Archive for the ‘Ryan’ Category

Virginia M. Heatter

Wednesday, October 18th, 2006


This is the sky where it meets
the water’s surface.

This is the wet ridge of it,
the line between life and drowning.

This is the glow of embers rising
against the rigors of evergreen.

This is a ring of large stones,
and in the nostrils, cedar burning.

This is the sound, still throbbing
in the ear canal, of translucence

passing through narrow tubes.
This is the salt of confluence,

and the sweet of imperfection.
This is melody, harmony, silence.

And this —

is the dead space, the rift
behind the gums, that hollow.

I like this.

Couplets are neat.

The “this is” thing is kind of overdone (i’ve done it myself), but it works I think.

“the rift behind the gums” is a great line. Also, the whole thing has nice sound.

Mmmmmm, words.

Tuesday, October 3rd, 2006

My Name Is Donald

Like a fish on a hedge, the horsefly
Lands on my wife’s lipstick.
That is sobriety.
That is the end of my hayride with oblivion.
I wonder: How long will it be until no one
Knows what a hayride is,
Or was? I’ve never been,
But the happiness I’ve seen in movies —
All the kids piled up in hay & a fiddler driving —
Is very real. It was real for a while.
Only a child can watch a movie sober.
He is younger than the mule pulling the wagon.
He is unshamed by the fiddler’s expertise.
His birth trumps all, which is to say he’s flying.

–Donald Revell

OK, I love it. But do I get it? I’m not sure.

It kind of reminds me of Faulkner-meets-JohnAshbery-meets-billycollins or something. (I know, enough Billy Collins already)

The hayride stream-of-consciousness is great. The words transient, nostalgic, youthful, rural, and tradition[al] all come to mind. Maybe I only think of Faulkner because of the thing about the fish… like My Mother is a fish… or whatever.
“Only a child can watch a movie sober,” what an interesting line. I wonder how much sobriety refers to alcohol and how much it refers to coming to terms with mortality. Oblivion suggests mortality. What is sobriety? The realization of something dangerously unexpected. A horsefly on lipstick, for example. Then how is a child sober? Perhaps, a child is able to make realizations with more clarity, with more acceptance. There are less preconcieved certanties with children.

The ending is so positive. Life trumps all. Surprisingly positive in light of the rest of the poem: a hayride with oblivion and whatnot. “He is flying,” though, suggests a connection with the horsefly–the cause of sobriety.

I suppose that children bring about a sort of sobriety as well as experience it.

There’s a lot more that could be said about this one. I like it.

A short short poem

Thursday, September 28th, 2006

I wrote this poem over summer and i’d love to hear some feedback on it.

yes, it’s a true story:

clean out yr car

In my trunk, I have a shoe.
One shoe–I lost its brother
moving I think, but I keep it
in case I find the other.

Since we’re posting favorites and all…

Thursday, September 21st, 2006

Here’s a contemporary poem by Franz Wright that I really enjoy:

Church of the Strangers

We were wandering
the vast church—
Our Lady of the Strangers
No audience, and
no magician in sight.
Watching the one trick he knows every day
must get boring.
I have an idea.
What if you were faced every morning
with taking
from the golden chalice
a sip of the real
thing, the black throat-gripping
tear-savor raised
to its intended purpose
here, nausea
and panic of abandonment
by the world, your own friend,
flowing into, joining
and haunting your blood.
Because no symbol’s going to help us.
I mean it,
really gagging it down
if you dared to pity
the ones being tortured right about now
and experience, not your own pain for a change,
but your helpless desire to assist them.
Who knows? You might get around to it
someday, that is
at least admit that you believe in their existence:
this shouldn’t be so hard. Remember?
Once you believed in some bearded son-of-a-bitch
who looked just like your grandpa,
the one who stuffed his baggy pockets
with quarters to get you to reach for his dick.
Millions of people grew up believing in him
so this won’t be too hard. We have to live
in the dark ages now, and I use that term
literally– the last one
was a carnival. There are no symbols
with the efficacy we require.
Blood, baby. This
might be worth showing up for.
No more secret contempt
for this childishly earnest
abracadabra by which wine is turned into wine,
while half the planet’s getting crucified
and nobody notices. Yeah–
downed in a straight shot of blood till you puke
might get your attention at least.
But I’d bet pretty damned few
would be able
to make it,
even Sundays. Hell,
no one comes as it is; only
you and me, trespassing
during the off hours…
Just wandering through the vast
void, with its dark
golden light from noplace, breathing in
the illuminated motes
of dust and incense–
you and me, characteristically
lost somewhere off in our own
spooky corners
daydreaming, too far away
to whisper the name
of the other, alone, maybe
meeting each other by accident
as everyone must do.


I’ve looked at this poem quite a few times, and I’m still not so sure about the Santa part, but the rest of it is great. The only thing I can kind of decipher with that is the thought that maybe the line “not your own pain for a change” somehow ties to the quarters in Santa’s pocket.

Anyhow, the image of actual blood instead of wine for communion is great. Just great. It makes a great comment on how strange it is that (symbolically) eating the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ is now part of a pleasant, expected, nonchallenging Church experience. Eat a wafer and sip some grape juice. It’s normal. But what it represents is so far from normal. Cannibalism? That’s about as far from socially acceptable as it gets. So the poem begs the question: How has this Symbolic Cannibalism of the Son of God become an everyday, hum-drum affair? And if the shock of the reality of that event really hit people, would they be so ready to accept such a ritual?

It’s very much what Noam Chomsky talks about as the purpose of poetry–taking something we’re trained to see as normal and revitalizing it by decontextualizing it. I knew that linguistics class would be good for something…


Thursday, September 21st, 2006

“That is the advantage of making up rules. If they are working, they should lead you to better writing. If they don’t, you’ve made up the wrong rules” (43)

I can’t help but make up rules as I make things–be it songwriting, lyric writing, poetry writing, art, or whatever–and I think that quote sums up why. Imposing restrictions on oneself is a perfect way to channel creativity into something structured and beautiful. And if the rules start to hinder the final result, throw them out! That’s usually the hardest part, at least if the rules have worked in the past. It’s the whole “kill all your darlings” thing. If something works, use it, but once it stops working, throw it away. Sometimes its hard to admit when something no longer works.

In any case, it seems to be a pretty common piece of advice from poets–make up rules, or games, or whatever you want to call them. They are what keep you interested and what give you a direction, formally.

But never be afraid to revise them, to break them, to throw them out, or to do whatever has to be done for the sake of the piece.

[what I should’ve handed out today]

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

Exploding The Muse

The Olatunji Concert in medias res


Maybe a hundred faces–

No longer smiling–

lose themselves,

Or are lost

in a thunderous cavalcade

of sundry emissions.

I am a cascading inferno,

the center of uncertainty,

collapsing in breath.


Now-textured, new, buoyant,

creation’s froth and foam,

outlandish and exuberant.

There is no “back” line.

I am the wash,

boundless and formless,

seminal and righteous.


Exhilarating exacerbation–

every note,

every exclamation–

Gutted and vulgar,

no recognition,

not enough time to–

Swung-out on

ecstatic communion

with galaxies and

the congregation–

Harlem’s gymnasium

blissed out on fractured

cacophonic exultation

and praise

and innards.


He cut me in half.

Squawks and moans:

quills and quivers.

She busted my brains.

Too many keys,

or none at all.

They’ve lost it.

They have something

else entirely.

Kathleen Flenniken

Thursday, September 14th, 2006

What I Learn Weeding

A dandelion root can grow two feet long.
You don’t forget unearthing one—shocking
as a donkey in an old French postcard.

But mostly, love, we pull their heads off
to achieve our shallow vision of a garden.
The root cleaves to the darkness,

the same dark that sets our hips to rocking,
to burrowing into the other’s body
or slapping it away. Briefly a stillness,

a long waiting to rise. Respiration. Sleep.
Until, without nurturing, a green shoot,
a thumb raked lightly across a thigh

and we succumb to this buried fury, this fever
to reseed. Oh, subterranean marriage
of root and soil! Oh, saw-blade leaf

and sunburst of maddened flower!