Open Letter to the Ambassador of the State of Qatar

Superior, Colorado, USA

20 January 2013

Mohamed Bin Abdulla Al-Rumaihi, Ambassador
Embassy of the State of Qatar
2555 M. Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20037-1305

Dear Ambassador,

I write with justice in my head,
I write with all impulse of peace,
In fervent hope of Mohamed
Ibn Al Ajami's release.

Please might we find your magistrate
Well understanding of the fact
That poetry surpasses state,
Liberty trumps Sedition Act.

It will be poets who ensure
The glory of your fine Emir
And even when they do incur
Displeasure, they're his vizier.

I pray you grant your poets space
To work the profit of their mind.
Reconsider this Ajami case,
In which all freedoms are enshrined.



Uche Ogbuji

Mohamed Ibn Al Ajami


Introducing Kin Poetry Journal

Continuing in the theme of too busy doing stuff to blog about it, this is a belated announcement of my new literary venture. I launched Kin Poetry Journal last month along with fellow founders Wendy Chin-Tanner and Eric Norris, and with plenty of help from Walter Ancarrow.  I'm very excited about some of the poets we have coming up, but then again I would say that so it's a good thing there's enough at the journal right now to let the content do the talking.

Poems on birth and infancy

[Crossposted with the Kin blog]

Yesterday David Orr of NPR blogged, "It's A Genre! The Overdue Poetry Of Parenthood," in which he suggested that poetry celebrating childbirth and early infancy has ben historically rare, but is emerging as a new genre.  Maryann Corbett, poet and author of Breath Control, mused on FaceBook that she thought there have long been a fair number of new-baby poems, leading to an interesting conversation on her wall.  I've gathered up some of the poems that were brought up in the thread and elsewhere.

I'll start with Corbett's own "Circadian Lament, Sung to a Wakeful Baby,"(Umbrella Journal) which was linked by one of her friends, not the poet herself.


Go back to sleep. You’ve made a slight mistake

switching your days and nights around this way.

The time will come for nights you spend awake,


for cough and colic, ear- and stomach-ache.

Though now you babble charmingly and play

the infant hours away (a light mistake), …


I mentioned  Catherine Tufariello's "Aubade" (The Nervous Breakdown).


Your language has no consonants.

No babble but a siren’s cry,

Imperious as an ambulance,

Yanks me upright, drains me dry,

Returns me to the languid trance

Of timelessness in which we lie.

Your language has no consonants,

Imperious as an ambulance.


Kin Poetry Journal co-founder Wendy Chin-Tanner ups the ante by touching on all the brute biology of birth, including post-partum marital sex, in "Veteran", also in The Nervous Breakdown.


When our bodies parted, it was without

violence. She slid from me like a sloop

on the crest of that final mighty wave,

the surge sucking her backwards before

spilling over, like breath, like confession,

her arms reaching forward towards the dry

open shore and mine reaching down between

my legs to receive, meeting her, round bright

bud of us combined, her astonishing

glaucous eyes staring steadily,

curiously, seeming to see.


A correspondent mentioned "The Victory" by Anne Stevenson, a taut, sharp lyric.


Tiny antagonist, gory,

blue as a bruise. The stains

of your cloud of glory

bled from my veins.


Some of the discussion was about whether such poems are a new phenomenon. I suspect some of the explicit imagery and language of recent poems is new, but the topic certainly is not, though the article seems tangled upon this point, mentioning, for example, Blake's "Infant" poems from "Songs of Innocence and of Experience." That brought me to mind of the twist represented by To an Unborn Pauper Child by Thomas Hardy. Every good poetic topic wants for a strong, countervailing current.


Breathe not, hid Heart: cease silently,

And though thy birth-hour beckons thee,

Sleep the long sleep:

The Doomsters heap

Travails and teens around us here,

And Time-Wraiths turn our songsingings to fear.


The list could go on and on. One of the correspondents mentioned A.E. Stalling's Olives, which includes poems on early motherhood, and the NPR article itself mentions Morning Song: Poems for New Parents. The latter of course recalls "Morning Song," by Sylvia Plath, one of my favorite poems.


Love set you going like a fat gold watch.

The midwife slapped your footsoles, and your bald cry

Took its place among the elements.


Our voices echo, magnifying your arrival.  New statue.

In a drafty museum, your nakedness

Shadows our safety.  We stand round blankly as walls.


Ikot Abasi

Ikot Abasi, also called Opobo, formerly Egwanga, port town, Akwa Ibom state, southern Nigeria. The town lies near the mouth of the Imo (Opobo) River. Situated at a break in the mangrove swamps and rain forest of the eastern Niger River delta, it served in the 19th century as a collecting point for slaves. In 1870 Jubo Jubogha, a former Igbo (Ibo) slave and ruler of the Anna Pepple house of Bonny (28 miles [45 km] west-southwest), came to Ikot Abasi and founded the kingdom of Opobo, which he named for Opobo the Great, a Pepple king (reigned 1792–1830). Also called Chief Jaja by Europeans, he destroyed the economic power of Bonny and made Opobo the leading power of the eastern Niger delta oil-palm trade until he was deported in 1887 by the British, who established a trading post at Opobo Town, 4 miles (6 km) southwest, on the west bank of the Imo River.

Modern Ikot Abasi serves as a trading centre for the yams, cassava (manioc), fish, palm produce, corn (maize), and taro produced by the Ibibio people of the area; it also is known for boatbuilding, although a sandbar partially blocks the entrance to its port from the Gulf of Guinea. The town is linked by highway to Aba and Port Harcourt. Pop. (2006) local government area, 132,023.

It was in Cross River state (Akwa Ibom was later carved from Cross River) when I was there, back in 1990, visiting my then girlfriend who was doing her post-University National Youth Service. We took a Toyota taxi van from The University of Port Harcourt, where I was living with my lecturer Dad. For a variety of reasons the trip lives lushly in my memory, not least because of the gorgeous tropical setting (We were in the rural part of Ikot Abasi).  I was also aware of the area's rich history, centered on Opobo, where "King Jaja" went from captured Igbo slave to local leader, undertook an extended campaign of defiance against the British, was eventually captured through deceit and sent into exile.

In a few days there I read a lot and wrote a few poems, including one about Ikot Abasi itself.  This week YB Poetry published my poem, Ikot Abasi Redux, written a couple of years ago as a sort of echo of that poem I wrote in 1990. That earlier poem, written when I was still a teenager, isn't really publishable in any proper journal, but I thought this a good time to post it in this informal setting as a sort of bookend to the "Redux." You can see the themes I carried into the more recent poem.

Ikot Abasi

(Thoughts from the World's Navel)

I. Fauna

In the wake of age-old night,
A downy, dewy new born baby
Ourang-outan hangs face downwards,
Legs in mother's knowing grip,
Wide-eyed at the brown, the chlorophyll.
Apprentice to the simple art of gestures,
It takes, in breath, the dizzy scene,
The trailing vines and sea-green herbs,
The brown dehiscent pods,
The endless symbiosis (breathe)
The roiling food chains (breathe again);
In mother's knowing grip,
It learns that which the eye can't see
In this plush romp of deity,
This nursery of being...
The primate urge that shaped our shrilling tongues to trope
Shows roots here like the ageless, sprawling tree in shallow soil.

II. Sylva

A tree is not a poem, but a poem might be tree:
A poem that is not a tree is grass or birophyte.
A poem, tree through hardened truth or old acuity
Is ringed by lesser stalks and shoots that struggle to the light.

Knowing truth in things unseen and rarely comprehensible,
A poem's tree by virtue of compression (heed the lesson)
Images, insisted Pound, are acorns—hard, inedible
The poet's business lies in rearing oaks to dine the mind on.

III. Antiquissima

These centuries of prosody and rhetoric are latent here,
And have been since our times before imagining,
Flowing through the veins of leaves.
There are no hamadryads here,
No wooded tabernacles,
No slave moods in the elder's stool,
The hoe, the hollow ikolo.
Wisdom is never exercise
At the world's damp navel,
But an endless dance to soundless measure,
Answering to none at all
unless the simple seasons.

© Uche Ogbuji
27 March 1990
at Ikot Abasi, Nigeria

Bis: So much going on I keep forgetting to write

In September I bundled together a bunch of news and updates from my literary work in one big update, and I continue to have trouble finding time to post updates here more regularly, so time for another big round-up.

The latest issue of the lovely Scree Magazine has an interview with me, and showcases 2 of my poems "Mango Flesh" (p. 55) & "Mysteries of Harvest II" (an Igbo-themed sonnet on p. 59).  There's also a summary in simpler Web form.

Potomac Review had me as a featured guest blogger to write on my participation in National Poetry Writing Month. In my article I touched on the practice of writing in a marathon, and the advantages that come with community, memorization and form.

One of my poems "A heart to break for longing" is up at Blind Oracle Press. It's an especially dear to me as it was my first experiment with what has become a form I call the Dialette, which has now become one of my favorite forms in which to write.

I have twin poems in String Poet. A straight translation and adaptation both from “El Amor Ascendía Entre Nosotros,” by Miguel Hernandez.  "Love ascended between us" and "Folly between us"

My poem "Manna in the Maxim Gun" is up in Unsplendid, tagged as "an expat ponders Nigeria's past & future."  Also "Endo" in Mountain Gazette, both in print and online.  It's the fifth poem on the page, a Tanka. I also posted an idiosyncratic performance piece "Annette Fu Frankie A Frankenstein Freaks!" on The Nervous Breakdown.

Finally, I've contributed a poem, "Sendai Space Elevator," to New Sun Rising, a charity anthology to benefit victims of last year's Tsunami in Japan. The book is due out soon, and there is now a trailer available.


The Lay of Analytics

A few minutes ago I posted a link on Facebook to a recent technical report to which I'd contributed. Many of my Facebook friends are non-techies, and one of them asked: "could you say that again, poetically?" Which is a genius request, really! The technical report concerns data analytics, so here's a brief lyric to get the gist to my non-technical friends.

I wandered lonely as a cloud and tried to figure out
Where all my customers had gone, to bring them back about;
But from a million visitors how could I see the trend?
What made them walk out of my store, and what did make them spend?
And so I bought some software which could crunch the number stew
And tell me as a business just exactly what to do.
The best such tools let me explore without insisting on specifics;
I asked a geek "so what's that called?" He said: "Smart Analytics."

BTW the report in question is PwC's latest "Technology Forecast" report (PDF download), focusing on data analytics. There's also a sidebar on Zepheira's Freemix product on page 39.

Black night! Black night!

In the case where fear presses back
Through the air, where the torch has expired
On the orphan river,
In the forest, soulless and tired,
Under the anxious and faded trees,
In the wan woods, squalling trunks
Ululate without respite
Over the accursed tom-toms,
Black night! Black night!

from "Nuit Noire" by Birago Diop, translated by Uche Ogbuji

This poem is excerpted from Birago Diop's short story "Sarzan", well known among literati with interest in African culture. I can only find it in French online right now, but I first encountered it in the collection Jazz and Palm Wine which my father loved and would sometimes read to the family. The excerpt above is from the very end, and I translated it form the French original:

Dans la case où la peur repasse
Dans l'air où la torche s'éteint,
Sur le fleuve orphelin
Dans la forêt sans âme et lasse
Sous les arbres inquiets et déteints,
Dans les bois obscurcis
Les trompes hurlent, hululent sans merci
Sur les tam-tams maudits,
Nuit noire ! Nuit noire !
Inline image 2
I've watched the "Kony 2012" hype and the subsequent controversy with both amusement and bemusement, thought I've thought whatever comment I might have better kept to myself. I wasn't even paying much attention to the whole affair except for a few nuggets that would strike me, usually from when it was on the news my wife was watching in the other room. The first case was when I believe NBC said they would be sending a crew to Uganda to do some fact-checking on the story. That really annoyed me.
Here is a list just off head:
  • Major unrest in Burkina Faso last year
  • Ethno-religious strife in Nigeria's middle belt
  • Al-Quaeda-inspired terrorism in Nigeria's North
  • The Nigerian fuel subsidy removal unrest
  • An oil spill by Shell almost as bad as the Deepwater Horizon disaster (in terms of environmental impact rather than barrels of oil)
  • South Sudan's independence
  • Eradication of Rhinderpest
  • Famine in East Africa
  • The arrest of Gbagbo in Côte d'Ivoire following the mayhem he caused after elections
  • The election of Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Liberia
  • One of the most engaging African Cup of Nations competitions in my own memory (OK I had to throw that last bit in there).
So many compelling stories coming out of sub-saharan Africa, and it took a viral Youtube video to get NBC to send a crew to the continent.  Even if you were only interested in Uganda, the non-violent protests led by Besigye against Museveni alone were more newsworthy than "Kony 2012".

Now don't get me wrong. Joseph Kony and the LRA have been shocking and disgusting me for at least fifteen years, and of course I'd love to see him brought to justice, but the problem with Kony 2012 is that it perpetuates the approach of over-hype and lazy hyper-focus on one topic that has characterized so much popular Western attention on the continent. It's "Do they know it's Christmas time at all" all over again, and don't let me start on that unspeakable nonsense.

Anyway another snippet from the "Kony 2012" affair that struck me was the clip of the video's creator I half caught in which he was itching about some U.S. city street in the nude while muttering loudly. It instantly brought back a very powerful reminder of Birago Diop's short story, which Professor Willfried Feuser translated in his collection as "Sarzent the Madman." The "Sarzent" ("sergeant") of the story has returned from his military education in France loudly determined to "civilize" his home village. He becomes possessed by the spirits of his ancestors and goes around raving in poetry. I see the broader lesson of the story about the peril of insincerity couched in self-righteousness, especially when rooted in alien, Western values. That's certainly how the story struck me as a child, and in that wise I find the correspondence to this madness of Jason Russell extremely creepy. A friend of mine mentioned that it's as if the man was stricken by the Igbo deity Agwu Nsi.

Inline image 3

Some of the ravings of Sarzan/Sarzent come from Diop's earlier poetry, including his lovely "Souffles" ("Breaths"):

Écoute plus souvent 
les choses que les êtres. 
La voix du feu s'entend, 
entends la voix de l'eau
écoute dans le vent
le buisson en sanglots.

I found the above video with the poem's recitation. I translate it thusly:

Listen more often
To things than to beings.
The fire's voice is heard,
Hear the voice of the water
Listen in the wind
To the bush a-sobbing.

Out! Out! You must be prised right out...

Out! Out! You must be prised right out
Joyless desire and love's conceit!
You've cranked at my heart such a treat,
Nothing's left there for your grubby onslaught.

Now for my own good may I forget about,
Shrug off this tenant of my very suite.
Out! Out! You must be prised right out!

I took you in without sufficient thought.
Get out! Go find yourself another beat!
Don't even skirt my heart's remotest street!
Too long I've dwelled cowed by your harsh, grim clout.
Out! Out! You must be prised right out!

—Rondeau/Chanczon XI of Alain Chartier, translated by Uche Ogbuji

This morning a friend of mine posted the following on Facebook:

Untitled - by Alain Chartier

I turn you out of doors
tenant desire

you pay no rent
I turn you out of doors
all my best rooms are yours
the brain and the heart

I turn you out of doors

switch off the lights
throw water on the fire
I turn you out of doors

stubborn desire

I have a lot of friends who post fine poetry, of their own, or from others. Most of the time I'd just click "like," possibly comment, and then move on with life. This one seemed set for the pattern at first, a neat little piece, clever device and all. But then I noticed the byline. "Alain Chartier."

I love medieval French poetry: Villon, Chartier, de Pizan, even d'Orléans, who's a decent enough poet, but probably would have been much less remarked if not for his nobility. Anyway, it immediately struck me that the "I turn you out of doors" poem is quite un-Chartier-like, and I certainly didn't recognize it despite having read a fair bit of Chartier in the original and in translation. So just like that began a delightful journey taken up in occasional steps throughout the day.

I found the poem posted on a variety of Weblogs by the occasional romantic. It had clearly gained currency at some point as a mini-meme. But nowhere could I find information about the Chartier original. I did find that the translation was by Edward Lucie-Smith, a new name to me despite the fact that he seems a very prolific and near contemporary author.

Just about every permutation of Google search I could think up with the above info turned up at the very best a cryptic bibliography entry in The Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry in Anthologies:

I turn you out of doors.    Alain Chartier.  BoLoP tr. by Edward Lucie-Smith

My friend mentioned she had found it in her copy of "A well-loved book of love poetry from Oxford University Press edited by Jon Stallworthy," which was probably "BoLoP" so I'd hit a dead end.

I ended up searching online editions of Chartier for a variety of likely 15th century French translations of the words in the Lucie-Smith. I didn't have time to do it the old-fashioned way, thumbing through my volumes, but I suspected this was a rarely collected Chartier poem that I probably wouldn't find in my library, anyway.  Guessing at "dehors" led me to a mention of:

XI. Dehors ! dehors ! Il vous fault deslogier, 
Désir sans joye et pensée d'amours. . .

Rondel de dix vers : Grenoble, n° 874, fol. 60 ; ms. du 
cardinal de Rohan, fol. 80 v°; Lyon, n° 1235. Publié dans 
Lyon- Revue, 1886, p. 315. 

In "Mélanges offerts à M. Émile Picot." Alas the full poem was not rendered, but it seemed a passable match for the Lucie-Smith.  I found many more fragmentary references until I did find the full poem in a miscellany of "Ballades, Rondeaux et Chansons" appended to Chartier's celebrated "La belle dame sans mercy"

Here is the full, original poem:

Rondeau/Chanczon XI

Dehors ! dehors ! Il vous fault deslogier
Desir sans joye et pensee d'amours!
Tant aves fait en mon cuer de voz tours
Qu'il n'y a plus pour vous que fourragier.

Nonchaloir vueil desormais hebergier
Avec oubly pour moy donner secours.
Dehors ! dehors ! Il vous fault deslogier!

 Je vous receu ung pou trop de legier.
Departez vous! Allez logier aillours!
N'aprochez plus de mon cuer les faulxbours!
Trop ay vescu soubz vostre dur dangier.
Dehors ! dehors ! Il vous fault deslogier!

(Sources: [1] . [2] . [3])

Well then! That's a rather different creature than the Lucie-Smith. I understand that Lucie-Smith was doing a bit of an Arthur Symons, the modernist gutting a languorous latin procession of poetry, seeking the supposed vortex. If a sonnet or canzone/chanson is like a sphere, you can see Lucie-Smith cutting a spiral out of it, looking for some sort of essence.

It does bring to mind the question of where translation gives way to adaptation or even original work. I generally label a poem adaptation when I feel I've made it too much my own, and I try to be explicit about such cases. I've done so for example in my treatment of “El Amor Ascendía Entre Nosotros,” by Miguel Hernandez, and even in my treatment of Villon's "L'Épitaph (Ballade des pendus)," where the only real liberty I took was with the refrain.

Upon finding the original Chartier poem I tried my hand at a translation, which is the lead quote of this post. I tried to preserve some of the metrical and rhetorical feel of the original, which in my opinion Lucie-Smith jettisoned, creating an entirely original work of his own. Again I think the Lucie-Smith is a neat poem, but I think its worth giving Chartier a chance to have his own, more direct say. As I wrote of the old master in a poem of mine published last year:

Doubting truth in unseen things
I seek the literal tree,
The prickly fruit, the leaves, the flowers
Some posit it to be.

Uproot the tree of vegetable love
And plant a swooning spray—
I'm well across the gospel of
Our prelate Chartier.

If love is nectar blossoming
But fades to autumn grief,
What heroes championing what gods
Are left to my belief?

—from "What belief" by Uche Ogbuji (Lucid Rhythms, 2011)

Poetry, Western Slope sty-lee

This world glistens like a summer lamp saying open, open
In the time it takes to speak, everything could disappear.

—from "Looking for Fossils" by Sandra Dorr (from Desert Water, The Lithic Press, 2009)

What is that spark when you meet a friend, which crackles with instant recognition? And what is that spark multiplied like a moonless night sky's field of fireworks? It might be something like what I experienced at the Western Colorado Writers' Forum's annual conference in Grand Junction this past weekend.


I was introduced to the group by Wendy Videlock, who appeared on TNB Poetry at my behest and who then suggested I lead a workshop on submissions to online journals at the conference. I gave that workshop Saturday to a sharp, attentive group who had just heard María Meléndez's advice about submitting to print journals.

Earlier that morning I had encountered what this conference was really about, at heart.

What better place to call home
than this high desert cloud mesa wrong turn
rippling of the continental plates
before they slap down
fanning towards the Coast?

—from "The Wright Stuff" by Art Goodtimes

I woke up on the crisp, autumn morning to ride with Colorado Poet Laureate David Mason and his sweet, effervescent lover Cally Conan-Davies up Monument Canyon into the sort of jaw-dropping landscape that Colorado offers up to casually. There at the visitor center of the National Monument, a group of poets learned from Park Ranger Liz of the eventful geological and human history of the place, as well as present climate, flora and fauna. Fingers bit by the chill, we nevertheless scribbled scraps of what she said and what figments the vista inspired in us.


We then gathered in a room at the center where David Mason recited selections of poetry which exhibited rootedness to land.  He finished with Bristlecone Pine, his own poem written after visiting the oldest tree of that type in the Rocky Mountains; he started with:

We have no prairies 
To slice a big sun at evening  
Everywhere the eye concedes to  
Encroaching horizon, 

Is wooed into the cyclops' eye  
Of a tarn. Our unfenced country  
Is bog that keeps crusting 
Between the sights of the sun. 

They've taken the skeleton  
Of the Great Irish Elk 
out of the peat, set it up 
An astounding crate full of air.

—from "Bogland" by Seamus Heaney

I wrote a poem, "Parachuted," that seemed to emerge, great elk skeleton, from the dew-soaked sponge of my brain.  I also remembered that beginning of "Bogland" throughout the day, and when one of the organizers urged us to write and share weathergrams to post on Grand junction trees, "Bogland" wove into my offering.

I've since worked that weathergram into a tanka.

We have no tarn to
Mottle the copperplate face
Of rough entrada.
We've no black peat, dry fossil
Colorado, we repeat.

—untitled, by Uche

There were several fossil-marked rocks at the home of Danny Rosen, professional astronomer, director of the Western Sky Planetarium, poet, and host to a group of us. The first night Danny treated us to jaw-dropping views of the moon, Jupiter and its moons, The Pleiades, The Andromeda galaxy and more through his large telescope.  Friday evening I taught a couple of Igbo and Efik songs to Art Goodtimes, San Miguel County commissioner and Western Slope Poet Laureate and Rosemerry Trommer, runner, linguist, singer and proprietress of a large fruit orchard.  Rosemerry sang me a few Yoruba songs in turn. From there we joined the chat and debate at Danny's legendary poet's bonfire with Jack Mueller, Wendy, David and Cally.


It wasn’t the moon
that swooned me, but
the edge of the moon,
cratered and rough,
the shadow line
where substance ends
and space begins.

Plenary sessions were held in a lovely converted church with high, NBC peacock stained glass windows. Highlights included a poetry reading in which I took part, and offerings of words from elders. Saturday night, before the headlining presentation of Leslie Marmon Silko we had a bit of history from Ute elder Clifford Duncan. Sunday morning the conference closed with a series of reminiscences by elderly representatives of various cultures in the local Grand Valley: Hispanic, African American, Basque, Italian, Japanese, etc., as well as from a gentleman telling the history of geology, miners and military installations in the region. I was very impressed at the amount of time, attention and respect given over to those who have known that land the longest, and to their stories.

Maybe that is why we go on talking,
always trying to show someone we're here,
and look--I have a past just like you do,
a stream of words that fills the empty night
and sweetens troubled dreams, or so we hope,
and tells us not to linger long on bridges
staring at all the water passing by.

I thought my whole ambition was to make
the past and present come together, dreamed
into a vivid shape that memory
could hold the way the land possesses rivers.
They in turn possess the land and carry it
in one clear stream of thought to drink from
or water gardens with.

I learned that I must first talk to myself,
retelling stories, muttering a few
remembered lines of verse, to make the earth
substantial and to bring the sunlight back.

Stories were how my long weekend began, as well as how it ended. I arrived at Wendy's household, met and had supper with her charming family, after which Wendy and I discussed lives and poetics, our own, and of others, into the night.  Then it was time to sleep, because in the morning Wendy was leading a workshop, "Totem Poems and the Subconscious Muse," which was my first writing workshop, an experience I approached warily because my remote impression of workshops had been rather dire.  On the day I enjoyed Wendy's approach, and was very impressed at the quality of poems written by participants. I wrote a couple of poems which seem worthy of further attention, including a leopard poem, which I'm always grateful to receive.


Only bone, like the shadow, knows
that lasting metaphors are born
of architects and alchemists,

of those who love the arch
and beam, and of the fleshy need
to leave and have something remain.

—from "In Praise of Form" by Wendy Videlock, from Nevertheless, Able Muse Press, 2011

Sandra Dorr was too busy running the show for me to have much opportunity to hear her poetry, so Desert Water was my first read this week of the many volumes I'd bought at the conference. In the way she switches from the telescope of landscape to the microscope of intimate personal detail, Sandra is like so many of the remarkable poets I met that weekend. Something very special is welling from the ground in Colorado, and I'm excited to be a part of it. I spent about a half hour with Sandra walking to lunch one of the days, and she told me of how she had gotten involved in local literary initiatives, pointing out the many points of artistic interest in the small town of Grand Junction. I have no doubt that her tireless efforts, and that of her collaborators at the WCWF, will continue to bear fruit, and that I'll always be of a mind to witness the resulting magic in person.

See also:

So much going on I keep forgetting to write

It has been a crazy past few months. Not only has the day job been running at a gallop, but it's been full-on on the family front and back-to-school and all that. No shortage of activity in my corner of the poetry department, either. I've been posting a lot of interesting work at TNB Poetry, and other have been publishing a gratifying run of my own poems.

My poem "Villonaud of the Barflea Bard" was selected to be part of the 2nd anniversary issue of The Flea.  An excerpt:


Maenads are snarling their decree:
‘So who d'you think you are,’ they howl
‘To seal your bonnet from the bee?’
Those bouncers at the Muses’ hill
Take down attendance in their hall—
You’re conscript to the gathering
To rouse the skaldic clan again
With clinking roar of brannigan.
Yield bruckle skin to miching flea.

I've mentioned The Flea several times in Copia since I discovered it this year. I'm in the first place delighted to find a journal featuring the sort of witty and expressive poetry I love, and in the second place excited to have my own work in such brilliant poetry. In the same broadsheet are too many superb poets to list here, but I must give special mention to the contemporary Australian master Alan Gould. As for my own poem, I had a good deal of fun writing it specifically in response to the call for carouse-house poems to celebrate the anniversary. "Marry, this is miching mallecho; it means mischief"--Hamlet, III. ii. 146

Next my poem "Fortune of Chi" was published in Soundzine, with my recitation. The poem is fairly typical of the manuscript on which I've been working for a few months, with its dash of Biafra and undercurrent of Igbo cosmology, so it was great to place it in such a great journal.  An excerpt:

Some randomized permutation of genes
Spelled these very left and right brain cortices–
Spotlight nerves on sheer possibility;
Some Mendel melody conjured these eyes,
These muscles, grafted these veins under this skin;
I am too many pin-point faults to be
By design yet I crown my own life's fitness:
I am perfected fortune of my chi.


Close on the heels of "Fortune of Chi" came the appearance of "What Belief" in Lucid Rhythms. An excerpt:

I've stroked it while it gently weeps,
Caressed each trembling string,
Cranked up to weapons grade at times
I undertake to sing.

And yet I disappoint, I rip,
I charm a wicked scar;
Hot venom as the scorpion bows
To cantor de Ronsard.

If poetry and song provide
The island with a reef,
What heroes championing what gods
Are left to my belief?


And shortly afterwards my poem "Rhapsody On Q A" appeared in Red Fez., where it was classified as a villanelle but is actually a variant of the villanelle created by Lewis Turco and named the terzanelle. Lewis Turco then added "Rhapsody On Q A" to his exemplar list of terzanelles. An excerpt:

Light on temples, Nepal to Sri Lanka,
You glide, traveling soul, earth-bound fixed foot,
Each step mounting from base camp Casablanca,

From past-life luxury of Hatshepsut
To present serene, composed asana;

Last month I was selected to read at The Poetry in Motion Project at the Boulder Fringe Festival on the basis of my submitted poem "Cabeceo de Niwot." I recited that poem and another, "Run It!" to great response by the audience.

And mixed into all that I found time to write and record a spoken word piece flowing into an old school rap to celebrate TNB's 5th anniversary, and I also wrote a great deal of verse in the 2011 session of Heather Fowler's poetry marathon. I'll also be co-leading (with María Meléndez) a workshop on submissions at the Western Colorado Writers' Forum October 7th-9th in Grand Junction, Colorado, which should be a great time to meet many of my fellow Rocky Mountain poets, including Wendy Videlock, whom I've mentioned on Copia, and David Mason, Poet Laureate of Colorado.  Busy, busy times. Fun, fun times. And I'll have more to report soon, with poems forthcoming in The Flea (again), IthacaLit and The Raintown review.