Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ajarn Wu Hsih writes


holding onto a web
woven into the edges
of rainbow quilt,

i wander in the rhapsody
of the unstruck sound,
led by eternal longing
for the sweet lotus scent
emanating from her navel
bedecked with jewel.

with each beat, i pause
and i sip from the vine the wine
pressed by three thousand maidens
moaning in unison, "aaaaaaaah!"
but my beloved's moan i yearn.
in the dawn, upon awakening
from deep slumber
after dreaming of her and i
being not two but whole, nude.

 Auguste Rodin ‘The Kiss’, 1901–4
August Rodin,  Le Baiser ("The Kiss")

Tom Sterner writes and illustrates

Behind the Phases

Arlene Corwin writes

Howling At The Moon

It’s easy to talk, blowing hot air  
Partially present,   
Muse of sincerity absent, 
Squawking like yesterday’s radio waves. 
Sure, there are reserves:  
Answers there, 
Days when one knows, 
And one knows that one knows. 
Answers that flow as they glow in their prose. 
Then sod it, next day 
We’re biting nails, killing whales, 
Drinking or sniffing our coke 
While the talk is a joke.

What next?  Well, there’s will, 
There’s still stillness – 
Who says that we’ve got to act out every impulse, 
Says when to dance, when to sit out the waltz?

Head full of rocks 
We stand on our boxes 
And howl at the moon.
 wolf moon photo: Wolf Moon Wonderland.jpg

Laurie Kuntz responds

Laurie Kuntz: My bio is as elusive as my estrogen levels. Sometimes I remember I am a poet and sometimes not. I lived and worked as a writer and teacher in the Philippines, Thailand and Japan for 35 years, but am now in nomadic retirement mode. My poetic themes are a result of working with Southeast Asian refugees, living as an expatriate, and being an empty nester. Three of my poems were nominated for a Pushcart Prize. My chapbook,  Women at the Onsen, was published by Blue Light Press; another chapbook, Simple Gestures, won the Texas Review Chapbook Contest; and my full length poetry collection, Somewhere in the Telling, was published by Mellon Press.  I enjoyed long walks with my two dogs, Sage and Merlin, named for wisdom and magic, but unfortunately both dogs are running loose in doggy heaven, so now I walk alone with haiku angels.
DV: So, tell me, Laurie, how did you get into the writing game? Especially, how or when or why did you decide to be a poet? 
LK: When I was a child, my father turned off his TV, (the Mets must have been losing ), and he read me a poem. That was my beginning. In high school a rogue English teacher read me an e. e. cummings poem, that was another beginning.... some place in between those two beginnings, I picked up a pen and "opened  a vein," as they say, and I began.

DV: Well, back then the Mets were always losing, so I guess it was just a matter of time  that Casey Stengel and his boys would open a door for your dad. And cummings! I used to hate him. I always read a lot, and widely, but I guess my tastes were pretty conventional. The process of figuring out "in Just-" -- not only why it was constructed the way it was but the layers of meaning and association that could be peeled away like an an onion -- was an important milestone in my own development.  Do you remember your first poem -- not necessarily in the sense of being able to recite it, but the way it came into being?

LK: My first poems were written in the voice of teenage angst questioning the universe. I wanted to make a difference, and felt poetry allowed me to do so. Of course, those first poems were dreadful, but writing them allowed me to have a voice and a direction for the voice to go.

DV: Once you found a voice and a direction, how have you been able to stay on track? You've obviously been at it for some time.
LK: As Bob Dylan says: I 'm a poet and I know it, hope I don't blow it. Poets pay attention to details and consider every moment in life fodder for a poem. So, for me, even if I am not writing daily, I still feel I am on track, as every experience, even the mundane, has the potential to be turned into a poem.

DV: Wow! "I Shall Be Free No. 10!" That's certainly one of Dylan's more obscure songs. I find it very odd that it appeared on ANOTHER SIDE OF BOB DYLAN, while "Mr. Tambourine Man," of all things, was left off. The last verse begins, "Now you’re probably wondering by now / Just what this song is all about." Do you ever feel that way about your work or your audience? How do you react to that feeling?

LK: There is a famous quote, much controversy as to who said it, many people think this is a Robert Browning quote, but it has been attributed to the German writer, Johann Paul Friedrich Richter. Regardless, the quote goes something like this:  "When I wrote it, only God and I knew the meaning; now God alone knows."  For me, God is a metaphor in this sense, to the universal audience. I believe that regardless of what I originally meant my poem to mean, poetry is dynamic, like language, forever changing. So one day the poem might be a love story, but on the next reading it might be a political statement (and aren't all love stories political?). So when I write, when the poem is finished, it goes out to the universe-- as a gift. God is my audience, they will garner the meaning they need.

DV: I too think love stories are political, especially in the sense of the popular quote from LOVE STORY, about "never having to say I'm sorry." It's hard for me to imagine that you never wrote a love poem, because the theme is so ubiquitous, especially for beginning writers. But, however they may actually turn out, do you sometimes write what are intended to be political poems?

LK: Oh, I am not saying that I never wrote a love poem, actually I think all of my poems are love poems. Love has many facets, so a bittersweet poem written to a husband of many years is a love poem, a poem written in a motherly tone is a love poem, and political poems are most definitely love poems ... love for a homeland, love for freedom, love for humanity... it all adds up to love. I worked with Southeast Asian refugees for 12 years in Thailand and in the Philippines, much of my canon of work is a result of working with refugees, these are my political poems, as are my poems about marriage, parenting, and identity. For me, the strong political poem is not a soap box poem, but one which takes a detail(s) and creates a metaphor for a larger statement. One of my favorite political poems is "Try to Praise the Mutilated World," by Adam Zagajewski, which appeared in the New Yorker Magazine on Sept 23, 2001 and is the iconic poem for 9/11.  In this poem, the poet  talks about curtains and feathers and  "the gentle light that strays and vanishes and returns." 
DV: Southeast Asia, Japan. These are considered to be "exotic" places by most people. How about New York? Is that where you grew up? Were you an habitue of Greenwich Village back in your formative years?

LK: Yes, I grew up in
Brooklyn, which is now what seems to be the hippest place on earth.  When I grew up in Brooklyn, born in the fifties and bred in the sixties, Brooklyn had no status--most of my friends wanted to lose the accent, which I, through no fault of  my own, still have. I was in high school when the 60's were raging, and I do have memories of Greenwhich Village. I remember wanting to change my look from collegiate high school girl to hippie, and my best friend and I took the subway to the East Village, and we went to  a seedy second hand store and bought leather fighter bomber jackets, which was my emblem for the 60's... I wore it to Woodstock, to the Pentagon to march against the Vietnam War and to every street corner hangout.  My mother hated that jacket and all it symbolized, and one day unbeknownst  to me, she threw it out.   I wish I still had that leather jacket, it was very cool. I met my husband in Brooklyn in front of the Jolly Bull Pub on Flatbush Ave... Just this summer, my husband and I passed by the building, no longer a pub, but the building is still there--we were with our 27 year old son, who has heard "We met at the Jolly Bull Pub" story many times---it was a most Aha moment for me.

DV: In the Village, did you attend any of the folksingers' or Beat poets' performances? Dylan? Kerouac? Did the ambience affect you any way, artistically?
LK: No, unfortunately, I did not get to see the beat poets or the folksingers.  I was in high school and bound by parental rule. But I did go to Woodstock! And, of course the ambiance of the sixties had a huge effect on me socially and artistically then and now --Go Bernie Sanders!

DV: Many people write poems at some time in their lives without considering themselves to be "poets." When did you first come to identify yourself in those terms?
LK: I started to feel validated as a poet when I found myself in a community of poets.  Showing one's poems to friends and lovers is not validation, friends and lovers will always say you are the next Shakespeare. Validation came when I started publishing poems, when I went to poetry workshops, when I went to grad school for my MFA in writing. The people I met in these venues offered validation through constructive criticism, a passion for the art, and camaraderie.  These are the essentials for feeling validated as a poet, and of course, getting published. Getting published is the Ben and Jerry's flavor of the month for validation -- so thanks, Duane.

DV: Gertrude Stein said we should write for ourselves and strangers. 

LK: I loved doing this interview; it really helps me think about the art.

DV: Do you have anything you would like to say before we close this interview?

LK: "Carry on, love is coming, love is coming to us all."


Saturday, January 30, 2016

Lillian the Ocean and the Isle of Palms

Together in memory are soldered 
Lillian, the ocean, and the Isle of Palms, 
fused cubistically like frozen sculpture 
of motionless craft forever becalmed
            a picture of beach-clinging waters
hanging between the frames by their thumbs.

And Lillian the old skygod’s daughter
parades ashore on the Isle of Palms
followed by fleecy waves that slaughter
themselves as sacrifice for her balm,
            crashing on the beach at her immortal
feet like jap endless squadrons of bombs.

Sun-sand-sky welded to ageless water,
seagulls shackled to the gulf like charms,
ocean as static as a krater,
and sands as eternal as the psalms:
            my marble memories unaltered.
Lillian, the ocean, and the Isle of Palms.

--Duane Vorhees

Alicja Kuberska writes

The Homeless

They chose a homeless freedom. 
Set instinctively to survive they live for today.
They know all the dark secrets of the city.

In the evenings,
they fall like birds onto the park benches
to spend the night in the company of stars. 
In the morning,
They leave the baggage of old newspapers and wander on.
It is never too late, or too early 
-The days are too similar to be afraid of anything.

Those of us, who live hurriedly and hygienically, 
Pass them with revulsion and a feeling of superiority.
With dignity, we tote around stereotypes and the day’s routine.
We hurry along other paths of life. 
Sometimes, we collide-we stop pensive
Over diversity of human stories

 Image result for homeless images

Sirinya shoots

Akinbode Israel writes

Date a poet.
My walk with breeze,
A hot silence with mute words,
Breeze broke my arm,
Couldn't write well.
I rode on a cart with water,
His promises began to fade,
Turning to a mighty sea,
I drowned, my dreams sank.
I ran with the running rain
With dry lands on my back,
A wicked flood he gave.
I met a dancing quill
With a fatherly feather,
Good lines he wrote on my heart,
Changed my phrase to clause.
I said 'Yes' to his humble words,
He fought emptiness with sounds,
Silence died of stroke,
Buried in a coughing coffin.
Date a poet,
His words...
Soothes in sorrows,
Date a poet.

Henry David Thoreau says

We should consider that the flow of thought is more like a tidal wave than a prone river, and is the result of a celestial influence, not of any declivity in its channel. The river flows because it runs down hill, and flows the faster, the faster it descends. The reader who expects to float down stream for the whole voyage may well complain of nauseating swells and choppings of the sea when his frail shore-craft gets amidst the billows of the ocean stream, which flows as much to sun and moon as lesser streams to it. But if we would appreciate the flow that is in these books, we must expect to feel it rise from the page like an exhalation, and wash away our critical brains like burr millstones, flowing to higher levels above and behind ourselves.

There is many a book which ripples on like a freshet, and flows as glibly as a mill-stream sucking under a causeway; and when their authors are in the full tide of their discourse, Pythagoras and Plato and Jamblichus halt beside them. Their long, stringy, slimy sentences are of that consistency that they naturally flow and run together.
They read as if written for military men, for men of business, there is such a dispatch in them. Compared with these, the grave thinkers and philosophers seem not to have got their swaddling clothes off; they are slower than a Roman army in its march, the rear camping to-night where the van camped last night. The wise Jamblichus eddies and gleams like a watery slough.
How many thousands never heard the name
Of Sidney, or of Spenser, or their books!
And yet brave fellows, and presume of fame,
And seem to bear down all the world with looks.
The ready writer seizes the pen, and shouts, "Forward! Alamo and Fanning!" and after rolls the tide of war. The very walls and fences seem to travel. But the most rapid trot is no flow after all; and thither, reader, you and I, at least, will not follow.

A perfectly healthy sentence, it is true, is extremely rare. For the most part we miss the hue and fragrance of the thought; as if we could be satisfied with the dews of the morning or evening without their colors, or the heavens without their azure. The most attractive sentences are, perhaps, not the wisest, but the surest and roundest. They are spoken firmly and conclusively, as if the speaker had a right to know what he says, and if not wise, they have at least been well learned. Sir Walter Raleigh might well be studied, if only for the excellence of his style, for he is remarkable in the midst of so many masters. There is a natural emphasis in his style, like a man's tread, and a breathing space between the sentences, which the best of modern writing does not furnish. His chapters are like English parks, or say rather like a Western forest, where the larger growth keeps down the underwood, and one may ride on horseback through the openings. All the distinguished writers of that period possess a greater vigor and naturalness than the more modern--for it is allowed to slander our own time--and when we read a quotation from one of them in the midst of a modern author, we seem to have come suddenly upon a greener ground, a greater depth and strength of soil. It is as if a green bough were laid across the page, and we are refreshed as by the sight of fresh grass in midwinter or early spring. You have constantly the warrant of life and experience in what you read. The little that is said is eked out by implication of the much that was done. The sentences are verdurous and blooming as evergreen and flowers, because they are rooted in fact and experience, but our false and florid sentences have only the tints of flowers without their sap or roots. All men are really most attracted by the beauty of plain speech, and they even write in a florid style in imitation of this. They prefer to be misunderstood rather than to come short of its exuberance. Hussein Effendi praised the epistolary style of Ibrahim Pasha to the French traveler Botta, because of "the difficulty of understanding it; there was," he said, "but one person at Jidda who was capable of understanding and explaining the Pasha's correspondence." A man's whole life is taxed for the least thing well done. It is its net result. Every sentence is the result of a long probation. Where shall we look for standard English, but to the words of a standard man? The word which is best said came nearest to not being spoken at all, for it is cousin to a deed which the speaker could have better done. Nay, almost it must have taken the place of a deed by some urgent necessity, even by some misfortune, so that the truest writer will be some captive knight, after all. And perhaps the fates had such a design, when, having stored Raleigh so richly with the substance of life and experience, they made him a fast prisoner, and compelled him to make his words his deeds, and transfer to his expression the emphasis and sincerity of his action.

Allison Grayhurst writes

Golden Eagle

Awakened from my dying
on the barren hill.
I speak my mind, and I am pulled off course,
rejected in my honesty,
as though I had no right to drum my dream,
as though silence and the undercurrent of resentment,
confusion and blame was so much better,
as if clarity was a betrayal - too much to ask,
too much to give.
But that is the name on that package
and it belongs back on the shelf.
That day of lower energy is over.
That was the rainbow from the wrong event
that soured when ingested, that left a pile of soot
on my doorstep. I am ready to release what must be released,
ready to be unattached and unafraid.
The zenith of my sky is open
and I feel something soft and perfect growing
in my pocket.


Heather Jephcott writes

The Beauty of Boundaries

She felt light and bright
most of the time,
the warmth of love hovered over,
within most of her relationships
and friendships.

But sometimes
she was asked why
her love differed in intensity.
There was at least one other
who felt her love like snow
an icy covering
blocking the warmth she knew to be beneath.

Boundaries lined her way, her life,
happy ones that helped her to see
the limitations that were good, right, honourable,
guiding her to love appropriately,
enabling her to dance freely,
to see the light, the beauty
of friendship
in sparkling greens and soft mauves
and the purity of white
to be found
when these borders were in place.

The demarcation line became clear
for this one
desiring to be pleasing to
the one and only one who had created her
and everything else.

She did not feel restricted, restrained
but rather content,
knowing that true happiness
comes from understanding
and remaining within the boundaries
drawn by the hand of the all-knowing.

There was a truth recently understood
that should she choose
to go outside her own boundaries
she would invade
the territory of another.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Anahit Arustamyan writes


You were in your elegant suit in a restaurant to dance. There was wine and beer in that crowded place. You were waiting for me, sir. A magic carpet didn't take me there. The melodies were loud as the night was awake. Each bulb reminded of a candle flame. Your arms and the phantom's shoulders joined to dance. You expected Santa Claus to take me through the mountain range. However, there was emptiness all over his silver sledge. Don't blame Santa Claus, as he came! He didn't know I lived somewhere. You were waiting for me, sir. Don't blame Santa Claus or the magic carpet of the fairy tale! You were dancing with the phantom, sir. It was me flown over the boundaries without a body shape. Do tell me what promised the full moon night's glance!

Robert Lee Haycock shoots

Contra Loma NewYear

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Anne Tibbitts writes

Joe’s Coveralls

Faded green sets a stage for the backdrop of woods.
Deer have seen these coveralls. A Raccoon once sniffed them.

Go into the woods for gathering kindling
Build a great fire that will burn for ten thousand years.
Find a coffee shop in the middle of the woods in your coveralls in the cover of you inside a mirror that you won’t even look into because you are afraid you won’t see anyone looking back.

When he zips up his coveralls, the universe smiles
No one wants to see him fail
But the cards are always stacked against him, stacked in piles
All crooked with wind mess, with a footstep, with a cloud

You need a woman as strong as an oak tree
As hot as a lightning rod
Who can fry you a steak every night
You need a friend who will prod you to move
To inspire you to live again
When you wear your coveralls, you hide yourself
In the name of firing up a chainsaw
In the name of eating bacon before departing

In the name of wanting everything to go your way.