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

 

O

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.

SHOELACES

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.]

O

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:

MOONSHOT SONNET

by Mary Ellen Solt

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

O

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)

O

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.)

O

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.

O

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: http://jacoboet.zenfolio.com/

http://www.palookamag.com/oetshoelaces.htm

Moonshot Sonnet”:

http://stevenfama.blogspot.com/2010/10/what-you-see-is.html

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

http://www.manymountains.org

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). http://www.bruteneighbors.com/ Connie Deanovich quote used by permission of author.

One more for the road:

POEM OF THE MOON

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

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.

(Anonymous)

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

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!”