Posted in Glit Lit

Lunar Blues: Poets on the Moon

“Lonesome Moon,” by Tameichi Wada, January 30, 1944
“Lonesome Moon,” by Tameichi Wada, January 30, 1944



I’ve got this mad sliver of a blue moon obsession, this prickling needle of lunacy under my skin that Gloria Anzaldúa talks about, and it’s not letting me go. I’m a kid drawing moons all over the place: walls, floors, arms, legs. “Is that all you can do?” says Sister Impatienata. “Why not draw a more complicated illustration of symbols and systems no one else has ever contemplated?” But there’s a second moon this month. And it’s rising on August 31, 2012. It’s full and it’s blue, and I’m there.


by Jacob Oet

My parents lost me

at the zoo

by the elephant.

I bent to tie my shoes, then

the air was empty

where my parents had been

arguing over a map.

A man in a tiger mask tied a balloon

to my wrist. I was laughing.

Then he left.

I held up my hand

but it wouldn’t lift me.

This happened when I was young.

If I can’t sleep tonight

I’ll hover under the moon.

[Originally published in Palooka #3, 2012. Used with permission of author.]


Once a poet told me (when I was new) never to use the word moon in a poem. Or the word rainbow. Or thigh, she added, wincing. Another poet I know eschews the word roiled. (He spits gracefully at its mention.) Another eschews eschew. Most are wary of love. Some poets are cliché-sensitive from birth. Some, after years of reading reading reading, are so sensitive they can almost feel their ears bleed when they see or hear the word moon coming at them from page or stage. Some decide to cheat a little in the title, then go wordless:


by Mary Ellen Solt

[Made by copying the scientists’ symbols
on the first photos of the moon in the
New York Times, 1964]


But the moon is simply too cool to eschew completely. Too magic.

Poet Susen James used to draw down the moon in every poem she wrote. For years: every single poem. I had the hardest time finding those moons in her poems sometimes, even though I expected them. But when I did, I was thrilled at the way she charted new lunar territory:

she looked to the moon as if reading her obituary.

David Trinidad is another moon-crazy poet who followed it around like a puppy night after night, sometimes accompanied by Byron, his actual puppy, writing stanzas in the moment, until he’d compiled a chapbook of intimate sightings called Tiny Moon Notebook.

The day after Christmas. Home

from O’Hare.

Hello Byron!

Hello (half) moon!

And when Connie Deanovich moved from urban out to rural, she gave herself an exercise based on the 27-day lunar cycle and created a book of poems outside in De Kalb, Illinois: Detectives, princesses, justice rituals, mystery juices, classical composers, and Bessie Smith could all be allowed to prop up the imaginary landscape of the work/my mind in order to feed my creative need for fabulousness, but unadorned Mother Nature was the dominating force in the world of the poem. (Deanovich, “Note,” The Spotted Moon)


Plum Moon, Berry Moon, Corn Is in the Silk Moon. What could be lovelier, and more functional at the same time, than the names various Native peoples have given the thirteen moons that cycle through a year. Here are a few for August:

Blackberry Patches Moon

Moon When the Geese Shed Their Feathers

Moon When the Cherries Turn Black

Yellow Flower Moon

Yellow Leaves Moon

Moon of the Ripening

Moon of Life at Its Height

Moon When the Young Ducks Begin to Fly.

(Try this exercise: Go to a nearby lake. Write until the young ducks are out of sight.)


The most powerful poem my moon quest uncovered was written in the Department of Justice Japanese Internment Camp, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1944, and can be found on page 27 of The Santa Fe Manuscript accompanying the painting, “Lonesome Moon” (see image above). Between March 1942 and April 1946 the FBI gathered 4555 men of Japanese ancestry and labeled them “dangerous enemy aliens,” although no evidence to support the government’s claim ever materialized, then or since. The men, mostly longtime American residents, were Buddhist and Christian ministers, Japanese language teachers, journalists, businessmen, farmers, fishermen, and artists. At least sixteen of them were poets (see photo below). One wrote this:

Kankō ga naki sōna tsuki haisho de mi.
Kankō also would cry under the moon I saw in exile.

by Furan

From left to right: Unknown, SOGA Yasutaro, Frank Toshinori YAMAUCHI, Unknown Soto minister, Rev. HASIMOTO Masuharu, Jack Kaichiro YASUTAKE, Unknown, Unknown, Unknown, TATSUHARA (Kaua’i), Rev. TSUYUKI Taiichi, HASEGAWA(Kekaha, Kaua’i), Unknown, OYAMA Iwao, Rev. Chiko ODATE, Unknown.

Photographer: T. Harmon Parkhurst. Santa Fe Poetry Group. Winter 1943 – 1944. Photo courtesy of R. Matsumoto.


I used to be cautious, waiting to see if anybody else wanted to wade into the moonshine with me. Now I leap without concern for whatever or whomever might be policing poetry this month. I’m still on my quest for that exquisitely blue luna poem. In the meantime, please feel free to choose your own Rogers & Hart finale:




Sources & More Mooning

Gloria Anzaldúa:

Living in a state of psychic unrest, in a Borderland, is what makes poets write and artists create. It is like a cactus needle embedded in the flesh. It worries itself deeper and deeper, and I keep aggravating it by poking at it. When it begins to fester I have to do something to put an end to the aggravation and to figure out why I have it. I get deep down into the place where it’s rooted in my skin and pluck away at it, playing it like a musical instrument—the fingers pressing, making the pain worse before it can get better. Then out it comes. No more discomfort, no more ambivalence. Until another needle pierces the skin. That’s what writing is for me, an endless cycle of making it worse, making it better, but always making meaning out of the experience, whatever it may be.

Gloria Anzaldúa (1942-2004), from Borderlands/La Frontera

Jacob Oet:

Moonshot Sonnet”:

The Santa Fe Poets (Japanese Internment Camp, c. 1943)

Other Sources:

Both the Susen James excerpt (from “July as a 1950’s Sci-Fi movie”) and the David Trinidad excerpt (from Tiny Moon Notebook) appeared recently in Brute Neighbors: Urban Nature Poetry, Prose, and Photography, Chris Green & Liam Heneghan, eds. (De Paul University, 2011). Connie Deanovich quote used by permission of author.

One more for the road:


by Max Jacob

There are upon the night three mushrooms that are the moon. As brusquely as the cuckoo sings from a clock, they rearrange themselves at midnight each month. There are in the garden rare flowers that are small sleeping men, one-hundred of them. They are reflections from a mirror. There is in my dark room a luminous censer that swings, then two… phosphorescent aerostats. They are reflections from a mirror. There is in my head a bumblebee speaking. (from Le Cornet à dés, 1917)

Glit Lit # 13 is dedicated to Linda Braasch, moon lover and firestarter

In memory of Neil Armstrong (1930-2012)

–Maureen Seaton, August 31, 2012

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