Sunday, January 25, 2009

Passing days

It's cold outside and I've been inside most of the time, working on Hinojosa translations, working on new poems, all to the good, I think. Yesterday read Toni Morrison's A Mercy which was very Toni Morrison--beautiful writing, interesting characters, nothing actually new except for the setting in the 17th century. But that in itself made for something to think about, the layers of slavery, indenture, freedom, the nature of a country before it is a country, the question of the spirit of a people before they are a people.

These ideas about being a people seem important these days. I think to the Democratic primaries and how I was always intrigued by Obama's use of we and our and Clinton's use of I and me and how I was drawn to that in Obama (note Frank Rich in the Times today talking about how in his inaugural speech Obama did not say fellow Americans but fellow citizens. This reminds me of how Dewey, when he talks about the role of education in American society is not to produce workers but citizens, people willing and hopeful of being a part of the democracy.

School starts tomorrow. Looking forward to the strange early chaos of the first days, never as fun as when the work is started but there is a newness. I know hardly any of the students in my intro poetry class and in my Poet in New York classes. So meeting and greeting. More on this, of course, as we go along.

And here's a poem:

Tú Quieres Saber

de pronto entiendo es una pregunta
y yo contesto nada

as in
suddenly I understand it is a question
and I answer nothing
the days are too streaky
running into each other
without good reasons
which is why memory always seems
so relevant and present
no difference between
a short time ago and
a long time ago
when I use one phrase
say, are we there?
I might as well have used the other
where are we?
even though
this seems to confuse
anyone I talk to
then I’m confused too
weren’t we just in Mexico
or Costa Rica
or Nicaragua
Colombia? Ecuador? Peru
didn’t we just drive to Nova Scotia
didn’t we talk
aren’t you dead
and you
and you
can I have another drink
aren’t I already drinking
así es: so it is
una cabeza llena de preguntas
a head full of questions
a month full of questions
hello, this is September
sometimes for thirty days
sometimes forever

abrazos a todos.


Tuesday, January 13, 2009

checking in

So being on break seems to have meant more work than I'd have thought, in part because of having to turn in grades (no easy task when you have have to evaluate 63 final projects, think about things like participation, earlier assignments, and oddly enough, grades are due on the 30th of December but university offices are closed until 5 January, there's some planning), the discovery that the PEN Translation grant application deadline is this week (and not at February 1), and the realization that if I didn't get through some other work (for work I'll be doing later this year) I'd never move forward.

Happily, I got the grades in, finished the application and have started working on some new poems. So the complaining ends. Next week I do have to go into school to get readers in place for two classes I'm teaching in the spring.

But here is a poem I'm pleased with:

Music Central

on this one F train
on violin and trombone
two men are playing
Those Were the Days
a song from when

I was young
about a woman growing older
I remember watching
the singer sing the song
on television
I think, was it the Ed Sullivan Show
now someone is
playing an accordion
something sweet
and just as familiar
though I can’t put
a name on it
at the next stop
he’s off the train
but like
Those Were the Days
a song from when
I was young
when really there weren’t any days
to remember or regret
the way there are now

abrazos a todos


Friday, January 2, 2009

working days

Lots of work today, some rather banal (grocery shopping, taking the vacuum cleaner in for repairs) but also a good deal of work on the poetry manuscript. Editing, thinking about how to organize it in the way that makes the most sense, and I think I put something together worthwhile. Will know more when my editor gets to look at it (soon is the hope).

A poem that comes from spring:

This Belongs To

the tree frog sound today
sounds the same as
last night’s cricket
though I’m sure this isn’t true
cricket tree frog same
still my ears hear
what my ears hear
I am not confused
by crow call and blue-jay caw
I can tell the difference
between passenger train rattle
and freight
though if asked
to describe
I’d have no good response
beyond the shoulder shrug of
“oh, you know…”
a dog barks
dogs bark more
sound of pick-up on a half-paved road
bee drone
fly buzz
from the radio float
spring training baseball voices
I turn the sound off
and the game isn’t there
the rest of the afternoon



Thursday, January 1, 2009

happy new year (how original)


I've been off the blog for a long time and I can say why (long hard days of teaching, writing, book tour traveling) whatever. I thought it would be an easy thing to just sit down every day or so but I was wrong and so (mea culpa) I've been a bad blogger.

New Year's resolution: to blog more.

So let me start by simply wishing all my friends a good year. This last one has been interesting, hard and wonderful ( Poet in New York, the economy, and Obama, in that order), and I've had a chance to travel and meet with old friends, make new ones, as the Poet in New York readings took me all over the country.

I'll have more to write in the next day or so.

But here's a revised poem from the new manuscript that the wonderful Donna Brook has been editing.

How Nice This Is

blue jays in the yard
scare other birds away
then come squirrels
and the jays retreat
cawing in the clouds

the day goes like that
arrivals, departures
I go to the couch
and think how nice this is
how it’s how life should be
looking ahead I think
the whole house needs cleaning
all the walls need painting
I decide instead
to get outside

it’s cold
which is good
breathing deeply
my eyes catch the eyes
of a small girl walking by
with her mother
she looks at me
eyes and eyes
she looks at me and smiles