John Pieret, Poet and Champion

Raise your glasses high and toast our own John Pieret, who won The Coffee-Stained Writer’s National Poetry Month competition.  And he deserved to – “Winding Sheet” is a beautiful, haunting poem.

Twasn’t an easy decision for my heart sister, I’m sure – he was up against quite a few talented poets, including our own Chris Rhetts

To extraordinary wordsmiths and the power of poetry, let us raise our glasses and shout, “Salud!”

Our Own Chris Rhetts, Ladies and Gentlemen

I do believe I mentioned my own dear heart sister Nicole’s holding a contest for National Poetry Month.  Chris Rhetts, a regular patron and one of my Wisest Readers, has thrown his hat in the ring.  It’s a delightful poem, one that has taken its place among my pantheon of favorites as if a slot was always waiting for it.  And it reminds me how much I once enjoyed water spiders.

Good poetry flows.  Great poetry evokes.  I think we can safely say Chris deserves a place among the greats.

Go.  Enjoy.  And don’t forget to check out the other delights Nicole’s posted this month.

Poetry and Flowers

In a moment, here, the Muse will be having her way with me.  But in the meantime, George brought us flowers:

Which delight not only because George is a wonderful photographer (which he is), but because when I was growing up, crocuses always meant spring had almost sprung.  It also meant we’d be out in the yard around the wishing well with toothpicks and saran wrap a day or two later, desperately trying to keep the little buggers alive.  When they bloomed, you could be assured a snowstorm was on the way.  Lousy sense of timing they had.

Ah, memories.

And my heart sister Nicole has a poetry contest going for National Poetry Month.  Really not to be missed, you poets, so break out the rhyming dictionaries and once again curse the dearth of entries under “daffodil.”

I’d love to stay and rhaposdize, but the Muse and I need to go have an argument about what one should write immediately upon seeing something as saccharine as 27 Dresses.  

Gov. Perry Takes It Further

Criminally oblivious piece of shit, innit he?

But Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who was governor when the state killed Willingham, was apparently afraid of what the truth might show. In the 11th hour, Perry fired some of the Forensic Science Commission’s members, ensuring that the panel couldn’t hold a meeting to discuss the case.
Publius explained this morning that Perry is still at it.

He’s now removed a fourth member of the Texas commission responsible for investigating whether Texas (and Perry) executed an innocent man. It’s whitewashing at its worst. […]

What’s amazing is not so much that Perry replaced the panel members, but that he felt secure enough to be so brazenly corrupt about it…. [H]is motive is fairly clear. Perry contributed to the execution of an innocent person. And the formal recognition that Texas executed an innocent man would trigger a massive political earthquake — one that would clarify to an inattentive public the utter barbarity and immorality of Texas’s criminal justice system.

So yes, I can understand Perry’s motives. But it doesn’t change the fact that he is acting in a profoundly immoral way. The whole thing reminds me of a banana republic dictator clumsily covering up his crimes.

[snip]
It’s a genuine disgrace and an embarrassment to the country.

I hope Perry ends up in a Texas prison together with all those men he’s condemned.  I truly do.

Britain Gets It’s First Female Poet Laureate

Score one for my gender:

LONDON – The centuries-old post of British poet laureate, bard to kings and queens, has been held by William Wordsworth, Alfred Lord Tennyson and Ted Hughes — but never, until Friday, by a woman.

Carol Ann Duffy said she hesitated before accepting the job, which brings a high public profile and an expectation to rhapsodize about royal weddings, funerals and major state occasions.

In the end, she left the decision to her 13-year-old daughter, Ella: “She said, ‘Yes mummy, there’s never been a woman.'”

The job’s been around since Richard the Lionheart, at least. Pretty ancient shoes to fill, which I’m confident Carol will do with grace, style, and mad poetic skillz. There’s also the possibility of some additional compensation for her efforts:

The salary has varied, but traditionally includes some alcohol. Ben Jonson first received a pension of 100 marks, and later an annual “terse of Canary wine”. Dryden had a pension of £300 and a butt of Canary wine. Pye received £27 instead of the wine. Tennyson drew £72 a year from the Lord Chamberlain’s department, and £27 from the Lord Steward’s “in lieu of the butt of sack”.

Hmm. I wonder what I’d have to do in order to become a British citizen and then fill Carol’s shoes when she’s done with them? A wordsmithing job that includes alcohol as part of the salary sounds utterly perfect.

Kidding aside, I’m happy to see Britian install its first female Poet Laureate, and I think they’ve made a great choice. After all, she knows what talent is:

This is the word tightrope. Now imagine
a man, inching across it in the space
between our thoughts. He holds our breath.

There is no word net.

You want him to fall, don’t you?
I guessed as much; he teeters but succeeds.
The word applause is written all over him.

Congratulations, Carol! I’d pour you a glass of the good stuff, but I imagine the stuff they supply as part of your salary’s far better.

Poem o’ the Day

A little hair of the dog? We can’t just come off of National Poetry Month cold turkey, and thanks to Chris, we don’t have to.

A NIGHT MOORING NEAR MAPLE BRIDGE

While I watch the moon go down, a crow caws through the frost;

Under the shadows of the maple-trees a fisherman moves with his torch;

And I hear, from beyond Su-chou, from the temple on Cold Mountain,

Ringing for me, here in my boat, the midnight bell.

-Chang Chi (Witter Bynner trans.)

Poem o’ the Day

I love haiku. I especially love haiku translations that capture the sense of the original: short, sweet and to the point.

Basho

Summer grasses:
all that remains of great soldiers’
imperial dreams

Traveling this high
mountain trail, delighted
by violets
The old pond,
A frog jumps in:
Plop!


Issa

A world of dew,
and within every dewdrop
a world of struggle

Cherry blossom shade
no one an utter
stranger

Spring breeze–
a mouse licking up
Sumida River

Poem o’ the Day

Tomorrow’s Poem in Your Pocket Day, don’t forget. I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.

It struck me today that I’ve been a little heavy on the male poets. It’s not that I don’t like female poets. It’s just that I don’t know many. So I took a stroll through Wikipedia’s List of Female Poets. I clicked on Erinna because the name leaped out. Contemporary of Sappho, lovely. Died young. Wrote one of the most beautiful epitaphs for a friend in existence, of which only fragments survive. Yeah. We’re highlighting her.

I love her poems for a few reasons. First, she didn’t load her poetry down with ten trillion references to the gods, which was the failing of too many ancient Greek poets. Secondly, she’s expressing a friendship and grief that remind us just how timeless those human emotions are. Thirdly, through her, I now know a lot more about what it was like to be a woman in ancient Greece, and it’s fascinating.

Finally, most importantly, she’s one hell of a wordsmith. Even in translation.

The Distaff and Other Poems

…virgins
…tortoise
….moon
…tortoise…
…into the deep wave
you jumped from the white horses with a crazy step.
“I’ve got you,” I cried, “my friend.” And when you were the tortoise
jumping out you ran through the great hall’s court.
Unhappy Baucis, these are my laments as I cry for you deeply,
these are your footprints resting in my heart, dear girl,
still warm; but what we once loved is already ashes.
Young girls, we held our dolls in our bedrooms
like new wives, hearts unbroken. Near dawn your mother,
who handed out wool to her workers in attendance,
came in and called you to help with salted meat.
What terror the monster Mormo brought when we were both little girls:
on her head were massive ears and she walked
on four legs and kept changing her face.
But when you went to the bed of a man
you forgot all you heard from your mother while still a child,
my dear Baucis. Aphrodite filled your thoughts with forgetting.
As I weep for you now I desert your last rites,
for my feet may not leave the house and become unclean
nor is it right for me to look upon your corpse,
nor cry with my hair uncovered; but a red shame
divides me…
Nineteen…Erinna…the distaff…
2.
From here an empty echo reaches into Hades.
But there is silence amongst the dead, and darkness closes their eyes.
5.
My gravestone, my Sirens, and mourning urn,
who holds Hades’ meagre ashes,
say to those who pass by my tomb “farewell,”
both those from my town and those from other states.
Also, that this grave holds me, a bride. Say also this,
that my father called me Baucis, and that my family
was from Tenos, so that they may know, and that my friend
Erinna engraved this epitaph on my tomb.
6.
I am the tomb of Baucis, a young bride, and as you pass
the much lamented grave-stone you may say to Hades:
“Hades, you are malicious.” When you look, the beautiful letters
will tell of the most cruel fate of Baucis,
how her father-in-law lit the girl’s funeral pyre
with the pine-torches over which Hymen sang.
And you, Hymen, changed the tuneful song of weddings
into the mournful sound of lamentation.