours, and we spent a happy evening together, and afterwards I didn't even have insomnia.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Planting peas this weekend and, I promise, reading more Winter's Tale with Paul. April is hell for poets, in case you didn't already know from your own experience. That gimmicky idea "National Poetry Month" really does work like a charm: everyone schedules their poetry gigs in April. Perhaps we should invent subgenre months so we can spread out the jobs--say, March could be National Ode Month and February could be National Surrealism Month. In any case, when I'm not driving 2 hours to do a gig, I'm home doing all the laundry that multiplied in my absence. April is National Dirty Clothes Month.

Dinner tonight: I have no idea, but Tom and I are eating it alone. The boys have been invited to go see their friend Sam play a Nubian extra in a high school production of Aida (the Elton John version, I'm sorry to say), which leaves the two of us with several childless hours. I hope we don't waste them all talking about the boys. I've noticed that's an unfortunate side-effect of being temporarily son-less.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Frost Place update

Professional Development in the Schools

For the past decade the Frost Place in Franconia, New Hampshire, has sponsored a week-long conference for classroom teachers that focuses on how poetry is taught. Over the course of these conferences much experience has been gained about how poetry can be effectively and enjoyably taught and how poetry can answer to every aspect of the language arts curriculum – writing, reading, listening skills, grammer, and vocabulary – at every school level. Now The Frost Place is offering to bring its personnel to your school to make poetry come alive every day in the classroom.

We are excited to be offering this project to schools throughout the United States. Over the years, teachers at the conference have wished they could bring The Frost Place home with them. Now they – and you – can.

Find more information in the flyer (pdf) available at

Sorry about no post yesterday, but I was either driving, teaching, or sleeping. Lewiston is two hours south of Harmony, so I left here at 6 a.m. and returned just in time to reconnoitre with boys and dinner preparations. Then, after dinner, as soon as I sat down on the couch, I was overwhelmed by sleepiness. Tom started watching a Soviet comedy about a chess tournament (oh, those crazy Soviets), which I thought I was watching as well but which I turned out to have been dreaming. I haven't been wiped clean like that for some time. Maybe I accidentally drugged my own split-pea soup.

Anyway, yesterday's teaching gig was enjoyable: a room full of high school students who like reading and writing and talking about literature. Listening to them find their way through four very different sonnets, line by line, was intense and exciting. We worked so hard that I wouldn't be surprised to hear that they all fell asleep on their respective couches after dinner too.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

In response to yesterday's post about sonnets and rhyme facility, novelist Tom Rayfiel sent me this funny-sad anecdote:

A propos your last post about wordy kids having a facility for rhymes, Ned Rorem tells a great story about Cocteau. A very young girl, Minnie Drouet, wrote all these complexly rhymed and perfectly metrical poems to the Virgin Mary. They were taken up by teachers and priests. "Is Minnie Drouet A Genius?" one magazine proposed and canvassed various artists. Cocteau replied, "All children are geniuses. Except Minnie Drouet."

Poor Minnie.

Outside today it is a little bit rainy and a little bit sunny, which creates very odd light at 7 a.m. in early spring. Yesterday I installed a new bed of asparagus and started digging ground for pea planting, until the rooster flew over the fence to investigate and the poodle rediscovered the days of her idiot youth and chased him down the road. During my pursuit through the swampy woods, I discovered several new holes in my boots and lost my taste for both poodles and gardening. Today, however, I need to drive a kid to the orthodontist and pay two car-repair bills, which will surely improve the poodle's ranking on the Scale of Aggravations.

By the way, as I was reading Gordon Haight's biography of George Eliot, it suddenly occurred to me that I've never read any of Benjamin Disraeli's novels. What could the bestselling potboilers of an ex-Jewish, Victorian-era, British prime minister and fancy dresser be like? I think I need to find out.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I know three posts in one day is extreme, but I am excited, and I have no one at home to talk to, so I'm telling you that Tracing Paradise has just won the 2010 Maine Literary Award for Nonfiction!
Writer Meg Waite Clayton has graciously invited poets to talk about the impetus for their first books and now, in honor of National Poetry Month, is featuring them on her blog. Today I got to talk.
I've been getting ready for Thursday's all-day workshop, which I'll be inventing alongside 35 high school students. That number is somewhat daunting, but all are involved in local gifted-and-talented programs and are, I'm told, eager to write. So write we will.

I've decided to do a sonnet session with them, but without pointing out that the poems are sonnets or focusing on the end rhymes. One thing that I've noticed, and remember myself from high school, is the way in which rhyming facility (which comes naturally to many wordy kids) obscures and often negates any real comprehension of how a sonnet works grammatically and dramatically. So one ends up with a laboriously rhymed yet motionless piece: and once those rhymes are in place, students feel so locked in by their own facility that they cannot even begin to imagine revision.

In her presentation last year at the Frost Place, Charlotte Gordon reminded me that, in many ways, the first word of the line is more important than the last because it controls the syntactic shift. It moves the poem along. If you study the first words of the lines of a sonnet, you can see that very often they feature modest linking words or transition words, words that stack clauses or move rhetorically toward a culminating perception. For instance, look at the first words in this very famous poem:


Edna St. Vincent Millay

What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts to-night, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that in me sings no more.

What I Under Is Upon And For Will Thus Nor Yet I I A: not an earthshaker among them. But what a poem they have written.

P.S. I've added Scott Hill's blog to my permanent link list. Scott's a high school English teacher who is also a poet, and lately he has been writing so well about his reading that I can't stop checking his blog to see if he's put up another post. I really look forward to discovering what he has to say, and I think you might enjoy his perceptions as well. Scott has a more modernist eye than I do, but his open curiosity and beautiful, sweetly funny writing style suit me perfectly. Plus, he takes good photographs.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Easter: Rare tuna steaks rubbed with crushed green peppercorns, brown mustard seed, and salt; grilled over wood. Couscous with tomatoes, mozzarella, chives. Dandelion greens and grilled onions and fried garlic and olive oil. (Dandelion greens dug up while I was being filmed in a friendly manner.) Weird warm weather, with daffodils from the yard on the table, which has never happened on any Maine Easter I can remember. Frozen creme chantilly with blueberries that I picked last summer, on that day I got stung by the wasp. Soundtrack: Velvet Underground and Red Sox pregame radio show.

Day after Easter: taxes and car repair, piano lesson and laundry, workshop preparation and garden digging. Meanwhile, the dog barks every time the barred owl hoots, and the barred owl hoots every time the dog barks.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter riff

from the entry "Easter Island" (Encyclopedia Britannica, 1952 edition)

The figures seem to have served as mnemonic symbols and cannot be translated word for word. Some of the stories which the tablets record have been obtained from living natives, but the exact meaning of the symbols and method of interpretation have been lost, probably beyond hope of recovery.

Luke 24:15-17

While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them, "What is this conversation which you are holding with each other, as you walk?" And they stood still, looking sad.

Easter 1916

William Butler Yeats

I have met them at close of day

Coming with vivid faces

From counter or desk among grey

Eighteenth-century houses.

I have passed with a nod of the head

Or polite meaningless words,

Or have lingered awhile and said

Polite meaningless words,

And thought before I had done

Of a mocking tale of a gibe

To please a companion

Around the fire at the club,

Being certain that they and I

But lived where motley is worn:

All changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

The woman’s days were spent

In ignorant good-will,

Her nights in argument

Until her voice grew shrill.

What voice more sweet than hers

When, young and beautiful,

She rode to harriers?

The man had kept a school

And rode our winged horse;

This other his helper and friend

Was coming into his force;

He might have won fame in the end,

So sensitive his nature seemed,

So daring and sweet his thought.

This other man I had dreamed

A drunken, vainglorious lout.

He had done most bitter wrong

To some who are near my heart,

Yet I number him in the song:

He, too, has resigned his part

In the casual comedy;

He, too, has been changed in his turn,

Transformed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone

Through summer and winter seem

Enchanted to a stone

To trouble the living stream.

The horse that comes from the road,

The rider, the birds that range

From cloud to tumbling cloud,

Minute by minute they change;

A shadow of cloud on the stream

Changes minute by minute;

A horse-hoof slides on the brim,

And a horse plashes within it;

The long-legged moor-cocks call;

Minute by minute they live:

The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice

Can make a stone of the heart.

O when may it suffice?

That is Heaven’s part, our part

To murmur name upon name,

As a mother names her child

When sleep has at last come

On limbs that had run wild.

What is it but nightfall?

No, no, not night but death;

Was it needless death after all?

For England may keep faith

For all that is done and said.

We know their dream; enough

To know they dreamed and are dead;

And what if excess of love

Bewildered them till they died?

I write it out in a verse—

MacDonagh and MacBride

And Connolly and Pearse

Now and in time to be,

Wherever green is worn,

Are changed, changed utterly:

A terrible beauty is born.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

In honor of the season, I give you an egg poem that breaks at least one of the rant-rules of my March 29 manifesto. But I wrote it several years ago, before my rant was formed. Perhaps you don't require this hint, but it's also an acrostic.

Two Boiled Eggs

Dawn Potter

Osseus bolsters. Chubby

Viols. Infant

U-boats trapped in a steel pot,

Murmuring hen chants

Entre eux. A pair of accidents, honest as

Tadpoles. Heat-and-serve

Ovens. Custard cups, scissored of pale

Vellum too brittle to fold.


Marbles. Clumsy chests spilling Spanish gold.

Friday, April 2, 2010

I really did have a lovely time in Orono yesterday. I visited a class of young English majors who were doing presentations on Milton, and they were working so hard and so earnestly to find their way into his lines that they made me feel a little weepy. They were very sweet, very nice to me; seemingly also very relieved to have someone tell them that it's possible, as an adult, to read seriously for pleasure and for discovery . . . that one doesn't forever have to be a student who takes someone else's word for what's important in books.

But now I'm back home with a flooded chicken house to ream out, and dear Trollope is sitting on my desk, saying many things that I find difficult to believe. Still, I can hope they're true for someone.

from Framley Parsonage

Anthony Trollope
Is it not that sharing of the mind's burdens one of the chief purposes for which a man wants a wife?

Dinner tonight: We're going out for dinner in Portland after we go to Tom's photo show in Falmouth. I went out for dinner last night too, in Orono. Two nights in a row. What a reckless life I lead.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

I'm reading in Orono today, but will anyone come? Obama did have to choose today to make an appearance in Portland.

Ah well. I will read to the robins.

I'm going to perform a new, unpublished, never-before-read-aloud-in-public poem. It's called "Ugly Town." There's plenty in it about mud and digging, but I hope the literary references won't annoy the robins.