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

Posted in Glit Lit

iCloud, weCloud: Poets Inhabit Cumulonimbus

“Nimbus” (Artist: Berndnaut Smilde)
“Nimbus” (Artist: Berndnaut Smilde)

The poet is a monarch of the clouds…” (Robert Hass)

Clouds rule at high altitudes, seducing us with their dew points and their outpourings. (Like poets.) They glow, grow noses, morph into steeds, give good sky, move a mile or so to the East, give it again. They’ve been a major poetic accessory since way B.C.—if you consider Genesis and, certainly, Virgil. They’re omnipresent, enigmatic, drop-dead gorgeous, and they seem to charm the metaphors right out of us.

A cloud made of dust and memos and skin muscled across Manhattan.” (Bob Hicok, “Full Flight”)

Clouds file through the dark like prisoners through an endless yard.”(Susan Stewart, from “Four Questions Regarding the Dreams of Animals”)

Poets love clouds, yes they do. And readers love those cloud-loving poets. (See Wordsworth, who wandered lonely as one in 1804, with over 3,450,000 Google hits.) You might say clouds belong to poets. And vice versa. Orbed clouds, eddying clouds, dusky clouds, uptossed clouds, dark clouds, black clouds, white clouds, pink clouds, gray clouds, creeping clouds, rainless clouds, disagreeable clouds, mythological clouds, monumental clouds, anatomical clouds, creature–filled clouds, and that old puff-ball “puzzle of fish-rib clouds…” (Albert Goldbarth, from “Stonehenge”)

If you are a poet, you will see clearly that there is a cloud floating in this sheet of paper…
-Thich Nhat Hanh

That’s the famous epigraph from Sandra Cisneros’ famous poem, “Cloud,” and this is its first stanza:

Before you became a cloud, you were an ocean, roiled and
murmuring like a mouth. You were the shadows of a cloud cross-
ing over a field of tulips. You were the tears of a man who cried
into a plaid handkerchief. You were the sky without a hat. Your
heart puffed and flowered like sheets drying on a line.

(Sandra Cisneros, from Loose Woman, Vintage, 1995)

Thousands of poets over thousands of years have insistently inserted a cloud, nube, , nuage, nuvem, nuvola, into the titles of their collections and poems.

Yoko Ono, from Grapefruit
Yoko Ono, from Grapefruit

Others have chosen to sneak a lone cloud into a situation full of images.


      sonnenizio on a line from Jean Cassou

If I drink at your sky it is because
I fold into a paper doll. Thirst is second
nature to me. Items, like xeroxed copies
of Apollinaire’s secret poems and an eyeliner

I’ve fished from the lake, replace
the ivory keys missing on the piano.
Grass in my hair identifies with the cat pawing
its face before the moon. I cut out

irises from your clouds and pin them
to sleep beside the ibis tablecloth.
A contrail’s itinerary lances my mouth like licorice.
I skin the elms, a drought of sorts, to read

the ice crystals on your stars. Wind, strumming
the clothesline, lifts the hem of my idle skirt.


Appeared originally in Juked #6 and Leafscape ( Used with permission of the author.

Without a cloud there will be no water; without water, the trees cannot grow; and without trees, you cannot make paper. So the cloud is in here. The existence of this page is dependent on the existence of a cloud. (from Peace Is Every Step, Bantam, 1991)

Thich Nhat Hanh made this lovely claim for interconnectedness in the early 1990s. I got my first computer around the same time. Now it’s 2012. Many poets are still peaceniks. And some of them have been using screens instead of trees since they were 4 years old. “Paper?” You can hear my computer laughing as it purrs in my lap. “What’s that, darling, what’s paper?”

Furthermore,” my computer may someday query, perhaps with tongue-in-cheek, perhaps not, “what’s cumulonimbus?”

I asked a bevy of poets recently how they make use of “cloud computing,” that brilliant store-your-big-data idea some of us have embraced and some are trying to ignore, along with polar ice, hormonal shifts, and December 21. “If you’ve ever used a cloud or if you’ve got an opinion on clouds,” I asked them, “would you mind passing it along to me?” Here’s what they said, which, as you can see, was swiftly turned into a cloud:

In reality, most of the poets I queried joyfully sidestepped or embraced the cloud issue, giving it their own poetic spin. Two told of losing entire pieces of their lives to the cursed cloud (funnel?). One already has a whopping case of “nephotechnophobia” (fear of cloud technology). And one adapted a chunk of information on privacy (piracy?) from Wikipedia.


companies hosting the cloud services control communication and data stored between the secret NSA with AT&T and Verizon 10 million phone calls between American citizens powers to telecommunication complicate privacy of data customer or tenant data may not remain on the same system legal concerns over jurisdiction provide such as Amazon deploying local infrastructure and allowing customers to select “availability zones” [the service provider at any point in time may access accidentally or deliberately alter or even delete some the service provider at any point in time may access accidentally or deliberately alter or even delete

(Samuel Ace)

Here’s my favorite scene with a cautionary line from “How It All Works,” which was the cutest and shortest instructive video I could find for poets and others who are not and never plan to be big businesses:

There are plenty of reasons to be scared of the cloud too, but for now you decide to trust the cloud as backup… (2009)

I can hear something laughing. My computer again? That cumulonimbus floating by my window in the shape of a clown nose and glasses?

I would dive from it—a horse at the fair, the pool below looming larger with every passing second.” (Holly Iglesias)

“…a cloud, full of poems, that is mine all mine.” (cin salach)

“The poem I used to write, mean to write, simply have to back up, surely need to back off, the poem I woke up on the laptop but needs to get dressed on my desktop…the words like a kite, the string in my clattering keyboard hands.” (Alice George)

Poets are natural skeptics, it’s true, but also, often, so preternaturally absorbed in the elegances and peculiarities of life—the sundry and minutiae—we might miss the immense storage facilities popping up like the crops that used to grow around the globe. As our wise spokespoet, Mia Leonin, has stated: “I was introduced to the cloud as an expansive zone that can ‘hold all of my stuff.’ I was immediately enchanted and suspicious.”


I’d have to be really quick
to describe clouds—
a split second’s enough
for them to start being something else.

Their trademark:
they don’t repeat a single
shape, shade, pose, arrangement.

Unburdened by memory of any kind,
they float easily over the facts.

What on earth could they bear witness to?
They scatter whenever something happens.
Compared to clouds,
life rests on solid ground,
practically permanent, almost eternal.

Next to clouds
even a stone seems like a brother,
someone you can trust,
while they’re just distant, flighty cousins.

Let people exist if they want,
and then die, one after another:
clouds simply don’t care
what they’re up to
down there.

And so their haughty fleet
cruises smoothly over your whole life
and mine, still incomplete.

They aren’t obliged to vanish when we’re gone.
They don’t have to be seen while sailing on.


Translated by Stanislaw Baranczak and Clare Cavanagh.)

“Nimbus II” (Artist: Berndnaut Smilde
“Nimbus II” (Artist: Berndnaut Smilde)


Thanks to my cloud associates in this Glit Lit piece: Samuel Ace, Neil de la Flor, Alice George, Holly Iglesias, Mia Leonin, cin salach, & Terese Svoboda. Thanks also to my original cloud collaborators, Suzanne Cohan-Lange and Niki Nolin, without whom I’d still have my head in one. (And bless the poets who had little or no idea what I was talking about.)


Why I Don’t Trust the Cloud,” By Kenneth Goldsmith

Weird Cloud Fell from the Sky:” 3:57 mins.

OMG!” A face appears in the clouds (if you’re patient): 2:50 mins.

Both Sides Now,” Joni Mitchell live, 1970: 3:38 mins.

–Maureen Seaton, May 29, 2012

Posted in Glit Lit

Poets on Jesus (Limited Edition)

“Even a Saint Won’t Protect You: Use a Condom,”  photo by Steve Butterman, São Paulo, BrazilEven a Saint Won’t Protect You: Use a Condom,” photo by Steve Butterman, São Paulo, Brazil

Because I live on the beach in what some folks call old Florida, there are a fair number of ponytailed guys in my neighborhood who look like Jesus. One, in particular, drives a pick-up and loves animals, even abandoned beach cats. I don’t know if my neighbor, Pete, is a poet or not. He looks like a middle-aged, hard-drugging Jesus to me, so he could be. We say hi to each other most evenings. And if a hurricane came along, I know he’d share his canned chili and Easy Cheese. One weekend he parked his truck crooked to keep tourists out of our lot and blocked my space by accident. When I politely tapped on his door to move his truck, he yelled from the shower: Park on the goddamn grass, asshole.

Jesus, I said to myself.

Once in a while a poet comes along who thinks he gets Jesus. This is my thesis. The “thinks he” qualification is important. I contemplated taking it out, so that my thesis wouldn’t sound watery, or worse, judgmental. Finally, I left it in, and there it remains, giving me away as a weird Jesus cynic while I write this on a sunny Easter in old Florida surrounded by seedy holy old Floridians. Tourists clutter the beach after going to church on the mainland. (There are no churches on the island, only sea.) Somewhere, a poet is writing about Jesus.

Goodtime Jesus

by James Tate

Jesus got up one day a little later than usual. He had been dream-
ing so deep there was nothing left in his head. What was it?
A nightmare, dead bodies walking all around him, eyes rolled
back, skin falling off. But he wasn’t afraid of that. It was a beau-
tiful day. How ’bout some coffee? Don’t mind if I do. Take a little
ride on my donkey, I love that donkey. Hell, I love everybody.

(from Riven Doggeries, Ecco, 1979)

And singing about Jesus.

Jesus was a sailor
When He walked upon the water
And He spent a long time watching
From His lonely wooden tower

And when He knew for certain
Only drowning men could see Him
He said,”All men will be sailors then
Until the sea shall free them”

(excerpt from “Suzanne,” by Leonard Cohen)

A lot of poets are pissed off at Jesus, and with good reason, of course. Poets should be pissed off at something, if not everything. If I stay down below the height of my window sill, I can’t see the tourists driving up and down the street looking for a parking spot, and I can’t see them dragging their beach paraphernalia along the sidewalk, and I can’t feel guilty about another wasted opportunity for exercise and a Vitamin D fix. In the end, we all have our versions of heaven and hell.

Emptying Town

by Nick Flynn

I want to erase your footprints
from my walls. Each pillow
is thick with your reasons. Omens

fill the sidewalk below my window: a woman
in a party hat, clinging
to a tin-foil balloon. Shadows

creep slowly across the tar, someone yells, “Stop!”
and I close my eyes. I can’t watch

as this town slowly empties, leaving me
strung between bon-voyages, like so many clothes
on a line, the white handkerchief

stuck in my throat. You know the way Jesus

rips open his shirt
to show us his heart, all flaming and thorny,
the way he points to it. I’m afraid

the way I’ll miss you will be this obvious.

I have a friend who everyone warns me
is dangerous, he hides
bloody images of Jesus
around my house, for me to find

when I come home; Jesus
behind the cupboard door, Jesus tucked

into the mirror. He wants to save me
but we disagree from what. My version of hell
is someone ripping open his shirt

and saying, Look what I did for you. . .

(from Some Ether, Graywolf Press, 2000)

In 1972 Anne Sexton published “The Jesus Papers” in The Book of Folly. All nine pieces are neutral on the heaven versus hell issue, but they offer controversy in many other ways, often regarding sex, always regarding divinity. All are highly recommended.

Jesus Awake

by Anne Sexton

It was the year
of the How to Sex Book,
the Sensuous Man and Woman were frolicking
but Jesus was fasting.
He ate His celibate life.
The ground shuddered like an ocean,
a great sexual swell under His feet.
His scrolls bit each other.
He was shrouded in gold like nausea.
Outdoors the kitties hung from their mother’s tits
like sausages in a smokehouse.
Roosters cried all day, hammering for love.
Blood flowed from the kitchen pump
but He was fasting.
His sex was sewn onto Him like a medal
and His penis no longer arched with sorrow over Him.
He was fasting.
He was like a great house
with no people,
no plans.

(from The Complete Poems, Houghton Mifflin, 1981)

My neighbor Pete tucks his hair up under his baseball cap sometimes. He and his wife feed the cats that people throw away on the beach. I’m not saying he reminds me of Jesus in any way but looks. I’m certainly not about to capitalize Pete’s pronoun.

When I lived in Harlem in the late eighties, early nineties, my partner and I would open our back door on Easter morning and listen to gospel from the neighborhood. We’d dance around the kitchen making breakfast. We couldn’t help ourselves.

–Maureen Seaton, April 8, 2012

Posted in Glit Lit

On Mandelbrot, Metaphor, and Measuring: Poets Do Math

Wing Tip Vortex in Colored Smoke

When those well-meaning but control-freakish Sisters of St. Joseph forced me to take college math in high school instead of the Spanish they’d (finally) introduced into the curriculum (if not for me, then who?), I copped a resentment that made me choose a college without any math requirement at all and shut down my left brain in solidarity with Teen Talk Barbie (“Math class is tough!”)—a monster resentment that lasted until 1992.

That’s when I discovered pi.

Anything radical, irrational, transcendental, or infinite grabbed me, and I joined the nerdy millions intrigued by pi and set off on a new math quest, a tangled path of paradoxes, dimensions, synchronicities, and fairies (I made up that last one, but, really, who knows for sure?). Math got entwined with physics—fun!—then circled back to Golden Ratios and Fibonacci, and, finally, to Benoît Mandelbrot (1924-2010). That’s when I completely lost it.

The most famous fractal of them all, the Mandelbrot set, in 2D

Fractals, in whatever world—natural or virtual–look nothing like the shapes I studied in school (Euclid’s). They’re coastlines, snowflakes, the inside of a nautilus shell, the human pulmonary system

and the city of Santa Fe, where I get lost every time I go because it’s not on a grid:

Fractals grow spirally bigger (trees) and smaller (cauliflowerets), they look like themselves as they divide, and they’re everywhere. (Your finger is a little duplicate of your arm!) A poet could go crazy around fractals because, one, they’re gorgeous; two, they’re fragmented and irregular (just like some of my favorite poets, I mean poems); and, three, the mind games! (You can actually zoom into and out of a computer image of a fractal for as long as the mathematician and/or artist who computed it has had the time and stamina.)

Thus I gave over to the psychosis of mathematics because it teased my brain to metaphor. Equations are metaphors, after all. Pretty too.

I don’t actually do math. Mostly, I apply ideas in that way that makes practicing mathematicians cringe. I did manage to impress a couple of calculus guys in Minneapolis once who told me my lyric rendition of “The Seven Undefined Mathematical Expressions” was elegant if apocryphal. Then they patted me on the head.

It’s the way poetry humanizes the questions that intrigues me: all the infinitesimals of history, science, mathematics, sex, even love.

The task today, in both poetry and science, is the measure of measure. (Stephanie Strickland)

There’s a multitude of poets who have succumbed to the power and project of measuring. In addition to Strickland (Zone : Zero), we’ve got Alice Fulton (Sensual Math), Josie Kearns (New Numbers), and Timothy Green (American Fractal), just to name a few contemporaries and their mathematical predilections. Plus the brilliant hybridists Italo Calvino and Jorges Luis Borges, who were always playing with space and time. And Whitman and Neruda and Amichai. So many busy measuring.

Counting What the Cactus Contains

by Pattiann Rogers

Elf owl, cactus wren, fruit flies incubating
In the only womb they’ll ever recognize.
Shadow for the sand rat, spines
And barbary ribs clenched with green wax.
Seven thousand thorns, each a water slide,
A wooden tongue licking the air dry.

Inside, early morning mist captured intact,
The taste of drizzle sucked
And sunsplit. Whistle
Of the red-tailed hawk at midnight, rush
Of the leaf-nosed bat, the soft slip
Of fog easing through sand held in tandem.

Counting, the vertigo of its attitudes
Across the evening; in the wood of its latticed bones—
The eye sockets of every saint of thirst;
In the gullet of each night-blooming flower–the crucifix
Of the arid.

In its core, a monastery of cells, a brotherhood
Of electrons, a column of expanding darkness
Where matter migrates and sparks whorl,
And travel has no direction, where distance
Bends backward over itself and the ascension
Of Venus, the stability of Polaris, are crucial.

The cactus, containing
Whatever can be said to be there,
Plus the measurable tremble of its association
With all those who have been counting.

                   (From Firekeeper: New and Selected Poems, Milkweed Editions, 1994)

Truth be told, poets do math happily, imperfectly, elegantly, profoundly—

each stone      I carve…      (I) convolve
with mathematical ideas…      the form

                                              that no one
                         has ever felt

                   (From Stephanie Strickland’s digital poem, “slippingglimpse”–

and often with great wit:

Math for Dummies

by Nancy Carol Moody

1. Calculating your way to good health

A bag of ridge-cut, salt & pepper potato chips contains 16 servings. One serving contains 4% of your body’s daily iron needs. If you eat 25 servings (approximately = to 1 & 1/2 bags + 7 medium-sized chips), you will have consumed your RDA of iron.

2. How to obtain a free television

Let’s say you’ve had your eye on a certain pair of shoes in the department store. The shoes cost $100. One day you decide to treat yourself to the shoes, but when you go to the store to purchase them, you find they’ve gone on sale for half price. As you had already decided to purchase the shoes before you even entered the store, you had effectively already spent the $100. Instead you pay $50. The fifty dollars that remain is free money. If you can make the commitment to purchase everything you have been contemplating, you will soon have saved enough money for a free television.

3. Supersizing The Last Supper

As rendered in paintings from the past 1,000 years, the size of the main course of that famous meal has increased 69% when viewed in proportion to the size of the human head in the same paintings. If the median weight of Jesus and each of the disciples is 162 pounds, then the total poundage of those holy men today would approximately equal the weight of one Honda Element, gas tank on empty.

X. Now try one yourself for extra credit points:

A killer whale weighing x pounds is performing tricks in a tank which contains one blonde, wet-suited trainer and y gallons of artificially-churned, chemically-managed sea water. If the whale earns z fish for each activity he performs correctly, how many mindless circuits must the whale make around the tank before he yanks the trainer by the ponytail and hauls her into the water, holding her beneath the surface until the bubbles stop?

                   By Nancy Carol Moody.
(First published in Pank, May, 2011.

It is impossible to be a mathematician without being a poet in soul.—Sofia Kovalevskaya

Further Math Questing:

0. Teen Talk Barbie:
1. “Pi Pages” (9999 digits of Pi recited in seventeen languages, and in morse code, Dr.
Seuss, and harpsichord):
1. Scene from Pi, 1998 film by Darren Aronofsky:
2. Another Mandelbrot zoom by Jonathan Wolfe at the Fractal Foundation, New Mexico:
3. Sacred Geometry with Charles Gilchrist:
5. Stephanie Strickland on hypertext (Electronic Book Review, 1998):
8. Everything is a Number (Wszystko jest liczbą), 1967 short film by Stefan Schabenbeck:
13. Strange Attractors: Poems of Love and Mathematics by Sarah Glaz and JoAnne Growney (AK Peters, Ltd, 2008):

–Maureen Seaton, 6/8/11

Posted in Glit Lit, Politics

“Uterus Is Not a Dirty Word” and Other Body Politics (& Poetics)


I “incorporated” my uterus today and it felt good. Somewhat weird for me, I admit, a non-incorporated independent cowgirl sort of poet—not a company woman or an entrepreneur, not a commodity specialist or even a worth-her-salt consumer. Still, my uterus is my own business now, I’ve got a certificate to prove it, and I owe it all to Susannah Randolph, the uncanny, and her husband Scott Randolph, the canny. Or vice versa. Either way, she’s got a uterus and he’s Florida’s Democratic House Representative from Orlando. (Don’t confuse him with debonair Randolph Scott, the actor, or with full-of-hot-air Rick Scott, the so-called Governor of Florida. Thanks.)

So: Susannah said to her husband Scott at dinner one night that if she would incorporate her uterus, maybe Republicans would drop the 18 anti-abortion measures they’re considering during the legislative session. I wish I knew what Scott and Susannah were having for dinner that night or if she’d just read my favorite poem by Lucille Clifton to Scott over mango salsa and chips, but This Is What Happened After That (very cool):


For my part, I thought you might like to look at what three poets have to say. Truth be told, poets have been incorporating our uteruses for years.

Wandering Uterus

By Leslie Adrienne Miller

Leonardo believed that semen came down
from the brain through a channel in the spine.

And that female lactation held its kick off
in the uterus. Not as bad as Hippocrates,

who thought the womb wandered the ruddy
crags of a woman’s body, wreaking a havoc

whenever it lodged, shoving aside
more sensible organs like the heart.

All manner of moral failings, snits,
and panics were thus explained, the wayward

organ floating like Cleopatra’s barge
down the murky canal of any appendage

or tying up at the bog of the throat.
One can’t help but imagine a little halved

walnut of a boat like that in Leonardo’s
drawing, the curled meat of the fetus

tucked inside, harboring near a naughty eye
or rebellious ear that never can hear

what a man might mean when he says yes
always. It’s all still beautifully true

what these good scientists alleged: the brain
is as good a place as any for the manufacture

of evanescence, and why not allow
that the round and sturdy skiff of the uterus

may float and flaunt its special appetite for novelty,
even if we dub it dumb, lined with tentacles,

many-chambered, and errant as the proverbial knight
seeking out adventure, but loyal to one queen.

(Originally published in The Kenyon Review, 2006)


Poem to my uterus

By Lucille Clifton

you uterus
you have been patient
as a sock
while i have slippered into you
my dead and living children
they want to cut you out
stocking i will not need
where i am going
where am i going
old girl
without you
my bloody print
my estrogen kitchen
my black bag of desire
where can i go
without you
where can you go
without me

(From Quilting, BOA Editions, 2000)


In Celebration of My Uterus

By Anne Sexton

Everyone in me is a bird.

I am beating all my wings.

They wanted to cut you out

but they will not.

They said you were immeasurably empty

but you are not.

They said you were sick unto dying

but they were wrong.

You are singing like a school girl.

You are not torn.


Sweet weight,

in celebration of the woman I am

and of the soul of the woman I am

and of the central creature and its delight

I sing for you. I dare to live.

Hello, spirit. Hello, cup.

Fasten, cover. Cover that does contain.

Hello to the soil of the fields.

Welcome, roots.


Each cell has a life.

There is enough here to please a nation.

It is enough that the populace own these goods.

Any person, any commonwealth would say of it,

It is good this year that we may plant again

and think forward to a harvest.

A blight had been forecast and has been cast out.”

Many women are singing together of this:

one is in a shoe factory cursing the machine,

one is at the aquarium tending a seal,

one is dull at the wheel of her Ford,

one is at the toll gate collecting,

one is tying the cord of a calf in Arizona,

one is straddling a cello in Russia,

one is shifting pots on the stove in Egypt,

one is painting her bedroom walls moon color,

one is dying but remembering a breakfast,

one is stretching on her mat in Thailand,

one is wiping the ass of her child,

one is staring out the window of a train

in the middle of Wyoming and one is

anywhere and some are everywhere and all

seem to be singing, although some can not

sing a note.


Sweet weight,

in celebration of the woman I am

let me carry a ten-foot scarf,

let me drum for the nineteen-year-olds,

let me carry bowls for the offering

(if that is my part).

Let me study the cardiovascular tissue,

let me examine the angular distance of meteors,

let me suck on the stems of flowers

(if that is my part).

Let me make certain tribal figures

(if that is my part).

For this thing the body needs

let me sing

for the supper,

for the kissing,

for the correct



From The Complete Poems of Anne Sexton (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981).


More Political Stuff:

Susannah Randolph’s website:

Scott Randolph’s petition:

More background:


How to incorporate your uterus:


Maureen Seaton, 4/11/11

Posted in Glit Lit

On Hydrogen Jukeboxes and the Uses of Not

René Magritte’s “Homesickness,” 1940



René Magritte didn’t have much patience with folks who questioned the meaning of his paintings. He said: People who look for symbolic meanings fail to grasp the inherent mystery of the image. No doubt they sense this mystery, but they wish to get rid of it.

Why does that tease my imagination? Two surprising objects side by side, newsprint on a canvas, fur on a teacup, man with wings and a disinterested lion, and I’m digging around in an old glass dump or a seedy antique shop looking for stuff I can glue onto wood. I love this feeling. It’s like being inside a hydrogen jukebox. (Huh?)

The problem is to reach the different parts of the mind that are existing simultaneously, the different associations which are going on…choosing elements from both, like jazz, jukebox, and all that, and we have the jukebox from that; politics, hydrogen bomb, and we have the hydrogen from that.” Ginsberg believed disparate words stuck together make a gap where the mind might experience essence—something he called the “sensation of existence.” Ginsberg loved his readers. He loved getting them high.

evening moon—

pond snails singing

in the kettle

Kobayashi Issa

My perennial obsession with the mysterious “in between” started up again recently when my partner invited me to dance between the notes with her. She (not so much I) moved elegantly to the ghost notes of a Goapele remix as if she inhabited the negative space. I ran several YouTube marathons looking for a sample of what that looks like, and I found lots of dancing on the notes (see “More” below), but no really good looks at dancing between them, so I finally cheated. In the first video Marina Kanno and Giacomo Bevilaqua are moving in slowmo to Radiohead. (It looks very similar to my partner—without toe shoes, wind machine, and tutu.) In the second, Bill T. Jones moves between words.


Music is the silence between the notes—Claude Debussy

It’s the space between the bars that holds the tiger. (Zen saying)


The Uses of Not”


Thirty spokes meet in the hub,

but the empty space between them

is the essence of the wheel.

Pots are formed from clay,

but the empty space between it

is the essence of the pot.

Walls with windows and doors form the house,

but the empty space within it

is the essence of the house.

–Lao Tse, author of the Tao Te Ching, 4th century B.C., China


Poets have played with the essence between words since Mallarmé gave us “A roll of the dice will never abolish chance” (1897). Some compose in spaces large as a Chilean glacier or small as an instant, releasing boundaries of culture and other arbitrary lines of separation.

Cecilia Vicuña, from Instan



turns the page

the poem begins.

alba del habla, the dawn of speech.

–Cecilia Vicuña, from Instan

There’s a word in Japanese I love—Ma. Roughly translated it means gap or interval or “the space between two structural parts,” and there’s actually no corresponding word in English. Ma is not something that is created by compositional elements [it’s not simply negative space]; it is the thing that takes place in the imagination of the human who experiences these elements…an intensification of vision.

A “sensation of existence.”


El silencio que queda entre dos palabras
(The silence that lingers between two words)

no es el mismo silencio que envuelve una cabeza cuando cae,
(is not the same silence that surrounds a head that falls,)

ni tampoco el que estampa la presencia del árbol
(nor that which marks the presence of a tree)

cuando se apaga el incendio vespertino del viento.
(when the wind’s evening fire at last stills.)

–Roberto Juarroz, from “El silencio que queda entre dos palabras”

That wild silence, that “not” between words we fall into may be exquisite, profane, untranslatable, or it may simply be filled with Edgar Allen Poe in a football jersey and cleats—an image, in my opinion, that is long overdue.

Poet Tom Raworth’s collage doodle of Edgar Allen Poe, “NEW Poetry”




René Magritte:

Allen Ginsberg: Interview by Thomas Clark, The Paris Review (Spring, 1966)

Dancing on the beat:


Cecilia Vicuña: and


Tom Raworth’s collages and doodles.



Dedicated to the people of Japan.

Maureen Seaton, 4/4/11

Posted in Glit Lit

Alphafreaks and the X-Factor: How Poets Tase the Alphabet and Vice Versa

Arthur Rimbaud (vowel hugger), circa 1870

A black,
E white, I red, U green, O blue: vowels,

I shall tell, one day, of your mysterious origins

(excerpt, “Vowels,” Arthur Rimbaud)


Sometimes poets are gigantic kids in sheets with eyeholes who appear at your door on Halloween. They stand, gawky and silent, pillow case in hand, hoping you won’t ask them how old they are. Which you do, of course: How the hell old are you? You can’t help yourself. Still, you drop a Snickers in the giant kid’s bag.

The first live adult practicing poet I ever met (she’d just hopped dramatically off a swing at the local playground) produced a sheet of paper and a #2 and wrote the entire alphabet down the left side of the page, just like my kindergartner, then proceeded to compose a poem on the spot—an instant listy riff, from Adorable to Zenobia. For me?—how charming! I thought. And so I got hooked on that ubiquitous, infamous, deliciously peculiar phenomenon known as the ABECEDARIAN. Or Abecedarius, or Abecedarium—take your pick, poets and pals. Whatever you call the schema itself, you’re about to approach that mysterious bridge between right brain and left, to illumine symbols tucked deep in our DNA. You’re about to tase and be tased by the alphabet.


(Edward Gorey’s classic, The Gashly Crumb Tinies, 3:04 mins)


Some poets decide to make their entire book an abecedarian (Harryette Mullen’s Sleeping with the Dictionary). Some dismantle the alphabet only to mantle it again (Matthea Harvey’s Modern Life). Some play with pop culture (Conway/Crosbie/Trinidad’s Phoebe 2002.) And some turn their abecedarians on their heads and start with Z, or create (whew!) double abecedarians, waving their poet’s license, going all Oz on us:


Over the Rainbow

(a double abecedarian)


Aeons of apes get stomach aches because
black-and-white sight can’t see ripeness. The sky
changes gradually. Primate eyes coax
dull gray into light blue. First to see how
Eden’s apples blushed like flesh, ape-girl Eve
fed all of us from God’s green grove. Can you
guess who saw the first pale rainbow? A rust-
honey monkey named Dorothy. Ancients,
in their mosaics, lacked purple. They were
just unable to see it. An opaque
kaleidoscope with gaps, our vision’s map
lags behind birds, bees, fish, rats. Half the zoo
moves through an ultraviolet realm un-
known except by UV lens or a storm
on the way: lime clouds, blood grass, gray hail. Hell
posing for its pink-lit portrait. A crack
quivers in the window. A dazed bluejay
reverts to gray. Colors bleed from my eyes,
stick to my cheeks like rainbow syrup. Bosch
triptych landscape minus sinners. A gong
undulates. Stars shift across a red gulf.
Evolution revokes rainbows from some
white males, 8% of them color blind.
Xanthic, now, the Golden Age. Myopic,
yawning, I water the lawn, the rhubarb.
Oz fades. My hose’s rainbow dims, goes gray.

Michael Kriesel (previously published in North American Review)

Some alphabeteers zero in on a beloved letter and exploit the possibilities. They’re cartoonists, digital artists, font junkies, alphafreaks. Judy Natal scavenged letters from junkyards in New York and LA for years before setting them against the landscape of Joshua Tree National Park. Here’s E (from her series, EarthWords).


“E” from EarthWords installation at Joshua Tree, Judy Natal


And here’s poet and visual artist Paula Kolek with a section from her engaging “personal R-chive,” a coming-of-age story inspired by the hundreds of fonts she’s collected.


Paula Kolek | R-chive


Perhaps you yourself have tried an abecedarian. Got a favorite letter? I’m curious—how did you personally handle the X-Factor? Did you resort to X-Ray or Xylophone when you got to the letter X? Couldn’t think of anything else? Don’t feel bad. It’s a well-known fact that X is the hardest letter to get poetic with.

(Sesame Street Letter X Lecture, 0:59 secs.)


In fact, X has been annoying folks for years.


Next time you have to spell xylophone, use a Z. When someone says, “Hey that’s wrong,” say, “If you think that’s wrong, you need to get your head Z-rayed.” It’s like X wasn’t given enough to do, so they had to promise it more: “Okay, you don’t start a lot of words, but we’ll give you a co-starring role in tic-tac-toe. And you will be associated with hugs and kisses. And you will mark the spot. And you will make writing Christmas easier. And incidentally, you will start xylophone. Are you happy, you fuckin’ X?!”

Comedian Mitch Hedberg

According to Peter Lamborn Wilson in his abecedarian commentary on Rabbi M.-A. Ouaknin’s Mysteries of the Alphabet, the actual real usurped last letter of the alphabet is “(secretly)” X. When I heard that, as you can imagine, I stopped the presses on this big girl and felt totally glittery. According to Wilson, X is “the ladder of swords that only the inspired shaman can climb in bare feet. The way up & out…of abstraction & alienation & into reality—that is, spirit & matter as one. X the unknown.”


Of course!


So crack open that letter X, people, that ineffable, that ladder out. Let it loose your imagination. Try Xanthic (Kriesel), Xerxes (Gorey), X-Sex (Mullen), Xiphias (adapted from the Greek for sword(fish) by comic book artist Mike Wendt):

Or try a crafty metaphor within a visual (from Isaac Cates):

Y not?


Z End.



Abecedarian, mid-6th century BC, near Athens


Credits, Links, and Fun for Later:

Animated Gashleycrumb Tinies by Matt Duplessie (Warning: Not for the squeamish)

Letter X Song (32 seconds)

Patti LaBelle Sings “How I Miss My X” (3:03 minutes)

Rimbaud’s “Vowels”

Michael Kriesel

Judy Natal

Paula Kolek’s work (all four parts) at Euphemism

Mitch Hedberg (1968-2005) (6:38 minutes)

Peter Lamborn Wilson

Isaac Cates’ and Mike Wenthe’s little abecedarii

Abecedarium NYC

Abecedarian help

Michael Kriesel’s poem and all contemporary images used with permission of poets and artists.


Maureen Seaton, March 1, 2011

Posted in Glit Lit

Portrait of the Poet As a Young Bathing Beauty

The young poet (far right, front), Bathing Beauty Contest, 1920


What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be poet.


Today I shot an email to a few poet friends and asked them if they would share what they were working on at 1 PM EST, which was the time I myself was at my laptop in a book-lined nook ninety feet from the warm Atlantic, blinds half-closed, relieved it was drizzling out so I didn’t have to feel guilty about neglecting my new bikini. (Ha.)

It’s Friday. Tourists and South Floridians are slathering sunblock for a weekend of volleyball and vitamin D, boardwalks and tan lines. I needed the company of poets.

Chris Green (Illinois): “I’m writing a series of job poems while I’m supposed to be doing my job. The one I’m working on right now is called ‘Junior Broker’ and I just wrote ‘Hour after hour, the homeliness of the market–/stocks we joke and call love-dollars.’”

Kenneth Gurney (New Mexico): “Many colorful balloons seurat the sky.”

Thank you, thank you, I told them, kicking my bikini under the bed.

Do you remember the precise moment you knew what you were going to be when you grew up? I do. I was twenty-eight. I had two children, a pending divorce, long brown hair, and a turquoise bikini. I lived up North on a street in a town near a brook. Something was flying around my head that looked like a twist(er) of fate or like the sudden rain of a thousand red-winged blackbirds. I looked down at the words that had grown out of my typewriter and saw they were strangely brief and electric. They threw out a long string that was hooked to an internal organ somewhere south of my belly button. Or there was a key at the end of that string and it was struck by a light that zapped me into a heightened word-obsessed world, a world-conscious world, one from which return was moot. My eyes popped open, my ears cringed with the Noise of Everything, and my kids looked up at me with trembling mouths. Oh, I said, shit! I’m a poet!—and fainted dead away like a protein-starved lab rat.

There are times in my workday, after a few hours of writing, when I look up and think: Now, at this very moment, sits another author, whom I do not know, in Damascus or Tehran, in Kigali or Dublin, who, like me, is engaged in the strange, baseless, wonderful work of creation, within a reality that contains so much violence and alienation, indifference and diminishment. I have a distant ally who does not know me, and together we are weaving this shapeless web, which nonetheless has immense power, the power to change a world and create a world, the power to give words to bring about tikkun—‘repair’—in the deepest, kabbalistic sense of the world.

David Grossman, Writing in the Dark: Essays on Literature and Politics

David Grossman | Painting by B. Heine

Today I sent Grossman’s words of connection out to poets, that rare species whose job is to drop a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and wait for the echo (Don Marquis, c.1920*). Back came the responses: personal, off-the-cuff, and charged with the extraordinary hopes and ordinary elegances of human life.

My bikini gathers dust until tomorrow.

Rose petals land on a coyote pup.


Holly Iglesias (North Carolina): “View set for page layout, the document open like a face before the slap. The coffee instant, Bustelo crystals stirred into hot milk, a swirl of foam and the five brown specks that refuse to dissolve. Stirring today, stirring like Abuela, clanking her spoon against the cup at my kitchen table every Saturday and Sunday morning for twenty years.”

Paulette Beete (D.C.): “The folk song Silver Dagger (Don’t sing love songs, you’ll wake my mother….) has been in my head lately; I learned it nearly 1/4 of a century ago when I was an underclassman in college. Two nights ago as I videotaped myself singing it, I started to hear a poem in between the verses as I sang. So that’s what I’m working on–a poem of a mother with a hand that’s both claw and cradle, and a father who too is a womb…at least, so far.”

Jim Elledge (Georgia): “I was working on my bio of Darger, something that takes up every second of the spare time I can find. As soon as I heard from you, I thought of the end of O’Hara’s ‘Personal Poem:’ ‘I wonder if one person out of the 8,000,000 is / thinking of me as I shake hands with LeRoi / and buy a strap for my wristwatch and go / back to work happy at the thought possibly so.’”

Neil de la Flor (Florida): “I would like to be David Grossman or the writer in Damascus or Tehran. I’d like to leave the social structures of the world, social, economic, political, and be that city where the writers write. I’d like to give up my responsibilities to the people of a big city and become that city free of responsibilities. I’d like to be the potholes on Pennsylvania Avenue and train track in grand central station. I want to be the city utility that powers the City because then I would truly be connected to those writers tap tapping away on their laptops. I’d like to be a giant oak tree too.”

Connie Deanovich (Wisconsin): I want to write a pantoum for the first time in my life.

Samuel Ace (Arizona): Tucson   1.21.11 shabbat tonight in a language I never learned but sang in those jewel glass windows with lelyveld and Rebecca’s sweet smelling cheeks and her wandering brain   Rabbis in the basement with the shuffleboard and shrunken heads   tucson in cleveland   a dude ranch (only one back then that let Jews) in the b&w snapshots under the half-painted model model-t’s and the lionel green caboose

Terese Svoboda (New York): “What I’d like to be working on is Professor Harriman’s Steam Air-Ship which is a long poem inspired by a 19th century lithograph of a couple flying in the above. What it seems to be about is marriage, sex, my parents, invention and the future–repairing myself, and maybe that repair will help the world! What I’m actually doing is preparing sample footage for a documentary my friend John Sorenson directed on South Sudanese girls learning to quilt from an African-American quiltmaker in Nebraska, on the eve of the state passing anti-immigration laws like AZ’s. That seems to be more directly linked to changing things–and I’m hoping Oprah will think so too.

Larry Richman (Vermont):

Hamlet’s Dog’s Soliloquy

To bay, or not to bay, that is the quandary.

Whether ’tis more doglike to give a nightly howl

and take the shouts and kicks of self-made masters,

or to hush the canine self, to sacrifice the melody

some god has planted for our tangled joy

and need to greet the moon while humans sleep.


* Don Marquis (1878-1937), American humorist, journalist, and poet: “Publishing a volume of verse is like dropping a rose-petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.”

–Maureen Seaton, 1/21/11

Posted in Glit Lit

Tagging the Dark: On Light-Graffiti and Poems That Glow



Light graffiti by Michael Bosanko, South Wales

Everybody has their own idea of what’s a poet. Robert Frost, President Johnson, T. S. Eliot, Rudolf Valentino—they’re all poets. I like to think of myself as the one who carries the light bulb.

–Bob Dylan

In 1949, southeastern France, Pablo Picasso brandished a small flashlight in a dark room and created light drawings that disappeared in a matter of seconds, captured only by photographer Gjon Mili’s eye and camera.

(Don’t think. Get ready. Scribble on air: Voilà!)

Picasso paints with light. Photo: Gjon Mili

I’m a voilà kind of girl myself. Hand me an LED and I’ll graffiti thin air with the rest of them. I wasn’t always like this. I used to put great store in the diagrammed and strategized. I don’t mean to put planning down. I’m simply Continue reading “Tagging the Dark: On Light-Graffiti and Poems That Glow”

Posted in Glit Lit

On Saints and Poets: Holy Affinity!


Our Lady by Alma Lopez


If you’ve ever taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Test and found your particular personality type (“Introverted Feeler”) wedged into a margin the size of a needle passing through a camel’s eye, then had the test interpreter tell you, “You’re not a weirdo, you’re a visionary,” and all the while you can’t seem to/don’t want to find a “real” job with a “living” wage, like the manager of a department of “Extroverted Thinkers” unlike yourself, and the world (ah, the world) seems so possible outside the window of your cabin on the farthest spit of beach where you’ve gone to contemplate and perhaps eek out a single Continue reading “On Saints and Poets: Holy Affinity!”